Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sabah Adventure Challenge : A Note Before The Race

5 DAYS TO GO TILL THE START OF SABAH ADVENTURE CHALLENGE 2013...and course director Claus Pedersen and Rudy Boyou survey the day 1 route for ultra trail runners...day 1 will see runners cover 31 kilometers over a 2200 altitude gain race course out of Mesilau, covering a mix of jungle trails, village roads, and some of the steepest climbs around in the Kundasang valley...55 of the best trail runners take on Sabah Adventure Challenge 2013 whilst 25 adventure racing teams will take on 150 kilometers of mountain biking and orienteering over the course of 3 days... · Monday, March 25 at 9:12am
My heart is beating fast when I saw the description above on Monday, March 25. Fast forward and it is ONE day before the race. Yes, this (the photo above from A. Rahim) is one of the actual route that will be taken by myself and the other 54 runners in the multi-day 75km race. There will not be any losers and only winners in this race. Most of them has raced Sabah Adventure Challenge before. I myself has raced it in 2011 in the Adventure section (150km) but deemed DQ (DisQualified -despite finishing the whole distance) as the team split on second day after CP3. 
This race will be my chance to get to finish what i failed in 2011.
This time around, I will have my dearest wife to join me on this journey. Also my three close buddies Azly Bandit, Kam Kasturie and Juliana Ali. 
Race Expectations
This is a multi-day race where the total distance is 75km. The breakdown is about 30-30-15. While the distance itself is not a killer if taken from a day-to-day basis, it is more of the mental thoughts of waking up the next day to race again. Anyone would rather finish the 75km in "one race by itself", which is why "The Most Beautiful Thing" TMBT was created by Sabah Adventure Challenge company. SAC is in it's 13th year installment and it has grown from a domestic focused race to a globally known race attracting participation from all over the world. It is a reunion of sort of many of these racers. Knowing the format of the race and my one sole experience racing it, I have mentally prepared wifey for:

  • rough terrains;
  • hot weather, that might end up with torrential rain, then possibly more hot weather;
  • elevation that will break your heart;
  • river crossing that is waist deep;
  • endless trails that leads to nowhere;
  • possibility of arguments and fights because we do not agree with each other; and
  • Waking up on Day 2 and 3 and repeating the same thing, again.
Of course, there are good points too, that I made her see and to:
  • appreciation of beautiful Sabah outback;
  • appreciation of the simple way of life for the Sabahan folks in the interior;
  • at least spending Good Friday and Easter Sunday with me (a non-Christian) and there will be church along the way if she wants to sit down for an hour to listen to the mass on Holy Sunday;
  • a chance of a lifetime to experience this together - should she decide not to do it anymore after 2013; and
  • opportunity to come face to face with a wild tiger.
Yeah, don't worry. There are no tigers in Sabah.
Maybe just a confused native. Photo credit - Doc Dev
Our Expectations

This race was committed almost 10 months ago when it first opened for registration and the air tickets were actually bought before the confirmation for the race happened. So, having to deal with missing the kids during the school holiday, me and wifey will be dedicating this race to the both of them - one day, when they grow up (and able to understand the crazy things we do) they will look back and will "want to do what Pa and Ma did". It is about building a lifestyle for the family. 
Then things got a bit complicated when wifey was involved in an accident while preparing for Powerman 2012. We know that SAC 2013 would be at jeopardy if she do not recover on time. As wifey are made up of "determination and all things sweet", she got back and was given a certificate of fitness (by me) after the comeback race at Brooks 21. We both know it is ALL SYSTEM GO.
Our expectations is just to finish the race. This will officially be wifey's first adventure offroad trail race (as she say married to me is an adventure by itself, but that's not counted, she said). My expectation is to be able to finish the race with her. Yes. She was there when i had the lowest health point and picking myself up - and likewise, now that she is recovering, this race is for her. 
If you are on twitter, follow me at @tristupe for race updates. I am not sure if I can get any sort of data plans in the interior of Sabah, but I know GPRS is all it need for Twitter to function (at 26k modem speed).
Thank you Sponsors!
I would like to say a big thank you to 2ndSkin for the apparels that I will wear, Skechers for the shoes, Garmin Malaysia for the tracking device and Hammer Nutrition for the advices and fuel. 
2ndSkin Team Blue for racing Day 1, 2 and 3. Bottom for after race engagement
Sponsored GoTrail (Blue) and the GoTrail (Pink) I got for wifey
Sponsored Garmin Fenix (right) from AECO and self-bought 910XT for wifey
Hammer Nutrition items - unfortunately not enough to share with Wifey
And yes, expect Race Reports and more reviews coming soon! 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Garmin Fenix : UnBoxing

