Thursday, November 21, 2013

Penang Bridge International Marathon 2013...

Event: Penang Bridge International Marathon 2013
Venue: Quuensbay Mall, Penang
Date: 17 November 2013
Time: 2.00am
Distance 42.195KM (42.9KM by Suunto Ambit 2 Sapphire)
Shoe: Saucony Type A5
By Frank

The chance of running on the new second Penang Bridge for this year's bridge run was dashed when a small part of the bridge collapsed a few months back. Nevertheless, I am still happy (at least I am) that this year will bring runners back to the current bridge as I will know what to expect during the run. It's after all as mentioned in my previous entry, my qualifier and seeding race for Comrades Marathon.

And so, I became the driver this year driving up north together with Roy, Jason, Susanah and Lai Leng. We started our journey from Subang after breakfast at about 9am. Traffic was smooth until we arrived at Juru some slightly more than 3 hours later where we drop Jason off. From there, it was to Queensbay Mall to pick up the race pack. I actually had mine couriered to me so I saved the hassle from queueing up with the crowd under the hot sun. Instead, I hung out with my friends from CARIF who had a booth there to promote cancer awareness.

A simple lunch at Queensbay Mall before heading off to our hotel at Cozy Inn at the heritage site. Unpack, rest up and early dinner before it was lights off trying to sleep.

I only managed 2 hours of sleep. And unlike the recent previous races, I did not feel good. I even had trouble with my post run ritual. My left trapezius was a little sore probably from the long drive yesterday. I know my chance to qualify for F seeding for next year's Comrades Marathon is in doubts. Nevertheless, the show must go on and so we left the hotel at 12.30am to pick up Si Main at Tune Hotel before heading off to the race site. It was raining but luckily I had my Buff to prevent sweat from entering my eyes during the run later.

We were parked at Sungai Nibong or was it Telok Bayan site, some 2KM away from the race site due to road block. Luckily, the rain has stop as we walked to Queensbay Mall. My tummy wasn't feeling good and I needed the toilet. Sadly I could not find a proper one to make my deposit and hence decided to hold on. And hold on I did as the feeling subsided. Caught up with some friends before entering the start pent with Roy and Si Main while Lai Leng made her way to the front.

At 2am sharp after Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng's speech, runners of the full marathon category was flagged off. As usual, the starting stretch was tough to overtake and with the increase number for this year, it made things even tougher. I thought it was fine as we enter the Jelutong Expressway, but it wasn't to be for this year. The entire expressway was filled up and I had trouble. And after the u-turn, things got worse as the running lane was reduce to one or sometimes 2. Lost time here but managed to gain some back through some fast kicks.

From 4KM onwards, I was free from the crowd and started to make haste. My target at that time was to pass the 4:30 pacer which was Yim and Karen, and to build a buffer, staying ahead of them for at least 10 minutes or so for I know they will probably hit their time allocated! And so I did passed them at 6KM.

Fast forwarding to 9KM where I entered the bridge, I was still feeling all right. The moodiness from the morning was gone as I pushed on. I was on time for a 4 hour finishing at quarter of the journey in but I knew it was still too early to tell. I must hang on to the current pace to achieve it, a task which I've failed for the past 3 years or more. But the shoe I had on, the Saucony Type A5 is certainly helping with my pace here.

14KM, a slight drizzle came and the wind was pushing us back. Yeap, it was head wind! I was lucky I had my Buff on as the drizzle got a bit heavier and vision was affected at least a little. As I conquered the climb up the bridge, I could already see the elites returning on the opposite side. I pushed on till the turning point at 19KM where Neal was with me. We ran together and my pace was still on time.

Disaster struck at 24KM when my tummy felt unwell. I told Neal to go ahead without me. The morning feeling return and I needed to go. I took my water bottle starting to knock it against my head hoping the tummy discomfort can be diverted. I looked back to try spot the 4:30 pacer balloon and they were no where to be seen. I hung on and tried to build more buffer as I hunted for the potty. The agony was horrible as I held on. ARGHHH...

26KM, I spotted the potty and ran towards into it. I spent at least 7 minutes in it, at least 1KM wasted. But it had to be done else it could have been "messy". And here's a little about the potty before I carry on. It was reasonably clean, squatting type with toilet paper! It was also littering shaking like on the plane and the refreshment station was playing PSY's Gentleman while I was inside. How I hate that song right now!

