EE Run 2019

This morning’s Energy Efficiency (EE) Run was a low-key, cheap (RM40!) 10K race organized by the country’s Energy Commission scheduled smack in between GCM19 and the start of my base training. After 2 weeks of zero running, getting back on track has been hard for me. I’ve no injuries to begin with but stringing together short runs have been challenging. I started putting a few runs a week 3 weeks post-GCM19 (pGCM) with the intention of gradually building up from a couple of 30K weeks but it was quite a drag. I toed the line in a de-trained mode and, despite the name of the event, obviously struggling with energy issues of my own.

Start: A visual sweep pretty much confirmed the presence of the battle hardened 10K specialists. These folks race for the money and podium and unless you’re knocking back 4:20 splits, there’s no point in entertaining a fantasy.🤷🏼‍♂️

2K into the race: Fwah, how did the 1st K pace happen with the little running I did the last 3 weeks?! Tiok bo? Eat this, you young ‘uns!👊🏽

3K: Still OK wor! The hardcore guys, with a couple of ladies in tow, have pulled so far ahead I’d lost visual contact. Up the bridge we went. A guy in the same category put up a fight after hearing the noisy slapping of the 4% but he couldn’t sustain and dropped off pace. 🤤

4K: Resumed my 2nd K pace. I only had 2 in the Open category for company.✌🏾

5K – Finish: The positivity started dissipating. Kena liao lor. Things started going downhill from here as I was reduced to a crawl🐌. Blame game started😜, from the haze to the very warm morning😂! The consolation was that this was only a 10K so that didn’t drag on for too long – I was running out of things to blame🤣. Imagine had that been a marathon!

I was not passed in the 2nd half of the race by anyone except 1 young ‘un. Oh, and the distance was 9.9K which meant I couldn’t really take this 45+ as my PR. With base training due to start in 2 weeks, I’ll try again at SCKLM. While my passion lies in the marathon, with a key race planned next year, this morning’s effort without any semblance of mileage nor speedwork can only benefit my marathon preps.

The event was well organized other than the start time made to suit the government officials and the😴 VIP speech. Traffic was well managed, and there was more than adequate water stations. Per the VIP, this race only happens once every 2 years and offers one of the best prize monies for a government organized event. Si meh? With the cheapo entry fees to boot, runners won’t have much to complain. And since I’m not a frequent racer, it was great to catch up with Naresh, Michelle, Chooi Fern and Sharon. With Muhaizar also in the mix, that made 3 GCM19 alumnis there!

 

Nike Pegasus Turbo – 50K Review

Plenty of hype went into Nike’s launch of the Pegasus Turbo last year. So strong were the marketing that I got my hands on the shoes a day before the official launch. As usual, after logging some miles in them, I sat down to write a review. Only to discard the draft and a few weeks later, sold off the shoes. Let me explain.

Sold this pair off after 260km.

Firstly, here’s what I liked about the OG Turbo – they’re light (8.45oz/239g for my US10), very smooth and cushioned, and spec-wise just a carbon plate short of Vaporfly 4% material. They reminded me of the Clayton 2 but without the bulk. And even with the controversial but eye-catching, racing strip that runs down the vamp, I’ve found wiggle-room to be sufficient.

The feet sit atop the premium Zoom X foam (greyish tint) and under that is the React foam. Other than the racing strip, the exaggerated pointed heel is a Turbo giveaway.
This version has a unique print on the sockliner, which says “Run The Night”. Other than a reflective strip on the heel counter, I’m not sure if the upper material has added reactive shine properties to it.

Now, the negatives:

  1. The Turbo were not quite stable to run in. The absence of a carbon plate meant there was a need for compensating controls, literally, with the use of React foam. The midsole comprises of Nike’s high-end Zoom X foam and under that layer, React. Despite that approach, I still found them to be less stable than the Epic React. Taking turns and corners in the Turbo wasn’t as reassuring as I’d liked.
  2. They’re a tad too soft for my liking, resulting in my arches flaring up.
  3. At RM735, they’re very expensive.
Rubber in a rail-like design encircles the outer rim of the shoes. Within the perimeter are little pentagonal waffles in all the high-wear areas. Exposed React foam commands the midfoot real estate. No signs of wear after 50K.

Despite my mixed feelings, I still logged over 260km in the Turbo before being sold off. That ordinarily would’ve ended my association with the Turbo, except that I not only found myself with another pair nearly a year on, but also the updated Turbo 2! We will leave the Turbo 2 for future review and stick with the OG here. It happened when JD Sports had their sale and the Turbo were had for a more palatable RM510. Coincidentally I was on the lookout for soft lightweight trainer for all the easy running, post-GCM19. Since the first pair, I’ve made some gains as a runner and I reckoned that with better mechanics, I’d be able to finally enjoy the shoes. And after logging 50K in them, I’m pleased to report that I do like them! I’m unable to explain my new-found liking for the Turbo except to pin it to my general fitness and running form. The other fellas from the running group have always liked the shoes, and have worn them for easy long runs right through to long tempos but with plenty of time before Base Training kicks off late September, most of my running are the easy maintenance stuff. So while there’s little use of the firm and fast shoes such as the Hyper-Tri or Rival Fly at the moment, there’s plenty of opportunities for the versatile Turbo.

