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: www.saucony.com

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!

Friday, 10 July 2015

100 x 100m swim

To be honest, when the club first announced the Day for Dani Fundraising Swim, I didn't take much notice at first. Coupled with the fact that it was on the same day as the Gold Coast Marathon, which I would be doing the half distance. When I found out that there were two sessions, one later in the afternoon which I could still make it for, I was pretty keen.

Dani (short for Danielle) was a member of our Red Dog tri club and was involved in a cycling accident couple of years ago. Her injury was permanent and she is now in a wheelchair. It was great for the club to put on this initiative each year. And hopefully, with the proceeds raised, it will help make Dani's life a little bit easier.

I thought I would give the solo 100 x 100m a shot. The furthest I have swam during my competitive swimming days, way back in my late teens, were 2 to 2.5 hour sessions and these reached just over 7kms at most. Most of the time they were about the 5 to 6km mark. If I am successful, this would be something nice to tick on my bucket list.

It was nice and sunny when we started at 2pm. There were about 30 or so of us at the pool at the afternoon. We were allocated to the lanes according to our respective speeds. The lane I swam in held  the 100m cycles of around 1:50 to 1:55 including rest times. And after every 1km or so, we took extra rest to refuel and some lollies were brought around to give us extra energy! There was a young boy, about 10 years or younger, who put in a massive effort and did a fair bit of leading. I took over towards the later stages to take the pressure off him a bit.

It was hard at first. By the 3rd km, I thought I was about done. But I kept pushing. Having a few others in the pool definitely helped. After the 5km mark, it got a bit easier mentally as we were halfway through. But here's when many began to stop swimming and getting out of the pool. So it got a bit quiet. A handful of others stayed on, so they kept me company.

Towards the final km, there was only myself and another girl who were still swimming. Some of the faster ones have already completed the solo 10km. It got a bit scary as the sun was beginning to set and the pool was being prepared for closing. The pool covers were being put on the lanes next to us so they were all dark except for our lane. The meme below kept playing at the back of my head!

C'mon... I'm sure you had this fear too... that a shark will magically appear in the middle of the swim pool!
But we finally got it done. Finishing the last lap was a bit anti climatic as most people have left but it was no less satisfying. The time I recorded was 3 hours 9 minutes. My arms were sore and I had chaffing on my armpits. But I think the longer lasting effect was the dry skin from being soaked in chlorinated water for so long! Until today, I'm still scratching myself despite applying heaps of moisturizer! Having said all that, I'm proud I did it and it was my small contribution to Dani.

Hope that any upcoming Ironman swims would feel much shorter now in comparison!

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Gold Coast Half Marathon 2015

For the past few years, I've always used a half marathon as a lead up race early in the season. It's the perfect distance to dust off the cobwebs and I don't need to worry about racking up too many training miles in order to prepare for it. Because of this reason, I haven't been breaking PBs over the half distance for quite a while. My previous best time was 1:27:32 in 2011, race report here.

But I was keen to break that cycle and after some solid speedwork at the track sessions the past few months, I knew I have a good shot at it. Just the Tuesday before the race, we did a 5km time trial and I was only 10 seconds slower than my 5km PB despite holding back a bit.

Couldn't bring myself to give it a 100% with the upcoming weekend's half marathon in mind
Race eve was quite a relaxing but fun day. We took a drive to Surfer's Paradise, about 50 minutes away. My friend, David is visiting from Malaysia and doing the half distance as well. So we decided to stay the night. We each booked a one bedroom apartment at Islander Resort Hotel, the building is a bit old but the rooms are clean and spacious. An evening stroll along the majestic beachfront followed by some street food at Miami Marketta was just what the body needed to unwind and prepare for the race the next day.

The Expo At the Gold Coast Convention Centre. There were many more stalls than at the usual Ironman expos. 
Next morning, an early start to catch the 5am tram to the race precinct in Southport. The trams were packed and we were lucky that we were able to squeeze ourselves in without having to wait for the next one. Upon reaching the venue, I did a last minute visit to the portaloo. The half marathon was to start at 6am, about 80 minutes before the main event, which is the marathon. So it was still pretty quiet (and the portaloos were still reasonably clean!). Did some warm up jogs for about 10 minutes, then we deposited our clothing bags and lined up for our respective start zones. David gave me a wager that if I did not break my PB that day, I needed to drink 3 pints of beer that night!

Here's where a little bit of drama ensued. I was in the A start zone (less than 1 hour 45 minutes) and with the massive crowd, I could not locate the entry point of the gates to get there. There were a handful of runners in the same boat and we decided to climb over the gates. Then as I was inching my way towards the front of the A start zone, I could hear the announcer counting down to the gun off - great! Quickly turned on my Garmin but it was taking forever to locate a signal. Never mind, I'll just run with the timer mode then.

The race gun went off and there was still a sea full of people ahead of me. I was trapped in and had no choice but to follow the pace until I had more space to do some overtaking. I lapped my watch to the first km marker and to my disappointment, it showed 4:37! I had a lot and I mean A LOT of work to do if I wanted to break my PB. The second km wasn't so bad and I clocked 4:09. And I managed to go a bit quicker for the next 2kms, both at 4:04.

Still keeping it in control
The course was fairly straightforward. Just out and back with short detour at the 6-7km mark and the turnaround point just after the 11km mark. It's virtually flat with some very subtle inclines when going up the bridges. The weather was great - it was a bit chilly early in the morning in single digit temperatures but when the sun came up, it was nice and crisp. Very low humidity and minimal winds.

I managed to overtake the 1:30 pacer just after the 5km mark, so I knew I was in a good place. It was still fairly crowded at this point and I had to weave in and out to keep pushing the pace. It was only after the 11km turnaround point where I had plenty of space to myself. There were a few guys and a couple of ladies around me, we played cat and mouse for a fair bit and there didn't seem to a clear breakaway. My pace started dropping to the 4:10s and I was unsure how long more I could hold on. I was still on track on breaking my PB but it was going to very... very close.

Now I'm out of control!
The home stretch couldn't have come any sooner. As we approached the start of the finishing gantry with about 200m to go. I started kicking but I am clearly no sprinter as those around me surged past me, leaving me in their wake. As the finishing clock was in my sight, showing the gun time rather than the net time, I had no idea what I'll end up clocking but I gave it my all, crossing the line with 1:27:25 on my watch - I knew it was a PB, just not sure by how much!

Pity I couldn't get a GPS measurement. Would like to know how far or close it was.
I limped around the recovery area, drinking a few cups of Endura as I ran the whole race without any drinks. Collected my medal, finisher T shirt and my clothes bag. Once I settled down to wait for the massage, I was able to check my previous best time on my Athlinks account and delighted to see that I broke it by 7 seconds. Was even happier when the official results showed my net time another 3 seconds quicker!

Happy to keep my pace fairly consistent!
Coincidentally, I found David as we were making our way back to the trams. With 9,000 participants and their supporters for the half marathon, we initially planned to meet back at the hotel. After a brief wash up and hotel check out, we had breakfast by the Surf Club to cheer the tail end of the marathon runners going past - and, we get to catch a Spiderman marathoner in action!

A very well organized event with minimal hassle getting to and from the race precinct. Barring any upsets, I look forward to doing this again next year!

Being a side event, it's not surprising that our medal is a little bit smaller.