Media Release: GC2018 Queen’s Baton Relay

Baton visit will put Malaysia in world spotlight

  • Longest relay in Commonwealth Games history ends at Australia’s Gold Coast
  • Welcome mat out for thousands of tourists to visit host city for 2018 Games
  • Malaysian residents in Australia expected to turn out in force to cheer for Team Malaysia athletes
  • Borobi, the blue surfing koala and official mascot for the 2018 Games, will fly in specially from the Gold Coast to join the Baton Relay in Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia will welcome the 2018 Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton Relay this October as part of the longest and most accessible relay in Commonwealth history on the way to the host city, Australia’s Gold Coast.

The XXI Commonwealth Games, to be held in Australia’s premier beachside city of the Gold Coast from 4-15 April 2018, are set to be one of the most memorable and picturesque Games ever staged. The Games will involve more than 6600 athletes and officials with thousands of international visitors
expected to flock to the popular holiday city known for its golden beaches, world-class attractions and easy-going lifestyle.

The Queen’s Baton Relay (QBR) began at Buckingham Palace on Commonwealth Day, Monday, March 13, 2017, when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will place her message to the Commonwealth inside the GC2018 Baton.

The Baton will travel 230,000km over 388 days through 70 Commonwealth nations on its journey to, and across, Australia and eventually to the Gold Coast for the Games’ Opening Ceremony where the Queen’s message will be read.

The Baton will arrive in Kuala Lumpur on Monday, October 16, 2017 before departing on Saturday, October 21 for Brunei. The Malaysian stop will see Borobi, the blue surfing koala and official mascot for the 2018 Games, flying in specially from the Gold Coast to join the Queen’s Baton Relay in Malaysia.

The distinctive loop design of the Baton was unveiled at a ceremony on the Gold Coast on Sunday, 20 November 2016 in conjunction with celebrations of the 500 Days to Go milestone until the Games.

Made of macadamia wood and reclaimed plastic collected from Gold Coast waterways and beaches, the Baton’s design was inspired by the region’s vibrant spirit, indigenous heritage and with sustainability in mind.

The Baton, similar to an enlarged eye of a needle, has constantly changing neon lighting pulsing around the inside of the loop design and a see-through compartment on the side which will contain the Queen’s message, written on paper made from the Australian desert plant, spinifex grass.

The names of all 70 Commonwealth countries are engraved, in the order of hosting the QBR, on a metal spine through the middle of the Baton.

It also contains a GPS device which will allow 24/7 internet tracking of the Baton on its worldwide journey.

Designers said they were inspired by the “boundless energy” of the Gold Coast and believe the “bold and beautiful” Baton reflects the “people, place and spirit of the Gold Coast”. “Our immersion into the Gold Coast revealed a city rich in contrasts and full of optimism – if you can do it anywhere, you can do it here,” said Designworks principal Alexander Wall.

The Baton is certain to get a warm welcome in Malaysia, a nation with strong ties to the Commonwealth Games. It has contested 12 of the previous Games (including the preceding British Empire Games) and hosted the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian athletes have won 181 Commonwealth Games medals including 52 gold. At the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Malaysia finished 12th overall with 19 medals, including six gold.

Malaysian athletes will again be highly competitive at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games and are expected to feature prominently in sports including Badminton, Track Cycling, Weightlifting, Gymnastics, Diving, Shooting and Lawn Bowls.

When visiting the Gold Coast to support Team Malaysia at the Games next April, Malaysians are encouraged to take some time to meet the friendly locals and discover everything the Gold Coast has to offer, including:

  • the cosmopolitan beach lifestyle
  • vibrant, trendy café and dining scene
  • colourful weekend markets
  • the chance to cuddle a koala
  • traverse the top of Q1, Australia’s tallest residential building on the SkyPoint Climb
  • Hot Air Ballooning
  • thrilling theme parks
  • Skydive, landing on one of the Gold Coast’s iconic beaches
  • Learn to Surf
  • and so much more!

The QBR has been the traditional curtain raiser to every Commonwealth Games since the Cardiff 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games.
Commonwealth Games Federation President, Louise Martin CBE, said a message from the Monarch had been read at every Games since 1930.

“The Queen’s Baton Relay extends an invitation to the athletes and communities of the Commonwealth to celebrate together,” she said.

“It reinforces our shared love of sport and recognises the power of sport to transcend barriers and bring us together. “Above all, however, it is a message from Her Majesty of hope, ambition and peace for the citizens and athletes of the Commonwealth.

“It is a truly exciting moment to share the international route of the 2018 Queen’s Baton Relay, so that communities and citizens across the Commonwealth can join the build up to the XXI Commonwealth Games.”

