Thursday, March 28, 2013

Monstering Into The Twilight Zone...

By Frank

The month of March, known to most Comrades runner as the monster training month where we pile the running mileage up, is coming to an end soon. And thus far, I am actually pretty happy with my progress. However, there is still one more obstacle to tackle, which is the Twilight Ultra Challenge (TUC).

The month of March which is a sentimental month for me where I was first diagnosed of Rhabdomyosarcoma some 21 years ago, happens to be a very busy month in terms of works for me. It's audit month and I just concluded it earlier this morning with flying colours! However, to my surprised, I've manage to execute my training program pretty well. Running mileage was achieved and I felt good and strong throughout the month. As of today since the beginning of the year, my running mileage is now standing at 633KM. And not forgetting other workouts like resistance training that I did too.

My third attempt at TUC will also be my Comrades simulation where I will TRY to attempt 87KM. Will go a bit further if I can, but will not be afraid to stop if my body says so. I am hoping to peak at around this time before entering the month of April where another scary month awaits. In this simulation run, I will also be testing out some of my actual race gear that I will use during the Comrades Marathon. From shoes to compression gear and also nutrition, it all will give me an idea on how these things will help me on the actual day. From the Saucony Virrata to Falke compression to GU Energy supplements, this will be my trial and error.

Some of the gears under testing...

Unlike my previous 2 TUC where I went in "commando" style hoping to save some cash and in the end perform very badly, I opt to travel down to Singapore a  day earlier this time putting a night at a hostel together with Roy and Lai Leng before running the next day. This hopefully will give me some better rest before tackling the long looping route at East Coast Park. And hopefully, my experience at the not too long ago Year To Year circuit race will help as it was certainly more taxing than TUC.

Fingers and toes cross, hope it will be third time lucky at Twilight Ultra Challenge for immediately after monstering out of the month of March with this, Armageddon April will begin.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

First Impression on the Saucony Virrata...

By Frank

The long awaited all new to the Saucony natural motion series, the 0mm heel to toe offset Virrata is on it's way to our Malaysian shore. I however was lucky to try them on as early as mid last year when I went for a "preview event". Moving on to Spring 2013 today, while awaiting for the arrival of this highly sought new model, I again was lucky enough to receive the sample pair courtesy from Saucony Malaysia.

I have yet to give the Virrata a go yet running on the road, but did put it on to walk around. Immediately upon putting on, I felt the sizing to be a little off as compared to the Saucony Kinvara 3. It's a bit on the longer side but not too overly tight on the toe box. Probably caused with the lack of FlexFilm but I actually felt comfortable with the expandable width of the toe box. And to make it even better, it's seamless hence no irritation or hotspots. Oh, and yes. It's very light too weighting in at just 184Grams for a size men US9.0.

So light I can balance the Virrata with 2 fingers.

The outsole is build on 24 EVA+ triangular pods just like the Kinvara series. However, only a slight portion of the heel and the forefoot area is reinforced with the XT-900 blown rubber hence exposing lots of EVA+ rubber to the elements. It does look like an area that will wear fast but I could be wrong as it has a pretty similar build like the Saucony Hattori which last like forever for me.

Due to exposed EVA+ rubber, I do feel that the Virrata to be on the softer side. I do prefer the slight firmness on the Kinvara 3 as it produced more "bounce" rather to sink in. However at a stack height measured at 18mm opposed to the 23mm of the Kinvara 3 and a 0mm heel to toe off-set, it may actually proved different when I take it for a ride soon.

Spring 2013 Virrata men's colourways.

The Virrata should be arriving on Malaysian shores in mid April 2013 (fingers and toes cross) offering 3 Spring 2013 colours for men which is Black/Citron/Red, Citron/Dark Blue and White/Black/Red retailing at an amazing price of just RM299! The ladies will get 2 colour options being Black/Citron/Pink and Orange/Red. I personally like the awesome striking colour of the Citron/Dark Blue which is why I will be using that particular pair at the coming Twilight Ultra Challenge where I shall put it to the maximum gruesome test. Do stay tune for my review next. In the meantime, here is some technical aspect of the Virrata to keep you drooling for now.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The North Face Singapore City Race 2013...

