Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Checklist For Race Day

The seasoned runners may not find this very useful. But perhaps some of the first-timer marathoners may find it helpful...

I'm seeking to achieve a 4-hour marathon this time round, so I'm not gonna be overly concerned about the ridiculously hot morning sun that we're so famous for. But if you're expecting a much slower finish, then perhaps you'd like to add a sunblock lotion to the list.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Borneo International Marathon 2014—Full Marathon Elevation Profile

A week to go to the Borneo International Marathon 2014 (BIM), and I'm sure most of the participants are eagerly waiting for the day. Most of you would have done your final LSD either yesterday or today, and will probably just run very short distances in the coming days in the countdown to the race.

Several weeks ago, I posted the route description of the full marathon category (42.2km) of the event in this blog. A visitor to this blog had been searching for more information about the course profile but couldn't find any until he stumbled upon the said article.

I had of course my Garmin Forerunner 910XT when I ran the full marathon last year, but those who know me well would know that I'm an idiot when it comes to modern technology—I didn't know how to upload the data from my Garmin to the net. Well, OK, I will admit it; actually, I've never really tried hard enough to figure out how to do it. Perhaps the manufacturer should consider coming up with something in the order of a "Garmin User Manual For Idiots". I'm sure it would be very helpful for people like me.

Anyway, yesterday I finally took the trouble to learn how to do it; and you'd be surprised to know that I managed to figure it out after all, and all on my own too! After I have uploaded my data onto an online account, I spent a few more minutes to figure out how to sort them out. 

Well, to make the long story short, I have done some customization, e.g. changing the units to the metric system etc, singled out the elevation profile for the full marathon in BIM, and then saved it to be posted here. It's all done within a few minutes, but it's a huge achievement for an idiot like me!

Those of you who're running the full marathon in BIM for the first time, you'll be happy to note that it's generally a flat course except for a couple of hills. As implied in my previous posting, the most challenging hills will be those around the midway of the race, and those are within the Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) loop. Looking at the elevation profile above can be quite intimidating as it gives an impression of very sharp climbs and sudden descents. But actually the climbs and descents are quite gradual, though still a challenge for those who're not used to running hills.

Please bear in mind that there will be a very minor change to the full marathon route this year, but you will not escape those hills within the UMS loop. Neither will it be any different in terms of when you will get to those hills during the race—they remain more or less around midway through the race.

Having said that, however, I want to clarify that I'm posting this strictly on my own accord, and any inaccuracy—which shouldn't be significant, if any—is solely on me. The above elevation profile has not been endorsed by the organiser. But you can take it from me; for all intent and purposes, it is at least 95% accurate by my estimate. By all means, you can use the above to formulate your racing strategy.

Once again, good luck and all the best!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Borneo International Marathon 2014—Tapering

The 7th Borneo International Marathon (BIM) will be in about 2 weeks from now on 04 May. Yesterday, some of us ran our so-called “peak long slow distance” (LSD) run starting at 4am from the Likas Sports Complex. We were separated into several groups—some ran 35km, some ran 31km, and many others ran their respective peak LSD distances for half marathon training. But some ran even shorter distances, having peaked last week. 

I have mentioned that I’m trying to achieve a sub-4 hour full marathon in BIM this year, but after yesterday’s workout, I’m beginning to have my doubts. A friend who’s a member of the organizing committee informed me recently that we’re having slightly more full marathoners this year. I thought I’d just share about what to expect in the coming BIM, especially for those running the full marathon here for the first time. 

We are presently having a dry season here in Kota Kinabalu (KK); we have had very little rain for about 2 months now, and the temperature at 4am hovers around 25C and it rises swiftly to mid-35Cs during the day. Yesterday, it was probably approaching closer to 40C during mid-day. Those of you who’re not from within this region should also know about the ridiculous humidity in KK—it’s almost like your sweat will fall in sheets! 

