Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Saucony Peregrine 7: Initial Review

While I do run the occasional trail, I'm really not a trail person. My running is mostly rooted firmly to the roads but there are rare occasions, and I mean VERY rare, that I do hit the trails or even race in one. Which is why it's been kinda difficult for me to write a review on the Saucony Peregrine 7. I haven't really put much miles in them to write a decent review and after the PSP King of Forest trail two weeks back, I don't think I'll be putting much more miles in them anytime soon.

But I do have some personal views on Peregrine 7 (P7) based on the very few times I've used them and thought I might as well get the review out. My experience with the Peregrine series started with the Peregrine 6 (P6). Even then, the mileage I put on that pair is pretty embarrassing. Worse yet, I carelessly left that pair in Seoul during the Seoul International Marathon back in March.


With the wife wanting to run some trails and with me signed up for the recently concluded trail race, I requested a pair from Saucony Malaysia and put it to the test and I must say I came away impressed and might even make me take the Peregrine 7 out for more trail excursions!

The Peregrine 7 is the shoes seventh iteration and weighs in at 9.4 oz for the men's size 9, which is the size I use. The past few models didn't really stray much in terms of design from one another but Saucony have refined the past two models with a lot more updated material. The Peregrine 7 could be considered a completely different model if not for the same 4mm drop (21.5mm heel/17.5mm forefoot) and identical outsole of the Peregrine 6.


The most discerning and noticeable change to the Peregrine 7 is in the upper of the shoe. The upper of the P6 had FlexFilm overlays somewhat similar to its road cousins but the P7 now sports a TPU Exo-Skeleton that frames the foot even more for optimal support and enhanced protection. I found the fit of the P7 to be a lot more roomier and less stiffer than the P6 which I didn't really like all that much. The toe bumper which now wraps around the entire forefoot offers some toe stubbing protection and is flexible and light.


The other not so noticeable update is found in the midsole of the shoe. While the EVA midsole is essentially the same, the P7 now comes with a full length Everun topsole unlike the Everun heel insert of the previous version. Saucony refers to Everun as continuous cushioning and claims that this provides an 83% return of energy which is all just facts to me cos I really can't tell if it does with the measly mileage I put in trail running. Though the P7 is firm there is still some ground feel but you have just enough cushioning underneath that it doesn't feel jarring. 


The outsole remains the same with the same PWRTRAC outsole material coupled with the EBO rockplate to protect the foot from rocks, stones and other debris, that actually worked really well. The directional lugs are aggressive and able to handle just about anything the terrain throws at you. I had first hand experience of how phenomenal the grip was in the recent trail race I took part in. The trail was wet, muddy and terribly slippery from the rains the night before but the P7 kept its grip so well that I had so much confidence running down those slippery trail with reckless abandon and not once did I lose my footing! I can't attest to the durability of the outsole since I don't have the miles in them to compare but from what I've read from shoe reviewers like Sam Winebaum, durability is excellent!


The rear of the shoe features a sturdier heel counter that has some good support. The height of the heel cup seems to have been lowered somewhat with additional padding giving it a little more flexibility than the previous version. The padded gusseted tongue was pretty comfortable and Saucony has removed the metal gaiter ring from this iteration of the shoe which doesn't really make any difference to me. 


Is the Saucony Peregrine 7 as good as it's made out to be? Well, for a trail noob like me, I'd say it definitely is! The P7 is a fast, light and extremely nimble trail shoe that can take on a variety of terrains. The grip quality of the P7's aggressive outsole is superb and really shines in the trails as I found out during my race two weeks ago. The response is excellent and you'll be filled with confidence as you zoom down those slippery and muddy trails. Whether you're planning for a speedy trail session or just a simple hike up the mountains, the Saucony Peregrine 7 will satisfy a wide variety of runners. 


Overall, I feel the P7 is a great upgrade to the P6 which I found to be a little stiff on the upper. The Peregrine 7's new exo-skeleton is a much more secure fit and feels a lot more breathable too with a lot more room in the toebox. The Saucony Peregrine 7 is available in stores nationwide and is retailing for RM429.00 for both the men's and women's models.

Disclaimer - The Saucony Peregrine 7 review above is from my own personal experience and time spent running in them. This review is in no way whatsoever influenced by Saucony Malaysia.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Saucony Ride 10: Initial Review

I've had the Saucony Ride 10 for quite sometime now and this review is long overdue. A lot has been happening and this review was put on the back burner for way too long. It's going to be a busy week for me and before it does, I'd better get this review out right now. The model I'm reviewing is the Heathered Chroma Pack edition.

The Ride series is now into its tenth iteration and prior to this I've only run in the Saucony Ride 9. Just like its older sibling, the Ride 10 falls into the neutral daily trainer category as an all round shoe for everyday running. While that might be true for some, it wasn't entirely true for me. I felt the Ride 9 was a little on the narrower side of things but the Saucony Ride 10 does feel a lot wider this time around and doesn't feel as plush.


But that said, the Ride 10 remains a relatively comfortable and lightweight neutral running shoe bringing with it some new innovations like a brand new upper and external design changes which gives the Ride 10 a totally different fit quality over its elder sibling.

The upper on the Ride 10 features a new and fully engineered mesh that sports large venting holes, using a combination of vented and closed sections over a single component, from the front of the shoe towards the midfoot area which is a departure from the regular spacer mesh that was part of the upper for the Ride 9 which makes the Ride 10 extremely breathable and very accommodating providing support when needed. I liked this upgrade a lot as it made the Ride 10's upper feel a lot 'softer' than the previous iteration.


