Nagano Marathon Race Report

A short a trip to Japan but what a trip it was as I caught the Sakura season and there was a marathon too! Read about the race here.

Gear Reviews

All the reviews here...

Trans Nuang 2013

5 runners. 42km. 16 hours. Elevation gain 2,878 meters / 9,442 feet. All here.

After a long long wait, I finally nailed it. Full story here...

 

Category Archives: Gear Review

Skechers GObionic 2 Review

Note: The GObionic 2 (GB2) shares the same DNA as the original GObionic (GB). I recommend checking out my take on the original [link] before reading further.

As Skechers Performance Division’s most minimal offering, it certainly took a while – close to 2 years since its debut – for this update to come around. The GB2 has been tweaked just enough such that the update now sports a refreshing look. The change takes place on the upper, a design approach that completely transforms the somewhat dull look of the original into something more pleasing to the eye.

The revamp, thankfully, retains all the good that the shoe is noted for i.e. flexibility and fit in a lightweight package. The weight has nudged up slightly with the removable sockliner but the numbers you see below are a bit misleading because the original GB is a US9.5 while the GB2 a US10. Couple with the new 3-ply upper, we’re still looking at a very respectable 7.05oz. The sockliner if removed, turns the GB2 into a zero drop ride. Personally I’ve always left it on for a 4mm experience, and I’ve always worn it with socks.

Weight with the removable sockliner (top) and without it (bottom)

The GB weighed in at 5.8oz for a US9.5 while the GB2 at 7.05oz for a US10.

The last of both versions are essentially the same. You get the same wide and rounded front, noodle laces, integrated tongue which is a little stretchy compared to the original. The GB2 sports a neither-here-nor-there offset lacing, which is neither straight nor as deviated as the assymmetrical take on the, say, Brooks Pure Drift.

Same good stuff

Outsole configuration is exactly the same, down to the placement of rubber plugs and flex grooves

The heel counter still manages to retain its soft and flexible feel despite having a tinge of structure added to the section.

I’ve worn the GB2 whenever I do my drills, core and short runs on the treadmills. Their low profile platform engages all the foot and lower leg muscles in ways that “thicker” shoes don’t give you. I love how the GB2 feel when I run on the gravelly and sandy stretches around my home. The ground feel with a little cushioning, the scrunching sound, the short and quick cadence, all adds to an amazing running experience. I’ve put in 40K in them and have not encountered any issues. No hotspots whatsoever. There are some solid minimalist shoes out there in the market and it’s great that the GB2 continues to be the flag bearer for Skechers in this segment.

This short review would not be complete without a cautionary note. Runners seeking to add the GB2, or other minimalist shoes for that matter, into their shoe rotation should take it slowly. The GObionic 2 warrants a serious audition if you’re in the market for a well-designed minimalist shoe. A pretty good looking one at that too!

Disclosure: The Skechers GObionic 2 is a media sample provided by Skechers Malaysia. They’ll be available in Skechers stores in Q3 2014 and will retail for RM399.

Skechers GOrun Ultra Nite Owl Review

Note: I highly recommend that you pop over to my review of the GOrun Ultra (GRU) prior to continuing this post as the GOrun Ultra Nite Owl has minimal changes over the GRU.

The GRU was designed to go long on the trails, which may be a surprise to some of you, but it’s been my go-to shoe for long slow burns on the tarmac including the TITI 50. At least that’s the case until a road version of the GRU is released in the future. In total my pair has logged 210km. It’s not much as I’m heavily rotating it with a large pool of shoes. At the same time, I was saving it for Starlight 84.

The grinding routine of GCAM and the Starlight training was one day broken by the excitement of the surprise arrival of the GRU Nite Owl (GRUNO). The news was out of the blue, totally unexpected, but who am I to complain? This owl has swooped in at just the right time before Starlight. Let’s get this review done so that I can head out for a run, shall we?