Still, the full marathoners will be glad to know that the flag off is at 3am and will therefore run at least the first half of the race at about 25C-27C. The sun rises at 6am in KK, and the temperature builds up rapidly from about 6:30am. If you’re not done by 7:30am, you should be prepared for a bit of an adventure of running in an open microwave oven. Some sunblock lotion with very high SPF could become useful beyond 7:30am. The only good thing, so far, is that there is no sign of haze up to now. Let’s just hope that it stays that way, at least until after the BIM. 

As you probably already know, temperature is a big factor in long-distance running. So far, there is no sign that the weather pattern is changing anytime soon. If indeed the current weather remains this way till race day, I’m expecting more people will suffer from heatstroke this year. So please be careful; hydrate yourselves well during the race. 

A quick mention about barefoot running which is apparently fast becoming fashionable these days, though not my cup of tea. The BIM full marathon route is made up of asphalt roads throughout. There will be very few sections of rough patches, but I’d say good enough for barefoot runners. There will be some debris on some road shoulders and can become risky for barefoot runners. However, during the race day, half of the road will be closed. It is therefore possible to run closer to the middle of the road, as opposed to the sides. In any case, barefoot runners should bear in mind that they face higher risk of injuries when compared to their shod counterparts. 

So now that the peak LSD is over, tapering has begun! 2 weeks of breather as we reduce mileage to build up on energy reserves, and therefore will have more time to solve Level 575 of Candy Crush Saga and continue on Criminal Case. What a relief! 

And speaking of relief, here’s a photo of Milly when she—yes, looks can be deceiving, folks, it’s a she —finished her peak LSD yesterday morning. I bet you could feel the relief too, right? You will be happy to know that she did not injure her back and neck because of this maneuver. 

To the participants in the Borneo International Marathon 2014, I wish you all the best of luck in your races. See you at the finish line! 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Holy Week

A colleague from Sandakan knew that I'm a Catholic, but he wasn't aware that I don't go to church. He wanted to go to church in KK in conjunction with the Holy Week, but he's not very familiar with the churches here. He asked me innocently, "Which church do you go to?"

I told him that I'm a non-practising Catholic, and I therefore don't go to church. He gave me that "look", and then both of us laughed about it.

Mia and JJ, and of course not forgetting my mother-in-law, will be attending mass a couple of times this week—the latter would insist to come along, even if she had to be carried on a stretcher, in an ambulance, through a perfect storm. In fact, I think she probably had all the rituals and verses memorized that she could conduct the service herself if the priest is taken ill.

But what about me? Well, perhaps it's been at least 15 years ago since the last time I attended one of those services during the Holy Week. The only thing I can still remember vividly is that famous line, "Crucify him! Crucify him!"

I suppose holiness is just not one of my strengths. I'd like to believe that I'm being fair to Mia and JJ in that as the head of my family, I allow them the freedom of religious belief. I mean religious freedom in the true meaning of "religious freedom"—not the kind of "religious freedom" that we have in Malaysia. They are free to embrace any religion they want to, as long as I'm not forced to join them. 

When and if I'm ever gonna have a change of mind, I may join them, or I may embrace a different religion; but only on my own accord. In the mean time, I will try to be a good boy, though I'm fully aware that I'm nowhere near perfect—I'm still working on it! If I'm not destined to enter the Kingdom of Paradise when I die because I did not embrace the right religion, then so be it, I'll try to live with it—I hope the punishment will be swift.

I wish to take this opportunity to wish those of you who're celebrating, a Happy Easter holiday.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Playing Doctor

My siblings and I had an interesting discussion with my dad about his health condition recently. That discussion was suggested by one of the doctors who had attended him at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital 2; we met her and had a long chat a day earlier. There were several issues related to dad's health as a whole, but to make the long story short, dad is very sick and there isn't much medical science can do to improve his condition. 