I have been a user of Garmin products even before I was part of the collaboration between Team 2ndSkin and Garmin Malaysia. Those of you that know me has seen me with my Garmin eTrek Vista when racing. Yes, that Candy Phone-like device that picks up Satellite signal even when submerged (momentary) in water. 
Notice the big huge thing on my right shoulder? Yeap, that's the Garmin Vista eTrex Vista HCx
Things took a turn better when i invested in a Garmin 910XT, which is smaller in size and records all vital and route/track taken. It weight maybe 1/10 of the Vista and serves it's function well.
In Come The Fenix
I was excited about Fenix as soon as it was launched about a year ago. The claimed of 50hrs battery was just too good to be true and it was an ultra-runner/athlete dream come true. When Team 2ndSkin announced the collaboration with Garmin Malaysia, we were each given a Garmin device as part of the collaboration. It is obvious to which one i jumped in since I already owned the 910XT.
*Applause* FENIX! *Applause*
Unboxing
I have taken a whole new approach to unboxing products and going the video way seems to the most efficient use of social media and to narrate the first impression and to show what comes with the standard package. 

The standard package for Fenix comes with:
  • The watch;
  • cable charger;
  • electrical wall charger and attachment plugs; and
  • Quick Start Manual
Love the stickers that came with the Watch
Unlike the 910XT that comes with the Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) and the ANT+ Dongle. Garmin has made the cheststrap HRM an optional item and the unit sync with the computer using cable. 
Tadaa!
Registering Your Garmin
It is important to register the Garmin you bought for both support and warranty purposes. Also, most software and firmware updates can only be done using the Garmin website. Registering is simple and only requires you to hook the Fenix up with the supplied cable.
Different from the clamp-type on 910XT
Unit will hold in the clip
The left side of the watch where one part of the clip will sit in securely.
The position of the charging clip relative to the watch
I have tried to link the unit using the ANT+ Sensor from 910XT with the watch and the computer and it doesn't work. Fenix only "talks" to other ANT+ compatible devices such as Power meter (biking), heart rate monitor, temperature sensor and footpod. So, if you are like me, gotten excited that you "can link the watch up wirelessly", don't bother.
The ANT Sensor option
And the 910XT ANT+ dongle
Having said that, the syncing via USB cable works superbly fine. The Fenix works as a "Mass Storage Device" meaning it will show up in your computer as a storage or drive. This allow for easy  viewing and deleting of the saved tracks.
USB Charging and Sync-ing via cable works superb
Once you have hooked the watch using the USB cable, go to mygarmin.com. If you do not have an account, signing up is free and fast. Once you are signed up and logged in, go to MyDashboard and you will see an option to register.
Note the "Free Space : 22.5MB" which showed the unit to be a Mass Storage Device
 You can only "Update" the device (I highly recommend it) after you register. So, click on the "Register Now" button and follow the screen instruction.
Key in the serial number. It is found behind the watch.
Done!
The instruction to check for software or firmware update is also on the screen. If you noticed the "Whats next", it prompt you to go check for potential updates. The supplied Garmin Fenix comes with Firmware version 2.5.
To reap the full benefit, update!
The instructions are easy and in no time (dependent on your internet connection though), the software/firmware will be transferred to your Fenix and it will autoload and update.
Always a fear of "bricking" any electronic devices if done wrongly...but Garmin made it easy that anyone can do it.
OK. Now to take over the world.
With the software sorted, the watch will restart by itself and will go into clock mode. As I've not started the GPS, the clock reads 00:00. I was inside the house and decided not to spoil the fun starting the GPS yet. The supplied unit came about 25% charged and i decided to hook up the unit to the wall charger. I checked the supplied electrical wall charger and found it to be the same as the 910XT. As the incidences of needing to charge two devices does not happen everytime, I decided to keep one and use the older one to charge the watches.
One spare unit for replacement in future
