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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Marathon Bad for You?

There is article written by a lady in Malaysia that is getting all the wrong attention.  Coming from somebody who is in the sports industry, I am rather surprise at the issues that she has raised concerning marathon running. Read the full article here.

Here are the 4 main issues she raised:

1. It wreck your knees
2. You could drop dead
3. It could ruin your sex drive
4. Its not the most effective weight loss method

I going to attempt to tackle these 4 points.

1. It wreck your knees. So does doing any other sports and having a sedentary life style. Like in my small workplace of about 100 staff, there are a number of people with bad knee problems. One of them is of course me. Another colleague had it so bad she had to for for knee anthroscopy. She has never run or do any sports in her life. Another colleague did the same on both knees. He only cycles. Another colleague takes the lift up and down even though we are on the 2nd floor because of her bad knees. She is in the late thirties and don't do any sports. My big boss walks with a limp because he refuses to go under the knife. He only play golf and nothing else. 2 of my running friend had ACL injury. They got it while playing football and not during running. The point I trying to make is, almost anything can cause knees problem. The main cause of bad knees is osteoarthritis and not running. So don't just push every thing to running.

2. You could drop dead. Fair enough. One can also drop dead anytime from doing anything and even nothing. A friend's mother dropped dead in her living room. There was no apparent cause. Another friend's brother got up to pee one morning and then went back to bed. He never woke up again. And he was only 45 years old then. People die from any reasons. More people die from riding motorcycles, aeroplanes, cycling than people die from running. That doesn't stop these people from continuing with these activities. Running actually keeps the heart and body healthier reducing the risk of sudden death. The only reason people get all worked up when somebody dies after running is that it is so rare that it gets reported in the media and draw all the attention. People dropping dead in normal situation is just not news anymore.

3. It could ruin your sex drive. The writer cited a study by the University of British Columbia. Let me cite these articles: 

Need I say more?

4.Its not the most effective weight loss method. I don't know what is. Those weird diet plan? Running is, in my humble opinion, the cheapest and easiest weight loss method. That and of course a sensible diet. I should know. I am one of those who lost many kilos after taking up running. And so does many of my running acquaintances like Nel, Anthony, Kartono and the list goes on. If running is not, what is?

And finally to conclude, if you are reading this and preparing for your marathon tomorrow, don't despair. Let me assure you that unless you have an existing heart disease, you are not likely to drop dead from running the race. In fact, you have a higher chance of dying in a car accident on the way to the race! Happy racing!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Patching Up MacRitchie Reservoir

Sometime ago, a fella fell while running at MacRitchie Reservoir. Subsequently, he wrote a letter of complaint to the press asking for the rocks and roots to be removed to make it safer for runners. Read about his complaint here. Of course, he got a whole lot of ridicule from the public and a lot of indignant trail runners. Then Nparks came out with a reply which got everybody cheering. So everybody thought that was the end of the silly complaint. Or is it?

This is one part of the trail in MacRitchie Reservoir now. Gone is the dirt track and in its place a nice silvery grey layer of granite chips.
Picture by Kelly Lim
Apparently, Nparks has decided to do something and this section of the trail has been paved over with crushers. I don't know whether it is in response to the complaint or what but trail runners are pretty upset. But I suppose for other regular park users who just want a nice place to walk, this is definitely an improvement over the previous wild tangle of roots and rocks and uneven ground.

I have mixed feeling about this. On the one hand, I must admit that I do not like the particular section parallel to the SICC leading to Lornie Road. It is uneven, full of rocks and roots and I never ever run this section for fear of falling and injuring myself. So having all this even out, will allow me to run this section. But on the other hand, I hate to see nature being replace by man made things. The trails in the reserves should be left as it is. We do not need nice walking path. If we want them, we could always go to Sengkang Riverside Park, Admiralty Park or even the Pasir Ris Park. 

But having said that, MacRitchie Reservoir is in a rather unique position. It caters not only to trail runners but many many other visitors most of whom are there just for fresh air or some light exercise. So the tracks have to cater to a wide segment of visitors and I suppose this is a good compromise. After all, its not like this is the first time Nparks have done something to improve the trails there. I am sure everybody who runs to Rifle Range Road from MacRitchie appreciates the concrete steps that were created next to the stream. Prior to that, there was a big mound which could become muddy and slippery when wet. Several of the more muddy sections have also been filled in with rocks and stumps and even the section immediately after the Ranger Station; that was also filled in with crushers after the track was reopened after the landslide.

Hopefully, these will be all that Nparks will do to the trails. What I could hate to see will be those tiles which Nparks loves to lay in the parks and then call it a "trail". 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Great Eastern Women's Run 2013 - the men have it too!

