Saturday, December 17, 2016

Trying Too Hard To Be Smart

I had an ear infection about 5 years ago, and I went to the then Damai Specialist Hospital (now it's known as the KPJ Damai Specialist Hospital). According to the ENT Specialist, the infection was mainly due to my own doing. You see, I had the habit of cleaning my ears with cotton buds. The doctor said, actually there's no need to clean the ears because they're "self-cleansing". If entirely necessary, it's OK to clean, but perhaps just once a month; maybe no more than twice a month. Unfortunately, I was in the habit of doing the cotton buds thing almost on a daily basis!

Five years have since elapsed, and I'm still doing the cotton buds thing—daily. Old habits die hard, you see. I shall not attempt to offer any excuses—I readily admit that I'm an animal of habit, and this particular habit I just can't cure! Each time I had the cotton buds in my hand, I knew that it's just a matter of time before I'm forced to visit the ENT Specialist again, but I've been very lucky for the last five years.

Then my luck took a turn for the worse 2 days ago. While I was indulging in the cotton buds thingy, somehow the cotton was detached and got stuck inside my left ear. For a short moment, I panicked. But then I managed to compose myself and started thinking how I might get the damn thing out of my ear. That was the proper starting point of my 2-day adventure of trying too hard to be smart.

Let me just say that having a cotton bud in the ear isn't very amusing—you become partially deaf, and although there's no pain, it'd still bother you all the time. I've tried everything that came to my mind, and not all of my ideas were brilliant ones. But desperation is a curious thing—it can make you come up with all sorts of ideas, if you know what I mean. 

Well, they all ended up in failures, one after another. If anything, I only made it worse; with each ridiculous try, the only thing that I achieved was to push the cotton deeper into my ear. Then at the height of my desperation, I came up with the most ridiculous idea yet. I reckoned that it might be a good try to pour water into my ear; and then when the water's flowing out, it could drag along that forsaken cotton too. I mean, think about it; it's logical, isn't it?

Except that the moment the cotton got wet, it immediately expanded and the water got stuck in my ear. So I ended up becoming totally deaf in my left ear, and now I had the problem of the cotton piece as well as water stuck there! Way to go, Cornelius!

After 2 days trying to be smart, I finally came to the conclusion that I needed the ENT Specialist's help once again. Don't ask me why I took such a long time to arrive at that conclusion. Please just be happy for me for eventually arriving at that conclusion.

Well, you'd be glad to know that the doctor did not give me a hell of a scolding like what I thought I deserved. He listened to me while I spent about 2 minutes to tell him about my 2-day adventure trying to be smart, thus culminating to a visit to his clinic. He then spent something like 15 seconds to extract the cotton piece from inside my ear with the use of a pair of tiny forceps. It was quite a relief to be able to hear clearly once again. So it was a happy ending to a short adventure, except that I was RM109.20 poorer!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Veterinarians, Sick Bunnies & Clueless People

Me pet dog, Boomer, died of old age a few years ago. He lived up to about 12 years old, and a veterinarian friend said that's the equivalent of about 80 years old for a human. At the time of Boomer's death, I had just begun running regularly, and I reckoned that I wouldn't have had the time to have another pet. Having a pet is tough work, you know; it's a lot like looking after a child. Besides, we have since moved to another house, and there isn't much space for a dog to roam around. I'm not such a big fan of keeping dogs in a cage.

JJ, however, managed to convince Mia to buy her a pair of bunnies a few months ago, and named them Charlie and Emma. I was like, what kind of names are those, for heaven's sake? I mean, shouldn't it be something in the order of Toothy or Hopper, or even Big-Ears? Instead, it's Charlie and Emmabah!

Anyway, this was after JJ's short stint with hamsters which had since died. I wasn't even aware of all this bunny business until I came home from work one day, and saw those baby bunnies. I think it was a reward for JJ's good grades in school. I'm OK with JJ keeping pets, but I made it clear to her that she would have to be responsible for them. Which means cleaning the cage, feeding etc. I told JJ that I wanted nothing to do with those bunnies, because I just don't have the time for that!

This afternoon, Mia and JJ brought Charlie to the vets. I asked JJ what's going on, but as usual, she just gave me a one-word answer—nothing!

It wasn't until later that I received a message through Whatsapp from Mia when she was about to leave the vets' clinic. Apparently, JJ was observing the bunnies when she noticed that Charlie had some sort of growth and she was worried that it might have been a disease that should be treated quickly. I'm not sure if she was thinking about a possible tumour? Mia saw it too, and both of them rushed Charlie to the vets. Check out the "tumour" in the photo below.

But other than that growth, Charlie appeared fine. He behaved very well as usual, even when he was at the vets. See for yourselves.

The vets spent perhaps 10 seconds to look at Charlie, and then told Mia that he's perfectly normal. RM25 for consultation fee please, thank you. I bet that must have been one of the easiest RM25s that the vets had made. Even from seeing the photos through Whatsapp—yes, Mia sent me several photos of the tumour from different angles—I almost died from laughing so hard, to the extent that I almost had no pause to take my breath! I'm guessing that the vets must have had a near-death experience from laughter too after Mia and JJ left their clinic. Too bad I wasn't there to join them in their laughter!

Anyway, I'm sharing this with you all because I suspect that some of you, perhaps especially the women, are as clueless as Mia and JJ too? Remember, people, male bunnies are born with testicles; they stick out from the body in between the hind legs.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Ironman Malaysia 2016

After I completed the Ironman Western Australia last December, I knew that that wasn't the last time I'd be racing an Ironman, even though I said that was the last. Still, I had planned to take a break from an Ironman race for 2016. I thought I'd rather focus on the half distance for this year. I had a special interest in the Putrajaya 70.3 in April because I was disappointed with my performance in the same race last year. Not long after it opened for registration, I signed up for the challenge. I was also eying for the Ironman Malaysia 2016 (IMMY) in Langkawi, although I would have preferred to give it a shot in 2017.

Then my plan changed because of two very powerful words—LAST EDITION. It was announced that the IMMY 2016 will be the last, and I had to reconsider my racing calendar. Some of my friends were also joining the race. In the end, I decided that I might as well join too. There was a "bundle discount" for athletes opting to join both the Putrajaya 70.3 and the IMMY, but I was disappointed to have been told that since I've registered for the Putrajaya 70.3 earlier, I was no longer eligible for that discount offer.

It was a windy morning at the start of the race, and having seen the bike route 2 days earlier, I knew that it was gonna be a big struggle for me. I trained on my bike over the last 2 months with a long ride during the weekends. But the maximum elevation gain that I had was about 700m; whereas the elevation gain of the race course in Langkawi was about double that. I told my friends that I'd expect to finish the bike leg in about 7 hours.

The Swim

Anyway, the swim consisted of 2 loops with a short break of beach run in between. It was a calm sea, although it was rather frustrating that there was a lot of kicking (from swimmers using the breaststrokes). I received a few blows all over my body, and one of them kicked my Garmin. I didn't realise that that had caused my Garmin to stop. I had no idea how I did during the swim, but I  have a feeling there must be something wrong with the timing system. It was recorded that I swam the 3.8km in about 1:40. My own estimate is that I must have swum at least 1:45, especially taking into account that I wasn't swimming straight! I took my time at the shower on my way to the changing tent. I managed to restart my Garmin once again just as I was about to embark on the bike leg.

The Bike

The start of the bike leg was a pleasant flat road of a few km. But then soon after that, we had to turn in to a junction, leading to the hilly terrain in the direction of Datai. As I said, I didn't have enough hill training, so I decided to play safe—each time I reached a foothill, I'd shift to the lightest gear and take my time spinning uphill. It was still tough work though. I spent perhaps around half an hour for that part of the bike leg, and I was glad to eventually emerge from that junction once again to a relatively flat course. It wasn't till much later when I arrive at 3 consecutive hills immediately after the traffic lights. Again, I adopted the same approach—lightest gear and very slow gradual climb. I passed the challenge without the need to push my bike uphill on foot. Looking at my Garmin, I was pleased to note that I was on target for the 7 hrs bike leg finish.

It was a very hot day, and my sweat was dripping from my chin like a leaking tap. I thought salts were provided at the aid stations, but there was none. In fact, there was an aid station that ran out of water, and I was very frustrated, because I had run out of mine on the bike too. Bear in mind that the aid stations were about 20km apart. I was thinking maybe I could do with whatever electrolytes from the energy gels. Because of my controlled speed, I had no problems of cramping muscles, but nausea was building up in my system. I knew that I was in deficit of electrolytes.

A few km during the tail end of the bike leg, suddenly it began to pour. I mean raining cats and dogs like somebody was doing the ice-bucket challenge onto me. I could hardly see the road ahead, and I had to slow down substantially to about 15kph. I noticed several other participants behind me.

