Monday, October 9, 2017

NSiX Tupong Duathlon 2017

A few months ago, a friend told me about the NSiX Tupong Duathlon 2017 in Kuching. My racing calendar for the second half of this year is rather packed. 2 weeks after the Ironman Gurye, in September, I raced the Challenge Iskandar Puteri in Johor. It was a tough race for me as my body had not fully recovered from the full IM distance. There was another short duathlon organized by University Malaysia Sabah on the following weekend, but I decided against it, as I thought it would be too stressful for my body. Instead, I allowed for another week's rest and joined the Kuching duathlon event.

I was a little concerned about finding my way to the race venue from the hotel, and I posted a short paragraph on the organizer's facebook page, seeking help from other participants. Shortly later, a lady by the name of Wendy Ng (not to be mistaken with the goddess, Wendy Tan, who has the habit of turning up at almost all the races in Malaysia) offered to help me out.

I arrived in Kuching late morning last Saturday, and the driver from the hotel was late by about 45  minutes. Wendy drove me to the race pack collection and we duly collected our race packs. I met my friend Rizal Ahmad Banjar there. Later, Wendy brought me to lunch where we met her friend Trevor, and we spent the time talking about races. We got a little carried away with the carboloading however by having ABC for dessert.

The next morning, I rode from the hotel at about 5:15am, and reached the race venue at about 5:30am. It's a very small event with just a little over 100 participants. I met Jazel Chiew as she was setting up her bike. I have known her for quite a long time, of course, since I've seen her in many of Coach Vachel's cycling photos on facebook. But I'm rather sad that she didn't realise all this while that I ever existed in KK! And I thought I'm a famous chap!

It was just a short race; 5km run; 38km bike; 5km run. But truth be told, I'm not a big fan of short races because I have to race hard, and my heart rate would shoot through the roof! The flag off was delayed for about 15 minutes. But immediately after the start horn at 6:45am, I tried to break away from the crowd. For the first 200m or so, I was running at 4:30min/km pace, and then settled to about 5min/km thereafter.

As I had expected, I was gasping for air by 3km into the run, and I had to slow down a little. I was trying to keep up with the front pack in the hope of catching the leading peloton during the bike leg. But I just did not have it in my legs to keep up. Accordingly, when I finished the 5km run, the leading bike peloton had already left.

I started the bike leg with about 32kph, and then shortly later, Rizal overtook me with a few other riders. I decided to keep calm to bring my heart rate down a bit. We had to pass a residential area where there were many roadhumps. But by the time I was ready to get into my normal cruising speed, Rizal was already too far ahead. I maintained an average 34-35kph and there were some other cyclists drafting behind me.

During the run, I was aware of some strong cyclists behind me. You see, most cyclists don't like to run. They would ride practically every day, but not run. I decided to just maintain my bike speed and wait for the cyclists to come. At about 10km into the bike leg, a whole bunch of cyclists came from behind, riding at around 40kph. I let them pass, and then took the chance to draft at the back. I'm so used to training solo on the bike, and I very, very rarely get to draft. But now I had the opportunity to draft behind a big group of cyclists at 40kph, and it felt so easy!

I had expected to take turns to take the lead. But there was no need. As usually is the case with cyclists, everyone seemed eager to lead, so I remained steady at the back. I had a phobia about drafting however, as I was afraid that if anything happened in front, I would be involved also. Along the way, I saw some bike crashes from the corner of my eyes, but I remained focused on the cyclists ahead.

I'm so used to training long for the bike. So when I finished the bike leg in just over an hour, I felt like it was too short a workout. I got down from my bike and there was a bit of a congestion at the narrow path in the transition area. But eventually I was able to start on my final 5km run. Because of the high intensity, I was fast becoming tired about halfway through the run. On my second loop, I overtook Jazel. I was keeping an eye open for Rizal, but he was probably too far ahead of me by then.

Photo credit: Journie Chong

I crossed the finish line in just under 2 hours and was second in my category. And then later I saw Rizal. He was unfortunate to have crashed a few kilometres before the end of the bike leg, but thankfully he was OK apart from a few minor bruises.


Wendy Ng emerged champion in the women's category, and Jazel got third. Coming down from the stage after receiving my trophy and mock cheque, I was intercepted by the Race Director. I thought there was some sort of mistake somehow with my position. But actually, he just wanted to tell me that there was a printing error with the mock cheque—it said RM400 on the cheque, but actually it was RM500 in the envelope. I'm not complaining!

Then a quick ride back to the hotel to repack my bike and prepare for my flight home. It was like a dream—out from KK on Saturday morning, race on Sunday and fly home the same day; and then back to work on Monday morning!

But now back to the dreadful Ironman training routine. about a month left for the Ironman in Langkawi... gulp!


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Ironman Gurye—Part 2: The Race

At the beginning of this year, I was waiting for the announcement of the Ironman Malaysia (IMMY) in Langkawi. I joined the race in November last year, and although I finished the race, I wasn't happy with my performance, and I was hoping to be able to have another chance to redeem myself. Unfortunately, many people said that there will be no more IMMY. I therefore started looking for other Ironman races in the region. For a while I was seriously contemplating doing the Ironman Western Australia again. But then I received a Whatsapp message from my friend, Anslem, about the Ironman Gurye, and before long I found myself in a Whatsapp chat group for the event. The funny thing was that just shortly after I registered for Ironman Gurye, it was announced that IMMY is on again this November, and so I registered for that race too.

Anyway, I found myself at Lake Jirisan in Gurye last Sunday morning. Of all my Malaysian friends, I could only remember Quintine's race number, and I could remember the location of his bike because it was in the same row as mine. I had no idea where the rest of my friends were. Later, however, I saw Anslem when I was queuing for the toilet; and let me tell you that too few toilets were provided!

It was just about 10 minutes before the flag off when I was done with the toilet visit, and I took my time getting into my wetsuit. And then I bumped into Amy, and she took this shot.


I've never really felt comfortable in a wetsuit as it's very tight; and I'm not such a big fan of wearing the swimming cap as the top of my head looks quite a lot like the tip of a condom! Yes, I know what you must be thinking, but I can't change the fact that I'm born with a very creative imagination!

Anyway, participants were flagged off in waves, and I watched from afar as the first few jumped into the water at 6:40am. I was still a little nervous of the swim leg. It didn't help that it was a misty morning, and standing there in the crowd, I couldn't even see the far end of the swim course. I felt like I was up for a huge challenge to even finish the 3.8km swim. It must have been close to 7am when I finally entered the water, and as I had expected it was so chaotic. Too many people were blocking me; and I dare say I was blocking other people behind me too. As always in the swim leg of the triathlon, I received a few blows to  my body from unruly hands and ridiculous kicks of breaststrokes swimmers. I tried to remain calm as best as I could, but it's not so easy to remain focused for over 1.5 hours!

One would imagine that in such a chaotic situation, I would be occupied in solely focusing on survival—and only survival. But then some of my loyal readers are aware of the disease commonly known as KIASUNISIS which I'm suffering from. In between the slapping and kicking and swallowing a few gulps of the murky lake water, I still had the time to worry about the rest of my friends being ahead of me! I remember telling myself that whatever happens the rest of the day, I must make sure that I won't be the last guy to cross the finish line. Kiasunisis, as you can see, is a terrible disease! Well, eventually I emerged from the lake after 1 hour 41 minutes of nightmare, and once I was up on the pontoon, running towards transition, I felt a huge relief. Thank god I survived the swim leg.

