Thursday, May 26, 2016

Shah Alam Enduride 2016 - Race Report

Inching closer to the century mark.. a taste of what lies ahead

Those who know me personally or follow me knows it has been running since all this while or rather since I started a running about three and a half years ago. Riding was something an occasional affair and not very serious about in the discipline. I rode only during triathlon or duathlon race, but not so on a cycling event. Hence, the longest I've ride was 90km during a race and a 50km ride as a training. Yes not ideal but that's me with cycling.

This year sees a different approach with cycling, and it is no longer an affair as I'm working towards a big race some time in Q4 of the year and require me to cycle a lot. Sold off the previous road bike and got a new race ready bike, sign-up a couple of races and here I go...

Shah Alam Enduride 2016 is by far the longest ride I have done, a 120 KM road race. There were 2 categories for the race, the Race and Enduride with the formal being race proper with trophies and prices money. I have sign-up for the Race categoty not because I stand a chance stepping up to the podium, but because it has a 10 mins earlier starts which I prefer so I can finish up early and go home for a beauty sleep :)

Not riding regularly with a cycling group meant I went to the races alone without knowing any other participants but that's cool for me since the objective is to build up to the century mark and taking it as a hard training session. I had a small friendly chat before race start with 2 of the EZ Riders team cyclists (Bear and Andrew), they told me there were only 3 tough climb over the dragon back. I was like DRAGON BACK??? Although I have never run there before but I have heard enough elevation stories to stay away from it, looks like I have to face the horror after all and to make it worse on a bike which is a lot harder on the climb compare to running. Bear also asked me to be careful on the ride as there were many potholes and bumpy sections. For that I am greatful to the EZ Riders for the valuable advice going to into the race.

Race started on time with a rolling starts mean no overtaking of the lead car until a certain pre-determined distance and  within the couple of hundred meters Andrew and Bear was gone.. fast to say the least. As this is a new distance that I'm doing, I wasn't going to push for the entire race, as there are a couple of things I was set to test e.g. fueling, avg speed and threshold, so I started with a reasonable speed and gradually picking up my pace with the hope of sticking to a peloton that I can ride with as long as possible.

It was rather uneventful for the 1st 20 KM apart from a narrow hard right where riders slow down considerably and clogged up the narrow junction. Nevertheless, most of the participants were seasoned riders and gave enough signals and space for everyone to negotiate through the turn. There were some rolling hills but because the legs were still fresh, it didn't give much of a problem for me riding into the 30km+/hr zone tailing a peloton.

Photo Credit to event photographer
At KM 26, I saw the first big elevation climb and believe me it was very steep in my dictionary. Turns out, that was the 1st of the 3 big climb of the dragon back. Gear shifting was constantly at played, I was shifting no less than 10 - 15 gears from outer chainring to inner ones and rear cassette working hard to cope, balancing cadence and power along the steep albeit short climb. Clanging sounds was the only music heard from every riders' bike with such a climb. Luckily for me my quads were holding up to the challenge and managed to survived it.  Being a runner instead of a seasoned cyclist, I was reasonably happy with my climb. Peloton breaks with climbs and after 2nd and 3rd, only a small group of riders were still sticking together and ride on.

As the race unfold, at about KM 35 the first peloton from the Euduride caught up with me and zoomed past in a blink of an eye. I hope and tried to tail them but they were all too fast and I don't stand a chance. Not too long after, the road condition was deteriorating, what Bear has warned me earlier was really what it is. The road we rode turns into a bumpy ride and riders would occasionally weave in and out avoiding potholes that could send a rider up in the air or hitting the ground hard. It was dangerous to say the least, patch work can be seen every where and it wasn't fun especially on the down hill run. I had a near crash here on a down hill run at a speed of above 35km/hr into sandy patched due to construction work and uneven re-tarred sections. I had to hit the brakes hard and at the same time adrenaline rushing through my vain, I kept telling myself "please don't crash , please don't crash" and I was lucky enough to survived it. Seriously, I would not be surprised if someone crash. Although the organizer has the responsible to ensure the road are safe to ride, but I blame the city council even more for not using our tax money to make sure the roads are maintained well for any road users.

The ride continue into the trunk roads with 2 or 3 peloton passing me at ease without me being able to response even I was averaging at about 30km/hr. Not all are bad, going over 30km/hr average was not part of the plan for my first race into this distance. Anyway, there were some welcoming sight along this stretch of the ride with kids from the villages coming out to cheer on the fast passing riders. That reminds me of overseas marathon races where the locals are really coming all out to give their best support, it is really a rare sight at home... a failure for not integrating sports into our country's culture, a RM30 mock cheque for the winner just don't cut it!!!

Photo credit to event photographer
Apart from the 3 climbs on the dragon back earlier, the race course was actually very hilly and I started to struggle with the hills past 70km that sees me dropping on my average speed, stopped briefly at the water/aid station and moved on. At 80km, it was another up hill battle, I had to un-cleats, off the bike and push up the bike for about 100m before hopping on the bike again. Yes I'm not ashamed to admit it hahaha

At 90km final stop. My upper body starts to break down after battling tonnes of hill climb, I stopped briefly at the water/aid station and again at the road side just to do some stretching on the upper body.  Soon enough another peloton ride past me and finally I was able to hang on into the 110km. I was damn glad the peloton came and pull me along for more than 15km into the last stretch of the race. At KM 114,  my left quad had a small cramp but wasn't bad enough to stop, however it forced me to slow down for the next 2km just to nurse the left leg. At KM 118, a 2km before the finishing line going up a slight climb to a the final roundabout before home straight, my right quad froze up like a metal rod. Luckily, I managed to un-cleats the pedal before it locked up otherwise it would have been an embarrassing fall LOL. A young rider stopped and helped me with a massage and stretch and I'm greatful for his kindness and sportsmanship helping other fellow participant.