The GRUNO isn’t the first shoe to be “night-enabled” in the performance series. I’ve previously reviewed the GOrun Ride 2 Nite Owl, which you can read all about here. The Nite Owl essentially are photoluminescent treated shoes to provide the wearer with a higher degree of visibility while out training in low light conditions. Photoluminescent technology beats reflective strips as the former emits glow rather than depending on a light source (e.g. headlights from a passing car) in the case of reflective strips. Running along unlit stretches of Balik Pulau will no longer feel so intimidating, safety-wise.

Out of the box

Like the GRR2 Nite Owl, the GRUNO comes with a similarly colored glow-in-the-dark band, a card explaining the tech behind the glow, a booklet catalog and some marketing blurbs. IMHO, Skechers can do a bit more to reduce the in-box marketing collateral. Less carbon footprint and that sort of thing, if you know what I mean.

Old and new

As I’ve said, there’s very little that separates the GRU from the GRUNO. In fact, the overlays, the design elements down to the lace trims are identical. The difference between the variants is only in the photoluminescent treated overlays. I’d put the half ounce difference in weight down to the Resagrip outsole wear of the GRU, which is expected after over 200km of use.

Still under 10oz for US10.

Same soul, I mean sole.

How then is the wear experience? I’m pleased to report that after a short mid morning run in sweltering heat, it’s also exactly the same give or take a little extra bouncy from the older pair. That’s to be expected with midsole compression from the wear and tear. You see, this review is becoming rather boring, but in a good way. The GRUNO has gone back into the box where it will stay until Aug 23. I’m glad Skechers released this flavor of the GRU. Given that my long runs are undertaken when most are still asleep be it very early in the morning or dead in the night, the added visibility in a familiar package helps. In fact, I’m making my future GRUs the Nite Owl version!

Disclosure: The Skechers GOrun Ultra Nite Owl is a media sample provided by Skechers Malaysia. It is already available in Skechers stores throughout the country and retails for RM419.

Skechers GOmeb KRS Review

Touted as the Boston Marathon champion’s recovery shod, the GOmeb KRS (GKRS) is quite an unusual shoe, design-wise. I even asked if the model came out from the company’s Performance Division mainly because it seemed like a detraction from the simple and effective design which the Division (that sounded like some covert ops unit haha!) has been turning out. Well, the GKRS, for better or worse, is indeed an output from the prolific Performance Division.

Cosmetics-wise, you’re either for or against it. It looks entirely unconventional from any of the offerings in the GOrun series which stands for simplicity, accommodating, lightweight performance. At 10.05 oz, my US10 (yes I’ve had to upsize recently) isn’t really a sack of rice but it’s noticeably heavier than the flyweight GR3, GRR3 or even the GRU. If you’re a follower of this blog, you’ll know that I meant the GOrun3, GOrun Ride 3 and the GOrun Ultra. Hit this link to get to the review page.


Flashy 3D printed breathable synthetic upper with mesh underlay presents a visually striking appearance. The tongue is integrated to the upper which means no more slipping sideways. The gap in the Resalyte midsole is essentially what the meat of the GKRS is about – the Kinetic Return System (KRS). Made from Dupont Hytrel for “high energy return” according to the website, the stiff plastic insert works a little like a trampoline in propelling you forward. On the outsole, there’s a complete absence of solid rubber plugs, possibly to keep the weight down.

With the marketing talk done, how does the shoe feel? Impression that it’s clunky, not breathable, stiff were quickly put away. Despite boot-like appearances the GKRS has a soft and smooth ride. The all-foam outsole definitely the main contributor here. No ground slapping feel to be had, and as far as giving the wearer a smooth ride is concerned, I’d give the shoe a thumbs up. The lack of mesh use also didn’t mess up the breathability factor. I’m not sure how that can be, given the large coverage of the synthetic material but the shoes breathes well. Weather in KL the last few weeks have been wet and the outsole still manages to maintain admirable grip on the slick surface. The foam looks and feels like those used on the GObionic S, which is amazingly grippy as well.


