Monday, January 21, 2019

Jinx

Some women are very good when it comes to bicycles; and when I say "good", I mean everything about bicycles—from the bike-handling up to mechanical aspects. I said SOME, and "some" in this case is probably no more than 5% of the female population; maybe even much lesser than that. Of the remaining 95%, there is a wide range of bike-handling abilities, as well as knowledge and common sense about bicycles. Some women that I know have been riding bicycles for years, yet they don't know how to change a tube when they have a puncture.

My wife has been cycling for a few years now, but she is still not very good in bike-handling. She used to ride a tribike, but after a few years, I came to the conclusion that she would NEVER know how to shift the gear without having a traumatic experience, simply because shifting the gear while balancing the bike was a huge feat to her. In the end, I bought her a road bike, of which it's much easier to shift the gears, since the shifters are located on the handlebar, whereas the shifters for the tribike are located at the end of the aerobars.

At times, very simple bike issues may arise. Say for example her brake pad is touching her rim on one side, and no amount of adjusting the caliper can remedy the problem. She has no common sense to discover that the rim is slightly misaligned and doesn't sit perfectly fit onto the bike frame.

The Sunday before last, my wife went cycling. It was a part of her training in preparation for the 70.3 New Zealand race. You see, I'm racing the Ironman in Taupo, New Zealand on the first weekend of March, and she has decided to come along, although she's only doing the half distance.

She arrived home that day and gave me something in the order of a shock. Her right elbow and right knee were bleeding profusely; her helmet cracked and her cycling jersey was also torn on the elbow. I thought she was knocked down by a car or some other vehicle. But no, according to her, it was merely a pothole which she rode into, which resulted in her losing her balance, which in turn led to her crashing onto the road.

Thankfully, she didn't break any bone, and her bike was also OK except for some minor issues. The first time I raced Ironman New Zealand a few years ago, I was also involved in a bike crash with my friend, Teo a few weeks before the race, as related here. This time, it's her turn. I hope I will escape from any bike accident up to the race day. So anyway, she went to see the doctor for treatment. But as you can probably guess, her wounds would take a bit of time to heal. It really breaks my heart whenever I see my wife in pain, and no matter how hard I try, I can never get used to it!

Then came another Sunday—yesterday. As I was saying, her wounds have not properly healed, but she said she wanted to proceed with her bike training anyway. According to her, she wanted to break the jinx

I have had my bike training the day before on Saturday. So yesterday morning, I slept in. I woke up at about 7am, and then went swimming at 8:30am. But later that morning, I received a call from my wife; and seeing her name on my phone screen, immediately my heart rate shot up through the roof. You see, usually she would only call me when there is something wrong.

The good news was that it wasn't another accident, which was such a huge relief for me. It was just that as she was trying to shift from the big crank to the small one, the chain dropped, and it became lodged in between the crank and the bike frame. Quite a simple problem and quite common too. Firstly, how to prevent the problem; and that is by pedalling SLOWER and not too much force when shifting. Secondly, how to dislodge the chain; and that is by simply using the fingers to pull the chain out, or failing that, simply reverse the direction of the pedal. But no, women, as I was saying, don't have such common sense. So I had to drive about 45 minutes from home to rescue her at Mengkabong Bridge where she was stranded. I spent a jiffy dislodging the chain and then the bike was ready to go again. But by then, she had decided to call it the day. She said she had logged about 75km by then.

So the conclusion of the story was that she DID NOT manage to break the jinx yet. I wonder if she will be successful this coming Sunday. I'm waiting with my fingers crossed...


Thursday, December 27, 2018

Competition

Whenever I'm in the mood to lecture some of the young folks, I've always told them the story of competing in a foot race against other people. Immediately after the start gun, everybody starts running, and as the race progresses, you realise that your rivals are gradually leaving you farther and farther behind. What would you do? 

There are three possible reactions. The first is the simplest, i.e. just give up and stop running immediately. The only possible outcome of this choice is a certain defeat, period. The second choice is to just run at the same speed till the end. If the rivals are also maintaining their respective speeds, chances are they will continue increasing their lead over you until they cross the finish line. The third option is to try to run faster, somehow, in the hope that you can catch up with the competition, and who knows, maybe even overtake them. It's the hardest choice to make because it usually involves a lot of efforts. But even if in the end you can't win the race, maybe you won't be the last to cross the finish line. There is a chance that you might be able to overtake at least some of the runners.

