North Face Ultra TR II

I am a very lazy guy. And I like to buy things that is convenient to use. Like my preferred lens for photography is a zoom. So that I don’t have to keep changing lens. Never mind that the quality is compromised in the process. And it is the same with my running shoes. I like to travel and when I travel, I like to pack in run, hiking and of course the Mrs will want to do a lot of walking in the malls. It is not convenient to pack different shoes for all different purposes so I always make sure I have a pair of what I call a combo shoes with me when I travel.

My latest pair to replace the previous North Face Hyper Track. And yes it is another North Face shoes nevermind that most of my trail running friends swear by Salomon and Hoka shoes. This time I got the North Face Ultra TR II. Why did I buy it? 1) Because it was on offer and 2) it meets all my requirement.

This is an all terrain shoes. Good for road and light trails. And it is light. Very light at just 230 gm which won’t take up much weight in a luggage. 

This is a 2015 release so there is no point going through all the nitty gritty specs saved to say it is lightweight, very responsive, comes with a 8mm drop and very or no cushioning. Suitable only for light trails which is fine by me. The other thing good is that it comes with Vibram soles. 

So far despite wearing it for a number of runs, I have not encountered really muddy conditions so not too sure how the soles will hold up although feedback from friends is that Vibram soles are good.

Date of Purchase: 21 Feb 2017

From: RL Singapore

Price: $93.00

Races:

Total Mileage:

Retired:

 

Income Eco Run 2017

At 4.15 am on Sunday, I found myself at the start line of the 2017 Income Eco Run at the F1 race track. It has been a long time since I joined a local race and being at the start line filled with the stank of sweat and heat rub at such an ungodly time for a half marathon simply reminded me why I have not signed up for more races in recent years. Running Shots got some complimentary slots from the event organiser and I thought since I have not been doing much running recently, to take up 1 slot just as an excuse to get fitter. So here I am $%^&*(# feeling damn sleepy and smelling in that awful stench of sweat and deep heat! Why in the world do people put deep heat before running?

Back to the race. Because we came early, we managed to get quite upfront maybe 30 metres before the start line.  The race was started off right on the dot which is a good thing. From the F1 track, we ran towards Republic Boulevard. It was fairly dark but the route was fully closed or so I thought, until we hit the road when it narrowed down to 2 lanes width. :(….. And it got worse. 2 lanes to 1 lane and then back to 2 lanes and then 1 lane again. You get the picture? Luckily for me, since I managed to snag an early start, there wasn’t that many runners and despite the narrow route, I was able to run quite comfortably but I can imagine the frustration of the main bulk of the runners having to constantly merge in and out. There is one particular bad area coming out of Kallang Riverside Park onto Kallang Road where at the top of the staircase was an opening that leads to a small pavement that everybody has to squeeze through before going onto Kallang Road.

Believe it or not, despite the many races being held in the area in the past, this was actually my first race where 90% of the route was ran in the core Marina Bay and Kallang area and I was certainly not used to it. There were too many turns. U turn at Crawford Road; U turn at Republic Ave to Nicoll Highway; U turn at Stadium Drive; U turn at East Coast Park;  turn at Marina East Drive; U turn at Garden by the Bay East, U turn at Marina Promontory; turn up Bayfront Ave;  turn at Youth Olympic Park…….So many turnings and then having to run through the deserted Sports Hub area. Actually, the whole route was deserted. What do you expect? Starting at 5 am! Who will be crazy enough to come out to give support?

So anyway I started at what I thought was a fairly comfortable pace. I have no hard target. Just a prayer that I won’t finish slower than 2 hours 15 minutes. So when I saw the 2.15 pacers in front of me at the start, I was tempted to follow them. But around the 2 km mark, I actually overtook them. I was still feeling good and decided to continue on rather than slow down. I have no doubt they will overtake me somewhere later when I get tired. M had started with me but I saw here ran ahead soon after and I didn’t see her until we reached East Coast Park. And surprise surprise, she was behind me! Haha I thought, maybe this time I can be faster than her. She caught up with me at the Marina East Drive. The first word she said to me was “No more energy liao. You go ahead”. And then guess what – she ran ahead leaving me eating her dust! I think she was trying to “suan” me 🙁  

Along the way, I met a few known faces. Some I overtook, some overtook me and some played catching with me. Every now and then I look behind me to see where the 2.15 pacers were but they seem to be a fair distance from me. At the 15 km point I had more or less decided that I should try to not let them catch up and that was my motivation to keep pushing onward. When we passed the 9 km signage for the 10 km, I was like (E#_&%#%#(. So near and yet so far! We had to continue to run down pass Marina Bay Sands to Marina Promontory and make an u-turn back to MBS before going up that little incline on Bayfront Avenue. 