I appreciate the soft and bouncy ride when rotated with the much firmer Forever Floatride Energy and Beacon, and that’s a good thing when it’s all about enjoying the miles at this stage. I expect the mini-waffle outsole to hold up well as the pair I’ve sold off were in great shape even after 260km. I’ve never had breathability issues with my first pair of OGs and it’s the same here. The fit around the collar is as good as that of the Pegasus 35 with the swept heel design. And yes, the Turbo is true-to-size. It has been a little odd, getting reacquainted with shoes that didn’t quite work out the first time, but perhaps due to me being a different runner this go-around, the experience with the Turbo have been largely positive. I’m looking forward to getting plenty of miles in them!

With the launch of the Turbo 2, you should be able to find the Turbo OGs on sale in most places. While the Turbo 2 retains the midsole and outsole material and design, the upper is now sleeker, the formerly padded tongue and collar are now race-oriented. The racing strip and Flywire are gone as well. The Turbo 2 is thus lighter, befitting a performance shoe. Is the Turbo OG (or 2) for you then? There’s no clear answer – since there are folks on both sides of the divide. I’d suggest trying the shoes in-stores (e.g. Nike KLCC has a treadmill) before purchasing due to their imposing price tag.

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Update: After the initial draft of this post, I ran a couple of quicker sessions in the Turbo. The first was a short 6K, rolling off very slowly and progressing down to MP and under to wrap the workout up. No stability issues this time, despite the route being the usual twisty roads in my neighbourhood but as my right shoe wasn’t laced up as snugly around the midfoot – my own doing – every footstrike was an annoying and thoroughly distracting smack. So lace up snugly! My second run was a fast finish 12K at Peremba. The route is basically a 6K loop with 2 sharp turns. Unlike firmer and lower-stacked shoes, soft ones like the Vaporfly and Zoom Fly require a wider turning radius and you’ll need strong ankles to execute a quick turnaround. The Turbo is no different – you’ll still need to use the Vaporfly’s racing lines to negotiate the turns. Other than that those observations, I’m enjoying the shoes. They will certainly feature a lot when base training commences in 2 months time.

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Reebok Floatride Everyday – 50K Review

Launched early 2019, the Reebok Floatride Everyday (RFE) came after the releases of the elite Floatride Run Fast Pro (an eye-watering US$250) and Floatride Run Fast (US$140). At US$100, the RFE is the cheapest option in Reebok’s line of Floatride models. These 3 are, of course, progeny of the Floatride Run, a very decent daily trainer I also had the chance of running in a couple of years ago. Now that I’m slowly building the fitness back again after a 2-week post-marathon break, I’ve had the chance to finally run in the RFE. The RFE along with the Zoom Fly 3 are my go-to’s for the upcoming 8-week Foundation Phase, now that I’ve retired the Zoom Fly Flyknit and Ultraboost Uncaged.

I’ll keep my review succinct, so let’s get going.

Specs
Stack height: 29mm/19mm (per Runningwarehouse)
Weight: 9.45oz/268g (US10, as personally weighed. They’re a full ounce heavier than the Turbo but more than half an ounce lighter than the Zoom Fly 3).
Type: Versatile daily trainer.
Fit: True to size. Not sure why Runningwarehouse and some reviewers advise sizing down. If in doubt, always try them out in-stores.

Upper

  • Accommodating forefoot provides very nice toe splay and wiggle room for the digits.
  • Very breathable engineered mesh, with tighter weave in the high-stress areas.
  • Internal stiffeners for the toe-box, none of those hard and rigid stuff.
  • No extraneous strips. Just very thin strips of overlays in the midfoot section to provide some structure.
  • Tongue padding is just nice.
  • Semi-rigid heel counter with external laminated reinforcements
  • Reflective strips in the upper and on the heel counter
Close-up of the mesh and midsole. The Floatride Energy midsole material feels like Skechers’ Hyper Burst to the touch.

Midsole

  • Single piece Floatride Energy TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomer), which is similar to that of the Fuel Cell. Not the PEBAX used in the higher-end Floatride models.
  • A bit of midsole flare. Provides a wide base for the feet to sit on.
  • Firmer and less squishy to the touch compared to React, a little similar to Skechers’ Hyper Burst.
  • Lighter than Boost and EVERUN.
It’s got some toe spring. Don’t let the photo fool you – there’s more than enough toe box room for most folks.

Outsole

  • Full contact hard rubber outsole with mini waffle-like lugs.
  • Feels like sticky rubber to the touch. Assured traction across all the surfaces I’ve run on. I fully expect the same performance under wet conditions as well.
  • Average toe-spring. Interesting article on toe-spring

Outsole shows very little wear after 50K

Ride Character

  • The shoes are indeed versatile! They feel at home when taken slow and are totally at ease when the pace is pushed. They feel like shoes a full ounce lighter.
  • The RFE’s cushioning is on the firmer end of the scale but they are anything but harsh – firmer than React and Boost but softer than Revlite. I’ve no business with overly firm shoes, but these won’t trash up your legs. I ran a 10-miler on sore legs the day after a bruising 10K race and my legs didn’t feel as chewed up as I’d feared. I attribute the firmness to the hard rubber outsole, which took away some of the softness inherent in the Floatride Energy midsole. If Reebok replaces the forefoot outsole material to blown rubber, it’ll be even more awesome.
  • Smooth and responsive.
  • Stable, due to the shoes’ wider base.
  • I like the RFE more than the Beacon. FreshFoam of the Beacon feels dead after 200KM.
  • The outsole looks to be durable, with minimal wear after 50K. No issues hitting 500K in the RFE.
  • Breathability was great and I didn’t end up with soggy socks after my sessions.