As I was running towards Transition 1, I spent the time to wriggle myself out of my wetsuit, and when I reached my T1 bag, I only had the lower half of the wetsuit to deal with. Then I put on the socks, my cycling shoes, wetsuit into the bag, and I was ready for the bike leg. But first I made a quick visit to the toilet. In the end, I spent roughly 10 minutes for T1. As I was pushing my bike from the transition area to the mount line, I noticed that Quintine's bike was no longer there, and just for a brief moment, I felt a bit of adrenaline surge in my system! Amy was there to take this shot.


In the months leading up to this race, I had come up with a game plan. I would spend a bit more time working on my bike strength and speed in the hope of leaving a bit extra for the final 42km run at the end. The plan was to ride a steady 33kph-35kph on flat roads, and take my time climbing up the slopes as slow as I can on very light gears to conserve energy. According to my plan, I would target an overall 6:30 to 6:45 for the bike leg, having taken into consideration that the total elevation for the entire course was over 1200m.

Now the hardest thing about having a game plan in any race is of course to stick to that game plan. Most people would abandon their game plan as soon as they are flagged off. On many occasions during the bike leg, I was so very tempted to go all out. When going down the slopes, it was possible to reach 50kph fairly easily, and it was so tempting to keep going at 40 kph thereafter. But no, I kept reminding myself of my plan.


The final 20km or so of the bike leg was through a highway, and I felt like I had the energy to ride at least 35kph on that stretch, but I kept at about 32kph. I eventually finished the bike leg (180km) in about 6:37. As I was crossing the bridge across the lake, leading to the end of the bike leg, I saw Dr Yap running across the bridge. So that would mean he's about 15 mins ahead of me at that point.

I spent another 10 mins in transition as I made another visit to the toilet. I felt a bit of pain on my right foot, but it soon went away, and I was able to run quite comfortably. In fact so comfortable to the extent that after all the hard work of sticking to my plan, I finally lost it at that critical moment. I had planned to keep a steady 6.5 min/km pace, but instead I ran a 6 min/km, and that soon became 5:45 min/km. I felt like I was dreaming to be able to run that fast after the 3.8km swim and 180 km bike. Then about 7km into the run leg, I finally caught up with Quintine. A short while after I overtook him, I saw Anslem on the return leg of the loop, and I estimated that he must have been about 10km ahead of me at that point. After running about 10km or so, the exhaustion finally began to set in, and I realised there and then that I should have remained true to my game plan. But alas, it was too late. I could feel the fatigue quickly building up in my legs, and I could foresee the rest of the run leg will be a run-walk-run-walk affair.

After I made the U-turn of the first loop, I caught up with Dr Yap. By then I was down to about 6.5 min/km. And a few km later, I had to slow down to a walk. Coincidentally, Amy was waiting at the roadside and took this pathetic shot.


I caught another glimpse of Anslem on the second loop, and I also saw Nick on the other side of the road. But for the most part, I had no idea where the rest of my friends were. Soon it was nightfall and although the run course was mostly lighted, there was no hope of finding my friends in the crowd. By then I was walking much more than running, but I tried to at least jog slowly as much as I could. About 1km to the finish line I started a steady jog again, and the pace kept building up until I crossed the finish line.


This was how I performed in the race.


Obviously it's not anything to shout about, but I'm still happy to have achieved a personal best anyway. 

In the end I received this finisher medal.


I'm also glad that I wasn't the last to finish in my group. But actually, just finishing an Ironman race, time regardless, is a big achievement in itself. Been a lot of fun. I mean the race, not the Korean food and the diarrhoea that followed. If ever I'd join this Gurye race again, I think it won't be so soon. I will allow a few years for the organizer to fine-tune on some of the minor points on how they're organizing the race before I even consider if I'd want to make a second visit.

I'd like to mention here a few factors which I think have had some positive effects that had helped me in achieving a better performance in Gurye. First and foremost, I think the slight tweaking in my training programme which shifted the focus from run to bike, as well as sticking to the game plan on race day. As far as the training goes, I must say thanks to a friend, Dennis Tan, who's residing in Perth, Australia, as he was kind enough to share his training programme with me. Although I was unable to follow his programme to the T, I was at least able to mimic some of the schedule. I've also dealt with replenishment of electrolytes, thus correcting my mistake in Langkawi last November. And finally, I must thank my new friend Felix Tan who introduced me to Fitnessdrink of the Fitline brand, which I consumed during the bike leg of the race.

I'm also grateful for making new friends from West Malaysia. It's been fun chatting through Whatsapp, and I couldn't help providing the entertainment to the group. Now a short rest, and then will be back in action again next Saturday in the Challenge Iskandar Puteri. I'll be seeing some of you there!


Ironman Gurye 2017—Part 1: The Journey

The inaugural Ironman Gurye 2017 was my fourth Ironman, and it was quite an experience like never before for me. 

As you can see from the heading of this post, I'm posting the story in two parts: Part 1 will be mainly about The Journey, and related events along the way, to the race venue in Gurye up to the eve of the race; whereas Part 2 will be about the race itself.

I had expected to have some difficulties to communicate with the Koreans, but it was worse than my expectation. Of course Google translate helped to a certain extent, but at times I found that South Korea was even worse than France. They kept speaking Korean to me even though I said I couldn't speak the language. I'm beginning to believe what my friends said to me—that I look a lot like a Korean?

Then the food—oh! Korean food was just awful for my taste buds—I'd say it's safe to estimate perhaps 80% to 90%  of so-called Korean food is hot; like really hot. Chili, chili and more chili. I don't know if the Ironman God up in the heavens had wanted me to hydrate myself well before the race; I drank jugs upon jugs of iced-cold water each time I eat those food. I felt like I was eating dynamites!

Generally, hotel rooms in South Korea provide coffee and tea sachets and tiny cups. And when I said tiny, I really mean tiny. Not to mention the tiny towels which were actually just face towels as far as I'm concerned. Although I did not try to search in the departmental store, I bet it would have been quite a challenge to find a decent bathing towel in South Korea.

I landed at the Incheon International Airport in the morning of the 6th of September, having departed Kota Kinabalu International Airport in the evening of the 5th. I spent the night in a nearby guesthouse named Harumi. I would usually stay in a hotel when I travel overseas, but Harumi was a convenient place which was just about 7km from the airport. I was the only guest at the time, and I was greeted by a tiny furry dog which had some sort of pathetic condition with its voicebox—its barks were almost comical! I spent almost the whole day trying to catch up on my sleep, as I didn't get any sleep throughout the flight from Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 the night before. 

Before nightfall, however, I walked to a nearby shop for an early dinner. I don't even know what I ordered, but of course it was hot; I could almost sense that I was venting steam through my ears. 


After dinner I stopped at a pharmacy on my way back to Harumi where I picked up a pack of Vaseline lotion for the race. I had wanted to buy Vaseline in KK before the flight. But as Murphy's Law would have it, when I was rushing in the last few hours before my flight, the pharmacy that I went to had run out of Vaseline lotion. The only available lubricant was KY Jelly, but I decided against it. I thought it's not a good idea to provoke too many questions from my wife, if you know what I mean?

The next day, I made my way back to Incheon Airport where I met the rest of my group from Malaysia. I had known Anslem and Amy, of course, but the rest of them were only friends that I've "met" through the Whatsapp chat group that we had created specifically for this trip to Gurye. Quintine and Victor were there at the airport, and I can confirm that they looked like what I had imagined them to be, that is to say not as handsome as me. Their respective spouses were there too. Nick and Wee Wong were there too, and Dr Yap Eng Hui was also there. Kenny Tan, the young lamp post from KL, arrived just shortly before 10am. Apparently he enjoys making a big last-minute entry to add to the thrill of his travel itinerary, you see. 


