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 Review

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.

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.

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.

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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.

Mio Fuse Activity Tracker and Heart Rate Monitor Review


The battle for our wrist space are heating up with the continued increase in the number of wearables that have reached our shores. Featured this time on the blog is the Mio Fuse. The Fuse is just one of 5 wrist-worn heart-rate (HR) based monitors produced by the Vancouver, Canada company. The others are Alpha, Alpha 2, Velo, and Link. Of the 5, 3 – Alpha 2, Fuse and Link – are now available in Malaysia.

There are 2 flavors of the Fuse, the Fuse Crimson fits large wrists: 156 -208mm / 6.1”-8.2” while skinny wrists like mine get the Fuse Aqua (wrist sizes: 149-179mm / 5.9”-7”). Other than the fit and color, both versions have the same specs. Which brings us to the next section.

Specs & Tech
The selling points for the Mio offerings are that they’re wrist-worn HRMs, and connect to a wide range of ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart (4.0) devices. That means you can do away with the chest strap pair yet monitor your training effects from your smartphones, and your Garmin/Suunto/Timex/Polar watches (see the list here). 3rd party app compatibility (list) are likewise extensive and that includes integration with RunKeeper, MapMyRun/Ride/Fitness, Endomondo, Strava, Wahoo, miCoach, and Runtastic. There’s even a Windows Phone app called Track Runner which works with the Fuse.

Helpful links: ANT+ directory of supported devices [list]

Mio’s wrist-worn HRMs, developed with Philips, feature continuous optical heart rate sensors that measure the heartbeat in real-time using two green LEDs and an electro-optical cell. DCRainmaker’s review of the Fuse mentioned that the same tech was licensed to adidas and TomTom so that certainly add to the credibility of the technology. In fact Mio claims to provide 99% EKG-accurate HR data. More about the technology here.

Unboxing
The Fuse comes in a compact box. Flip the magnetized cover off and you’ll see the device lodged snugly within.

Lifting the container up will reveal the user manual, and the USB charging clip. That’s all there is to it.

As with all things electronic, the first smart thing to do would be to charge up the unit. Here’s a closeup shot of the USB charger bundled with the Fuse. The USB plug is folded into the back of the unit when not in use.

The Fuse isn’t quite a tiny device, nearly as long as my trusty Garmin 620. Even the midsection, where the sensor is located, is nearly as thick as the 620.

I’ve really skinny wrists and here’s how the Fuse looks like in the company of the 620 and the MiBand. Due to the Fuse’s sticky rubber feel, it tends to pick up some dust. It can be worn on the left or right wrist, even though the user guide recommends wearing it as pictured below – right next to the GPS watch. That said, I’ve had equal success wearing the Fuse on my right wrist. The fit feels very snug and assured courtesy of the traditional watch strap and pin combo. No way it’s coming off in the course of a workout.

Flip the Fuse over and here’s how it’s belly looks like. It may not appear as such but the build quality is great, with no rough edges felt anywhere. The Fuse feels really solid and not a single part of it has the dodgy feel of a poorly made device. You definitely get quality for the price you pay for in the case of the Fuse.

See the 2 round pin contacts in the photo above? Those are to be connected to the pin connectors on the USB charger in order to charge up the Fuse. Once it’s plugged in, the device suddenly comes alive with a number of moving LED lights indicating the charging status. Fully charging the Fuse’s lithium polymer battery for the first time took around an hour – I reckon my unit wasn’t completely drained. The battery lifespan will last approximately 300 charge cycles which works out to a lifespan of 5 years based on a weekly charge routine. The battery is non-user replaceable and neither is the strap. Therefore the entire unit needs to be replaced should it die on you, but then 5 years would have already contributed to a very decent ROI. Furthermore, technology would’ve advanced several more steps in 5 years’ time!