Conclusion
The Reebok Floatride Everyday is a comfortable daily trainer that’s comfortable at whatever pace you run at. I would easily grab these for 10 milers and on days  when I prefer a slightly firmer ride. For longer distances, my choice would be the Pegasus Turbo, while the chunky and heavier Zoom Fly 3 would be for those slow draggy sessions. At RM415 after discount at RSH, the RFE presents a good value purchase. They’re no-frills shoes, durable and versatile as is something I’d pick over the Kinvara 10 and Beacon.

If you’re on a budget yet don’t want to compromise on performance, check these babies out. I expect the RFE to go sale come Q4 2019.

Post-2019 Gold Coast Marathon: What Now?

It’s coming to 2 weeks after the race (GCM19 race report). I’ve not run a single step since then, staying faithful to the 2-week self-enforced rest. Sleep hasn’t been good, with frequent tossing and turning in the wee hours of the morning, the cause of which has been hard to pin down except to put it all down to the ingrained training routine. Now that the euphoria has died down, what’s next? Moving on with the next stage of the plan, of course! GCM19 was always about getting myself as close to the BQ standards as possible, or as Detective Allen Gamble put it in The Other Guys, “…establishing a beachhead…”

We’ve developed a system to establish a beachhead and aggressively hunt you and your family. And we will corner your pride, your children, your offspring…”
Allen Gamble, The Other Guys.

To put that into my personal context,

System” would be the 18-Week HMM/LHR Advanced Plan.
Beachhead” would denote a launch pad, a Forward Operating Base if you will.
Hunt” would refer to my quest to run the Boston Marathon.

I use this movie as a reference not only because I love Will Ferrell comedies, but my life is just as boring as the married Allen Gamble’s (not when he was Gator)! Like Allen, I’m a keen data guy when it comes to training analysis. That being the case and having a bit of time being off-training, I’ve completed piecing together my training plan towards racing a key marathon in the First Quarter of 2020. Having the plan down on paper, well Excel, means it’s tangible and reinforced on a daily basis.

PHASES

DATES

NO. OF WEEKS

PHASE SUMMARY

Foundation

Jul 22 – Sep 22

8

90% easy running incorporating post-run drills, 2 progression sessions and 1 10K race on Week 3 which I’ll race casually. 3 strength sessions at Dynamique will be inserted here. Weekly mileage averages out at only 59K. Objective is to rebuild aerobic fitness and consistency.

HMM/LHR 6- Week Base

Sep 23 – Nov 3

6

Weekly average is 64K, with 80% easy running. Speed-work are all short and non-interval based eg in the form of fartlek and progression only. At the end of the 6th week, I’d have gone through 14 weeks of consistent prep-work. A week’s complete rest with a massage session is planned before transitioning into the very challenging 18-week plan.

REST

HMM/LHR 18-Advanced Plan

Nov 11 – Mar 15

18

I already experienced it first-hand how hard this nut is. Plus, I’ll be running at much faster paces.

Coach Luke has cautioned against embarking on a plan that’s too long, because it’s counter-productive and increases of risk of burn-out and injuries. It’s for that reason I’m keeping the Foundation Phase very loose and easy, and inserting a week’s complete rest before the start of the main body of training. While it remains to be seen how much cushion is needed after the revision of the qualifying standards this year – read up the regulations and try out the qualifying calculator here running a just-in-time race is just too risky. A buffer of 5 minutes would be ideal to give the applicant some measure of comfort (but still no guarantees!), so you can imagine how hard it is just to make it to the start at Hopkinton. I’m hopeful and the numbers do suggest some possibility. But I’m not going to worry about that. Instead I believe that if I can execute the plan well, I’m in with more than a shout. The training paces have been updated into Final Surge and Garmin Connect. So here I go again!

 

Gold Coast Airport 5.7KM Fun Run 2019

I returned to run the 5.7K as a form of pre-marathon shakedown. The inclement weather meant that my plan to run with the Insta360 One X was scuppered since I don’t have the waterproof casing. Instead I relied on hand-holding the GoPro (without the gimbal) and the video came out all right. I ran 26:16 for the distance and got a good work out for next day’s big race. Taking into account carrying a camera, sling bag and water-resistant shoes! Enjoy the video!

*Follow this link to my Gold Coast Marathon Race Report.

Gold Coast Marathon 2019

The runners around me let out a collective groan as the rain came down, light shower at first before developing into something more threatening. I had on me 3 old race tees on top of my singlet, a disposable arm warmer, a cap and shorts. I’d completed my warm up prior but with the wind and rain, the body was quickly cooling down. Even the singing of the Australia National Anthem sounded listless. Memories of Kasumigaura Marathon some years ago came flooding back. Unlike Kasumi however, there was less fretting on my part as I was determined not to let 18 weeks of training go down the drain. The little tree cover above provided a bit of protection, enough to keep my 2 inner layers dry but my shoes were soaked through from the running rainwater. I hopped in place to keep some semblance of warmth as the emcee counted down the start. I had discarded 2 tees and decided to keep 1 around my neck just a bit longer. When the gun went off, I immediately lost Budiman who had been standing next to me. GCM19 was the second marathon we found ourselves participating together, after Nagano. I consumed a gel and kept hopping to keep my muscles warm. The gut issues I’ve endured the past 3 days due to being lactose intolerant, seemed to have abated. I’d been concerned about the power in the legs being zapped as a result of my visits to the WC but Saturday’s 5.7K Fun Run (26:16) seemed to suggest otherwise.