And that is essentially what happens in life. All of us are actually in a race against each other on a daily basis, and in most cases, whether or not one can finish in pole position will depend on which of those three choices above that one opts for. We see the same thing in school, in the job market; in practically everything we do.

However, there is actually another possible choice to make, and that is to try to beat up the opponents' legs so that when their legs are injured, they won't be able to run so fast. It will then be easier to beat them in the race! It's not what one might call an honorable way of winning. But some people are not honorable anyway. If they can win, it doesn't really matter to them how they achieve it; winning is winning to them.

Therefore if a coconut farmer discovers that his customers are no longer buying from him—that they are buying from other people instead at a cheaper price—the immediate reaction is not to find ways to increase production efficiency to compete at the new prices; rather, find ways how to stop the competition from competing by urging the government to "look into the matter and put a halt to imported coconuts to safeguard the local coconut industry."

Winning a race against injured or crippled opponents, or winning a business venture due to monopoly power served by the government on a silver platter, is not really winning. This sort of success is only a success for as long as the protection is there. It's almost like buying a lottery ticket knowing the winning numbers before they are revealed.

If you want real victory, then fight a real fight. Real victory is much sweeter and satisfying.


Thursday, December 13, 2018

Soap Opera

This will be one of my shortest posts in this blog, just to share on the quality of politicians that we have in Sabah, their values and life principles, and who-knows-what they are really fighting for.


02 December 2018 [The Star]:

"Sabah Umno is still very much intact and united"...

"Our social and community services, as well as activities are being carried out as usual in many divisions in Sabah"

—Datuk Seri Hajiji Mohd Noor, amid a local media report that the party leaders and members were going to dump the party.


And then less than a fortnight later...


13 December 2018 [The Star]:

"We are leaving Umno with a heavy heart but a clear conscience. We believe that breaking free of past political baggage is the correct decision to allow for political renewal and betterment of Sabah"

—Datuk Seri Hajiji Mohd Noor, in justifying why he and friends are abandoning ship.



Friday, December 7, 2018

The Handouts Culture

My sister was once married to a man of Pakistani-Bajau descendants. He wasn't a very bright chap—he spent several months taking driving lessons until the tutor gave up on him. Apparently, the task of having to focus on the steering wheel while his feet had to deal with the 3 pedals on the floor, as well as the shifting of the gear with his other hand, was too overwhelming to him. I suppose it was just a hopeless case of multi-tasking.

My ex-brother-in-law came from a very poor family and used to live in the then Sembulan Water Village—the area has since been reclaimed and redeveloped with modern buildings. He is a devout Muslim, and as a teenager I looked up to him. He attempted the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia exams five times before finally passing it. Talk about determination! Such a hard-working man, and he was the role model to his younger siblings. He was, and still is, an extraordinary man, and I see him as a rare species of the Bumiputeras.

As is the case with most Bumiputera families, he had many siblings, and almost all of them were living under the same roof. Unfortunately, most of his siblings did not have the same mindset as him. They dropped out of school at an early age, and then got into trouble with the law. Some of them were jobless most of the time and spent their days hanging around doing nothing, just waiting to be fed. It didn't really matter that my brother-in-law was earning a decent income, because in his family there were more parasites than hosts. The net result is that the parasites would always overwhelm the hosts. The productive members of the family would always be broke, no matter how much they're earning.

Such is the "handouts culture" in his family—the non-productive members would expect to be fed by the productive members. In fact, it's almost like a birth right to them that other people should be feeding them forever. It's quite sad, if not mind-boggling, to see the life of my brother-in-law.

But what's happening in his family is actually a reflection of Malaysians in general. A sizeable number of Malaysians expect handouts too. They expect the government to give subsidies for a whole range of goods including food items, fuel, education and medicare. They applied for, and then secured education loans to pursue tertiary education. But when the time came to pay the loans, they demanded that those loans be cancelled for nothing. And even if they're willing to pay the loans, they'd expect some discounts from the original amount; and for the monthly installments to be as little as possible. Never mind who's going to pay for all these eventually; that's none of their concern. All they know is that they get either FREE or SUBSIDIZED goods and services, because they see these as an automatic right as Malaysian citizens.