The FlexFilm overlays are this time more concentrated around the midfoot rather than the forefoot sections with emphasis on the medial side. the toebox is now a lot roomier than before and would fit a wide variety of different feet. While there's quite a few sizeable updates, you'll still see lots of familiar features from the Ride 9, for instance the molded toe bumper while a little shorter is a carry over from the previous model.

The heel counter comes with a collar lining made out of two pieces of Saucony's RunDry material and is a little firm but provides just enough support for the heel. The other bits that you'll find familiar from the Ride 9 are the tongue lining which is as padded as before (too much padding for me) and the flat, semi-elastic laces.


The midsole of the Ride 10 now uses a single piece, single density EVA material which Saucony calls Power Foam and is said to retain 50% cushioning over the prior SSL EVA with a consistent cushioning over the lifespan of the shoe. On the insides you'll find a removeable EVA foam insole and an Everun topsole over the primary midsole. The topsole of the Ride 10 is thin layer of the Saucony Everun material serving as an additional layer of protection and is very different than how the Everun material is used on the Freedom ISO in which the entire midsole is made of Everun. The bottom line though is this gives the Ride 10 a much softer and more cushioned ride than the previous model.


The outsole of the Ride 10 is based on Saucony's newer Triflex geometry with the much firmer long wearing XT900 rubber offering some very good transitional support. With the SRC Crash pad removed, the rear of the outsole is glued straight to the foam midsole with an exposed area in the midsole just under the heel which is found in most Saucony running shoes. Overall, the Ride 10 has a solid build with a strong upper and plenty of outsole rubber for a longer lasting wear.


My previous experience with the Ride 9 gave the shoe a pretty narrow and shallow fit but the Ride 10 eases things up a lot. There's a lot more room in the forefoot and a lot better ventilation than the Ride 9 which is mostly because of the mesh forefoot material. With the FlexFilm now concentrated around the midfoot, the fit is nice and snug! The Ride 10 runs true to size for my feet which are US9's.

The Ride 10 has an 8mm offset and weighs in at 9.5oz for my US9. It's not exactly a lightweight shoe in my opinion since I'm used to much lighter shoes but Ride 10 does provide a very cushioned and consistent ride for those days when you need to go long. I've put some miles in them though not as much as I'd love to but from what I've gathered so far, the Ride 10 feels a little less snappy and a tad less responsive than the Ride 9. If I had to make a comparison, I'd have to say the cushioning characteristic are closer to the Kinvara 8 than the Ride 9 which isn't all that surprising since both the R10 and K8 uses an injection molded foam midsole with the Everun Topsole. 


But as mentioned earlier, the bottom line is the Ride 10 provides a much more cushier and balanced ride which in turn makes this shoe a decent daily trainer that works well for a wide range of workouts. I've used the shoe in various sessions taking it out from slower sessions to speed and tempo work and while I did have to initially break in the shoe a little (which is rare for me), I eventually got used to it. For me a shoe that works well is one that you totally forget that it's on your feet the moment you put them on but the Ride 10 took some getting used to to eventually not 'feel' it on my feet.

But I think Saucony has done a great job with the update this time round with the appeal of their middle range neutral trainers. If you're looking for a mid range neutral and moderately cushioned shoe, then the Saucony Ride 10 should be right up your alley.


The Saucony Ride 10 is currently not available in Malaysia just yet but I will update this review when it's launched here in the very near future.

Disclaimer - The Saucony Ride 10 review above is from my own personal experience and time spent running in them. This review is in no way whatsoever influenced by Saucony Malaysia.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2017: Race Review

This year marked the fourth time I ran the Gold Coast Airport Marathon. I remember the first time I stepped foot in the Gold Coast and fell in love with the place that it's become sort of a second home to me.

The past three years saw me running the full marathon event with mixed results but this year saw me taking on the half marathon instead. Choosing to run the half marathon was not an easy decision but one that I'm glad to have made and which turned out to be the right one.

Hot on the heels of the disastrous Seoul Marathon and being as prepared and confident as I was, things just went horribly south for me. It's something I can't explain even until now. I was disappointed and depressed with the results and GCAM 17 was also not a confirmed thing at that time.

I went into a state of depression, something that if I didn't put a stop to quickly would have had dire consequences. I got back into training, albeit one with a simplified plan just in case I decided to run GCAM17. But then I got a text from a friend, a Bostoner who offered to draw up a plan for me to take on the Gold Coast Airport Marathon. I was honoured that he had that much faith that I could do this, even though I was doubting myself.


I agreed to give it a shot and a plan was drawn up. It wasn't a tough plan. In fact, it was something that was absolutely doable, granted it was a different approach to what I would normally do if I followed the Hansons plan, but still something I could work on.

My hopes were up again, someone actually believed in me. I was on fire and dove straight into the plan. My wife was skeptical. Now, she might not be a certified coach but she knows what I am capable of. The initial weeks of the plan went well, I was able to follow the plan to a tee. But as the weeks went by, I was feeling very tired, not just physically but mentally and spiritually as well.

Doubts begin to creep back into me. I went through the motions of the training, still able to keep doing what it dished out but my mood was beginning to affect the people around me and the one to bear the brunt of it was my wife. There were many heated words between us as I struggled with myself to keep with the plan. Whatever that plan was I had no idea.

After week 6 or 7 I decided that I just couldn't do this. I was tired physically, mentally and spiritually from one disappointment after another. I sat down and thought about things and realized that I was struggling simply because I had been training for the past two years since GCAM15 where I ran it with a stress fracture and had to start all over again and then getting struck with a meniscus tear just before Kyoto which effectively ruined that race as well.

