Saturday, April 23, 2011

FatBird Weekender: Muddy...Wet...Hot!

Facebook Photos from Chin, Terry, DO, Mike, Kim Lai, Ronnie, Tick Hock

It was an outing we have been looking forward to do...a running tour of the Lorong Halus Wetlands in the North East. Thanks to SgRunners' Kayano, Barefoot Pua, Tekko along with Ponggol Runners who have meticulously seeked out and recce'd these very virgin trails and rocky wetlands, that the 100 odd runners from Team FatBird, SgRunners, Ponggol Runners and other running groups could gather for the joint exploration.

By 7am, the large group of runners gathered at the Kovan bus depot was already providing the buzz to the awakening heartland in the North-East. A short route briefing followed by the introduction of the marshals from Ponggol Runners and SgRunners - thanks guys and gals, and then the clicking and flashing of the cameras from the running photographers. These were the running heroes for such scenic group runs, who are competent runners armed with rather heavy camera sets, running up and down, way ahead such that we runners could have our trials and tribulations captured on film - these photo albums are contributions from some of these running photographers. Thanks.

With heavy rainfall in the past few days, the trails have become water-logged, soggy, muddy and rocky (due to the top-soil being washed away)...added a new dimension to the word challenge :) The runners were initially trying to do some toe-dancing, skipping and even gymnastics to avoid the muddy grounds, but eventually, decided that it was better to let the shoes take the dirt and soil in their strides. Those who came with trail shoes were delightfully testing out their gear and were busy exchanging notes on how each of their NB MT101 & Trails, Vibrams, Asics, Adidas, Nike Trails, etc were faring. Those in their pristine white-based shoes were overhead talking about how they should have worn their trail or worn-off shoes as advised in the event invite :)

The 8km of trail to the New Water Park really made us work and sweat, and it was not made any easier with the blazing-ly good weather, I mean the hot morning sun. We were glad to come onto nice, dry, clean tarmac if only for that small stretch. We had a nice photo and water stop before moving on along the scenic stretch towards the dam overlooking Coney Island.

Much excitement and laughter came about when we visited the old ferry terminal...I could almost feel the hustle and bustle of those early days when that must be a busy pier where ships and boats anchored for loading/unloading of goods and people.

The group brightened up when we heard we were not going back by the trails, but instead would try the new Ponggol Park Connector...whispers of Popeyes and Isotonic Drinks were heard as many of us were feeling hungry and thirsty by then. There was nary a shade as we progressed through the Park Connector. The sun was beating down on us ferociously, but yet the spirits of the runners were high...any opportunities to go into the shades of toilets and under the bridges were welcomed with smiles. There was even an imaginary 'mist' station set up under the bridge to simulate the cool effects of being in the shade. The Ponggol Runners and those who live near Sengkang went off on their way back, while the rest of us continued on towards Ponggol Park and the Serangoon Park Connector to Kovan.

By the time we hit Serangoon Park Connector, effects of water and glycogen stores depletion were being felt by the runners, and we were only glad to be just 2km away from civilization (places with food and water). Some could not wait and took the 'express' route which somehow allowed them to reach back to Kovan for the early MacD Big Breakfast and kopi-O with laksa or mee-pok in the food court. Bubble-Tea never tasted so good.....with water, sugar and carbo pearls :)

What made this Holiday Weekender enjoyable and special was the coming together of the few running groups to organize and share the experience of group running and exploration. It can be summed up with rough rough rough....wet wet hot hot! Thanks for the chatter, company and comradeship...till the next Team FatBird: Weekender Run Series event.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Scenic Run @ Bedok Reservoir Park

FatBird Photo Slideshow
Photo Credit FatBirds CK CHIN, AC LEONG, JOHNNY

As I was about to leave for Bedok Reservoir Park for a meet-up with Minister George Yeo and FatBird Runners for an evening run, the skies looked cloudy and threatened to rain. I decided then it will be good to put the newly acquired NB MT101 Trail Shoes through its 'baptism of fire' at the sandy trails of the 4.3km Bedok Reservoir.

There was quite a large group of runners already at The Park when I arrived. After waiting out for the passing showers in my car for 10min, all was clear and the sun greeted us soon enough. Spotted some of Minister's friends who were there earlier and chatted with them about how far we might want to go. A number of FatBird friends also joined in the party, and with all the catching up, we didn't have to wait long before he arrived.