We have all reserved our seats in the 10am shuttle bus to Gurye, but the South Koreans are not generally known to be punctual people. I was at the airport as early as 7:15am, and I took my time having breakfast at KFC. I was the at bus counter way before 10am, but to make the long story short, it was about a quarter to 12pm before we finally embarked on our journey to Gurye. We were travelling together in the same bus, except for Kenny. He was somehow put into an earlier bus, but of course that bus was also delayed.

We finally arrived at our hotel late afternoon. The name of the hotel was S Hotel (not ASS Hotel). Next to that hotel was K Hotel. Kenny was supposed to have reserved a room in K Hotel, but somehow the organizer had messed up with his reservation, and his name was not in the list. When our bus pulled up near S Hotel, Kenny was standing alone at the roadside, looking so pitiful with his bike box and luggage. Eventually he was able to get a room in S Hotel too.

I was still feeling sluggish after the long journey, and I felt like my legs have not fully recovered from the months of training, even though I've had a 2-week taper period. Accordingly, I put on my shoes and went for a very short run. The rest of them decided to assemble their bikes and go to the race venue for athlete's check-in.

As the days got closer and closer to the race, the excitement was mounting. And we had our swim practice session on Friday morning at the lake. We all rode to the lake and put on our wetsuit. It wasn't funny at all. 200m into the swim, I was already gasping for air. I held on to the ropes for a good 5 minutes before making my way back to shore. Everybody was in good spirit though. We met some more friends from Malaysia. Among them was the famous Rupert Chen and his underlings. We took the opportunity for a quick photo session.


And then later that day we went to deposit our transition bags and attended the reception dinner for the participants. We took the opportunity for another photo session, especially to show off our T-shirts sponsored by Ultron.


Back at the hotel room, the plan was to sleep early, as I had planned to wake up at 3:30am the next morning to prepare for the race. But I could hardly get any sleep, as I kept thinking about the 3.8km swim in the Lake...


Friday, August 25, 2017

Strange Priorities

There was once when I went for my grocery shopping in City Mall. As I was pushing my cart out of Giant Supermarket, suddenly there was a commotion. The alarm was blaring and people were running all over the place. Evidently the huge generator in the basement floor of the building had caught fire. Black smoke engulfed a major portion of the basement floor. Those of you who're not familiar with City Mall, the basement floor also accommodates the car park.

There's the so-called "travelator" which Giant's shoppers can use to bring their shopping carts from the ground floor to the car park in the basement floor. But because there's fire in the generator room, all access to the basement floor was blocked for safety reasons. Although I have paid for my groceries, I decided to abandon my cart, and although my car was parked in the basement, my first instinct was to just get out of the mall into the street. 

On my way to the front entrance of the building, however, I noticed a woman arguing with the security guard. She wanted to go to the basement floor to get her car, but the security guard said nobody's allowed to enter the basement until the fire has been put out. The woman continued arguing though. Then the guard raised his voice and said something profound in Malay. 

He said, "You value your life or your car?"

One would expect the woman to change her mind about rescuing her car, but I was surprised to see her insisting to go get her car anyway!

I find it rather strange that some people take very lightly the circumstances which may be life-threatening. They would ignore all well-meant warnings of danger, and go about doing the things they're doing as if there is no danger at all. I guess that that shouldn't bother me if they're risking their own lives, but I sometimes get very annoyed when my life is put into danger too because I have no control of what other people are doing. 

For example, it's quite common that there will be the announcement in the airplane that all cellphones are to be switched off because they may cause interference with the aircraft's equipment. But all too often people don't really care—they won't switch off their cellphones anyway. And I can't help thinking that if the plane crashed because other people have failed to heed the warnings, I may also lose my life due to something that's beyond my control.

How important is it that the cellphones must be left on? I'm guessing maybe it's because people don't really believe that the cellphones can really cause an interference with the aircraft's equipment; or if they do, perhaps the effect won't be significant?

Some people, I've noticed, get their priorities all wrong. These people, for example, demanded to fly home despite a "No. 10 typhoon" warning, i.e. the highest for Hong Kong storm warning system, because their priority is to "return immediately for work or school". I was, like, what's the point of work or school if you end up dead? There are some risks just not worth taking for the sake of work or school. There will be other jobs to secure; there will be other days to learn in school, but when you are dead, you are dead—period.


Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Power of Money vs Love

My late father used to say that people generally seek three things in life—Money, Position and Fame. According to him, some people work very hard to earn money; and then with money they can buy position. When they have achieved wealth and holding high position in society, they would eventually get the fame too. On the other hand, some people start off with getting the position first, and from there they get the money, and then the fame. And finally, some people would have fame first, which they then use to get the money and position. But no matter how you see it, eventually it almost always boils down to those three things that people are seeking in life.

Not many of my readers knew what my father was like. He was blessed with the gift of charm. I don't mean charm as in being handsome; rather, he had the ability to speak well. Maybe if he were to have told a cow that it could climb up a tree, the cow would be convinced too! Which is strange when you come to think of it, because my father lived a life of failures upon failures, and he left a trail of destruction behind. As you can probably guess by now, despite his way with words, I don't always agree with his opinions; or at least I don't always agree fully

I find that those three things that he spoke of in the opening paragraph above are hard to disagree with, but it's somewhat disturbing to me that Love is not included there. Although I agree that money is quite a big deal in life—people with money usually have power—but sometimes money just can't buy love.

I read with interest this article of an example where one is willing to forego wealth for love. Angeline was willing to give up on her inheritance for the love of her life. I can't help thinking that perhaps her father, Tan Sri Khoo Kay Peng, despite being such a successful and wealthy man, is in a strange way a poor man, really!

In due course my daughter will grow up some day, and there is just a chance that the man she chooses may not suit the bill of a man that I consider worthy of her. Maybe a truck driver or a manual labourer or a garbage collector. Perhaps I can foresee a life of hardship waiting for her? How would I react then?

Well, to start with, I don't have anywhere near the kind of wealth of Tan Sri Khoo for my daughter to inherit. But I will try very hard to talk her out of it. In the end if she is adamant, then I will let her do it. For it is her life, and that is a choice for her to make; not mine. When and if things don't work out, if I'm still alive, I will be there to support her. If by then I'm no longer alive, well then, that's the mistake that she's got to solve as best as she can. After all, we all make mistakes sometimes.

Twenty-five years ago, I was a nobody. I had nothing to shout about when I met my then girlfriend's father to seek his blessings for his daughter's hand. Before that, I was aware that I was the less preferred candidate. But her father was admirable; he put the happiness of his daughter before his own. When the time comes for my turn, I would also give my blessings to any man of my daughter's choice. If she is happy, then I will be too. 

Angeline Khoo is obviously happy with her choice, and I dare say Tan Sri Khoo is happy with his money too. But if it were me, I hope that when I die, I'm rich in love, maybe not so much rich in money; although of course if I can be rich in both of those, that would be even better!


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Domesticating Wild Animals

A friend once told me of a very cruel joke. He said when a Filipino is put into a boat, he is a fisherman. But when you have ten of them in a boat, they are a bunch of pirates!

It is my firm belief that people of whichever race and family background have a fair share of rotten apples in them; not just the Filipinos. I've always noticed a peculiar human behavior—when they are alone and without the power to do things, they are generally more timid. But when they are in a group or have the power and strength, they will suddenly have the courage to act; and sometimes impose their will upon others too. 

Come to think of it, in that sense humans are not very different from animals after all. Have you ever seen how a dog, say, would be timid when it's alone? Yet that same dog can suddenly become fierce when it finds itself in a pack? It is the same with other animals like lions and buffaloes.