I had one of those little conversations with my daughter recently. I told her that when she's already an adult it's entirely up to her to spend on the things she likes. But please make sure that she can afford those things, whatever they are. Mom and dad won't be around forever, so don't make it a habit to expect handouts from us. We will try our best to give her proper education. But beyond that, she's practically on her own. Please, for heaven's sake, don't be one of those people out there, perpetually demanding FREE or SUBSIDIZED goodies from the government. If the government is giving, then accept it with gratitude. If not, then earn the money on her own. And if she's still unable to earn well after putting in the efforts, then don't grumble. Keep trying. That's life. Get over it.


Friday, November 30, 2018

The Necessity of Child Marriage

My late father, the Playboy, married my mom at the age of 19. If I'm not mistaken, mom was 17 at the time. Six children later, "home" was a lot like a war zone on a daily basis. And then 12 years later, they were officially divorced.

I have seen way too many divorce cases in my day, even from among my family members, and I have come to a stage where I'm seeing the phenomenon as some sort of a disease. I've noticed that marriage between adults are not immune from the risk of divorce. People change over the years; people make mistakes in their decisions; sometimes the best solution is to get out of the rotten deal and start over again while there is still youth. However, some people will never learn in life; they make mistakes, and then they keep repeating those mistakes over and over again.

If even adults can make mistakes in choosing their life partners, imagine what's the odds of children making the correct choices? There's a lot more to learn in life than just the reproductive system before deciding on a life partner. In my mind—although I don't have any statistics to confirm it—the failure rate for child marriages should logically be higher than that of adults, simply because it's hard for me to believe that children can make better choices and decisions than adults. That's why I'm against the notion of child marriage. 

I read with interest the Kelantan government's stand on the issue of child marriage—that underage marriage is a necessity as there were social ills. Using marriage to circumvent children from indulging in "social ills" is something like sweeping the rubbish under the rug. It's not really a solution; it's just a temporary measure, but would most probably lead to an even bigger problem later. It is the kind of "solution" of people who are in the state of denial. What happens when these poor souls find out that they made a big mistake and end up with a divorce?

My daughter is just 16 years old now, and I'm praying really hard that she's not indulging in the so-called "social ill" activities. But if she did, marrying her off will be my last choice to make, because I know that there is an over-90% chance that that marriage will fail anyway. I'm not discounting the possibility of her making a big blunder as a teenager; but I won't allow her to make an even bigger blunder by getting married in the hope of escaping from that first blunder. Deal with the mistake by solving it; not by making an even bigger mistake to cover up that first mistake.


Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Lust To Punish; The Reluctance To Forgive

This lately I'm seeing a fair number of posts on facebook about Edi Rejang, the man who's become famous because of the "Beer Incidence". I'm seeing all the good people just itching to punish Edi because he's a racist, and they are tired of his bullshit.

Edi has since admitted his mistake and apologized to the female beer promoter in the hypermarket. However, the story did not end there. The criticisms against him had intensified. What's more, he has been fired from his job. Way too many people are of the opinion that he deserved the punishment; he had it coming. There is no place in Malaysia for a racist like Edi.

Now this may come as a big surprise to some of you, but actually we have many, many people in Malaysia who're racist. They come from all walks of life including highly educated people, even political leaders. Yes, you better believe it! But not all of them have received the same punishment as Edi.

Whenever we see someone doing something bad, there is the tendency to punish; and the strange thing is that sometimes it seems like no amount of punishment will satisfy us. No amount of admitting to his mistake; no amount of apologies from him will be acceptable. All we want is to strike back really hard, because the wrongdoer needs to be taught a good lesson, you see.

I suspect that many of those who're punishing Edi are convinced that they have never made any mistake in life. But I hate to break it to them—none of us are immune from making mistakes. Sooner or later, we will make at least some mistakes, and those mistakes will one way or another, hurt other people, perhaps even our loved ones.

The err is human, the forgive is divine

The thing is that when we take on the role of the punisher, we try very hard to impose the worst kind of punishment that we can think of; and there is that peculiar reluctance to forgive.

Truth be told, because all of us are liable to make mistakes sometimes, all of us deserve a second chance. If we deserve any punishment, let it be quick, and then get over with it. Forgive and forget. I have always said that it takes a great courage to admit one's mistakes and apologize for them. But it takes an even greater courage to forgive others. How about we try to be brave, and forgive him for his mistake. After all, he has been punished; I think he gets the idea.

