Sunday, November 9, 2008

I finally came in first!

Malakoff Duathalon, Lumut 9.11.2008


Yes.. i could not believe what i was hearing.


 the guy was on his speaker “get ready, get ready, first runner coming in! first runner coming in!” 


could it really be me? am i the first runner his referring to? 


“431, 431.. girl.. girl” he said


 431.. that’s my number! yes! that’s me.. that’s really me! 


but hang on.. what’s that he’s saying?


 “medic, medic, ready medic, first runner coming in!”


 medic? must be something standard seeing that even i am surprised for being the first runner in.


i looked around trying to make sense of the whole situation. trying to catch logic but it keeps slipping my mind. 


the scene passes quickly yet it seemed like forever that i was there. so much confusion, so much urgency in everybody’s voices.. i hear an ambulance in the distance but i can’t see it.


i see the finishing area, but just. i see the finishing arch but i am not heading towards it. 


what’s happening.. am i not first runner in? 


we suddenly stop.. it is calm again. i can hear my breathing. i hear somebody mumbling, i look around to trace the voice. three faces looked at me. and then I heard it.. 


“oh! dah tumbang lah tu!”


 suddenly a loud crack of metal, like a bursting vault and a sliding door. a man, tall man, appears.. he comes above me and say “you’ll be alright” and he carries me.. out from a van and into a nearby ambulance. 


he placed me onto a day bed in the ambulance and starts taking off my shoes. another man comes up. a flash in my left eye.. another in my right.. i blink. he asked me questions i can answer but only mentally. i somehow could not speak. 


“are you asthmatic?” he asked, “no” i said inside.

“did you eat?” he asked, “i think so” i said inside.

“can you hear me?” he asked, he looked a bit worried so i said “penicillin”

 

don’t ask me why i said it, i’m sure a simple ‘yes’ would have been sufficient at that time, but it was the first word that came out of me.

 

“what?” he said, “i’m allergic to penicillin” i replied.

 

finally, he laughed “don’t worry, we’re not going to give you penicillin, you’re probably exhausted, or had a sudden low blood pressure. lie here, we’ll check your oxygen levels in your blood. you’ll be fine soon..”

 

there you have it. my first victory.. my first “faster than everyone else”. of course we’re talking about under the circumstances of being the first to require emergency medic help and an instant pull out from the race.. but the fact remains, that after 3 years of racing, i finally came in first!

 

and like most first timers, i’ll like to share with you the events that lead to my ‘victory’.

 

the day started pretty normal. woke up at 6am, cycled to start point at 6.45am, reach transition at 7am. race starts at 7.30am.

 

at transition, i realised i left my riding shoes in the hotel. panicked a little but made a quick counsel and decision to ride back to get them.

 

rode back to hotel, grabbed shoes and headed back to transition. i reached transition at 7.20am.

 

flung my bike on the rack, arranged my shoes, placed my helmet, ransacked my transition bag for my number and my breakfast bar, reset my bike computer, grabbed my sunnies, grabbed my sunblock, got chased out of transition by marshal at 7.25am.

 

heard the lady say “5mins to start”, ran to start line, found my buddies and asked for help slapping on sunblock while i tried to eat my breakfast. was told i could give my sunblock to another buddy supporter, ran to him about 80m away and ran back still trying to finish half a bar. before i could swallow, the race started.

 

so off we went. i was actually feeling quite good. somehow faster and lighter than normal. i said to myself “must have been that fast and furious warm up i had, i’m already sweating buckets!”

 

first water station, i rewarded my fast pace with a brisk walk pass the station. still feeling strong but perhaps pushed a bit too hard first part. so, i started running again but at a slower pace. but water from the station made me feel a bit queasy, especially since i had just swallowed my bar not too long ago.

 

i slowed down a little more, tiring to settle my stomach.

 

as I approached the second station, just before the 5k mark, i thought “ok, very queasy now.. starting to see a bit of spots and can feel the bar escaping me”

 

at that time, Rahim had just passed me at a good pace. feeling up to it i told myself “walk to station, after station, there’s a van, hide in front of the van and puke (didn’t want to disgust the other runners so early in the morning!), then catch up with Rahim”.

 

i looked at my timing “not bad.. this could be one of my faster 5k!”

 

so I wobbled, controlling my restless bar, drank some water, and headed for the front of the van, away from everybody.