Thankfully, however, humans are generally more intelligent than animals. We are civilized—or at least I hope so—and one aspect of being civilized is that our acts are not necessarily governed by our animal instinct that I speak of above.

We have all experienced that feeling when watching movies such as Superman and Spider-Man. These super heroes have special powers which they can use on other humans with serious and far-reaching consequences. Yet they do not abuse their powers. The movie makers have the habit of teasing us, the viewers, by inserting parts where these characters are being bullied. Just watch any Superman or Spider-Man movie, for example, and you are bound to find such "getting bullied" parts. Yet they have amazing control by refraining from engaging in a fight.

The truth is that there is that animal instinct in all of us to fight back; and that instinct is even greater if we know that we can win. That is why many people are feeling some sort of frustration—although perhaps in a pleasant way—when Superman or Spider-Man refuse to engage in a fight with the bullies. 

Now a part of being civilized is about having the sound mind to control what we can do to harm others. In other words, controlling our animal instinct. As a parent, I try very hard to instill in my daughter the habit of acting based on sound judgement, and not based on the animal instinct. Act because it is the right thing to do, and not just because you can do it.

I think at this stage, many of you are wondering what's all this about? Why am I suddenly rambling about animal instinct? Well, it's just something that crossed my mind when I was reading this article. Some kids are feeling great and above others because they have the might to hurt others. Little do they know that actually they are so small. In the grand scheme of life as a whole; of this world; of whether there is respect from others, they have nothing! But some day who knows, there is just a chance that they, too, will become civilized human beings. I hope for their sake they will...


Monday, July 10, 2017

Return of the Monitor Lizard

It's been almost 5 years ago when I posted "Surviving A Heart Attack" in this blog. It was a special post because while the story tells of how I survived a heart attack, many of my readers also almost died of a heart attack due to uncontrollable laughter.

Well, this is going to be a fairly short post from me after a long break from blogging. But I just want to report that another monitor lizard has visited JJ's toilet this evening. And this time JJ was in time to take a photo of the visitor.


It's kinda sad, however, that it's JJ who found the lizard in the toilet bowl. I'm thinking it would have been very interesting to know how Mia would have reacted if it were her who found the lizard in the toilet bowl. Well, who knows, maybe in another 5 years from now, there will be yet another visit from yet another monitor lizard; and I swear this time it's most certainly Mia's turn to greet the visitor!


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Finisher Medals & T-Shirts—Who Deserves Them?

A few months ago, my wife and I joined the so-called Ultra Aquathlon at Pantai Klebang, Melaka. It was the first time that the event was organized there, and it wasn't a very big crowd. Before that my wife had never been to Melaka, and she thought it's a good excuse to visit the place.

Fate would have it that the size of participation was such that there were only 2 participants in her category—something that we did not know until we were back home to KK. My wife isn't a strong athlete, and in each race that she joins, she's bound to barely finish within the cutoff time. But since there were only 2 participants in her category in the Melaka event, she ended up getting 1st runner-up, even though she was actually last (of the only two participants)! The funny thing was that we didn't even know all this at the end of the race. We had to rush to the airport to catch a flight home that same afternoon, so we did not stay for the prize-giving ceremony.

However, when the results were officially published, we were amused to find that she got 1st runner-up and was entitled to a trophy. She was excited, and asked me if I could contact the organizer to arrange the delivery of the trophy. I duly contacted the organizer. I did so via Whatsapp and email. I agreed to pay for the delivery cost too. I was then instructed to contact one of the organizer's staff, which I did. From the exchanges of numerous Whatsapp messages and emails over a period of several weeks, I was repeatedly assured that the trophy would be sent to us. But excuses upon excuses, ranging from some confusions with the race results, to difficulties in locating the trophy, eventually having that trophy damaged in the store. In the end, it became obvious to me that the trophy was never intended to be delivered. So I gave up trying.

My view is that, regardless of the poor timing of the participant, if he or she really deserves a trophy, medal or finisher T-shirt, the organizer should see to it that these are duly delivered to that participant.

Now in the recently-concluded Borneo International Marathon (BIM) last Sunday, we had a similar situation at the end of the race. There were some runners whom did not finish the race within the cutoff time. Yet they demanded for the finisher medals and T-shirts, on the excuse that some of them did finish the 42km, although beyond the 7 hours allocated time.

I can understand the disappointment of these slow finishers, but rules are rules. I think the whole problem arose because many of these people came into the race with the wrong idea in the first place. They paid for the entry fee, and in their mind, they're paying for the medals and T-shirts. The truth is that they're not really paying for the medals and T-shirts; rather for the OPPORTUNITY to challenge themselves to finish the race within the cutoff time. This is a race, and time is an important factor—so get over it.

No—I'm afraid the finisher medals and T-shirts must be earned; not an automatic entitlement regardless of finishing time. For if that were the case, then there is no meaning to delay their delivery until after the race. It would have been much more efficient to put them in the race pack together with the bibs. 

Running 42km, even if it takes 12 hours to finish, is an achievement to be proud of, and we're not trying to belittle such an achievement. Just that it's still NOT within 7 hours, which is the cutoff for this race. Bear in mind that the Macau Marathon, for example, has a cutoff of 5 hours only. May I suggest that before registering for a race, it's a good idea to read the rules of the race first, including the cutoff time. We are not all born long-distance runners, but 7 hours is quite generous, provided that one trains for it.

I can understand why my wife is disappointed for not getting her trophy for the Pantai Klebang event because she really deserves that trophy. At the same time, I can also understand why these people whom did not finish the marathon within 7 hours cutoff in BIM last Sunday felt disappointed, but unfortunately they did not deserve the finisher medals and T-shirts. If my wife had been running the marathon in BIM last Sunday, and she failed to finish within 7 hours, it wouldn't have been an issue to me if she did no get the medal and T-shirt.

Whatever we want in life, we must work hard for it—we need to earn it. We must be prepared to accept the reality that sometimes we will fail. We work harder the next time. Sometimes it takes a few tries; and sometimes we keep trying until we die without achieving success. That's fine, as long as when and if we finally achieved it, it's because we have earned it.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Bragging Rights, Recognition & Material Rewards

For a few years now I've been wanting to join the Labuan Cross Channel Swim, but somehow there's always something that prevented me from joining. I've never been any good in swimming, especially in the open water. Each time I join a race involving swimming, it'd be a matter of survival. But I challenge myself to conquer the sport anyway, and so today I registered for the Labuan event.

I posted about the Labuan swim on my facebook wall, and then a friend commented, saying that the event offers neither a finisher medal nor certificate; hence even if one were to be able to finish the race, nobody would believe. I responded that I'm joining the race to challenge myself—that I have it in me to finish the race. If I can help it, I want to be able to say to myself at my death bed that I've lived life to my highest potential. Even if the best that I can do is to come in last in the Labuan Swim, it doesn't really matter, for I have conquered my fear of the open water. There's no regrets even if my best isn't good enough for others. 

As a matter of fact, that is my attitude for everything else in life. Whenever I set my mind to do something, I'd like to do it to the best of my ability. If I can somehow win, that is even better. If not, then that's OK too.

Nevertheless, one is after all only human, and sometimes one craves for recognition too. One challenges oneself to conquer a seemingly impossible feat, and then having achieved it, one wants to brag about that achievement. Having others recognizing my achievements is nice. Sometimes people look up to me as their role model; they become inspired to achieve their dreams too, whatever those are. But I've never forgotten why I'm doing all these things, and that is always to challenge myself and to prove to myself that I can do it. 