According to the doctor, he is apt to spend increasingly more time at the hospital in the near future, and sooner or later, we will have to deal with the fact that his body is failing. The inevitable question is that when that time comes, would we want the doctors to "try every possible means to keep him alive?"; meaning with the help of equipments such as the ventilator. The doctor suggested that we should discuss this with dad, since it concerns him.

I thought dad would want some time to think about it. Instead, he made up his mind very quickly, and he was adamant about it. He said if it is obvious that there is nothing more the doctors can do to help him, then there is no point to hook him up to the machines just for the sake of keeping his body going, but not really alive. To be honest, knowing his character, I had expected him to arrive at that decision. But anyway, nobody can tell how much time he has—it could be months; maybe a year or two...who can say.

Some years ago, when dad had his second heart attack, somebody introduced him to some sort of food supplement, at an astronomical price, that was supposed to help strengthen his heart and unclog his arteries. Dad took it for a few months. But a subsequent review by the doctors revealed that his condition did not improve at all. Those food supplements did absolutely nothing for him.

Then a conversation with a friend about mortality rate and major breakthroughs in medical science. New drugs and surgical procedures that can prolong lives like never before; people in general can live longer these days.

Although I don't have the official statistics, I have a feeling that at least half of the people living in Kota Kinabalu are doing some sort of part time business, selling health products to complement earnings from their fulltime jobs; and apparently all of those products "have been proven" can help in maintaining and improving health, even cure serious illnesses that have baffled medical science for years. We have Elken, Shakelee, Amway, Cosway, and all the way up to full Direct Circle, just to name a few; alkaline water filtering system that can cure numerous illnesses from diabetes, heart diseases, and even cancer.

In all these direct-selling businesses, there are several similarities. The products are almost always very much more expensive than alternative products in the market. That is of course an expected result for businesses where there are many, many middlemen, because obviously all those people along the many tiers would expect to earn something. Downline upon downline upon downline members, all of whom are not doing it for free. Even if each middleman earns a tiny portion, when seen as a whole, it will be a big amount—there is just no way to run, somehow it will be reflected in the selling price. I guess that is just business; everyone is seeking to earn more money if he can.

I am not a doctor, and of course there is a lot that I don't know about my body. But I read quite a bit on some topics and am therefore aware of some medical facts, although admittedly I don't know the full scientific details. I am wary of people who are much less educated than I am, trying to play doctor when explaining to me scientifically why their products are good for me, thus justifying why their products are expensive.

Even if there is any truth that these products can really work in curing whatever illnesses that I have, I'd probably have to take up a mortgage to afford the exorbitant prices. Just a bottle for a month's supply may cost in excess of RM100, and there is a full range of products out there, all supposedly good for me. Alkaline water filter selling at RM12,000 a piece. The selling point is always spending the money for the prevention of dreaded diseases.Well, I guess I will miss the opportunity to extend my life for a few more years. This is all that I can afford.

How Come?

One of my colleagues swims regularly at the public pool at the Likas Sports Complex. He’s aware that I’m an active runner, but he hardly ever showed any interest in running. I swim a little too, but I would go to the swimming pool at Sutera. I think we met each other once or twice at the Likas pool before I became a member at Sutera, but that was a long time ago. So actually our paths in sports never really crossed. 

However, last week he excitedly told me that he and some friends had registered for the 10km category in the Borneo International Marathon (BIM) on 04 May. I was happy to know that he has decided to try running too, but I thought it’s a little too late for a non-runner to start training only now, since we are so close to the event. 

Unfortunately, the 10km category is the shortest available category in the BIM. Many other similar running events in Malaysia have the 5km category, but not the BIM. My colleague has since started his so-called “training” for the 10km challenge. His idea of training means running twice a week for a distance of 5km per session which, according to him, would take between 30 to 45 minutes to complete. That training began last week. 

