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:

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Long Term Ownership Review: CRZ - Upgrades

In my four and a half years of ownership of the car, these are the short list of enhancements or modifications made:

1. C-Quartz Finest glass coat - icing on top of the cake that comes with new car purchase... it has been more than 3 years now, and the coating has probably worn off. From weekly washes during early years to once a month, currently. In dire need a coat of wax before CNY next year.

2. Mugen shift knob - missing that titanium shifter feel. Nice to hold, but not after the car is parked under the hot sun for a couple of hours.

3. JDP duck-tail spoiler - the rear end needs a bit of subtle aesthetics enhancement to make it stand out from the stock standard crowd.

4. Carbon fiber decal wrap on the tail spoiler and side mirrors - yet again a subtle aesthetics add-ons.

5. Supercircuit test pipe (2nd cat delete) - less restriction, more ease of expelling the exhaust gas. Probably the single piece of upgrade that yields some performance that can be felt. The engine seems to breath better at mid range and wants to rev a little bit higher.

6. Remus Cat-back exhaust system - the back piece of the exhaust system upgrade that enhances the audible experience. No longer cat quiet, but with a slight bassy rumble at idle, and the tone picks up with opening of the throttle. Louder in a subtle way, but not annoyingly loud.
7. Skunk2 engine oil and radiator cap - cosmetic upgrade pieces brought over from my ex-Project Civic.

8. OEM FD2R red Honda emblem (front and rear) - The car has potential to wear the 'R' pedigree badge, just not yet realized.

Life priorities have changed much since 5 years ago, but these are still on my wish list for the Z to live up to its full potential:

1. HKS Stage 2 bolt-on Supercharger Kit - performance of the stock 1.5L i-VTEC SOHC engine leaves much to be desired, especially at the mid to upper revs band where it goes out of breath, as compared to the legendary B-series engines coming to live with the signature DOHC VTEC crossover point at above 6,000rpm. At the low end though, the torque is quite healthy and the delivery is assisted by the IMA battery, giving it a pull not unlike a car with a bigger engine displacement. According to reviews, the Stage 2 kit will boost up the power to a more respectable 170 - 180bhp region, with significant performance gains at the mid to higher revs, which works in tandem with the IMA assist working its optimum at the lower revs.
2. Adjustable coil-over suspension kit - to optimize the ride height and tighten up the handling. Not much complains I have on the stock suspension setup, though I feel it would look much nicer with an additional 1" drop (will still clear bumps and undulations on the road nicely).
3. Lighter and sized up wheels - I'm digging the classic looks of 17" Enkei RPF01 with proper offset to fill up the big wheel arches of the Z. Stock rims are good and light enough, but the offset looks a bit too tame.
4. J's Racing GT Wing - for the wild-er look with performance to match.
5. Upgraded clutch - the stock clutch tends to bog during fast gear changes, especially when pushed hard and shifting at the rev limit.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Long Term Ownership Review: CRZ

Before I was into running, I had been a petrol head (car guy) for as long as I could remember, probably as early as when I first got my driver's license almost 2 decades ago. 
The first car I bought when a started working in 2005 was a beat up old Honda Civic EG sedan, which I got for dirt cheap (RM17K) and then proceeded to mod the hell out of it throughout my 8 years of ownership. Many of those fond car memories were detailed out a lot, in my early years of blogging. 
It wasn't until 2012 that I was finally able to afford a brand new car. Given the tax exemption on hybrid cars, the ridiculous petrol prices - RM2.80/litre at that time, and my preference for fun to drive cars with sporty handling, the Honda CR-Z hybrid was the obvious choice that ticked all my boxes. Getting it as my 2nd car meant I could still live with the practicality (or lack of) of a daily driven coupe, which literally only fits 2 adults comfortably. Mine is a 2012 pre-face lift with manual transmission.
Fast forward to December 2016, this is my take on the car after almost four and a half years of ownership.

Drive-ability: It has always been a fun to drive car, even more so with the crisp manual transmission with short-shifter especially on twisty and winding roads. The handling, decent and predictable. It corners well for a car with such short wheel base. The performance figures looks pedestrian on paper: 122bhp @ 6000rpm and 174Nm @ 1000 - 1500rpm from a 1.5L powerplant. It really does feels much faster and sharper when driven, the acceleration from standstill is quite brisk, thanks to the electric motor assist. The readily accessible torque from low revs is probably what makes the car so fun to drive, coupled with the compact handling package. Since I have a heavy right foot and can't endure sluggish engine response, keeping the car predominantly in Sports mode is a natural thing for me to do. In the Normal or Econ mode, the engine response to the throttle input is further dampened or muted to regulate the acceleration to be more gradual, supposedly to achieve better driving economy. The bucket seats, and low slung seating position enhances the sporty driving experience on most days, but on bad-back days getting in and out of the car can be quite a workout.

Fuel Economy: Consistently getting 500+ km per full tank (about 35 litres) which translates to about an average of 13.5 - 15.0km/litre fuel economy. No where close to the claims of 20.0km/litre, but then again almost all my commutes are in the city and usually very short drives of about 3.5km to work. Will probably see fuel economy figures closer to the reported claims if my commutes are further distances and more of highway driving. I run it on RON95 mostly. 