Peter Beattie AC, the Chairman of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation (GOLDOC), said “The Baton will return to the Gold Coast in April 2018, having been touched, admired, photographed, filmed and loved by so many people from all over the Commonwealth,” he said.

For more information on Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth GamesTM visit www.gc2018.com and for destination information visit www.queensland.com.

Hoka Clayton 2 Review

Astonishingly, this is another Hoka review. I blame CY for this. And I blame eBay too because just like how I snagged the Tracer (reviewed here), there was a store-returned, like new, Clayton 2 there as well. At RM420.

Now, you’ll be able to find plenty of mixed reviews online about the Clayton 1, with wearers raving about the ride, cushioned responsiveness and stability all in a sub-9 oz lightweight package. Then the same wearers would often vent about the shoe’s various design issues which caused bad chafing around the arch area. So when had the chance to try out CY’s Clayton 1, I almost immediately took a liking for the shoe. They’re like the Skechers GoRun Ultra, minus a couple of ounces! Prior to this experience, my impressions of Hoka weren’t that positive, to be honest. I appreciated their concept of building super comfy yet relatively lightweight shoes but did they have to make them so puffy and pricey?

 

Unlike the Tracer, I stuck with US10 for the Clayton 2 (C2). While not supremely light, 8.4oz is in the vicinity of proven racing and performance trainers such as the Boston 6, Kinvara 8 and Zoom Elite 9. The C2 has a 28/24mm stack height. But let’s cover the upper first. It’s largely a one-piece mesh upper with zig-zagging latticed overlays, from the forefoot up to the midfoot area, while a more structured but soft construct secures the heel.  At one glance, one might opine that the entire concept lacks breathability and the lattice constrictive, but the opposite is true. The C2 has the most forgiving upper of Hokas. I wouldn’t call the C2’s upper the best ever simply because even the Zoom Elite 9’s is more generous in the toebox height department.

The overlays are reflective, making the C2 one of the highest visibility shoes I’ve ever worn, just behind Skechers’ Nite Owl versions of the GoRun Ride and GoRun Ultra.

Laces are stretchy and very long, necessitating a double-knot approach to securing them. Or simply tuck them under. Where it gets a little tricky is achieving a secure lockdown which, for some reason for me, is a frustrating affair. I’ve resorted to using the heel-lock lacing method to get a good hold but that resulted in a tiresome lacing experience.

The step in feel is expectedly pillowy soft. Your foot comes in contact with a thin layer of removable Ortholite insole which sits on top of a layer of perforated foam forming the footbed. Like Hoka’s other go-fast model, the Tracer (reviewed here), the C2 also features the Pro2Lite dual density midsole. That’s Protection (in the heel) + Propulsion (forefoot). And in a shoe with the C2’s stack heights, the difference in sensation of the softer/firmer midsole sections are more palpable here than in the Tracer.

The foot actually sits cupped inside the midsole, where the tip of my thumb is, in the photos below. The first photo is of the medial side, and the second, the lateral side. As you can see, the sidewalls are high, typical of Hokas, which centers the foot, creating a stable footplant.

Hoka’s customary early stage meta-rocker geometry works to get the wearer through the gait cycle quicker. Other than the lightweight cushioning the shoes offer, what attracts me to the Clayton is the way they make me run tall (well, they’re higher stacked shoes anyway) and upright, and with a certain sense of efficiency in the strides.

The Clayton’s full contact outsole is all RMAT foam. They feel spongy to the touch, so durability will not be comparable to rubber. The RMAT coverage is very generous though. At 73km, there are already visible signs of wear and 350 – 400km would be my estimate before they look worse for wear.

I’ve not covered distances long enough (10 miles being the longest) in the C2 to be able to confirm the non-recurrence of the chafing issues reported for version 1. I did, however, pre-emptively swap out the stock Ortholite insole with Skechers’ 😬. So far so good.

The Hoka One One Clayton 2 is already in selected stores in the country but with a eye watering price tag of nearly RM700. It’s for that reason that I can only recommend an online purchase from overseas sites. Furthermore, Hoka will be releasing the all-new Cavu and Mach early 2018, with the Mach a direct replacement of the Clayton 2. So I’d say hold off your purchase of the Clayton 2 and wait for a few more months. If you’re interested, Sam Winebaum had a nice post up on both the new shoes over at www.roadtrailrun.com.

Reebok Floatride Run Review

I’ve run in so many brands of shoes out there that it’s easier for me to list out the brands that I haven’t worn! Strangely, Reebok is one of those. Yep, the brand that has cornered the CrossFit and Spartan market actually had some pretty decent running shoes, like the 3D Electrolyte and Premier Lite series in the ’80s. They were also the purveyors of The Pump which existed in several running models and basketball high tops, which Jackie Chan endorsed some years back. Oh, you didn’t know that tidbit? Told you, I’ve been around the block a few times! Then, there were the ones with the funny-looking Zig midsole design which can still be found on the shelves today. Clearly, Reebok isn’t a company afraid to make a statement. Whether each of the statements work is debatable. I don’t have any key race going at this time, so mileage wise is rather meagre. Nevertheless, I’ve logged over 30K in the Floatride Run and think I’ve figured it out enough to come up with this review.