There are some downsides, however. The non-stretchable upper accorded little, if at all any, room for stretch. Even for a US10, my toes have very little room to wiggle which means it fails my “toe curl” test. Additionally, the KRS feels narrow and snug throughout, just like the GOmeb Speed. I reckon that’s how the Boston winner’s feet are shaped – narrow.

Frankly I don’t know what to make of the GKRS. Some parts of the design works and some don’t. Impression counts in shoe design and the GKRS comes across as a mixed bag. For sure it’ll appeal more towards recreational runners and fitness enthusiasts instead of running purists. At RM419, my recommendation would be for the GR3 or GRR3 instead.

For

  • 4mm drop
  • Casual runners with low volume feet
  • Smooth and a little springy ride
  • Surprisingly breathable

Against

  • Design elements are subjective and will be a hard-sell to some segment of serious runners
  • Upper design doesn’t convey good breathability (which isn’t the case)
  • Possible durability issue with an all-foam outsole

Disclosure: The Skechers GOmeb KRS is a media sample provided by Skechers Malaysia. It is already available in Skechers stores in the country and retails for RM419.

OrthoSleeve CS6 and FS6 Review

Compression gear has gained a foothold in sports for some time. Nowadays, it’s no longer difficult to source for established brands locally, from tops to bottoms to “modular” pieces such as calf and quad sleeves. Unless running in cooler environments, my preference tends to lean towards the modular versions rather due to this country’s hot and humid weather. I also tend to think the modular pieces work better and allow for greater flexibility than the full length pieces. I’m able to mix and match according to my needs and if for any reason I need to, I can even remove, the quad sleeves mid race. Try using a cramped porta-potty wearing a full length bottom ;P

Of late, my usage of compression gear are skewed towards longer races and as a recovery tool. While certain studies may have shown the ambiguity of wearing such aids, I’ve found them to be helpful especially in the recovery process.

A new brand, OrthoSleeve, has recently entered the local market, bringing with them 2 products – the Compression Foot Sleeve (FS6) and Compression Calf Sleeve (CS6). I was handed both products to try out by Tonik Medical Sdn Bhd, in time for my trip to Nagano recently. Both come individually wrapped and in pairs out the box and in white, natural or black. I opted for the white option. The CS6 made the trip to Japan and was used in-flights as well as during post-marathon recovery period. They worked as advertised. Putting on and taking off the sleeves didn’t prove to be a grunt fest and my legs weren’t sweaty despite having the sleeves on under thicker pants. There was no irritation either from the materials used. Those who are adverse to latex will be happy to note that OrthoSleeve products are latex-free. A day after the marathon, the calves were just fine.

More recently I gave the CS6 another outing – this time a night long run in Putrajaya. It was a muggy night and I sweated buckets yet the CS6 remained dry, a testament to its breathability. Support was there but their presence were inconspicuous – which isn’t to say that it’s a bad thing. The compression was just sufficient and not overly much.

I wore the CS6 for a recent night run and they worked as should be.

Moving on the FS6, I only gave the foot sleeve a cursory try so far, mainly because I’ve no plantar fasciitis nor achilles tendonitis issues. Just like the CS6, putting these on were a simple affair and I felt instant support around the arch and the achilles areas, the wraparound felt very secure and snug. The FS6 is designed as a low bulk item that’s wearable under the socks. The other big advantage of the FS6 is that the product comes in a pair, so you could have the support on both feet at any time or round the clock if you’re only afflicted on one foot and one side is on the drying line. 2 PF sufferers in my running group recently gave thumbs up for the FS6. They mentioned that there was tangible relief for the pain in the affected areas and appreciated the support the sleeve provided. Like the CS6, the FS6′s construction approach is a based on providing graduated compression and support through the sleeve.

Zane opted for the black version.