That is why, I'm joining the Labuan Swim in spite of the fact that the event offers no finisher medals for the participants. When and if I can finish the race, I'll be happy even if nobody believes that I've finished it.

That is not to say that I wouldn't accept a finisher medal if there is one. Of course I would accept it as a souvenir. If there is a finisher T-shirt and monetary rewards from the organizer, then why not? But to me, those are not the main reasons why I'm joining.

Incidentally, I visited the facebook page of the Borneo International Marathon recently where the organizer posted the picture of the finisher T-shirt for the full marathon (42km), and then found many negative comments because no finisher T-shirts will be given for the half marathon. Comparisons are made with the Miri Marathon; and if not wrong the Kuching Marathon too.

Some people join races to challenge themselves to the feat, but that seems to be not the main reason they're joining. Apparently the main reason is for the recognition by means of material rewards such the finisher T-shirts or even cash prizes. I have in fact joined several other races such as the Macau Marathon and Hong Kong Marathon, and Tokyo Marathon, and not even the full marathon finishers received the finisher T-shirts. I'm OK with that though; I wasn't complaining.

Notwithstanding all that I've said above, sometimes I think there is virtue in providing some attractive monetary rewards, especially for the local participants, because I feel that that can attract local talents. After all, I'm fairly certain that there are untapped talents out there; people with some natural flair in running, but they see no reason to train to win races for mere medals in the end. But if there is money in it, then that might be an inducement to bring out all those hidden talents.

However, for the vast majority of us pencil pushers in the office, we can only dream of winning; and we only get to admire those who end up on the podium after each race. We only get to click the "like" button on facebook when photos of the winners are posted. Let us be happy that we have a healthy body that can conquer seemingly impossible distances on foot. Never mind the medals, the certificates, and the finisher T-shirts. Let those be additional sweeteners; while they are nice to have, they shouldn't be the main reasons for us to do this!


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Expectation

I saw a friend post something on her facebook wall about cooking at home, saying that her husband did not complain about her cooking. She was recently married, and I couldn't help but make a funny comment on her post. But then upon further reflection, I thought that's a good excuse for me to write about my own experience on the subject. Hence this post.

You see, many years ago, I married the girl of my dream. I met her for the first time about 3 years before that, and even then I knew she was the one for me; I knew that it was just a matter of time before I would propose to her. Like all newly-weds, I felt like I was the luckiest man alive. She wasn't perfect, of course—after all, nobody is—but she was perfect to me as my wife.

I suspect most people, when they get married, would try very hard to be "perfect" for their spouses. That may be a good thing; and that may also be a bad thing, depending on how one looks at it. One of the things that I was surprised to discover about my wife when I first married her, was that she did not know how to cook. I don't even mean not knowing how to cook as in not knowing how to cook well. I really mean that she did not know how to cook, period! Throughout the 3 years or so that I've known her before that, I never did see her cook. But cooking was not important to me anyway. I was surprised, yes, but it was not a big deal to me.

She was brave enough to give it a try though. And after turning the kitchen into something akin to a war zone, I was rather surprised and amused to see what looked like vegetables served on the dining table. Oh it was such awful cooking. 

Now if there's anything that's extremely important to me in a husband-wife relationship, above everything else, it must be total honesty. And that is something very difficult to find in almost all women! Women in general can't escape from the crime of lying; it is in their DNA. Some of them on petty issues. For example, I know a woman who bought an expensive handbag, and when questioned by her husband, she said that that handbag was a present from her sister. I suppose she lied in order to avoid arguments? Petty kind of lies, sometimes seem harmless, but I just can't stand women lying to me, however harmless or insignificant—ever!

So anyway, in all honesty, I said to my wife that I appreciated her attempt at cooking, but her cooking was just awful. I said that half jokingly. And then to my horror, she was totally devastated. She cried for hours and hours and locked herself up in the bedroom. I think it had nothing to do with feeling ashamed for not knowing how to cook as a woman. Rather, she thought that as my wife, I'd expected her to be good at cooking. Truth be told, when I married her, I was never under any disillusion—I accepted her as an imperfect person. Sometimes in life, it's all those little imperfections that are the essence of true perfection!

When she'd calmed down, I explained to her that her cooking did not change the way I felt for her one bit; she was still the perfect one for me. That when I married her, I had accepted her with all her flaws; just as she had accepted me with all my flaws too. There was no expectation to live up to; we were what we were, and we accepted each other as we were. 

That brought back the smile to her face, and in the following weeks after that incident, I had an enjoyable time teaching her how to cook on a daily basis. She eventually became quite good at it too, but that's probably because she had a good teacher?

I'm not saying that there are no expectations in my marriage. Of course there are at least some. I'd expect, for example, my wife to be unconditionally loyal to me. God help me, I can't imagine what will happen to me if she ends up running away with another man. I'd like to think that my expectations from my marriage are "reasonable" ones, if there's such a thing. But for the most part, I just want her to be herself, because after all, that's the person I married all those years ago.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Kisah Pagar & Burung Selanjutnya...

Saya menulis mengenai berbagai-bagai topik di dalam blog ini—ada kisah yang lucu, ada yang sedih, ada yang sekadar berkongsi pengalaman dan sebagainya. Setelah beberapa tahun, saya dah tidak dapat ingat kesemua rencana-rencana yang ditulis, dan kadang-kadang ada pembaca yang baru terjumpa blog ini, agaknya melalui pencarian topik-topik tertentu di Google Search?

Di antara rencana menarik yang saya tulis ialah "Harapkan Pagar, Pagar Makan Padi", pada bulan Disember 2007. Beberapa tahun selepas itu, mungkin ada pelawat baru ke blog ini yang kebetulan terjumpa rencana tersebut, kemudian memberi komen bahawa peribahasa yang saya gunakan itu salah, sebab pagar tak boleh makan padi. Menurutnya sepatutnya "harapkan pegar, pegar makan padi" yang betul, sebab pegar ialah nama sejenis burung yang memakan padi.

Saya tidak membalas komen tersebut sehingga hampir 2 tahun kemudian dalam rencana bertajuk "Kisah Pagar & Burung", dalam mana saya cuba memberi hujah mengapa saya akan kekal menggunakan PAGAR dan bukan PEGAR. Lepas itu senyap sehingga baru-baru ini apabila ada lagi pengunjung baru yang tiba ke blog ini yang memberi komen yang hampir serupa dengan komen yang pertama itu. Berikutan itu, saya ada berbalas-balas komen dengan pengunjung tersebut (sila baca bahagian komen untuk rencana "Harapkan Pagar, Pagar Makan Padi" di atas).

Baru-baru ini saya sendiri mencari topik PAGAR dan PEGAR melalui pencarian Google, dan mendapat rencana ini, yang disiarkan di Sinar Online. Nampaknya ada juga orang lain yang bersependapat dengan saya, dan dia ialah orang Melayu.

Mungkinkah hujah-hujah yang saya berikan itu tidak meyakinkan pembaca; atau mungkinkah sebab saya bukan orang Melayu dan dianggap tidak layak untuk beri pendapat mengenai peribahasa Melayu? Justeru itu segala hujah-hujah saya ditolak? 

Mereka yang betul-betul kenal diri saya pastinya tahu penguasaan bahasa Melayu saya bukannya calang-calang juga. Namun demikian, kalaupun tidak sanggup nak baca hujah-hujah saya, diharapkan pembaca sanggup baca hujah-hujah yang diberikan oleh Encik Muhammad Daud dalam rencana Sinar Online di atas.

