Saturday, June 29, 2013

Back Onto The Saddle

In the weeks leading up to the Standard Chartered KL Marathon (SCKLM), I have been fully focused in my training, as I was hoping to achieve a personal best, or at least to improve on my time last year. So I had to forgo cycling for a bit. Unfortunately, earlier this week, it was officially announced that the SCKLM had to be postponed to 29 September 2013 due to the then bad haze situation in KL. Some of my friends have gone ahead to KL anyway for a short holiday in lieu of the race. But I decided to go cycling instead, and perhaps run a half marathon tomorrow.

You see, I have registered for the Sundown Ultra 100km marathon in mid-September, so I will have to embark on my back-to-back long runs anyway. However, in the hope that I can spare my knees a bit of stress, I've decided to cycle on Saturdays and then run on Sundays. I'm not sure if that will work equally well, but after all I'm just aiming to finish within 15 hours or so. Winning is of course out of the question!

Well, I reached the Likas Golf Driving Range (where we normally assemble) at about 6am this morning and was surprised to see Judy there. Judy had recently bought herself a bike and started joining us on a few Saturdays; and she had been going farther and farther out on each outing. But I didn't think that the postponement of the SCKLM would stop her from going to KL. I was like, surely the race isn't the only reason for her to go to KL?

My other friends, Teo Chen Lung, Hana and Amy were also there, as were some other cyclists. The mission today was to ride for a distance of about 70km to 80km. We started from the Driving Range at about 10 minutes after 6; and Amy, Judy and some others quickly surged ahead, leaving Teo, Hana and I behind. But I've never really been overly concerned about speed during training.

Along the way north, we caught glimpses of Amy and Judy a couple of times several hundred metres ahead. For the most part, we maintained a speed of about 30km/h. But after the Mengkabong bridge, I suggested to Teo and Hana to increase the speed a little to about 32-33km/h. Very soon, we caught up with Amy and Judy again at the Mengkabong roundabout. But instead of going straight beyond that roundabout, they decided to turn back there and then. The three of us decided that we might as well continue north as planned. It probably took us perhaps almost 10 minutes before we reached the T-junction where we turned back. By then, I suppose Amy and Judy would have been far ahead of us on their way back to Likas.

It was basically a mild workout as we had intended it to be. Hana did very well this morning, as she showed no sign of fatigue. I'm confident that she will do well in the Gold Coast Airport Marathon in 2 weeks' time. And of course, Teo, who's training for the Ironman next year, is even  more relaxed than both of us, but surprisingly, he kept his cool. It was generally uneventful throughout our journey back to Likas, until we reached the Kingfisher roundabout when we spotted Judy and Amy up ahead! They were riding fairly slow by then, and I thought that was uncharacteristic of these women. They are essentially animals of speed—whenever they run or cycle, the theme is always fast, fast, fast. Since Judy is a new cyclist, I thought it had something to do with exhaustion due to the extended distance. But somehow that explanation did not seem very convincing to me.

As we drew closer to them, however, I noticed that Judy was in a mess—her tights were basically covered in mud and sand; her top was also smudged. Both her right elbow and right knee were bleeding. It was obvious that the has had some sort of mishap somehow.

We eventually arrived at the Driving Range together, and Judy told us her interesting adventure of the day. She had somehow gone too close to the roadside (quite normal for most new cyclists) and ended up falling down onto a sandy patch. It wasn't anything serious though, but here are some of the shots I've managed to take.

The brownish patches on her tights and top were not fashion, by the way; those were the result of the fall.

And this is a close-up shot. Just look at that awesome well-developed thigh! By the way, that's the thigh of a sub-4hr marathon runner.

I bet Judy will remember not to ride too close to the side of the road because of this wound. But thankfully it's just a small wound. I hope it will heal fast enough before the Port Dickson Triathlon next Sunday.

They decided to have a proper pose to mark the solemnity of the moment. But just to set the record straight, in spite of what Teo seems to be doing in this photo, let me hasten to assure my readers that he did not use his finger to poke a poke-able object. It only seems like it, I swear!