The OrthoSleeves work for me and the CS6 is under rotation as recovery aid while it’s comforting to know that the FS6 is there should there be flare-ups of the PF. If you’ve been afflicted with PF, you should check out the PF6. Meanwhile I’m looking forward to the arrival of the PS3 patella sleeve, which looks especially sleek.

Other key features of the products:

  • Medical grade
  • Latex free
  • FS6 voted New Product of the Year 2012 at the Running Event in the USA
  • Good value for the FS6, which comes as a pair
  • Graduated compression
  • Lightweight
  • Easy care
  • Manufactured in the USA

OrthoSleeve website – http://www.ingsource.com/

Disclaimer: Both the FS6 and CS6 retail for RM155 each and are now available from the retailers below.  The FS6 and CS6 were provided as trial samples by Tonik Medical Sdn Bhd, the authorized distributor of OrthoSleeve in Malaysia.

Tonik Medical Sdn Bhd
158-2-1 Kompleks Maluri
Jalan Jejaka, Taman Maluri
55100 Cheras, KL
Tel: 03-92008373

TAGS Spine & Joint Specialists
(Please refer to their website for addresses)

Asics Gel Kayano 20 Review

My last run-in with the Kayano was back in 2007, the Kayano 12. The shoe had been a purchased – at 50% off retail, I still had to fork out a hefty RM299. Of course, inflation and higher cost of labor means RM299 is a bargain these days. You can read my review of the Kayano 12 here (sure brings back memories!) and do check out this amazing photo gallery of the Kayanos that came before version 20.

The Kayano was, and still is, Asics’ top-tier stability offering. This year sees the 20th anniversary of the venerable shoe. You know it holds a special place in a shoe company when they make a 3-part video of it! Named after designer Toshikazu Kayano (read the interview here), only the Nike Pegasus surpasses its vintage. There’s a reason for its longevity. Many loved its plush and supportive ride, and typical of the company’s training shoes, the Kayano is one heck of a durable shod. As a bonus, thanks to advancement in shoe technology, # 20 has shed some weight too, if only a little.

At 11.7oz for US10, the K20 isn’t a light shoe for this lightweight runner.

The upper is arguably very flashy but not in the garish manner of the Noosa. Gone are those boring utilitarian look, the 20 sees the first use of FluidFit, spiderweb-like bands that occupy the flex points of the upper, allowing the upper to conform to how the feet move. The bands have a little give and are able to stretch to provide that glove-like fit. The upcoming update of the Nimbus (16) will also get the FluidFit features. Other than their lightweight performance trainers and racing flats, asics have always embellished their core models with plenty of overlays – sometimes a bit much complicating design elements – and the Kayano is no different. Other than FluidFit, there are several strips of overlays that provide even more structure to the shoe.

Other areas of the upper are the usual open mesh. The well-padded tongue isn’t integrated but wide enough to eliminate the side-to-side movement. Lacing system is the traditional and not the asymmetrical type which I’m ambivalent to. All other areas of the shoes are sturdily constructed from the equally well padded memory-foam collar to the medium-density exoskeleton heel counter.

The FluidRide midsole is made up of 2 layers of foam. A softer layer sits directly under your foot lending some softness while a thicker Solyte layer goes under that. Asics mentioned that this is to give the wearer a blend of soft yet responsive ride. There are also 2 large slabs of gel placed in the heel and forefoot sections of the midsole. The Kayano 20 also has a Dynamic DuoMax medial post and an extensive plastic shank in the midfoot section. Yes, there are a lot of “control” elements built into the shoe!

The thick midsole is made up of the softer layer (in red) and the firmer one under it. On the medial side, the Dynamic Duomax posting provides more rigid structure.

The substantial TPU shank is a standard in the Kayano over the years. The Guidance Line, in my opinion, is a good implementation. On a less structured shoe, the flexibility it accords is much welcome.