All these start, stop and coming back took a huge toll on my body and mind. I'm not young, mind you. It takes a lot longer for me to get back to shape and I realized I was pushing things too much and too soon. I needed a break, a reboot of the system before I could really embark on my actual marathon goals but with all my training buddies improving by leaps and bounds, I just didn't want to be left behind and kept pushing myself only to get one injury after another.


I decided there and then that my wife was right and I was just too tired from over training. I switched my plans for GCAM17 to run the half marathon instead for a complete overhaul of my system. The huge relief I felt by this decision couldn't be described. It felt like a huge weight just lifted off my shoulders. I text my friend who drew up the plan, hoping he would understand my decision. And he did understand, in fact he told me he was going through something along the same lines as what I was going through, OTS (OverTraining Syndrome). I was glad that he understood but told me to keep the plan and give it another shot when I'm ready and I definitely intend to give the training another shot soon.

With that out of the way, it was time to really look forward to GCAM17. With all the travel and accomodations all sorted out Jamie and me landed in the Gold Coast on Thursday morning. We really didn't have much time to do much things. The day was packed with a lunch stop the moment we landed, then to the expo followed by a late check in at the Mantra Legends Hotel, a quick Team Malaysia photo session before sundown and followed by dinner before calling it a night as we had a 5.7km race to run the next morning.



After the experience of running the 10km race two years ago, we both decided that running a 10km before a marathon (or half marathon) would be too counter productive and ran the 5.7km this year instead. Suffice to say it was a good decision by us. We were joined by Jeanie, Li Leen and a few other GCAM MY members. The Star Gold Coast 5.7km Challenge was just as much fun, if not more, than the 10km of two years ago. It was easily my personal worst for a 5km distance and I was proud of it. Loads of pictures and fun came out of it and I would highly recommend this before the main event on Sunday. It's a great way to just let your hair down before putting all your focus on the task ahead on Sunday!



We didn't stay long after the run as both Jamie and me had to rush back for a quick shower before heading back for the Garmin Legends Lunch. The lunch was as entertaining and fun as it was two years ago when I attended it. No matter how long you've been in the running scene, there was always lots to take away from the lunch. Before coming here, I told Jamie that by hook or by crook we'd get pictures with Desiree Linden and Sara Hall and I'm happy to say that we pulled it off though we missed (barely) of getting some shots with the like of Mungara and Kawauchi.



After the lunch we headed back to get some rest before grabbing an early dinner not too far from the hotel. We wanted to keep things easy on the stomach so we opted for some Japanese food. Even though I was running the half marathon, I had to get up way earlier than Jamie as the shuttle was leaving the hotel at 4:30am and I opted to get on it instead of the free tram service. So we called it a very early night after dinner and made our way to our respective rooms.

My gear was already laid out much earlier and after a quick final check it was lights out for me. Sleep didn't come by easily and it took me a while to doze off. Before I knew it, my cell alarm was buzzing me awake. Did my usual pre-race routine before heading down to take the shuttle to the race precinct for race start. There was a familiar face in the form of Jeanie and quite a few Malaysians on the bus along with me.


It was a cold and windy morning when we arrived and we all tried to keep ourselves as warm as possible while waiting for race start. Both Jeanie and me, with some prior experience of race mornings over here told everyone to shelter themselves on the stage or in front of the giant screen display to avoid the wind which was really the main culprit for the cold.

Soon it was time to head to the start pen. I had no goals or aims as I made my way into the start pen. I was going to go by feel and yes, the only minor goal I had was to come in under 2 hours which I thought was entirely possible. To be honest, I was feeling a tad depressed. I was running the half and I felt that with most of my other friends running the full marathon, I was running a lesser event. How wrong I was. The Asics Half Marathon is no less stellar than the full marathon as the 9000 plus participants can attest to. I personally think that the Half Marathon just isn't given enough coverage for the spectacular race that it is.


I was in pen B and made my way to the back of pen A just as the race was flagged off. I looked ahead and was shocked at the number of runners ahead of me in pen A. Damn, how was I going to make my way through that bunch! But I kept my composure and just went with the flow. The weather was still chilly but a lot more bearable now that I was on the move. I decided to keep the pace easy and increase the pace once I negotiated my way through the crowd

Strangely enough, as packed a field as it was, I didn't really have any issues having to avoid anyone cos everyone was basically on the same pace setting. The first kilometer was run in a pace of 5:50. By the second kilometer, my pace was down to 5:30 which was kinda surprising. I was feeling good and with no stress or pressure of aiming for a goal, I could really run by feel.



Now here is where I say that the half is no less stellar than the full marathon. I've run 3 full marathon's here and they were nothing but awesome. I've heard tales from some who've run the half here a few years back that the half was practically devoid of supporters and stuff like that. From what I saw, I can only say that is totally untrue. The route was littered with spectators along the entire way screaming and shouting that I thought I was on the marathon route itself. It was simply awesome. This is one reason why I love running the Gold Coast Airport Marathon!

Race wise, I was having a good time. I was feeling really good and was enjoying myself looking at the sights which was absolutely scenic by the way. The water stations were well spaced out and plentiful, maybe a little too plentiful. This time round I didn't stop at the water stations to drink but simply grabbed a cup on the run. The route was unfamiliar to me since it was my first time but I did look at the wife's Garmin data of her time running this twice before and had an inkling of what to expect.


