Monday, 30 August 2010

Flesh Unwilling - Monday 30th of August, 2010

Before the run my legs felt a little tired from the hike on the weekend (if people are interested, I'm happy to post up some photos from the hike here) but once I started, my legs felt... completely fried. I had picked a route that is mostly downhill at the start, the new variation of the UST to Sai Kung return.

On the right edge, the bridge that I'd just ran across, and straight ahead, the hill that I'd later struggle up.

Down, down, down.

Since my legs were so tired on the way down the hill I decided to cut it short, and omit the middle flat section. This didn't solve all my problems as I struggled up the hill, briefly walking at one point, and stopping at another to take a photo of this guy:

Thanks buddy, I really appreciated the excuse to stop on this super steep section.

The route was quite similar to Wed the 18th.

Wow, what a tough run. Certainly very, very hot conditions made things worse, but despite being only ~20km, the hike on the weekend annihilated my legs. Another day of rest and I should be golden for a run on Wednesday!

Pain is only weakness leaving the body!

~ Joe

The gear that takes me where I want to go

Just thought I'd write a post listing out the gear I run with and the sort of mileage it's currently done. I keep track of all my runs (and some hikes and, more rarely, swims) over on MapMyRun. This means I have an accurate gauge on a lot of my gear!

Asics Gel DS Trainer 15s: 148km
Many will know that I'm a bit of a Asics fanboy, the shape of their shoes, and especially the DS Trainers (this is my fourth pair of this exact model) really suiting my foot. These are currently my favourite shoes, but since I always rotate and don't (normally) plan specific shoes for runs, the Mizunos have ended up with more milage.

Gear Images
Mizuno Wave Rider 12s: 181km
I picked these up at a cheap price as my second shoe in the rotation. I also read that it's a good idea to run in different brands to help avoid injuries. When new, the cushioning was far too much for me, but now they've been beat down a little.

Gear Images
Asics Gel DS Trainer 14s: 782km
My most recently retired DS Trainers these were my hiking shoe and have just been replaced by the Brooks. This pair served solidly including great runs in the Macau International Half Marathon and South China Coast Half Marathon.

Brooks Cascadia 5s: 28km
New in service, I'm planning them to do double duty as both my rugged trail runner and general hiking shoe for the Oxfam Trailerwalker training and event. Brooks has no presence in HK and US distributors are contractually bound not to export. This meant to buy a pair from the US I had to "double ship" them. Still, I bought them at US$72 (without shipping) and the price in Australia was ~AUD$230 (without shipping). No wonder they want to stop people exporting them from the USA!

Gear Images
Skins Full length tights: 289km
Although they don't have much distance on the clock, I wear these religiously post-run for recovery. I have two pairs, and this first pair is seriously worn out and has lost a lot of it's initial compression. The few runs they have been on include both of my previous half marathons and a tonne of distances over 15km.

Gear Images
Skins ICE half tights: 364km
The ICE half tights have done a lot more distance purely for the fact that, while I can't often justify wearing wearing the full length tights for a lunchtime run, if my legs are sore, I'll normally wear the half-tights. Despite losing a lot of their original compression, these have also been assigned double duty, specifically to combat chafe on longer hiking sessions.

Gear Images
Zoot CRx Calf Sleeves: 7km
Brand-new and only out on their first run today. The compression of these is substantially more than the skins, but since they're new it's not really a fair comparison. We'll see how much aid they give over the next couple of hundred kms!

Gear Images
Apple Ipod Shuffle (Gen 2): 1,090km
Ah, a bit of Aural Courage. I am constantly surprised how much distance my iPod has done, it regularly taking a beating in wet and/or hot conditions. So far I've only experienced (water related - I think) troubles with it on one occasion!

Nathan X-Mutation Hydration Belt: 104km
Another fairly recent addition, aside from allowing me to carry water while running in hot hot conditions, the primary reason for running with this is to carry my camera. Quite comfortable and easy to use, the only drawback so far is the 600mL bottle which seems like not enough water when facing a 90min+ run. Expect a review on this coming son

Gear Images
Pentax Optio W90 Compact Digital Camera: 125km
The new compact digital camera. Already proven itself in super sweaty, torrential rain and underwater conditions, this camera is the primary drive for keeping this blog up to date!