Mio GO app
Like any wearables out there, there’s an app for the Fuse. The Mio GO app (available from iTunes and Google Play Store) is needed for all the customization functions, tracking, and syncing the Fuse is capable of. First, the customization. Once the app is downloaded to the phone, pair the Fuse up via Bluetooth. From there, there’s a slew of tweaks you can make, from setting up your profile, choice of data fields to integrate with the iOS Health app, display preferences, your daily goals (by steps taken, distance covered or active calories burned) to a few alert options. The HR function and Always On Display are both defaulted to off. You can also set your HR Zones.

Unlike Garmin, Polar, FitBit and Jawbone devices which all have their online logging and community ecosystem, Mio has none. Thus, all data needs to be regularly synced or backed up to the smartphone. The Fuse can store up to 14 days of daily summary data in All-Day Mode (regular activity tracking) and an additional 30 hours of exercise data in Workout Mode (with HRM turned on). If you continue to ignore the “Low Mem” or “No Mem” alerts, the new data will overwrite the older data on a FIFO (first in, first out) basis.

Tinkering with the app settings is half the fun but being the impatient one when it comes down to new gear, I set everything up quickly and simply head out!

Putting it through the paces
The Fuse is water resistant up to 30 meters so you can continue wearing it while swimming or aqua running. Do note that touch functions as are the wireless link to apps are disabled whenever the Fuse is underwater. Since I don’t swim my activities will pretty much be land-based :). There’s still a chance of me testing it out in wet conditions but that’ll have to wait due to the lightning situation these days.

Comparing the Garmin-HR Chest Strap against the Fuse.
To kick things off, you’ll need to trigger the Workout Mode by lightly holding down the HR Touchpoint located in the lower center of the display (see photo below). The optical sensors will light up and the Fuse will take between 15-20 seconds to acquire your HR. To the left and right of the display are the Scroll Touchpoints where depending on your setup, will toggle between your HR, Pace, Steps, Distance and Calories. These touchpoints are quite sensitive and all you need to scroll through the screens is to lightly brush them. The Touchpoints are disabled when the Fuse is in a vertical position – this is to avoid accidentally triggering the controls.

Once the Fuse acquires your HR, the display will show your HR and the device will stay in standby mode. This is a simple yet nice touch so that you manually trigger the start of your workout only when you’re ready to get going. When I was finally ready, I started the 620 followed by the Fuse.

All through the workout duration, the Fuse did its job quietly, gently vibrating when it detected a change in the HR Zones. Pausing the recording requires just a light touch on the HR Touchpoint.

Once you’re done with your run, hold down the HR Touchpoint to first change the status to Pause and then to End the recording. Up to this point, the data are still stored on the device until you sync the Fuse with the phone. The total distance and pace will obviously not be as accurate as that recorded by a GPS watch but the HR readings, especially that of the Average HR (AHR) is very close – 138 on the Fuse versus 137 on the Garmin. The Max HR (MHR) are off 173 vs 160 but the example below was my first run. Notice too the difference in distance which is expected of a non-GPS device. Calibration is off but I understand that the readings will get more accurate with repeated use.

Linking the Fuse with the Garmin
Since the Fuse is ANT+ ready, connecting it to the Garmin 620 is a cinch. I reckon this will be the most popular setup amongst runners who are users of Garmin/Polar/Suunto watches looking to ditch the chest strap.

To connect the Fuse to the Garmin, hold down the HR Touchpoint. The Fuse will switch to the Workout mode and the HRM will be enabled. Again, the Fuse will be in a paused mode. A few seconds of pulse acquisition will take place afterwhich you’ll be able to see your current HR. The next step would be to enable the HR sensor on the 620. Pairing them up is easy and you’ll be prompted accordingly. To start the workout, you’ll need to start the Garmin and Fuse separately. Due to this 2-step start/stop process, there’s bound to be a little difference (negligible, if you ask me) between the readings on the Garmin and Fuse.

It was an ultra short run due to the terrible show of lightning. I love the rain but did dare to take any risks with bolts endlessly streaking across the skies. Back at the base, I synced the session back to the phone.

If this status greets you, you’re some ways to meeting your daily goal, so get moving!

I’m not sure why but there were still some differences following the sync but again, the difference is negligible.