 

i bent over to let it rip, resting my hands on my knees, when the grass suddenly looked grey and my head very light. a thought came to mind “wonder what would happen if i just rested my head on the ground?”. i looked to my left and the van had a fender bar. i thought it would be a good idea to reach for it and held it for balance while i puked instead.

 

i reached for the fender bar but i’m still not sure if i touched it because next thing i know, my eyes won’t open and i hear people speaking in a rush.

 

i open my eyes to see the sky, i was on my back and a girl was speaking to me in mandarin. not sure what she was saying so i just stared. nothing seemed to register and nothing seemed to be moving.

 

i was confused and rolled to my side to push myself up. nothing happened. instead, for the strangest reason, my eyes were fixated on an ant sniffing a blade of grass. i don’t know why i was so attracted to the ant and i don’t know why i was looking at it and not getting up instead. i just looked at it with a blank mind.

 

finally, i hear English “ok, this one cannot wait already” and whoosh! a man scooped me up from the ground and carried me into the van. i felt like jello!

 

even as i lay in that van, and later in the ambulance, i couldn’t believe what happened. did i really pass out? i was just trying to throw up, and i always felt better after throwing up. why did i plop down and close my eyes? the race had only started! why would i do such a thing.. now my race is over!

 

much later, as i sat at the back of the imcyclist van i thought of what i’ve done while watching people coming in from their bike leg. a huge sense of guilt, and regret came over me. i felt that what happened in the morning could have been avoided. i should not have thought about resting my head on the ground, i wouldn’t have passed out.

 

i felt sad, angry at myself and defeated. so, i called that number we all have. that number that we always called when we wanted to feel less lonely and more loved. when we wanted to tell ourselves "it's ok" but needed to hear it from someone else just to be sure.

 

i rang his mobile but no answer. “maybe he’s home” so i called there.

 

as he said “hello”, i’m suddenly 6 years old again. with a lump in my throat, i tried to sound normal and said “hi dad, can I speak to mom?”

 

he replied equally cool “ya, ok. hang on”. but you could hear him rush, calling out for my mom, great urgency in his voice. and then you can hear mom, rushing to the phone.

 

“why senn? what happened? did you fall, are you hurt? don’t cry.. just tell me what happened”

 

like a 6 year old who climbed a tree, fell and now can’t play with all her friends, i told my mom what happened between sobs. all just to hear her say those magical words -  it’s ok, just enjoy the rest of the trip with your friends and try again next year.

 

and honestly, i really did after that. i passed my camera to willie to take pictures, i watched and cheered my friends, i gave my water to a runner in need. by the time most of them finished, i’ve resigned to the fact that shit happens and i’ll just have to try again next year.

 

i had a good balance of concerned friends, well wishers and friendly slander.

 

here are some of my favourite slander moments, all shared in good faith and loads of adoration:

#1 

senn: they didn’t have water in the ambulance, so I drank saline! yuck!

ishsal: maybe it was so early, they didn’t even have time to prep that ambulance and you came in!

 

#2 

mac: where did you pass out?

senn: at the second water station, before the 5k mark

mac: so technically is that worst than dnf? because you didn’t even pass the first timing mat, your timing would say dns!

senn: haha! you’re right.. man, what a waste of a good race

mac: what a waste of a timing chip!

 

#3 

alwin: what happened la?

senn: passed out even before 5k man..

alwin: o! you just said “malas to race” and faked your pengsan, issit?

 

#4 

senn: the medical attendant asked me if this was my first race and i replied i’ve been racing for 3 years!

ishsal: you should have said, “i’ve done an ironman! TWO in fact”

senn: haha.. wonder what he’ll say then..

ishsal: mm.. “yea right, 5k pun tak habis.. nak buat Ironman!”?

 

#5 

ade: when did you pass out?

senn: it was before the 5k mark. i think even before 8am

ade: o! very early ya..

ishsal: well, you know how it is: if she ain’t going all the way, she might as well be the first to quit!

 

#6 

mac: we need petrol. the light’s been on for some time already

ade: don’t worry, next rest stop area is coming up

ishsal: ya, i see the signboard coming up

senn: ya mac, don’t worry. it’s so near, worst case scenario i’ll walk to the station. but i must warn you, if it’s further than 4k, i might pass out before reaching the station! 


                                                 ***

thank you:

* malakoff: for your team’s quick response to my emergency.       

