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.

Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2014 Race Report

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

 

Category Archives: Gear

Shoe Review: New Balance Fresh Foam Zante

I can’t imagine how long I’ve put off this review. Now, before that statement made you think that NB served up a lemon in the form of the Zante (pronounced “Zantay”), let me assure that it’s not the case. It’s been one of my firm favorites in the last 2 months of my GCAM15 training. I liked it so much that I wanted it to be my marathon race shoe but it wasn’t to be. It’s evident from the photos below how much I’ve put the shoes to use.

Named after a gorgeous island in Greece, the Zante was one of two shoes launched by NB early 2015 (the other being the Boracay, another famous island destination in the Philippines) that saw a departure from the confusing nomenclature used by NB.

If the term Fresh Foam (not related to a certain golden hop/malt based beverage) sounded familiar, you’d be right. The midsole material was first used on the NB 980. I’ve not worn the 980 and although reviews were generally OK, it was widely panned for wrong marketing – it was neither as plush nor soft as the marketers made it out to be. The Boracay, with a retweaked midsole, has since replaced the 980, while the Zante is an entirely new shoe marketed as a go-fast option.

Link to the Irish eBay site.

M625. Be very afraid of the asking price!

It’s been ages since I last owned a pair of NB. I was a fan of the venerable brand back in the days (my favorite was the M625 you see above, a lightweight performance trainer). NBs were still made in the USA then and had a classy boutique in the KL Plaza. And they were the Volvo of running shoes – built like a tank.

Fast forward 23 years later, my idea of fun shoes are those made with simplicity in mind. Keep the upper design and construction simple, avoid excessive overlays, do away with plastic inserts here and there, and I’m generally good. Which is why I reach out to the GOrun 4, Boston Boost 5, Kinvara 5, Ultra Boost (for recovery runs) the most often. The Zante joins this list of favorites.

The Zante is a really simple shoe. Very simple breathable upper that fit like sock, single density foam, full contact outsole. Herein lies the mystery. Despite the simple take on the construction, the shoe weighs in at 8.25oz for US10, which is around the Kinvara 5’s. 8.25 is still light but if you’ve ran in the Zante, you’d have thought it was a sub 8oz shoe.

The front mesh is  very breathable while the dark section has a tighter weave.

There’s only a sliver of reflective element resides on the lateral side of the toebox in the form of a two-pronged fork. The upper is stretchy and never once did my toes felt cramped. I like how the tongue padding is kept just nice to prevent any pressure from the thin laces on top of the foot. The tongue is connected to an inner sleeve which means no sliding around – no stopping to readjust the tongue which means the wearer can just enjoy the running experience.

Tongue is integrated with the inner sleeve.

 

The internal heel counter is soft compared to the monstrous types seen on the Kayano 21, for example. There’s no rubbing whatsoever, and the best thing is the absence of unnecessary weight. The collar isn’t notched, and the padding not overboard. Heel lock down is fantastic as it is.

The removable insole is soft and perforated, and feels like that of the DS Racer.

The Zante has stack heights of 23mm and 17mm (heel/toe) for a 6mm drop, not too low to turn off traditionalists. The midsole foam has a honeycombed pattern – concave on the lateral side, convex on the medial.

As mentioned earlier, the outsole is a full contact one, made up of hexagonal lugs. The lugs aren’t that deep nor are they of the hard-wearing variety. They have a nice grippy feel on all the surfaces (wet or dry)  I’ve run on, from synthetic track, sandy road shoulders, hard tiles to tarmac. After 190KM logged, you can see that it wears better than Skechers’ foam but inferior to the Continental rubber used by adidas in the higher end models. I reckon I could push the mileage to 400KM before the forefoot lugs are sheared down to the base.

Forefoot wear is obvious but quite even.

 

Wear signs on the outer heel of the left shoe.

 

With the full contact outsole and a substantial toe spring, which you can see from the photo below, the Zante treats the wearer to a fast and smooth ride. The Zante feels more balanced shoe than the heel-heavy Boston Boost 5, more responsive than the Kinvara 5 and fits better than the GOrun 4. There’s not a stitch on the Zante that’s wrongly put together and it’s easy to see why that even at the beginning of the year, Competitor.com awarded it their Road Shoe Of The Year. I’ve ran my 10K PR and have enjoyed nearly every run from track workouts to 23K in them.

It’s unfortunate then that I’m unable to wear them for the marathon owing to its firmer forefoot cushioning. While ideal for races up to the half marathon, I’ve experienced some forefoot soreness after 21K. Faster and more efficient runners may be able to take it further than I could. If you belong in that category, you’re going to really enjoy the Zante for all its worth.