When I finally reached the dismount line, there were many people cheering us. One of them shouted "Well done!... you're doing great!"; and as a volunteer took my bike from me, I yell back, "I'm afraid I'm NOT done yet!"

The Run

I would estimate that when I started on the run leg, it must have been about 9 hours since the time I started the race that morning. It was still raining heavily. I was jogging very slowly, but it was no good. I felt like puking. In the end, when I reached the second aid station, I decided to enter the toilet to try to puke. After spending a few moments in the toilet, it was still not happening. Accordingly, I started jogging again, but the nausea was too much to deal with. Shortly after that, my friend, Dr Shah came passing by, and I could only look at him drifting further and further ahead of me.

Soon, I was just walking more than running. I wasn't sure how much more time I had at that point of the race, but calculating in my head, I realised that walking for the rest of the race wouldn't get me to the finish line within the cut off time. I kept trying to jog, but I had trouble balancing on my feet. In the end, I had to accept defeat. Arriving at an aid station about 10km into the run, I went to the side of the road and again tried unsuccessfully to puke. It was then that I made up my mind to quit the race... 

Quitting is something that I very rarely do in my life. I didn't get to be where I am; and what I am today by quitting. But this was my limit; and I had to reluctantly accept that there is only so much my body can do—the mind is willing; the body is unwilling.

Then a miracle happened. A participant named Yap (I found out after the race that his full name was Yap Eng Hui), when seeing me stooping at the roadside, asked me if I was OK. I said I couldn't continue because of severe nausea. He said he had salts with him, and then gave me a capsule. I took it and decided to walk a little. At the next aid station, I was still feeling horrible, and another friend, Henry Wong, came trotting along. I told him I wanted to quit, but he encouraged me to continue.

So I laboured on, and by about half an hour later, perhaps after the salts were in my system, I felt much better; and I was able to jog once again! I was confident once again that I would be able to beat the cut off. But alas, that one salt capsule did not last very long. about 2 hours later, I was once again feeling nausea. My Garmin had gone totally dead by then. Reaching the final turn at MIEC, I lingered on at the aid station. As I was walking out of the building, I struck a conversation with a lady. It turned out that she had salts too, voila! After taking that salt capsule, and waiting for some minutes for it to take effects, I came upon a man named Riedel. After walking with him for a few minutes, we started running the remaining 4km or so to the finish line together, overtaking several people along the way. 

You can imagine my elation when I crossed the finish line. It wasn't what I had expected when I entered the race. The changing fortunes throughout the race is something that was worth it. Valuable lessons learnt; new friendships forged. 

In the end, my official finish time was 15:46:23. My friend, Teo, teased me for being among the last few to finish. But I'm proud of that achievement, really. On the other hand, though, I'm rather disappointed in myself. The disappointment isn't about being fast or slow; or winning or losing. I mean, people from all walks of life, in different shapes and sizes enter this race. I can beat some of them; and get beaten by some of them too. I have long ago accepted that I'm not good enough to be able to beat all of them.

No, the disappointment is for a different reason. In whatever I do in life, I will always want to do my best; to realise my full potential. In the same way, whatever race that I join, I'd like to achieve my highest potential. It doesn't really matter if I can finish the Ironman in 12 hours; if that's not my best, I'll still be disappointed in myself. But on the other hand, even if I can only finish in 16:59, but that's my best potential, I won't be disappointed. I just feel that I did not perform to the best of my potential in this race, and someday, god willing, I want to try again to prove to myself that I can do better, much the same way I redeemed myself in the Putrajaya 70.3 on my second attempt. If this was really the last edition of the IMMY, then that is OK too. For even if that was not my full potential, I've given my best shot anyway. I'm still happy that I finished a race which I've actually surrendered already!

So, Teo  (I know you're reading this) don't just tease this old man, let's do it together!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

William Koh (08 January 1943 - 12 November 2016)

It's quite normal that most people look up to their parents as their role models. My dad was my role model too when I was still a little boy. But that changed through the years as I was growing up. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that he was hardly ever around during my early years. It must have been around my mid-teens when I had a big revelation—that the man I used to admire and look up to had a lot of limitations. My father was, in many ways, a stranger to me. On many occasions in my life, I've tried to no avail to understand him. He's unique—one of its kind in this world. But although I've failed to fathom what's going on in his head, I've nevertheless learned to accept him for what he's worth. He's after all my father.

There was a time when I thought there weren't many good things that I could say about my father. It seemed like I could go on and on about what's bad about him though. And this is where I throw in those famous 2 words—nobody's perfect

Shortly after his death last Saturday morning, I received a private message from my uncle, and apart from offering his condolences, he also advised me to "think of the goodness in him (dad)...and there's a lot to his credit". Even without my uncle's advice, though, that would have been what I'd do anyway; but it's good to know that a wise uncle would support how I react to my dad's demise.

But I feel compelled to give a little background of the man. The late William Koh lived his life to the fullest, and seemed reluctant to forego whatever littlest opportunity for pleasures in life. If he enjoyed, for example, a particular food or habit—like smoking up to four packs of cigarettes per day—nothing in the world would stop him from indulging in those. When in due course, he's overwhelmed by the curious optimism that he's known for, he'd sell whatever his worldly possessions to pursue his business ventures. Not that he had very many possessions to start with. The trail of destruction in his wake could be quite something to reckon with, and I've had my fair share of the chores of picking up the pieces. I dare say that in some ways, it's a lot like making babies—I have a shrewd suspicion that he enjoyed the process of trying much more than actually achieving his goals!

But side by side with his reckless attitude in life, he was also known for his generosity. He has helped countless people including close family members and friends; even total strangers. While he was never rich with money, he was at least rich with people who've been indebted to him in one way or another. He was also loved for his simple but sensible approach to solving problems. Many people went to him for advice in his day. Despite all his failures in life, many, many people looked up to him as a big brother. I guess in that sense, he was a rich man after all. Over the last couple of days since his death, I've heard "he was a good man" from several different people, and I'm inclined to think of that as among his biggest achievements in life.

I've mentioned dad's reckless attitude in life. That's not without consequences. He was diagnosed with diabetes shortly before he turned 50. About 2 years later, he had a heart attack. He went through the angioplasty, and although he stopped smoking for about half a year after that, the locomotive in him came back with a vengeance, quickly building speed up to four packs per day. Thus he had a second heart attack about 10 years later, and this time he had to go through a quadruple bypass surgery. He survived that too. But his heart was badly damaged from the two attacks, and in the years that followed, his heart went through a gradual process of dying.

After he was hospitalised on one occasion, we children were all summoned by the doctors—both the surgeons and from the Palliative Care unit. We made no pretense, we were never in denial; and we knew what to expect. The doctors summed it up prettily—that dad's heart was in its end stages of dying. There wasn't much that the doctors could do to improve his heart, although of course they could try to make him as comfortable as possible. We should expect dad to spend increasing amount of time at the hospital. We also discussed about other matters, including funeral options etc. It was in fact a very honest discussion. Dad was also present during the major portion of the meeting, and I could see that the doctors were fairly surprised with the way we handled the discussion.

But that was about 2 years ago. Dad, with his reckless attitude, was suddenly forced to stop doing all the things he enjoyed doing. He was restricted to drinking no more than 700-800ml of water per day, otherwise his body would become "flooded". He was constantly fighting thirst. He could hardly walk more than a few metres without feeling exhausted. He was essentially imprisoned in his own body. Last Saturday, he was finally "freed", and although it's sad to lose a loved one, we're inclined to treat his life story as something to be celebrated.

William Koh lived a life of adventure, in blazing excitement. As a doctor friend said to me, he has completed his race. I dare say it was a triumphant finish too. Rest in peace, dad; you're da man!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


There was a time in my life, for a period of about a year, I was addicted to Hindi movies. It all started when I saw the excitement in my late niece, Erlinna, when the movie Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was showing on TV. I was playing mahjong at the time, and was wondering why she was so excited. I took note of the title of that movie, and when I returned to Brunei after the holidays, I went to the shop to buy the VCD. I surprised myself for the endurance to be able to survive the entire 3 hours of the movie. It was indeed a good movie.

Then the curiosity got the better of me, and I started exploring other Hindi movies. This movie, that movie, and it soon became an evening routine for me to be glued to my TV almost every evening. I have forgotten most of the titles, except for some such as Maan and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. But after a while, somehow my interest in Hindi movies began to fade. You see, after watching so many Hindi movies, I reached a point where I could almost predict the endings, perhaps up to 90% accuracy; and that was just a deal breaker. I sometimes would like to be surprised by the ending, if you know what I mean. 

A typical Hindi movie usually has everything in it—it has the funny parts, it has the sad parts, it has fightings too, and of course a ton of songs and dancing. Heck, they can take up to acres and acres to dance a single song! As far as I know, nobody has come up with an acceptable explanation where the music is from when they start to sing and dance.