Saya bukan memaksa orang lain bersetuju dengan pendapat saya. Saya cuma menjawab komen dan kongsi pendapat saja. Kalau pembaca terima, saya gembira. Kalau tak terimapun saya gembira juga, sebab masing-masing berhak mempunyai pendapat masing-masing.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Borneo International Marathon 2017—New Race Routes

There was something of a stir when the organiser of the Borneo International Marathon published the race routes for the 2017 race, which will be happening on 07 May. Of the 3 main categories—10km, 21km (Half Marathon) and 42km (Full Marathon)—there are major changes to the 10km and 42km routes; whereas the 21km remains the same as the previous year.

Here are the race routes as published:

10km Category:


This route is substantially different from the previous year in that it does not bring participants to go round the KK city centre up to Jalan Tuaran, thus making a loop to finish at the Likas Sports Complex. Instead, starting from the sports complex, it brings participants out to the coastal highway through Jalan Istiadat, making a left turn heading towards the city, but making a U-turn before actually reaching the city centre. Participants then make their way north, passing Taman Awam Teluk Likas before turning at the roundabout and then heading back to the finish line at the sport complex.

Although there is an intimidating elevation profile of the course at the bottom of the map, I wish to advise non-local participants that that profile is essentially misleading and does not reflect the true profile of the course. You can take it from me—this area is my training ground—the entire course for the 10km race will be FLAT; you can't get any flatter than this kind of flat!

Half Marathon (21km):


As mentioned earlier, this route is basically the same as last year's; that is to say that participants start from the Likas Sports Complex, heading out to the coastal highway through Jalan Istiadat, and then turning north, passing the bridge across Sungai Likas. Then proceed north before entering Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) for an approximate 5km-6km hillwork, and then back to the sports complex again for the finish. The only slight difference is just after the bridge where there is now an overhead bridge, but the difference is very slight and minor. The challenge is still the hills in the UMS sector, which is approximately the midway of the 21km course.

Full Marathon (42km):


I reckon approximately 40% of the race route for the full marathon is different from that of last year's. Participants start from the Likas Sports Complex as in previous years; then out to the coastal highway, and turning south to the KK city centre to reach Jalan Tuaran where participants turn north towards Likas. However, instead of turning back into the sports complex, participants proceed all the way up to Likas proper to reach the Inanam Bypas. Continue along the Inanam Bypass all the way to Manggatal at the point where the old Jalan Tuaran rejoins the Inanam Bypass. There, at the traffic lights, turn left heading to Sepanggar. This road eventually connects to Jalan Sulaman which is familiar territory of the previous route. Participants then find their way back to the Likas Sports Complex for the finish, but having to enter UMS for about 5km-6km of hillwork.

Participants should bear in mind that on the whole, the race route is more challenging this year since the undulating elevation is more pronounced during the second half of the course, and of course the toughest will be that of the UMS sector which is beyond 25km into the race. Now is perhaps a good time to make proper plans on nutrition and hydration in anticipation of the tougher challenge in the later stages of the race.

I hope your training for the race is progressing well, and I take this opportunity to wish you all the best. See you on 07 May!


Monday, March 6, 2017

Powerman Asia Duathlon Championship Malaysia 2017

A few months ago, I signed up for the Powerman Asia Duathlon Championship Malaysia 2017 to be held in Putrajaya. My new-found friend, John Kok, had also signed up for the same race. John relocated from Lahad Datu to KK around the end of last year, and he has since been joining me for the weekend bike rides fairly regularly. 

I'm unfortunately not a very strong cyclist myself, but I shared the little knowledge that I know about cycling. John improved very quickly, but I thought he desperately needed to run a bit more. You see, running is almost everybody's weakness—I've noticed that most cyclists don't like to run. They may ride everyday—sometimes twice a day in the morning and evening—but they don't spend half the time running. It's a very curious reality.

Apart from the training, I have of course some tricks up my sleeves on techniques in running and cycling which I've been sharing with John. But training is not everything. There are of course many other factors involved in an actual race. 

Well, the Powerman classic category was held yesterday, and it comprised 10km run - 60km bike - 10km run. I had planned not to surge out too fast in the early stages of the race. I told John, it's better to play safe. With this in mind, we should aim to finish the first 10km in about 50 minutes. The same idea should apply in the bike leg. Having considered the undulating terrain of Putrajaya, I told John we should aim to finish the bike leg in about 1:50. I have of course ridden 60km here in KK before, which I could finish in about 1:40. I reckoned that 10 minutes slower in Putrajaya should be safe enough. The only part of the race that's difficult to estimate was the final 10km run, because our legs would have been very exhausted by then.

Now many people would know that sticking to the game plan is much harder to do than coming up with the plan in the first place. But I was determined. The funny thing was that from the thousands of participants in the  Powerman, and although John and I signed up for the race at different times, we ended up racking our bikes just next to each other during the race. Talk about coincidence! As we were making final checks on our bikes, John decided to take this photo.


John is a good 10 years younger than me and much fitter as you can see from this photo. I'm the older guy on the right, and a bit fat too. I'm not sure what I was doing, pretending to be an athlete. I suggested to John that we should race together for as long as we could. The flag off was a few minutes behind schedule, and as we were running, I kept looking back to find John hot on my heels. Not sure what he was thinking, but after the first loop, I told John I was beginning to feel a bit tired, and suggested that we should slow down just a bit. Thankfully, however, the distance was slightly less than 10km, and we were therefore able to achieve that 50 minutes target as planned.

We arrived at T1 together, and we had to run quite a long distance within a sea of bikes to reach our bikes. Then a quick action—shades on, helmet on, running shoes off, cycling shoes on, bib switched from the front to the back, bike off the rack. Just then I saw John was still seated on the ground, dealing with his shoes. He told me to go ahead. I reckoned that I spent less than a minute at transition, but of course it was eventually a little over 2 minutes including that long run from the entry to exit of the transition.

I was happy with my transition, and my focus shifted to the bike leg. I started slow at about 33kph to catch my breath. But it was short-lived; as soon as I made the corner, I started climbing a gradual slope. And of course as expected, there were so many other cyclists blocking the way which was quite frustrating. I realised that John would probably take his time in transition. After about 3 or 4 minutes, I settled in to my cruising speed. The ups and downs were not as bad as I had expected, but eventually everybody had to go through a long climb. It wasn't really a steep climb, but the distance was something to be reckoned with. 

Photo credit: Jack Ah Beh

When I finished the first loop of the bike leg, however, I noticed that I was a little too fast. Accordingly, I had to slow down a bit during the second leg to stick to the plan. It was towards the end of that first bike loop when I noticed Chris Kha Khrang as she zoomed past me. I first saw her a few years ago in Miri during the Miri Triathlon, and I remember spending some minutes trying to figure out how to pronounce her name. And I swear it wasn't the cleavage that caused me to notice her yesterday, although admittedly, that kind of body is probably what most women can only dream of. Heck, even men are dreaming of that body! Just for the record though, I did not drool!


Photo credit: Jack Ah Beh

As I was approaching the tail end of the bike leg, I could already feel my legs getting tired. The distance was not 60km after all. Actually it was just about 58.5km. So instead of my 1:50 target, I was able to finish in about 1:46.

Then another quick transition after pushing my bike a long way back to the rack. Again I took just a little over 2  minutes at T2. But then came the dreaded final 10km run. I couldn't run comfortably within the first few hundred metres. All the muscles in my legs were screaming for me to stop, but it's not like I haven't been in this situation before. As I was trotting down the road in misery, I noticed Chris Kha Khrang about 20 metres ahead of me. I could see that she was also in trouble. I wasn't sure if it was cramps or exhaustion. I saw her grab a huge bottle of water and then doused herself with it, and I saw it all in slow motion in my mind! Oh that wicked waistline that looked like it's no more than 15 inches...