The New Balance Zante retails at RM439.00 (going rate for shoes these days!) and is already available at all NB and Marathonshop outlets.

Giveaway Results – Jabra Sport Rox Wireless

Wow, the response to the giveaway was simply fantastic! And the winners of a Sport Rox Wireless each are…


Jabra Malaysia will be in touch with you on the prize delivery. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the great sounding buds pretty soon.

Thank you to everyone who participated. Please continue to follow the blog for gear reviews, running related posts and future giveaways.

Finally, huge thanks to Jabra Malaysia for sponsoring the 2 units of the Sport Rox Wireless!

Giveaways: Jabra Sport Rox Wireless

Last month I reviewed the Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless which you can read up here. I’ve also posted the Jabra Sport Rox Wireless here, and you can also head on to the product site to find out more about it.

Here are the specs of the Sport Rox, which is essentially the Pulse without the Heart Rate Monitor (HRM). Click on the image below to enlarge.

Now comes the exciting bit – Jabra Malaysia will be giving away not one but 2 units of the Sport Rox Wireless earbuds. Each unit retails at RM549! The raffle opens June 1st 2015 12am (Malaysian time) and ends June 15th 12am (Malaysian time). As always, the draw will be randomly determined via Rafflecopter. Here’s how it works:

  1. To enter, simply leave a comment in this post (it can be a simple “I want the Rox!” or a sonnet but no extra beanie points for creativity though :D ). Be sure to leave your email, otherwise there’s no way Jabra Malaysia can get in touch with you if you win.
  2. You must also like the Jabra Malaysia Facebook Page.
  3. Be sure to enter your valid email.
  4. Opens: 12:00AM Kuala Lumpur Time (GMT+08:00), June 1st 2015.
  5. Closes: 12:00AM Kuala Lumpur Time (GMT+08:00), June 15th 2015.
  6. The 2 winners will be randomly drawn by Rafflecopter.
  7. Announcement will be made on this blog by 6:00PM Kuala Lumpur Time (GMT+08:00), June 17th 2015
  8. Giveaway is only for those residing in Malaysia.
  9. All the best!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I receive no payment nor commission for the running of this giveaway.

Salomon X-Scream 3D Initial Impression

Salomon, the outdoor gear company from Annecy, France has pretty much the trail and mountain running market cornered. Any outdoor person worth his/her gnarly toes will know that the brand invests a lot in R&D, its stable of ultra talented (and good looking) athletes, and of course producing great products. Redefining traditional products in terms of design, material use and functionality has been synonymous with the brand. The S-Lab Skin Hydro packs (the 2012 12-liter version was reviewed here) and the S-Lab Exo TwinSkin Compression Shorts as just 2 examples of great design coupled with performance.

With close to 20% market share in this niche yet fast growing segment secured, Salomon is now training its sights on road-running with its recently launched CityTrail series of shoes. The hybrid take on the shoes can actually be traced back to the days of the XT Mission. What we have today is the X-Scream 3D, with several more models to hit our shores in the months to come. CityTrail, if you haven’t already guessed, represents gear designed for use in a mixed conditions that a city provides. Grassy parks, sidewalks, and stairs, and surfaces like concrete, tarmac, packed dirt – those are the playground for the X-Scream 3D.

Photo courtesy of WOS.

I was one of the fortunate ones invited to try out the shoes last weekend around the KLCC Park, my weekday haunt. The park has seen tremendous increase in human traffic lately, to the extent it’s hard getting a smooth run in. As a result, I’ve been forced to run the paths less taken, up the grassy sections and knolls, around the concrete frontage of the KL Convention Center, in between buildings, and along clogged roads around the city center. Anywhere and anything goes. I hope I won’t need to be forced to the rooftops anytime soon though!

Out of the box, the X-Scream is quite a looker. It has a typical road shoe look-and-feel but you can trust Salomon to inject some catchy colors to their shoes. In the case of the X-Scream, a bright canary yellow. It’s also one of the lightest Salomon that I’ve held in my hands, though at 11.5oz (for my US10) it’s still not a flyweight. The S-Lab Sense Ultra, Sense Mantra or the X-Series (this one is exciting!) are lighter. Most of Salomon’s proven tech continue to be applied to the X-Scream. The seamless upper consisted of the SensiFIT overlays to provide upper structure, while the medial and lateral toe areas have a 3D stretchy webbing for a more forgiving fit. Padding around the collar is decent and just about right for a road shoe but I felt that the internal heel counter to be too stiff.

3D Flex overlays on the front lateral side

On the medial side

Medial look.