Maintainability/ Reliability: Routine and typical maintenance requirements comparable to non-hybrid cars. Just the usual periodic fluid, filters and consumables change-out. Apart from punctured tires and a jammed glove box compartment, have not encountered any mechanical or electronic issues throughout the period of ownership. There were earlier occurrences with the IMA battery draining itself flat mid-way through driving, but there were no actual impact and it usually recharges back off load. Warranty on the IMA battery has been extended to 7 years as per memo issued by Honda Malaysia, and with the maturing technology on hybrid cars, the costs of these batteries will continue to go down with the economies of scale achieved. The only time the car broke down was when I drove it to the point of fuel starvation on at least 2 occasions. Lessons learnt: When the estimated Range goes to '0' km, there is still approximately 5 litres of fuel left in the tank, potentially good to go for another 60 km.

Value for Money: With the previous tax exemption for hybrid cars in place, this is a good buy at RM112K. You get CBU build quality, 6-air bags, 6-speaker ICE setup, cruise control, auto-stop idling, 3-drive modes, solid chassis with good sound proofing, LED headlights, and a sporty looking and handling car. Of course by no means, is it a sports car. Just a fun to drive sporty looking car with decent handling, and efficient little engine with potential for upgrade.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wide Feet Problem

Have been taking it easy the past couple of days since the Saturday LSD run during which, I've inflamed extensor (top of foot) and achilles tendonitis (back of ankle) on my right foot as a result of the following combination:
1. Running too fast of a pace (5'30"), 
2. for too long a distance (30K), 
3. with a brand new shoe with narrow fit.
My 2nd pair of Hoka in less than a year. I haven't had any toe-wiggle room issues with my first pair, the Challenger ATR2, which I got a full size larger (US8.5). Had issues with my foot sliding around with too much toe box room when I ran at blistering fast paces (sub 4'30"). That is why I made the conscious  decision to go up only half a size (US8) for the Tracer. It fitted snugly when I tried it at the shop, expecting it the mesh material to loosen up with more mileage. Perhaps I was a bit too ambitious to go on to pilot the shoe on a tempo long run. That's how I ended up inflaming my right foot and had to walk the last couple of KMs back to the starting point on that long run.

Trying out an alternative lacing solution for wide feet. Managed to try out the setup for a short run around the neighborhood this evening, and it felt great! Just can't quite get over the awkward looking lacing configuration. Ah, well whatever works...

Sunday, November 27, 2016

First Impression of the Hoka One One Tracer

Got to put the Tracer through its paces on this fine Saturday morning's long run. The supposed LSD (Long, Slow Distance) run turned out to be a tempo run for most of the distance from our usual starting point at Bulatan Park to the junction to the crocodile farm in Kuala Baram with a full loop distance of approximately 33KMs. One hell of a long run with an average tempo pace of 5'30" per kilometre for the first 26KM. Fast and furious, at least by my standard, for that long of a distance.

The Tracer looks quite stunning on feet, and looks fast even when at standstill. It held quite well through its maiden run, and truly feels like a fast road shoe as it's been made out to be. Very lightweight and responsive, it has that familiar feel with my previous go-to shoes for marathon, namely the Saucony Kinvara 6 and Skechers GoRun4, with similar 4mm heel-to-toe offset. Here's my take on the shoe after a 3-hour plus break-in run:

- Lightweight (pretty unbelievably lightweight for this amount of shoe)
- Smooth transition (Meta-rocker geometry works perfectly, and no noticeable step change feel although the midsole uses 2 distinct materials with different density)
- Decent amount of cushioning (Pro2Lite uses 2 distinct midsole materials - softer for the heel, and firmer for the forefoot) 
- Very good ventilation (a lot of breath-ability with the upper mesh design, aids with cooling and feels like a quick to dry shoe  when getting into wet situations)
- Decent traction and stability (looks like a tall-ish shoe but it's got a cradling bucket seat foot frame inside)
- Comfy padded shoe tongue
- No visible sole wear after a 30+ KM run (really expecting to get more mileage out of this fast road shoe)

- Forefoot cushioning feels a bit too firm (for runs longer than half-marathon distances)
- Narrow toe-box fit (had a bit of rubbing issues on my left pinky toe, and toe splay feels restricted; looking to sort out the hot spot with proper lacing)
- Minor creases starting to appear on the toe-box area at the bending (to be expected, I guess)

This is my 5th pair of running shoe in rotation at the moment. The GoRun4 and K6 looks like they're going to be retired in the near future, given their current condition and wear rate.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Running on cloud nine

First post in more than 5 years, so I'm keeping my 2011 resolution #5 alive. A lot has happened since, priorities change, and so does my outlook on life. Running has become quite a significant part of my life as of late.
2011 was the year that I started running casually, but it was not until a year and a half ago that I began pursuing it with endeavor. Have logged 3 Half Marathons, 3 Full Marathons, 1 Spartan (Super), and a Beach Ultra (50K), since. Going forward, this ranting space of mine will be mainly revolving around running theme. You've guessed it, my first post after a 5-year hiatus is going to be about a shoe, running shoe to be exact. 

This is my 2nd pair of Hoka One One I bought this year during a short trip back to my hometown over the last weekend. A maximal - minimal shoe. Marshmallow oversized midsole with maximum cushioning, but with very low offset (heel-to-toe drop) and responsiveness of a minimal shoe, and unbelievably light weight. 
This model is the Tracer, the least maximal looking of the entire Hoka lineup and looks to be a potential racing shoe. Looking forward to try them out on my next Saturday morning run.