Gear Images
Casio Pro Trek Tough Solar: at least 3,783km
My watch. Worn just about everyday for over three years now, it's solar powered, has a compass, barometer and thermometer and is as tough as I am.

Other gear worth mentioning:
- Asics breathable run hat: perfect in the sun and rain, tucks in the back of my shorts nicely when not needed.
- Thorlos Experia Socks: Best high-end socks I've found. Buy a pair and see if they make a difference for you.
- Injinji Performance Toe-socks: Not recommended, see Friday the 27th of August's post as to why.

It's worth noting here that the distances only include things I've logged in MapMyRun. For some things, like my running shoes, that's all I use them for, and the DS Trainer 15s wouldn't even have walked 10km outside that distance, other things, like the full length skins, as noted, have done most of their duty not while running.

I guess I'll try to get together some reviews for some of this gear. If anybody is particularly interested in a particular piece of gear, let me know and I'll review that first!

I'd be very keen to know what other people run with, and how well your gear works for you. If anybody wants to write a review or even just a list like this of their essentials, let me know. I'd love to have your input!

See you on the trails!

Friday, 27 August 2010

Clumsy Ten Toes - Friday 27th of August, 2010

When I ordered the Brooks Cascadias from the US, the store I was buying them from had some great deals on nice socks. I was never really a believer in expensive socks, writing them off as "for the rich" only, but after my mum sent me a pair Thorlos Experia, I became a convert (similar story for compression gear actually). Anyway, since I was already getting the shoes shipped over, I took advantage of the deals they had and picked up a couple of different socks including a pair of Injinji Performance Socks, with their main selling point being individual toes on the socks. So, the Injinji's got a maiden run today.

Today I ran what is probably my favourite route. Through the jungle along the trails, down to Po Lam, and back up over and around the hill to UST. The same route as on the 12th and 9th of Aug.

Emerging into the bright sun.

I can't say the Injinji performed very well on the trails. They didn't bunch up or bite between my toes at all, but seemed to be made of a material that slipped around in the shoe a bit. This meant that I didn't feel as sure-footed as usual, and felt like I was sliding around a little. I probably won't wear them for running on the trails again. I'll give them a chance on the roads, but can't see them one-upping the Thorlos there.

Old concrete steps

After coming down these steps I managed to drop my waterbottle twice (!) on the narrow section after this. Suddenly I was wishing that the drinking part had some sort of cover!

Impressive clouds, but they didn't offer any aid today, only forming out at sea.

The little track that links the dead-end roads, and allows me to stretch out the elevation gain over a longer distance, making things a little easier!

All-in-all a very hot run. Just before starting up the incline out of the valley I was feeling pretty beat, wondering if I'd make the full hill, but I just tried to relax and keeping peddling. I was pretty thankful for a quick break to snap a photo here and there though! I'm not sure how well the stopping to take photos will mesh with my desire for good times when the weather gets good enough for me to push the pace, but I suppose I'll cross that bridge when I come to it!

Hiking tomorrow out on Hong Kong's MacLehose Trail. Should I include photos from that on the blog? See you on the trails!


Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Testing conditions - Monday 23rd of August, 2010

Having received them the Friday before, it was finally time to take my new Brooks Cascadia 5s out on a run. They looked big and goofy compared to my Asics Speed-machines and the sole was about twice as thick. On my feet, at first they felt like big, heavy boats but by the end of the run I didn't notice it at all. Expect a full report on them after I've laid down a good few kms.

When I left UST it was bright and hot and I was preparing myself for another hot slog.

Down the stairs towards the HKUST beach.

Fungus Humongous.

The beach. A fair bit of rubbish around and no shark nets, not an ideal swimming location.