Lateral side

The Quicklace system with a lace pocket is, of course, standard. The lacing works very well with the EndoFIT inner sleeve to provide a secure yet not-too-restrictive fit. Of all the other brands’ adoption of the inner sleeve design, Salomon’s EndoFIT has one of the best implementation. I remembered the first time I tested the Sense Ultra in the store and found the inner sleeve to be impressive.

There’s the usual lace pocket. Tuck them in to prevent snagging.

Moving down, the midsole comprises of 2-density EVA and a flexible ProFeel Film is there to provide some midfoot stability. The thin layer extends from the midfoot to the forefoot via 2 finger-like strips. The X-Scream 3D doesn’t have a full contact outsole. As you can see, the midsection has a cutaway and the center heel has a concave cutout. The Contagrip outsole on the X-Scream 3-D discards the chevron-shaped lugs for lower profile ones laid out in the shape of pentagons. We were informed, during the product briefing, that the lugs are designed to deform and splay out on impact to provide traction and cushioning. It’s all solid rubber in the forefoot while the heel plug is given the high-abrasion variety. 2 flex grooves cut across the forefoot section.

First impressions caught me by surprise, particularly the roomy feel of the shoe. There was no need for me to upsize. The lacing was quick and fast and I needed to really cinch it tight to get a snug midfoot feel. For a shoe that’s supposed to go along with the runner in a non-linear direction negotiating the twists and turns, it’s important to have a secure lock down. Over the course of a short 3.4K with the media group and the brand ambassadors around the KLCC Park, I found the X-Scream 3D to be a little stiff and hard. There was some slippage as well around the collar. The park offers plenty of twists and turns, ups and downs with surfaces ranging from synthetic to concrete to grass, which was perfect to gauge the performance of the shoe. Pace varied from a slow 7:15 all the way to fast 4:20 and didn’t slip once. Foot plant was assured, although I felt that the forefoot was a little too wide when taking a fast corner or negotiating a quick change of direction. The ride remained firm and a little awkward and stiff throughout even when deliberately heel striking.

The Salomon logo offers a teensy bit of low light visibility.

Second run was 3 times longer which provided a more stringent test for the shoe. Instead of my usual thin socks, I wore the thicker trail ones which improved the fit. Here are photos taken along the run, incidentally my regular weekday training route. The terrain and surface are all what the X-Scream is designed for.

While the ride was still firm and leans towards the stiffer end of the scale (no change to my opinion there), the fit was way better than the first time due to the thicker socks. There was zero slippage on all the surfaces I ran, which was truly impressive. You can see from the photos that, with the exception of sharp rocks, I cover nearly all types of surfaces in the course of my running! The most recent run in the shoes was even longer at 13K, in pouring rain for much of the distance. The surfaces were naturally slick from the rain and road grease yet I didn’t slip a bit stepping off the squelchy grass onto those bricked surface and more. As I clicked off the miles, the confidence grew and I could really put in a decent pace for the remaining part of the session. Impressive hold on the surface, the shoe offers.

I tracked my run using Salomon’s free CityTrail app (iOS | Android) and you’ll see that on top of the KLCC Park, I included Jalan Pinang, Kia Peng and Stonor.

Aside from experiencing the shoes, I took the opportunity to also give the accompanying app, the CityTrail app a try. The free app allows the runner to experience the routes mapped by fellow runners in major cities around the world. Landmarks are nicely marked as well. There are no routes yet for KL and I was unable to upload my routes due to insufficient points earned. The more points you earn from running with the app, the more functions will be opened to you.

Once you’ve logged your run, you can view the usual metrics and share it out on Facebook and Twitter. And it appears that you earn a point for each K logged.

I can see how this’ll work where there are more users but don’t let that dissuade you. You can download the app for free for your device by clicking on these links iOS | AndroidWindows Phone (unofficial) or head on to the City Trail site (where your workouts are logged) for more details.

In conclusion, the X-Scream 3D is a decent hybrid from Salomon. There are several areas which I wasn’t particularly fond of such as the stiff ride. It doesn’t offer a smooth a transition as I would’ve preferred. While the stiffness is not that obvious when running on the urban trails, it provides for a jarring experience on tarmac and concrete. Despite the concave midsole in the heel, it’s not particularly light either, although it’s not a deal-breaker at 11ima+oz. In contrast, the Ultra Boost is a heavier shoe. The X-Scream 3D could benefit from a softer or minimal heel counter, the introduction of a softer crash pad in the heel for a smoother heel to toe transition. Elsewhere, the shoe shines, from the versatility, breathability, assured traction for urban use, lacing system, to the EndoFIT system.

The Salomon X-Scream 3D retails at RM489.00 and is already available in the country from Salomon boutique located at Pavilion, World of Sports and World of Outdoors outlets.

Disclaimer: The Salomon X-Scream 3D was a media pair kindly provided by W.O.S World Of Sports (M) Sdn Bhd. Review was written after logging close to 30K in the shoes.

Jabra Sport Rox Wireless

Last month, I reviewed the premium-priced Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless (SPW), which you can read here. The SPW combines excellent sound with a nifty built-in Heart Rate Monitor (HRM). For those who are merely looking for a version without the HRM, there’s the Sport Rox (SR) which retains much of the features of the SPW.

Built for premium sound and durability, the Jabra Sport Rox is similar to the award-winning Jabra Rox Wireless except it better meets the needs of sports enthusiasts who want to enjoy both their workout and music without compromising on either.

The Sport Rox was launched in January this year, so it’s not a new product. There’s, however, a reason to draw your attention to it. More exciting details will be posted on June 1st. Until then, here are some info about the SR.

The Sport Rox comes with a higher standard of IP Level (IP54) and an armband in pack. Like the original Rox Wireless, the sports variant comes with in-ear stereo Bluetooth earbuds for truly super sound. The earbuds are built to last with solid steel.

They’re also sweat and stormproof and built to US Military rain, shock, sand, and dust standards – so there’s no excuse for missing a workout.

Enjoy an ultra-secure and comfortable fit with a selection of EarGels™ and EarWings™ that lets you lock your buds in so you can confidently focus on your workout.

The handy magnetic clip serves to conserve power when not in use.

 

Powerful speakers deliver world-class Dolby® music performance. Control music playback, volume, and take calls with a quick tap on the earbuds. And when you need to catch your breath, simply clip the earbuds together around your neck to save battery power. When you’re ready just pull them apart, and they’re good to go. Exercise is about breaking free, so don’t let wires hold you back. Get the Jabra Sport Rox and break free to a new level today. Other features include:

  • Simple pairing with NFC
  • Rich Dolby® sound with the Jabra Sound App – adds extra depth and dimension to your music. Create / share playlists and adjust equalizer settings.
  • Built-in noise cancelling microphone
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Talk Time: Up to 5.5 hours
  • Standby Time: Up to 18 days
  • Music Play Time: 6 hours

Click to enlarge

The Jabra Rox Wireless are already available at the following stores listed below nationwide with a price of RM549.

List of stores in Malaysia:

  1. ALL IT Hypermarket Sdn Bhd
  2. epiCentre
  3. Harvey Norman
  4. Machines
  5. Radioshack
  6. Viewnet Computer System

Keen UNEEK Sandals

I’m a practical fella when it comes to the choice if apparel and footwear.  Function trumps glamor. I don’t even have a suit in my wardrobe. On weekends, I do “some” running, catch up on a movie or two, and have noon siestas. If you see me at the malls or running the errands,  sandals or flip-flops would be on my feet.

When I was handed the UNEEK, I didn’t know what to make of it. The official blurb from Keen, the purveyor of hybrid outdoor and casual footwear, mentions that the UNEEK (a nicely coined palindrome) is a shoe. To me, it’s more along the alley of sandals.

At 11.35oz for my US10, the UNEEK isn’t in the weight territory of the running shoes I wear but it is in the realm of sports sandals and sandal-shoe hybrids. My recently departed Teva weighed approximately the same too. Utilizing an unconventional 2-cord construction, unusual is an understatement when describing the look of the sandal. The cords are soft, free-moving, and water-repellant which means you can pretty much wear the UNEEK anywhere. Your pinkies will get plenty of air-time and in this hot weather, that’s the way to go.

The quick-lacing system is convenient but I’ve never had to tweak it once I opted for a loose fit. The heel strap is more than adequate to lock down the foot. The black upper material is actually microfiber, thus

The footbed/midsole is made of PU and is anatomically molded. The full rubber outsole is quite a performer. It looks unassuming as you can see from the photo below. But when flexed, the razor sipes reveal themselves. These give the UNEEK excellent traction on wet conditions and I’ve worn them enough to confirm that they work as advertized.

Basically the UNEEK has been my weekend shods since I’ve got them and they felt comfortable enough for all-day wear. I wore them for 5 hours, looking like a hipster, after a recent 28K run and the next day, my legs and feet were still good for a 16K. The UNEEK has a high build quality and I expect them to last as many years as my previous sports sandals.

Here’s the video behind the UNEEK.

