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...