The outsole comprises of forefoot blown rubber and hard wearing and bomb-proof AHAR. Flex grooves are cut the length of the outsole and across offsetting a bit of the stiffness. Per Asics America website, the Kayano 20 has a 10mm drop (stack height of 12mm/22mm forefoot /heel) and my scales showed it to be 11.7oz for my US10.

As I’ve mentioned, running has been disrupted of late with several long events, followed by the choking haze that enveloped the country as a result of prolonged drought and bush fires. My time in the Kayano was limited to a couple of short runs around the KLCC Park. Do note however, that the Kayano is marketed as a “stability” shoe and is much more shoe than what I run in these days. At 60kg, my weight would hardly qualify me as a large person. Do bear those points in mind as I put my quick take on the shoe.

The K20 is a fully loaded shoe. For a person whose shoe cabinet is 95% filled with shoes of simpler construction, flexible and light in the weight department, running in the K20 isn’t an easy experience for me. From the very first steps, the shoe immediately feels stiff in the midfoot, resulting in a clunky feel right out of the box. The plushness isn’t felt that greatly on the run as opposed to when walking around. I was conscious of the fact that my experience with the Kayano of yore proved that the shoe required some amount of breaking in, with the wear characteristics changing only after 70-80K. Since I’m gearing for a race in April, I’ve not toyed around with my footwear much, sticking to my current tried and tested shoes under rotation. There’s also a pronounced toe lift at the front, something I felt when I was running. If you’re a heel striker you’ll definitely feel the forward roll.

Inscriptions of the heritage everywhere.

The upper fit feels just fine. Asics tends to put a lot of materials into their production, yet the fit quality hasn’t been jeopardized. There was no cinching of materials and the mesh has good breathability. The FluidFit webbing wraps the foot well yet have some give to accommodate the changes in foot movement through the gait cycle. There’s enough room in the toe box too, which I appreciate. Finally, the Kayano is still a beefy shoe, make no mistake about it. It looks sleek and rides a tad lower than other beefy shoes such as the Structure, Adrenaline, Supernova Boost but as you can see from the photo above, the scales don’t lie. Nevertheless if you’re heavier set than I, you may appreciate the support it provides.

I realize that I don’t have much positives to report on the K20 but the fact remains that the Kayano series has been around for a long long time, venerated and sold by the truckloads. Undoubtedly, the shoe works for a lot of people. Perhaps I’m just a scrawny person who requires much less shoe and where the Kayano may shine is on the feet of larger built runners. If you’re that person, and if you’ve been running in stability models, like the Adrenaline, you should give it a try.

Disclosure: The Kayano 20 is already in the market, retailing for RM599 and was kindly provided for my review by Gigasport, authorized distributor of Asics in Malaysia.

Gear Review: adidas Recharge Massage Pro Slides

I’ve done plenty of of shoe reviews but never had I the opportunity to review sandals. You can imagine my curiosity and excitement when the package arrived from Germany last week, containing the RC Pro Slides (or in full, Recharge Massage Pro Slides). “Slides” are what we’d normally call “Sandals”.

Unknown to me, the sports giant do have an extensive range of fitness sandals in their inventory, even in Malaysia. Most are pegged under Swimming gear which you can take a look here. The RC Pro Slides are no different. Flip the sandals around and you’ll see why. They’re lightweight, constructed around contoured footbed, and more importantly, true to its name, feature strategically placed massage points.

The footbed is made of soft, water-resistant SUPERCLOUD™ EVA for quick-dry comfort. To fit a variety of widths, the equally soft upper is of a velcro bandage type which gives a nice secure wrap to the foot.