Lateral side
Medial side.

Intent on keeping the trend going, Reebok recently released the Floatride Run (FR) into the wild and snagged Runner’s World 2017 Best Debut award. First visual impression? Quirky. The FR is essentially a shoe with a hydrid upper. A seamless one-piece Ultraknit upper, which looks and feels remarkably like the 1st Gen adidas Ultra Boost, starts from the front to where the ankle bone is and terminates in a ribbed construction edge like the top of a sock.

Depressed the knit upper to clearly show the cage.

The natural tendency of the runner is to adjust the tongue prior to lacing up. But there’s no tongue on the FR! You slide your foot into the shoe like wearing a sock and simply lace up. Since there’s no tongue, there’s no padding between the wide and non-stretchable stock laces and the Ultraknit material. Some folks may feel a bit of lace pressure as a result. To mitigate the discomfort, Reebok made the laces thicker than usual, almost like strands of fettuccine. You could also experiment by swapping the stock laces with others.

A soft neoprene-feel 3D heel counter overlaps the knitted portion from arch area and rises up at an angle to wrap around the heel. The heel counter is not rigid yet not as soft as those found on Nike’s Free series or Saucony Freedom. The heel is then secured by a strip of PU extended from a midfoot cage. On the inside, there a little nobs to secure the heel further. The cage itself functions as lace loops (just 3). Unlike the Ultra Boost, Reebok kept the cage to a minimal, thus keeping the weight of the shoe down. Having found the Freedom’s take on the heel too minimalist, I appreciate the secure support the FR provides. Other than a tiny strip on top of the vamp, there are no other reflective elements on the FR.

Minimal midsole flaring.

The midsole consists of traditional EVA (in blue) surrounding the white Floatride Foam. Reebok claims this setup provides a stabler form of cushioning. From the photo above, there’s minimal midsole flaring be it on the medial or lateral side. Lateral twisting is hardly noticeable and the ride is very stable for a neutral shoe.

A full contact rubber outsole that has the appearance of Nike’s ’90s waffle pattern, especially in the forefoot area, further provides the wearer a stable platform. The rubber is solid to the touch and after logging 20 odd kms in them, there are zero signs of wear, even on the fine wavy thread lines. You should be able to log 500 – 550 kms at the very least in the FR. If there’s a downside to the choice of rubber used, it’s the loud slapping sound the shoes make when the feet make contact with the ground. I would’ve preferred the lighter blown rubber to be used for the forefoot section, but that’s a personal preference.

Speaking of weight, the FR weighs in at a surprising 9.3oz for my size 10. Now, that’s light given the FR’s appearance of a bulky shoe. In terms of weight comparison, the FR is:

  • lighter than the Nike Zoom Span (9.9oz, review)
  • 0.7oz lighter than a sized-down Nike Pegasus (10oz for US9, per Running Warehouse)
  • more than 2oz lighter than the adidas Ultra Boost (11.35oz, review)
  • lighter than the Saucony Ride 10 (10.15oz, review)
  • much lighter than the Saucony Triumph ISO 3 (11oz, review)
  • just 0.1oz heavier than the Zealot ISO 3 (9.2oz)
  • half an oz heavier than the Nike Zoom Fly (8.85oz)
  • much lighter than the Energy Boost (11.2oz)
  • lighter and better balanced than the Under Armour Gemini 3 (9.9oz, Gemini 1 review)
  • just an ounce heavier than the Kinvara 8 (8.3oz, review)

I can’t find the stack height data but Reebok’s website puts the FR’s heel-to-toe offset to be 8mm.

The step-in feel is soft with a stretchy upper that’s comfortably snug. Soft, but without the “sinking” feeling you get in certain Hokas. There’s a noticeable arch area bump that doesn’t quite go away throughout all of my workouts in the FR. The sensation is by no means uncomfortable, just that I needed to mention it. My first run in them was on the treadmill and I was sockless. I don’t run sockless ordinarily but I’d forgotten to pack my socks that day and I wasn’t about to let a run slide.

While the run was an enjoyable one, I did end up having to work through the discomfort of chafing on the left arch. There was no such issue on the right foot, though. The FR is an easy shoe to assimilate into your shoe rotation – no real transition needed. Ride was very smooth as I varied my pace from 6:40 to 6:05 on the flat and incline settings. While the shoe felt like a 10mm drop, I noticed that I was hitting the ground on the midfoot. The PF soreness was kept to a minimal and it was truly an enjoyable 35-minute run, save for the arch rubbing.

