Gear Reviews: Shoes, Books and More

Head on to this page before buying your next pair of running shoes or gear.

Standard Chartered KL Marathon Race Recap

A marathon and then some. Read the event day recap.

Trans Nuang 2013

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

 

Tag Archives: Carboman

It’s Been Awhile, Tokyo!

Shinagawa Station. Photo credit: Wikipedia.

“Shinagawa is one of Tokyo’s 23 wards, and Shinagawa Station is one of the city’s busiest stations. Its convenience as a transportation hub has attracted many hotels, offices, restaurants and shops to the area. Shinagawa has been catering to travelers since the Edo Period (1603-1867), when it was the first stop on the main road linking Tokyo with Kyoto.”  Excerpt from japan-guide.com

This is my 4th visit to Japan and yet I’ve experienced but a tiny bit of what the country has to offer. Due to work and family commitments, I can only afford a short solo trip this time around. Everything, from my itinerary and budget (RM3,300 all in excluding shopping which I don’t plan to do), is carefully planned allowing just a little breathing room to maneuver. The cost would’ve been a lot cheaper if not for the return Shinkansen rides between Tokyo and Nagano. I guess I’ll know over the next few days how well my plan pans out!

My visit is to run the 16th Nagano Olympic Commemorative Marathon or simply Nagano Marathon. The event is run annually to celebrate the history of the 1998 Winter Olympics and the route takes the 10,000 runners through the many Olympic venues before finishing in the Olympic Stadium. The field is small – less than a third of Tokyo’s – relative to the other big city marathons and from the course elevation chart, flat. More on the event in the race report.

Arrived! Haneda Station.

Waiting for the Keikyu train to Shinagawa.

Like the travelers of yore, I made Shinagawa my first stop too, just for the night before heading off to Nagano the next morning. Getting to Shinagawa from Haneda – my first experience with the airport – was supposed to be straight forward: ride the Keihin-Kyuko (Keikyu) Airport Express (¥410) to Shinagawa. Total commute time was to only take 19 minutes. However, I ignorantly hopped on the wrong train (same network, different platform) which was headed to Kawasaki! By that time I realized my folly, the train was already 18 stations in the wrong direction. I exited the next stop and after gathering my composure (I had to beat the last train at midnight), found my way to the correct platform and just managed to sneak in it before the doors closed. 30 minutes later I was safe where I needed to be.

Shinagawa Station is a major hub with several train lines running through it but nothing in complexity as Shinjuku, Tokyo or even Ikebukuro Stations. I exited via the Takanawa side and walked southwards towards my friend’s apartment. Being on a budget means no checked-in luggage and everything was shoved into my small cabin bag. I was, therefore, pretty mobile. I need to be so since there will be plenty of moving around for me in the days to come.

I quickly showered and freshened up as quickly as I could before heading out to grab a very late supper. The famous Shinatatsu Ramen, a strip of ramen shops, just below the train lines was already closed. Luckily there was another small outlet a couple of minutes from the apartment that was still open. Nothing like a bowl of comforting noodles on a mild Spring night. There was no need for a jacket tonight but with showers predicted later today, temps should dip.

It’s now way past bedtime, and I’m back at the apartment. So it’s goodnight, or rather, good morning from me from the Land of The Rising Sun. I’ve got to grab myself some quality sleep. Heading off to Nagano tomorrow morning!

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.

Pick One, Or Two

In what must certainly be a mouthwatering prospect for hardcore, wanna-do-it-all-since-I’m-awake breed of runners and ultra-runners, this year’s Standard Chartered KL Marathon (SCKLM) will flag off 8.5 hours after the marathoners cross the start line of the BSN Putrajaya Night Marathon (PNM).

Nothing has been announced by both organizers other than the confirmation of the dates, with PNM happening on the night of Oct 11 and SCKLM the wee morning of Oct 12. Folks are already salivating at the prospect of hitting both events even though the respective websites are yet to be updated.


Nevertheless going by last year’s details, runners could in fact gauge which combination works best for them. Several challenges await the ones who want to do both events. Obviously the first has to be about how quickly one can complete the 1st race. Then there’s the issue of getting from Putrajaya to KL City Center. Fortunately, there are plenty of options for the runners. They could car pool, take the shuttle buses or drive-and-ride. Here’s what I’d do, if I’m one of these nuts.