But there was no time to daydream. After about 1km, I had to slow down to a walk. As many of the endurance athletes would already know, once you start walking, you're likely gonna keep walking till the end. But I fought hard to keep running, although I didn't get much success. I did however manage to alternate between running and walking. After the first loop of about 5km, I noticed that Chris was getting slower, and I eventually overtook her. I looked further back in the hope of finding John in the crowd, but he was nowhere to be seen. I just kept going and finally crossed the finish line, feeling so glad that the torture was over.

This was how I performed in the Powerman:


After crossing the finish line, I crossed the road to the other side to collect my finisher T-shirt, and then found a concrete block to sit on while watching the remaining participants run by. And then about 15 minutes later, I saw John finishing his race. He's a happy man, having finished about 25 minutes faster than he did last year. He took this photo of us, but this old man was just too weak to stand up for a pose.

Apart from the finisher T-shirt, I also get to bring home this medal. I will of course admire the medal for a few days before throwing it into the cupboard to find its place among the hundreds other medals there.

I'm feeling so exhausted. Gonna rest for a few days before resuming training, this time for the Borneo International Marathon (BIM). But thankfully, I'm not seeking a personal best for BIM; just aiming to run a slow 4.5 hrs with a friend.

In the mean time, I will just rest. Tonight I'm going to sleep like a baby, I'm sure, and I bet I'll be dreaming of that 15-inch waistline...


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sharing is Caring

My grandparents had 13 children, but of those children a pair of twins died when they were still babies. 11 children was quite a crowd to reckon with even during my grandparents' era. So you can imagine the number of cousins that I have right now. In fact, I'm embarrassed to confess that I don't even know how many cousins I have; all I can say for certain is that there are many! What's more, if I were to walk the street and one of my cousins is in the crowd, I doubt that I would be able to single him out.

We are not all living in KK, so we rarely meet each other, except for only some of us. However, we have a family chat group on Whatsapp, although not all of my cousins are in that group. Every now and then we'd share information through that chat, such as when So-and-So is getting married, or So-and-So is sick and has been hospitalized. My brother, Dennis, is also in that chat group, and he is one of the most active guy—if not the most active one in posting stuff.

Dennis is quite a gullible chap, you see, and he has tons of what I'd call "rubbish" to share, and almost every morning he starts his routine by dumping at least 10 or 20 of the so-called rubbish in the chat group. They may range from mere jokes (which is perhaps not too bad), to "scientific studies" about how eating chicken wings can cause cancer, to unverified information about people, that So-and-So has done this and that. I can only assume that he receives all these things from other people, which he'd promptly forward to our chat group. And I'd be there to remind him not to be gullible; that there is a real need to do background checks on the truth of the stuff he's sharing with other people. But as I said, he's gullible by nature, and very easily fall prey to this sort of things. So despite my frequent reminders, he is still being gullible, although this recently, I'm beginning to see a little improvement. There is hope after all.

Then this morning, I read with interest the story of an Indian man with a Chinese name in The Star. He is a victim of a lie that someone told to someone, which was subsequently shared, and has since gone viral on social media.

The truth is that there are many, many gullible people like Dennis out there. They very easily fall prey to rumours. Whenever they receive any news or statements, even from unreliable sources, there is almost like a reflex reaction to quickly forward or share with friends without checking the truth or accuracy of the things that they're sharing. News that we find on the net can come from many places. They can come from genuine scientific research and reliable sources. But they can also come from that weirdo having nothing better to do with his useless life, composing the rubbish from the basement of his parents' house. 

The gullible people who fall prey to the weirdos can't tell the difference between the genuine articles and hoaxes. When questioned, I've noticed that one of the most popular justifications is that "Sharing is Caring". That seems like a foolproof defense. 

That's human nature—when they see something only from their own point of view, they tend to think that it's OK to share information with other people, whether that information is true or not. They do that even if they are not fully convinced that that information is genuine. But they share that information anyway, just to warn others of the possibility that it may be true. "Just as a precaution," they'd say. It's not until they themselves become the subjects of malicious lies that can harm their reputation that they'd believe spreading lies is harmful. It's only harmful if they feel the pain, but not when other people feel the pain.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Ultra Aquathlon Melaka 2017

About a year ago, I raced the Putrajaya Ultra Aquathlon, and although I had no problem finishing the race, I didn't do it quickly enough, and eventually finished 13th in my category. Actually, the main reason why I joined this race was because I wanted to conquer my fear of water. Yes, in a strange way, I have a kind of fear when joining any race that involves swimming. It's not really about being afraid of drowning. Somehow, at the back of my mind, there are many things that I can't control in a swimming race, and the fear is about my lack of control rather than about drowning. It's different with cycling and running; a lot more of the factors are within my control.

So anyway, I was again racing the ultra aquathlon last Sunday, by the same organiser, except this time it was held in Pantai Klebang, Melaka. Mia and I flew in through KLIA2 and then took the bus for a little over 2 hours to Melaka last Friday. We put up in Temasek Hotel, which we were told a fairly new hotel within the Portuguese settlement area. It's quite a pleasant hotel, except that I think it desperately needs to improve on its sound insulation system—doors were banging throughout the night, and it was very annoying for a light sleeper like me. The reception staff were also rather clueless, and the housekeeping folks had no idea what "PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB" means.

Before I forget, let me say that Mia did get her size XS finisher T-shirt for this race. It wasn't an easy thing to arrange, mind you, I had to personally remind Andy, the Race Director, several times through Whatsapp.

We opted for the shuttle van to the race venue since it was too much trouble to arrange for the taxi. The van driver, a man named Mano, arrived on time at 5:30am, and it was interesting to note that he was as clueless as the many volunteers of this event. I texted Mano the day before the race, but of course he did not reply my text. He was unaware of how many passengers he was supposed to pick up from Temasek Hotel. Well, there were four of us; and we made our way to Hotel Mahkota to pick a few other participants. Then we were held up for a bit because Mano wasn't aware of where he was supposed to send us. We told him that we're supposed to go to Pantai Klebang, but that piece of information wasn't really helpful to him. He then went into the hotel to seek help from the reception desk. That done, we embarked on our journey to Pantai Klebang.

It wasn't a very long journey—or at least it wasn't supposed to have been a long one—except that we went the wrong way and I was beginning to panic (read that part in the opening paragraph above again, about my fear of unable to control the factors). One of the participants took out his smartphone and used the Google Map. The driver debated on the location for a bit, until Mia told him to just follow the info on Google. Well, we arrived at the race venue safely in the end. It wasn't a very big crowd; in fact less than 100 participants were doing the Ultra category, i.e. 2.25km swim, and 21km run.

The swim was divided into 3 loops of theoretical 750m and after each loop, we were required to exit the water and run a short distance on shore before entering the water again. As for the run, it was mainly flat throughout, but practically no shades whatsoever.

As I had expected, the flag off was late by about 20 minutes. In fact, I've joined a few other races by the same organiser, and this organiser has never been on time as far as the flag off was concerned. The swim was surprisingly pleasant even for a lousy swimmer like me, except that it was chaotic because of the crowd. I'm yet to find a way to get used to swimming in a crowd and ignore all the kickings and elbowings. Although it was a sea swim, the water was just awful—it was murky and visibility was almost zero. I spent a lot of time swimming with my eyes closed, except for the times when I had to lift my head up to sight. In the end, I emerged from the sea after about 55 minutes. I should have been still fresh when exiting the water, but because I'm not a good swimmer, I had to struggle for a bit, and therefore used up quite a bit of energy.