Very happy to have met Erin again, my 3:40 pacer from GCM18.

My goal time was a conservative 3:30 (4:58/km) but I carried some confidence from having completed my longer MPs and a tough simulator quicker than that. While several weeks didn’t turn out as planned in terms of mileage, I’ve kept up with the SOS workouts once I’ve readjusted my initial 3:25 goal time pace from Week 10 onwards. I even scaled back the easy miles on certain weeks to allow the body more time to recover. Despite cutting back, I still ran more miles per week over the course of 4 months than I did training for GCM18. I was confident that I caught myself, just in time, from tipping over into the burnout zone, so anything between 3:25 and 3:30 was a possibility on a good day.

The crowd moved hesitantly at first but quickly progressed to the target pace when the road opened up 300m after the start. As sudden as it had came down, the rain stopped right about then. I closed in on Sally and her co-pacer, but due to the crowd, I only caught up after the course hooked a left towards Main Beach, and because I was cloistered within my own little pack of runners, I occasionally  found myself running ahead of the pacers! There was a danger in getting bunched in, and I extricated myself from the pack to avoid going out way too fast. Racing at this pace certainly required a bit more situational awareness and being mindful of the goings-on within and around ourselves. That is why I love the marathon. The goals you set, the distance to be run, the miles you’re required to put in, and the mind games you play with yourself, all elevate the marathon to a very cerebral undertaking!

Back to the race. The running was effortless and got to the 5K mark at Surfers Paradise in 24:25 having taken my 2nd gel.  I was pretty much in my own world, trying to get into a meditative state of pacing when Hee Boo suddenly appeared next to me having chased the 3:30 bus all the way from Pen B! As we chugged along smoothly, I pointed out to him the upcoming aid stations and course turns so that we could adjust our trajectory. The post-rain weather was fantastic. By 7K, we realized that the pacers were holding a much faster clip than necessary for a 3:30 and definitely not slowing down, an observation validated by some runners around us. The duo were pulling 10 seconds quicker than goal pace and once we recognized that the pace weren’t going to be sustainable for us, we let them go.

After a few turns along familiar streets, we finally joined the Gold Coast Highway, the new section of the course, at the 10K mark (48:53). This wider stretch certainly more accommodating for the masses. By then the sun was up but conditions were generally cool and pleasant to run. I removed and tucked the disposable arm warmers into my shorts waist. We continued our merry way to the Southern-most u-turn at Burleigh Heads, which once again in my opinion  retained its reputation as the best supported section of the marathon. I low-fived as many adorable kids as I could, supporting us that morning. This time around, runners made the left u-turn as opposed to right the previous years. We hit 15K in 1:13.00, just 2 minutes off April’s NatGeo 15K of 1:11.28. We hit the halfway mark in 1:42.04, 2-minute PR over Jan’s Twincity Half of 1:44.06 and couldn’t help but feel over the moon about the whole thing. It served to illustrate just how much quicker the pacers were going even if we held ourselves back. Had we been that crazy and completed the 2nd half in a similar pace, we’d have run a 3:24 marathon! Hypothetically speaking of course, since to produce that effort was simply beyond us at our current fitness levels. Instead I kept reminding Hee Boo that we needn’t be running any quicker and just needed to stay loose and relaxed – 4:50 to 4:55/km were plenty good!

We kept a very consistent average pace and with buoyant spirits, in no small part due to the raucous support from the crowd lining the streets, we arrived back at Surfers Paradise in 2:02 (25K), determined to get to the 30K mark in as good shape as possible for the final assault. The sparse crowd between 25K and 30K allowed for some introspection and warming up of the mental resolve that would be called upon pretty soon. After all, my legs were already reminding that they were a little tired. Other than that, I was good for the race. Burping was always a good sign to me – an indication that my gut was still functioning well, which also meant that the gels ingested would still be converted to fuel.

30K. Only 12 to go! We’ve got this!

This year, the 30K mark (2:26) came earlier on the course. Instead of being on the Sundale Bridge, it was right at the foot of it. No worries, flash our best smiles at the camera and get on with the job! As usual, the support in Southport was fantastic. Crowds were thick on both sides and they gave us runners fantastic support. Hint: To those with a rather difficult name to shout out, be sure to adopt a simpler one for the race bib, like Alex, Tim or Ken! You’ll appreciate the hollers coming your way!

I grabbed 2 packs of Endura gels from the table and hurried along. I believe Hee Boo dropped off sometime along this stretch and I was suddenly alone. I lost 5 seconds heading up the hump at 31K mark but regained back the pace the next 2Ks. The pace dropped again over the next KM, but clawed back the next. My mantra was, “There’s no pain, there’s no self.” as long as I could. This went on rather frustratingly until the finish, firstly trying my darndest to sustain the effort going up the Land’s End Bridge and then decided to walk 6 steps when drinking from the 2nd last water station.

Cleared the Land’s End Bridge and about to face off with a malicious head wind.

Yet, that wasn’t my slowest split. The slowest was when my fellow comrades and I were battling head wind along Marine Parade. 5:23 was all my tight legs could muster. It was inspiring to see how the runners around me didn’t throw up their hands and walked. Except for one of the 3:30 pacer who had headed out too quickly! Everyone else put their heads down, leaned into the wind and fought the final 2Ks. Shuffling as quickly as I could was I could do and when I saw that iconic Macca signage, I knew the worst was over and it was time to enjoy the run in. My name was easy to scream and thus I was able to just take it all in, even if it was all a blur.