But this post is not really about Hindi movies; and I'm guessing that you already know that, right? I raised the story about Hindi movies to make a point, which is this: a story may be very good when you hear or see it for the first time, except for some isolated cases, like the movie Top Gun which I've seen perhaps at least 50 times. But if you keep hearing and seeing the same movie over and over again, there is a kind of exhaustion, thus resulting in finding even the most exciting movie rather boring! If you have seen enough Hindi movies, I think it's just a matter of time when you will become tired of it. The stories are not exactly the same, of course, yet they are very similar.

Well, you know what, this post has a similar ring to the Hindi movies. About 4 years ago to the day,  I posted an article entitled Surviving A Heart Attack. I provided a link to that article in my facebook page, and apparently it almost killed my niece, Ramona Jane, because of uncontrollable laughter!

Today, I'm gonna do the Bollywood thing too; but this time the main character is not me. Instead, it's my daughter, Jamie. She had the shock of her life this evening when she was seated on the toilet. A baby monitor lizard (biawak) appeared in her toilet bowl. How it got there is still a mystery, although I did have a possible explanation in my earlier post. I'm not sure if JJ will have nightmares about the monitor lizard after this. But at least there is variety in her life now—she has baby monitor lizard to worry about apart from spiders.

But anyway, both JJ and I have survived a heart attack from our respective experience. And if the next visit by a monitor lizard is in any way based on a 4-year interval, the next visit will be in 2020. I wonder if next in line will be Mia? I guess I just have to ensure that she keeps up with regular exercise to make sure that her heart is up to the challenge.

I know I said Bollywood movies no longer excite me like before, but somehow this story about a possible return visit by the baby monitor lizard is something that I'm looking forward to!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Rolling The Dice

An interesting story in The Star about a man that stabbed his brother-in-law-to-be to death, because the latter had discovered that the former, despite claiming that he's a bachelor, was actually already married since 6 years ago.

The article says "about to get wed", but it's unclear if that meant about to get wed as in a couple of days, or was it on the wedding day itself? If it's the wedding day, I'm dying of curiosity—why would a groom-to-be bring a knife to his wedding? I mean, that knife is not really important as far as this post is concerned, but I'm just a curious animal, you see.

Anyway, I posted an article in this blog entitled "The Art of Proposal & The Dying Fire" some years ago. A long time ago, when I was still a bachelor, I used to have a bit of a phobia about being married. A friend had told me that the divorce rate in Malaysia was roughly about 30%. I'm not sure where he got that figure from, but I was, like, "Wow! 70% of marriages will last forever! scary!"

Now there are many reasons why a marriage would fail, of course; and one of them is what my brother had experienced in the article that I quoted in the preceding paragraph above. But I think the other common reason is that people don't really know the people that they want to marry. They are, like, seated in the grandstand at a horse race. They get to see the horses from afar when they're paraded to the audience, and then they place their bets on the horse that looks the most promising to them. They get a glimpse of those horses, but they don't really know very much about them. The horse that they pick eventually just seems like it's a winner, but that may turn out to be a wrong judgment!

Many people choose their life partners the same way that they'd bet on horses too. They know some things about their future spouses, and then they're convinced that whatever that they don't know yet will be something that they can sort out after the wedding. Well, let me just say that if a woman is unaware that the man she's gonna marry is already married, then she knows nothing about him!

When I first got to know my wife many years ago, there was a time when I wondered if she was a transvestite! It had something to do with her manly voice; and I used to cringe in pain whenever she tried to sing, because it's just too awful—she's always way out of tune! It's fast approaching 30 years since the very first time I got to know her, and I sometimes still cringe in pain whenever she sings! At times, she'd try too hard to be funny, and she'd sing P. Ramlee's song, "Tidurlah wahai permaisuri; Tidurlah...pejam mata..."; and I would imagine that P.Ramlee is turning in his grave!

People can fall in love with a total stranger, i.e. without knowing anything about him. And love is, of course, an important ingredient for a successful marriage. In the good old days, many people had their parents choosing their spouses for them. Their parents were the ones seated in the grandstand, observing the horses, so to speak, and then placing their bets on the best horse. The bride and groom, if they're lucky, would then hope to fall in love after the wedding. And if they're not lucky, then they will just endure the crappy deal for the rest of their lives. Those were the affairs of things in the good old days. These days, it doesn't really work that way anymore. Women, especially, are aware of their rights; they won't just suffer in silence. They are prepared to give their husbands the "24-hour notice" if that becomes necessary!

In the end, I think it's almost impossible to know everything there is to know about one's future spouse. Getting married is still in most cases a gamble—it's a lot like rolling the dice and hoping for the best outcome. Sometimes, you get pleasantly surprised with something good from your spouse that you didn't expect. But at other times, you get surprised by something that annoys you a great deal. Whether or not you will end up making it work depends on which is more. If there is more good than bad, then it's much easier to keep it going, and hope that at least some of the bad ones could be changed into good eventually. But if you get substantially more bad than good, it's usually a matter of time before the marriage would fail, and the parties start rolling the dice again.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Dealing With Pain

I write about a wide variety of stuff in this blog, and it's therefore not surprising that my readers come from all walks of life and very diverse in interests. I occasionally write humorous pieces; sometimes serious stuff, and each having its own attraction to different groups of people.

I have written funny essays in the past—for example, here and here—and I keep getting hits on these pieces. Some people would send me private messages to comment about my past posts. But on the other hand, I also write about some serious stuff—for example, here and here—and again, although these posts are old, yet from time to time, people would send me private messages to discuss about these so-called serious essays.

One of the more serious essays that I've written, and apparently caught the attention of many of my readers, is entitled Time & Its Healing Properties. Many of my readers said that although the post is based on a true story, they couldn't help but felt that there's a kind of theatrical flow in the paragraphs. I'm not sure if that's because of my writing style; or because the mind is convinced that some things can only happen in the movies, but not really in real life? Well, I can only say that despite popular belief to the contrary, some things in life are very much like what we see in the movies!

This lately, I've been seeing some real stories unfolding around me—of what people are going through in their lives, and how they're reacting to their respective stories—and I'm once again drawn to my own experience in the story that I've quoted in the preceding paragraph above; and I'm moved to write a bit on my thoughts on this issue.

All of us, at one time or another in our life, are apt to be hurt and betrayed by the very people whom we trust unconditionally. And because the hurt is inflicted by someone we trust with everything we're worth, the resulting pain can be quite unbearable. Being human, the natural reaction is that of anger and frustration, and while many of us are usually calm in handling troubles, we may sometimes lose our bearing when in pain and then anger or frustration would give itself rein. Anger and frustration are also ingredients that can eventually lead to hate.

All too often there is that tendency to strike back—it seems only right to inflict the same degree of pain on the perpetrator; he has it coming! In fact, if possible at all, the lust to inflict twice the pain! And so we set out to find ways to retaliate; to strike back with all our might. After that we shall be satisfied...

Except that quite often when the dust has settled, we come to a shocking revelation—despite striking back and causing what seems like epic pain on the perpetrator, we find that the pain we are suffering from still does not go away! It still hurts like hell inside!

It took me more than half of my life to realise that the best way to deal with the pain is to just let it go. The more we disturb the wound, the longer it takes to heal. Just leave it be and get on with life. There are so many other good things in life, and it's a big shame to let one or two bad experiences overshadow all those other good stuff. Let the wound heal and learn from the experience. Scars are sometimes good to remind us of the mistakes we've made in life. God willing, hopefully we won't ever repeat those same mistakes again. Don't choose to be vengeful because it will very rarely result in any good; choose to be happy instead.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Tip Of The Iceberg

I have been keeping myself active in sports over the last few months, and I spent the time participating in several races, ranging from the full marathons in the Borneo International Marathon and the Gold Coast Airport Marathon (achieved a personal best in 3:52:08), to a half marathon in the local La Salle Charity Run (finished 8th); to Challenge Iskandar Puteri (Half Ironman Distance Triathlon—2nd Runner-Up), to the Labuan International Duathlon (finished 6th).

All these races were just a few weeks apart, but my next event will be a full Ironman race in Langkawi in mid November. I don't intend to join anymore short races until after the Ironman, so that I can really focus on endurance training. Although I'm happy with my general fitness, I'm a little worried about my endurance. You see, the Ironman is altogether a different beast. It comprises a 3.8km swim, 180km bike, and finally a 42.2km run, all to be done one after another in that order, and to be completed within a cut off time of 17 hours.