This year at the Great Eastern Women's Race, I saw a fair number of guys running alongside their wife or girl friends or partners. Later on on Facebook, some ladies was visibly angry at these guys for gatecrashing their party. But I think the guys who ran the GE run obviously don't see it that way. 

These guys who were running are what is known in races as bandit runners. That is, runners who do not register for a race but still run in it. In the West, this is a big no no. But what is the big fuss? Those who bandited will argue? After all, they do not take the drinks, the gels, the banana and there are so few of them they are not likely to cause any obstructions. And beside, most will know enough to run to the side and not cross the finish line. So their argument will be that nobody has suffered an disadvantage because of them. And of course the line that everybody use. It is a public place and everybody can run in these place.

Not true. The other camp will argue. Most bandit runners will still take the drinks. And if everybody think like them and many more turn up, they will be an obstruction. And beside, what if they collapse during the run. The race people will still have to divert resources to them notwithstanding that they are not registered. And it is unfair to those who paid to run......

And so the arguments goes on. I am actually surprised that the GE organiser do not have bandit catchers. I saw the bandit catchers first hand at the previous years' Shape Run and Nike Run and I was pretty impressed at the power of the security although I didn't think they could outrun the bandits:) Maybe next time round I can volunteer to be a bandit catcher. Anybody want to join me?

But seriously, while I think the bandit runners are not correct to run without registering in the race, I think the guys in the GE Race had good reason to do so and that is to support their loved ones. I can understand why they do it since I am always running side by side with the sidekick although I have never bandit a race with her before. My support if they can be counted on as support is to drive her there, take her photo and drive her home. And beside, if I run with her, I will in most cases end up as the pacee and she the pacer.

But back to the bandit pacer. I think there is good reasons for races to have this category. The Malaysia Women Marathon this year had this. The Craze Ultra had this and many oversea Women races actually allows men registration. So if the problem can't be resolved, maybe next year GE, Shape and even the Venus Run might want to create a new category for male pacers. Charge them a fee to run but no freebees except whatever is given to the ladies and no prizes. Then the bandit pacers will have no excuses to be bandit and the organiser - they might as well make a buck from it. After all, if you can't beat em - might as well let them come it and have it too! 

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Tampines Mountain Bike Trail - Going Going?

Some time ago, the HDB had plans to close down the Tampines Mountain Bike Park and redevelop a new township there. There was some hue and cry and apparently they agreed to shelf the plan for the time being. But that seems to be only for the Bike Park and not the Bike Trail, the other part of the mountain biking trails there.

I first ran there back in 2008. It was a beautiful place, quiet and with some nice knolls to climb. Then they split it into the Bike Park and the Bike Trail with the Bike Park only for bikers. Quite sad but still it was a good rugged trail especially the forest trail with its twists and turns and mud!

But now it seems like the bike trail is going the way of the Dodo bird. The last time I ran there was barely 2 months ago so it was a great shock when I ran in today to be confronted by this:
A freaking cemented road where the dirt track used to be. And there are clearing work of the plants on the right.

Here are more photos of the place and the devastation. Previously and now

The main trail going inward

The main trail now (going outward)

 The wide open field just behind the 2 sheds with the main track in the background

The same open field now. Photo taken from the main track

The small stream coming down from the knoll where everybody always had great "fun" splashing through the water

Now a main part of it has been covered up. The way down from the knoll is no longer accessible

Looking at the work being done, it looks like they are building a main road in. Probably to facilitate the movement of the construction vehicles. The clearing of the vegetation is now confined mainly to the right so it will appears that Mountain Bike Trail is a goner cos the left is the Bike Park which will be left intact. So likely they will keep the Bike Park and build HDB flats on both side of it. What a waste!

Monday, November 04, 2013

The North Face Hyper Track Guide

After I retired my last North Face trail shoe, I promptly went and bought another pair of North Face. This time attracted by the bright colors of the North Face Hyper Track Guide, I scooped it up at a good price as it was last season's shoe and on the way out.

Design: In the past, North Face has not been known for its colorful shoes. Both my 2 previous pair of NF were rather dull looking but this time round, NF has out done itself proud by coming up with nice beautiful colors and the Hyper Track Guide is just one of them.

The bright color extends to the sole with its striking yellow and blue color.

I especially like that they put the NR logo on the heel of the shoe instead of the usual side like everybody else does.

Weight: Coming in at about 280 gm, this has to be one of the lightest trail shoes ever produced by NF. As a comparison, my NF Sentinel weights in at 650 gm and my NF Arnuva Boa is a hefty 710 gm. Even my beloved Altra Lone Peak 1.5 is heavier at 345 gm!

Cushioning: There is sufficient cushioning. This is after all not a minimalist shoes. It has a 8mm heel to toe drop. It also lack the NF signature rock plate and is not meant for technical trail.  But one of the reason I bought this shoe apart from its color was that it is touted as a road cum trail shoe and where I am, the trails are short and there are always plenty of roads in between the trails. And our trails are fairly easy to run on and not very technical indeed. So I figured this will be a suitable shoes. And in my runs to date, I find no issue with the cushioning. My first run was on the beautiful carpet grass of Tampines Eco Green and I felt I was almost like running on air. For my next run, I took it for a long run on road at the hard ground of the Punggol Promenade. Again, I had no problem with the cushioning even on the hard concrete. My final run before this post was on the more challenging trails of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. The ground was wet and rather soft and on the little area where there were more rocks, I walked over most of these so I couldn't really test how well the shoe protect me from the rocks. But generally, cushioning was very adequate and good enough for people switching to minimalist.

Traction: From the Bukit Timah run, I was fairly pleased with the performance of the shoes. The trails were generally wet and slippery but the sole gripped well. I didn't feel any slippage but then again I said the same thing of my Altra and it failed me miserably in the harsh wet ground of Kinabalu. Hopefully the Hyper Track will only have to do duty in safe comfortable Singapore.

Flexibility: Unfortunately it wasn't as flexible as I could like it to be. When I flexed it, I thought it was flexible enough but for my initial 2 runs, I had some difficulty adjusting to the harder ride and there was some strains on my mid foot as I tried to flex my foot. But on the trails, it was flexible enough or maybe that was because I replaced the insole? But overall, this is more a trail shoe than a road shoe and I think it adapt better to uneven ground than flat ground. 

Water Proofing: The upper is made up of a fine mesh and it will appears that water can get in easily. However, on my run through the Green Corridors, there were many small puddles of mud and water which I happily went through but nothing went in. But looking at the mesh and design, it is definitely not waterproof but I expect just as the water will get in easily, it will also drain out easily.

However, I do have one bad thing to note about the shoe. In my earlier 2 runs, my left toe kept rubbing against the side of the shoe so much so that I developed a super duper blister. I read conflicting online review of the shoe fit. In my opinion, the shoe fit well. Is snug and not loose. There is very little side movement so I am rather surprised. I replaced the insole for my third run, applied some Bodyglide on the toe and went for my 2 hours run and came away unscathed! So the verdict is still out on this.

Overall, I like the shoe for its light weight, its flexibility for both road and trail and of course the bright color. But because of the toe box, I will be hesitant to use it for too long runs and will probably use it for shorter runs.

Running Lab Singapore is currently clearing stock of this shoe at up to a whopping 60% discount and for those looking to get their first pair of affordable trail shoe, this could be it! 

Friday, November 01, 2013

Running Home - Toa Payoh to Pasir Ris

I haven't run home from work for quite a while. I was in Toa Payoh attending a course so I decided to run home from there rather than take the train home. I checked the distance on Google Map and and it was about 16km via the car route. I reckoned that the route by foot should be almost the same except that I will not go up the Kaki Bukit Viaduct.

I started from Toa Payoh Lorong 4 at about 5.45 pm. It was a short run out of Toa Payoh to Braddell Road. At junction of Lorong 1 and Lorong 6, I passed the magnificent Toa Payoh Seu Teck Siang Tong, a Taoist temple. Took this picture with my phone from across the road against the light so the picture doesn't show how impressive the entrance to the temple is. For a closer look, try this link

Braddell Road is not a very nice place to run, with heavy traffic. I don't like to breath in fumes but no choice, this was the only practical way to go back. But I did get a view of the cleaned up Kallang River.

I supposed I could follow the course of the river all the way down to Bendeemer Road and run home from Kallang or Sims Drive but that could be detouring too much and I didn't really feel like doing an extended distance run.

So I continued and reached Bartley Road and on my right was this lush green space. It was breath taking and I haven't run here before. Trails for exploration? 

Another view of the place further down the road. This is of course part of the Mount Vernon cemetery if I am not wrong. I should go there before it makes way for some condominium.

The last highlight along the road was this gateway. It looks like the structure of temples entrance but look closely, there is a cross at the top. This is in fact, the main entrance of a school and not just any school but a Christian school. Now I wonder why does a Christian school have a Temple looking entrance?

It got progressively too dark to take further photos. Anyway, by now I was on Hougang Ave 3 running next to heavy traffic and factories in Defu. I went into the Kaki Bukit area, took a wrong turn and wound up at some construction site and had to detour but eventually I reached the familiar Bedok Reservoir and with that it was just another 5 km to home.

Total distance according to my unreliable Timex watch was 16.8 km and I took almost 2 hours. Not too bad considering that I stopped to cross countless road junction and took pictures. But this will probably be the one and only time doing this route. Next up will be another run home from the real work place probably as soon as next week.