Sunday, 4 October 2015

Be triumphant with Saucony Triumph ISO

I've been fortunate enough to score myself another pair of Saucony shoes to wear and test, and of course review. The Saucony Triumph ISO is one of the premier range shoes from the Saucony catalogue. The pair I received came in a limited edition box, which makes it a little more special.

The Triumph ISO falls under the neutral category. Meaning to say that the shoes are designed to promote neutral foot motion, rather than correct pronation. The arch support is intended for runners with medium to high arches. To be honest, being someone with virtually no arch at all, I was a bit skeptical in using these shoes. Historically, I've believed myself to be an over pronator but in recent years with continuously working on my running biomechanics, I've been able to adapt more neutral like shoes.

The Triumph ISO is one of the three Saucony models that comes with the new ISOFIT system (the other two being Hurricane and Zealot). Put simply, the ISOFIT system is the entire construction of the upper part of the shoe. The inner sleeve is made out of ultra soft stretchable mesh, providing more ventilation and improving comfort. The lacing of the shoes goes through a zig zag cage like material, which would cradle the foot and morph to it for a sock like feel.

The shoes come with the IBR+ (Injection Blown Rubber) for it's outer sole construction, a feature which most Saucony shoes would have. The rubber is liquid molded rather than cut, is lighter than standard blown rubber yet more durable and provides better cushioning. This is great for those who enjoy a plushy feel in their running. Tipping the scales in 10.3 oz, the shoes are relatively lighter in comparison to shoes from other brands with similar features. These shoes are great for the everyday mileage clockers but also would come in handy for those seeking extra cushioning on the race day.

Powergrid+ is used for it's midsole, another feature present in most Saucony shoes. This goes very well with  with the SRC Impact Zone in the back part of the sole towards the heel, The molded stabiliser of the Powergrid+ over the lateral crash pad of the SRC Impact Zone prevents the heel from leaning too much towards the outside. These shoes provide full outsole ground contact and therefore improving stability. With an 8mm heel to toe offset, there is ample heel and forefoot flare, making for a solid base underfoot.

At the nose end of the shoes, the honeycomb mesh like construction provides great ventilation for those running in the tropical climate. The silver strips that contain the wordings of Triumph and PWRGrid+ are luminous in the dark, which is great for those running before sunrise or after sunset.

I've had these shoes for about 4 weeks now and pleasantly surprised with the results. My skepticism with whether or not neutral shoes are suitable for me, have been thrown out of the window. It's nice to have another pair of shoes in addition to my Guide 8 for the long miles.

The Triumph ISO comes in a variety of colours, some louder than others, depending on your preference. Thank you Saucony Malaysia for these awesome shoes!

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Pacing the Twilight Bay half marathon

My last post on my DNF at Bukit Merah triathlon has been rather depressing. Incidentally, I haven't had much luck with my long rides since with several punctures, so I thought I better post something happy quick in hope of changing my fortunes a bit.

One of my Reddog tri club members, Ian approached me a month ago about pacing the half marathon distance at the Brisbane marathon. I was a bit too late to accept and my spot got taken. But I was roped in for the next event, which is the Twilight Bay Run, which would take place along the Wynnum foreshore, about 20kms east of Brisbane. I thought why not? It would be a good training day, I'll get a free entry into the race and be given a couple of singlets as well.

So the day came. It was to be an evening run starting at 5pm. Not only have I not been a pacer before, but this would also be my first time running at night! The sun sets at about 5.45pm, so pretty much at least the second half of the run would be in the dark.

Some heavy showers came upon us at about 3pm but luckily it cleared after. I arrived at the venue about 1.5 hours before to get some extra mileage in, ran 6kms in just under 30 minutes. Swapped my shoes from the Guide to the Fastwitch and made my way to the expo tents. InTraining Running Centre were the ones organizing the pacers. Collected my race kit and just enough time for another toilet visit. Luckily the queue wasn't that long. A quick group photo with our pacer balloons and we're ready to go!

Photo credit: Katherine Stark
As I was walking towards to the start line, I noticed a few curious stares and a couple of people actually tailgating me to the start line, I'm not used to all this attention! The winds were picking up and as I'm shorter than the average crowd, the poor guy standing next to me was getting hit from my balloon being blown around.

Being the 1:35 pacer for the half marathon, I stood in the second wave. Off went the gun and I started my watch straightaway instead of waiting unless I cross the start line. The aim was to get a gun time, rather than a nett time of 1:35. I ran for what felt like a 4:30 per km pace and true enough, when my Garmin picked up the 1st km signal, it was 4:30. However, it took me another 15 seconds before I reached the 1st km marker. So I knew I had to go a bit faster.