I know that many people are unwilling to forgive. They do not realize that one of these days, their turn will come to make mistakes, and they will be the ones seeking forgiveness from others.


Thursday, November 22, 2018

Ironman Malaysia 2018 (IMMY)

One fine day, a little over half a year ago my friend, Pamela Fletcher, invited me for a yam-cha session. She arrived fully equipped with a notebook and a laptop like a journalist. Gave me quite a surprise, she did. She was seeking my advice on racing the Ironman in Langkawi, and I spent a good hour or so sharing with her what I knew about the Ironman. The truth is that I'm not an expert; but if you are just an average person with a full-time job, attempting your first Ironman race, it's not such a bad idea to seek advice from a person like me.

The advice that I can offer will most probably suit people like Pam, because I myself am not a professional triathlete—I have a full-time job and constantly struggle to juggle between work commitments, family and social life and my training programme. Way too often professional coaches come up with the kind of training programmes that are just impossible to adhere to for ordinary folks like us. But I have always been a firm believer of the fact that any average person can finish an Ironman race within the cutoff time of 17 hours. The two main ingredients are 1) time and discipline to carry out the training; and 2) mental strength on the race day.

I've known Pam for many years now, and I must admit that I had my doubts of her making the cut for the Ironman. I had no doubt of her mental strength, of course, but I wasn't sure about her discipline when it comes to the training. I somehow had the impression that she's perpetually full of interruptions when it comes to her training, but I guess that's all she could do.

We arrived at the start line of the Ironman Malaysia race in Langkawi, i.e. the swim of 3.8km comprising 2 loops of triangular-shaped course. I met Pam shortly before the flag off. Mia was also racing, although she was only racing the half distance, 70.3. I've never been a very good swimmer, and I took about 1:35 minutes to finish the swim. But about 500m before the finish, there was a storm, and the sea became very rough, and it was much more of a struggle to reach the shore.

Another friend, Marzuki Nasir, was racing his first Ironman, and before the race, every now and then he'd ask me about this and that. He trained very hard for the race, losing perhaps over 10kg within 4 months. He improved his swim substantially. But of course, as in the case of most triathletes, there is always insufficient run training, I don't know why.

Marzuki was asking me about Transition 1 (after the swim), and I told him that it's just a huge enclosed tent where the whole crowd would be. Yes, some people would change into fresh dry clothes after the swim, and there is no privacy; they will just strip off everything in full view of everybody else. I told Marzuki not to look, of course, because otherwise he would lose his appetite for weeks after that.

As I was putting on my shoes, Quentin was there shouting something about me not telling the truth. But it was a noisy crowd, and I didn't bother to find out what he was saying. I calmly put on a cycling jersey and ran out to my bike. There, my heart sank as I saw most of the bikes were already gone, thus indicating that I had a lot of catching up to do.

Shortly after I left T1, I arrived at the hilly Datai section of the bike course. It was still raining cats and dogs. I remained true to my game plan, which was to pedal uphill slowly. Just about halfway up the first hill, I saw Anslem coming down from the opposite direction. I'd estimate he was probably about half an hour ahead of me by then.

Later that morning, the rain stopped and then the sun came back with a vengeance—it was scorching hot until I could feel the heat biting into my skin. After a long sector of mainly flat and mildly undulating roads, I finally arrived at the 3 hills. From the foot of that hill, I saw the procession of cyclists pushing their bikes uphill. I merely shifted to my lightest gear, and took my time pedalling up the slope. Then there was another hill, and another. As I was just reaching the top of the third hill, I saw Samantha Lee pushing her bike. Just a quick "Hi" and then I was enjoying the downhill portion. But then we had to repeat the entire loop to make the 180km.

As I progressed further and further into the bike leg, I felt increasingly tired. But I had expected that anyway. You see, before this race, I did the 70.3 Bintan; and then Ironman Taiwan. These were tough races to me, and they're just weeks apart. I felt like I had insufficient time to recover. Accordingly, I felt my bike getting heavier and heavier all the time. But actually, little did I know, I was losing air pressure in my front tyre. I didn't realise that there was a very tiny puncture.

At Transition 2, as I was changing my shoes, Quentin was there again. I had the shrewd suspicion that his main reason for joining the race was just to stalk me, not to finish the race; I should hire some thugs to beat him up one of these days! He was shouting from across the changing tent, "Why so slow?". I was waiting for him mah!