While the watch charges to about 50%, I did what many men failed to do - read the manual. The Fenix looked simplistic enough with less buttons compared to the 910XT. I was fooled. What I thought was button to start/stop turned out otherwise. Even the Power button and how it reacts.
You be surprised that many things are kept in this small book
The simplified functions.
The unit charges fairly quickly and I got to 74% by the time i finish reading the 15 pages of quick start manual. To full charge is about 1:30. Then, it was play time. First thing I did was well, to activate the GPS...in the house. The unit took a full 2minutes before i fumbled and switched off the watch. I then restarted the watch in this video and then it happened, it locked in a bit too fast for my liking, which is almost immediate. The unit could be "searching" for satellite and locked in already previously (that 2-minutes). Because of that, I lost any chances of showing how it supposed to lock.
Since getting the unit and updating to software version 3.10, there has been an update on the Satellite chip. There was no info stated anywhere in the manual what Fenix were equipped unlike 910XT (SiRF IV). The firmware update solved the mystery.
GPS Chipset Type M4
Then again, I have no idea what "Type M4" stands for other that a call name for Garmin's GPS chipset (the 910XT SiRF falls under Type G). My opinion is that if the updates are from Garmin and specific for the product, it simply meant an improved version that addresses the older firmware's bugs. 
50Hours - WOW!
The main thing that has drawn me to Fenix were the unbelievably long battery life of 50hours when use in certain mode. The unit GPS can run in three mode - Normal, Indoor and UltraTrac.
How about...errm...self navigating?
In normal GPS mode where the data are collected every second, it will last up to 16hours. In the UltraTrac mode, it goes the insane 50hours and data will only be collected once every minute. It sort of defeat the purpose unless your movement is slow and data over a minute collected might represent the workout/trip data OR your movement is over the period of more than 16hours where A-Point-A-Second is good enough representation. 
I ran the unit on both Normal and UltraTrac and the differences were significant when it comes to mapping the route/track and accuracy of the data. In Normal, the data shown on the watch is almost "real time" (because data collected is always 1-sec behind). In UltraTrac, you actually see the same pace for a minute before it refreshes. So ultimately, of your activities is not in a straight line, you will not get an accurate distance etc. I will delve into this in a more detailed write up (on actual usage).
Sizing It Up
I compared how the Fenix will look against my wrist with the 910XT. Volume/size wise, they both look the same from the top.
Two distinctive shape too. Notice that the 910XT searches for GPS signal upon starting up while Fenix "wait for your input (by pressing the red button)". The backlight is of different hue where Fenix are bluer than 910xt.
From the side, both watches looked the same (height) with the 910XT flaring out a bit due to the square shape. Otherwise, I am used to the size and shape already. The Fenix actually reminds me of a tri-sensor outdoor watch - only better.
Same strap thickness and same height profile
Intergrating and Syncing with Available softwares
One thing i found disappointing was the Fenix does not "talk" to the Garmin Training Centre (TC) anymore. Garmin USA for some reason decided to stop updating TC and switched over to Garmin Basecamp.
The Hash Challenge BaseCamp Adventure
Basecamp is Garmin's new approach to make workout more memorable and fun. Among the feature is the ability to create "Adventure". As you can see, with a GPS enabled camera (or handphone) it links the photos to the GPS coordinates and you get references along the way. :) And you can publish your "Adventure" on Garmin Basecamp for other to see.
Cool eh?
I will write more about Garmin Basecamp separately.
Now, how about DailyMiles and Garmin Connect? It is a no brainer with Garmin Connect and it functions as it should with the the other Garmin device I have aka the 910XT. However, with DailyMiles, it doesn't sync and manual entry need to be done. This is because the DailyMiles does not recognise a "Mass Storage Device". Likewise with TrainingPeaks as there is no Garmin Fenix in the drop down menu. However, the tech support from TrainingPeaks has suggested that I use other Mass Storage Device such as Garmin Edge 800, and it worked.
There is a Bluetooth function that "talks" to a Garmin iOS Apps - however, it is only available for use with iPhone 4s and above. I do not have a chance to use this on my iPhone 4!