Someone screamed my name (it was Jessie and her friend) just as I took the final left onto the final 250m. I couldn’t turn my head around so I just raised my hand in acknowledgement – thanks guys! The Emcee worked the crowd hard as we pushed and sprinted the final 200m to the finish line. Sally, the other 3:30 pacer was there jogging and urging the runners on. I’d lost visual contact of the pace team since the 30K mark, so that was quite unexpected. Only then did I allow a peek at the official clock on the gantry, which flashed 3:30 and change. It was just a matter of how much I managed to dip under it.

Even as I’m typing this now, it’s a little difficult describing my feelings of crossing the finish line – just so many emotions. A mixture of joy, relief, and pride I guess. I did nearly jumped for joy when I spotted Stella right after the finish line! She definitely needed a little vacation herself, having run around chaperoning the SEA athletes!

Post-race opportunistic photo with Sally, the 3:30 pacer and Han Chee, the GCM 10-Year Club legend from Singapore.

Pace breakdown:

4:59 > 4:47 > 4:50 > 4:58 > 4:52 > 4:50 > 4:49 > 4:58 > 4:59 > 4:51 > 4:53 > 4:49 > 4:50 > 4:50 > 4:45 > 4:49 > 4:53 > 4:47 > 4:51 > 4:53 > 4:51 (HM PR – 1:42.04) > 4:54 > 4:54 > 4:55 > 4:54 > 5:00 > 4:57 > 4:52 > 4:55 > 4:50 (30K PR – 2:26.14) > 4:55 > 5:04 > 4:51 > 4:53 > 5:08 > 4:53 > 5:03 > 5:14 > 5:12 > 5:11 > 5:23 > 5:03 > 4:19

Congrats guys! Sub-3 to 3:33 – just very well done!
Collectively, we wolved down plenty of burgers!

Post-race notes:

I don’t think I’ll need to change much of my current approach. Just a tweak here and there and looking after myself better.

  1. There’s been little downtime from running since GCM18 and even if there was a dip in Macao (3:48), the accumulated mileage certainly helped. Over the 18-week period, I logged over 1,300km but I’d like more. The challenge would be finding a solution around time constraints – despite resorting to train commutes, I’m still spending too much time traveling to and from the office.
  2. I ran a great 30K (sub-2021 BQ Standard) and if I could train well, stay healthy and injury-free and pray that the planets align themselves, I could be in with a chance next year.
  3. I’d neglected drills and strength work and it was clear that there’s room for improvement in my ability to run the final 12K very well.
  4. Pacing was consistent, the hallmark of the LHR/HMM program. Even though my pace dropped the final few kms, I didn’t slow down as much as the other runners.
  5. My next Goal MP is going to be between 4:47 to 4:50/km. I ran 14 secs/km quicker this time around compared to last year, but I’d be very very happy with an 8 to 10 seconds improvement next year. It gets harder and harder.
  6. I’ll still be going with the LHR/HMM program for my 37th marathon. Since adopting elements of it in 2017 and fully integrating it for the 2018 and 2019 races, I’ve shaved off close to 30 minutes off the 2016 timing.

A successful execution depends on so many factors and elements. My heartfelt thanks go out to Tourism and Events Queensland, Events Management Queensland and Holiday Tours for their hospitality and professionalism once again, for allowing me to be part of the 5-Star Family. GCM19 was yet another stupendous edition despite the weather challenges. They’ve always looked out for me and always seeking to improve the event. The number of runners keep rising year-on-year and who knows, entries in the near future may be going to the ballot! Back at home, the support from the family, running mates are not forgotten and when others are racing this year end, it would be my turn to return the favour (even if a 4:42 MP pace sounds impossible!). Team work rocks, and congrats to all the runners for toughening out!

Until the next race!

New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon – 120K Review

The Beacon may be well received by the running shoe geeks (RSG), but they weren’t really in my list of to-try shoes simply because I already have more than enough for the current training cycle. But as fate would have it, while poking around Rakuten, as any RSG worth his salt is wont to do, I spotted the shoes going for just RM260 including shipping! It was quite an easy decision to make *shrugs*.

9 days later, the package arrived. I did the usual unboxing just to check the product, marvelled at their lightweight feel and excellent upper construction but resisted taking them out for a run. I fully intended to use them only post-GCM19 as recovery shoes.

As luck would have it, the shoes were called to active duty just a month later. It was clear by then that the Rival Fly (RF) that I bought (also very cheaply from Japan) needed more time breaking in and the Zoom Fly (ZF) would not be working as go-fast tempo shoes on the roads that I run. My daily route consists of 12 90-degree turns each 2K loop, and the ZF isn’t suited to quick and constant changes in direction. I’d long ago retired my tempo shoes for GCM18 which was the Zoom Elite 9 (ZE9), something I initially hoped the RF would replace once broken in. Unfortunately, I couldn’t wait for the breaking-in period and after testing the Beacon out on an easy 10K, I was knew enough to know that they would be great for tempos.

The shoes are everything that others have written about – light, superbly constructed upper that’s breathable, accommodating fit. At 7.5oz (US9), 26mm/20mm stack heights for a 6mm heel to toe drop, (per Runningwarehouse specs), there’s nothing superfluous about the Beacon. They fit true to size too. You would think that not having any overlays would render the shoes unstable and sloppy but you’d be wrong. It could take the twisty roads, return a good feel of the road for a fast push-off yet providing adequate cushioning for races up to the Half Marathon from the get-go. They’re surprisingly stable too. Efficient and lighter runners will have no problems taking them to the full distance.