Event: The North Face Singapore City Race 2013
Venue: Millenia Walk, Singapore
Date: 03 March 2013
Time: 7.30am
Distance: 40KM
Shoe: Saucony Kinvara 3
By Frank

The inaugural The North Face Singapore City Race (SCR) is a free form foot race and a very unique one that brings runners to seldom unexplored places in Singapore. Imagine The Amazing Race, just that runners whether running solo or up to a group of 6 runners is given a map of Singapore City with marked areas. We all have to navigate through the streets and reach the designated area using the shortest and fastest route possible, and we do not need to do it in sequence. Self supported and no marshals nor road closure as we run. Interesting eh...

8 categories to register from...

Representing Running Lab Malaysia will be our run leader Syah who will run the long distance solo leg, while I teamed up with Roy in doing the long distance team leg. Long distance as in 40KM. We might run over 40KM though if we navigate wrongly.

Me and Roy.

So I flew down with Roy a day before. I flew Air Asia for the first time since the very scary incident back during Twilight Ultra Challenge 2012 last year. We stayed over at Fernloft Hostel a ,nice place to stay at with very friendly people around. And it's Chinatown! Plenty of food around too!

Fast forward to race day, preparation was a bliss though flagging down a taxi isn't. Hardly any taxi around Chinatown and we ended up taking the MRT to the venue at Millenia Walk. All the rushing send butterflies to my poor tummy. We however got to the venue on time to witness the flagging off of the solo runners. We the team long distance runners were then given the map and with only 30 minutes to study it before we are flag off too. We were flagged off at 7.30am and within 9 hours, we need to head to Ion Orchard, Old KTM Track, Singapore Quarry, Kent Ridge Park and Mount Faber. Yeap, that was the sequence we ran through.

Studying the given map.

The start was rather fun with all runners laughing out loud. Most ran towards Ion Orchard which was a straight charge down Bras Basah Road before entering Orchard Road. But poor me as I didn't feel good and needed to hit the potty loo. But I held on and that is probably the reason I sweated a bucket. Struggled to keep pace with Roy.

Next, we were to head to the Old KTM Track. Took a bit of time to study the map once we arrived at Botanical Gardens and kudos to Roy's excellent ma navigation, we took a shorter route within the housing neighbourhood before joining back at Farrer Road. Then it was a straight charge with other runners and we managed to find the very old remains of the railway track.

It was very green at this area and we shaded by the sun. A bit of trail running but we were lucky the track were pretty dry. Bumped into Yim who looked lost but I am sure he wasn't. Always nice to see him on a run. Then as we head to the Singapore Quarry which was another straight charge, both our legs were already giving way especially on the foot bed and ankle. It was run walk for us that time as we met into many other runners which include some of our Malaysian friends like Poh Chye, Fong Sang and Syah.

Towards the end, we were to navigate a short but slippery climb before we were greet by the beautiful sights of the Singapore Quarry. Before heading to our fourth destination at Kent Ridge Park, we took a short break at the quarry while studying the map again. Then we were off again. Tackling the slope where we came up from earlier was tricky as the rocks were loose.

Singapore Quarry.

From there, we backtrack to the Old KTM track, rehydrated and followed yet another straight charge to the other end. And while doing so, we met a fellow Singaporean name Kuang who joined us. We navigated out of the trails and into Lower Kent Ridge and was welcome by the sights of Singapore National University Hospital, the place where was I was treated at years ago. It's good to see them expanding and it certainly looks very different now. From there, we went into the Science Park before arriving at  Kent Ridge Park only to see 2 lady runners being Ivy and Yanan, and Fong Sang there who looks lost. Together, we formed a team of 6 in trying to located the very tough hidden check point here. It took us a few turns to actually locate it which was hidden below some stair case behind a barricade. So near yet so far!

Singapore National University Hospital. The white block is where I was warded at last time.

The final checkpoint located at Mount Faber wasn't to far away and in the team of 6, it makes thing pretty interesting. Into Hort Park and later the beautiful Forest Walk before ending up on Henderson Waves, this took us to places where we didn't though existed! Simply stunning! The final checkpoint was located at the end of the Henderson Waves and it is here, we were joined by Kim Lai and Tick Hock ad with the latter around, our group suddenly turned very noisy and interesting! And Tick Hock being the funny one introduced to us the word "CHIONG" where we literary charge through traffic lights and junctions screaming out loud!

