Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The North Face 100 Singapore 2012...

Event: The North Face 100 Singapore 2012
Venue: MacRitchie Reservoir, Singapore
Date: 13 October 2012
Time: 6.45am
Distance: 50KM (48KM by Polar RCX5 G5 GPS)
Shoe: ASICS GEL-Fuji Racer
By Frank

The 5th and the annual event organised by the parent company I worked in, The North Face 100 Singapore saw a different refreshing twist to this year's edition. Not only was it well improved over last year's fiasco, this year also saw a much improved route despite shorter and also a cooler weather.

3 of us from Running Lab Malaysia which includes myself, Syah and Roy were to run this year's edition. However, Roy had to pull out a week before as he sprained his ankle. Not wanting to to waste the race bib, Ben took over his slot.

I travelled down via coach on Friday itself and made my way to office to have some office matters settled before hand. And when all is done, together with the team, we all proceeded to MacRitchie Reservoir which happens to be the race site to finalised the setup there. I was helping out setting up the tear drop flags and anything else that came in my way. I tried to keep some energy for myself too so I hope I did not get into the way of the others. Once everything was done, I went over to Walter's house which was nearby to clean myself up before heading to Singapore Polo Ground for dinner with Nic and also a personnel from The North Face's principal office.

Once dinner is done, it's off to my cousin, Eugene's house to prepare my race gear before calling it a night.

I had only 4 hours of sleep and I was a little tired. Did all my preparation and it all went well and I was all ready an hour before my schedule time to leave at 5am. Eugene drove me to the race site at 5.30am and the place was already packed with runners. Did all my necessary and met up with Ben, Hong Soon, Mohan, Foo, David and many others.

And just after checking after checking in myself to start, I heard a familiar voice calling out "MR AFRICA"! It was Yim who had just completed his first 50KM loop of this total running distance of 100KM! An amazing feat from him, we all motivated him and took the chance for some photos together. And while we 50KM runners line up for our start, we all cheered for him as he made his way out followed shortly by another Malaysian runner friend of mine, Razif!

Priceless shot of 50KM runners with Yim (2nd from left), the 100KM runner just before exiting for his next 50KM...

The 50KM start this year was a much better affair compared to previous year. The ambience and mood was good as I started with Hong Soon who will immediately went missing after crossing the start gantry. Not intending to follow as I just had doctor's clearance to run this event with caution, I ran on my own comfy pace following what my heart rate monitor has been set to do.

The first 6KM plus or so on trails was a rather fast affair for me. As my body was still fresh, my heart rate was beating strongly. I lost my control here and it was the moment when I exited the trail for a moment that I started to slow down, and told myself to just make it back to the finish safely on 2 legs.

The GU support station. Gels and Chomps galore...

Into dairy farm where I got lost last year, this part saw a change of route which is very refreshing for me. Mixture of trail and tarmac, I truly enjoyed this area as the volunteers were cheerful here too! The first and probably the biggest GU Energy support station was also here. Fueled myself up here before going into the trails again and soon arriving at Zhenghua Park. Familiar place here, I spotted Yek Bun and a few others cheering for runners just below the overhead bridge here.

Running through the thick bushes at the KTM track...

As I make my way to Mandai, the sun began to shine. A new friend and customer at my work place, Jamie passed me here near Mandai Orchard Garden, a place which I did not like due to lack of trees. Haha... Spotted a fellow runner who is suffering cramps here and I stopped to help him and to make sure he will shake it off. And he did, continuing his adventure slowly but safely from there.

Finally arriving at the crossing of Mandai Road, Lorong Asrama is next to welcome the runners. and just before entering that area, Yek Bun was there again and he offered me a refreshing cold barley drink! I must say it was HEAVENLY! 

Inside Lorong Asrama this area is a love and hate area. Not easy to run here due to the heat and also the big rocky terrain with ascend and descend, but this area is also filled with memories I had with my friends. David passed me steadily at this area. Seeing him running so well, I did not want to call out to him for fears he will slow down to accompany me. And when I got to Hill 265, I was hoping that Syah will catch up, which he DID! Just like last year, we pose for a photo again before attacking it. And this year, I did not go down on 4 as the shoes I wore this time provided the sufficient traction to bring me up.