Along the beach a little and across a little stream (note: the Cascadias are not ideal for rock hopping unless cinched down tight) I scrambled to the start of my seaside, jungle trail.

Oh... this is a bit more overgrown than I remember. At least there's not hundreds of spiders across the trail this time!

Ah, that's the trail, down there!

Trying to watch my feet as the trail was quite rocky and uneven, I was very thankful for my hat which protected my face many a time. Booooom. What was that? Nevermind probably just a boat or something. Man I so wish this dodging and weaving would finish.

And it did. But be careful what you wish for, I found myself in fields of (at least) waist high grass. This is one of the less dense sections. No point looking down now, couldn't see my feet if I wanted to.

Boooooooom! Okay, that one was definitely thunder but it's still bright and sunny here. As I continued on the trail wound around and under many trees, often passing tiki-torches with red cloth tied around them. Bizarre ritual? And I came to a little stream.

Awesome stream... and the perfect place to test my waterproof camera in the field for the first time! Apologies for the blurry middle photo, I'll take another next time I'm down there.

My first few attempts resulted in blurry nothingness but aiming it at the bottom of a rock got me a blurry photo of something. A few photos later and I had a couple of nice shots of these dudes!

Boooooom... BOOOM! Okay, that thunder is really close now. Better get a move on. As I left the little stream, fine rain started to fall, but luckily the trail turned into an awesome semi-covered track complete with stream crossings (rock hopping) and great views.

Uhh. Those clouds don't look super inviting... closer inspection:

Time to mooooooove!

And when I reached the climb back up to UST the rain proper started:

At least the shoes get a good test in super wet conditions as well as hot and dry!

At around 7km, this route is shorter than my normal lunchtime jaunts, but the slow going through the scrub and grass means if anything, it takes a little longer.

Good bit of elevation gain at the end there!

If I can move a little faster along the trail, I'll try to combine this path with the backroad I ran last Wednesday making an all round great trail.

The Cascadias held great on everything except wet tiles as I was walking back to the change rooms, and after tightening the laces more than I do my road shoes, they felt responsive enough on the trails. Only a bit of true distance in them will reveal their weaknesses and strengths.

See you on the trails!

Monday, 23 August 2010

Sunday Roast - Sunday 22nd of August, 2010

Midday isn't really the best time to run in tropical conditions. But I left home at 2.30pm... I should be fine, right? Right?!

My first weekend run in a couple of weekends, I decided to make the most of it and check out both the park a little north of where I normally run and the area around Olympic MTR that a friend normally runs in.

I slipped into my full length skins compression tights, put on a new pair of socks and grabbed my new(ish) Nathan water bottle belt (it's done about 85km so far but I reckon I should run at least 100km with it before reviewing it). I was ready for a serious run. Not ready enough apparently.

The view from the waterfront, running north along the eastern side of the harbour.

My legs felt tired (despite not running the two previous days - lack of sleep I'd guess) and the heat certainly wasn't helping but the real killer was a strong headwind coming off the harbour. I was almost relieved to retreat into the urban canyons.

Interesting tree root.

Not for long however, as the heat beat down. By the time I made it out to the west side of Kowloon I was super hot and realised that the 600ml bottle in my belt just wouldn't cut it.

Going up? Perfect feature for panoramic photography!

I sat down here for about 3mins to mull things over. This is about 45-50mins into the predicted 15km (turned out to be 18km).

From here I could head straight down to TST and round to home or I could head out to the West Kowloon waterfront promenade, where I was hoping to find a drinking tap. Water won as I'd already completely drained my bottle, so made my way out west.

The waterfront promenade. Inhabited by people riding bikes who've never learnt and people with expensive cameras taking reels of photos of their girlfriends. Apologies for the wonky panorama, I was a little wonky myself by this stage.

No drinking fountain here, but two 500ml bottles from a vending machine later I had a full bottle and 400ml in my stomach. I was feeling recharged. Weaving through the crowds on the way home the run had one surprise left. For the last 2km the headwind had become tortuous making me really earn it.