Last Saturday, I finally cycled 120km, a distance that I haven't done on my bike for ages. It was such a painfully exhausting workout because it just so happened that it was a windy day. Then yesterday, I rode another 120km. I had wanted to do more than that, but a freak storm forced me to shorten my workout. It was still an exhausting workout anyway; enough to result in sore legs today. Then in a short while, at about 2pm, I'm going to run 21km in this ridiculous heat. Hopefully, if I'm still alive after the run, I will go for a short recovery swim at the Likas Sports Complex at around 5pm. I much prefer to swim at the Sutera Marina, but it's closed for repairs; it's been closed for a few weeks, and I'm not sure how much longer they'll be closed. So I have no choice but to swim in Likas where the water is just too awfully cold. Since tomorrow will be a public holiday, and if the weather permits, I will go for a short recovery ride, followed by a short run.

The reason that I'm sharing all this is because when I do reasonably well in races—and I don't do well all the time, mind you—way too many people would say that I'm gifted, that I'm naturally strong or fast, that I'm genetically made for sports, that I have some sort of unfair advantage over others. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Some people would be pleased to get such comments from others. But not me. To be very honest, I'm rather frustrated when I get these comments, because for the simple reason, it's just not true. The truth of the matter is that I had to put in a lot of time and efforts in order to do well in races. It most certainly did not happen because I'm gifted; neither was it due to genetic superiority.

People have the general tendency to judge one's abilities from his or her performance during races, but they are not aware of what happens when he or she is not racing. It's a lot like seeing just the tip of the iceberg floating in the sea. For that portion of the ice is just about 20% of the whole thing; the remaining 80% is below the surface of the water and therefore hidden from sight.

It's too easy to forget that like many other things in life, in order to get good results, one has to put in the time and efforts to achieve them. At times, the kind of sacrifice that needs to be made is beyond imagination to most people, and a lot of the fight actually happens there rather than on the race day itself.

It's very hard to appreciate the value of proper preparations for a race until one experiences it for himself. This is overwhelmingly true in whatever "race" or competition in life. The sooner one can accept this as a fact of life, and start putting in the efforts, and sacrifices, to achieve whatever it is that he aims to achieve, the better are his chances of achieving it; and achieving it well. Pay more attention on the part of the ice that is submerged in the water, because after all the part that is above the water is supported by the part below it.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Scientific Study & Its Implications On Some People

Having been postponing my Ironman training over the last couple of months, I finally embarked on an intensive programme from last week. Typically, one would require at least 4 months (6 months for most people) to train for the Ironman race. But now I only have about 2 months to train for the Ironman race in Langkawi in November. 

Frankly, I'm somewhat in panic mode right now. Luckily, I've been keeping up with shorter races, and I'm sure the training for those races can help at least a bit for the Ironman. Last Saturday I cycled 120km, and then ran 21km on Sunday. I woke up with epic sore legs on Monday morning and had to rest my body. It's at times like this that I would wonder why I registered for yet another Ironman race.

This evening I had to force myself to go for the usual 10km run, and thankfully, I met Dr Peter at the track. If he were not there, I might have been tempted to shorten my run to 5km only. We ran together in the rain. I got home, had a shower, dinner, and then just shortly ago, received a message from my friend, Teo Chen Lung, through Whatsapp. He sent me a newspaper cutting of a study, which I have since searched online. Here is that study.

The study, as you can see from that article, found that "sex later in life puts men at a higher risk for heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems like strokes and heart failure, but actually lowers the risks for hypertension for women."

According to Teo, he's sharing the article with me in order to warn me to reduce sex. Didn't know that he's so concerned about my life, but that goes to show how blessed I am for having such a friend in him. I'm not sure what's giving him the impression that I'm overly active in sex though, but truth be told, I'm not even sure what's the use of this study. I'm thinking, maybe a lot of men would say something like, "To hell with heart attacks—it's worth it bah!... if I die, die lah!"

While I now have a scientific explanation for my mother-in-law's hypertension, I must say that I'm not fully convinced with this sort of study. I mean the kind of sports that I indulge in is much more demanding on my heart than sex, and I'm inclined to believe that if I'm gonna die because of exertion, I will die in one of my races, rather than while I'm pretending to try for a second child.

Having said that, however, I've been seriously considering toning down my indulgence in sports this recently, for I feel that my body is finding it increasingly harder to cope. Over the recent months, I feel like it's taking longer and longer for my body to recover after a long training session, or after a gruesome race. Perhaps that is the cue for me to take a rest from the Ironman after November. Maybe I will just limit my triathlons up to the Half Ironman distance only beginning from next year. That's what I said to Dr Peter during the run just now. This is not a promise to myself, of course, because I do realise that this kind of promise is extremely difficult to keep!

Oh well, it's impossible for me to know when I'm gonna die—maybe tomorrow, maybe next year, maybe in 20 years from now. But one thing is for sure; I plan to live life doing the things I enjoy doing, until my body can no longer do it. If I die while doing what I enjoy doing, then so be it—that's just too bad!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Labuan Duathlon Challenge 2016

I'm supposed to be training hard for Ironman Malaysia in Langkawi in November. Instead, I've had quite a busy racing calendar over the last couple of months. I've actually registered for the  Bukit Merah half Ironman distance triathlon, but I decided to withdraw from the race and do the Challenge Iskandar Puteri instead.

I thought the Iskandar Puteri event would be the last one before I embark on serious training for Langkawi. But a friend, Teo Chen Lung, talked me into registering for the Labuan Duathlon Challenge 2016 about 2 months ago. Regular visitors of this blog would already know about Teo; I have mentioned his name several times in numerous articles in this blog. For example, here and here. Well, this is another post in which I'm sharing an adventure with him!

The Labuan Duathlon Challenge 2016 was for a distance of 5km run, 32km bike, and finally 5km run again. I was reluctant to join at first, because I'm not a big fan of fast and short races. I'm not one of those athletes who're bestowed with plenty of fast-twitch muscles in the body, and I therefore don't have enough speed in my legs. That's why I'd shy away from the many local 10km running events here in KK.

However, if you knew my friend Teo, you'd know how difficult it is to say "NO" to him. That fellow just never let up, and he can go on and on about the subject until you say "YES"! It's a wonder that he didn't choose the law as his profession. I sometimes fancy that he'd make a good lawyer. Well, at the very least he'd make a good loyar buruk!

So anyway, to cut the chase, I found myself in the ferry with Teo, departing Jesselton Point in KK at 8:00am last Saturday, heading for Labuan. I brought my bike along, which was arranged on the deck with the rest of the participants' bikes from KK. The journey to Labuan took about three-and-a-half hours. Don't pay any attention to the 3 hours that they published in the website—that's total rubbish.

Now in order to get the full story of this adventure, you simply must know the story of the 2 months prior to the race. As soon as I registered for the race, Teo started bombarding me with his analysis—almost on a daily basis—of past years' results of the race. He made thorough analysis of the names of past winners, their respective finishing times, as well as his predictions of the possible winners for this year's race. At the end of it all, he tried to gauge his own chances of sneaking into the top 10 finishers of his category. Of course while he was at it, he took the liberty to analyse my category too, including searching high and low through the net for photos of past winners, times etc. He has a curious obsession for that sort of thing, you know. He then came up with strategies on how we're gonna race in order to enhance our chances to be in the top 10 finishers in our respective categories. In fact, he made the whole thing look like a complex and sophisticated project akin to one that NASA would formulate for a human space flight to Mars!

I sometimes find myself in enormous awe when seeing tons of messages from Teo through Whatsapp, mainly on his detailed analysis on the event. The fellow just never fail to amuse me. Whether intentionally or not, he is a good source of daily entertainment, really!

Having made all those daunting analysis, he came up with a PLAN, one that would bring us both glory in Labuan. According to this bombastic plan of  his, we should start the race with a 5-minute-per-km pace during the first leg, which was the 5km run. Then, we should start the bike leg together, and we would take turns to draft each other so that we can save energy. However, if we could find other fast cyclists to draft, then both of us should just tag along for a "free ride". Sounds like a great plan, doesn't it? I won't dwell too much on Plan B, Plan C and Plan D for the sake of sparing my readers from boredom, but rest assured that Teo had plenty of back-up plans too; he always does!

Now Teo typically would challenge me whenever we join the same race, but in the case of the Labuan Duathlon, he decided that we should work together instead. You see, we were in different categories of the race, and he reckoned that we both had a chance to win cash prizes. That's because there were up to 10 cash prizes for the top 10 finishers in each category.

So anyway, we started the race together and we soon realised that we were actually running at around 4:30 mins per km, a pace that's much faster than planned. We both eventually slowed down a bit after about 1km, although he slowed down a bit more than me. Soon, he was already lagging behind, and I began to worry about our little plan to help each other in the bike leg of the race.

When I reached Transition 1 (T1), Teo was no longer in sight. I hesitated for a moment, but seeing other competitors embarking on their bike leg, I reluctantly started pedaling too. I was sure that Teo would be catching up soon with his mighty Cervelo P5.