Picture from Supersport Images
I ran the next few kms in about 4:25 pace. I had a small group of 5 or so people around me, and that helped keep things in control. There were a few short climbs on the course. I wanted to increase the effort so as to maintain the pace, but had to be sure that I don't drop the group behind. After the turnaround we came smack into the headwinds and again had to dig deeper to maintain the pace. We crossed the starting arch at 10km and we were about 15 seconds inside target.

A few started to drop off the group. I felt a bit sorry but had to keep pushing to ensure we meet the target. It was at about the 15km mark where we were about 30 seconds inside the target and that's when I started taking my foot off the gas a bit. Towards the final 2kms, we started catching up with the two lead females. We ran together for a bit and then for the final km, the guys in the group started to make a surge for it. One of them thanked me for pacing, which was nice of him.

Doing the slow mo walk towards the finish line
Nearing the finisher chute, there weren't any others around me. I may have gone a tad bit too quick but not by much. I strolled the last 100m or so and crossed the line with a gun time of 1:34:48 and net time only 13 seconds quicker.

Pretty consistent if I say so myself :)
I truly enjoyed my first experience as a pacer and look forward to doing it again. The balloons did get in the way in some sections depending on the direction of the wind, but just required to be pushed away every now and then. And be mindful to ensure that they don't hit someone! Thanks InTraining for this opportunity!

Saturday, 12 September 2015

DNF at Bukit Merah 113 triathlon

Bukit Merah 113 triathlon, the third and final triathlon of the 113 triathlon series in Malaysia. What was meant to be my major lead up race in preparation for Ironman Malaysia, Langkawi in November. As the title suggests, I did not make it to the finish line. Sure I'm disappointed but I always believe in moving forward. And in order to do that was to accept what has happened and move on from there.

I arrived into Malaysia on Friday, two days before the event. Mum cooked us a nice bak kut teh dinner and then we adjourned for ice cream at Inside Scoop. The next day, we left for Bukit Merah, which was about 3 hours drive up north. We went in 2 cars - myself with mum and dad, my sister Karen with her fiance Gary. We stopped by Taiping for nice hawker food for lunch and shortly after, arrived at Bukit Merah Laketown Resort. As we drove up the winding and steep roads towards the resort, my heart skipped a beat. I have been struggling with descending at tight corners all this while and though I have been working on it, there is still quite a lot to do.

After we checked in, I suggested to Karen that we do a test ride, so at least I know what to expect on that steep descent on race day. Gary who wasn't racing brought his bike along so he joined us as well. The road out of the resort started with a steep climb about 1km in length and then a fast winding descent about 700m all the way out of the resort. And true enough, I came off my bike coming down the second corner. I wasn't going very fast so I wasn't hurt too bad and my bike was slightly scratched. I walked my bike down the remaining of the descent and get on my bike and climbed back to the resort. I was pretty disheartened and contemplated not starting the next day as I'm still unsure how to get through those corners.

Anyway, after collecting my race pack and meeting up with friends at the welcome dinner, I felt a bit better and decided to give the race a shot. Speaking to my wife Li-Ann on the phone gave me the extra encouragement as well.

Race morning came and to start the day off, I accidentally peeled off most of my race number tattoo as I stuck it on. Luckily the organizers had marker pens as back up. Having the transition area right outside the hotel rooms was handy. I was able to get on with my pre race routine in the comfort of my room after racking my bike

Photo credit: Gary Fong
Photo credit: Sean World of Marathon
The swim course was 2 laps and took place in the resort lake. The flag off started at 7.30am, about 30 minutes later than scheduled to allow for more light. There were about 200 age groupers and we started about 1 minute behind the elites. As the announcer was counting down to the age group start, those in front began swimming already! I wasn't sure whether to hold back or to start along... in the end I decided to get a head start as well, about 10 seconds into the gun off. I accelerated to get ahead and within a couple of hundred meters, I overtook the lead swimmer. What I was pleasantly surprised with was that he didn't latch on after and soon I was swimming on my own. About three quarters into the first lap, I overtook Shahrom, one of Malaysia's top triathlete who started in the elite wave. After that it was pretty uneventful until towards the end of the 2nd lap where there were a handful of swimmers finishing their 1st lap and I had to zig zag between them a bit. There was a bit of chop too by then.