I saw Sotong, my fellow photographer from Running Shots there, busy shooting away and with only less than 500 metres to go, I know I was home free and well ahead of the 2.15 pacers. Not a personal best not a really good timing but hey with the limited mileage, I take that anytime. But no more 5 am race anymore. 

Looking back now on my performance with the official results out now, I surprised myself.  With no major races to train for the past years, the weekly mileage averages around 30 km and yet my timing at this event was closed to the 2015 Sundown Marathon’s HM time and that was achieved on the back of part of a built up to an ultra! So I haven’t really deteriorated that much hahaha.

Choa Chu Kang Farm Run

Sunday I joined a fun run. One of those many 无聊 running event where there are more walkers than runners. Have not join a fun run in ages because I see no meaning in it. Distance is usually too short and the mass of walkers make it difficult to run. So what drove me to sign up for this?

Firstly, it was the attraction of running around the farms of Choa Chu Kang. An area that I have not run before. And also because it cost only $8 unlike those themed runs which can cost an arm and a leg. And it is organised by the People Association and grassroots which usually mean the goodie bag will be packed to the rim.  So I made an exception.

Parked at Choa Chu Kang one of the multi storey car park. There were volunteers with signboard all over directing participants to the shuttle bus boarding area. Very efficient. Reach the start area at Brickland Road which was actually still within the HDB area and not in the farm area as I thought. There wasn’t a lot of runners and run was flagged off at 7.30 am sharp. So far so good. dsc_1831

But barely 20 minutes after flag off, the wide full 3 lane roads where we were became a narrow single lane. $**%$$@$^& And another few metres later – we were stopped at a traffic light! What the hell. Sigh… lucky it was a fun run and I wasn’t going for timing or anything like that so I wasn’t really upset although such things should be.dsc_1836

The initial route was bad with heavy traffic held up by the runners belching foul smelling fumes and frequent bottleneck but once inside the farm area, it became easier to run with wide open roads.dsc_1848

We ran past Nippon Koi, one of my favourite place when the kids were young. Then we went past Qian Hu, another of those places which we frequented when the kids were in primary school but has not been back since then. Other than the farms, nothing much to see except some view of the areas beyond the farm.dsc_1850

dsc_1853

Reached back the finish line to some really bad singing over the sound system by some fella. Where in the world did they find him? Thankfully there was the Milo van to save the day!dsc_1865

And as expected of a PA organised events, there was not 1 but 2 goodie bags filled with non-things. Yup no mistake there. Non-things meaning not really useful stuff. 3 fridge magnets with some social message, 1 bottle of mineral water, 1 bread, 1 paper fan and some White Rabbit sweets. Ok this last items bought back nice memories and make my day. Oh wait there is a mini first aid kit and a disposable poncho. And  a medal. How about that! So $8 well spent after all.dsc_1866

Review – Puma Ignite Dual Bolt

So I finally got some mileage into the shoe. To be precise, slightly over 40 km in 1 week of running and in 4 different circumstances putting the shoes through its pace comprehensively.
dsc_1788
But before going into that, the mumbo jumbo or the technical specs from Puma:
  • ENERGY RETURN: IGNITE Foam midsole has exceptionally responsive, energy-returning qualities to help make you faster
  • FLEXIBILITY: Mesh upper and deep flex grooves at the forefoot provide flexibility
  • CUSHIONING: IGNITE Foam provides step-in comfort and an extremely comfortable feel
  • Breathable and flexible mesh upper
  • Gold upper with Usain Bolt signature
  • Reflective detailing for visibility
  • Lace closure for a snug fit
  • Articulated chevron grooves at midsole sides compress and rebound for extra power
  • Carbon rubber outsole at toe and heel for extra durability
 Of course one always learn to take all these specs with a pinch of salt. As they say, the taste is in the pudding. Ok I not going to eat the shoe but put it through the grinder.
Design & Fit: The shoe is very stylish although the gold top is too outlandish for me especially with the size 12 which makes it very loud and visible. And not having the speed to match the name on it, I feel a bit paiseh when wearing it. But it is really a very stylish shoe and looks more like those limited edition sneakers than a proper pair of trainer.dsc_1785
Like the 2 previous Puma shoes that I had and still have one of them, the heel counter was also just the right size. Not too long to snag on anything and not too low to cause abrasion even with sock liner on only. dsc_1786 The only issue I have so far is that somehow my right ankle bone rubs against the edge of the shoe and cause a hot spot. But is fine on the left foot which probably means either my foot are of unequal height or the outer edge of the shoes are not of equal height.
Other than this, the shoe fits really well. Snug. There was good toe width even for me with my Morton’s toe.
Weight: Coming in at about 500 gm for my size 12, I must say this is probably the heaviest shoes I have in a long long while. And the weight did affect my running although it wasn’t as bad as I initially thought it could.
Cushioning: As this is a traditional shoe meant for heel striker, it has real good cushioning. In fact I will go so far as to say I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed so much cushioning in a pair of shoes. Of course to be fair, I ran mostly in semi-minimalist shoes nowadays so the difference was very apparent.
Traction: So far I did about 40 km in this shoe covering a fairly wide range of surfaces covering asphalt, tarmac, pavement and light sandy road.  Grip is good all round. dsc_1787
Flexibility: Unfortunately the thick cushion sole means the shoe is not as flexible as I like. Understandably as this is a heel strike shoe, it is rather stiff in the middle but there is some sort of groving system between the toes and mid foot which provides for good toe off.
Water Proofing: The upper is covered by the painted gold upper which means that water will probably run off it and not go into the shoe. There are breathable mesh at the side below the gold upper though so that could be entry point for water if running through puddles. Unfortunately for the 4 runs that I did, although it did rained once, it was only for less than 5 minutes, hardly enough to even make the shoe or me wet. So no chance to test this out.