Fuse with the Mio GO app
Linking both the Mio GO app with the Fuse is simple enough but it gets quirky. Due to some strange design oversight, despite being connected, the Fuse and the Mio GO app don’t communicate the start of a workout between them. Hence starting the run on the Fuse will not start off the app tracking and vice versa. It’s truly a bummer to have to trigger (and stop) a workout twice.

Otherwise the other metrics are all captured and displayed on the app, real-time as the activity takes place. A nice touch is the breakdown of the time spent on each HR zone which means you’re able to tell if you’re sticking to the training objectives or are overdoing it on a recovery day.

After 2 weeks of usage, I can say that my Garmin HRM chest strap is no longer seeing active action. As a runner-deep-in-training, the Fuse is quicker to put on, easier to wash and dry. It pairs quickly with my 620 and there’s little fussing around and because it’s on my wrist for a large part of the day, there’s less chance that I’ll misplace it. I can see a greater appeal of the Mio Fuse to fitness enthusiasts who, in the absence of a GPS watch, can rely on its feature set for what it is. The lack of an online logging site, sets it back a bit, and so is the lack of a sleep tracker, something which can be remedied with a firmware update. However if you don’t place much importance over the negatives, then the Fuse is worth checking out.

Pros:

  • ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart (4.0) ready means plenty of integration with other devices such as GPS watches.
  • Many choices of apps to interface with.
  • Goodbye chest strap!
  • Accurate and reliable HR reading.
  • Provides a great option for HR based training.
  • No allergic reaction to the silicon material.
  • Decent battery life.
  • Pricing is reasonable.

Cons:

  • Can’t truly replace the watch due to the absence of alarms.
  • Starting a run from the app somehow doesn’t start off the activity on the Fuse and vice versa.
  • There are rooms for improvement, feature-wise:
    • No sleep tracker.
    • No interval reminders to get off the chair.
    • No online logging hence near impossible to track and view long term progress.
    • Needs regular syncing with the phone.

Mio products are now available from the following outlets:

Connect

  • Fahrenheit 88, KL
  • KLIA 2, Sepang
  • Mid Valley Megamall, KL
  • Pavilion, KL
  • Sunway Pyramid, Selangor

iStore

  • 1 Mon’t Kiara, KL
  • Publika, KL

Machines

  • IOI City Mall, Selangor
  • Mid Valley, KL
  • Sunway Pyramid, Selangor
  • Suria KLCC, KL
  • The Gardens Mall, KL

Mac Studio

  • Bangsar Shopping Centre, KL
  • Jaya Shopping Centre, Selangor
  • Paradigm Mall, Selangor

Optiprimus

  • Bintang Plaza, Sarawak

The Marathon Shop

  • Lot 10, KL (Coming soon)
  • Sunway Pyramid, Selangor
  • Gurney Plaza, Penang

Urban Republic

  • Gurney Plaza, Penang

Disclaimer: The Mio Fuse is a review unit provided courtesy of Distexpress (M) Sdn Bhd, the authorized distributor of Mio in Malaysia. It is now available in the country and retails for RM639. The Mio Alpha 2 retails for RM799. For a comparison chart of the different Mio products, hit this link. Thinking about the Mio Fuse? Stay tuned for a purchase offer for followers of the blog in the next few days.

 

 

Shoe Review: Saucony Triumph ISO

This shoe review was submitted by Choon Yuen.

I have been asked about a few weeks ago whether I’m interested to review a yet to be launched running shoes in the local market. I thought WOW!! Me? Review shoes? I need to give myself a few pitches and slaps on the face to see if I were dreaming. It is truly a rare opportunity (secretly hoping more will come my way) to try out and write about a new shoe, without a second thought I said yes to the opportunity and whet goo goo goo ga ga about it LOL. I was very excited to say the least and took the opportunity on my off day from work to pick up the shoes and immediately. Met up with Frank, gave me a short introduction of the shoes and off I go for heat training that afternoon on the spanking new shoes. I had no prior experience running in any Saucony shoes albeit very good reviews on some of the shoes they produced e.g. the Kinvara series, so after clocking more than 60km over the past 3 weeks in the new Saucony Triumph ISO, it’s time for me to put my thoughts on the shoe on a clean sheet of paper without any bias opinion.