Nevertheless, I found it a bit strange that Teo told me to post these photos as soon as possible (I took these photos with my phone). I wonder why. I merely said yes, I will post them soon; and then Teo practically just dumped his bike onto his truck, and left the parking lot in a jiffy; tyre screeching and all; thus leaving behind his expensive aerowheel in the middle of the road, as if it's a piece of worthless item!

I can only guess that he was planning to sneak into his office in the afternoon, where he can lock himself up, and then feast his eyes on that second photo above; maybe fantasizing for a bit while he's doing that? But this is just my pure speculation, of course!

On a serious note, I have a soft spot for women in general. It pains my heart to see them hurt. But I know Judy is a strong woman, and she will learn from this experience! Wait till she starts putting on the cycling shoes; now that would be even more interesting!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Curse of The Marathons

A loyar buruk friend of mine, Teo Chen Lung, pointed out a curious trend in marathon events over the past couple of months. You see, he spent some months preparing for the New York City Marathon last November, seeking to achieve his personal best, and then had to spend quite a lot of money on travelling, food and lodging expenses; not to mention the long, long exhausting journey from KK to New York, only to be told that the race had been cancelled when he arrived there! He ended up running in the park to make the best of what was already a hopeless situation. Leter on, when he arrived home, he wrote to the organizer; I don’t know how he did it, but he eventually got the official medal for the race by running in the park! 

To digress a bit, Teo has an unfathomable fascination and fetish for medals—in fact, any type of medal. He’s been collecting his medals for some years now and it’s becoming something of an obsession to him. He reminds me of Scrat, the saber-toothed squirrel in The Ice Age, whose obsession of the acorn is the trademark of the Ice Age movies. Teo pictures himself at his old age—probably smiling to the ceiling while he’s doing this—showing off his medals to his grandchildren sitting on his lap, and explaining to them all the great achievements in his day. But I hope I’m able to live long enough to be there to remind him that the New York City Marathon medal should not count! 

Anyway, After the New York City Marathon, the world was shocked by the senseless bombings at the Boston Marathon earlier this year. Terrorism has now spread to affect sports events too. 

Then more recently still, our very own Borneo International Marathon here in KK had to be postponed on police advice, on grounds of safety issue. 

And now, this!—the Standard Chartered KL Marathon (SCKLM) scheduled for this coming Sunday (30 June) is at risk of being cancelled or postponed too; this time because of the haze situation which has reached a dangerous level. As I’m writing this, we’re still waiting for the latest decision from the organiser. According to the weather forecast, apparently it’s expected to rain in KL within a day or two, and that may help to clear away the haze. So the organiser remains hopeful to proceed with the race. 

I ran the full marathon in the SCKLM last year with a 4:09 finish. I have since achieved a 3:53 finish in the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon earlier this year, but somehow I feel the SCKLM is tougher because it is much warmer and humid than Hong Kong. Also, the hilly terrain at the tail end of the race does not help at all. Nonetheless, I’m hoping to at least improve on my 4:09 last year. I’m not even going to consider repeating the Hong Kong feat in KL. But at the start gun, I will try to plan for a 4-hour finish and try to hold the pace for as long as I can. Then hopefully, if I lost steam as the race progresses, maybe I can still finish inside the 4:09 mark. 

I’ve been looking forward to the SCKLM; flights and hotel room all paid up. If it doesn’t happen, I’m really gonna be disappointed! If there is any truth in Teo’s observation on the recent trend in marathon events, maybe I should consider exploring a new hobby. 

Keeping my fingers crossed.

Monday, June 24, 2013

KK Challenge 8

I started organising the KK Challenge treasure hunt series some years ago, and I meant to make it an annual event. But somehow I couldn't find a suitable time to organise one last year. I've been spending increasingly more of my time either running, cycling or swimming these days. Then a few weeks ago, I decided to revive my KK Challenge hunt again. Over the years, my KK Challenge hunts—now in its 8th edition—have come to be something sought-after by the local hunters, and winning it has become something close to an obsession to some teams, not because it offers big cash prizes, but rather the fight is more for bragging rights.