Train insane or remain the same - Anonymous
After all the dramas, I picked up the bike and rode slowly for the remaining distance. Crossing the finishing line was a big relief for me, albeit not meeting my target time, but I wasn't too far off. Without the bad cramp I'm pretty sure I will finished bang on the target. It was a good experience for me, I learnt that my fueling strategy didn't work out for me and the threshold was not too far off from what I have been anticipating, still there are lots of work to do for the century mark.

Race was generally well organized, traffic control was reasonably okay apart from the town of Shah Alam itself otherwise it was fine. Water/aid stations were also spaced out pretty evenly at every 30km which works pretty well for me. The race course was a tough hilly ride, can't say I loved it to bits but it does give me a taste what lies ahead and how much I need to work on. Road condition, I'd give it a B- and a big D in caps for the bumpy and patchy section where I nearly crash. Saying that, to be fair to the organizer, it would be extremely difficult to find a smooth road for the whole 120km, so kudos to the organizer.


Sunday, May 8, 2016

Product Review - Saucony Kinvara 7

I would usually write about a shoe after clocking a certain mileage, but not this. To be absolutely honest, I have only clocked less than 50 KM on this pair, saying that the mileages done includes the recent personal best half marathon time a couple of weeks back. So this pair deserved an exception with an early review write up

Never have I run in the famous Saucony Kinvara series before, when I was preparing for my recent Kyoto Marathon (report here) my training shoes (Nike Lunar Tempo) was already in the 500 KM and the Asics Gel Super J33 would be the race shoe to go with. At about the same time, Saucony announced their latest version of the Kinvara series the Kinvara7 (K7) with EVERUN and that makes me very excited after hearing so many good things about it and secretly hoping the latest iteration of the Kinvara series would come to our shore soon enough for me to put in some miles and maybe to race it in Kyoto

As the race drew closer, Frank informed the K7 would only arrived at our shore somewhere in Q2 2016...oh well!!! That means no K7 for Kyoto. Nevertheless, the shoe finally arrived end March/early April, I quickly texted Frank to keep a pair for me and would picked it up over the weekend and put in a 11 KM run the next day with the usual suspects.

The shoe weights at 7.8 oz for a US size9 with a stack height of 22mm (heel) and 18mm (forefoot) give the shoes a 4 mm heel to toe offset. Unlike the Triumph ISO 2, the EVERUN technology is only inserted at the heel section over the EVA midsole. The outsole sees a complete new layout compare the the earlier versions but continue to use xt900 carbon rubber at the heel area and some high wear and tear sections for durability over the iBR+ material. The combination of the outsole materials are proven across the range of shoes produced by the company.

4 mm Offset it says
xt900 over iBR+ outsole
The upper, although without running in the previous version, I can't tell you the differences / improvements over the earlier version, but really there are no big surprises on the material used for the upper. The breathable mesh used on the upper is well executed with strips of flexfilm overlays just enough to make the shoe looks cool and it also help wraps your feet snugly. Aesthetically, with the logo placed slightly to the front of the shoe helps to create a "moving forward" impression stamping Saucony tag line of "Find Your Strong" which is brilliant. With a wide forefoot, my feet felt comfortably at home even on my first run as the material used meant it is expandable and doesn't create the pressing feel on both side of my feet laterally.


"Moving Forward" with EVERUN
With little less than 50 KM, I would describe the shoe's ride as responsive, firm and stable. The ride is not hard as it has the right amount of cushioning feels from the forefoot to the heel at the same time giving you a stable stride. The running experience is quite pleasant especially when you put the shoes into pace, it was evidenced during my HM race recently as I would be able to hold my stride form for a longer period of time than any pair of shoes I have ran in before. The forefoot area is flexible, giving the toe off performance a big plus while the heel counter offers further stability to keep the feet happy. I would not hesitate one bit training and racing with this ride

My feet doesn't go crazy over shoes that comes with 4mm heel offset, but this one is special, it has all the right recipe to pleased my fussy feet. The slight firmness feel, the cushion and the stability seems to have all the right balance for me at this phase of my running. It will definitely make it to the list of shoe choices for the next marathon, and in fact this is now at pole position!! Yes I'm bias to this one for an obvious reason and yes I paid with my hard earned cash for this pair.

Overall the K7 is a great shoes, the shoe can double up as a trainer as well as your racing shoes. With the light weight and performance, is hard not to put it as a contender for any one of you there when you are shopping for a new pair of running shoes for that even a walking shoes. Now, I can vouch that the K7 does live up to the expectation of the goods that Kinvara series has made famous for.

It is retailing at RM429 and can be found at your local Royal Sporting House. Go grab one, you will not regret investing in this one.

Product Review - Nike Zoom Streak LT3

A pure speedster... FAST!! I would normally ran a considerably amount of distance with the shoes before I put my opinion on the shoes, but...