I was still running in fine form and was actually surprised by that. My training, while it's been decent wasn't exactly up to par and falling sick 5 days before flying off didn't help matters much which was why running at 5:15 to 5:30 pace without any noticeable signs of difficulties was really surprising. I wasn't complaining but wasn't going to be over-confident too. I kept at it, keeping check of my effort making sure I don't push too hard since things were going good for me. 

Just after I made the 11km U-turn, I spotted Jeanie on the opposite side running an incredibly strong race. I called out some encouragement to her and went on my way. I was feeling so good I forgot to even take my gels until I saw one of the runners in front of me with a gel which had me frantically grabbing a gel from my pouch. In the end, it didn't really matter cos I think my body is used to running a half distance without gels since I train this distance back home without gels anyway. I didn't bother with the remaining two gels in my pouch and carried on.
  

The rest of the race went by without any incidences and by the time I spotted McDonalds just down the road, I knew it was going to be a sub 2 finish. Now this is the stretch that I adore the most, one is simply because the support along this stretch is second to none and two is for the fact that you know you're in the home stretch. I really didn't have to pretend to look good over along this stretch cos I was really feeling good. I manage to urge a few struggling runners along the way with shouts of encouragement and got smiles and a few thumbs up in return.

I made my way into the final 250m stretch with a huge smile on my face. I knew it was good day at the office for me and while it was way off my personal half marathon best, I crossed the line with a decent net time of 1:55! This was it. With this finish I now officially own all 4 medals (5.7, 10, 21, 42km) of the Gold Coast Airport Marathon!


I was still feeling so good that I could have run another 10k right after this only reinforced my belief that I did the right thing in choosing the half instead of the full. I had successfully done a total reboot of my flagging system! Now, with some hard work, I can look forward to better things.

I still had a lot of time to spare since I was waiting for Jamie to finish his full marathon. I promised him that I would be at the finish waiting to see him achieve his personal best which I truly believed he would. Since I had official access to the media area, I made my way to the side of the finishing stretch to wait for him. The only regret I have is my silly phone camera hanging on me as he made his way down the finish but at least I was witness to his superb finish!

Once he was done with his stuff, we made our way back to the hotel for some much needed rest and food. What I bring back from this is that sometimes we need to take a step back to get back on track. Don't be afraid to admit to yourself that you're not good enough at times and just work on getting yourself back up to speed. Hard work and perseverance always pays off. I've come out of this much stronger both physically and mentally and from this point on things can and will get better, of that I'm positive.


That aside, the Asics Half Marathon is one hell of a race. A super flat and scenic route, a much earlier race start, avoiding the much later searing sun of the marathon and is just the right distance for someone wanting to experience the hospitality and superb organization of the Gold Coast Airport Marathon but is not ready for a full marathon distance. This coupled with the 5.7km or 10km on Saturday is just the right tonic for a taste of the Gold Coast Airport Marathon!

That said, if you're looking for a scenic and incredibly well organized race to run overseas, then the Gold Coast Airport marathon is one you simply must try out. A flat, scenic route littered with awesome supporters and a nice sunny winter weather to achieve your personal best or simply just to have a good time! I've run this four times and have enjoyed every single edition. With next year being the 40th year, plans are afoot to make it even more exciting!

Before I end my post, I'd like to thank Tourism and Events Queensland and Holiday Travel and Tours for the hospitality and support provided and Air Asia X for the smooth flight into the Gold Coast and back. Without your support, this wouldn't have been possible. A big thanks also goes out to the GCAM17 Team My in training for the training support through the years and months and most importantly, my wife for tolerating the amount of times I'm out of the house training, coming back tired, being difficult, not holding up my end of the deal but yet never wavering in your support and belief in me!

And to the Gold Coast, I will be back to make my mark there again sometime soon!



Monday, May 29, 2017

The Malaysia Marathon 2017


If running is your thing, then get ready to run the Malaysia Marathon, the most exciting running event of the year that's slated to take place on the 1st of October 2017 at the iconic Dataran Merdeka! The Malaysia Marathon, is a joining of hands in friendship between Malaysian and Chinese athletes through sports in line with the Belt and Road initiative, which promotes globalization.

To kick off this joint venture, the Belt and Road Marathon Series 2017, the Malaysia Marathon will see its launch this October in the hope that the event will catch on in other parts of the world. The event was proposed in China last year and will be held in Malaysia this year. 

The Malaysia Marathon 2017 will offer four various running categories to choose from which are the Full Marathon, the Half Marathon, a Quarter Marathon (10km) run and a 5km fun run. This highly anticipated running event is expected to attract a large number of running enthusiast and with only 20,000 slots being offered for all four categories!

The Malaysia Marathon is organized by Wisdom Sports Malaysia and is supported by MOTAC and DBKL and technically assisted by the highly professional and trusted race operators, 21st Century Sports (M) Sdn Bhd. Stay tuned for its official launch and opening of registration soon. Be sure to sign up to enjoy a run around the streets of the beautiful city of Kuala Lumpur.

UPDATE (6th September 2017): Please note that The Malaysia Marathon 2017 has been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances, a reason that's been used once too often lately. The organizers, WISDOM SPORTS (M) SDN BHD should be more transparent in why they cancel a race instead of hiding behind the 'Unforeseen Circumstances' excuse!

Refer to their Facebook page for information about refund of race fees! 



Thursday, May 25, 2017

MARATHON LEGENDS TO HELP RUNNERS REALIZE THEIR DREAMS


Thursday 25 May

The biggest names in Australian marathon running history will be on hand to run alongside, back slap, high-five and cheer on participants to the finish line of the 39th Gold Coast Airport Marathon on 1-2 July.

