Saturday, January 14, 2017

What 2017 holds for me?

I sure hope so... 2016 has been a very challenging year in many ways. 
This year will be better ;-)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Dream Ride

My cup of tea when it comes to cars. My dream ride has always been a pure bred Honda Type R, any model wearing the coveted red 'R' badge built straight up from the factory would do. I have an affinity for the legendary Integra DC2 Type R of the late 90s. It's the closest thing you get to a road legal race car with license plate. Rated at near 200bhp, it's got just the right balance of performance in a lightweight and sharp handling chassis, and comes with all the practicality and drive-ability of a normal daily driven car. Reliability and running economy are big plus points for me. I would jump at the chance to swap my CR-Z for one of these, though the chances of finding a genuine Type R in mint and stock condition are pretty remote. I'll go for the DB8 Type R with 2 extra door. Yes, they do make them in sedan versions as well, albeit in smaller numbers...

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Hello Sweet Cushion

   Liked the tag line "With maximal cushioning and minimal weight, you'll be flying on every run. Hello sweet cushion". The Clifton 3 is coincidentally my 3rd pair of Hoka shoe. Bought my birthday shoe from World of Sport in The Gardens Mid Valley at 15% discount, which is quite a bargain for a recently released model.    This shoe is intended for long tempo runs, to glide through the mileage and soak up the poundings from the pavement. Something I really need in my shoe stable and to replace my 3 other pairs of running shoes in rotating which are nearing end of their useful life span: Skechers GoRun4, New Balance Fresh Foam Boracay, and Saucony Kinvara 6; most of them with at least half a thousand KMs mileage with very worn out soles and battered upper.
   Given my positive experience with the road-trail Hoka Challenger ATR2, the shoe has proven to be very durable and looking optimistic to last up to 1,000 KMs or more, despite being the most 'abused' shoe in my stable. Done mud races (Spartan Super), 50K beach ultra (many water logged and sandy miles), jungle trail runs, and weekly beach runs on them. It has survived countless of wash cycles. The out-sole is holding up so far, the mid-sole hasn't lost any of its original bounciness, and the upper mesh has superficial creases, scrapes and cuts here and there, but otherwise is still a fully functional running shoe. 
     Have put 13KMs on the Clifton 3 since getting it last Sunday, and they feel great. Haven't had any fit issues as they have been improved over the previous version 2 (wider fit now). Especially liked the cushioning, it's literally like walking on clouds, and amazingly lightweight! Legs felt fresh even after walking around in them for a whole day. Got to put them through the paces and long miles after properly breaking them in, soon...

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Google Chromecast

An alternative to having smart TV, without actually having to replace my ancient flat screen TV. The living room is probably the most under utilized space at our home, but that may change soon...

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Running on Vacation

Since I became an avid runner, I have always packed my running gears whenever I go for a vacation. Exploring new places on early morning runs have always been a highlight of my vacations these days. Made another short pilgrimage to KL over the past weekend for our almost-annual book shopping spree at the Big Bad Wolf (BBW) fair. This time round, we had the privilege of bunking in at our friend's place at Dutamas near Mont Kiara. 
This is area is a well known runner's haven - safe, pedestrian friendly, hilly terrain with a breath of fresh air and just a stone throw from downtown KL, but without the hustle and bustle. I jumped on the opportunity to lace up my running shoe for short morning run on a beautiful Sunday morning around the neighborhood. Managed to do a leisurely 8K with rolling hills, looping from Dutamas around Publika to Mon't Kiara and back before the sun came out on its full glory. Had to cut my run short as I was having a bit of a bowel issue.
Moved to downtown KL in Bukit Bintang area after Sunday, bought some new running gears and intended to christen them on my birthday run (13th), this AM. Loved doing early morning jaunts around downtown to catch a different slice of life in KL as the city slowy wakes up. My usual route is around the Bukit Bintang area, all the way up Bukit Ceylon and back, before going to KLCC park for a couple of loops and make my way back to the hotel, typically good for a 8 to 15K run. 
However, had to make a pass this time round, as my good night's sleep was interrupted at an ungodly hour (3am-ish) by a random couple quarreling and fighting just a few doors away from our room at the hotel we stayed at. Pretty dramatic and somewhat scary, as we heard and thought somebody is going to commit suicide by jumping out of the window next to our room. The hotel security took quite a while to attend to the distress call. I guess, that's the downside of staying at a budget boutique hotel where the manning level is minimal during night time. Took a long while to settle back into sleeping rhythm and by 6am my stomach was acting up again, so I decided to sleep through and get properly rested, as we were scheduled to fly back home in the afternoon. 
So there goes my birthday LSD run until the next time...