Minister Yeo was happy to see The FatBird Runners, and even had his FatBird Running jersey on for good measure. We had a few good photos at 'The Berlin Wall' and 'By The Reservoir' before getting down to business. The first 4.3km loop was covered with ease at about 6min/km pace, interspersed with some light converation about our running friends and kakis, as well as the upcoming running events. It was great to have the running photographers from Team FatBird take photos and videos along the way, making it interesting each time we were asked to wave or cheer.

Before we could finish the first lap, we were already asked to go for a second...seemed like the pace went well, with sufficient reserves for another 3-4km or so. We were admiring the scenery as well as ackowledging other runners and park users who were out in full force for some evening exercise. The shuffling of feet on the sand and gravel made quite a din, although it gave us a good beat to run to as a group.

At 7ounces, the MT101 felt so light that at times I did not feel them at all. The upper and heel counter were soft to my liking. Although I did not particualrly like the dark green colour, they look natural in trail, sand and muddy conditions. There were some puddles of water along the wet sandy surface, which posed no problems at all for the MT101.

Minister Yeo, who is so familiar with the route and distance of what is his regular training area exclaimed...'1.8km To Go!'. With that, we perked up with a new wave of energy, ran tall, knowing that the finish is not too far away. Minister's friends and the FatBird Runners were all doing well and were able to keep up with the rather fast pace of just above 6min/km. With 500m to go, we pumped up the pace a tad, and went for a strong finish, to rousing cheers and applause. Handshakes went out for a good run, followed by a 'Victory Pose' with the beautiful sunset by the Reservoir Park as backdrop.

It was an enjoyable workout for all, followed by dinner at a nearby food centre where we were treated to some good local fare...of course with great conversations about sports massage, tai-chi, running form, and possibilities of progression on to half marathons and then full marathons. We look forward to do such runs again, possibly after the busy April-May period. We would like to thank Minister Yeo and friends for inviting us, and for Team FatBird Runners who came down to join in the fun. As for the MT101, I will look forward to challenging it to more local trail terrain, and even on road and tarmac where I have heard that they performed pretty decent as well. Till the next FatBird Weekender...

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Form: From Heel to Forefoot Strike

Found a nice video which illustrates a smooth transition from heel-striking to forefoot running, for more efficient and injury-free running.

The interesting point of pulling the heel higher (or leading with the knees as in ChiRunning) is to encourage landing on a bent knee. When heel striking, the knees tend to be straight and getting the impact upon landing, whilst a bent knee allows the knee to work as a more efficient shock absorber.

Minimalist footwear also play an important part in this journey to help the runner adopt a more natural way of running (on the forefoot), before progressing on to be able to do it with normal shoes, once the skill is learnt :)

Run Right, Run Safe!

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Barefoot Training: Nike Free Run+ 2

Went for a media preview of another new entrant into the realm of barefoot running, or barefoot training, this time from Nike. Touted as a lightweight performance shoe incorporating the concepts of barefoot running with ample protection, the Nike Free Run+ 2 looks an interesting contender.

With the testimonies and sharing of experiences from Singapore's top distance runners and athletes, including an expert opinion from the podiatrist, the audience at the HortPark was all ready to put on the Free Run+ 2 for some simple 'landing' & 'form' tests. The design and colours of the shoes was notably attractive and would have no problems attracting runners, gym-goers, walkers and anyone who wants that sporty, healthy and youthful look.

We were taken through 3 stations of 'feet-on' practicals which was quite an interesting way of try-testing the shoes. Nike product staff and athletes were on hand to take the testers through the design, technology and features of the shoe. I managed to jump and bound a little along the pavement as well as on grass, and was quite happy with the cushion and support the shoe provided, in spite of it being 'angled' as a barefoot or minimalist-type training shoe.

Many of those who have had a chance to run in the predecessor, Nike Free Run+, expressed that the shoe will be good for up to 10km, but new runners will best use it progressively, first by walking, then short distances of 2-3km, before progressing on to the longer distances - very similar to the way we transition from normal cushioned trainers to minimalist running shoes.

The softer upper did give it a snug feel yet not overly constrained by the extra layer of protection included with this new version. At 8.9ounces (Mens US10), it is certainly no lightweight compared with the other brands of minimalist or barefoot shoes. That could be due to the extra heel cushion and protection offered in the Run+ 2. Then again, although these shoes can be used for races of up to 10km, they are probably best suited for training, warm-up/cool-down sessions and gymwork.

Overall, a tantalizing proposition for barefoot training with sufficient protection and traction for the new runner and experienced athlete alike to develop and maintain good running form. Still, it will be good to take it for a ride of at least 5km to get a better feel of the promise to RUN FREE!

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