It was still very hot when I embarked on the 42.2km run. It wasn't really a run; more like a very slow jog. At roughly 6km into my run, I saw Anslem coming from the opposite direction. At that point, he was perhaps about an hour ahead of me. Since the beginning of the race, I haven't seen Marzuki and the rest of my Sabahan friends. But later I saw Bonaventure. He was at that point fast catching up with Anslem.

As I was approaching the turning point at Cenang, I finally saw Marzuki coming from the other direction. But it took me perhaps another half an hour before I finally overtook him along the road leading back to the MIEC. My legs felt very heavy, and I was getting very exhausted. Somewhere along that stretch of road, I saw Pam running, evidently she has survived the bike leg of the race!

Before long, it was already nightfall, and on the second visit to Cenang, I finally caught up with Anslem. He was already walking then, and I slowed down to a walk too. We walked together for some distance, and he suggested that we should just keep walking for the rest of the distance. But doing some rough calculations in the head, I was horrified by the thought that we would have to walk for 2.5 hours to reach the finish line. Accordingly I resumed my slow jog again. Counting in my head, 1-2-3-4-5....I kept going up to 500, before I rewarded myself with a walking rest of 60-70 steps. Then I repeated the whole cycle again and again.

The last few kilometres of the race was the most punishing. I felt like there was nothing left in my legs. By then even a slow jog of a mere 50m needed a Herculean effort. I began to wonder if I would even reach the finish line.

Ordinarily, I would run the last homestretch to the finish line. But on this occasion, I was just too exhausted, I could hardly walk, let alone run the final few metres. I merely walked unsteadily; I looked down to the ground and had to struggle to stay on my feet.

It was the ugliest finish of all my Ironman races, but my main priority then was just to cross the forsaken finish line. In the end I did it in 14:47. After receiving my finisher medal and towel, I sat on a plastic chair to catch my breath. And oh boy, I felt like I was having a heart attack—my heart rate was over the roof, and my legs felt like jelly. It was just pathetic, I tell you!

After a long time, Anslem arrived at the finish line with his brother Victor. It was then that I found out from Anslem that Quentin had abandoned the race after the bike leg. I must admit that the thought of quitting did cross my mind too, because of the extreme exhaustion. Marzuki did it in 15:10, a very respectable time for a first timer, especially in a course like Langkawi. I was overwhelmed by exhaustion that I didn't have the appetite to eat. After a long rest, I had some soup and an icepop. Then I collected my street bag and finisher T-shirt. 10 minutes later, I reached the hotel room.

Mia had hours ago finished her race, and actually achieved a huge PB. She would usually struggle to beat the cutoff time of 8:30, and she's had several DNFs too. Even if she did beat the cutoff, it would be just by a matter of less than 5 minutes. But today she finished in 7:50, an improvement of more than half an hour!

I had a shower and got ready for bed. It was way past midnight, and I was dead tired. And then it suddenly occurred to me, what has happened to Pam? Accordingly I grabbed my cellphone and launched the tracking app. Pam was still racing out there and she had a few kilometres left to run in the dying minutes of the race. As the minutes ticked away, my sleepiness disappeared, and my heart rate began to shoot through the roof again. Come on Pam, you can do it!

The tracking app kept loading new estimated finishing times for Pam. At first, the estimated finish was a DNF (did not finish). God dammit, run faster lah Pam! Then the estimate changed to just barely making the cutoff. Then it changed back again to DNF. And again to making the cutoff. Oh for heaven's sake, don't do this to me, Pam! At long last, the official result was that Pam did it within the 17 hours cutoff with a little shy of 4 minutes to spare. For the second time that night, I almost died of a heart attack; all my finger nails were gone by then. I had the right mind to run to the finish line to strangle Pam to death, maybe at least break her leg or bite her nose, but unfortunately I was just too exhausted to do all those.

 Speaking of the devil...

In the end, all Sabahan participants in both the full and half distances finished within their respective cutoff times. Congratulations y'all, especially to the first-timers. It was in that sense a victorious day for Sabahans, and I bet this will spur on many other Ironman wannabes to attempt the Langkawi race next year.

After all the months of training and race day excitement, it all boiled down to this medal.

I have done 3 Langkawi Ironman races, and I shall keep the option open for next year. It's been such an exhausting year from me. Time to take a 2-week break before resuming training for my next race.