Once out, I spotted Roy and chased him down. I need to up my pace for the time wasted but the legs stiffen. Both my glutes were feeling cranky. I finally caught up beside Roy and asked if the 4:30 pacers already passed. To my relieve, they were still behind as I push forward with the uncomfortable feeling of both glutes. I know I was loosing time but I just had to hammer it for as hard as I could.

Into Jelutong Expressway again, the mentally torturing long stretch. I just tried to focus. I took a few walks but also managed a few blistering pace. The problem I had besides the glutes was that I could not hold on to the pace. But I was really glad the tummy was fine. Steven caught up and we were pacing together till the u-turn at 33KM where I told him to carry on for my glutes were acting up again.

As I headed back, I spotted the 4:30 pacers. Neither near nor too far away. I had to take my chances to hammer, hold on and to look after the glutes. As I arrived at 37KM, to my horror, Yim called out to me to push me forward. The 4:30 pacers caught up! Soon after, Soon Chung from the opposite side asked me to "F" it! It was a wake-up call as hammer even harder hoping that some magic will hold my glutes together. Sadly unlike KL Marathon, the magic did not happen this time.

Shortly in front, I spotted Susanah icing her legs. I told her to jog it off. She started with me, but the mistake I made here was that I did not look back if she had continue to follow me. My time here was either a do or die. My buffer for a 4:20 hours "F" seeding was already gone and I needed a 6 minutes per Kilometer pace to achieve it.

The final 3KM, the human barrier where the half marathon runners combined together. There was no clear running path as I had to zig zag through them. I spotted Selva and we ran together for a while but the zig zagging caused my glutes to flare up as I told Selva to go ahead without me.

Literally, my time slowly disappeared and with 1.3KM to go at the turning into the Gold Coast Apartment roundabout, my quest for "F" seeding ended when my chrono showed 4:20 hours on the dot. But, the journey must continue as I headed down the home stretch to finally cross the finish line in 4:25:57 hours, finally a sub 4:30 hours time since don't know when. And my first PBIM under the state government that I completed before the sun rises and also my first marathon into the potty!

On to the red carpet towards the finish.

Saucony Type A5 and the finisher medal.

I waited for my friends at the finish before adjourning to the rest area for some snacks. Bumped into Zijill too where she completed her run in one of her best timing and in top Malaysian honours! Well done Zijill! Then its back to the hotel for some rest before the lunch and the tiring journey back home.

Zijill with her "catch" at PBIM. CONGRATULATIONS!

Though a little disappointed as I did not improve on my Comrades Marathon seeding for next year, I am still delighted with my time as it has certainly been a while since a sub 4:30 hours time. Its indeed a positive sign. And the problems I had to go through before in the morning of the race start do at least help me to justify my thoughts. I had no proper breakfast and I messed up my nutrition plan on the run due to my tummy issues. But these are just part of the game as not all the days or runs are meant to be good, not even perfect. To me, this is just one of them. And the "What if" thingy is just something illusive. "What if" I did not stop for the potty? "What if" I didn't drive to Penang?  These are all unanswered questions. I am just glad I am not injured from this run as I prepare for the official training for Comrades Marathon to kick off in a month's time! My only regret now, is not looking back when I had to when a friend needed assistance. :(

My split timing.

All photos here credited to the respective photographers. Thanks a lot to them!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

"F" Hopeful...

By Frank

It's the time of the year again, or shall I say race of the year again. Probably my second most important race of the year after the Comrades Marathon, the Penang Bridge International Marathon is important as I've always use it as my qualifying race. Not that I've not qualify for Comrades Marathon, but it is my chance to better my seeding.

I've always wanted to be seeded F at the Comrades Marathon. 2 main reason will be it represents my name and also it represents my marathon timing which has been constant during my good old days. After having seeded H for my past 2 Comrades Marathon, I've finally managed to better it to G, from a result achieved at this year's KL Marathon. I was actually satisfied but with the "feel good feeling" and momentum still rolling strong, I've planned to actually to attempt a sub 4:20 marathon once again this weekend although I can't actually remember when did I achieved a sub 4:30 hours marathon cause it has just been so long. Therefore, this is really one really tough task for me.