* mr mystery man in the van for acknowledging my urgent need of medical assistance, carrying my weak body and rushing me to the ambulance instead of waiting for it to arrive.

* ms mystery mandarin speaking red crescent volunteer for seating behind to make sure i didn’t fall of the seat of the van. by the way, you still have my rudy sunnies.

 

congrats to all winners and finishers. to all DNFs or DNSs, don’t worry, come back and i’ll finish the race with you next year!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Learning to tri from Bali..

I read in someone's blog that everything you do in life can be a lesson to be learnt for races.

after coming back from a tiring weekend in bali, let's see if that's true:

1. this is me fooling around in the hotel pool:

video

of course, you'll wonder.. what's the lesson here? well, i thought about it too and found this other video:

video

what happened? i'll tell you what happened. i tried to do a new trick unprepared and something i'm not familiar with. water went up my nose and ruined the video.

so lesson 1, tying back to triathlons is.... never try anything new on race day!

always ensure you try everything (a friend of mine does not even try new socks on raceday) during training and not on race day itself. even if the item is old but has not been tested for the distance, don't risk it.

earlier this year i had hoped to wear my matching pink decente cycle shorts for langkawi. i had worn it for desaru 2007 and it worked out well with the long distance. but i figured "180k is double the distance".

so when the opportunity came up to cycle to lumut from center point, i took it.. and would you know it... 50k no problem, 70k nothing, 90k still in tact, 95k ouch! but not too bad, 100k what the...

i retired shortly after with really bad chaffing. strange isn't it? good but just not that good enough. good thing i found out before langkawi, it saved my race (of course along with the pills mom gave for the tummy ache)

2. this is me checking out my swim strokes

video

i'm sure some of you 'quick-eyed' ones will say "is that her bikini coming off?" (haha... made you watch the video again, didn't i?)

well, if you must know.. it was hanging.. semi off the right side.

so, lesson 2: wear proper attire.

seriously! and there's no hard and fast rule to what is proper. you will still need to test it.. and not on raceday. i once wore a new tri top bought day before the race. i figured, it's a tri top, must be appropriate.

nope! it was too loose and i had loads of air pockets in the swim. very uncomfortable. so make sure you wear and test your attire before a race.

o yes! and feel free to give constructive feedback on how to improve my swim strokes

3. Tough women (note the lady with two dive tanks on her head!)

video

i dived for the first time in my life over the weekend. it was a good experience and while waiting for my lunch to settle, i saw these women carrying dive equipment back to the car. one lady in particular had two dive tanks on her head! i was thinking.. lordy me! i can't even carry one on my shoulder! (the dive instructor actually had to help me put it on in the water)

so how does she do it and what's the link to races?

lesson 3: it's not the equipment. it's the skill.

how many of us have heard or are guilty of blaming our lack of speed, endurance, strenght on our race equipments? c'mon.. honestly..

i think we all have. one point or another it's either bike too heavy, shoes to stiff, swimgear chaffing.. etc. as a result, we spend more and more money upgrading our gear in hope that along with it comes an 'upgraded' performance. newsflash: it's not the medium, it's the engine..

i do, however, have friends who do not seem to matter what equipment they have. in fact, some ride and run in the most basic of levels and are super fast.

ironman randy is one of them. of course at races he whips out his super duper tri bike. but at training, his bike is heavier than mine! and yet, he flies.

ngae is another star to learn from. while perhaps running barefoot is not for most of us, it is a clear example that your equipment does not define your preformance. i remember i once saw him at the start line with tapes around his toes and selected areas of his foot. it was one of the first times i've spoken to him. being ignorant i thought he had blisters. i asked him "did you hurt yourself?" he replied with his charming self "no la. i woke up early today.. so i dress up a bit more la.. normally it's totally bare". i think i'm still dumbstuck by his ability and talent till today.

then of course there are those whose equipment outshine their performance (i'm slowing trying to balance mine out). here we have proud owners of the latest trends.

admirable as well, as they are proud of who they are and what they have chosen to be.. or ride..

but seriously.. it's not the bike or the shoe or whatever gizmo you have that's weighing you down.. :)

unfortunately, my trip went by in a daze and i didn't take anymore 'interesting' videos. will do so again on my next trip.

Friday, September 5, 2008

"You don't have to be great to do something...