It has been a long long time since I worn a pair of 12 mm drop traditional shoe. For all the runs, I worn it in its original condition – no lock laces and with the original Puma insole. My first run in it was a 15 km easy run in the morning paired with a pair of double layer Karimmor socks. Other than the discomfort on the right ankle bone, the shoe felt fine except that I was always conscious of its heavier weight.

The second run was a relatively short 5 km interval of 8 x 400 metres. This time I pared it with a pair of Adidas sock liner.  The test was to see how responsive it was for higher impact run. I actually quite like the rebound that I get from the shoe. I think this is something that Puma has actively built into the shoe with the Ignite foam and the mid foot grove which gives it the push when toe off. However, me being used to flats or bare minimum for faster training runs, the weight of the shoes dragged me down and overall I clocked almost 3 – 5 seconds slower per interval set.

The 3rd run was again in the evening. This time I have on a pair of Reebok Zig Zag socks. But barely 2 km into the 8 km tempo run, the sole started to burn up. Was it the shoes or the socks?

I switched back to the Karimmor socks for the next 15km hill run and I had absolutely no problem with the foot. So it has to be the socks then. Anyway, the shoes felt really good with the extra bit of cushioning while going down the hill.

One thing I noticed about the Puma Ignite is that it does not have a final eyelets which allow one to do a butterfly lacing to prevent heel slipage,  I suppose the Puma people think that with its snug fit, there is no need for such a feature but it actually can help for those who tend to run with the foot almost vertical when striding.

Overall, due to the 12 mm heel to toe drop and weight, I wouldn’t wear it for long runs or marathons but like my 2 previous pair of Puma, this will be a good reliable training shoes which will probably last me a long long time. By the way, my Puma Fass has clocked more than 800 km and it is still as good as new. The Puma Mobium lasted 734 km so by that logic, I expect this pair of Puma Ignite Gold to last at least 900 km if not more!

Pro: Responsive. Well Cushioned. Snug Fit.

Con: Heavy. 12 mm heel to toe drop. Lack of last eyelet

This shoe review is made possible by the people from Puma Singapore

Date of Purchase: 9 September 2016

From: Puma Singapore

Price: Review Shoes

Races:

Total Mileage:

Retired:

 

Puma Night Run 2016

So the haze situation became better and the Puma Night Run went ahead as scheduled. This is the 3rd edition of the race and so far each year they have managed to host it at a different location. This year, the race moves to a brand new running location in Seletar – the first time that a pure running event has been held there.

Those of us who have run or cycle in the area previously will know that the area especially around the new aerospace hub can be super hot but fortunately for runners, the race starts in the event at 6 pm for the 12km and 7 pm for the 6 km. That effectively takes care of the heat. The staggered start time also means the majority of the 2 group of runners will not meet and the route will not be congested.

The only problem with this race is also the location. It is too remote and the runners can only take the shuttle service from Punggol MRT to the race site. There is no parking facilities and getting a taxi there and subsequently back out is a nightmare with the pick and choose attitude of our taxi drivers. Other than that, it looks like one of the perfect race.

14102807_1146151285433142_3660773959774469891_o

Photo Credit: Epalite of Running Shots

As per the past 2 editions, Puma has invited some celebrities to join in the run attracting the attention of their young fans though I must say a lot more runners were probably more interested in catching Pokemon than Stars.

Photo Credit Daniel from Running Shots

At the race village, Puma has thoughtfully provided entertainments with live concert, activities booth and food and drinks. Nice touch. The only puzzling thing was the lack of isotonic drinks along the route. In our weather, hydration is important especially as the race distance is 12 km.