Saucony Triumph ISO is an 8mm drop shoe with a stack height of 31mm (Heel), 23mm (Forefoot). It’s a very well cushioned neutral shoe with a new upper fit ISOFIT technology which we will be going into a little bit more in details as we go along. The forefoot area of the upper is made of mesh material with visible large cut out for breathability purposes, which is then sewed to the ISOFIT at the midfoot area.

The ISOFIT upper wraps the feet adequately creating a sock-like feel for comfort and adaptability to the shape of your feet. It gives a nice wrap around holding the feet in place, preventing the feet from sliding around which could happened especially if you up-sizing the shoe size. The PWRGRID+ form grid midsole is taking charge in providing impact protection cushioning every stride on a longer run. The outsole comes with xt900 rubber near the heel area for durability while iBR+ is used for the forefoot area for further cushioning. At 10 oz on a US size 9, the shoe does very well in the weight department considering the amount of cushion Saucony puts in.

Ultra padded heel collar.

Although this is a well cushioned shoe, on the contrary the ride of the shoe gave sufficient ground feel making it somewhat responsive and yet giving runners a comfortable ride. This is evidence especially when you are running at a moderate to an easy pace run, but putting in some speed to the shoes immediately it feels a tad heavier which is weird giving that it only weighs 10oz. I suspect this is down to the amount of energy absorbed and returned by the midsole, having said that I’m just being picky and is not actually a deal breaker as this is not designed to be a racing flat. Breathability is not a problem for the hot and humid weather in this part of the world as you can see from the pictures below you can clearly see the “open pores”.

Headlamp in the shoe to demonstrate the open mesh.

There are a few areas that I would wish for on an already good shoe. The inability to flex much has thrown in some constrain to the shoes as it gives rigid feel to the shoe and may not necessary work out well for everyone. Some weight can be taken away from the ridiculously cushioned at the achilles area which is really unnecessary and overkill. Finally the width of the forefoot is a bit tight, however you can always up-size the shoe as the ISOFIT will still effectively prevent your feet from sliding around.

My final thought on the shoe. The Saucony Triumph ISO is a decent shoe and it should excel in 3 types of running conditions. First of all, if you are thinking of increasing your mileage on the long run day, the shoe will gives you plenty of cushions keeping your feet away from impact fatigue. Secondly after a fast and furious race be it a road or trail race, it also works very well for your recovery run. Lastly if you are new to running, you won’t go wrong with Saucony Triumph ISO. However, this is not a fast shoe and if you are looking for a PB record breaking or a speed work type of shoes, this is not the shoe for you.

The Triumph ISO will be available at Running Lab sometime in May onwards retailing for RM469.

Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless Review

The usage of Bluetooth-enabled headsets and earbuds are fast gaining popularity amongst runners. Through casual observation of plugged-in runners as I went through my training runs last week at the park, I counted at least half of the peripherals worn were of the wireless variety. The advantage is obvious – less cables flopping around.

I love my music. I believe it has its place in a runner’s kit. The tunes will take away the boredom of a solo run in a looping course. The runner will find it easier to practice pacing with the aid of music. However, some of the reasons why I rarely do so are:

  1. I like to run light and dislike carrying stuff.
  2. Earbuds that fit my problematic ears are impossible to find. I’ve tried Sony (many variety including the version with ear loops), JBL and Yurbuds but they all slip out once I get all sweaty.
  3. The sound quality of “sports buds” aren’t that great. The music are either too tinny or bass-heavy.