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Race Report: Miri Beach Ultra 2016

MBU 2016 marked my first venture beyond the Full Marathon distance. The race route starts from Beach Republic in Luak Bay and stretches along the coastline all the way to Bungai Beach in Bekenu, with almost the entire terrain on sandy beaches. Passing through the famed Horse Drinking Water structure at Tusan Cliff was a main feature of the event. With breathtaking scenery like these along the route, I signed up for the event on a whim, despite some crocodile sighting concerns the Bakam river crossing that was part of the route. 
The event is divided into 2 categories, the 30K and 50K, ending at Tusan Cliff, and Bungai Beach respectively. On this inaugural edition, the number of participants were capped at 100 for the 50K category, and 30 for the 30K category on first come basis. Minimum prerequisites of HM and FM completion to be admitted for the race were imposed. So is the mandatory kit requirement that is status quo for ultra trail events like this.
Basically, there were only 5 checkpoints along the route, spaced out by averagely 10K apart. Check Point 3 at Tusan Cliff marked the finishing point for the 30K category. The 50K category finish line was situated at Check Point 4 at Bungai Beach (KM38), and is actually a return loop back from Check Point 5, being the furthest at KM44. For the Bakam River crossing at KM10, an alternative longer route to navigate around the river was made available. Definitely a more assuring option than having to go straight across into the river in pitch black 4AM moonlight, not knowing how deep it gets, and what could be lurking inside it!

Race pack collection was held the previous day before the event, on 5th of November at Eastwood Valley Golf Club. Collection was smooth and hassle free. The pack came with a race bib and an orange long sleeved running vest by 2nd Skin. While the pack was pretty basic, the running vest came with personified name print (an option during registration) added a cool touch. 

Running gears I was equipped with:
1. Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest 3.0 stuffed full with (i) Note 2 mobile phone in air tight plastic bag, (ii) 2 x 500ml soft bottles filled with Tailwind, (iii) 2L bladder filled up with plain water at the back, (iv) 1 x sachet of Tailwind, (v) 3 x chocolate energy bars, (vi) Oakley shades, (vii) Sunscreen lotion, (viii) Anti-chaffing stick
2. Compression gears - long pants and long sleeved shirt and socks
3. Energizer headlamp 
4. Hoka Challenger ATR2 trail shoes 

On the race day - 6th of November, we gathered at Beach Republic as early as 3am for registration and check-in of personal effect items to be transported to the finish line. Gun-off was at 4am sharp, and it was drizzling for much of the early hours into the race. The cooling factor helped me off to a great start. A few hundred meters into the start was the first of the many streams or creek crossings to waddle through. Though seemingly shallow (ranging from ankle to knee depth of water), the current can be quite strong, making some of these crossings a bit tricky. Water logged and sand filled shoes were the conditions to get acclimatize to for the next FM distance or so.
There wasn't much too see during the early hours as it was still pitch black. Was feeling great and was running pretty much all the way to the CP3 at Tusan Cliff (KM30). Had to make the hike up the cliff to the registration counter at the top, and clocked a decent 3 hour 20 minutes a this point (the top finisher of the 30K category has yet to arrive).
From this point (CP3) onwards, the route got really interesting. This is where the water waddling, shuffling by rock face, and getting pounded by waves section starts. It was high tide, and barely subsiding when I got to this point. Slow and careful navigation required, as with every step, I could barely gauge the depth of the water, and had to balance with each step forward on the slippery rocks beneath. There were multiple stretches of such terrain between CP3 to CP4 at Bungai Beach, which is approximately 8km away. 

Spent a great deal of time navigating these section and by the time I reached CP4 (38K), I was almost drained of leg power. Developed 2 huge blisters on my right foot, but was more bothered by the heat from the rising sun, as the rain had stopped and clouds had cleared. It was 900am when I reached Bungai. The worst part of finally seeing the finishing point is knowing that this is only the 2nd last check point, and there is a further 12km to complete. 
Upon reaching CP4, I was informed that CP5 was brought forward from KM44 to KM40.5 due to safety concerns on river crossings that could not be secured further up. Under normal conditions (i.e. road race events), I would have been very pissed to be part of an under-distanced race, but for this particular ultra and given the fatigued state and pain I was in, I felt somewhat relieved. That last 5K U-turn to CP5 and back, took me almost an eternity to finish. 40 minutes to be exact.
To the total distance came up to be slightly over 43km; an Ultra is technically any distance beyond 43K. My Garmin clocked up to 42.3km @ 5 hour 26 mins before it blacked out on low battery.
The official results said I made it in 5 hour 40 min, and a placing of 17th out of 92 finishers. Not bad for my first ultra outing! 
After thoughts: I really got to enjoy and literally soak in the scenery and atmosphere during the run, more as a casual runner than a time target driven competitor. Glad to have finished the run in one piece, and injury-free. Trail runs are a refreshing breakaway from the monotony of road running, especially over very long distances. Will I attempt another trail run? Definitely, but of a shorter distance i.e. 30km, so I can enjoy without really having to suffer longer, especially during that last hour of a 50K.
The finisher medal is probably one of the chunkiest and heaviest I have. Hard earned keep indeed!

Here's one splendid video to reminisce the ultra run: