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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye 2013 Hello 2014

2013 has been a most interesting year. In fact I would said it has been the best year ever.

Started the year with a very enjoyable race in Thailand

This was followed by another race in Muar.

In between, did 2 fun runs and 1 local race; the inagural TNF City Race as part of a team.

Also went over to do a fun trail run in Malaysia where we had our first encounter with leeches!

August decide to do the Army half marathon which turned out to be a big mistake.

Went to Kota Kinabalu to challenge the mountain there but expectedly failed miserably.

Then instead of running the local TNF 100, we did something different and it was another wonderful experience.

And that about it for the year. Of course, in between the races, shot thousand and thousand of photos as part of Running Shots and made lots of friends.

Certainly a most fulfilling year.

Come 2014, have already committed to one hike, 1 local and 1 oversea race and looking for more. Perhaps a climb up to the highest mountain in South East Asia and a trail race somewhere cool and nice?

Have a blessed prosperous and healthy new year, everybody!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Puma Mobium Elite

The first time I saw this shoe, I know I had to get it. But I knew nuts about it. Only that it is Puma. And Puma is the brand that is sponsoring Usain Bolt. Maybe the hope is that a little bit of his speed will rub off. Haha. But the true is that I was attracted by the price and more importantly the color!

I have not had an orange shoe for some time. In fact, the color for the past 2 years have been green. Orange shoe has been kinda hard to find. But now I got 2. The other pair? That will be revealed later in another post. But first back to the Puma Mobium Elite.

It was on offer at $90.00 at the Puma Outlet. Any shoe below a $100.00 is a bargain. And this is 2013 edition not some past season shoe. And it comes with a lot of credential. Or rather the hardsell from the manufacturer. "Puma Mobium is a new innovative running shoe......adaptive running. Puma Mobium Elite naturally adapts to the foot as it moves, expanding and contracting as the foot naturally does in strides" What does that means? It means that after 2 or it it 3 years of research, the good people at Puma has decided that human should run like puma and came up with their interpretation of it namely:

a) A Mobium Band. Inspired by the tendon, it runs through the outsole and the more force applied - the more spring it returns.

b) Expansion Pods. Inspired by the paws of the puma, it is supposed to provide cushioning, flexibility and protection. Damn, it does really look like the paw of a cat!

c) Windlass Chassis. It is supposed to change length, height and proportion in line with the foot's movement.

The Mobium is supposed to be a minimalist shoe. It comes with a 8 mm drop and weights about 240 gm. Not exactly minimalist by my standard.  That all for the mumbo jumbo. So how does it really feel on the run?

First the issues:

To date I have worn it for close to 50 km. The first time I worn it, i got a giant size blister on the outside of the big toe. I attributed it to the cheap socks I was running and switch socks the next round but the blisters moved to between the third and fourth toe. Evidently, the toe box is too small. Not too sure whether the shoes come in wide size. But there was another problem. The shoes felt loose. It threatens to fly off if I swing too hard and high. In the end, I had to really tighten the shoe laces to keep it in place. So is it too big or to small? More importantly, every time I start running it it, I develop this super soreness and pain in the arch. I think it is because of the design of the Windlass Chassis. But after about 10 minutes into the run, the pain disappear and the ride becomes more comfortable. 

Now for the goodie:

For short run, this feels great - the arch soreness aside. The spring is incredible. I feel like I can fly. And there is ample cushioning and flex to propel me forward. I am not too sure where the mobium band comes in. Maybe I am not pro enough to detect it. 

Waterproofing is adequate. With its netted upper, it drain off water fast enough. And its is not hot. But then again, I did all my runs in this pair of shoes in the evening and for not more than an hour each time, so heat built up is not an issue or something that I have encounter yet.

Overall, I will err on the safe side and wear it only for short runs and intervals not exceeding 1 hour or 10km. Definitely not for marathon distance. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Race Photo - Sunset Industry?

Following my last post, the Australian director for SuperSportsImage has given an apology to Running Shots. His apology can be found on one of the Running Shots comment posting. Check it out. So since apology given, and no offence taken, I shall let this matter rest and move on. But one thing strike me while mulling over the whole episode.

The way I see it, his major grouse is the competition we guys gave him. We were a big threat to his profit margin . After all, he had to incur costs in getting photographers to shoot for him, then do backend processing etc. A lot of works involved and with us around, there was no way he was going to make money not less recoup his cost. I guess he was afraid that we were going to kill his business.

But on hindsight, this area of sports photography. Is it a sunset industry? I wonder how many people nowadays actually will buy race photographs. Over at Running Shots, we don't sell photographs. But we do charge a very nominal sum for high resolution photos. Even then, despite covering more than 80 events this year, todate we have received only requests for not more than 15 photos. Certainly none of us are laughing all the way to the bank. And we are not killing SuperSportsImage or Marathon Photo or FinisherPix business.

The fact is nowadays people simply do not keep hardcopy photos unless they are real important. For normal photos, most of us are content to just keep them in soft copy format on our computers, tablets and phones where we can look at them any time, any place. And they don't take up space, not like those chunky photo albums. And there is no need to spend tons of moneys to print photos that we will look at probably just a few times after which the albums will be relegated to the drawers to be opened maybe once or twice a year. Just look at the photo finishing kiosks that used to be so prevalent in all HDB estates. Most of them are gone now. Only a handful remain and to survive, most of these places have to offer other services such as photocopy, selling photo frames etc and value added photo printing. My point is selling race photos is like selling photo films. It is a dead business. That is why Kodak went bust. Because it did not know how to innovate and meet the new challenge. With rapid change in technology, businesses cannot continue doing things the old way.

So I think for SuperSportsImage or the others to survive, they need to think out of the box. Do not simply sell the softcopy or a hardcopy with timing. The majority is not going to go for that, at least not at the prices that these people charges. Think of how to entice people to buy their photos. One innovative way is to partner with the event owner to build in the cost of the photo into the race fee. Like what Great Eastern did for the recent Great Eastern Women Run. GE bought up the rights to all the photos and gave it to the participants FOC. That is probably the way to go. Work with the event owner, bundle the cost of the photos into the race fee. The participants automatically get a photo after the race, the event owner get happy customer and the photo service provider smile all the way to the bank! Imagine if he just ask for $1.00 for each registered participant and there are 10,000 participants, that will be a cool $10k. Compare that to selling say 200 photos at $40.00 which will fetch him only $8,000.00 if he can sell 200 photos in the first place! 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Free or Paid Photos?

Got this message from an Australian company Super Sport Images on the Running Shots facebook page after the Commando Challenge on Sunday:

"Hi Guys,
As the contracted photographic partner of the Commando Challenge, your advertisement of images conpletely flies against supporting your field. We invest heavily into supporting events such as this, are the contracted provider with exclusivity and having a photographic entity that seems to want to take care of things in their own manner, does not support the photographic industry at all, it merely cheapens it.
I would ask you kindly, to please respect our business, that has invested money and resources into this event and others iin the hope of being sustainable.
Director of Supersport Images"

The more I read the post, the more pissed off I get. Here is another freaking ang moh who thinks that he is the all and be all and only his professional set up is qualified to take photographs and we, the locals are cheapening the profession!

Here are another 2 posts that the Aussie put up on the Commando Challenge Facebook Page where he repeats the same thing in response to somebody:

  • Supersport Images Anuroop, the costs of your entry has nothing to do with us as we are a 3rd party that is the official photographic partner of the event with our own costs to absorb. We support events of this type and take huge financial risks to do so. We aim to make our products as costs efficiently as possible and we have packs which include ALL of your identified images for just over $30. This allows you to download your full res files forever. Products and prices vary with varying options to choose from. If you guys are happy to support those out there that cheapen the market by turning up in no official capacity and simply show no respect to business like ours that aim to offer a competitiive product then the end result will be no photographic providers providing any coverage at any event. it's disappointing to hear such comments frankly.
  • Supersport Images Hi Guys, I'd like to address a couple of comments to let you you know we have a range of products in our cart which are still being determined so any comments on prices is speculation.Our products range from under $20 also with a good variety of choices. It's important to point out that if competitors are willing to support individuals who cheapen the market by simply turning up, shooting hard and then making images available free or for next to no cost, not only does it cheapen the market, but you guys will all have no businesses who will be ablle to provide their services at any of the events you guys choose to do. Please think about who you'd like to support, those that invest into giving you the best coverage and systems we can that support a huge vareity of events, or individuals who just turn up and offer images for nothing and totally cheapen the market place. We have individual images, full electronic downloadable packs, prints and special event designs for very reasonable prices. We invest a great deal into our partnerships both finanicially and in resources and Ming and others are showing little consideration for those who are full time in the industry partnering all manner of events. I ask you guys to think about this please.

My fellow volunteer photographers asked me not to get worked up. But reading this ang moh chap's arrogance makes me boil. 

1. What does he mean when he said we photographers cheapen the market? Does he meant that because he invested heavily, and we did not, we are cheap? As far as I know the practice, most of these professional photography company engage freelancers who more than often than not, are people like us, to shoot on their behalf and pay them a miserable sum. Are his photographers much better than us or his equipment better than ours? I take real offence when he said we cheapen the industry. All of us at Running Shots, and I am sure my esteemed colleagues at EyeSeeEyeShoot, Running Kaki, Chasing Shots, Run Mo Cap to name just a few are definitely insulted by this cheap shot. We sacrifice our time, our equipment braving the sun and rain to take photographers of competitor so that they can go home with more than just a mental memory and some chap who think only of making money dare to call us cheap!

2. He threatens that if the public support us free photo sites, then there will be no event coverage if we pull out. I will let the record speak for itself. Where was SuperSportImages or Marathon Photos or Finisher Pix at Lion Dash, Let''s Take a Walk, Project Happy Feet, Newton Challenge, Venus Run? Do I need to list more races? If anything, Running Shots was at all these events and we covered almost 99.9% of races (competitive, fun, charity) in Singapore in the year 2013! So who do you think will pull a disappearing act for other events? SuperSportsImages or Running Shots or even other groups like Running Kaki, Chasing Shots etc? If anything, it will be us the volunteers who will shoulder on rather than the profit greedy company who will pull out the minute they find no monies to be made in our Singapore market.

3. I can conclude that he is afraid of competition. If indeed his photographers are so good, then he should not be afraid that people will not buy his photographers and go for our low quality free photos. But the true is he knows that his photos are not much better than ours and at the exorbitant prices that he and like companies charge, nobody will buy from them. If it is not because these companies charges an arm and a leg, there will be no need for us to come into the picture. It is precisely because of companies like Super Sports Image that we get so much responses from race participants. 

4. SuperSportsImage has probably made a very elementary error when he choose to come to Singapore. He failed to do market research and did not realise that there are a whole lot of committed dedicated volunteers who are willing to take photographs for free. And when he found photos of the Commando Challenge sprouting up everywhere and free for download, instead of trying to find a way to beat the competition, he decided to belittle the competition and scare the locals with threats of no race photographs. He asked that we respect their business. Why? Its a free economy! There should not be any restriction of trade.He didn't do his homework too bad. I asked that he respect the competition and try to be better than us. The question is - can he? 

At the end of the day, we  the volunteer photographers do all these not because we want to kill the market for race photographs but because there was a crying need for cheap accessible photos. And we are glad to provide this service as a service to the running public. At Running Shots, we do not sell photographs although we do charge a nominal fee for request for high resolution photos. But frankly that fee is more to deter request rather than to profit from it. If we have to depend on this income, all of us would have quit long ago.

But having said all these, tell me - which do you prefer? To pay money for a "professionally" taken photo with border, event logo and timing or just admire your free photos courtesy of Running Shots and the various other photography group? If the majority said they prefer the paid version, I will gladly keep my free time to do my own running and nature photography. Let me know ya?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

What drives you?

Coming almost 4 weeks after probably the most infamous marathon finish in Singapore, this is now very old news but I think this blog is not going to be very complete without a comment on it. I am of course referring to one Tam Chua Puh who spectacularly finished ahead of Mok Yin Ren to come in as the first Singaporean in this year's edition of the full marathon of the SCMS 2013. By now everybody in the running circle would have known that he only ran 6 km and ran back from the esplanade to clock in at 2 hours 46 mins 57 secs and that he all he "wanted was the finisher tee and medal."

Which leads me to wonder. Why do people choose to run a marathon. For most runners, I would guess they are like me. I started off about 9 years ago not barely able to run 400 metres. Then I managed to do 2 km, then 5, then 10 and 21  and one day I wondered - why not give the full a try? It never occur to me that there was a finisher tee and a medal up for grab. What I just wanted to do was to see whether I could run 42 km. I did it in 2004, swear that I couldn't do it again and then promptly went for it the next year. The first year I did it was because I wanted to see whether I could do it. The second time I did it, I wanted to improve on the previous year's performance. And it was the same reason I signed up for a third attempt. That was in 2007 and I wanted to call it quit after that but by then the sidekick had got into the game and so my reason for doing my 4th full marathon was just to keep her company. That was also the same reason when we signed up for my 5th full marathon. To date all my finisher tees are still in their plastic packing and the medals have been dumped in the cupboard never to see the light again. 

Most runners I know are like me. Their main reasons are usually to see whether they can complete the distance and once that achieved, to see whether they can complete in a faster time. It is never about winning or snagging the finisher tee and medal. Those are a bonus of course especially as the cost of racing soars. 

But to run a marathon just for the finisher tee and medal? And not to train for it? Where is the honour? How can the person dares to wear the tee when he never even complete it or in some case, run it? What do they brag to their friends? Don't they know that all it takes is a mouse click on the event's result page and whatever lies they told will be found out? Seriously if all these people want is the finisher tee and medal, there are plenty available on ebay. And heck, maybe I can sell mine finisher tee. All 5 of them. $50.00 a piece. Any takers. And I throw in the medal for free!

Friday, December 06, 2013

Those Freaking Arrogant Ang Moh

I like to think that I am not a racist but sometime I love to stick it up to those frigging ang moh who still think that white is supreme and only they can dictate to the world what the rest of the world should do. 

I have blogged more than once about bad encounter with ang moh whilst running here. There are also videos floating around of arrogant ang moh cyclists riding on our road. I know there are many nice ang moh and I have met many while running at the Running Lab weekly run but reading these comments on the site where I upload my run details, it makes me wonder ... are those loudmouth the minority or do the majority of ang moh feels the same way:

There this thread on the SCMS cheating guy on the Runningahead forum but somehow some frigging yayapapaya fellas got round to "suaning" Singapore:

And this guy. Is he for real?

It was the same when DC Rainmaker came last year and made some disparaging remarks about our running scene when he ran the Brooks Happy Run. Read about it here.

Maybe I am too sensitive but I hope these fellas really come here, do a real race and let see them do a sub 2:50 in our weather!

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.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Unglam Running Photos

I was taking photos this morning at the annual Shape Run. While I was sorting through the photos, I realised why they named it the Shape Run. Cause the ladies do really come in all sort of shapes. Hahaha, but that is not the topic of my post. The other thing that I noticed was that most ladies look very unglam in their running photos. But before you ladies out there jump in and said "abutthen, what do you guys expect?", let me state that I also captured shots of ladies who still look glam and cool and some even glow! Here are just a few examples:

For obvious reasons and since I value my life and my camera and do not want some enraged lady to kill me or kick my camera the next time they see me shooting at an event, I am not going to post any unglam photos here. Those who are curious can go check out the photos in Running Shots:)

But for those ladies who are honest enough and admit that they do look unglam in their running pose, here are some tips on how to look glam:

1. Put on some make up. I know, I know a lot of ladies will kpkb about this, how make up can run with all the sweat and grim but I think there are some waterproof make up available. 

2. Tie up your hair. I think I blogged about this before. Nothing is worse than hair flying all over. Or wear a cap. Look at the ladies above. None of them has messy hair. They are either tied up neatly or they are wearing a cap.

3.Its in the eyes. Most of the unglam photos have one common theme running throughout. The eyes. Some are shut, some are slit, some are sunken. The easiest thing is to wear a sun-glass and volia! Again just take a look at the photos above. The glasses do make a big difference.

4. And last but not least, smile. I know after running for more than an hour, it is a torture for some people but a beautiful wide smile can make a world of a difference. Don't you just love the smile on the faces above? The next time you see a photographer, just smile. We loves to shoot cheerful looking people.

There you have it. The trick to looking good for your next running photo.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

When you need to go, just do it!

It is just before the start of the race. You are in the race pen all excited to be flag off and start the race. You warm up a bit, look at your watch, 10 minutes to go and darned it, you need to pee again! Funny, didn't you just went to the porta loo like half an hour ago? So how? Leave the race pen? But that would mean possibly getting stuck in a queue for the toilet and worse missing the flag off. So you hold on, tahan and 5 minutes after flag off, you join a horde of runners lined up against the wall of a shophouse and let go. Ahh! Relief at last. Now you can do your run properly. 

Sound familiar? How many of us have this urge to pee just before a race? I think there is a running term for it but I am too lazy to google for it but it is so common. In the past, every year at the SCMS and AHM, I used to see runners lined up against the partition of the Fullertion Hotel when it was undergoing renovation. And that is like barely 100 metres from the start line. I think its all in the mind. The tension from the race, plus the early morning start all contribute to the urge to pee.

Fortunately I have so far never felt the need to do so, at least not in such open public area. The only 2 times I need to go while on the run were all in the forest and I could do it behind some trees concealed from sights. Never like this:

And while I had heard about runners peeing or even doing the big business while running, I have never actually see a lady doing it side by side with the guys! I guess we will be seeing more of such things in the future as we become a more open society.:)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Broken Vows

I swear many times that I will not run a full marathon again. Not because I think I cannot do it but because I am too lazy to train for it. Then in a stupid moment of bravado, I went and signed up for a 50km trail race. And after countless hours and hours of training, I failed to finish the trail race. Which should tell me to be smart and stay off long distance running. But hell no...

I have a full marathon coming up next year. I don't know whether to celebrate or cry. Celebrate because this is the Tokyo Marathon, one of the major marathon in the year and which everybody tell me is a must do. Unlike the Boston or New York marathon, there is no qualifying time but a lucky draw. And just for a lark, the sidekick and I went to apply and I got in! But not the poor sidekick who was more interested in it than me. So I should be celebrating right?

But I think of the long runs that I going to have to do and I am so depressed that I want to cry. I remembered how it was when the sidekick was training for the Sundown Marathon this year and I was accompanying her. I suffered through most of it and had the ignominy of dropping out less than half way into one of the long runs and taking a bus ride home. And now I got to do it all over again! Arrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!

But running changes people and is like a mind monster. I haven't even start training for the Tokyo Marathon and I know I gonna hate the training but I am thinking of doing an ultra trail race. Yes it going to suck big time - the training - but I can't get the DNF at the TMBT out of my mind and I think I will have to break my vow and ............

Friday, October 11, 2013

New Old Shoes

I gonna into this strange habit of buying old shoes. Old as in not used but past season shoes. I used to buy in to all those marketing crap about not wearing shoes that have been in storage for a long time caused the foam will have harden and will not be able to absorb the impact. But nowadays, it is the less cushioning read: foam layer the better so who cares whether there are any cushioning. And besides, I go for those shoes with very little foam in fact the thinner the better so that logic doesn't apply to me anymore.

Anyway, recently to replace my dwindling stock of shoes (I am down to only 2 pairs now), I went and bought 2 new old or is it old new shoes.

First was this nice Saucony Kinvara 3 which I got from Running Lab during the trade in promotion.

That was in July and after the trade in, cost only slightly over a $100. It is still sitting inside the box though and Kinvara 4 is already out! Will it stay in the dark for a year like its older siblings? Anyway, this will be my 3rd Kinvara shoes and I think I gonna love this as well.

A month later, I got this:
The North Face Hyper Track Guide which is about maybe 10 months out in the market already? Not too old but if I am not wrong, North Face has released new models recently. Anyway, this cost me slightly over $120 after a good discount so it wasn't too bad. Why this shoe?

More of that and the Kinvara after I finally decide to wear them.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Here come the Garbage Men @ TNF 100 Singapore

It all started with an idea by a friend who got his inspiration from a  race in Hongkong. One thing led to another and yesterday we found ourselves, a group of 6 runners at the start line of this year edition of the TNF Singapore 100. Another 2 started at the Mandai Road checkpoint. Not to race but to do something very different and I hope inspiring enough for the real participants to do their part.

With Marc Pereira from North Face Singapore
Our mission - to literally sweep - not the last runner but to sweep up all the trash  left behind by the runners. When we embarked on this, we didn't know what we were getting ourselves into. We have ran the trails in the MacRitchie area and Central Catchment area many times and we have seen many of the rubbish left behind by runners and other park users. But I didn't thought it was that bad.

We started off at about 7 a.m. about half an hour after the 25km runners were flagged off. Our objectives was to stay behind the runners and pick up whatever they left behind. Originally we thought of all of us covering the full 50 km route but as we went along, we realised that it would be faster and easier to split ourselves up and cover different sectors. So 2 of the faster runners in the group, Terence and Voon ran ahead towards the Ghim Moh area where they will start the trash picking from there while the rest of us started picking up the trash from the Durian Trail head. Another 2, AC and Osbert had earlier parked themselves at the Mandai end and will start at around 12 noon after the runners had u-turned.

To help us in our task, the organiser had at our request, kindly provided us with litter pickers. Thank goodness for them  otherwise I don't know how we were going to do our jobs. With these mean litter pickers, we need not bend down to pick up the trash, need not dirty our hands too much and most of all, they enabled us to reach the trash that were strewed among the bushes and in the drains. 
Jancy with one of her "catch"using the litter picker. Photo by Nicholas

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

TMBT 2013 - Plan C or Act of God?

So we found ourselves on the way to the biggest and longest race of our life. This was it. All the past few months of pounding up and down Mt Faber every Tuesday evening, the endless weekends training at Bukit Timah was climaxing here in the foothills of the highest mountain in South East Asia, Mount Kinabalu.

I have a very simple plan to do this. Cover the first 20 km in 5 hours and the balance 30 km in the remaining 10 hours. That should be doable. By my calculation, by the time it get dark, we will be out of the jungle and on the final stretch which was supposed to be a long long climb up on Jalan Kinasaraban to the finish line at Perkasa. But like all good story, the plot changes and the unexpected set in.

We set off on our allocated bus to the start line at 5 am. The journey took a fair bit of time even in the light early morning traffic and we arrived at our destination just slightly before 7 am. One funny thing happened along the way though. For some unknown reason, just barely 500 metres from the start line, the bus stopped along the road side and soon hordes of runners went down to 'water' the plants although seriously I didn't think the plants needed it.
Runners helping to water the roadside plant. (photo taken through the bus window)
The thing is barely 5 minutes later we arrived at our destination. To get to the start line, the runners have to cross a small bridge and that when the first hiccup occur. The suspension bridge can only take 5 persons at a time so with a few hundred runners pouring out of the bus, crossing the bridge was pitifully slow.
Runners queuing up to cross the bridge
By the time the last runner crossed over, it was nearly an hour later. And of course to make it worse, each runners still had to sign in. Why couldn't they use the attendance taken on the bus as good evidence and just ensure the few who drove there on their own need to sign in? That could significantly reduce the waiting time.
Another view of the runners queuing up to go over to the start
The race was eventually start off without any fanfare at about 8. And surprisingly, everybody in the 3 categories were flagged off at one go. Which was a big surprise to most of us. Shouldn't they separate the 3 categories into say 3 different waves of maybe 30 minutes apart? Because of this, a big problem occurred!

For the 2nd time in 3 weeks, I got caught in a freaking standstill bottle neck. Just barely 1 km into the race, I found myself behind this queue of runners trying to squeeze through a small path next to some kampung houses. We were stuck there for nearly 1 hour!

The cause of the jam? Another one of the suspension bridge which was going to feature very prominently in the early part of the race. Here, again, only 5 runners can cross at any  one time and thus the jam built up. The organiser should have anticipated this and started the runners in wave to clear this but somehow it never seem to strike them to do so!

The course overview that we were given mentioned that Stage 1 which was start to Water Station 1 was 4.4 km and time estimate for the average runners would take about 30 - 45 minutes. Big joke! 1 hour into the race, and I was still at 1.2 km waiting impatiently to cross over to start the race properly.

Finally we were over and the next nightmare begin. We had to climb a series of short uphills. The slopes were wet, muddy and slippery and progress was painfully slow. The sidekick had a problem climbing up this first slope and she was holding back the runners behind her.
That the sidekick in blue with a tail of runners behind her
Eventually, a local guy who I presumed was helping out as a marshal had to push her up all the way to the top. That slope got her rattled fairly badly. At this point, we took out our hiking pole but that didn't really help much as we soon found ourselves sliding and falling down as we went downward on muddy terrain.

And generally that was the sort of terrain that we had to go through in this first stage. Crawl up the hills and slide down the hills that inevitably will follow. The ground was so bad that my poor Altra Lone Peak couldn't find any grip at all and I fell left right centre and had the ignominy of having had to have someone else pull me up when I fell into a downward recess! But at least I could continue. Up on one of the slope, we came across our Singapore Blade Runner lying on the ground. Apparently, he had fallen and injured his knee and there was no way he could continue. After getting the assurances that help was on the way for him, we proceeded on.

And so we came to the highlight of this stage, another river crossing but this time we had to wade over a river. There was a rope to hold on to but it didn't help much as some runners slipped on the wet bottom and some shorter ladies like the sidekick had the water all the way up to waist height.
The sidekick making her plunge into the river
Eventually after 1 hour 58 minutes we reach Water Station 1, almost 1 hour 15 minutes behind the average timing (at least according to the course guide). All in, not too bad considering that we were held up almost an hour at the first suspension bridge! At the Water Station 1, we asked about the cut off and a lady volunteer informed us that due to the bottleneck, the cut off was being extended by an hour. That was good news for us and so we proceeded on.

Water Station 1 to Water Station 2 is 10.5 km in distance. The cut off to reach WS 2 was 5 hours. I reckoned with the extension of 1 hour, we should be able to make it on time. What I didn't reckoned was more slippery slopes and this time on ridges. That terrifies the hell out of both of us and we proceeded very slowly and cautiously. We were constantly being overtaken by other runners but we never overtook anybody. That was how slow we were.

The sidekick going down slopes after slopes.