With the launch of the award-winning Sport Pulse Wireless (SPW) late last year, the Danish company Jabra has suddenly made a compelling case for me to carry my phone along for some of my workouts. The SPW is essentially a set of Bluetooth (BT) 4.0 earbuds with a built-in electrocardiogram (ECG) accurate Heart Rate Monitor. Jabra commissioned Campbell University in North Carolina, USA to independently verify the performance of the heart rate monitor technology for fitness and active usage. The comprehensive trial included runners on a treadmill and simultaneously tested Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless against a medical ECG machine. The results clearly showed an extraordinary accuracy with a 99.2% correlation. We’ll get to my field test observations shortly.

Before that, here’s the tech spec sheet for those of you techies out there.

Unboxing
The SPW comes in a sturdily constructed box with a magnetic latch. Flip that open and this is what you see.

The earbuds, a clam-shell case and a quick user guide.

Unzip the clam-shell case and here’s what you get.

4 Fitclips, 3 extra sets of EarGels™ and EarWings™ in a selection of sizes. And a short micro USB cable.

Close-up of the EarGels™ and EarWings™

The heart of the SPW lies in the left earbud, identifiable by the little heart icon you see below. There’s also the grey coloured Sport button in the middle which you press to start the tracking.

The heart of the matter.

Readying the SPW
As with all new gear, it’s always best to temper the excitement by first charging the unit. To charge the unit, just pull aside the right side silicon EarWing to expose the micro USB port. Fully charging a unit will take up to 2 hours. While charging, a tiny red indicator will light up. The same light will turn green once the juice is fully topped up.

There you are!

There’s an app for that, unless you’re a Windows Phone user
While the charging takes place, you will want to download the Jabra Sport Life app. You can get the app from iTunes [link] or the Google Play Store [link]. Sorry Windows Phone users – the app’s not available for you. I’m an app hoarder and I can tell you that this app is one of the most loaded fitness app out there. It utilizes your phone’s GPS for distance/pace/time/speed tracking, and reads out real-time customizable key metrics. The app even allows you to set your target pace, heart rate zone or interval training segments. Press the Sport button on the left earpiece and you can get auto coaching feedback. Then there’s the 3-mode fitness test function where you can run your own periodic analyses.

The 3-mode fitness tests are:

  • The Rockport Test – designed to measure your VO2 max level, which gives you a precise measurement on the volume of oxygen you can consume while exercising at your maximum capacity and guidance on how well it rates against your age, weight, and gender.
  • The Orthostatic Heart Rate Test – monitors your current state and helps you understand if you’re overtraining or under stress.
  • The Resting Heart Rate Test – a great way to understand your base fitness level. Over time you can see how your resting heart level is trending.

As you can see, it’s clear that the app was not designed as an after-thought.

On top of that Jabra Sound app [link] which comes free with every SPW purchase via a code redemption. This app complements the SPW by adding the signature Dolby sound to your music amongst many other features such as equalizers and playlist management. All rather impressive, and you can find out more about the app here.

Pairing
This is a simple process of pairing the phone with the SPW, no different from pairing of your other Bluetooth accessories. Just enable Bluetooth on the phone, press the Multi Function button (the middle one on the control) and a voice with confirm your connection. Once connected, you’ll be able to see the battery status of the SPW on your phone as well (see screen shot below, indicator is to the right of the BT one). Now, if you own one of the newfangled phones with NFC, you can connect the two that way too.

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Customizing
Like all other lifestyle tracker apps out there, you’ll be guided through your profile setup, in this case a very quick process.

Next would be selecting the right EarWing and EarGel to fit your ears. The manual recommends the user to test out with all the sizes provided as not only will proper sizing enhance your listening experience and comfort, getting a proper fit will ensure the HR reading is accurate.

Just another step before you head out and that would be to calibrate your HR reading. I was seated when I did this and my HR read 58bpm. Not bad if I may say so :) .

After which you’re pretty much good to go. I was in a rush when I tested the SPW, so I didn’t toy around with the other tracking modes like target pace/HR setting. As mentioned earlier, you could even setup HR Zone Training or Interval Training, as well as your playlist of your choice.

Note: If Strava, MapMyFitness, Runkeeper, and Endomondo are your preferred fitness apps, you’d be happy to know that the SPW works with them too.