Exiting the water on the second loop of the swim leg, and running a short distance on the beach before re-entering the water for the final loop. To my fans out there, I'm so sorry to disappoint you—I'm on the left, NOT the sexy one on the right.

That's the face of a man feeling so relieved for surviving the 2.25km swim, running a short distance to the transition area.

I took my time at the transition, consuming a pack of GU and chasing it down with about 300ml of Carbopro concoction. put on my socks and shoes, sun glasses and cap, grabbed some more GUs, and then I was off for the 21km run. I've never been very efficient in my transition, and this time I took almost 4 minutes for the transition.

As was the case in the Putrajaya Ultra Aquathlon last year, my quads refused to cooperate at the start of the run. I had to control my pace to ensure that I would last the whole distance, but I also needed a bit of time for the GU and Carbopro to flow into my system. But oh boy, it was a big struggle for me during those first few kilometres. I had expected a very hot run, but I was happy to note that it wasn't as hot after all. There were plenty of water stations along the run route, and at the back of my mind, I thought it is a model that other race organisers should copy. For example, during the Challenge Iskandar Puteri last year, the water stations were just too far apart. Running in the hot climate of Malaysia shouldn't be underestimated.

By the second loop of the run, I started to push the pace a bit, since it was quite obvious that I could last the distance. Thus I overtook some other participants along the way. However, when I reached the turning point for the second time, I knew that it wasn't gonna be 21km. I finally crossed the finish line in the official time of 2:58:29, and I got fourth in the "46 years & Above" category.

The joy of arriving at the finish line. I've been crossing so many finish lines before that I've long ago lost count. But the joy of crossing the finish line—one can never get tired of it!

I had to wait well over half an hour for Mia to arrive at the finish line. I collected my own finisher T-shirt, as well as for Mia, and my finisher medal. It's not normal, of course, for Mia's T-shirt to be collected before she even finish. But based on my experience over the last few events, they always ran out of the XS size by the time Mia finished her race, and this time I had to make a special arrangement with the organiser to collect the T-shirt first before it's exchanged by other participants. After I had collected Mia's T-shirt, I stood there watching the volunteers allowing the other participants to exchange their T-shirts. Some things will never change!

While waiting for Mia—and it was quite a long wait—suddenly that wickedly sexy creature by the name of Wendy Tan walked by. She was in her awesome outfit, a shouting red-coloured sun hat, and sunglasses. She was just walking around, but in my mind I saw her movements in slow-motion with the music "Beautiful Girl" in the background. After a while, she saw me, and I said "Hi", and we shook hands. We spent some moments talking about the race, while I was thinking if I should buy the lotto jackpot—because I felt it's my lucky day for having the opportunity to shake hands with Wendy. Y'know, at my age, anything young and in skirt is beautiful, especially this particular one! But I had to shake myself out of the trance, because I was thinking Mia might be approaching the finish line very soon, and she might be tempted to beat me up with a baseball bat?

Well, I stood there for quite a long time and there was still no sign of my wife. After a while I became a little worried. So I decided to walk out to the course to look for her. And then just as I hit the road, I saw that scrawny little creature from afar, running with a steady gait. I jogged with her to the finish line. Mia came in last for her category, i.e. "46 years & Above", but because there were only two participants in her category, she was officially the first runner-up. I felt like I almost died running to the finish line, and I didn't get anything. She took her time and got second! I wasn't sure whether to be happy or sad for her, but in the end I chose to be happy. I'm still afraid of the baseball bat. She collected her finisher medal and then we had to rush to the transition to get our remaining stuff, and then hopefully Mano, the van driver could find his way back to fetch us to the hotel.

On the whole, I would say this was a well-organised event. I felt it deserved a bigger participation. The things that mattered the most, such as safety of swimmers and drink stations etc were well covered, and I must say the organiser did a good job. But on the other hand, there is still room for improvements in terms of the bib collection process which I felt was just too slow and inefficient. I don't mind to join this event again next year, and I would certainly recommend to my friends to join too.

Photo credit: Vy Mussolini Photography


Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Art of Dealing with Failures

The school bus arrives at my house at about 6am every morning, and JJ would be seated at the dining table for breakfast at around 5:30am. Mia and I would wake up at around 6:30am. I would have my oats and eggs at home before leaving for work, and Mia would eat at her office because she has to leave home before the traffic builds up.

Consequently, we don't have frequent breakfasts together as a family. Mia works on alternate Saturdays; whereas I have my cycling sessions and it takes up to at least 9am (much longer when I'm training for longer races). So we make it a point to have a family breakfast session on Sundays. I still run a minimum 21km on Sundays, of course, but I start very early and would usually be home by 8am.

We were seated at a restaurant having our so-called family breakfast last Sunday, and Mia and I were discussing about stuff. Suddenly, JJ said something which I found rather surprising. She said, "I hope I will be as successful as both of you as an adult."

Now before you get the wrong idea, let me hasten to say that a 14-year-old kid may not necessarily define that word "success" the same way an adult might. Kids have a much more simplistic view of life. Success, to them, is not really about having a ton of money, a ridiculously large mansion to live in, a private jet to travel the world. Success can simply mean having a harmonious family, a decent home with enough of the basic needs, time to indulge in hobbies, plus perhaps some extra resources for a vacation every now and then. We certainly have no bank accounts with balances made up of figures with mind-boggling number of zeroes at the back.

Most parents would try very hard to instill the habit of hardwork and discipline in their children from an early age with the aim of achieving a successful life. Success—whether as defined by kids or adults—will require hardwork and a lot of sacrifices to achieve; success almost never happen by accident.

At one time I was somewhat worried for JJ. She seemed a bit lazy and not as hardworking as I would have liked her to be. We had to keep reminding her to study for her exams etc. Thankfully, however, she seemed to have gone through a process of gradual change over the years. These days she needs very minimal supervision. She is quite independent when it comes to her school stuff. She has in her the drive to excel in school. Mia is very happy to see JJ doing well in school, and I'm of course not complaining. But that is not the end of the story.

Ever so often we tend to forget that hardwork, discipline and sacrifices do not always result in success. No—the harsh reality in life is that sometimes no matter how hard you try, you will still fail in the end!

JJ was crying this morning; she was under a lot of stress. She tried to achieve something but she was overwhelmed by the immensity of the task. The sense of hopelessness written all over her face. Never mind the details of her nightmare, but Mia attempted to forge ahead anyway, and I had to butt in and apply my authority. 

It is OK to fail every now and then, because life is not always a bed of roses. All I expect of JJ is for her to try her best, and as long as she'd tried her best, I'm not too overly concerned about the result. Even the most successful people in the world have gone through many failures in their lives too. I want JJ to know that failures are not always a bad thing. But giving up in the face of failures is bad. A little set-back here and there, but we pause to reassess the situation, and then find a solution. Of course it may take a little longer to achieve what we want to achieve, yet the tortoise, remember, outran the hare in the end. Failures can make us stronger and wiser eventually.

I want JJ to know that there will be many, many more failures in her life, and she should learn to deal with them. For I consider that dealing with failures is an art—a skill that parents should develop in their children. Way too often the focus is on instilling hardwork, discipline and sacrifices in children, but the art of dealing with failures is neglected in the upbringing; the skill and determination to pick oneself up after a bad fall and start again. People turn to alcohol, drugs and even suicide when faced with failures and disappointments.

I won't be around forever in JJ's life, but I hope that before my time is up, I will have equipped her with at least the basic of life's virtues so that she will be able to realise her goal of achieving "success" like her daddy and mommy.