Nevertheless, despite this small hiccup, kudos to Puma for daring to stage this race here and having something that is literally a breath of fresh air for runners more used to racing along the Marina Bay or East Coast Park.

I wonder where will they think of next? Pulau Ubin?

Mizuno Ekiden 2016

The last time I did a local race was the Sundown Marathon in 2015. There haven’t been much motivation for me to do any races as it was always the same old route and a not very value for money race. But this month alone I have 2 races starting with the Mizuno Ekiden on the 16 July. So what convinced me to sign up for this?

Firstly, it is a team event in a relay format. The Japanese call it the Ekiden. And since I have never done a relay I figure this would be as good as any to start with. And beside, the Princess is back for vacation and I always wanted to do a race with all the family together. The last time I tried this family thingy was way back in  2011 but back then I had to dns myself because of an injury. So why not? So I dutifully signed up for everybody including a very reluctant Princess.

The game plan was very simple. This was a family bonding thing not a lung bursting race so no need to chiong all the way. And beside even if anyone of us was thinking of doing that, it wasn’t really possible. M in recent months have been slowly down, probably because she does more gym work now than run. The Kid who has the fastest time among us, the only one who has done sub 50 for 10 km has been on course for the past months and have little time to run. And for the past weeks he had been down with a tension headache. The Princess has not been doing much running while she has been away. Her interest is in climbing and not running. But she dutifully put in some running time 3 weeks before the race running once or twice a week. Maximum distance 7 km. And she hailing from a cooler temperature country to our hot sunny island, I didn’t think she could last the full 10 km without walking. Me? Of course being the oldest have also been slacking doing slow runs mostly with age catching up and the body and mind not what it used to be. So the best I could hope for was a combined 4 hr 30 finish.

M was the first runner to start. Here she is still smiling and happy.DSC09995

But the smile had died by the time she came back, eaten away by the super hot sun. The past few days, the weather had been pretty good – cloudy mostly but today Mr Sun came back with a vengeance.  It was still hot hot hot at 4 pm when they flagged off the first race. Thank goodness I did not choose to start. But still M came back in a credible time of 1 hr 05.

I offered to take over the Princess’ slot but she graciously declined. I actually pitied her not knowing what she was getting herself into. And I expected her to walk a fair bit what with her lack of training mileage and the hot sun. Plus the 3 inclines and to complete her portion in about 1 hour 30 minutes. But she surprised all of us by coming back in 1 hr 14 mins and without walking! Bravo!

Now my turn came. It was still hot when I started at 6. I can feel the heat coming up from the ground with every step I took. The route took us pass Marina Bay Sands; Garden by the Bay; Marina Bay and Bay East before u-turning. For the Marina Bay Sands portion, I am glad they made us run on the wooden boardwalk instead of the usual Promenade outside MBS. It is definitely less crowded. The minus point was we have to navigate some sharp turns to go up and down the walk. For the return leg, we had to run up to the top of the Marina Barrage. I enjoyed the view up there but I don’t think this is suitable for a afternoon race. There were too many visitors up ther blocking the narrow little path. After the Garden stretch, instead of running back to MBS, we had to cross Bayfront Avenue to the Floating Platform. I am not sure why the Race Director want to do this? To create more challenge since Bayfront Avenue has a nice incline? To make it worse, part of it was on the busy Helix Bridge and we hace to weave in and out. To me they should have done away with this stretch and just continue along Bay East to get teh distance. But I guess they want to create some challenge. After that loop it is back to MBS and the home stretch. I cross the final transit area in 1 hr 02 mins. However, the race timing system recorded my time started as 5.05 pm and listed my total time as 2 hrs 15 mins. What the hell!

The last one to took off was the Kid. By now the Sun had set and it was dark in most area. Which made it easier to run I suppose but the tourists and visitors were out in full force and the Kid came back complaining of having to dodge walkers, prams and people stopping to stare at the fire work! Still he finished his portion in just over 1 hr. The stupid system unfortunately somehow did not capture his finish time though. But it did capture the total time the whole team took which was 4 hours 25 minutes and 4 seconds. Within the target of 4:30! Yippy! Not too bad for a pair of old fogeys and 2 young newbies!

13659119_1432652506748676_1421743188513811445_n

Apart from the unusual race route with its many twists and turns, the race itself is well organised. There were adequate water points with both isotonic and plain water.  Marshals were present at every critical junction and there were no confusion. The transition pens were well organised and clearly demarcated. There was a nice big event site with many food stalls. All in everyone should have no complain about this except for the Sun which unfortunately is something they can’t do anything about.