Cam-whoring with Syah before attacking Hill 265...

I ran with Syah for a while before I spotted Fred who is cramping all over running his maiden 100KM. Although he is complaining, I can see that he is still in a good shape and with only 20KM plus to go, I know he will nail it. Just before exiting Loron Asrama, I met an Indonesian Chinese runner Zedy and we spend a few moments together walking till the support station. And just when I was about to cross the Mandari Road crossing again, I saw James Liew whom I met during Craze Ultra 2012 running strongly on his second loop. Way to go! Yek Bun was still here and this time he offered me some grapes which I politely rejected as I just something earlier. Can't go in mate but thanks yeah!

Continuing on, the weather took a change for a better. Of all the 3 The North Face 100 Singapore I did, this year rather different. There were signs of rain but it held on. The clouds kept the sun ray's at bay. Fast forwarding to the entrance of dairy farm where I pop out somewhere near the rifle range, I saw Lin Hong manning the support station there and gave him a wave! Took a break here chatting with him before I continued on. As every step forward nears me to the finish, I began to find some extra strength in me and I began to run more often now but still keeping it to a very easy pace.

And finally, into the area which I like a lot, the golf course area. I continue my walk and running here till I suddenly heard someone shouting to me "MR BURGER". I looked back and to my surprise I saw Ben! I would have though he will have been far far ahead of me. However, due to his recent viral infection, he walked all the way from the start only to start running when he saw me. And I was like OMG! He walked all the way here and still managed to pass me? I better go find a hole and hide myself in there, I joked.

Into the final stretch where Lornie Trail is, I know the end is near. I met Zedy again and we ran for a moment together. And when I finally saw the light at the end of the trail, I was going strong until I saw a guy wearing a 2ndskin shirt. I slowed down wanting to snap a photo of it to show to Eugene of 2ndskin but when that particular person turned around, I was shocked to see that it was Roy! Hahaha... Then at the exit, Nic called me to ask where I was as I earlier text him a cheeky message. Haha... 

Then 500M became 400M and shorter as I near the finish line. Friends like Azrul, Syed, Nyoman and many others were at the side cheering. And finally, I ran through the finish gantry clocking a personal worst timing of mine from all the 3 editions I've ran in, in 07:46:38 hours. Hahaha... I was glad though that I made it back with no discomfort to the chest and it's one event that I truly enjoyed.

The finisher's medal...

Rested while exchanging our running experience with some others and also awaiting others to return, it was a great bonding session with the others. And the moment of truth happen when our hero Yim who completed his 100KM TMBT trail and 100 miles Craze Ultra 3 weeks ago returned! Am so proud of him and certainly an inspiration to many others for his physical and mental strength is something truly admirable. 

Chilling out with my ice cream and Roy...

Despite the shorter distance of just 48KM and the hiccups of the finisher medals being a 100KM finisher version (rectified medal will be send out on a later date), the event this year round was a major success. It's a step forward and I can see the effort being put in by the team and I'm proud of them. 

I had fun running this event this year and again, more friends were made as this is certainly one beauty of running ultra events. And it's also god to see many new runners especially those whom I have given advise to tackling the distance successfully.

I would like to thank Walter for sponsoring Team Running Lab Malaysia 3 complimentary race slots for our runners. And also to thank and congratulate the team from Outdoor Venture, The North Face, organisers and sponsors for a job well done this year. Despite a few hiccups, I would say this is a very positive result and improvement from last year's edition. Keep up the good work and we hope to run an even better The North Face 100 Singapore next year!

* a note of THANKS to the photographers who took excellent shots as posted above that will serve as a lifetime memories.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

ASICS Piranha SP4...

By Frank

The lightest shoe ever made by ASICS weighting at just about 120grams, the ASICS Piranha SP 4 (PSP4) is a racing flat that I truly enjoy very much. Coming in a very sleek white, black and gold finish. the PSP4 has a very low heel to toe differential measuring at only 5mm.

The ASICS Piranha SP4...

Lateral view of the shoes...

Medial view of the shoe...