Forest Walk.

Planning for the "escape" from Mount Faber.

Running together...

It was tricky to get to the finish located near Ritz-Carlton Hotel as we were to navigate through the city. But from Henderson Waves, we need to make our way down and out of Mount Faber which then took us to the old Tanjung Pagar KTM station. Yet another place that I have not been to.

In front of the fenced off old Tanjong Pagar KTM Station.

Finally into the city, we navigated through underpasses and junctions before ending up at Fullerton Hotel. Fong Sang and Kuang went ahead while the remaining 6 of us stop for an ice cream break! It was certainly refreshing and it fueled us up for the final 2KM or so charge!

Posing with our ice cream.

Getting ready for the final "CHIONG" across to the finish.

Off we went, and finally found the finish line just located behind the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. A final charge down the last traffic down and finally successfully to complete the run in 6:35:52 hours accumulating a distance of 43KM! Yeap, we over ran the distance but it's all right.

Yeah! We finished!

With new friends Ivy and Yanan.

The finish venue was a little low key with only music playing. Volunteers look lifeless and we only had runners ourselves to keep each other company. Rehydrated and grab a sandwich before some photos together with friends before returning to the hotel for some well deserved rest.

Overall, I enjoyed this very unique race and the companionship and camaraderie from the other runners. I hope the race will be an annual event from now on with changes made to the checkpoint each year to keep it fresh, challenging and full of surprises. Well done to the organisers and till the next edition.

* photo credits to Kim Lai, Tick Hock and Ivy.

Friday, March 01, 2013

21 Years...

March 1992. 12 years old. A swelling on my left wrist. Surgery was performed to have it removed. The result came back a couple of weeks later during my first high school semester exam. I was diagnosed of Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of bone and muscle cancer that normally affects children. As a 12 year old, I was "unique" back then.

If you look at the first 2 words of the above paragraph, YES, it has been 21 years since I was first diagnosed though I no longer remember the exact date. Hence each year in the month of March, I remember it as my anniversary month. Not remembering it due that I was diagnosed of it, but remembering it as a cancer survivor, someone who battled it and remembering it as a fact of life and what made me today.

After battling it for close to 3 years, it's now 21 years since I was first diagnosed of cancer and 18 years since I beaten it, I am now what I am, cancer free. Through my experience with it, I am working with close people and friends in trying to spread the word that cancer can be beaten and it is not a death sentence! And in through my passion of running, I hope to deliver this message and to help raise funds for cancer research together with the cause I am championing together with CARIF (Cancer Research Initiatives Foundation). Together with Professor Teo, Sook Yee, Sook Ching, Peter, Amy, Jane and some other 30 plus scientist and researchers there plus friends, we hope to be one step ahead in the battle against cancer.

My CARIF family...

My experience with cancer was no doubt a painful one. But it's one long journey that I will remember for the rest of my life, for it made me what I am today. Not that I am happy with the end result, but I can proudly say that I beaten it and am a living proof to many out there. Though sometimes I look myself in the mirror and ask "What have I done to deserve this?", I though to myself of the other cancer patients who are still battling it or had lost their battle. I am probably considered the lucky ones and hence could not ask for more.

I do not know how or what person I will be if I did not suffer from cancer, but what I do know now is that I am ME and MYSELF! I am still Frank, the IT student turned personal trainer turned retailer which holds a passion in running. A normal person who works daily to earn a living for myself and also to spread the word to others by sharing my experiences as a cancer survivor and a runner to the others out there through various activities like talks, roadshows or even one to one counselling.  And yes, this is what I do.

I hope that I will be cancer free for the rest of my life. But should it return, I know that I will fight it till the end. As for now, I will concentrate with another "Big C" which is the Comrades Marathon where I will run annually in my cause to raise funds for cancer research with CARIF. And for this month of March 2013, I will remember myself and all cancer patients, survivors and those who had lost their battle by running a 40KM race this weekend and also a 16 hours race at the end of the month.

21 years. It has been that long huh...