Yesterday, 14 teams started from the Borneo Resthouse, located along Jalan Penampang for a 5-hour fun-filled trip around the KK neighbourhood; 4 of those were new teams. Well, at least they were new to my KK Challenge hunt. From the beginning, I had wanted to make this hunt something enjoyable for the new teams, but still remain faithful to its billing as a challenging hunt. I gave a generous amount of easy questions which were very solvable even for the new hunters. These included spotting of taglines, or straightforward general knowledge questions. And even if they were cryptic, I tried to make the questions as interesting as possible. 

I was a bit puzzled, however, by what I thought was a fairly easy question at the first hunt sector, which was not solved by some regular teams.

Q2) Goatee's locations in here

Later on, at the Lintas Square sector, again I was fairly surprised when a question which I did not mean to be a tough one apparently gave the regular teams quite a challenge!

Q15) Business name in trade techniques

I'm glad to say, however, that most of the questions I set along major highways were well answered, thus indicating that they did not cause too much trouble to the teams. This was according to my plan, of course, as I did not plan to cause them to spend too much time lingering along major roads and risk accidents there.

Q13) Helpers from the east are prepared to go forward

It was quite a distance from the highway, but fairly isolated and can be clearly seen from the car.

However, I did not want this hunt to be solely about the new hunters by neglecting the regular teams. So I had to throw in some more interesting questions too. Otherwise, they would finish the hunt within 3 hours! Here is a taste of something which I'd say quite decent for the local "regular" teams.

Q16) Daim becomes pale due to this

But although I had wanted to give a tougher question, I did not expect that only 2 teams found BLOCK A. I suspect it must have been a case of extremely thick rust from too long rest from hunting?

And later on at the Jalan Kilang sector, again I was pleasantly surprised when only 3 teams solved this question:

Q28) She needs them to cook dishes

However the biggest surprise of the day was the following question which was solved only by the winning team (another team solved it too, but I rejected it on technical grounds):

Q27) Haiwan tak bersayap, sangat lama kemudian, menjadi haiwan bersayap?

A seemingly straightforward charade clue that escaped the radars of the regular teams. I can only guess that it's a classic case of temporary blind spot.

An amusing attempt to conjure a "double-layer" clue which I did not mean to be difficult, ended up as something very challenging, and it totally destroyed the winning team's attempt to achieve a perfect score for this hunt!

Q25) Kari asam lemak - enaknya lebih terdahulu?

Of course I realise that these questions are of elementary level for our friends from the west, but sometimes psychological elements may have a big impact in transforming a seemingly "easy" question into a very difficult one! Those who've hunted in my hunts before would testify that I frequently employ the element of psychology when setting my questions. For example for the above question, there was a prominent eatery known for its curry fish head. The signboard practically shouted to be noticed by the teams! But how does one drag one's focus away from such an inviting signboard; that's the question!

As for the treasures, only one worth mentioning here, and it's not really tough when you come to think of it. But I had expected that it could be a challenge for most of our local teams, including the so-called "regular" ones.

Treasure 4

She ran with John McCain, taking 500 to Rome
Such is the hint on how the name of T4 is formed
Chewy candies, the flavour and size you decide
In an unopened pack, otherwise it is not right

Again, in my mind, perhaps a strong hunter from the west would find such a treasure clue somewhat decent, but not very challenging. But only the top 3 winning teams solved it. I had expected this treasure clue to be decisive, and it was indeed decisive!

I'm pleased to note that the hunters had a good time; and after the hunt, everyone congratulated and thanked me for a good time. But then came the expected question: When is the next hunt?

The top 5 winning teams are:

Champion: Main Tembak (96/100)
Alvin Wong, Bernard Liew, Christine Netto & Audrey Chin

2nd Place: Charlie's Angels (84/100)
Teo Chen Lung, Claire Andrew, Vivian Cham & Christy Kong

3rd Place: PAAMAD (76/100)
Malcolm Abidin, Talissa Kiandee & Robinson Ken Malangkig

4th Place: Mung Cha Cha (74/100)
Ellen Yee, Liaw Yun Haw, Shirley Lim & Mary Lokupi

5th Place: Dolom Hunters (73/100)
Felix Joikon, Insan Muslimin, Daisy Mark & Stella M.

Congratulations to all winners, especially to the top 3 teams. As for the rest, please don't be discouraged. Try harder to win those forsaken elusive medals in the next KK Challenge!