So I waited...and waited; and still no Teo in sight. I found myself in an unenviable situation of being too slow for the fast cyclists, and too fast for the slow cyclists. I had to work hard on my own for about 20 minutes until a cyclist from Team GP Riders pull along side. He was riding perhaps close to 40kph, and I took the opportunity to draft. It was such a relief, but my legs were already a bit tired from the earlier section of the bike leg. Later, we had to climb hills and then undulating terrains before finally arriving at Transition 2. Teo was still nowhere to be seen. I wondered what was he up to.

After racking up my bike, I started running. As usual, it was tough to suddenly switch to my running muscles again. But I was also feeling tired from the tough ride. I was down to about 5:20 mins per km, but I was gradually getting slower and slower. When we reached the hill, I started walking a bit, and that was when several people overtook me again. I tried to keep up, but I soon gave up as I knew that I couldn't hold the pace. There was nothing left in my legs.

Photo credit: Jack Ah Beh

After making the turning point and coming back to the finish line, I saw Teo struggling uphill on the other said of the road. He was perhaps close to 10 minutes behind me by then. If you have read previous mentions of Teo—for example here—he has this awesome skill in conjuring up the so-called killer face during his races.; and the Labuan Duathlon was no exception. Check out this killer face photo below.

Photo credit: Jack Ah Beh

Well, in the end, I finished 6th in my category in about 1 hour 53 minutes, but sad to say Teo was nowhere near the top 10 finishers of his category.

Photo credit: Vachel Voon

I think there is still a lot of room for improvements in the Labuan Duathlon Challenge. For example, they could use bigger pipes to construct the bike racks, so as to be structurally sound to support the weight of the bikes. Even the layout of the transition area was all wrong and needed a thorough overhaul for future events. But there is little doubts that the cash prizes on offer are among the best in Malaysia. So I think it's fair to expect many of our friends from the West would consider joining this race next year.

And as for Teo, I guess this means back to the drawing board to plan again for next year. I can foresee a bigger adventure in 2017, which in turn means even more analysis and racing strategies from him...

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Challenge Iskandar Puteri 2016

I had quite an adventure, racing the Challenge Iskandar Puteri in Johor Bahru last Saturday (13 August 2016). It's a half Ironman distance triathlon comprising 1.9km swim, 90km bike, and 21km run.

In the months, weeks and days leading up to the race, I experienced a bit of anxiety, not only because I felt that I didn't train sufficiently for the race, but also because the organiser seemed to be in a mess. I have lost count of how many times the race routes were changed, but of course in the end what mattered most was that the event went ahead as planned.

It was the first time I joined a race organised under the Challenge brand, and because it's a world-known brand name, I had high expectation of the event. Let's just say that the event fell short of its reputation, as well as my expectation by a long shot. I'm not suggesting that it was a lousy event; just that I thought it could have been better. But this post is not about criticizing the organiser. After all, under the circumstances, I'd say the organiser did reasonably well.

Being in the 50 - 54 category, I was among the last few participants to start the race that morning. I can still remember grumbling to myself when I did the Putrajaya 70.3 a few months ago when I had to struggle in the crowded swim. Well, the swim leg last Saturday was unusually quiet, and I realised then that that wasn't such a good thing too. Many of my loyal readers would know that I'm not a good swimmer. In fact, I've shared about my swimming ability in this blog, here. I haven't improved very much since then, and having to regularly sight in the open water is something that doesn't come naturally to me. Shortly before the race started, I made new friends with Henry Wong. This wasn't the first time I met him though; I think we met in Miri a few years ago, but then we became friends on facebook, and we finally met in person that morning. Dr Pui San was there and took this photo (Thanks, doc). It's always fun to make new friends.

I found myself swimming alone for the most part, but I'm fairly amused that I was able to catch up with some of the earlier participants. It must have been around 1.5km into the swim when I caught up with Wendy Tan, the sexy creature that you could just spend the whole day drooling and admiring, much the same way you could enjoy watching Kate Beckinsale over and over again in the Underworld series with the sound muted. Her long hair...and those wicked legs... oh! don't let me start on those! I've exchanged messages and comments through facebook with her—I mean Wendy, not Kate Beckinsale—but had never really spoken to her in person. Anyway, as I came up beside her, I had a glimpse of her graceful strokes, and of course my eyes were drawn to her legs for a bit; you can't fight instinct, if you know what I mean? I think I caught her turning her head to look at me for a split second, and that absolutely resulted in an adrenaline rush through my veins. Accordingly, I felt a little stronger and was able to swim just a tad faster.

A few minutes later I arrived at the end of the swim leg, panting as I climbed up the ladder. Damn! I really need to improve my swim! From that point, I had to run approximately 300m up the ramp through the shower, passing a drink station all the way up to my bike. I thought I'd take no more than 2 minutes for the transition, but it's not as smooth sailing as how it seems when seeing the pro athletes do it on telly. In the end, I spent over 6 minutes at T1. Finally I took my bike off the rack and started pushing it towards the mount line, and that in itself was quite a challenge.

There were several other participants at the start of the bike leg, and we were essentially quite close together. I'm not an experienced triathlete, and I wasn't sure if the fact that we were that close together would constitute a breach of the 12m non-drafting rule. Anyway, a short distance later, we began to disperse, and the gaps between us began to build up. In my mind, I thought that the 12m-gap rule was rather overdoing it by the organiser. I mean, I'm not even sure if there is any benefit at all in tailing a front rider at 6m gap, let alone 12m. But what do I know?

Once we hit the main road, I began to work on the pedal. There was this guy in front, perhaps he was riding at around 35kph, and I reckoned I'd just follow him from behind, making sure that I had that 12m gap between us. There were several U-turns in the bike loop, and we had to do 3 loops altogether. But it's strange that I saw no timing mat anywhere throughout the bike route; and neither was there any elastic bands handed out at any of the turning points. Sometime during the bike leg, suddenly there was a freak heavy downpour. But it was just for a mere 2-3 minutes. We also had some nasty headwinds at some sectors. There were ups and downs, but they were generally not very steep. By the end of the second loop, my legs were already a little tired. That's the outcome of insufficient bike training, so I'm blaming nobody but myself! And speaking of legs, did I mention Wendy's legs? Oh! never mind!

Photo credit: Cycling Malaysia Magazine

By the time I returned to the transition, I had been cycling for almost 3 hours. When I got off my bike at the dismount line, my legs felt like jelly. That's not supposed to happen, but, you know, getting old sucks sometimes. I can still remember saying to myself that I'd stop all this nonsense when I'm 50. Yet now, at 51, I'm still torturing myself on a regular basis!

When I reached transition for the second time, there was a bunch of spectators near my bike, making small talks with me. They asked me how far was the bike ride; and I replied that it was about 90km. They responded with some sort of exclamation noises. And I tried my best to look like the 90km ride was no big deal, even though I felt so exhausted already! As I was taking a sip of my Carbopro concoction, one of the guys asked me if I was topping up petrol? I replied in the negative, explaining that I'm a diesel engine. That set them off in a fit of laughter. I think they said something about being in awe of my fighting spirit, and of course the customary "You can do it!", followed by "Run!....Go, Go, Go!". I merely responded that I'll take it slow and steady. Putting on my cap, I told them over my shoulder, that the tortoise beat the hare. And that set them off in a fit of laughter again. Damn! I should charge them for entertainment fee!

So off I went on a slow jog, conscious of the admiration of the spectators. But then, as soon as I made the corner at the end of the carpeted path up a small climb through the arch, I started to walk! I could tell that it was gonna be a long and torturous 21km for me.

A little further down the road, I saw a white man limping. He was obviously injured. As I was overtaking him, I said, "And this is supposed to be fun!"

The sun was up above my head, and although the organiser did keep the promise of tree-lined route for the run, they have forgotten to say that those were very young trees. Oh boy, it was an extremely hot day. I felt like vomitting, and the only logical thing to do was to quit. This was just not worth dying for! But then again, when in a race, sometimes we tend to do things illogically. So I continued torturing myself, jogging and walking alternately while gradually getting roasted in the hot sun. It did not help at all that the water stations were too far apart. It was perhaps about 2 hours 40 minutes later when I was finally approaching the finish line; and as the excitement was building up, so were the cramps that were developing in both my calves. I crossed the finish line in the official time of 6 hours 32 minutes and 22 secs. All the muscles in my body were screaming.

Photo credit: Jack Ah Beh

Anslem and Dr Shah had finished a few minutes ahead of me. After getting my finisher medal, I found a plastic chair that was positioned immediately in front of the finish arch. I sat there rehydrating myself as I watched other participants arrive one by one. 