I’ve worn the RC Pro Slides for a week, 100% indoors and I find them to be excellent about-the-house footwear. We Asians are typically unshod when at home. Our culture dictates it as a form of politeness and respect. There’s the cleanliness aspect as well. But if you’re like me, you’ll appreciate the kneading sensation the massage points give your tired feet. It takes a little while to get used to it for sure and there could be a little measure of discomfort as with foot reflexology. But once you’ve adjusted, it’s really just fine. The pressure point massages improve blood circulation, the better for recovery. I’m in fact wearing the RC Pros as I’m typing this post out. Finally, because their part of the swimming collection, you won’t be slipping and sliding off wet floors.

In conclusion, I do like the sandals a lot, pottering about the house in them. I’ve not seen them in Malaysia just yet, but you should check them out if you do happen to spot them.

Disclosure: The adidas Recharge Massage Pro Slides are media samples provided by adidas Europe. This post came after wearing them in for a week.

Update @ April 3rd, 2014 – I spotted the RC Massage Pro on discount at the KLCC adidas Boutique. The RRP of RM199 is now discounted at RM159.20.

Skechers GOrun Ride 3 Review

It’s very likely that this review of the GOrun Ride 3 (GRR3) isn’t the first you’ve read on the 3rd version of Skechers’ most accessible shoe for newbies to the GOrun series. Indeed I’ve not had enough time in the shoe, having spent the last 3 weeks negotiating the Titi and Gunung Nuang Ultra 50Ks respectively. Both events really took something out of me, requiring extended recovery time. Due to the small gap between the two events, my legs were truly beaten and all I could muster were a handful of short (and negligible) runs in the GRR3, but since the shoe retains all the good from earlier versions, the wear experience of the GRR3 is akin to returning to the arms of a love one. That kind of comforting feeling.

The Nite Owl (on top) and the GRR3. Notice how the midsole sipes have been tweaked.

Most of the subtle changes take place on the upper and it’s here that Skechers made a welcome move towards brighter colors. It doesn’t hurt to have a striking, and may I say cheery, looking shoe. As with recent GOrun models, the GRR3 ships with optional sockliners, making it a configurable standard 4mm (with) and a little lower (without) ride. Personally I’ve always run with the sockliners in. My choice for a US10 ensures that the space up front made the fit just nice. Removing the sockliner would’ve made the toe box too spacious.

The Nite Owl (top) and GRR3. Notice the difference in the mesh construction.

On top of the refreshing colorway, the mesh is a rework from the Nite Owl and in the case of the GRR3, there’s a layer of stiffer TPU layer just under the S logo (see photos above). The rework and the addition of the layer don’t make any difference to me. At least I didn’t notice any difference. There’s more than enough padding in key areas like the collar and tongue. The heel counter is still the soft type which is not only weight saving but keeps the weight low.

GRR3 on top has one less solid rubber plug.

The midsole and outsole see no change – still the same Resalyte and rubber plugs combo. As a result, you can expect the same ride from, um, the Ride 3. The midfoot bump is barely felt, if that is something that concerns you. I believe Skechers will continue to keep the midfoot bump minimal. You’ll also notice that the flex grooves/sipes of the GRR3 have taken an angular design rather than a simple cut across. I can’t say that I notice the difference in the wear experience.

With sockliner

Without the sockliner.

My US10 weighs 8.6oz which is light considering the stack is noticeably higher than the GOrun 3 (GR3). The GRR3 stays true to being a flexible shoe.

As with the GOrun 3, you really can’t go wrong with the GRR3. It’s an accessible shoe, one that’s very versatile. It’ll handle a long run really well yet will give you the responsiveness you need to take on the surges towards the end of a training session. Because of it’s versatility, my shoe of choice for next month’s marathon is a little harder to make. The GR3 or GRR3? I suppose my decision will come after a couple of simulation runs over the next few crucial weeks. Now if only the choking haze will clear up!

The Skechers GOrun Ride 3 is not yet available in Malaysia at least for a couple more months.

Disclosure: The Skechers GOrun Ride 3 is a media sample provided by Skechers Malaysia. I’ve only put in approximately 35K in them but the ride is similar to earlier versions of the GOrun Ride.

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