Disclaimer: The Keen UNEEK is a review pair courtesy of W.O.S. World of Sports (M) Sdn Bhd and is available today from Urban Adventure outlets, the World of Sports’s Gardens and e@Curve boutiques. It retails for RM479.00 and RM459.00 for the men and women versions respectively. More info about the UNEEK can be found here on its website.

Shoe Review: Nike Lunar Tempo

Choon Yuen returns with another shoe review. We collectively wish he buys more shoes.

————————————————-

Here I am again hijacking the blog, pretending the blog is mine and spending a few minutes blabbing about shoes LOL. With my first major race for 2015 over back in early April, I was looking around for a nice pair of shoes to replace my current favorites the Asics Electro33 (my PB shoes, mind you) for the upcoming Gold Coast Airport Marathon (GCAM) in July. Come to think of it, I really didn’t need to look for a new pair as I’m pretty sure the Asics still have enough life to carry me for another race before officially retiring it into my walking shoes. Nevertheless hanging out with Jamie and Nick, you will always be poisoned with buying new pair of shoes even you really didn’t need to.

Now let’s see what we have here. My first pair of running shoes purchased was the original Nike LunaRacer then followed by Nike LunaRacer+3 (Racer) skipping the version 2. When Jamie poisoned me with the Nike Lunar Tempo (Tempo) which is the trainer version of the racer, immediately I was sold even before looking at the actual shoes. True enough the Lunar Tempo according to Nike, was designed for runners who often take the Racer for long run training. In other words, you will have the best from the Racer (lightweight and fast) plus the extra cushion you need for day to day training from the LunarTempo. Judging from experience with the Racer, I upsized my purchase with a full size to combat the narrow toe box which was a big mistake…well not that big, but still a mistake.

Honestly, after 40km or so I didn’t feel right at home with the Tempo, something just didn’t feel quite right. Nick advised me to try on thicker shocks, and it worked!! In hindsight, I should have tried upsizing by only half instead of the full size due to a welcome improvement on the upper mesh which I will explain later. For the next 20km +, it felt like I have found my shoes for GCAM, at least for now, let’s wait until I test run the NB Zante in the coming weeks before deciding which pair flies with me hehe.

The Racer (top) and the Tempo.

The Tempo’s (left) outsole, which have thicker blown rubber coverage, suggests greater durability than the Racer.

The Tempo by nature is designed to be the trainer version of the Racer, naturally you are right to expect a few familiar characteristics brought over from the Racer+3. First off, on the weight department, weighing at 6.8oz for a Size 9, it’s just a mere 0.4oz heavier than the Racer, impressive for a trainer. Secondly, the responsive Lunarlon midsole are retained with a slight tweak in the groove pattern near the heel area. Then there is the Nike Flywire system used for fit adjustment wrapping your feet like what a pair of socks would do holding your feet firmly preventing any slide. Other than the above, the Tempo is a different shoe from the Racer+3.

Breathable mesh.

Lightly padded tongue.

The highly breathable seamless upper mesh has a slight tweak; it now feels softer and it is more stretchable, effectively taking away the narrow toe box feeling experienced from the Racer (my mistake to upsize by a full size). Couple with the Flywire over the midfoot allowing variable wraparound pressure/tightness adjustment depending on individual preferences holding your feet in place. Once it is adjusted properly, I did not notice any foot sliding even with upsizing. The heel collar as with the shoe tongue is slightly padded and there are no visible plastic/film over the heel counter. Instead the heel counter is packed with patterned reflective material, effective and pleasing the eyes.

The softer (and floppier) Ortholite insole of the Tempo compared to the Racer’s stiffer version.

The thicker midsole of the Tempo (right) compared to the Racer.

The insole sees a change; it is softer and thinner compare to the Racer version and is made with Ortholite material. Lunarlon midsole are slightly thicker as you can see from the picture below. It delivers sufficient cushioning yet not taking away the ground feel returning the rebound energy that one would expect from a racing flat. Carbon rubbers are placed strategically at the wear zones with very minimal visible wear noticed after closed to 70km now. Overall the ride is comfortable and smooth.

Although it is still too early to draw a conclusion on durability with merely 70km mileage, but there isn’t anything to pick on the shoe. It is lightweight, responsive, flexible, has good ground feel and fit snugly thanks to the stretchable mesh and Flywire system. The shoes has grown on me since the initial rubbish 40km that I’ve done earlier and this little package can double as a my racing shoes too (note: I am not a fast runner and you may not agree with me on the racing bits). Okay perhaps there is one thing I want to pick on the shoe which is the colorway available in this part of market…boring!!!

Nike LunarTempo is retailing at RM379 but strangely you will not find it in Nike store in Malaysia. This pair was purchased at Stadium KLCC.

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