Bottomline
Pros
- Able to track your route and navigate
- Fast GPS capture with signal locked on almost immediately. However, a bit of inconsistency noticed as it sometimes takes up to 2 minutes. Not an issue as that is the typical waiting time.
- Accurate under open (clear)sky up to +/- 3m (i.e. not under heavy jungle or canopy, or in building)
- Surprisingly good signal capture under canopy which gives better data readout in jungle/trails compared to 910XT.
- Makes you feel like and Adventurer with the ABC sensor (Altimeter, Barometer and Compass; not Air Batu Campur). Oh, also a Temperature sensor!
I got a COLD Aircond!
- Battery last long enough for a full Ironman race (17hours cut off) and potentially more if UltraTrac is used with footpod. However, I won't get a chance to verify this unless i purchase the footpod.
- Compatible with all ANT+ devices. Paired up with the HRM from 910XT effortlessly.
Data Overload ;-)
- unlimited customization. You are limited by what you want to monitor. Go crazy there.
- Big without being bulky and wearable as everyday watch
Con
- Pricing and standard package does not come with the HRM straps
- Menu/setup a bit less structured. Took me a while to get use to it.
- Possible bug in the software. My Hash Challenge was saved as three separate workout (known as Tracks in Fenix) which (luckily can be) patched/joint using Basecamp. However, the patched/joint workout does not register in Garmin Connect. Something I should raise with Garmin Tech Support soon.

Next : Real Life Usage of Fenix. Where do i even start?

I would like to record my gratitude to Garmin Malaysia (Aeco Technologies) for sponsoring this unit of Garmin Fenix as part of the collaboration with 2ndSkin Asia.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sabah Adventure Challenge : Nutrition Plan

I am sort of jumping the gun a bit with this blog entry. Supposedly, there should be one or two entries that I should had written before blogging this one down. As you all know, I am part of the Team 2ndSkin, which made me part of the sponsored athlete to receive products from Hammer Nutrition in Malaysia.
I am not an energy food user but the opportunity to try if the products from Hammer Nutrition is as good as it claimed were too good to miss. Most of you know that I profess clean real food and the decision to swing towards this is for my own experiment and verification. 
First encounter was during the Hash Challenge where i tried the products and had good experiences with it. I would want to see how this will work out for prolonged multi-day race. 
Taken from my Instagram
Most of you also know that I was given a book from Hammer on proper nutrition and planning. I have been through half the 140+ pages and I must say a few things I read has educated me about the most basic thing (someone like me, doing endurance races) should know.
Less Is Best
One thing that I have been doing correctly all these while is minimizing food intake during a long race. Hammer Nutrition's most basic rule on fuelling is adhering to "Less Is Best" concept. What this simply meant is better to err on the lower side where you can compensate by eating a bit more, than to overeat, it will take longer and possibly causing gastrointestinal (GI) problem such as bloating and stomach upset. Based on the write up by Hammer Nutrition, the best compromise is to ingest 30% of your burnt calories. Meaning, if you burn up to 900kcal/hour, you eat a maximum of 280kcal/hour. 
The Logic Behind "Less Is Best"
It is important to eat, most definitely. I recalled during my Ironman in 2008 to 2010, I made my own energy gel. Put them into small bottle and take a sip every 45mins. The plan worked really well and apart from unexpected injuries or condition (like low iron level in 2010), i finished all races with minimal recovery time (aka all OK to be back to normal routine the next day). Hammer Nutrition, in Endurance Athlete Guide To Success, Page 16 said :

Yes, the body needs your assistance in replenishing what it loses, but that donation must be in amounts that cooperate with normal body mechanisms, not in amounts that override them. Here’s an important fact to keep in mind: at an easy aerobic pace, the metabolic rate increases 1200-2000% over the sedentary state. As a result, the body goes into “survival mode,” where blood volume is routed to working muscles, fluids are used for evaporative cooling mechanisms, and oxygen is routed to the brain, heart, and other internal organisms. With all of this going on, your body isn’t terribly interested in handling large quantities of calories, fluids, and electrolytes; its priorities lie elsewhere.