Brisbane 1982 Commonwealth Games gold medallist and former world record holder Rob de Castella will lead the charge of running legends striding out with entrants along with 1994 Commonwealth Games gold medallist and Gold Coast 2018 Chef de Mission Steve Moneghetti, Australian female marathon record holder Benita Willis, Australian half marathon All-Comers record holder Pat Carroll and three-time Olympian Lee Troop, who is making a special trip from his home in Boulder USA.

Runners entered in the Southern Cross University 10km Run on Saturday 1 July will receive motivation from pacing shoulder to shoulder with their idols along the route starting at Broadwater Parklands, crossing the Sundale Bridge twice before venturing to Biggera Waters then returning to the parklands for a heroes’ welcome from family and friends. 

Gold Coast Airport Marathon CEO Cameron Hart says that the opportunity for runners to attain a personal goal alongside those who have achieved greatness at the highest level is one not to be missed.

“There is no other race in Australia which offers participants the chance to run with the best of the best motivating and inspiring you every step of the way,” Mr Hart said.

“Many of us fondly remember egging on Deek in ’82; to have him cheer you on while you strive for your personal goal is a unique experience!”

Australian marathon running legend Rob de Castella says that he is looking forward to being a part of the event and supporting runners in reaching their goals.

There is absolutely nothing better than running that last 100m down through the finish chute of the Gold Coast Airport Marathon and to be able to celebrate and share that with runners, to be able to give them a high-five or a hug, is going to be magnificent,” Mr de Castella said.

“It is an incredible feeling of accomplishment and I’m looking forward to being amongst it on the Gold Coast! “It’s the best running weekend in the country; course, crowd, location and organisation, and my family and I want to be a part of it.”

Benita Willis, who called time on her professional career after the London 2012 Olympic Games, is excited about being in the mix with runners when the starter’s gun fires before the 10km journey.

“A big reason why I’m coming is to see the thousands of people enjoy the sport I love so much - no matter what their ability, gender, age or background. Seeing people achieve life-long goals is amazing and to be nearby when they do will be brilliant,” Ms Willis said.

“I love the Gold Coast and feeling the buzz of excitement in the air during the whole GCAM weekend – can’t wait!”

The 39th annual Gold Coast Airport Marathon will be held on Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 July.

Set to attract more than 27,000 participants of all ages and abilities, this year’s race program will feature the Gold Coast Airport Marathon over 42.195km, Wheelchair Marathon, ASICS Half Marathon, Wheelchair 15km, Southern Cross University 10km Run, The Star Gold Coast 5.7km Challenge, Zespri 4km Junior Dash and Zespri 2km Junior Dash.

To enter or for more information visit goldcoastmarathon.com.au.

ENDS

For further information please contact: 

 Jacob Bush, Marketing Executive, Events Management Queensland
Phone: 07 5668 9801, Mobile: 0448 188 927, Email: jacob@goldcoastevents.com.au

Stephen Lock, Media Consultant, Events Management Queensland
Mobile: 0408 124 694, Email: stephen@goldcoastevents.com.au



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Seoul Sightseeing: Days 6, 7 & 8

A recap for days 1-5 can be found here and here.

The sixth day of my stay in Seoul started off with me having aches all over my legs and body from the marathon event of the day before even with a good night's sleep behind me. Nevertheless, I was up and about, albeit shuffling achingly around the room.

I made plans with the gang for a recovery run along the Cheonggyecheon stream as that was the best way to ease the aches. The weather was as cold as it has always been in the mornings and dressed in my shorts and a long sleeve top, I made my way to the stream to meet the gang halfway. I was surprised that I could still run decently and took a slow jog along the stream.

There were lots of other runners also doing their recovery runs this cold morning. I ran along the entire stretch of the stream but somehow due to some screw up in timing, I missed seeing the gang and doubled back towards the apartment. It was only then that I saw them and found out they went the other way along the river to find me. Once we teamed up, we continued the run, took some pictures and made plans with to join my wife and me on our rounds around Seoul. Yan Leng and Jeanie had other plans of their own.


A short recovery run with the gang.

I headed back to the apartment to grab a shower and told CY I'd text him the meet-up location once I got it from my wife who was already showered, changed and ready for our sightseeing. This time, we made sure we ate something before heading out. Didn't want a repeat of my nonsense from two days ago happening again.

Today would see us heading to find another Goblin shoot location and then to some place called the Common Ground, a mall made up of shipping containers. All these were located in a place called Seongsu-dong. After our breakfast we headed to the subway below and hopped on the subway heading to Seongsu-dong station. We would rendezvous with CY and his wife at the station and make our way to find the Goblin filming shoot location.

We arrived a little earlier and I grabbed a can of coffee from a convenience store to keep warm as the weather was still rather chilly and to wait for them while my wife took a short exploratory walk around the place. Once they arrived, we made our way looking for the Goblin place. The shops around the area were pretty quaint selling mostly custom-made shoes and footwear. We got a little confused with the directions and missed the small turning that would take us to the Goblin place and ended up going a little ways down the road.

Some of the Hand-Drawn poster around Seongsu-dong that my wife took while waiting for CY

Seongsu-dong was known for its handmade shoes

After doubling back, we finally found the small slip road that would take us to our destination. A few short minutes later, we arrived at what was the location shoot for a scene from the Goblin K-Drama series. Now, I was totally confused as I'm not a K-Drama fan and have not seen the series. But both my wife and CY were discussing it like the experts they were and I just nodded my head like I understood ... hahaha! The scene was of a building with a mural of Jane Austen and Ernest Hemingway. Of course, we couldn't leave the place without taking some pictures, after all that was the purpose of this visit. With the picture taking done, next on our list was Daelim Warehouse Cafe, a gallery cum restaurant housed in an unassuming building a short walk away.