As mentioned earlier, the mesh upper is light and breathable. I believe they’re even lighter than knitted options that we see so prevalent these days. The stock laces are rather long and has a bit of stretch. I found myself having to tuck the extraneous parts under to prevent them flopping around. The padding around the collar and on the tongue are just nice and I’ve absolutely no complaints there.

For midsole duties, NB uses what they call Fresh Foam Ground Contact (FFGC) and they’re essentially a more durable version of the traditional FF. Visually, the stack height of the Beacon appears thick but they don’t feel that at all mainly because they’re anything but mushy. They don’t ride anything at all like the Pegasus Turbo nor Clayton 2 but there are some similarities to the Epic React, which incidentally was one of my favorite shoes.

The lateral side of the midsole features concave hexagonal cut-outs.
The medial side, on the other hand, has convex cut-outs, hence the stability without the need for a medial post.
Another view of the convex design of the medial side. Clearly shows how NB builds stability into a neutral shoe like the Beacon.

I’ve only ever worn 2 other NBs the past 5 years – the OG Zante and the Vazee Pace. Of these 2, only the Zante is made of FF, with the Vazee built on top of Revlite midsole. While I prefered the Zante over the Vazee, running in both always beat up my legs. The Beacon’s FFGC, however, has that extra bit of cushioning and over the several 13-14K tempos I’ve ran in them, my legs didn’t protest as much compared to the Zante days. I was still able to resume my easy running the very next day. The sweet spot of the Beacon is really in the midfoot area. If you’re predominantly a midfoot striker, you’re going to be in for a treat – that’s where the shoe’s cushioning and responsiveness are best experienced.

Just like the upper, the Beacon’s outsole is also a design in simplicity. 90% all-foam with the 2 small areas of rubber plugs, to provide durability on take-off and landing. The exposed foam areas wear rather well. Even though there’s noticeable wear in the center of the push-off area, I suspect the phenomenon is akin to that of the Epic React where the rate of wear tapered off after the initial 100km. Photos below show their state of wear after 120km. There should be no problems hitting 350km and, if lucky, 400km. It’s appropriate to mention that I’ve yet to run in wet conditions in the shoes to be able to comment about their traction.

While I’ve mostly employed the Beacon as faster paced shoes, they’re versatile enough for easy days as well. That said, I prefer softer shoes for those ambling miles.

Other than online sources, and perhaps NB’s factory outlets, good luck finding the Beacon now. You might as well wait for the Beacon 2 coming out sometime Q3 or check out the Fuelcell Rebel. The New Balance Beacon gets my firm recommendation.

Jaybird Tarah Wireless Sport Headphones Review

Weather are nuts these days – mostly muggy mornings, scorching afternoons and wet evenings. I’ve even resorted to putting on a layer of sunscreen before I head out for lunch these days. The adoption of casual wear in the office make things a little easier, at least. T-shirts, jeans/khakis and running shoes certainly beat the typical formal wear. Needless to say, I return from every run dripping in sweat and in order not to leave a trail of sweat in the house as I head to the kitchen to rehydrate and prepare my protein mix, I’ve even resorted to sliding around on a piece of rag. All these perspiration had cost me some money too. Over the past 3 years, I’ve had to replace 3 sports earphones. Touted splash-proof and for sports, they didn’t stand a chance with the “torrential out-pores”. After some research and reading the reviews written by runners, I decided to splash out more money for the then top-of-the-line Jaybird X3.

The X3, which is still on active duty today, is easily one of the best sounding sports earphones out there and they come with long battery life of 8 hours, app support, separate silicon ear tips and hooks, Comply foam tips (if a piece of audio hardware comes bundled with Comply tips, you know the brand puts a little more thought into sound quality), and casing. I’ve had to replace the X3 under warranty after a couple of months’ use due to non-charging, but the replacement unit’s been working well since then. The only issue I’ve had with the X3 is the fit for my right ear, which can be downright painful. As you can see from the photos below, you’ll notice that the section of the earphones that you jam into your ear are not as tapered nor at an angle that’s comfortable for my right ear. No issues with the left, and people are unique that way. I’ve tried the various tips and hooks but they just don’t work, either slipping off when I sweat or just too uncomfortable for extended use – by “extended use” I mean for duration exceeding an hour. That pretty much encompasses all my workouts these days.

My issue with fit has, thankfully, come to an end with the Tarah, one of 3 models released by Jaybird a few months ago, the lowest cost option. The other 2 being the substantially more expensive Tarah Pro and X4. I won’t go into the X4 as the biggest difference they have over the X3 is the IPX7 rated waterproofing. The X4 is, of course, an upgrade of the X3. The Tarah and the Pro version are, however, completely new from Jaybird. To know about each of the differences, check out Jim’s excellent review below.

The olive-coloured X3 above, Tarah below.

The Tarah is decidedly a lower spec’d unit than the Pro. It’s almost by default that we expect “lower spec’d” as feeling cheaper, they’re not too shabby in other aspects. Since they don’t have the Pro’s nylon cabling, they’re lighter than the X3. In a nutshell, battery life is still rated at a very decent 6 hours, they’re IPX7 (sweat and waterproof), capable of delivering 1 hour playtime on 10 minutes’ charge, and sound customization via the fantastic Jaybird app. The negatives are the absence of a carrying case, the continued use of an easily misplaced charging cable (as with those used for the X series and Tarah Pro). The Tarah is also non-compliant with Comply tips but instead uses all-in-one ear-gels, which is can still be customised to a degree.