So, how do the body make up the calorie deficit? Remember my articles on training the body to burn fat? If you have not, click here and here. Yeap, that is how your body will compensate for the deficit. Make fat your best friend. With the above approach set in mind and the current body ability to utilise fat as fuel, i submitted a nutritional plan to Hammer Nutrition for their feedback. My approach was based on the trail pack that I was given and trying the various combination during race AND training thus far has been good. 
Almost the Full Range of products
I am beginning to see the advantage of having portable nutrition as opposed to solid real food. It is all about portion and easy to carry while ensuring the correct optimum dosage of calories and nutrition. The only thing seriously missing from all these is the "bite" factor - aka, we often equate eating to chewing and the only thing available to "chew" on above is the Perpetuem Solids. For the past 1-month, I've been experimenting with the products during training and I am happy to report no issues with bloating or having the feeling of ingesting something that is like flavoured condensed milk. In fact, the drink mix is not sweet at all (with just a slight hint of flavouring, which makes you think if you over-dilute the servings). I am comparing this against my tried and tested Accelerate (sports drink) and my homemade gel and muesli bars
Homemade Muesli - good for races and even as snack. Better than mass produced bars outside should not even be compared against this.
Guideline for ranges to maintain optimal performance :
electrolyte100-600mg/ hour
calories150-280cal/ hour
fluid16-28oz / hour

The (Stupe's) Plan
Bravely, i concocted my own nutrition plan and the intention was to provide Hammer Nutrition their feedback on what I would think sufficient. This were the actual submitted plan, based on my own personal experience using it.
Stupe's Plan for SAC
Note that my "submitted" plan focused on the nutrition every 2-hours. This was based on the planned gears that I will bring for Sabah (Camelbak Octane 18X with Raidlight Dual-chamber 100oz/3Liter bladder with a Salomon XA5 front pouch to carry nutrition). Sticking to the 30% rules, the logic to my planning were based on both liquid and energy (calorific) value of each items.
The (Hammer) Plan
A personalised plan was then shared with me based on the metrics (my height, weight, current fitness level, including estimated energy usage/hour) and the draft plan above. I was happy that I wasn't far off from the suggested plan when it comes to calorie replacement (2700kcal vs 2600kcal). Here is what the new plan looked like (for all 3-days)
Day 1 and 2
Day 3
Note that Hammer Nutrition came back with a better "mix" of nutrition and most significant is the representation of electrolytes, which i only account for in (my draft as) Endurolytes. I then studied both the plans and here are the findings:

  • Forget your breakfast of rolled oats and home trail mix. Meaning, I am going FULL Hammer Nutrition products. Looked like the pendulum swing will move to the greater extreme for me this time.
  • Hammer suggested that I limit Perpetuem (in powder form) just for breakfast (3-hours before the race) and use Perpetuem Solid as the main fuel.
Perpetuem Solid - Main Fuel
  • Main hydration component is now HEED. Suggested that I carry 100oz or 3-liters (5 scoops) that will last me a good 5-hours. This meant I am moving away from the Raidlight Dual Chamber and going ahead with the full 3-liter hydration bladder. Key to nutrition is to stay as flexible as possible.
HEED Sports Drink
  • Up to 3-tabs of Endurolytes instead of 2-tabs in my plan per hour.
  • 1 Gel every hour instead of me cycling through the Gel - Perpetuem setup in draft plan. I will be given the big bottle Gel and thus, will need to portion it into smaller bottle, instead of having to deal with sachet (and creating more rubbish along the way)
  • 1 Bar every 3-hours instead of taking Bar only for "lunch"
  • Introduction of "Anti Fatigue" tabs - which inhibit ammonia build up thus providing longer more sustained workout - NEW. Would be interesting to see how this work.
  • 1 serving of Recoverite 30mins after finishing, instead of the planned 2-serves within 1hour of finishing.
  • Calculated electrolytes to match what would (potentially) lost. I am to up the tabs by one IF weather gets unbearably hot (which is when i use the Garmin Fenix's temperature sensor to my advantage)
One of the biggest "pull" factor for me to consider going full on Hammer is the ingredient of the products. I initially wanted to bring "real food". I then thought why not experiment this and see how it will go. If it works, perfect. If it doesn't, i need to find best compromise. Then it comes to the ease of carrying these items. In SAC 2011, i carried bread with peanut butter and ended up only eating two slices (with the other 6 wasted). I also over-drank and has caused tummy bloated-ness - which then, i thought was something normal as the body will react this way. Reading the guidance, i realised how wrong I was.
What's next?
No two person's nutrition need would be the same and so happened i know mine really well. Hammer's last advise to me on this was: 
"Just remember that you can tailor it more to your needs and , it is better to take less and add on than take too much"
Make whole load of sense (and that is why you see the "emergency ration" noted in the plan. I will be using the Garmin Fenix to monitor the calorie burnt and will cater to these changes as the race progress.
Now, wait up for that full on race review and nutrition review soon!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Team Williams-Renault Formula One :Clio RS 200 EDC Launched