I find the upper very accommodating, and very breathable. In fact, whenever I picked up the pace, it certainly felt breezy in the toebox!

So is the Floatride for you? It has a premium price tag of RM679 but some folks nowadays won’t even bat an eyelid for a RM4,100 phone, right? If you’re an Ultra Boost (UB) fan, or someone shopping for a neutral cushioned shoe by an atypical sports brand, the FR is a very viable alternative. As Reebok is owned by adidas, there are several shared technologies between the 2. The knitted upper and the BASF foam midsole are just 2 of those. The FR weighs less and retails RM100+ less than the UB. It really does present a strong case, this one. I expect the midsole foam to withstand many miles of running. It checks off many of the good traits to have in a pair of running shoes i.e. it’s breathable, stable, light and durable. Which is why I often run my easy days in them these days. In socks, of course 😀 .

 

 

Reebok has a few other interesting models such as the Sweet Road performance trainer (RM449), the pair of Harmony Road Trainer (RM499) and Harmony Racer (RM399, which feels like an amazing 5K road flat).

Note: Removable ribbed insole, and some numbers inscribed under it. Wondering about the significance of the numbers, I dug around and found out from fellow running shoe geek, Derek Li’s post that they’re Sydney Maree PRs. Maree, a 2-time Olympian, once held the WR for the 1500m beating Steve Ovett and has a Reebok shoe named after him. You can check out Derek’s review of the FR here. You’ll notice that while my marathon times are more than an hour slower than his, our opinions about the Floatride are somewhat similar 🙂

Disclosure: The Reebok Floatride Run was kindly provided for review by Reebok Malaysia but the opinions expressed above is based from my own personal experience and miles logged in them. It retails at RM679 and is available now at Reebok boutiques located in 1Utama, Nu Sentral, Sunway Velocity and Paragon.

Saucony Ride 10 Review

Like the iPhone, Saucony’s Ride celebrated its legacy with version 10 this year. Unlike the much-hyped device from the fruit-themed company, this neutral shoe doesn’t cost an arm and a leg (or kidney), nor adopts a Roman nomenclature. It does, however, prove to be the best, IMHO, Ride yet – updated, possesses responsive cushioning yet supportive. It’s also light enough for many to be marathon race day shoes. And that, readers, are sufficient to wrap up my review. But let’s go on a little more, shall we?

My recent relationship with the Ride was with version 8, which has long since been retired. The 8 took some time to break-in and until about 60K, felt clunky and stiff to run in. Once broken in, however, it proved to be a trouble-free daily trainer, providing a ride that’s on the softer side for those easy days. It was certainly softer than the Pegasus but not the least responsive like the Supernova Glide Boost. The Ride 8 (R8) had an unassuming character and quietly got the job done. Gave me plenty of miles too. I skipped the 9 as I continued my love affair with multiple pairs of the Kinvara.

Recently, the chance to run in the Ride came my way and it’s nice to see the improvements made to this shoe. The Ride 10 (R10) is a major update in nearly every aspect over the R8.

The upper now sports an even more ventilated soft heathered engineered mesh upper, with a mid to rear section that’s more structured and supportive. Flexfilm strips continue to feature on key areas, but not used as much as before. My version of the Ride has the Chroma reflective colourway which on top of providing an urban flavour on what would’ve been a staid and traditional looking running shoe, looks pretty cool with changing colours depending on the viewing angle. While the heel collar is given a “just-nice” treatment in terms of padding, I would’ve preferred a less padded tongue for weight saving and less bulk. Heel counter is the internal variety. Heel fit and lockdown are customarily very good in the Ride, and the forefoot is roomier than that of the Kinvara 8’s.

There was a slight annoyance when toeing off, however. I felt the Flexfilm strip pressing down on the top of my feet – so I simply laced up from the second row. Quite easily fixed.

As with most of Saucony’s offerings, there’s an EVERUN topsole positioned just below the removable insole. The midsole is no longer a dual-density setup with the removal of the softer crash pad at the heel area. In its place is PowerFoam which gives the R10 a more responsive wear experience to the older versions.

The shoe has a stack height of 27/19mm for an overall heel to toe offset of 8mm. The real-feel is that of a lower drop value, so runners who go about in 4mm shoes such as the Kinvara shouldn’t have any issues adjusting.

The midsole has a considerable flare especially in the medial side of the forefoot, giving the R10 a wide base. The heel is bevelled on the outer side for smoother transition especially if you’re a heel striker, while the medial side has a

The outsole is Saucony’s usual Tri-Flex design with deeper flex grooves. Where the old R8 was stiff, the 10 now has increased flexibility. It helps that the flex grooves extends a few millimeters into the midsole as well. Softer blown rubber can be found in the forefoot outsole while the high wear areas see the use of the XT-900 carbon rubber. As you can see, at 40km, the fine lines on the outsole are still visible. The typical runner should be able to get 600km in these.

