Sunday, September 30, 2012

New Shoes - TNF Women's Double Track

I have several brands of trail shoes. I have tried Asics, Salomon and TNF, and I mix them around for runs, depending on the distance and my mood.

I had a pair of TNF Sentinel which I won from a previous TNF race, and it was surprisingly a nice pair of shoes for the trail, with good support for my arches. I was looking for a replacement, googled some ideas, and came upon a fellow runner's blog about a new model from TNF. So here's another ultra runner who used to wear the Sentinel and tried a new pair, enough persuasion for me to check it out when I was in Chicago.

The TNF Women's Double Track  is an award winning trail shoe, providing structured cushioning support while maintaining a lightweight body. It weighed about 272g per shoe and had a very roomy toebox. The shoe did not feel constricted and I felt like I was running with my normal road shoes (eg. Asics GT or Kayano). By comparison, my other pair is the Salomon Crossmax Guidance (structured/ stability), which reportedly is 300gm per side (to be fair, they have their pluses too). The Double Track had a very cushy tongue and heel cradle (it felt snug, like the Asics Kayano), and a mesh front with a couple of drainage holes near the toe area to rid water quickly (should you step into puddles).

I took the Double Track on a maiden run. It was light enough for the tarmac, and snug enough for the trail. I started off with a loose lacing, and my feet slid as I went into the trail. After tightening the laces, I was a lot more in control. The grip was ok - but then again, it was a dry trail.

The run turned into a mud-slosh when the downpour hit. Oh might as well, a chance for me to test the shoes in the wet trail. They were lightweight to begin with, so they did not feel too heavy even when totally soaked. The front drainage holes also helped in relieving the water inside the shoes. However, they had no grip on wet down-sloped granite covered with algae. Trail runners in Singapore would understand that terrain - huge slabs of granite on an incline, covered with a layer of green moss and algae, and incredibly slippery when wet. Otherwise, the traction from the shoes was fine on the trails and other rough rock surfaces, even in the rain.

The other downside of the shoes was the soft mesh toebox. I guess it is a tradeoff between weight, protection, and responsiveness. The ability to flex our toes and respond quickly to the terrain means that the toebox area cannot be too stiff (eg. road shoes vs trail shoes, Double Track vs Crossmax). As such, I could feel rocks and stones on the sides if I stepped into a messy bunch of them. I am sure as a run gets longer, and my legs more tired out, I would end up losing my posture, strides and control of where my steps go. That meant that I am bound to kick into more rocks, which is not good with a softer toebox.

Nonetheless, I was happy with the shoes. First run, 26 - 27km of dry road, dry and wet trails, and I had no abrasion or hotspots whatsoever. The arch support worked well too (no discomfort is good news). All in, it is a superb pair for soft trails, eg. MR loops, and 20 - 30km distances. I will try the shoes again for a better sense of the 'rock-kicking' impact, before deciding if they can go on an ultra.

Back in the Humidity

Chicago is not called the "Windy City" for nothing. Despite temperatures of 15-18 degC, the wind chill factors were enough to cut through my micro-fleece (lesson: research more on the place before packing), which was the only warm jacket that I brought. I was ignorant of the 'wind' until I arrived. Brilliant...

So after a few days enjoying the cool weather, I was back and blasted by the heat in Singapore.

Did a short recovery run on Tues morning, like 50min up and down Rifle Range Road. Legs started off light, then became weights after 30min.

Went down to Safra and ran around Canterbury with Alber on Thurs, about 12km. Ok, decent.

On Saturday, I tried out my brand new TNF shoes (I will blog about that separately). Felt in form and aided by the cool weather, I went from BT-MR-Zhenghua-DairyFarm MTB route. It was about 26 - 27 km, of which the last 4km was a sudden downpour. It was one of those catchment area rainfalls, coming down strong and hard. In no time, the trail was transformed into a teh-tarik-orange mud pool. At many parts, there was no where to step but right into the puddles, with no clue of how deep it might be. Most of them were feet or ankle-deep. After a while, I gave up trying to circumvent the waters (conserving the new shoes was futile). There is something about running in the rain, in the trail (very important - not roads, but trail), that makes one feel alive. Like a child told not to go out and play in the rain, this is like a rebellious streak at work. :)

Sunday was spent on a supposedly last long run with friends (before the TNF race comes up in two weeks' time). I ran to MR and met them inside along the way, then back out again to Zhenghua, up the park connector for a distance, u-turned and retraced the route. I got it wrong and continued towards the Ranger Station for a water refill, instead of towards Jelutong Tower. It was a good mistake anyway because by the last 1 km, I was very low on sugar and energy. Glad to make it back and end the run. 24km. Starving. Iced chocolate milk to the rescue.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Travelling Runs

Lots of things happened in the past two weeks, and I was grateful for a couple of runs to clear my head.