Wife happily posing away at the Goblin Location Shoot building

The walk took us through a residential alley that housed some quaint apartment-like dwellings. One thing about winter and the cold, it makes you hungry quite fast. I was already beginning to feel rumblings in my tummy. Good thing the gallery had a restaurant in there and we could grab some food once we get there.

About 10 minutes later, we finally arrived and were hesitant to enter cos my wife had read that there was an entrance fee and we contemplated not going in. While we were lounging around in discussion, this local elderly lady came and showed us how to open the huge door to enter the place. She probably thought we were idiots who don't know how to open doors ... LOL! It was then that we also discover that there was no entrance fee.

The exterior of the Daelim Warehouse Cafe

The restaurant among trees inside the Warehouse

The inside of the building housed some modern art displays as well as a restaurant with its own indoor trees giving the place a pretty rustic look. We took a walk around and after checking out the menu, we decided against eating here as they mostly served Western stuff and we weren't up for anything Western this cold morning. So instead, we just took pictures (but of course!) and decided on grabbing Kyochon Chicken for lunch.

Some of the exhibits in the Warehouse

Choon Yuen up to his tricks again 

After locating an outlet on Google, we followed the directions towards it to get a short break and lunch before heading to our next stop for the day which was the Common Ground Container Mall. Kyochon Chicken was a 20 minute or so walk but we didn't mind since the weather was really cooling for walking outdoors. You wouldn't see me so enthusiastic about the outdoors if I was back home in the sweltering heat.

After our chicken lunch in the nearly deserted Kyochon Chicken shop and with tummies filled, we made our way towards the Common Ground Mall. It was another short 15 minutes walk and soon enough we saw some huge blue shipping containers stacked upon each other looming in the distance. I've never been in a container before let alone one converted into a mall. This would be something to remember. My wife had done a thorough research on it and was like a tour guide for me. She even Google walked this and for her, it was bringing life to pictures.

The Common Ground Container Mall

The containers were stacked 3 levels up and made into a nice square that housed a mall selling clothing, accessories and souvenirs with the uppermost levels housing eateries. We browsed the insides of the mall just window shopping cos nothing caught our eyes besides we were still full from lunch earlier. We spent about an hour or so here before we decided to head back as were feeling the effects of fatigued from all that walking and coupled with the marathon the day before, our aged bodies were really struggling to keep going.



The inside of the Common Ground Container Mall

We made our way to the nearest subway and headed back to our respective apartments. I was already nodding off in the train ride back and couldn't wait to get back for a short rest and a nap. Before getting off at our stop, I told CY to coordinate with me if there was any dinner plans. Once we got off at our stop, we bought some instant noodles, drinks and tidbits from the underground subway mall in case we got hungry later.

The moment we reached our apartment, we both hit the bed for a short nap. Fatigue had got to both of us. After catching a few hours of shut-eye, CY texted me to say that he would be meeting up for dinner with Yan Leng and Jeanie and asked if I wanted to join. My wife was still feeling exhausted and told me to just go on my own instead. I was reluctant cos I wasn't sure which train to take and which subway exit to alight. All this while I've just be leaving it to her. She told me it was time to grow up and learn! But thank god she drew a map and wrote all the details on which subway lines to take and names of the stops. I supposed she didn't want me to end up in North Korea!!

I met up with CY and his wife near Insadong. They apparently didn't go back after the Common Ground visit but did some sightseeing on their own. We decided to find some restaurant nearby for dinner as all of them were due to head back home the next day. While waiting for Yan Leng, Jeanie and their spouses, we scoured the nearby restaurants and found one which we would try. Soon enough the rest of the gang came by and we headed up for dinner.

It was a decent dinner and after the usual banter, it was time to head back. The rest of the gang had to pack up as they were leaving for home the next day. My wife and me still had basically two days left so I bid everyone farewell and made my back to the subway on a very, very cold and windy night.

Day 7

While we still had two days to go, we considered this our last day in Seoul as tomorrow would mostly be spent packing up, checking out and heading to the airport even though we had a late evening flight. So we planned to make the most of the day but not without a little drama before the start of our tour.

We woke up early to make the most of the day and while we were having a quick breakfast, we noticed water pooling on the floor under us. We were startled and the first thing we thought was the washing machine was leaking as we had a load running in the machine. Upon a quick check we discovered that it was leaking from the unit next to us. Someone must have left the tap on or there was a leaky wall pipe or something.

Our flooded hall

The water was beginning to pool up quite a bit and no matter how much I tried to contain the flow, it wasn't helping much. I knocked on the door of the next door unit but no one was around. Crap, I thought, we had plans for the day. I messaged the owner and he told me he was in Vietnam and would only be back later that night but assured us he would get his daughter to come over and sort things out. He was very apologetic and luckily the unit next door also belonged to him.

A little over 10 minutes later, his frantic looking teenage daughter was at the door and upon seeing the pooling of water in our hall almost went into a fit of panic. She could speak a smattering of English but it was still hard to understand her. Eventually we managed to communicate through Google translate (Thank you Google!) and she got the door codes for the unit next door from her dad and upon opening the door, the entire place was filled with water from a busted kitchen pipe! It was like a swimming pool in there. That explained the water leaking into our unit through the walls.