Not very long later, I saw from afar Wendy Tan approaching the finish line. I don't know if it was hallucination arising from severe exhaustion, but I think I was hearing the song "Beautiful Girl" in my head, and seeing her running in slow-mo. Then the strangest thing happened. After she had crossed the finish line, she stood there for a minute, as if trying to savour the moment. And then suddenly she smiled at me and said "Hi!". She walked over and extended her hand. I was unfortunately too exhausted to stand, although still managed to muster enough energy to extend my hand to shake hers. After that, I was toying with the idea of wrapping my hand in an air-tight plastic bag and refrain from washing my hand for at least a week. But luckily I managed to shake myself out of that ridiculous idea! Oh! did I mention about her legs? Oh! never mind!

Then the funniest thing happened that evening. At the prize-giving presentation, I was announced as the 2nd runner up in my category. Not sure how that happened, but I'm obviously not complaining! I received a huge medal which caused a bit of a stir at the airport, when the officer saw through the scanner machine what appeared like hand-cuffs! I also received an impressive trophy and a 3-month free membership in a gym in Johor, but for which I have to pay RM49!

I have to admit that I'm thrilled for the trophy, but actually I was rather disappointed with how the event was organised. But keeping an open mind, I will come back for this event again next year if I'm fit enough to do so. And oh boy... those legs...

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Heaven, Hell & Happiness

People who know me would know that I don't believe in religions. I'm unsure about God since I have no scientific evidence of his existence, but I'm willing to keep an open mind. However, I'm not saying that I insist on scientific evidence for everything. It's just that I tell myself if God really does exist, then he is very different from that described in many religions. The God of the religions claims that He loves us all. But His love is conditional—that we must love Him first; that we must accept Him in order to be loved by Him. That, to me, is not true love. But that's my own definition of love, and I acknowledge that it may be different from the definition of others.

True love, to me, is like how I love my daughter. Even if she disobeys me, I will still love her, although admittedly I may be angry. My love for my daughter shall not be shaken just because she goes against my wishes. That is the true meaning of free will. Or at least that's how I perceive "free will".

Beyond that, I don't believe in heaven and hell. If indeed there is heaven or hell in the afterlife, then I will leave it entirely up to God where He thinks I belong. But for the moment, while there is still life in me, I'm seeing heaven and hell around me now.

I've seen way too many people with a lot of  money and properties, but they're very unhappy. In fact, they're miserable, and life is hell for them! They're constantly struggling and living a life filled with stress.

On the other hand, I've also seen people with very little money and properties, yet they're very happy. They're unable to live a life of luxury, and in many cases they're unable to get many of the things they'd like to have. They're happy all the same.

Of course there're also many rich people who're happy; and poor people who're unhappy. So actually, there seems to be no clear cut pattern that would equate richness to unhappiness; or poverty to happiness; both rich and poor people may be happy or unhappy.

In the end, I'm forced to the conclusion that happiness and unhappiness, and heaven and hell, all depends on what we make of life. If we choose to be happy, then we shall get happiness; if we choose to make the world around us a heaven, then we shall see the world as a heaven!

This reminds me of a question a friend asked me once. He observed that I've been married for over 20 years, and he was wondering how did I keep it going for that long? I told him that my marriage hasn't always been like what it is today. As a matter of fact, about 4 years into my marriage, things were going through some rough patches. So rough to the extent that they're hanging by a thread, and divorce was a real possibility.

Over the years, I've gone through a gradual change. You see, sometimes it's not a matter of being in heaven or hell; rather, it's what you make of your surrounding, of your life. In the past, I used to fight with my wife because I was convinced that I was in the right. But after a long time, I realised that what's more important to me was to be happy. I therefore chose to be happy. But to be happy doesn't necessarily mean to be proven right. For in the end, there is little point to be victorious in proving myself right, but in the process of achieving that, I lose my happiness. Sometimes in life, you can't get it both ways.

I try my best to live life to the fullest. I'd like to use my mind to achieve whatever the mind can do; I'd like to use my body to achieve its full potential. I may not be rich when compared to so many people, but I'm still happy. I count my blessings for whatever little possessions that I have; and for what I don't have, I keep trying to get them. The challenge of trying to get them is in itself an exciting journey and a rewarding experience. 

I choose to be in heaven, even though it's not the heaven of the religions.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Living The Dreams Of Someone Else's

I arrived home this afternoon to find Mia and JJ having a conversation in the bedroom. Well, it wasn't really a conversation—JJ was crying quietly, and Mia was in the midst of lecturing her. Apparently, JJ was not keen to continue taking swimming lessons. She doesn't mind to swim every now and then; just not the swimming lessons. Mia was adamant about the swimming lessons, and was explaining at length why JJ should continue.

I sat there quietly for a while and listened to Mia's justifications on why JJ should continue taking swimming lessons. Some of the reasons were good ones; some not so good. But I remained silent until she's finished.

This reminds me of the time when I was a teenager, a few years after I escaped from the living hell, and was living with my father. My father was—and still is—quite a man. He is blessed with the thought that he is a very clever person, and he can do no wrong. Yet most of the things he does in life would end up in failures. I could easily write a book about his failures, but for this post I just want to talk about his parenting style.

Dad simply hated seeing his sons doing the things that he didn't enjoy doing. When I went jogging, he was fast to say that that's a stupid activity. He preferred his sons to play with catapults (lastik), play with rubber seeds, or go fishing for karuk or jalak in the swamps. In fact, he expected his sons to be exactly the carbon copies of him. It never crossed his mind—and he doesn't get it even up to now—that not everybody likes or enjoys the things that he enjoys.

Now there are some things that I'd impose upon JJ, whether she likes it or not, such as going to school and maintaining decent grades, because I know that that will be very important to her in the later stages of her life. So there is nothing to discuss about as far as education is concerned. The only thing that will be discussed is when it's time for her to choose a career, what field of expertise to go into.

As a kid, many of us might have wanted something so much, but unable to get it; maybe a toy or to learn a skill like playing the piano. There is the tendency to impose upon our children whatever opportunities that we've missed. It's very easy to forget that our children may not like the things that we liked as a kid.

Swimming is an important skill, mainly on grounds of survival. So I imposed upon JJ to learn it. But beyond that, I'm not expecting her to be an elite swimmer, unless of course if that's what she wants to achieve. Whatever she wants to achieve, if I can afford to support her, then by all means.

I have to frequently remind Mia not to force JJ to live her dreams, unless if those are also JJ's own dreams. The kid will be turning 14 soon, and she has her own dreams to pursue, not ours. We need to learn to respect the kid as a person, by letting her grow up, and with very little of her life plans dictated by us. In other words, I'm trying to correct the mistake that my dad made all those years ago.

As a general policy, I very rarely overrule Mia's decision on what JJ should or should not be doing. For I don't want JJ to think that whenever her mommy says NO, she can come running to me in the hope of getting a YES. But sometimes there are exceptions to the general rule. And this case about the swimming lessons is one of them.

I sat there listening carefully to the lawyer explaining to JJ why she MUST continue taking swimming lessons. After the lawyer had finished with her arguments, JJ, still sobbing, said, "Mom, I don't want to continue with the swimming lessons." 

I asked JJ why. She gave me her reasons, and I said, "OK, you don't have to continue with the swimming lessons. It's up to you."

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Backyard Monster

My house is located in a well developed neighbourhood within close proximity to the Likas Sports Complex. There are many, many housing estates in the area; and many types of development ranging from commercial estates to schools and churches etc. As a matter of fact if one were to view the area with the Google Earth, there are very few empty pockets of undeveloped lands.

Well, it just so happen that there is a small patch of undeveloped land at the back of my house. It's unlikely that it will be developed anytime soon, if ever, since it's made of an elongated land and probably not viable for development. So this vacant site is now overgrown with wild trees and thick undergrowth. At times, I can see huge monitor lizard roaming just outside the fence from my kitchen window. I have of course told a story about monitor lizard before here

There are many birds too. There are mango trees and a coconut tree, and whenever it's fruiting season, the squirrels would come in huge numbers. In the still of the night, one can hear the sounds of insects; and first thing in the morning, the birds would be chirping nonstop.

I bet there are many other creatures there among the trees, and from time to time, one can hear numerous weird sounds. It's hard to tell which animal is making which sound, but there is one specific sound that is spooking my maid. I suspect it may be the sound of frogs, but I can't be sure—it's hard to describe it, but perhaps it's fair to say that it sounds a lot like the sound one makes when feeling very satisfied with a big delicious meal. It goes something like, MMMMM!

That particular sound has been the subject of discussion with my maid for some weeks now. Of course we've been hearing that sound since a long time ago, but she only brought it up recently. From the way she talks to me, it seems like she's suggesting that there's a monster in our backyard. And me being me, I just can't resist spooking her! I said something like, "Maybe there is a monster there among the trees, just waiting to jump out if it sees you  in the backyard alone!"