While the earphones are charging up, you should go ahead and download the Jaybird MySound app (iTunes | Google Play). Pairing is expectedly easy and firmware updates delivered quickly once the app is opened. Out of the box, the Tarah’s sound signature is flat so the app is where you head to, to tweak your preferred sound profile, or just use one of several presets offered. You’ll see that Jaybird has signed up ultra-running elites such as Rory Bosio and Tim Olson. In fact, head to YouTube and enjoy their running series. Other than presets, the MySound app also offer podcasts and playlists hosted out of Spotify. Once you’re in Spotify, it’s easy to lose oneself just checking out its voluminous content. Since I don’t run with the phone, my music are all played out of the iPod Nano. If you’ve the latest watches from Garmin such as the music versions of the 245, 645 or 945, you can ditch the iPod or any MP3 player.

The app also allows the user to customise button controls, set the preferred voice prompts as well as battery-saving time window but I’ve found the defaulted settings to be good enough. I’ve not tried the “Find my buds” feature to comment on it.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, the issue I have with the X3 is the fit. You can see from the photo below the difference in construction of both models. With the Tarah’s tapered tips, the discomfort is no longer felt. I’ve taken them on several runs ranging from 12 to 27K and have had no issues. The Tarah never lost connection with the iPod and I was able to enjoy the musical distraction over the longer runs. I’ve yet to drain the battery below 50% to validate the claimed 6-hour operational time but I’ve no doubts they’ll be able to deliver on that.

The Jaybird Tarah gets two thumbs up from me. Nailing the fit for my finicky right ear is already a plus. They sound great, after tweaking the sound EQ, have very decent features that are comparable or even surpassing the more expensive options out there.

I purchased the Tarah for RM325 from Lazada and Foto Shangri-La, the seller, even bundled a free Jaybird-UA-Standard Chartered KL Marathon cap. Go try them out!

Word of caution: Regardless of the earphone designs, please be always mindful of traffic and other safety threats. Always use your better judgment and never listen at extreme levels of volume or over prolonged period of time.

National Geographic Earth Day Run 2019

Having enjoyed its debut edition last year, many of the GCM crew returned to give this year’s event a go. It was a small event that’s appropriately timed around the mid-point of GCM training, perfect as a checkpoint of sorts. As with last year, the 15K route took us through the affluent Kota Kemuning township, a location that we don’t often find ourselves. It’s always nice to have a refreshing change of scenery every now and then. True to its green message, no cups or bottles were used at their drink stations. Instead, runners were advised to bring along their own reusable cups, flasks, or bottles.

Nick had kindly offered to drive CY, Calvin and I there and we got to Gamuda Walk pretty early at 5:35am. Even so, cars had started streaming in with the car parks filling up rather quickly. We quickly geared up and promptly went on our warm up jog around the area and as if rehearsed, were able to pick up Hee Boo and Cheong along our way. We logged around 2K and made our way into the starting chute all sweaty.

The initial plan was to run at MP but I decided just to run by feel. In a race of this distance, the textbook execution would be a fast start to clear the crowd, settle back into and hold an appropriate race pace, be patient and pick off anyone struggling, before pushing for a strong finish. That was precisely how I ran the playbook. Within the first 500m, I was in a bunch of 25 or 30 runners, and by the first KM (4:32), the bunch had disintegrated into tiny clusters and solo runners. I brought up the rear and was running alone. The route was the same – it wasn’t a hard one to forget, a few roundabouts and turns and one or two landmarks to gauge the progress. As expected the distance markers were all prominently displayed and the drink stations well-staffed, helping runners refill their water supply via hand-pumped siphons. I didn’t think any of us at the front stopped to refill. I’d been sipping from my handheld 500ml Salomon soft flask filled with plain water, a conscious choice instead of sports drinks, since I planned to take in a gel early into the race. After the fast start, I’d settled into the low-mid 4:50s and considering how depleted I was last week due to recovery from illness and the resulting fatigue, my breathing were very much in control.

Progress was steady and as mentioned I ran mostly alone. The throaty cough that had plagued me for a week surfaced just once and I could tell it wasn’t as bad as previous days. That certainly helped with my confidence! Hee Boo, Cheong and Calvin were so far ahead that I only spotted them after the 7KM mark when the runners took a turn to make their way back to the finish. I’d been keeping an eye on 3 runners, which included the lead female, ahead of me and as I gently nudged the pace down from 4:53 to 4:49, 4:47, 4:47 and 4:46 over the next 5KMs I’d reeled them in and passed them. I tucked the empty flask into my waist band and continued to hover around the low 4:50s as the only visible guy ahead was simply too far to catch. Not only was he not slowing down, he was pulling away from me.

Nearing the finish line. Photo credit: Penonton.

As I got close to the u-turn for the 5KM runners, I started picking up the pace to take advantage of the gentle downhill. My 4:46, 4:44, and 4:33 took me past another runner (not the one who pulled away) with 1.5KM to go. I’d thought of pushing for a sub-1:10 when I hit the 10K mark but a 1:11.28 (4:46 average pace, 6th position) was still a very satisfactory result on an accurately measured course. I ran 1:10.28 (4:54 average pace, 5th position) in the 2018 race [race report here] which was 600m short. It was a strong and patient run which restored a bit of confidence in me. I learned a lot from this race which reaffirmed my decision to adjust my goal for GCM19. I’m reminded that the pursuit of goals can’t be rushed and being patient can result in a far more enjoyable and fulfilling journey.