The poor girl was in a state of shock and didn't know what to do. I decided to step in and help her or we won't be able to do anything for the day. I located the mains, switched off the supply and told her that she needs to get a plumber or at least contact the maintenance people to sort things out now that the main leak had been stopped. Now that she was more calmed down, she told me she would sort this out and I told her we would be going out as we had plans. I gave her permission to access our unit anytime to do what needs to be done and she said not to worry, everything would be in order when we came back.

So off we went to start our day. Good thing we didn't lose too much time. My wife had warned me that there would be some walking required (little did I realize how much walking that would be) even though we only had three places planned on our sightseeing list and I told her I was up for it. But before we hit the subway to head to our first stop, we had to grab a picture of the unique bus-stop with toilet bowls as its seat. The bus-stop just happened to be a 5 minute walk away in the Toilet accessories area where they sell nothing but toilet stuff.

When you gotta go, you just gotta go!

After some pics, we headed to our first stop on the list, another of the Goblin K-Drama location shoots. This time it was the main coffee-shop in Coffee Prince drama series. After several subway stops, we arrived at Hongdae (Hongik University Station) and proceeded for a walk to the coffee shop direction. Before that though, we came to a park called Gyeongui Line Forest Park, it was formerly an old railway line converted into a long 6.3km park!! We spent some time here taking in the beauty of the place. The sun was out but surprisingly it was one of the coldest and windy days we've experienced since we were here. Good thing we were adequately bundled up.

A small section of the 6.3km Gyeongui Line Forest Park

This area was quite different in ambiance from the previous days. It was more 'small townish' like with little quaint little shops littered between buildings. We were also feeling a little hungry, the cold tends to make us hungry a lot. We looked for a shop to fill our now growling tummies but none were open. We finally discovered that the eateries here mostly only opened after 11am. There was still at least another 45 minutes to go! There were 24-hour eateries but they didn't serve the kind of breakfast food we were looking for and they were also exorbitantly priced.

Hongdae

We decided to head on towards the Coffee Prince shop location and grab something there, since it was a coffee shop after all. It took us about 20 minutes of so of slow walking to finally reach the location. When we finally arrived there, we were in for a shock cos the place looked really shabby and very uninviting. The place looked disheveled and abandoned like even though there were some people inside and a sign was posted outside that said only shop customers can use the toilet and take pictures! We felt so unwelcome that we decided to not even go in but sneaked in a few shots from outside before heading off to look for food.

The shops were still closed even at 11am which got us both a little pissed. Even one that we found open at 11am said they were not ready for customers. So we walked back towards the subway station still on our search for food on this extremely cold morning. Our tempers were raw from lack of food. Just as we were about to give up hope of ever getting anything to eat here, we came across an All American diner that was open for breakfast.

We were both too hungry to matter anymore and decided to grab a bite there till we find something later on in the day at our next stop. The food was surprisingly good and after filling our tummies, we were off to our next stop for the day, the MBC (Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation) park. According to my wife, that was one of the locations where The Avengers Age of Ultron was shot. With me being a diehard Marvel fan, that place was not to be missed!

To get there, we had to take a subway ride to the Digital Media City station and take a short walk there. The Digital Media City place had a totally different feel from the rest of the places we've been. It had a more modern and high-tech complexes for digital technologies, housing ubiquitous networked offices, apartments, exhibitions, conference halls and cultural centers in Seoul. All the people we passed by were of the young professionals dressed in suits and ties.

The futuristic buildings adorning the Digital Media City vicinity

I never knew that the Avengers had a scene filmed here and when the wife pointed it out to me, I instantly recognize the scene and almost bolted into a sprint straight to it. Yes, yes, I can be like a child at times! I'm not sure how she digs up all this places and unknown facts but heck, she's amazing when it comes to finding places for us to visit. Once we were done with pictures there, we took a tour of the place. They had some amazing gigantic structures around and like the tourists we were, we took lots more pictures.

Part of the location shoot from Avengers Age of Ultron!


By this time, we had been on our feet for quite a while and last on our list of places for the day would be the Haneul Park or Sky Park, just across the road from the Seoul World Cup Stadium. It was a ways off and we both debated on whether to walk or take the bus there. Since the weather was pretty cold even with the sun and we wouldn't even think about walking anywhere so far back home, we opted to walk. We reasoned that we could see more places along the way. Though my feet were more or less killing me, I tagged along, not that I had a choice, I didn't know the way back ... hahaha! My wife can be a very determined person and once she said she wants to walk, she will walk. I remember the loooong walk we did back in Kyoto in search of Nanzenji temple. But it was during those long walks that we discovered gems like the unexpected trail path in Higashiyama, the Ama No Iwato cave and so many more.

One of the gigantic structures found around the Digital Media City

It was a pretty nice walk and we were chatting and admiring the beauty of the place. Aside from the two of us, there really wasn't all that many people walking about. Guess not everyone is as crazy as us. After quite a while, we saw what was a huge hill in front of us and deduced that it was the place we were heading to. Google maps was also pointing us in that direction. But as fate (or arse luck) would have it, the entrance to Haneul Park was at the extreme other end which from where we were looked to be about a thousand kilometers away (ok, that was my battered legs talking). We plodded on cos my wife said, we didn't walk all this way just to give up. Who am I to argue, like I said, I didn't know the way home.

Finally after what seemed like a 100km ultra, the Seoul World Cup Stadium loomed just ahead and we were finally there. I breathed a huge sigh of relief only to be told by my darling of a wife not to get too comfortable cos we had like hundreds of steps to navigate to the top! Goddammit!