With these enhancements, the R10 sheds considerable weight from R8. My US10 weighs 10.15oz compares to R8’s 10.6oz. While not a flyweight, it’s lighter than 90% of workhorse trainers from competing brands out there.

As earlier mentioned, the 10 has better responsiveness and departs from the laid back nature of the 8. The firmness of the PowerFoam midsole is tempered by the soft bounce provided by the layer of Everun. If there’s a need to pick up the pace, the R10 will be able to handle it. Each stride has a nice firm bounce and the shoe feels better balanced. Although I race in shoes weighing under 10oz, many will find the Ride 10 a perfect race day shoe over the Half and Full Marathon distances. Most will use the Ride as a daily trainer or in rotation with the Kinvara 8.

The Saucony Ride 10 Heathered Chroma edition retails at RM489.00 and is now available at Stadium, RSH and Running Lab stores nationwide.

Disclosure: The Ride 10 was provided for review by Saucony Malaysia but the opinions expressed above is based from my own personal experience and miles logged in them. This review is in no way whatsoever influenced by Saucony Malaysia.

Grungy Socks

I ran the ING New York City Marathon in 2008 before the inception of the World Marathon Majors. Getting in on the first try was an amazing stroke of luck. Even if it was post 9/11, I felt quite at ease in NYC. It was as if all the world’s troubles took a break over the marathon week as runners from all over the world congregated in the city.

Traffic stopped. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers, be they runners or non-runners came out to cheer us. It was an amazing experience – one to carry to my grave. With today’s uncertainties, I doubt I’d be able to visit much less to run there again.

The 2017 TCS NYCM is less than 8 weeks away and 2018 will mark the expiration of my travel visa (the officer gave me a 10-year visa so that I’d be able to qualify and run Boston☺️). Alas, while I’ve improved my marathon PR, I’m no closer by much in qualifying for Boston.

Now about the photo in this post. This pair of grungy looking commemorative socks I bought from the NYCM Expo have lasted me 9 solid years. Exceptionally durable and still serviceable today. I was clearing up my drawers when I spotted them. I thought I had discarded them some months ago. I picked them up intending to consign them to the bin when I reflected on how long they’ve served me. They’ve been put through the grinder, so many miles logged in them, through countless wash cycles, chucked into bags, car boots, stinky shoes, bottom of cabinets. Yet they’ve survived. Like these, I’m a survivor and I’ll continue to fight the good fight, in my racing.

But my personal observations on my training the past week and a half suggest that I’ll have to take some time off to recover and not attempt another marathon for the rest of the year. While I’ve had some excellent sessions, they’re been sporadic. Recovery has been slow as well. And so I’ve decided to postpone my moonshot at least until 2018 and will opt for a half in early December instead. I’ll enter the half with no expectations and will just enjoy the break from work. Rebuilding will happen as usual with shorter runs and the customary longer ones on weekends but I won’t be cussing if I miss any sessions. For that reason, I’ll stop providing my weekly training updates for now.

And the socks? Well I was about to drop them into the bin when I changed my mind as I reflected on the thoughts I mentioned in the previous paragraph. There’s something about this pair…

Nike Zoom Span Review

One of the delights for a shoe geek is to walk into a local running shoe store, with absolutely no intention of buying anything, only to leave with a pair or two because the deal was simply too good to be true. The same could be said of my unplanned purchase of the Nike Zoom Span (ZS).

If that name sounds familiar to veterans out there, that’s because the Span name has been used before. The OG and Span 2 were neutral, plush and highly cushioned shoes in those days which morphed into stability models with the old Zoom Elite’s medial post! Some sneaker head sites have revealed that the Span 2 will be making a comeback in 2018 as a vintage model, just like the Huarache, Sock Racer, Air Mariah. If you’re not a runner in the ’80s, you be best take a peek on how they used to look like in the links below:

Span OG | Span 2Span 4Span 7

Back to my story.

So there I was walking around Sunway Pyramid after a meet up, passed by 2 sports shops (with large Sale stickers) and decided to pop in. Lo and behold, Sports Empire had the Zoom Span on 40%! I’ve had my eyes on the Span for some time as a cheaper alternative to the Pegasus, and have read many reviews proclaiming them being excellent value for money, what with so much of Nike’s core technologies included. The RRP of RM399 is at least RM60 cheaper than the Pegs and the Saucony Ride 10. With this discount, the price was further slashed down to RM240. And that was how I ended up with another pair of shoes.