Will be travelling up with Roy, Susanah, Lai Leng and Gary with me driving. Now this is the worrying part. Long distance driving couple with long distance running. Not  a good combo but it just had to be done. Have to manage my rest and nutrition well from Friday onwards.

As for my shoe of choice, it will be the Saucony Grid Type A5, a shoe I've purchased at Johannesburg late last year to be used for the Year to Year Circuit Race back then. But it was not utilized hence it is time to unleash it. One of my lightest racing flats I have to date, preliminary runs with it has been absolutely positive indeed, fast and responsive.

The Type A5 backed by my army of strong.

Swaying a little of course from the above topic will be a celebration with Saucony where I renewed and extended my sponsorship with them earlier today, and this time with 2 new brand ambassadors; Jason and Zijill. Almost exactly a year ago, I received my very first pair of Saucony Kinvara 3 from Saucony Malaysia and ran the Penang Bridge International Marathon back then with it. I came very close in improving my seeding at that time but bonk out at the final 10KM. Hopefully, it will not be the case this year. Anyhow, it has been an exciting and fruitful first year with Saucony where I truly enjoy partnering with them and hence will be looking for more "strong" on the road ahead.

Together we are "STRONG".

Till my exam at the bridge this weekend! Stay focus and perhaps I can start dreaming of "F"...

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Saucony PowerGrid Kinvara 4...

By Frank

Sorry that my review for the Saucony Kinvara 4 (K4) took this long. I had my reasons you see. Besides being busy as usual, I was trying to figure out the difference it has as compared to its predecessor, the K3. And after having to run at different pace in numerous distance with a max single run of 72KM from a DNF at the Craze Ultra 2013, I guess I've spotted at least a few upgrades to the K4 which is rather noticeable.  But before I continue on, you may want to re-read my review on the K3 (here) back then to have a slight recap on it as I will just keep it short on the K4 since I will only be highlighting the major changes. Another read will be my first impression of the K4 (here). So yeah, let's go...

The Saucony PowerGrid Kinvara 4

The K4 was launch on back in May 2013 during the Boston Marathon but only arrived on Malaysian shores early September 2013. Together with RSH (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd and together with new ambassadors Jason and Zijill, we had a successful launch for the highly anticipated shoe.

The official unveiling of the Kinvara 4 during its launch day

The K4 shares most its DNA from all its past 3 predecessor. At 4mm off set with a 22mm heel stack height and 18mm forefoot height, it hits the sweet spot for those who are looking a natural running shoes combined with reasonable cushioning. It looks pretty much the same since the first version was released and weights in at about 216 Grams for a size men US8.5, the same weight as compared with the K3. Every generation, small changes were made based on feedback gathered and I am pleased to know (and feel) that most of the changes made to the 4th generation has been a positive one, at least for me.

Let's start with the upper. The most obvious change here at least to our eyes will be the re-positioning of the FlexFilm layers. Gone are the "zebra stripes" at the front which resulted in lesser films hence allowing a slightly more flex and also air intake. Try putting the shoe on without socks and swing them in an air-condition room. You will feel a slight increase gush of of air entering the shoes compared to the K3. As for flex, it was not really noticeable until you really pay attention to it.  However, with the "zebra stripes" gone, I felt less secure on the toe box which resulted some swaying of my feet. A slightly thicker socks solved my problem though.

Repositioned FlexFilm on the toebox

FlexFilm pattern on the toe box as seen on the Virrata (left), Kinvara 4 (middle) and Kinvara 3 (right)

Moving to the rear of the shoe where the collar is, is where the"zebra stripes" new home is. The FlexFilm layers are now concentrated around the collar which gives the ankle a very secure fit. I really adore this new change as it held up my ankle securely especially when I take sharp turns during my runs. And with the HydraMax foam within the collar and a new improve collar which is said to be a bit softer and less irritating on the Achilles region (not that I can feel over the K3), my ankle felt great!

FlexFilm "zebra stripes" around the collar region

The next major change will be the midsole, an upgrade from ProGrid to PowerGrid, a lighter, bouncier and more durable foam. Honestly speaking, this is rather a protection feature for those who strikes the ground on the heel. A 4mm heel to toe offset encourages mid to forefoot striking but do not forget that one does loose concentration at times especially when fatigue sets in. And that is when heel striking will generally come at times. With a cushy rear, it may just help with it. Personally for me, I didn't find this upgrade useful for me as I weight pretty light. However, it may come in handy for those who weight heavier. So yes, it's a positive upgrade here.