Did the same BT-MR route twice last weekend, and then I was off to Chicago for a few days.

Managed to get only 1 run done while I was there - about 12km along the Downtown lakefront (shoreline). It was a very long stretch of shoreline that linked a couple of parks and residential areas together, and looked like it could extend for quite a bit. I heard it was about 18mi long one way (~28-29km), would have been nice if I had more time. .... Then again, it was rather boring as well, simply going up and down along the coast with not much to see (Imagine ECP extended 3 times one way).

Through my travels, the commonly found running spots in every city tend to be along an extended coastline, or around a river/ lake, or some huge water bodies. While I have since realised that I do not much enjoy those routes, they do make for plan-less, safe and no-brainer runs. No need to figure out directions, just go and u-turn where appropriate. There would be fellow runners, walkers, cyclists and water-coolers (!) along the routes for company. 

In my oft-garang-overly-enthused states, I have gone out running/ jogging in temperatures ranging from 0 degC to the 20s degC. On snow, slush, sand and tarmac. It was kinda fun layering and experimenting with my running gear (I was often the over-dressed runner around...) and taking in the sounds and sights. I see what the locals are wearing, and learn about interesting gear that never feature in the running scene here in Singapore.

The rare few occasions when I had to hit the treadmill in the gyms, it was a pure mental torture. I'm convinced that running on the treadmill takes out the feeling and experience of 'living' that running outdoors provided. Nothing like getting the cold air smack me in the face, waking me up instantly. Or breathing in the cool, crisp freshness of the morning dew and plants. Or listening to the rhythmic crunch of snow-slush under my shoes (never mind that my runners were white-coloured and not waterproof).

That pair of running shoes is the first thing that goes into my luggage each time I pack. They take me places. :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Second Warrior Weekend

The incessant cough was still around last week. Due to an unfortunate combination of work and coughs, I again was unable to get in any runs for the entire week. But! at least this past weekend was better than last week.

I managed the full loop on Saturday. The trail was surprisingly empty. Many runners must have stayed away to keep their energies for the Army Half Marathon the next day. I did not sign up. It just did not feel worthwhile paying to run 21km, especially since I had no time targets whatsoever and also far from any podium finishing.

On Sunday, we revisited the 32km route from last weekend. I decided to use my supposedly 'race day' shoes - my Salomon XA Pro 5. My word, they weighed and felt a tonne! Perhaps I had been so used to my Salomon Crossmax and TNF trail shoes, both of which were lighter, that I felt the drag on my legs. My quads had to work harder to lift my legs, and I had to concentrate on a proper running posture rather than shuffling and stomping my feet on the ground. Anyhow, by 10km, my legs were totally in fatigue. Another 22km to go, up and down, and up and down!

Despite the shoes, I was in better shape than last weekend. I could still run after the Golf Link and the remaining 5km. Last week, I was pretty much walking on low-batt by that time.

My friends were doing very well with their training plans and conditioning. Everyone completed the distance in better condition than the weeks before. I am so proud of and inspired by them all!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Our Weekend Warrior-ing

For the past two weekends, I tried to complete back to back long runs. Not as long as some of my fanatical friends, but ranging from 20-30km each.

Two weekends ago, I managed my usual 22-23ish km out-and-back route on Sat, followed by 30km on Sun with my friends who were training very hard for TNF and HK100. My waterbag bladder was leaking and within 20min, my shorts were dripping wet, straight into my socks. By the end of the run, my feet were like in a goldfish pond. Everyone finished the run. So very proud of my friends at the strong base that they were building up, consistently over the weeks. Doing very well!

And then I must have over-ran, aka ran too much, over-pushed. I fell sick for a week, in between flu-ish, shivers and hot, and coughs. So I stopped running for 5 full days, a record. The aches and temperatures went away, but not the cough. :( 

When I attempted to run this last Sat, it was anything but easy. It should have been a nice run with fresh legs, but no. It was lethargic, and I did not finish my usual route. Cut short somewhere in MR and ran about 2h+. I reckoned it was 16km. Popped two panadols max that day and drugged myself with cough syrup.

Sunday was a lot better. I had a new hydration bladder (the inner waterbag piece) and new cool-dry socks. We planned a new route for 32km. Incorporated a 4km loop around Durian Loop, and I brought them to Wallace Education Ctr for pitstop. It was a different and tougher route, having more slopes and tricky tree roots. The weather was hot and I was so near to cramping. The last few km I just hobbled and jogged along. I only ate one Stinger waffle and was starting to feel energy-less by then. Again, everyone was able to complete the route despite the pain.Very encouraging!