The run turned out to be 18km not 15km as expected, which I was a little thankful for as it made my time seem not as slow as I thought it was!

Not much elevation gain here... and a swim! I guess this section is the boardwalk over the harbour.

Next time I hope to make it up to Boundary St, so I can claim a complete loop of 'old Kowloon'.

Run on!

Location : Clear Water Bay Rd,

Thursday, 19 August 2010

And the rain came down - Thursday 19th of August, 2010

I finally got my run in the rain! Considering the bright sunshine at around 11am that gave way to torrential downpours at 12.45pm, I was thinking to call this post "switch and bait", but that doesn't really describe things.

Upon emerging from the sports complex I found light rain. Good! Better than bright sun.  And the drops got bigger.  And more frequent. And soon enough it was a serious tropical storm:

Instant puddles ~2mins since the rain started. This is the view across the same bridge as last Thursday's post.

I changed my planned route to something semi-paved since the trails would have become muddy messes:

Good fun, but not ideal in my road shoes. Also: I've got three feet!

Pity the rain didn't last for long, but in it's wake, beautiful clear vistas:

Clear scenes down to Po Lam;.

I ran along the valley floor and at my normal uphill slog decided to run a little further and take "the hard" way.

At the mid-hill round-a-bout I took my normal back roads and jungle path route, finishing what was a quite relaxed, enjoyable run.

"There's no such thing as bad weather, just soft people"

See you on the trails!


Location : New Clear Water Bay Rd,

Alpha Dog - Wednesday 18th of August, 2010

Just before hitting lunchtime I pulled up Google Maps to have a little scout around for new potential routes finding a new road directly down the hill to Bak Sha Wan. Awesome, I love running new routes, although the uphill will be a killer. So merrily down the hill I trundled, very pleased to find my road left the small village behind and wound through the Jungle:

Heading into dense foliage. Awesome.

At the bottom of the hill it went through a village and along some backroads before coming out at a round-a-bout that my "out-and-back" route normally passes through. Running along, I noticed a new looking footpath alongside a waterway. Since we're in exploratory mode, let's see where this goes:

Around the corner and along the river. Not too bad, I thought, I wonder if this crosses the river somewhere and I can come back along the other side. Abruptly, my trail ends and someone's built a shack, claiming the path as their front yard. I can see a little trail continue on the other side there, maybe I can just sneakkkkkkk... oh god... three big dogs come racing out of the shack, forming a semi-circle in front of me. I puff my self up, and hold my arms wide and high to make myself appear a little bigger, and slowly back away while growling a little bit. The dogs don't seem very intimidated however and leap closer gnashing their jaws and bite the air less than a foot from me. Maybe if I back away far enough, they'll happily defend their marked territory? No such luck as they keep pace with me. Finally some weathered old man appears from the shack and calls the dogs off, apologising. You'll have to forgive me for not snapping a photo of the dogs (given the circumstance) but rest assured, the scene rather resembled this one:

Just like this but with 3X as many claws!

Adrenaline high, I decided to turn for home instead of running a little further along the road, and open getting back to UST, I still had a little fuel in the tank so decided to explore a nearby trail I'd seen but not yet taken. Just behind the bus stop at HKUST there's a path down the hill and under the bridge, this leads down a lot of stairs (more than I remembered), past the waterfall and to the beach.

HKUST's waterfall. I'm willing to wager that very few of the students here have actually seen. Most probably not even knowing it exists and not exploring the random stairs heading down the hill.

Ants marching straight up a wall. Carrying eggs?

About three quarters of the way down the hill (although I remembered it being closer) there's a paved turn-off to the right, I was hoping this was a shortcut back to UST, possibly near the accommodation somewhere.

As you can see the path (barely visible on the right hand side there) was quite over grown, but I was still optimistic.

After a short stint along the trail it wound around a spur and... stopped. At a grave. Damn... Not having nearly enough energy at this stage to run up the stairs, I was relegated to walking back up the stairs before a short jog back to the Sports Centre.

All-in-all a rather eventful run, even if the end was a little bit of a let down!