Photo credit: Sean World of Marathon
Photo credit: Ang Wan Theng
Towards the last 100m or so heading into the boat ramp out of the water, Rupert indicated that I was leading the age group race. I was pleased that the second age grouper was over 1.5 minutes behind. I clocked just over 37 minutes, I then knew the swim was a bit longer than 2kms. The Dare2tri swimskin slipped off easily and I was on the bike and ready to go. The first 1km of climb was okay and I pedaled through. Once it got to the crest of the hill, I braced myself for the fast descent. I got through the 2nd corner this time... but not the third. I fell off my bike again but luckily I wasn't going very fast, so I wasn't seriously hurt. As I was already in the middle of the descent, I decided to walk my bike down those couple of hundred meters. Two age groupers overtook me at this point.

Photo credit: Ang Wan Theng
Photo credit: Y C Tan
I pushed on but I noticed something wasn't right. Each time I shift towards a lower gear cog on the rear cassette, there would be a loud rattling sound. I slowed down a bit and a few more others overtook me. There was a slight incline as we crossed a bridge about 5km into the course. Once I crossed it, I shifted towards a higher gear and then it happened... loud rattle and then the whole rear derailleur fell out. The rear hanger came apart, must have been the impact from the fall. Once it was safe, I crossed over to the other side of the road and flagged down a marshal vehicle. An athlete whom I mentor, Fadzil stopped to offer me his bike. But I was worried I would do the same to his bike so I urged him to continue with his race. Shortly after, my sister passed by, she looked worried but I indicated I was okay, so she pushed on.

The damage done
So that was a very early end to my race. The medic treated my wounds when I got back and luckily they weren't too deep. Another participant was at the medic tent and he needed stitches and had to be sent to hospital for further observation. He was keen to continue racing but was advised against doing so. I met up with mum and dad, had a bit of breakfast and decided not to waste the day. After seeing Karen finish her first lap of her bike, I waited a bit more for the elites to start running before I started my run. Boy, these elites are in a class of their own. Despite me running on fresh legs I could not bridge the gap.

I ran the first lap and then waited a bit for Fadzil, and I paced with him for most of the first lap. It was nice as we never really had a face to face conversation prior to this. My sister then came in the opposite direction and I did a U turn and paced with her then. Being a local race, there weren't any rules against outside assistance or pacing. The poor volunteers at the turnaround point was so confused and wondered why I kept on refusing to take the lap bands. I ran with my sister until the end of her first lap and that was enough for me, a total of 25kms of running in the heat!

Photo credit: Enaikay
Photo credit: Enaikay
After that, I took my time cleaning up and then gathered at the finish line awaiting for Karen to finish. It wasn't long until she came through, winning her age group with a massive PB! Well done lil' sis!

Photo credit: Enaikay
I was pretty tired on the trip back home but dad did the driving. Sure I was disappointed for not finishing the race but I had a great time spending time with family and catching up with friends. And again, it highlights how much more I need to work on my bike handling skills. I flew back to Brisbane the day after the race, it was a very short trip. I haven't quite got back to full swing of training routine as I've been feeling pretty tired in the mornings. From the bike accident, I have a few things that I need to sort out - either the insurance option or the warranty option. But hope to get this sorted soon so that I would have a tri bike to ride for Ironman Malaysia, Langkawi.

Photo credit: Kental Fan Club
Keep moving and move forward!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Greater Springfield Duathlon 2015

I generally don't do duathlons. I'm a fairly decent swimmer and I like starting my races with a swim. My running isn't bad either but my strong point is running on tired legs after the bike, not to hitting the gas as soon as the gun goes off. But I signed up for this race anyway. In my lead up to Ironman Malaysia in mid November, I've been scheduling a race every 4-5 weeks just so I can drop the weekend volume in the race week but still keep the intensity fairly high at the race. Plus, it's good practice as we don't always get the opportunity to put race pace efforts into our training.

Springfield Central is located a good 30kms from home. It was a cold morning and I could see the temperature drop from 9 degrees Celcius as I left the house to 5 when I got to the race site. The venue was held in the campus grounds of University of Southern Queensland. When I arrived just before 6am, the roads into the campus were already blocked and I had no idea where the detour was. I parked at the nearby residential area, about 1km away.