Recently, I posted an article entitled The Fun Run in which I shared the story of how some people have the tendency to underestimate the stress they put their bodies to. That was a true story that happened during the BIM last year. They had to stop their 10km race after running only 4km because of severe cramps. I don’t know if they trained at all before that race. 

My sister hasn’t been physically active practically her whole life, and she has a bit of a weight issue. Some years ago, she found out that she had Type 2 diabetes. She turned 50 just a few days ago. Recently she made the brave decision to become active in doing regular exercise. She started off by just brisk walking, and this lately she has also started to jog a bit. But she has to slow down to a walk again after jogging only a few hundred metres. Even a few hundred metres of jogging can be a huge challenge for some people, but that is still many times better than doing no exercise at all! We all have to start somewhere! 

Anyway, as I was biting into my peanut bun during lunch today, my colleague walked into my office and asked me an interesting question. Well, it was a question, but it sounded more like he was wondering to himself aloud. He said, “How come there is a bit of pain in my ankle after my run?” 

A bombastic question that made me pause for a while, not very sure how I should answer it. As a matter of fact, as surprising as it may be, this wasn’t the first time people have been asking me questions like that. They all sound like a no brainer question, but believe it or not, the reality is that many people still don’t realize that it takes a bit of time for the body to gradually react to the kind of stress they subject it to. 

Even regular runners—including elite world class runners—may sustain injuries every now and then. So if you are not a runner, but suddenly decide to put on a pair of sneakers and run 5km one fine day, it’s not realistic not to expect at least some soreness or aches in the joints after that. I hate to break it to you, but it is only human to experience all those. At least I know I did! 

The best policy is to give sufficient time for the body to react, perhaps over a period of a few months, i.e. to build strength and endurance for the workload. Not only will you minimize the risk of injuries, but it will also be much more enjoyable to run without suffering pains all over! 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Women & Concept Of Loyalty

I’d expect some of the women reading this post will not find it very agreeable, and I can already see it in my mind—all the heads shaking even before finishing the first sentence! So let me hasten to say that this is just my general observation, and obviously there are exceptions to the case. 

Women in general have an unfathomable sense of authority when it comes to their loved ones. I’m not suggesting that all women can’t get along with their mothers-in-law, but there is enough precedence to indicate some sort of “competition” between the two. They may not realize this so-called “competition” though; or even if they did realize it, it’s likely that they won’t admit it! 

When in due course, there is a clash between a woman and her mother-in-law—and trust me, it happens quite a lot in some families—she would expect her husband to support and protect her, because as far as loyalty is concerned, she deems it only logical that her husband’s priority should be for her, and not so much for his mother. Once a man marries, it is almost like he has pledged his life for his wife! 

However, after many years have elapsed, and when that same woman has a son of her own, and when that son grows up and marries, the woman’s logic can suddenly change overnight. Suddenly, she will deem it only logical that her son should be loyal to her, and not so much to the wife. After all, she was the one who went through the pains of bringing up the son for many years. I suppose both parties have their respective justifications to demand the loyalty of the man, and the arguments for and against those justifications can have no end. I don’t propose to discuss the merits of those justifications in this post, because I think it’s difficult to say what’s right and what’s wrong in this matter. 

Mothers are sometimes inclined to share some of their many valuable experiences in life, such as that of the “perfect” way to raise a child. This so-called “sharing” may not necessarily be hostile in nature though. In fact, it is quite often done with good intentions. The voice and intonation will be carefully checked to ensure that the sharing process really sounds like sharing instead of teaching. And of course some mothers just can’t control themselves from sharing their opinions. In fact, they never seem to run out of opinions on raising kids, doing house chores; even about how to manage household expenditures. 

Nevertheless, good intentions as they may be, the receiving end may not always see it as a good thing. Maybe the first few “sharing” sessions may be OK, but when the sharing process becomes more frequent, it can become intolerable. It may be interpreted as the mother-in-law trying to teach the daughter-in-law how to organize her household! There are many other examples of how the relationship between a woman and her mother-in-law can quickly go south, and sometimes the issues can seem so ridiculously petty when seen by an outsider from afar. But how should the man react? The clash is between his wife and his mother. Of course he can opt to stay out of the dispute, but in most cases that is not even an option; the women demand for his support! 