As I’ve mentioned above, the ZS is anything but similar to the Spans of yore. The current version is a reboot and takes on the form of the Pegasus. With the low price, you still get the goodies such as an engineered mesh forefoot, Cushlon midsole, Zoom Air unit in the forefoot, and full contact outsole (Duralon, which is Nike’s blown rubber in the forefoot, and solid rubber in the heel). For a touch of stability, a tiny and indeed innocuous medial post works in tandem with a flared midsole.

Instead of a flashy upper, the ZS sports a 2-tone colorway – grey and black, with a saddle that looks like the Pegasus 31’s. The difference is that the Peg’s saddle is like breathable supportive webbing while the ZS’s version is simple a midfoot wrap with cosmetic design cues. Just like in the case of the automotive industry, the Volkswagen Group will deploy the latest tech and whizbang in the Audis, while Skoda will inherit their 2-year old tech, the ZS are like cheaper Pegs with slightly dated design cues.

Happily, the US10 fits true to size and at 9.7oz each side, they don’t weigh like bricks. Forefoot space is very decent despite the tapered appearance. You can see from the photo above there’s a considerable flare from the midsole. The midfoot lockdown is comfortable. The ZS’s ride leans towards the firmer end of the scale in the forefoot yet softer in the heel. The heel is notably softer than that of the Ride 10. The internal heel counter is stiff but doesn’t cause any discomfort other than a weight penalty.

The ride of the ZS is neutral and should be very agreeable to the masses out there. There’s a degree of stability with each footstrike which I think is more attributable to the midsole flare than the tiny medial post, and might I say there’s a little responsiveness to go with that too? Transition is smooth which is no doubt due to the many flex grooves zig-zagging across the outsole. To shave off some weight, the midsole is hollowed out length-wise from exactly the midfoot point to the center-heel. When I needed to pick up the pace, they respond too. That’s the benefit of having a firmer forefoot.

Admittedly, durability of the Cushlon and absence of carbon rubber outsole may not be on par with the costlier options but at the least, 500km isn’t an unreasonable ask from the Span. At 50km, there’s literally no wear.

Runners on a tight budget should rejoice. At this price, there’s really nothing to complain. Like the Zoom Elite, the Zoom Span has been redesigned from the ground up. There’s no resemblance to the Spans of old.  However, unlike the much more expensive and race-centric Zoom Elite, I don’t foresee the Span hanging around too long nor see an update if news of a vintage version due next year. So if your budget is a little tight for a pair of versatile shoes yet can’t afford a Pegasus or any other workhorse trainers, grab these! Especially if they’re so heavily discounted.

Hoka Tracer Review

Trainer + Racer = Tracer. That’s what the Hoka Tracer (HT) is. It took me awhile to what with a name that references tracer rounds used by the military. This featherweight shoe weighs in at a paltry 7.8oz for my US10.5 (I upsized by half since Hokas are typically narrow and racing shoes fit snug). Here are some weight comparisons with others of the same category (US10 unless otherwise stated):

The K8, Elite 9 and Fly would be more appropriately clubbed together, leaving the Tempo, GoMeb and Fastwitch the HT’s closest competitors. Interestingly, according to Running Warehouse, the HT’s stack height measures at 24/20mm, almost similar to the Saucony Freedom’s 23/19mm.

Like the Hoka Clayton models, the Tracer features the Pro2Lite dual density midsole. That’s Protection (in the heel) + Propulsion (forefoot), in case you’re wondering. Unlike other Hokas, the Tracer looks just like any conventional running shoe as it completely departs from the Active Foot Frame construction that lends the brand its trademark look. There’s still an obvious toe spring but not much of a midsole flare as you can see from the photos above.

Lateral side of the Tracer.
Medial side.

The one thing the Tracer shares with its siblings is the Early Stage Meta-Rocker geometry. As the name suggests, this is the curved midsole geometry (when viewed from the side) that serves to propel the wearer more efficiently and quickly through the gait cycle. Several other companies have implemented this before – Skechers being the easiest to come to mind with their M-Strike.

As mentioned, the Tracer is as conventional as a Hoka comes. Remove the Ortholite insole and you’ll see that the thin foam footbed. The interior of the shoe looks to be well constructed and soft enough, with no wayward stitching. I’ve not run sockless in them to determine if they’re suitable.

The upper of the shoe appears to be a sandwich of 3 layers – softer perforated underlayer, a open mesh top layer held together by strips of welded overlays.

The welded strips securing the front half of the shoe are thinner in width than the thicker and wider ones used (such as the white ones) from the midfoot to the heel. I’m pleased with the greater support and structure in those areas.

The thin flappy tongue bunches up but is ok when worn.