Midsole upgraded to PowerGrid

Same outsole pattern from the K3

So there you have it. Only some slight upgrades to a already magnificent shoe, a legend of its class in Saucony's stable. Nothing much has changed from the K3 and I certainly hope the successor K5 will retain most is DNA from here, perhaps securing the toe box a little.

I've used the K3 for my Comrades Marathon 2013 which fared really well and the K4 will most likely be my shoe of choice for the 2014 "Down" run edition. Just hope that next year's colourway which I've targeted will arrive just in time. *grin...

The Saucony Kinvara 4 is now available at all Saucony authorized dealers such as  Running Lab - Tropicana City Mall, selected RSH, Studio R  and Stadium stores nationwide retailing a recommended selling price of RM399.00.

This review pair of Saucony Kinvara 4 is given complimentary to me by RSH (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd as part of my sponsorship program with Saucony.

Monday, November 04, 2013

How Early Detection Can Save...

By Frank

With Terry Fox Run (Marathon of Hope) into its 33rd edition this year and with the KL run just under a month away, here's a short recap on how I discovered Rhabdomyosarcoma, cancer of the connective tissue that affected me.

When I first discovered a swelling on my left wrist back in early year 1992, I didn't know what was it. Maybe it was just a typical swelling when I rested by wrist on the table or perhaps due to sports (played handball and football during those days). A check with the family doctor, Dr. Tan didn't reveal much and thus thinking it was gangrene. However, after having second thoughts, Dr. Tan called up the next day to arrange for a scan at Maria Specialist Hospital with Dr. Chiew. And thus from there, my first encounter with cancer started.

The scan revealed a lump embed within my left wrist and surgery was needed to remove it. And so in March 1992, surgery was performed by Dr. Chiew and the marble sized whitish lump was removed and sent to Mount Elizabeth Hospital for lab testing. The result returned a couple of weeks later while I was having my first high school semester exam. The result was a negative one and treatment was needed immediately.

Being a 12 year old back then and considered a growing teenager, I was unique as Rhadbomyosarcoma generally affects children aged 5 to 7 years old. Chemotheraphy was administered at Singapore National University Hospital (SNUH) under the care of Dr. Quah TC. After a 6 months cycle period, I was transferred to Singapore General Hospital (SGH)  for Radiotheraphy under the care of Dr. Yang TL . It was for a one month period. Finally, it was back to SNUH again for to continue with Chemotherapy and ending again with Chemotherapy, this time on a stronger more potent dosage.

One particular chemo drug that was administered on me that I remembered clearly till today for its potency is Adriamycin, a clear red liquid that does most what other chemo drugs does but with an extra, potential damage to the heart cells. This was the same drug that was administered for my hero, Canada's late Terry Fox too when he battled Osteosarcoma, a pretty similar cancer to what I battled.

2 years down the road, I successfully overcame my sickness, just in time for my PMR exam though not doing very well in it. The next 10 years was to watch for any symptoms of relapse and I was glad I live through it healthily. And during that 10 years, I managed to pick myself up performing pretty well in both studies and sports. And today, here is where I am, doing that I do best in endurance sports, long distance running and in the meantime helping to raise awareness about cancer together with CARIF and the outreach program Be Frank.

Before this post gets too long as the above is basically just a recap, what I am trying to share is that cancer is not a death sentence. Early detection of cancer is the far most important in survival rate and it all lies within no other than our ownself. Never to afraid to stand up to it, to ask around  and to fight it. A small growth, lump, pain or anything abnormal you are feeling anywhere on your body, quickly have it check. It may not be 100% cancer, but it's always good to know. I may have taken 2 years of treatment to battle it and although it does sound pretty long and obviously a painful journey, I may not be here to blog about it should I chose to let the swelling be. And besides, with medical advancement nowadays, treatment may be even more "friendly" and less painful. Just remember, be bold, be brave and most importantly Be Frank about cancer.

If you have any doubts about something suspicious happening to your body, do plan a quick visit to your friendly neighbourhood doctor to have it check out. And with many plans out there which includes AXA110 Cancer Care, cancer treatment has never been easier.