From conversations I've had with some male friends, the impression that I get is that most men, when faced with situations where the wife and mother can’t get along with one another, and when both parties seem to have about 50-50 justifications to stand their grounds, then the men would take the mother’s side. The ultimate loyalty is reserved for the mother! The most common reason for such an attitude is because “there is only one mother, but many potential wives out there in the world”

Well I am one of those in the minority group. If both my wife and my mother have more or less equal justifications to stand their grounds, there is without any question that my support will go to my wife. This is in no way an indication that I love my mother any less than my wife; or that I’m ungrateful for her service and sacrifice. It’s just a decision that I’ve made many years ago; that once I’m married, my wife comes first before any of my family members, including my mother, unless if it is very clear that she is in the wrong. 

Knowing that some of my family members are followers of this blog, I thought it’s a good idea that they should know my stand on this matter. But then again, I think they knew already even without reading this post anyway.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Exercise In Pursuit Of Better Health

I'm born into a family with a long list of hereditary diseases ranging from cancer, diabetes, heart related complications and obesity, just to name a few. I sometimes suspect that there is also a trace of another curious unknown disease that can cause one to be convinced that he is always right, and it takes great efforts to learn to be open to other opinions; though I also realise that many people suffer from this common disease too. But I shall refrain from discussing this latter disease in this post.

As a little boy, I was obese, as were many of my family members, so much so that my grandparents nicknamed me King Kong—a nickname that remains to this day among close family members. In my late twenties, I went for a blood screening for the first time in my life and was fairly surprised to find that I had very high cholesterol levels. This was despite my active lifestyle of playing badminton up to 4 times a week. I spent several months on a very strict diet, but I soon discovered that no amount of diet could help much to mitigate my cholesterol issue. I have since been taking statins up to now.

I think I was in my early thirties when I had a nasty fall during a badminton game and I injured my knee. That was the end of my love story with the sport of badminton. In the few years that followed, I did weights at the gym; initially meant to be a physio for my injured knee, but I soon got carried away with it. After a few years, however, I gave that up too, and started running short distances of about 3km per session. But I sometimes found myself in the perfect mood to run a little bit more, thus up to 5km. I reckoned that I had to maintain an active lifestyle to prevent all those diseases, and even if I can't prevent them, it would be good if I could at least delay them for a few years.

It wasn't till the time when the first Borneo International Marathon was organised in my hometown that I embarked on a journey of madness in the sport of endurance running. That year I registered for the half marathon, a distance that seemed outrageous at the time. And once I conquered that 21km, I very quickly became addicted to running. The rest, as they say, is history; I have since gone on to run many full marathons, several ultra trail marathons up to 100km, duathlons and most recently the Ironman triathlon. The appetite for bigger challenges just kept growing. Friends have been suggesting several other endurance events, and the distances just kept getting longer and longer all the time.

All too often people have been telling me that exercise can keep me healthy. Well, there is a lot of truth in it. Since I started running, I've been feeling more energetic. I can actually feel the benefits of fitness and stamina. So far I've been able to put diabetes at bay too. Two of my siblings are diabetics. I have a bit of freedom to indulge in the so-called unhealthy food every now and then. All this sounds like nothing but good news.

But last year, while I was running the Sundown Ultra Marathon 100km in Singapore, I saw blood in my urine as early as 35km into the race. And during a long ride a few months ago, again another episode of peeing blood. When I was preparing for the recent Ironman race in New Zealand, I sometimes found myself exhausted, and it took several days to recover. My joints are also beginning to complain more regularly these days. Sometimes, I would limp for a few days after a tough workout. I somehow don't feel very healthy when that happens!