A firm toebox and substantial external heel counter (with a huge branding print) make up the front and rear of the Tracer respectively. Design elements and colorway are certainly to my liking conveying a fast look. The fit around the ankle is snug right through to the midfoot before opening up in the toebox region. This is a surprising take on footwear design by Hoka, since they’re notoriously narrow and tight in the toebox. Again, the Tracer isn’t your typical Hoka. The upper has a little give so that’s pretty sweet as well.

The outsole comprises of hard rubber around the high wear areas but more than 50% of what you see when you flip the shoe over are the RMAT foam. There’s also a small hollowed out section in the midsole where the foot strikes (if you land heel center), so if you’re a heel striker, there’s a bit of shock attenuation feature there for you.

I haven’t had many miles in the Tracer, only 43K, and it’s not because of my dislike. Instead, the opposite is true. I just want to save them for key speed workouts and races. The local distributor in Malaysia marks up the price of the Hokas to such a ridiculous level that the brand isn’t an automatic choice for 95% of the running population here. It makes sense for me to wear it judiciously. I wouldn’t have been acquainted with the Hoka had it not for eBay. Just like the case of the Clayton 2, I was able to snag the Tracer off eBay – the Tracer at RM350 (literally new and worn less than 5 miles) and the Clayton 2 at RM440.

Speed workouts, tempos, trackwork and of course races up to the Marathon would be up the Tracer’s alley. Having run several tempo and interval sessions as well as a 16K in them, I can attest to their versatility. It’s way more stable than, say, the Nike Lunar Tempo and Flyknit Lunar 2/3 yet doesn’t relinquish the speed factor. My next Half Marathon shoe will be a toss up between the Tracer and the Zoom Elite 9. The Tracer is proving to be a more exciting option than the Boston Boost 6 and Fastwitch 7. It’s fast, offers firm and responsive cushioning, with a hint of bounce. The fit is unlike any Hoka, but do remember to size up by half.

The Hoka Tracer reviewed is a first version with the update (which also sees a slight weight bump) just released into the wild last month. I’d give the Tracer a thumbs-up!

The Allure (And Perils) Of The Trail


You know you’re in a trail territory when the slip-slaps of your shoes on the road are replaced by the squishes and scrunches on the mud and pebbles. Instead of the din and smog of passing vehicles, you have the cacophony of cicadas and the heavy air of the humid jungle. Or the occasional shouts of “Bike!”.

Brush, leaves and undergrowth caress you and depending on how deep into the trail you go, you’ll have leeches for friends. The trails that I’ll be frequenting will be more suburban than virgin. Nevertheless one must be prepared to come out of the trail with a few scrapes and a dozen mosquito bites (strange that it’s called that since the bloodsuckers don’t bite!).

With a week’s break from work upon me, and with a half-day’s work done, I decided on a whim to head to the Kiara trails for an introduction of off-road running. I’m not too familiar with the various loops that this area offers but I figured I can always backtrack should I get “lost”. The trail is well marked and run in and chances are I’ll meet people inside, so my venturing there won’t pose too much of a risk.

The plan was to sandwich the off-road between 2 sessions of loops around the lake. Starting time was rather early at 4:30pm so that I can exit the trail before it gets dark. I had on me the Garmin, hydration pack and S3. That was about it. A short spell of very heavy downpour prepped the course up to test the Cascadia. I coated my limbs with mosquito repellent since I knew from experience that there are plenty of them waiting for me.

As I entered the trail, I had another runner in front and I allowed him go ahead while I took a few shots. A few minutes later I couldn’t even see him and I was pretty much alone in the trail. And boy, was it really tough. The first couple of minutes were spent getting my trail legs going. Tripped a little over some rocks but didn’t fall. Kiara has always been quite a technical course – plenty of fallen tree trunks, rocks, hard climbs and switchbacks ensured at the end of my run of 38 minutes, I covered only a little more than 3K! I ran into countless of spider webs which luckily didn’t get into my eyes. All my senses were engaged fully as I scanned ahead. Most of my uphills were covered walking and there didn’t seem to be an end to it and to play it safe, I enabled my Garmin’s Back To Origin function to lead me back down. Now this part was really fun. I threw caution to the wind as I hurtled down the single track trail. I leapt over the earlier-passed tree trunks and roots. The Garmin was awesome, beeping when a turning was coming up – in fact it was quite accurate. The downhill was exhilarating and I now know why the mountain bikers were so hooked on it.

Mad rush downhill. Super fun!
Mad rush on the flats. Super fun!