I think she's still unsure whether I was serious or just joking. It happens that our washing machine is placed just outside our kitchen window, and of course each morning she'd have to go out there to deal with the laundry. But she's afraid of the "MMMMM" creature, so she would ask my mother-in-law to sit there to watch her while she does the laundry thing.

Now of course some of you would remember that my mother-in-law can hardly walk. She is forgetful; she sometimes wears her skirt nicely tucked into her panties when she dresses up for church. I'm just waiting for the day when she can't even remember her own name. That will be the cue for us to get professional help. I'm not sure what my maid expects my mother-in-law to do when and if the monster does emerge from the woods to grab her. Maybe she's expecting the old woman to do some Karate Kid stuff—you know—wax on, wax off? That is assuming that she won't faint before pulling off the stunt lah.

And then my maid has an even better idea. She told me that instead of using the kitchen door, she'd go through the front door and make her way to the backyard, so that when the monster decides to reveal itself, she can then run back to the front door. I was, like, "How is that gonna increase your chances of escaping the monster when compared to escaping through the kitchen door?"

Hmm...perhaps it's finally time for me to make a visit to Toys 'R Us to find a scary costume. I can then hide just outside the backyard fence and wait for the right moment to strike when it's time for the laundry chores. I guess Halloween will be much earlier this year; and it will be a lot of fun! The only thing that's stopping me is that my maid has hypertension; I suppose it won't be very funny if she suddenly drops dead. Oh well, sometimes my creativity scares me...

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Famous Leader

About a week ago, I posted "The Challenge, The Bragging Rights & The Souvenir" in this blog. I thought that was my last post on the Borneo International Marathon 2016. Then a few days ago, someone spotted a cheater when sorting out the tons of photos at the finish line of the BIM. It was the photo of a lady running to the finish line twice, each time with a different bib. The earlier photo was that of the half marathon bib, which was way past the cut off time. The second photo was that of a full marathon bib, and it was within the cut off time. I suppose she eventually got the finisher medal and T-shirt for the full marathon, even though she ran—and DNF-ed—in the half marathon (because of time).

I will admit that it was interesting to know that someone would actually cheat like that, but I didn't think at the time it warranted a post in this blog. I mean, cheating cases in marathon races are not a new thing. There are many of these creatures out there. I saw the excitement on facebook, and people were beginning to criticize her size. As a matter of fact, a friend was also commenting on her size through Whatsapp, but I carefully refrained from participating. 

I'm not blaming the commenters; people are like that, when they are angry and frustrated, they will find any means of attacking the offending person, and the fact that she's fat became a convenient target. That's just human nature. But I will have none of it. I think it is just mean to criticize someone for being fat. All of us would love to be beautiful in every sense of the word, but we are just not perfect—all of us have weaknesses one way or another. Some of us simply can't control ourselves when it comes to cigarettes; others on drugs and sex; and yes, others still on food. If we're not so crazy about food, we may find it hard to understand why some people can't control their craving for food. But we wouldn't know what these fat people are going through each day, fighting perpetual hunger pangs, and seemingly failing all the time. I wish that we can find it in us to be kind and give them a bit of leeway; give them hope to achieve a healthier body.

Well, I thought the story would die off very soon. But then more photos began to surface. I shall not include the photos here, as I'm sure most of you would have seen them anyway by now. Suffice to say that three persons ran with the same full marathon bib that day, and all three ended up getting the medals and T-shirts.

Suddenly, the story became a big thing, and I've decided that I'd blog about it after all. But not because of the cheating; rather because one of the alleged cheaters was a so-called lecturer and coach in sports and fitness.

Before that, let me just share the modus operandi of how these people beat the system as best as I could piece them out. I have received numerous versions from different parties, each one slightly different, of course. 

The half marathoner ran her race. She failed to meet the cut off time by a huge margin, thus arriving at the finish line with no medal to bring home. Then the coach arrived at the finish line of his full marathon race, well within the cut off time. He got his medal and T-shirt. He had carefully put his bib in a clear plastic when he crossed the finish line, so that when the medal and T-shirt were given to him, instead of marking on the bib, the volunteer marked on the surface of the plastic.

Then came the second act. The bib was then taken out of the plastic and transferred into another plastic. Or perhaps the marker did not stick to the surface of the original plastic. So the DNF-ed half marathoner used that bib to go round to the entrance of the stadium, and duly made her way to the finish line again, this time within the cut off time for the full marathon. So she got the finisher medal and T-shirt for the full marathon.

A third runner followed suit. The only difference is that this time the bib was taken out of the plastic, because I suspect bib in plastic passing through the finish line 3 times might have attracted the attention of the volunteers. And so, the third runner (presumably another DNF-ed half marathoner) also got the medal and T-shirt for the full marathon.

Now let me say that as someone who loves puzzles and riddles a great deal, I admire the creative mind of the cheaters. The trick is so simple and beautiful; and in this case it worked wonderfully well to beat the system. These people have brains, I tell you! But what's more disturbing is that we have a leader that is instilling the wrong kind of mentality in his followers.

At this juncture, let me also mention another interesting, if laughable, version of how it happened. The full marathoner arrived at the finish line with his bib in the plastic. He received the medal and T-shirt. He was happy, and he changed into that finisher T-shirt for the photos. Except that in the process of changing shirts, his bib suddenly went missing, and he did not realise it, and probably stolen by the ladies who then took turns to cross the finish line to get their respective medals and T-shirts. A version of the story that not only put a smile to my face, but it quickly made me reconsider my verdict when I said these people have brains!

Shakespeare's Malvolio would probably have said something like this in reaction to this story:

"Some are born famous, some achieve fame, some have fame thrust upon them."

Well, a sports and fitness lecturer suddenly becomes famous—the fame thrust upon him, but for all the wrong reason. He is a famous leader, but not necessarily a great leader. I have always said that respect is earned, not an automatic right. One must behave respectably before he can expect others to respect him.

A Malay proverb goes like this:

"Guru kencing berdiri, murid kencing berlari."

Which basically means that if a teacher or leader does bad things, then his followers will tend to do even worse than him. Some of us who are leaders in whatever we do should revisit the question of what was it that we sought to achieve when we decided to become a leader. Was it because we wanted to help others to achieve excellence in our field of expertise, or was it because we wanted to turn them into nothingness?

As for the argument that "these people just want to run and have fun", my answer is, yes, of course, by all means, go and run and have lots of fun. Go run in the parks or highways. But when you join organised races, I'm afraid they are rules and regulations to adhere to by everybody. Nobody is forcing anybody to join races if the rules are too impossible to obey.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Challenge, The Bragging Rights & The Souvenir

I have always been a loyal supporter of our very own Borneo International Marathon (BIM). For better or worse, it is the only marathon event we've got here in Sabah for many years now. I've witnessed how the event grow from year to year, and I'm glad to say that it is still growing and improving all the time. The 9th edition of the event was last Sunday (1st May 2016), and I thought it was very well-organised. I'm not saying it is perfect, because there is no such thing as a perfectly-organised event!

It is human nature, however, that not everybody can agree to a particular point of view; and at the end of this post, I shall not be surprised if there are some of you who will disagree and even criticize my opinion. I respect the opposing views, and hope that you will just let mine go.

I suppose by now you can already guess from the preceding paragraph that there were some people who were unhappy with the organiser of BIM. These were because of numerous reasons—some were petty issues, some were of substance—but a lot of it revolved around the issue of the finisher medals and finisher T-shirts, especially in respect of the full marathon (42.2km); that is to say, who deserved them? At a glance, that sounds like a no-brainer question, because the answer seems so straightforward. But upon further consideration, it can become quite complicated!

About one-and-a-half years ago, I posted something about medals in this blog entitled "The Prostitution of Running Medals". To get a proper context of this present post, may I suggest that you read that older post first, since I've also mentioned a bit about the BIM in that post. Besides, the other contents in that post also have a bearing of what I'm about to discuss here now.

People run the marathon for numerous reasons. Some do it simply to prove that they can. Others do it because they are curious to know if they can. Others still do it because they are convinced that it is something healthy, though the truth in that remains to be debated. Whatever the reason, running 42.2km is an epic challenge for the vast majority of ordinary folks.

Curiously though, the point that is often forgotten is that anybody at any time and anywhere can run 42.2km if they want to. In some poor countries where motor vehicles are a luxury, some people may walk or run 42.2km almost on a daily basis. There is absolutely no necessity to run that distance only in an organised race like BIM. Yet most people choose to only run 42.2km in an organised race. Immediately we ask ourselves, why?

The simple answer is that humans quite often fall prey to the pathetic cravings for recognition; that they not only want to achieve a seemingly impossible feat, but they also want to brag about it! While they're at it, they may also inspire others to follow suit. That's where the finisher medals and finisher T-shirts come into play. Therefore, it is perhaps fair to say that people join organised races because they're hoping to earn the finisher medals and T-shirts in the end. That is easy enough to understand—one conquers a challenge, and he is duly given the recognition for that achievement.