Picked up my race pack and racked my bike. With only 125 participants for the full distance and another 127 in the sprint, it was a fairly quiet and low key affair. I met up with the others at the Reddog tri club tent, everyone was wrapped up with gloves and beanies from the cold! There was a long queue for the portaloos but luckily someone pointed us to the public toilets a few hundred meters away. Then it was time to start.
The first wave was at 6.50am for the males over 45, mine was the second wave, 2 minutes after. The first run was 10km broken into four 2.5km laps. We went through the park and there were a couple of twists and turns. There was steep descent before the turnaround and we climb up that same slope. The final few hundred meters of each lap was a slight descent as well. From the start, everyone sprinted forward and very soon I was towards the back of the pack! Though I would have liked to clock a sub 40 minute 10km, I kept it in control and maintained just under 4:06 per km pace. Even then, it was still pretty hard work!

Reached the transition area in 40:50, it was good that my body was beginning to warm up. My transition wasn't as quick as I would have liked but there were no major dramas either. I even overtook a few as I got off the mount line. But here's where the wheels came off.... not literally, but it might as well! The bike course was 6 laps, each lap about 6km or so. We started off with some climbing and then a descent, a u-turn, sharp corners, small climb, another u-turn, small descent, another sharp corner and repeat. My bike handling has been an issue in the past and with a course like that, this issue stood out like a sore thumb! I ride past Springfield Central regularly in my weekend rides but I never did these laps within the town.

The longest straight line was probably about 1km or so, and that's probably the longest I stayed in my aerobars. It was embarrassing for me to be braking until almost a complete stop at each turn. I rode like a novice and Coach Trent did have a word with me after. I did get better after a couple of laps but the damage has already been done. The course was meant to be 40km but each lap was measured short and by the end of the 6th lap, it was just under 35kms. In fact, I doubted myself and almost went for another lap but I noticed there weren't many others left on the course and I took note of those who lapped me before.

I wasn't prepared for the dismount line, so my feet were still strapped in the shoes. Running into transition with the bike shoes slowed me down even further. Bike split was 1:17:45 with a slow average of 27kph. To be honest, I was glad that the course was under distanced!

I did still find my running legs and managed to keep about the same pace as the first run. And happy to be able to start overtaking a few in front of me. The second run was 5km and we did the same laps as before but only 2 laps this time. I was aiming to be my Olympic Distance triathlon PB and especially now, with the shortened bike course. I was close but after the 2nd run lap there was an extra 200m we had to do before we go through the finish line. 21:43 was my second run time, giving me an overall finish time of 2:20:19, about 2 minutes shy of my OD tri PB. I was 10th out of 17th in age group, enough to add 3 points to my tri club tally as there were some non TA members before me. Overall, I was 60th out of 125.

A nice non alcoholic Erdinger beer in the recovery area followed by a painful but effective massage. I didn't quite get the result I wanted but it's pretty obvious which area I need to keep working on. Coach Trent was very kind to give me a one on one bike skills session a few days after the race and passed on some very useful tips for me to put into practice.

Next race - Bukit Merah 113 triathlon! Would be making a quick trip back home for this. Let's hope there are no more than 3 laps for the bike course this time!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Some guidance on Saucony Guide 8

I've been racing in Saucony shoes for a while now. In fact, I did my first sprint triathlon in a pair Saucony Jazz, about 14 years ago. But it was really when I was training for my first Ironman when I got hooked on the Fastwitch series. I now have a collection of Fastwitch-es from the 3rd edition to the 6th, which all I had great racing experiences with.

Having Saucony Malaysia come on board this year to support me in my lead up to Ironman Malaysia 2015 was a true honour. I've been a massive fan of the brand and I feel really grateful and rewarded to be picked. I guess sometimes, it pays to be loyal to the products that serve you well!

Enter the Saucony Guide 8. I've been using the Guide 7 for my tempo and long distance runs over the last 7 or so months. The shoes have clocked well over 1,000kms and it's time to give them a well deserved retirement. The Guide 8 is nearly identical to it's predecessor with some very subtle changes. So for those who have been using the Guide 7 and wishing to upgrade, have no worries transitioning into these pair of shoes.

Contrasting colour scheme of the Saucony Guide 8
The Guide 8 comes under the guidance or stability category of Saucony running shoes. Tipping the scales at 10 ounces or 280 grams, these are often labelled as lightweight stability shoes. Perfect for those wishing to get some cushioning from pounding the tarmac over the longer distances but not sacrificing the agility and responsiveness, that tend to be lost in heavier shoes.

As I have close to no arch (you should really see my flat... and I mean, REALLY flat feet) so I tend to look for shoes with arch support. On the medial or inside of the shoes, the Guide 8 has a Dual Density Saucony Super Lite (SSL) EVA system that supports the mid sole area. While on the lateral or outside of the shoes, they have the PowerGrid feature, which absorbs impact and re-distributes pressure around the feet. Saucony uses PowerGrid instead of gel for cushioning because gel is heavier and so it can only be used in small areas. Whereas PowerGrid cushions the entire surface area, and minimizing weight at the same time.