After the ice-cream! Photo courtesy of Khay Ann.

Thanks to Nick for collecting the race packs and offering the ride to and from the race site. My appreciation also goes out to the organizers, sponsors, crew and photographers, for putting up and supporting a great small event! Here’s to Week 9 and beyond!

GCM19: Weeks 1 to 3

“Training for a race will teach you the skills you need to be successful in life: Goal-setting, commitment, patience, sacrifice, work ethic, and often overlooked: recovery.” John Jefferson.

And just like that, Week 3 is a wrap. I’ve set several goals for GCM19 and the most aggressive one is to be able to meet the qualifying standards of Boston 2020,a lofty goal by any means. The secondary goal is to run a sub 3:30 marathon and the tertiary goal is to run a PR. To nail the biggest goal, I’ll have to run 20 seconds per km faster than my current best, and better my current PR by 13 minutes. It’s as  intimidating as it sounds, but I’ve run a Half Marathon just 3 seconds off the goal pace as recently as January, on just base mileage, over an undulating course and humid weather. I’ll know if that was a foolhardy fantasy to be entertaining come July 7th.

While I can easily cook up many excuses to say that I can’t and shouldn’t be entertaining such foolhardy thoughts, I’d rather focus on keeping a positive mindset and believe that I can somehow pull it off, no matter how misguided or delusional that may be. I’m no psychologist but this term – Self-Efficacy – seems to best describe my mental stance to the whole pursuit. Believing in it and whole-heartedly embracing the process and things may just work out. I hope.

The Hansons Advance Plan have got me running more than before, right from the very first week. On top of what’s prescribed, I’ve added a bit more to each day. As you can see from the logs below, the daily additions of mostly 1Ks are all miniscule but there’s more to it. Firstly, they all add up to the weekly mileage which I need. Having a rock solid base is priceless. Secondly, it toughens the mind. We’re somehow conditioned to look forward to the completion of the easy (yet boring) 10Ks and long runs. Adding that bit more will teach and toughen up the mind to accept being uncomfortable for just a little longer. Thirdly, the time spent on my feet – the basis of ultra training – can only toughen me up. Over the course of 3 weeks, I’ve logged 150% more mileage than the same period last year, when I made my breakthrough. Granted, I was training on the Beginner plan then. But mileage is mileage, and they come in extremely handy.

Naturally, I’ve been very very careful in taking on the additional mileage, all of which were logged as part of the easy days and none as part of an SOS which are already demanding as they were. I will not hesitate to opt out of adding miles should I really feel sick or really run down. Like what Coach Humphrey said, “You don’t want to be overcooked.”

If there’s one thing I’ve to be really watchful about, it’s sleep. Due to family commitments, that area will always be challenged, so it’s all about doing the very best I can. The training crew have been training and racing extremely well recently and I’m looking up to those who have broken their personal barriers like sub-3:30, 3:15, and sub-3:05. On top of that, we’ve had newly minted sub-5 and sub-4 hour marathoners as well!

Week 1

Planned: 63K
Actual: 71.57K
Difference: +8.6K

Nothing strenuous. All easy miles. 

Week 2

Planned: 66.6K
Actual: 76.18K
Difference: +9.58

First speed session i.e. 12x400m at 1K race pace, with 400m recovery. The 400s were executed in 4:30 > 4:13 > 4:17 > 4:17 > 4:23 > 4:25 > 4:21 > 4:25 > 4:15 > 4:25 > 4:08 > 4:30. Twice a day intake of protein (once post workout, another before bedtime), 2 iron supplements per week, 2 magnesium supplements per week, extra Vit C on alternate days.

Week 3

Planned: 73K
Actual: 79.8K
Difference: +6.8

First speed and tempo week. 8x600m @ 10K race pace with 400m recovery which I covered in 4:34 > 4:38 > 4:34 > 4:25 > 4:21 > 4:24 >4:22 > 4:23. I averaged 4:50 on the dot for the 10K tempo. The poor air quality didn’t make things easy but I got that very challenging session. Thankfully, the haze slowly disappeared over the course of the next few days and I was able to stick to the plan. Same eating regimen was applied but I introduced nuts to stave off the hunger pangs at work. This week saw the most miles logged so far but all good! However, I need to cutback on the mileage next week and stick to the planned 73K having adding miles since W2 Feb. It’s a belated move but the body needs a down week to recuperate and bounce back the following week.

That’s it for now. I hope to continue updating my progress as the I clear the weeks. If you’ve thought about running a PR course on a great location, think no further than the Gold Coast. Early bird fees still apply, so click on the banner below and get to it!

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I’ll be running my 9th Gold Coast Marathon this July! While the IAAF Gold Labelled marathon route is fast, flat and scenic where over 60% of runners achieve their personal best, I’ve grown to love the Gold Coast for its vibes. If you’ve not been to the Gold Coast, it will surprise you. Attractions are never more than a short drive/commute away from the city centre. From her world-famous beaches, to the tranquil hinterlands, and to the adrenaline pumping theme parks, the destination has it all. Come join me this July and register before end April to enjoy early bird fees. Details here: www.goldcoastmarathon.com.au