The upper of the PSP4 is made of some lightweight mesh that offers a very excellent finish as most graphics are heat welded on it, thus minimising seams within the shoe. Both lateral and medial toebox areas of the shoe has no seams at all thus allowing excellent fit for the toes. Being offered in only a "D" width, a seamless option will allow some expandable feature from the material itself hence offering a hugging but yet snug fit.

Heat welded graphics hence no seams and an expandable toebox...

To reduce weight, flat laces are used again just like in the ASICS GEL-Hyper Speed 5. It kept coming loose and it will be best to choose to stay tied laces or even bungee cord laces. The tongue offers no padding but a very cleaver feature is that it is a continuous structure continuing from the shoe's medial side hence offers no movement during running.

The continuous tongue...

The collar too offers minimal padding. However, a very tough structure is used at the heel counter to protect the Achilles region which may be plastic reinforcement. However sadly to say, the poor finishing at this area gave me a poor impression to this great shoe. The joint on a particular black stripe are not done properly hence leaving an impression of a poor cosmetic design. And a quick check with my friend Jimmy who happens to have the same shoe too had his one peeled off.

Noticed the badly done joint just above the number "4"...

The midsole is built using Solyte EVA material, the lighter yet softer cousin of the tougher and heavier SpEVA. I guess I understand the reason as a shoe being this thin, a little cushioning may help hence I truly agree on the use of it.

The outsole is totally flat with ASICS High Abrasion Rubber (AHAR) placed at strategic placed at strategic high wear and tear area, which one of them at the ball of the feet forefoot area! A 5mm differential shoe, this is one area that needs reinforcement as mid to forefoot striking is made quite possible. Black beads are placed at the forefoot area to offer traction and of course durability. And speaking of durability, the outsole of this shoe does not last! Although AHAR is used, the amount is of very thin and it only takes a couple of marathon distance or so to probably eat into it.

Outsole of the forefoot area...

Reinforcement of AHAR at the heel outsole...

The PSP4 is an overall great shoe probably just plagued by a few cosmetic problem and a very steep price. If you want speed and instant feedback from the very low profile stack height that offers superior propulsion and don't mind the very high wear and tear rate, look no further than this very deadly "fish".If there is only 1 improvement that I will like to have in its successor, ASICS can consider to reduce the heel to toe differential to either maybe 4mm or go totally flat at 0mm! Oh and yes. The PSP4 is of the ASICS Japanese line-up hence do try out for size first before committing as it truly is very different.

The ASICS Piranha SP 4 is now available at major ASICS authorised dealer and retails at a recommended selling price of RM429.00

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

DNF, Check-Up and A Lesson Learnt...

By Frank

As most of you will have known, I suffered my first Did Not Finish (DNF) at the Craze Ultra 2012 slightly more than a couple of weeks ago due to chest tightness and shortness of breathe. It was a bitter pill to swallow for being my first but I was glad that nothing happen to me and that I get a chance to run yet another day.

So what happened that day? At the morning before the race, I was tired and a little grumpy too. I did not have a good pre-race preparation hence that may have contributed to it. And from my blood and urine test that was released to me by Phil just last week, both my blood and urine sodium level was a little on the low side. Not that it is alarming or did I suffered cramps during the race, it is something I need to look into still.

During the race itself, despite the crazy hot and humid weather, I was all OK till hitting the 60KM plus mark when I felt my first problem. And upon arriving at the checkpoint, I took a rest and felt better before continuing on to the half way point at 82KM before calling it a day there after suffering the second round of symptoms and as per advised by the medics and friends.

So upon returning home, I took a week's plus long rest to allow my body to settle down before going for a medical check-up. And the result was out yesterday. All is good from my heart size, heart rate, cholesterol level to uric acid level. But the exception was my blood pressure which was a little on the high side.

What may have attributed to my blood pressure result was probably due to my stress, fatigue and also most likely from the happenings that affected my mood lately thanks to a certain company.

So lesson learnt from my first DNF:
1) Spend less time on the legs especially the day before the race.
2) Have a good rest, turn in early the night before and get to know your travel mates way before travelling together.
3) Call it quits when you have to especially when symptoms appears for the second time.