The Seoul World Cup Stadium

After a short break at a small convenience store cum cafe at the foot of the climb, we slowly made our way up to the nearly 300 flights of steps. Now, on a normal day, stairs are always difficult for me but after a marathon, double that difficulty by a factor of 100! But I have to admit, the view as we made our way up was spectacular. The entire Han river was slowly making its presence felt as the climb got higher and higher. We finally got to the top where the view was truly breathtaking. On one corner was the magnificent Seoul World Cup Stadium and on the other, the majestic Han River. We took a moment to savour the view and my wife said, she had another surprise for me and that this was really what she wanted to see in the park.

The long and winding climb up!

As tired as I was, my curiosity was piqued. I followed her along a path that branched out into a road even higher up which had lots of cyclists either struggling determinedly up or zooming like mad down the steep road. I was afraid for them cos the road was really steep down, Once we reached the extreme top of the park, my wife pointed to me what looked like a weave-like basket structure in the distance. I gave her a look that said, 'this is what you dragged me all the way up here for?'. The structure didn't look at all spectacular and surely not something I would be wound up about but how wrong I was. That didn't dampen her spirit one bit but dragged me even faster to the structure!

I climbed up here to see this wee tiny basket?

As we neared the structure, I began to see the artistry and beauty in it. It was huge, not gigantic or anything but huge. It was constructed to look like an amphitheater with decks you could climb on that led you to the top for an even more spectacular 360 degree view of the surrounding area. This place was ripe for some spectacular vain shots and I wasted no time in whipping out my camera. God bless this woman, she knows me and my conceitedness so well that she picks the best spots and places for my vain shots! Once we were done with soaking up the place, we made our way down slowly to head back for home, by this time, my Garmin fitness data has indicated we had walked nearly 13km up to this point! We still had a ways to go before we reached the apartment.

The interior of the amphitheater like basket!


As we walked down, the view of the Han river was mesmerizing. We both unanimously agreed that we would return and this time stay nearer to the river. It was a vow that we will be both definitely be fulfilling one day. Our subway stop was along the World Cup Stadium and it was a ways off. We made our way there slowly and just before we reached the subway, we came across a somewhat wholesale like market which we decided to explore. Our tummies were already hungry from the long walk and climb in the cold.

The place was selling all kinds of fresh vegetables and local delicacies. There was also a hypermart like grocery store in there selling all kinds of stuff at some unbelievably cheap prices. My wife bought some brownies that she bought in Myeongdong a few days back but this time at a much cheaper price and I couldn't resist two bottles of Soju, again at a price so much cheaper than what I've been paying for the past few days. Sadly we only found this place on our last day or I would have bought crates of Soju and take showers with them. They were that cheap!



Once we were done, we finally got on the train that would take us home. We were both exhausted but satisfied that we covered quite a huge chunk of sightseeing for one day. We were also extremely famished and once we reached our stop, I remembered that we had passed a few eateries just opposite our apartment on the first day we got here. We made our way there and found a small fried chicken shop where the owner mistook me for an American (LOL) until I corrected him that I was from Malaysia instead. At least there was at least one Korean who thought I looked like an American! We ordered a meal of a mix fried chicken and beer and wolfed it down like starving animals before making our way across the road back to our apartment.

We were both bracing ourselves to see if our apartment would resemble a fish tank full of water but to our surprise, everything was in perfect order. The owner's daughter was true to her word and the place was spotlessly clean. She even washed and dried all the towels we used to stop the water flow and even cleaned the bathroom for us. I was speechless but grateful that she did all she could to make our stay a pleasant one.

Our cleaned up room awaited us when we got back

I heard some activity from the next door unit (the walls are kinda thin over here) and went over to see if everything was in order. I saw the owner there with a maintenance guy trying to figure out which main I had shut off earlier as there were many valves in there and when he saw me he was so apologetic about the entire affair. I was more thankful that he was so efficient and accommodating and after showing him which one to turn on again, I could see the relief on both their faces.

After a short chat with him where I discovered his flight had just touched down and he came directly from the airport to the apartment building to make sure everything was in order. From day one even before I flew to Korea, he had been extremely helpful and right up to the day I was leaving, he was as helpful as ever. I would even say that he made sure our stay wasn't ruined by the drama earlier in the day. Kudos to him and I highly recommend his place to everyone.

It had been a long day but we still had some packing to do before we called it a night as we were checking out the next day. Once the packing was done, we both dozed off in mere seconds from fatigue!

Day 8

We woke up pretty early on our final day in Seoul. Our flight was scheduled to depart around 3:50pm and we wanted to get a head start without having to rush. We took our time packing up the final bits of gear we had, cleaned the room, we didn't have to but it's something that we always do no matter where we go. We believe to return the place as close to how we got it. With that all out of the way, we headed to the subway to take the long train ride to the airport. I was sad to be leaving the place. While Korea has its moments, I loved the place. We didn't nearly have enough time to see everything but what we brought back would last a lifetime.

My last vain shot in Korea before boarding the plane for home!

We reached the airport, stowed our luggage in a locker since we still had lots of time to spare and got ourselves some very late lunch and just chilled till it was time to check in. Since we didn't check in our luggage, we were done in no time and was soon on the shuttle to the departure hall and ready to board the plane back home. No matter the disastrous outcome of my marathon and one or two minor incidences, I still had an amazingly good time in Seoul.

Thanks for the memories, Korea! #iseoulu