I’d drive to Putrajaya, start the marathon at 8pm and be done with the race by 1am (a conservative 5-hour). Then, I’ll take a short 20-minute drive home to shower and nap before driving to the nearest train station, in my case, the Sri Petaling or Kelana Jaya station to catch the special ride downtown (assuming the service starts extra early for the event). I’d leave the car at the station since I wouldn’t want to be caught by the inevitable road closures.

Folks who live a little more out of the way than I do would have to pool their resources together by perhaps showering at a friend’s place closer to the city or bear with each others’ manly or womenly scents for a few hours be it in the car or while killing time at the 24-hour mamak stall watching a BPL match. Naturally, they need to be wary of their finishing times as well as take into account their lengthy commute into downtown KL.

Of course, the PNM organizers could provide mobile showers for runners at the finish, creating a win-win scenario for both events. Both events could benefit from one another as runners could mix and match the distances to run on both.

By this post, I’m neither endorsing the PNM over SCKLM or vice versa. Runners who want to do both need to be sure of their physical abilities and SCKLM organizers better have adequate medical personnel standing by to attend to emergencies resulting from runners silly enough to overestimate their conditioning – and there could be many!

Be it running both marathons or mixing one long with a shorter race, the choice is with the runner. Never had the running scene in Malaysia been so vibrant. I’m excited even if I’m just picking one Half Marathon from these 2. Nature and Mankind’s foolishness may very well have the final say in the proceedings, though. Don’t know what I mean? Read this.

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.

Press Release: Desert Runners

Smush Media
in association with Salty Features & Spoken Media presents

DESERT RUNNERS

Directed, Produced & Edited by Jennifer Steinman Produced by Diana Iles Parker & Yael Melamede

Logline

A diverse cast of non-professional runners attempt to complete the most difficult ultramarathon race series on Earth. Their dramatic journey takes them across the World’s most picturesque yet brutal landscapes, pushing their bodies, hearts and spirits through a myriad of external and internal obstacles. DESERT RUNNERS delves into the mindset of ultra-athletes, and the complex ways in which human beings deal with both heartbreak and triumph.

Synopsis

Imagine you’ve been dropped off in the middle of one of the largest, driest deserts in the World. Over the next six days you will have to run, jog, walk or crawl 155 miles through the incessant heat (up to 120 degrees), across soft sand and hard-packed gravel, over sand dunes multiple stories high and down razor-sharp rocky cliffs. You must do this carrying everything you need to survive — clothes, food, emergency medical supplies, sleeping bag — in a 20-pound pack on your back.

Now imagine doing this not just once, but four times in one year, through the four most treacherous deserts in the world: the Atacama Desert in Chile, the Gobi Desert in China, the Sahara in Egypt… and then, the final stage, a grueling footrace across the single most inhospitable landscape in the world: Antarctica.

The first man to ever successfully complete the 4 Desert Series “Grand Slam” was world- famous “Ultramarathon Man,” Dean Karnazes. But this year, the brave competitors you will meet are not professional athletes at all– they’re ordinary people like you and me who have decided, for a variety of personal reasons, to take on this extreme physical challenge.

Ricky, is an ex-professional baseball player from the United States. He is naturally athletic and experienced, but this time Mother Nature — and his own body — might prove to be his most formidable opponents yet.

Samantha is an over-committed, over-organized law student from Australia. She dreams of being the first woman and the youngest competitor ever to finish the “Grand Slam.” But unexpected events amidst the chaotic nature of the desert challenge her ability to control life’s circumstances.

Dave is an ageing Irish Businessman, who’s young at heart and usually able to “pull anything off.” Now, in the middle of the desert, he must ask himself a painful, personal question: does getting older really change what you are capable of?

And Tremaine, a British bodyguard who’s been trained to kill, has come to run these deserts in honor of his wife, who died less than a year ago leaving him alone with two young children. As he attempts to redefine his life, he can’t help but wonder if being pushed to the physical extremes will break him down completely… or heal him?

“Desert Runners” delves deep into the psychology of these ultramarathon athletes, revealing the mindset necessary for human beings to succeed at the “impossible.” Not everyone will finish. People get hurt, tragedy strikes, unexpected events take place. But the runners push through these immense challenges, embracing the pain and its inherent lessons. Ultimately, they celebrate the emotional victory of crossing the finish line, forever changed from the inside out.

Director’s Statement

In October of 2009, I went to a conference on health & nutrition where one of the guest speakers was a wonderful, wacky Irish guy named Dave O’Brien. At this conference, Dave announced to the audience that at the age of 56 he had decided that he was going to attempt to run the 4 Deserts Ultramarathon Series—one of the most difficult endurance challenges in the world.

Just one week earlier, I had been at the hospital with my mother, who had been very ill for several months. Dave was not much younger than my mother, and yet my mom didn’t think she could even walk around the block. What made this guy think he could run 1000km through the desert? I became immediately interested in this difference in perceived limitations that human beings seem to have— how can one person think something is totally possible, when most others would perceive it as “impossible?” And are our perceived limitations actually real, or just something that we arbitrarily decide for ourselves?

I went straight up to Dave after the conference ended and asked him if he had considered filming his experience. Two months later, I was in Ireland with a cameraman filming him training, and shortly thereafter we were in the Atacama Desert—it was the beginning of a crazy, year-long adventure that would take us to all 7 continents, and introduce us to an amazing group of people who are the cast of “Desert Runners.”

I was initially drawn to this story because I am interested in the complex ways human beings deal with universal issues– taking on goals, pushing through barriers, making hard decisions, building friendships, failure, success, heartbreak, triumph—all of these are present in Desert Runners. I am not a runner myself, but I am fascinated by the mindset of these athletes and what it takes to complete a herculean challenge like this one. Out in the Desert all barriers are stripped away and people are at their most honest, authentic, vulnerable. It is brutal and it is beautiful all at the same time.

What I learned out there is that ultimately, whether one finishes or not has very little to do with fitness. The only difference between the people who finished and the people who didn’t finish was a certain mental determination. Their unwavering belief and commitment to themselves carried those people through extreme pain and every single struggle they faced, until they reached the finish line. I was humbled by their tenacity, and the lessons are applicable to so many things in life—ultimately, it is about so much more than just running.


 

About The Filmmakers
 

Jennifer Steinman
Director, Producer, Editor
 
Co-Founder of the film production company SMUSH MEDIA, Jennifer Steinman has over 18 years of experience in television and filmmaking. She began her career as a staff Editor at CBS, both in New York and San Francisco. Her work has aired nationally on PBS, The Discovery Channel, National Geographic Channel, Sundance Channel, and many other television networks. Her films have been accepted into many major film festivals including SXSW, Rotterdam, and Sundance. Steinman won a Telly Award and has been nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Editing.

Most recently, Steinman directed, produced and edited the feature-length documentary film MOTHERLAND, which had its world premiere at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival, winning the prestigious Emerging Visions Audience Award. The film went on to win several other best-of-festival awards and was released by Vanguard Cinema.

 

Yael Melamede
Producer
 
Yael Melamede is a co-founder of SALTY Features – an independent media production company based in
NYC. Melamede’s producer credits include award winning fiction and documentary films that have played around the world. She has worked with influential and respected filmmakers such as Paul Schrader, Wayne Wang and Paul Auster, to name just a few.
 
Melamede’s most recent film INOCENTE won the 2013 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. Upcoming films include MARTYRS’ CROSSING, based on the bestselling novel by Amy Wilentz; and SLIPPERY SLOPES, based on the work of acclaimed author and behavioral economist Dan Ariely. Melamede trained as an architect before becoming a filmmaker.

 

Diana Iles Parker
Producer
 

Diana Iles Parker is the founder of Spoken Media, a documentary film marketing outreach company and has been involved in the success of a diverse slate of important doc films, most recently James Redford’s THE BIG PICTURE: RETHINKING DSYLEXIA (HBO, 2012) and Robert Redford’s WATERSHED, about the declining Colorado River and what can be done to reconnect the river to the sea. Other film projects include TOXIC HOT SEAT, SOMETHING VENTURED, CENTRAL PARK EFFECT, MINE, MOTHERLAND and BEIJING TAXI.
 

In addition to films, Iles Parker is a Partner at SpeakingPhoto, a unique storytelling photo app that allows people to add sound to their photos. She lives in Mill Valley, California with her husband and two sons.
 

Dean Karnazes
Executive Producer
 
TIME magazine named Dean Karnazes as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential People in the World.” Men’s Fitness hailed him as one of the fittest men on the planet. An internationally recognized endurance athlete and bestselling author, Karnazes has pushed his body and mind to inconceivable limits.