So from this entry, I hope to share with everyone that there is no point to continue on during an event or even a normal workout should you feel uncomfortable. There is always another to join in. Most important is that we are still breathing and still living in this world. Cast aside your ego, call it quits when you have to, and the reward will be more and more things to look out for in the future. And for me, I now have the clearance to participate in this weekend's The North Face Singapore 50KM Ultra. Yeap, and this is my reward for being smart (self praise can? :p)

* Also I would like to take this opportunity to THANK everyone who has shown their concern towards me and also to those who have visited me at my work place throughout the last 2 weeks or so.

Friday, October 05, 2012

ASICS GEL-Hyper Speed 5...

By Frank

A favourite racing shoe for the current American top half marathoner Ryan Hall. the ASICS GEL-Hyper Speed 5 (HS5) as the name suggest is built for speed. With a stack height of 14mm and with a heel to toe differential of 7mm, this is one shoe that is probably considered close to minimalist since barely any of ASICS proprietary technologies are built into it.

The ASICS GEL-Hyper Speed 5...

I received the HS5 courtesy of ASICS Malaysia for my participation in the Craze Ultra 2012. It'a a perfect race to put the shoe to test on how well it will stack against the many odds.

Lateral view of the shoe...

Medial view of the shoe...

The shoe's upper is made of complete traditional overlays that looks like any other traditional shoes. The material looks cheap but it does its job holding up pretty well. I will rather to have a synthetic material like those found on the ASICS Gel-DS Racer 9 (DSR9) as it saves weight, allows better ventilation and also minimize the seams within the shoe's interior. Although seams were very noticeable, it did not cause me any irritation at all. Fit wise, I found the size to be slight a little bigger than the DSR9. Though being a racing shoe, the toebox is of reasonable space and I've no problems with it despite after running 82KM at Craze Ultra 2012.

Traditional overlays with lots of stitching...

The tongue is well padded but it does seem to move around which was very irritating. And as for the laces, ASICS chose to use the flat laces to save weight. I'm no fan of flat laces as it tends to loosen easily. I had to double or even triple tie it to prevent it and that may cause some problems undoing it to take off the shoes especially during an ultra race when I just had to relieve my poor feet. The collar was reasonable padded to give a secure hug for the Achilles region.

The padded collar which does a good job...

Earlier, I mentioned that although with a 7mm heel to toe differential, this shoe is only close to minimalist as there is still a midfoot arch shank to assist in pronation control. I rather it not be there and just leave the overall to be flat like the K-Swiss Blade-Foot Run or Blade-Light Run.

The shoe's midsole is made of SpEVA instead of the lighter yet softer Solyte with a rear foot GEL cushioning system. I've grown to actually like the harder and more responsive SpEVA rubber as I don't feel being "drown" by a softer material. However, being at 14mm stack height, and for some reasons, I still found myself being "drown" with every step and a little bit more effort is needed to propel my next step. And to protect the midsole from wear and tear, the ever trustworthy ASICS High Abrasion Rubber is placed at strategic areas. The forefoot area is design like a web to provide traction especially on wet surfaces and the design is pretty similar to the ASICS Skysensor Neo. The outsol alsoe consist of a few ventilation and drainage ports which come in handy when the weather either gets too hot or wet. 

The durability of the shoe was put to the maximum test at the harsh conditions of the Craze Ultra 2012. Though most parts of the shoes held up well, the same can't be said with the outsole. After running 82KM, the forefoot area melted away literary leaving only a piece of smoothen rubber under the intense heat of say about 40 degree Celsius. The heel area was fine though and this has proven what a 7mm or lower  heel to toe differential can do to our running gait. 

Gone after 82KM of torture...

Overall and personally speaking, the HS5 is an over-rated shoe. It's still a good shoe but I would not call it great. The ASICS Skysensor Neo and also the GEL-DS Racer 9 deserves a much more better attention. And I do think that the colour-way can be improved. The one strength of this shoe is probably the affordable price.

The ASICS GEL-Hyper Speed 5 retails at a recommended selling price of RM349.00 and is now available at major ASICS authorised dealers.