The photo below shows how the buds look from the rear. The cord is very light and not too long. In my several sessions with them, it never got in the way of my run despite my attempts at dislodging it – very secure. My first run with them was a short 5K covering a number of training zones, from fat burning to cardio to VO2Max. For that run, I had the phone in my hand. As such the tracking was very accurate against my Garmin’s – from the distance, pace to the HR call-out. In fact whenever the variance of the HR recorded by the Garmin HR chest strap and the Jabra was within +/-3bpm. I was very impressed coming off the first experience.

To put the SPW through more , I made sure I wore them for my box jump drills 2 days later (I didn’t bring them along for the Shape Run as I prefer to race light). Again, the buds stayed put in my ears! You can get pumped up with a kick-ass playlist while you’re doing your weights, plyos, drills and so on. Not to mention having your HR read out to you at regular intervals. This is great stuff.

The 3rd run in the SPW was a mixed experience. I carried the phone in a waist pouch and the BT connectivity was occasionally wonky. This went on for a few kilometers when the buds died on me, its battery completely drained. I suspect the weak battery level was the cause of the unstable connectivity and I’ll be sure to report back after several more runs.

Data Logging
The Sport Pulse Wireless is able to capture a ton of data. Utilizing an accelerometer, it’s able to record what you see and more below. The mapping feature is achieved in conjunction with your phone’s GPS.

Listen, listen, listen!
One of the outstanding features of the SPW, other than the HRM function, is the sound quality. This earbuds have got to be one of the best, if not the best I’ve heard. I’ve dabbled in hi-fi separates some time ago to recognize that. The sound that the SPW dishes out have great separation. Highs doesn’t sound tinny nor wreck your ear drums. Bass is tight and punchy as how it should be. Once burned in, I’ll bet they’ll sound even sweeter. Instruments that get all muddled up in the mix when I listened using other brands are revealed. It has knocked my 3 Sony buds (RM300 and below) and my previous favorite, Griffin, out of the park. It performs better than the JBL too. I’ll admit that it’s the earbuds I use even when I’m not working out.

More running and working out to do then!
It’s only been a week of living with the SPW but I’ve thus far been impressed with it. While I don’t usually listen to music when I’m out running (I believe that at times, the runner needs to connect to and deal with the mental side of running), I don’t totally discount the fact that music does add to the enjoyment of working out, especially on easy and recovery runs or drills. Due to its feature-rich functions, I’ve yet to dig below the surface of what the SPW has to offer and I’ll be sure to do a follow-up post once I’ve bedded in after a few more weeks.

Pros:

  • Very accurate HR readings.
  • Light and unobtrusive.
  • Accompanying apps are well thought out and are feature packed.
  • Great fit, 4 customizable fit.
  • One of the best sounding buds that I’ve listened to.
  • Works with a host of popular fitness apps.
  • Supports NFC on top of the standard BT 4.0.
  • U.S. Military standards for weather, shock, sand and dust protection.
  • Trivia:
    • Jabra is an official performance partner for the ITU World Triathlon Series
    • Jabra has won numerous accolades like the T3 Gold Award, CNet’s Editor’s Choice, Red Dot Mobile Choice – Best Accessory, CES Innovation, and iF Product Design Award.

Cons:

  • Premium pricing could put it above many’s budget. There’s the non-HRM Jabra Sport Rox Wireless which has many of the SPW’s features.
  • Battery life of 5.5 hours could be better.
  • Inconsistent read out of pace when the battery levels are low.

Word of caution: Please exercise caution when plugging in during an outdoor workout. Be always mindful of traffic and other safety threats. The majority of my testing occurred at the KLCC Park where there are high human traffic. I don’t recommend running solo with the ears plugged. Always use your better judgment and never listen at extreme levels of volume.

Disclaimer: The Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless is a review unit courtesy of Jabra Singapore. It retails for RM899 (post-GST) and is now available at all ALL IT Hypermarket Sdn Bhd, epiCentre, Machines, Radioshack and Viewnet Computer Systems around the country. You can learn more about the Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless here.

 

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