Unfortunately, that is not the end of the story. People come from all walks of life, in different shapes and sizes, and wide range of physical abilities. Some can finish 42.2km fast; some not so fast; some extremely not so fast.

A race is a race, and as in any other races out there, time is a significant factor. I think the organiser of BIM could afford to be lenient on time during the earlier years, because the size of the participation was very manageable. They had the resources to "babysit" the slow runners along the way after the cut off time, and saw to their safety until they crossed the finish line. However, as the size of participation became larger, it soon became obvious that it's an uphill task to keep an eye on the slow participants after the cut off times, whereupon the roads would be reopened for the public. The only solution was to be strict on the cut off time, because in the end the safety of the participants is paramount. If anything bad happened to the participants while they're out there with the organiser's bibs on them, the organiser will have a lot to answer.

Anyway, my view is that a cut off time is there for a good reason. Finish the race within the cut off time to earn the medals and T-shirts, no questions asked. From what I've gathered, last Sunday, participants that escaped the sweeper buses, but missed the cut off times when they eventually crossed the finish line, were still given the medals and T-shirts because the orgniser decided to be lenient for an extra hour. Why an "injury time" of an hour, that is entirely up to the organiser. Beyond that time, no medals and no T-shirts. I personally think that an hour's "injury time" was very generous.

Then we had the issue of participants whom did not finish the race, because they were "swept up" at the respective locations as per the rules announced before the race. They may have covered the distance of 30km or 37km respectively when the sweeper buses caught up with them. Yet they are convinced that they deserved the finisher medals and finisher T-shirts for 42.2km. I'm not sure what's their basis of entitlement. If you have read the older post that I quoted above, you will know how I felt about this. Well, my opinion has not changed since one-and-a-half years ago. If one did not finish the 42.2km, he does not deserve the finisher medals and T-shirts, period. There is really nothing to argue about!

If one were to sit for a test, of which the passing mark is 50%, it is at the discretion of the examining body to consider if it could grant a pass somehow if the score is 45%. But to expect earning a pass with 30% is just unreasonable. The sooner we change our mentality, the better we would be to understand what the race is all about. The medal is a symbol of achievement, and when earned according to the rules of the race, can also be a souvenir of that achievement. But it can't be a souvenir—and only a souvenir, without first achieving the minimum passing hurdle.

This reminds me of Macau Marathon which I joined a few years ago. They not only had a very tight cut off time, but missing that cut off by even a mere one minute would result in a DNF (Did Not Finish); and runners were not even allowed to enter the stadium leading to the finish line. Instead, they were redirected to an alternative area. So no finisher medals; there was nothing to argue about.

I hope our local runners would be willing to take a step back and consider these points; and what other organisers are doing. Instead of complaining, we should be energized and inspired to train harder. Let's all come back stronger and faster in the 10th edition of Borneo International Marathon 2017.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Borneo International Marathon 2016

As I'm posting this, my legs are still recovering from the torture of the full marathon in the Borneo International Marathon (BIM) last Sunday (1st May). BIM 2016 is the 9th edition of the race, and I can say that it's the best one yet. I'll share my journey from the start to the finish line of the full marathon in this post, and then later I will deal with the other aspects of the organisation of the race in a separate post.

A few months ago, when I registered for the BIM 2016, I had foreseen that I won't be ready for a PB-hunting mission in early May. I've been training regularly, of course, but my training was mainly for the Half Ironman distance (triathlon), of which the run leg was of the half marathon (21km) only. I've raced 2 Half Ironman distance triathlons this year—in March and in April—and to train for a PB in the full marathon in less than a month after the Putrajaya 70.3 was just something that's too tough for me. Running the full marathon, especially if hunting for a PB, is a different ballgame, and requires a slightly different level of training.

Accordingly, I set my mind on a modest target of a 4:30 finish last Sunday. My running buddy, Dr Peter Ong has also agreed to run a 4:30 full marathon, thus treating the BIM as his peak long slow distance (LSD) as a preparation for his race in the Great Wall Marathon in mid May.

Incidentally, I saw a lady friend named Dazeree posted on her facebook that she's aiming for a sub-4:30 full marathon finish in the BIM, having achieved 4:52 in BIM last year. My first reaction was that she was too ambitious, because it's not so easy to shave more than 20 minutes in the full marathon. However, after finding out some of her running credentials, e.g. 10km pace, training patterns etc, I thought that she had enough ingredients for a sub-4:30 full marathon. I offered her my guidance on how to achieve the 4:30 target, including drawing up a basic training programme for her.

My only concern for Dazeree was that she had way too many mid-distance races on her calendar, thus depriving her much-needed LSDs over the weekends. But on the other hand, the good news was that she was also training for the Beaufort 60km Ultra a few months ago, and the LSD from the training for that race was beneficial for the BIM. The only remaining factor was the racing pace, since many fast runners fail to reach their true potential because they run way too fast in the early stages of the full marathon.

I had another 2 lady friends who wanted to join us on the 4:30 FM mission, but they did not quite live up to the training programme that I had drawn up. I also invited members of the Kota Kinabalu Running Club to join us if they're aiming for a 4:30 FM finish.

On the morning of the race, however, Peter and I started on our own. I tried looking for the ladies in the crowd, but my eyes failed me without my glasses. Because we had intended to run slow, we started from the back of the pack. So many people were blocking our way, and we had to run at 8min/km pace for about 1.5km until we reached the coastal highway. In order to achieve the 4:30 finish, we had to average at 6:10min/km-6:15min/km. Peter said he will let me take the lead, and he will just follow. But as soon as we hit the coastal highway, I think he was suddenly overwhelmed by the kiasunisis disease, and he was the one who initiated the "course correction", thus building up his pace to 5:30min/km. I tagged along and felt surprisingly comfortable. However, as soon as I saw my average pace hit 6:10min/km, I eased down a bit, and saw Peter drifting ahead in the dark.

It was such a pathetic experience running as a pacer, but without anybody running along. However, I caught up with Peter again later just as he was about to climb the first hill in UMS. We ran a little, and then he suggested that we shouldn't waste energy, and just walk up that hill. I had accounted for that walking break anyway, so both of us took our time walking uphill. Then a swift downhill run on the other side. Not too long after that we reached the bottom of the hill, and while running the internal loop, I caught up with Ziezye. I heard that she's a fast short-distance runner, and this was her debut full marathon. Seeing her slender body—my guess is she's probably around 42kg-43kg—and the way she was running, I was thinking that I can transform her into a top Sabahan marathoner. Watch out for her name in the years to come!

But there was no time to lose focus. A little further ahead, I finally caught up with Dazeree. She must have started the race in front of the pack, and it took me about 20km to finally catch up! I was worried that she had started too fast. I tailed her for a kilometre or so, and was pleased to note that she was pacing her run extremely well.

It was just about daylight when we emerged from UMS. Peter was running ahead; I was a few metres behind him; and Dazeree was a few metres behind me. Every now and then I had to check on my Garmin to ensure that we're still on target for the 4:30 finish.

Then a pleasant surprise—the organiser had apparently adjusted the location of the turning point a little nearer, thus arriving at a more accurate 42km for the full marathon. Last year the distance was over by more than half a kilometre. With that correction, I was slightly ahead of my target, and I was able to relax a bit by slowing down my pace. Turning to Dazeree, I told her that we're still on target for the 4:30 finish, but she seemed not fully convinced.

It was a very nice slow jog on the return leg. It was bright morning by then, and it was obvious that the temperature would be building up swiftly very soon. I merely maintained a 6:15min/km pace, and I told Dazeree to go ahead if she could run faster. But each time she went ahead, I noticed that she's getting slower after a while. She was obviously getting exhausted, but fighting very hard to keep running. Each time she became slower, I would catch up and encourage her to keep going. That went on and on for a while. With about 3km to go, I knew that she had the sub-4:30 finish in the bag.

The three of us eventually finished sub-4:30, but I thought it's quite a waste that we couldn't tag along a few more runners with us. Peter finished in 4:26:06; Dazeree did it in 4:27:00; and I did it in 4:26:42. I'm sure there must have been several more runners capable of the sub-4:30 finish if they had paced their runs well.

Photo credit: Jessy Roxy
(For those who don't know me, I'm the sexy runner in front!)

Then another big surprise—Dazeree crossed the finish line in 8th position in her category. An awesome performance. I was, like, "Wow!"

Now that the torture of BIM 2016 is over, I will take a short break with a week of recovery workouts before embarking on an approximate 6 weeks serious training for a PB-hunting mission at the Gold Coast Airport Marathon in early July. Time to beat is 3:52. It's tough, but trying is a lot of fun!