I was fortunate to be invited for an event where I get to meet the Team Williams F1 drivers while they were in town for this weekend's Sepang F1 race.
Official invite
Even better was the event were to launch the first Clio RS 200 EDC in conjunction for this weekend's F1. I will write about the car later (though a test drive around Sepang would be good too ;-) *hint)
The New Ride
By 6.15pm, the group of Renault RS owners drove up to Menara Felda at Jalan Stonor. 
Polished and Fast.
Sharp at 6.30pm a rumble were heard from the end of the building and the Clio RS 200 EDC zoomed into the lobby area of Menara Felda. It was driven by Team Williams F1 driver Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas.
Life in slower motion for them F1 Driver
Pastor Maldonado is from Venezuala (the country where a lot of Ms. Universe came from) and has won from pole position in the Spanish GP 2012.
Always smiling
The teammate, Valtteri Bottas, hail from Finland and is the current "fastest" rookie having to make his debut in Australian GP 2013.
Iceman
The partnership between Team Williams F1 and Renault F1 goes a long way back with Team Williams using Renault engine in 1989 -1999 seasons. They then made a return to Renault starting 2012 and finished 8th in 2012 season.
Very accommodative and super nice people
The event started off with a review of the new Clio RS 200 EDC by both drivers. It came as no surprise when both the drivers gave their thumbs up to the new car.
Aggressive
The new hot Clio is powered by a 1.6 litre turbocharged engine with 200 hp at 6,000 rpm and 240 Nm expected between 1750rpm to 5400rpm. This car was unveiled only in September 2012 making Malaysia the first country in Asia (ahead of the usual Singapore) to see it. The unit were flown in (left hand drive) and a check with Renault confirms that it will only be available fourth quarter of the year. At point of writing, there is no official price list or accessories - so what you see here could not be representative of the actual model available locally. Living to the RS name, launch control is standard with two mode - Sports and Race to thrill the driver behind the wheels (and possible the passengers too).
Complex, yet sexy lines - even the back
The Clio RS 200 EDC comes in what Renault term as "Liquid Yellow". The metallic color is deeper and more lustre unlike the usual "flat yellow" I've seen on the road.
1.6ltier Turbocharged with F1 technology
The organisers then got the F1 drivers to attempt to flip Roti Canai and pour Teh Tarik. I was more worried they will hurt themselves ahead of the F1 race this weekend.

Both the drivers were good sports as evident in the video. They actually looked as if they enjoyed it. 
Easy does it
Careful there!
It was a short press conference after that followed by giving out of autographed postcards and caps. I was lucky enough to bring home some souviniers. 
Enjoy the photos taken by myself here.
Almost A Grid Girl
Renault. Unmistakenably.
Lined Up.
Maldonado
Bottas answering questions
Bottas



Looking worried
Woohoo!
Careful there!


Autographs!



Interior


Renault's Reza Mutalib wishing Bottas luck for the weekend's race
With the RS Owners
Babes
Admiring
:D




All mine!

All I need now is for them to win some races ;-)
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