In 2008, Karnazes became the first person on Earth to complete the 4 Deserts “Grand Slam.” Among his many other accomplishments, he has run 350 continuous miles, foregoing sleep for three nights. He’s run across Death Valley in 120 degree temperatures, and he’s run a marathon to the South Pole in negative 40 degrees. He ran 50 marathons, in all 50 US states, in 50 consecutive days. And in 2011, he ran more than 3000 miles across America—the equivalent of 40-50 miles per day for 75 consecutive days.

 

Sevan Matossian
Director of Photography
 

Sevan Matossian has filmed and produced for TLC, Discovery & History Channel and produced, directed and edited three very successful shows for ESPN (which have re-aired more than 100 times). He has made commercials, promotional pieces and four feature-length documentaries. He has filmed in over 45 countries and in some of the most isolated and diverse corners of the globe.

Matossian’s first film, the feature-length documentary OUR HOUSE, screened at more than 30 film festivals around the world, winning awards at many of them. His most recent film, PULLING JOHN, premiered to sold out audiences at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival, and was hailed as “One of the Top Ten Must-See Films” of the festival.

 

Jessica Congdon
Editor
 
Jessica Congdon has worked as a commercial and film editor for the past 14 years. She co- wrote and edited MISS REPRESENTATION, directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, which premiered in the 2011 Sundance Documentary Competition. She also co- directed and edited the documentary RACE TO NOWHERE by Vicki Abeles. Other documentary features include SPEED AND ANGELS directed by Peyton Wilson, and MOTHERLAND directed by Jennifer Steinman.

Congdon edited the feature film DOPAMINE directed by Mark Decena, an award- winning film at Sundance 2003. She edited the international feature film SEARCH in Stockholm, and the Columbia Tri-Star feature film BIG GIRLS DON’T CRY in Berlin, both directed by Maria von Heland. She is a founding editor of Umlaut Films in San Francisco, where she has edited commercial campaigns for national and international clients.

 

For further information please contact:
diana@spokenmedia.com
+1.415.225.8121

=========End===========

The DVD is now available for purchase. Head on here for details. The official website is http://www.desertrunnersmovie.com

No Way I Was Going To Miss This

This is an important week for me, as far as marathon training goes. Coming off a lengthy period of choking haze where outdoor activities had to be sacrificed, I was more than ready to pick things up again. With time running out to race day, I’m no longer focusing on volume but rather the quality of my workouts. Every outing has to count, including easy days.

Today (Wed) marks the 3rd day of getting back in action. Coming off a tempo run yesterday, today would be an easy day so I pampered the feet a little by wearing the Energy Boost, hooked up the iPod and fished out the 10oz water bottle. It was a very hot day out and I was already sweating as I headed out from the car park.

The first couple of loops were good but I was wiping sweat off my brow every other second. I was cautious especially after going through a dizzy spell right after lunch, which was an unusual phenomenon. It could very well have been caused by inadequate sleep the night before. I was mindful that if anything went south, I could still call the run off.

The sun was merciless and the humidity only made things worse. Just when I was about to call time on the session, it suddenly poured! It was like someone up there wanted me to go on. The effect the rain brought on was tremendous. As the temps dropped, my spirits rose. Glenn Roth’s “Run To The Hills” came on. It was becoming almost too perfect. Things kicked up a bit with Rob Thomas’ “This Is How The Heart Breaks”, the thumping drums in perfect timing with my footstrikes. Most of the walkers and runners had scurried off, huddling with the various groups of Bootcampers in gazebos scattered throughout the park.

Today’s experience was a lesson on persistence and perseverance. When the going gets tough, quitting would’ve been an easy option. Hang on for a little longer and we could very well be rewarded with the most wonderful experiences.

It’s been so long since my last play in the rain. The miles just go by quickly and effortlessly. Today I was presented such opportunity. There was no way I was going to miss the chance to savour it.

Winners of the Norton 360 Giveaway

Congratulations to Choon Yuen, Elvin and Mohd, winners of the giveaway, randomly generated by Rafflecopter. Each of them won a copy of the Norton 360 Multi-Device worth RM249 each.

They should’ve received their prizes by now, courtesy of Symantec.

Special thanks go out to all of you who submitted your entries!

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