Dual Density SSL EVA arch support
PowerGrid technology for impact absorption
Saucony's Injection Blown Rubber (IBR+) technology is 33% lighter than and more durable standard rubber. Perfect for my staple mileage trainers! 
For those running in tropical climates, Saucony has got you covered as their shoes are well ventilated. The Guide 8 is no exception with it's honeycomb textured mesh on the outside and on the inside, it uses it's patented RunDry moisture wicking material. Even the inner soles come with 24 tiny holes on each, improving the ventilation inside the shoes.
Honeycomb mesh for maximum ventilation
Even the in-soles are well ventilated!

One notable update from the Guide 7 is that the SRC Impact Zone on the outer heel area of the Guide 8 has been extended further into the mid sole, increasing surface area of it's crash pad. Again, designed and engineered to minimize the ground impact on the runner. The heel drop ratio or offset is 8mm, which is not surprising given the extensive support the Guide 8 gives and it's similar to shoes that sit within this category with other brands.

SRC Impact Zone marginally increased from the Guide 7
8mm heel to toe drop
The Guide 8 also comes in a wide range of colours to suit different tastes and in two widths - regular D or 2E wide.

Pick one that tickles you fancy! Source:

I've ran in these shoes for a few times now, the longest run being 22km. So far the experience has been great. My feet feel well cushioned and supported from the impact. But still very responsive and not sluggish. I was able to put in some good pick up efforts and the shoes responded well to the increased leg turnover rate.

Looking forward to putting many more miles in these babies, thank you again Saucony Malaysia!

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Visit Brisbane

Just a week after my friend David left Brisbane to return to Malaysia, my parents came to visit. This gave me the opportunity to see Brisbane and it's surrounds as a tourist as we barely have time to do that on our own.

Mum and Dad arrived on Wednesday morning at the Gold Coast airport. I was meant to take the day off but had a meeting which I could not miss. Luckily, my brother Keith was visiting from Sydney as well and he was able to pick Mum and Dad up from the airport. I was able to get off work by midday and we did a brief sightseeing tour then.

A short tour of the UQ campus. Keith made the comment that, from this picture, people may think he studied here.
Mt Coot-tha summit overlooking Brisbane CBD below
The next two days, we parked at Kangaroo Point (as it was free parking!) and did a long walk to South Bank and Brisbane CBD area. It was especially windy on the second day and with the low temperatures, it felt very close to the single digit temperatures! So much for being in the Sunshine State!

South Bank - Keith's favourite place in Brisbane!
We walked from Kangaroo Point along the Story Bridge (shown behind) to Brisbane CBD
The Liverpool football team were in town doing their tour

Roma St Parklands

Another visitor rescued this baby possum from the birds and placed it in the tree
Li-Ann then joined us for dinner at the Eat Street Markets in Hamilton. Pity it was so cold and windy, otherwise it would have been a lot more enjoyable!
On the weekend, we took a drive to the Sunshine Coast. First stop, being the Glass House Mountains area. We took a hike up Mt Ngungun, which was 2.8km return trip up to the summit which was 253m above sea level. And after checking into our accommodation in Caloundra, a nice relaxing stroll along the beach.

Steep climb to the summit

I'm on top of the world!
Awesome view from the summit. That's Mt Tibrogargan
At the lookout viewing point
Low tide at Bulcock beach
After a nice dinner at Hog's Breathe, we went to bed with a good night's sleep. I got up early for a 12km run along the beach before we checked out. We then headed to Mooloolaba harbour for a whale watching cruise. It was pretty windy that and the skipper gave the tour group the option of re-scheduling our respective bookings to another day. As my parents weren't local, we decided to go ahead with the cruise.

Well, as we got out to the open water, it got a bit rough and more than half of the tour group got seasick. Myself, Li-Ann and Keith included. There was a point where I could feel my legs turning into jelly and I was feeling as though I was going to pass out. I sat down and tried to sleep, which helped pass the time. Mum and Dad were okay though. We didn't manage to see any whales and the cruise company offered a refund as part of their guarantee. We did however, manage to see a few dolphins.

All happy before the boat left the harbour
Mum and Dad flew back to Malaysia that night. It was quite a long drive from Sunshine Coast back to Brisbane and then to Gold Coast airport. We did have a good few days though, it's nice to have some family bonding time, which we often take for granted before. Now that we're in different parts of the world, we can't wait for the next one!