This lately, I've revisited the question once again: 

Am I really doing the right thing to keep my body healthy?

Of course we are not all the same physiologically. Some people can run faster, for longer, and can recover fast as well. But I'm not born an athlete. I have come to the conclusion that the principle of diminishing returns in economics is also applicable in exercise too. After all too much of the good things in life can result in bad outcomes too. Not only age is fast catching up, but in order to conquer longer distances, and climb higher hills and taller mountains, I would need to train much harder and longer; and I'm finding it increasingly difficult to find the time to do so.

I think I will still continue to run marathons and duathlons and triathlons; perhaps even swimathons for as long as I can, but I don't think I'm keen to venture into running 200km or 300km and the likes. Challenges will never end, and there will come a time when one can lose track of the whole idea of doing physical exercises. To some extent, I think I've achieved what I wanted to achieve. I have conquered many distances that seemed impossible in the past. Beyond this point, I don't believe that I can gain much more benefits in terms of health, if any. Instead, the opposite may be closer to the mark. I have reached my limits! Now let's see if I can refrain from doing more!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Magical Charm

On a cold evening in early January 1943, God was at the final stages of creating a mosquito and a man. The former was meant to have a short life as a nuisance to the human race; whereas the latter was meant to have a long productive life with the hope of making the world a better place. Of course God also had his hands full with creating many, many other creatures too. But He somehow got a little confused in the process and mistakenly switched the soul meant for the man with that of the mosquito, thus resulting in the man born destined to be the nuisance!

Such is the fictional background of the story of the man named William, otherwise known here in this blog as the Playboy...

And now comes the true story of his life...

He had a rough childhood at the hands of his step-father, but when he reached adulthood, he wasted no time to unleash his full potential! Having dropped out of school after the Junior Cambridge, he got married for the first time at the age of 19. 

I can't imagine what the woman saw in him, but it soon became clear that he was not worth it. But women, as you know, can be hard to fathom when it comes to love; some of them are willing to sacrifice almost everything for love! Even if she realised very soon that this man was not worth the sacrifice, it wasn't until 12 years and 6 children later that she was finally able to free herself from him. It took that long to fight the love!

The man then took another wife—a younger woman who would be willing to sacrifice practically everything for him through thick and thin. He went on to father 2 more children with Number 2. Through the years, he brought her for a long roller coaster ride; sometimes exciting, sometimes depressing, sometimes beyond this world, but she would stick on for the sake of love!

However, that second fairytale did not last too. For the man with the soul of a mosquito wasn't done with his mission in life. Thus he took yet another wife—and this time the woman was 30 years younger than him—and then went on to have 4 more children.

The man hardly ever had a steady job in his life, and was hardly ever there for his children. Yet all the women in his life loved him dearly. Apparently God had bestowed upon him something in the order of a magical charm. Once  smitten by his charm, the women's lives were sealed forever.

71 years had elapsed since that evening in 1943; and the seemingly immortal man has aged and during a recent visit to the hospital, the doctors summed it up prettily—the Playboy is at the end stage of a failing heart. We weren't really surprised by the doctors' finding. Well, maybe just a little surprised that he's not going to live forever like Connor Macleod.

We made arrangements to bring the wife from out of town together with her children to the city to rendezvous with the Playboy for a few days. But just a few days of all paid-for trip. And at the end of that visit, when it was time to part ways again, it could be plainly seen from the eyes of Number 3, that she loved the Playboy dearly. Such a rotten deal loving someone you only get to meet for a few days in a year on stolen moments.

Three women, generations apart, whom had all fallen victims to the magical charm that is impossible to explain. It's just one of those mysteries of the world. Too many people crave and search for love their whole lives, and some are destined to never find it. This man found one too many, but has failed to cherish those precious gifts. Maybe that's because he's only meant to live an insignificant life as a mosquito, causing so much pain and troubles to others without even realising it.