I exited the trail drenched in sweat and got ready for a few slow loops around the lake. I managed only 4.6K for a total workout time of about 70 minutes. It was a satisfactory first run and I know now how hard the task at hand is going to be. Totally different from road running, the trail can grab you by the throat from the get go. You don’t need 10 minutes to realize that the going is going to be challenging . To prepare for the TNF, there’s really no other options than to adopt specificity in your training. You’ve got to hit the trails, there are no exceptions. Every part of your body (and senses) are engaged and dodging overhanging obstructions while negotiating the narrow path will tax you. And TNF is 50K of all that! Despite my tiredness I still noticed quite a few squirrels, a cat and a black feline looking critter (didn’t see what it was) which scrambled out of my way.

At this point I have no other clue as to best way to prepare for the race except to keep at it. It may seem impossible at this point in time to fathom completing 50K in the trail but I still enjoyed the feeling of heading into it. I don’t know how to articulate it yet but it’s pretty fun. After all there’s always the downhill to look forward to.

The 1.5L High Sierra Wave 50 hydration pack performed surprisingly well. Other than the expected sloshing sound, it didn’t slide left and right as I ran. When I jumped over the obstacles, it didn’t bounced too much as it was snugly secured against my back. No pinching experienced on my shoulders too but I can only conclude this over a much longer run. The only thing which I need to get used to is the bite valve. The Wave 50’s valve is further protected from leakage by a pull and twist action and despite doing so, it was a bit difficult to get the fluids out of it. Maybe it’s a matter or getting use to the system.

If you’re familiar with other bladder system please let me know since I can always replace it with another. All in all, RM128 is a good buy for the Wave 50 compared to much more expensive brands. You can find the High Sierras at the Tearproof outlets.

This is already a way too long post. I’ll leave the wrap up on the Cascadia for another day.

Originally published: Jun 11, 2010

Nike LunarFly+

If there was an Oscar for the most underrated shoe award, the LunarFly+ wouldve taken it.
If there was an Oscar for the most underrated shoe award, the LunarFly+ would’ve taken it.

The Nike LunarFly+ is one of the most underrated and understated shoe in Nike’s Lunar range. Yet, it has turned out to be one of my favourites, one that I’m strongly considering wearing for the Mar 26th TUC. Oftentimes you don’t  need to load a product with all the bells and whistles to come out with a great offering. Keeping it simple while ensuring the basics are covered are what works.

The LunarFly’s upper design is a close replica of the discontinue Hayward, another lightweight retro looking model. It’s construction is minimal and has just enough trimmings to retain the integrity of the shoe. And like the Hayward there are two venting ports on the instep of the shoe. There are several colourways for the Fly but I decided on the Black/Green version because I wanted the reflective properties of the large swoosh strips – essential for early morning/night time running. This is one shoe with a completely retro look that’s highly visible on the streets. As with most Nike shoes these days, it comes Nike+ ready.

The midsole is constructed of Lunarlon and surprisingly sports the  Dynamic Support midsole, even though it’s not indicated anywhere on it. According to Nike’s product person in the US, the Dynamic Support found in the Fly is the mildest to be put in their stable of shoes. The outsole is made up of tiny waffles, unlike the chunky ones found on the Pegasus.

The outsole configuration.
The outsole configuration.
Closeup of the nibblet-size waffles.
Closeup of the nibblet-size waffles.

How does the LunarFly fit? I’d say pretty snug in the midfoot without being restrictive. The shoe’s forefoot width and height offer more than adequate room to the toes. As can be expected of a shoe this minimal, the lack of weight makes it a very appealing fast training and racing shoe. While not too soft, there’s a bounce to the footstrike but I’d welcome a slightly more responsive ride and a smaller heel to toe drop personally. The support is adequate for those with a neutral gait. I like the shoe’s flexibility which is totally unlike the more rigid LunarGlide+.

I’ve logged 163KM in the LunarFly including a 42KM training run and I’d say that they’re pretty darn good. There are some wear and tear to be sure which I fully expected in view of the outsole design. I reckon I’ll be able to clock a total of 350KM in them. There are no issues with heat build-up and if laced closely, the one incident of some renegade pebbles that I encountered would not have happened. The small waffles did present a tricky proposition when dealing with sand, as I consistently slipped a little on a patch when I covered 4 loops around Mutiara Homes. After slipping once on my first loop, I purposely ran over it the next 3 loops just to confirm that finding. I do have to mention that I had no problems on wet surfaces though.

The large swoosh is actually a very large piece of reflective tape.
The large swoosh is actually a very large piece of reflective tape.

That’s it for the LunarFly+. What you get is a simple shoe that serves me well and covers nearly all the most important bases. The sweetener on this package is the price which is just RM299. The LunarFly+ are not sold out of Nike boutiques but in retailers such as Al-Ikhsan and Stadium. I bought mine in Penang towards end of last year but then the LunarFly 2 is already out now, albeit with some tweaks to the upper. If you like a more minimalist shoe, opt for the first version.

Originally published: Mar 3, 2011