...you have to do something to be great!"
- wise words from my long lost tri buddy, peter.

i thought about this for awhile and really think it makes a lot of sense. the statement came about when he was telling how he met a couple of tri friends over the weekend who know me and thought i was gutsy. our chat went something like this:

peter: people admire ur guts!
senn: u know wat dat means right?
senn: means i'm so slow if they were me, they wudn't bother! hahaha
peter: you don't hv to be great to do something... you have to do something to be great

knowing me, i had to be philosophical about everything, so i took a trip down memory lane to last month's desaru long distance triathlon. it was a good race that i did relay with arif. the next day was the sprint event.

it was bloody hot!

as we sat under the tent after the finishing line, waiting for our friends, i saw nurina cross the line. i sat next to her and congratulated her on another great race. i asked her how it was and she replied she did very well. and the fact that she ran the whole distance, she was very proud of herself. she said "i know it's only 3km, but the fact that i ran all the way, i did exceptionally well" (it's been a few weeks now since desaru, but congrats again nurina. keep it up! you did something, and you became great!)

then there's patsy.

gusty patsy, who ran her own race. who wasn't bothered by whatever time it took her to finish desaru.. or any other race. she was alone out there but she went on and on and on till she completed.

again, congrats patsy... you did something, and became great.

and this 'being great' phenomena doesn't just happen in races!

last saturday after a nice ramadhan ride, upiq humoured us with his stories of school. light hearted and strong willed, you would never have guessed how quickly he has improved his physical health.

upiq is fantastic. i met him on a ramadhan run up genting last year. he started about half an hour before the main pack but we caught up with him on the downhill heading towards goh tong jaya. and he looked tortured.

last saturday he reminded me of that genting run where he really did feel like quiting. but with a little bit of encouragement and (a lot) white lies about goh tong being just a stone throw away... downhill... he decided to continue.

since then, upiq has completed triathlons, rides mostly with the front group, is always a burst of energy to watch and looking forward to our 1st anniversary via a night run up genting.

congrats upiq. i know you haven't achieved everything yet and is still just beginning. but see how doing something 'small' has made you great?

same ride last saturday, i brought dad along. dad has been riding his 'oh-so-not-euro-cool' mountie for about 6 months now. every morning he rides around putrajaya. just 10k at an avg of 17kmh. he was proud as a bean (huh?) at what he has been doing.

he treated my invitation to saturday's ride as if it were an ironman race. the amount of prep he did!
1. get bigger water bottle
2. ask nutrition advise
3. seek advice on what attire to wear (imcyclist.com t-shirt was decided because he felt it showed team support!)
4. fix night light
5. fix helmet straps
6. check time... every 15 mins from 8pm till 9.30pm, counting down to when we had to leave for start point.

... all this for a 30km ramadhan night ride with lethargic riders.

i smiled inside because he was so anxious and cute yet it meant a whole lot to him. so i decided to play strict, he likes it when it feels like a challenge.

my dad was tortured physically but didn't complain.

he even had the gusto to ask me if i would take him on my rides to pd one day while climbing the last hill towards alamanda!
dad: do you think i can ride with you to pd?
senn: sure.. but at your speed, it might take forever (senn the tough nut cranking up the pressure)
dad: how far is it?
senn: 70km...
dad: ah! that's just 2.5 times longer than tonight
senn: ...one way...
dad: o.. maybe mom can drive and meet me at pd instead...
senn: maybe... (i said it matter of factly, but i was beaming with pride inside! as if he was my kid learning to ride for the first time!)

halfway through the alamanda hill, he looked so tortured i suggested he turned into our housing area instead of finishing at taman warisan... it was really on the way and we pass the junction en route to start point.

although tortured and out of breath, he managed a smile and a fist and said "must cross the finishing line senn!"

so, cross the finishing line he did. last one back, half the crowd gone but happy and proud. he also rode back from start point that night so technically he rode more than everyone else that night!

good job kol(b) lai. you weren't great at cycling, but you did something, and you were great!

if you look around you'll probably find a lot more people who aren't great at something, but did something and became great.

and if you haven't yourself, why not do something today? you might end up being great...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Birds of a feather, flock together

What about the other birds then?

I was speaking to my colleague the other day (well, gossiping more like) about the petrol price increase and what our management was going to do about it. We were generally upset that the higher management is refusing to increase the mileage claim amount in relation to the hike percentage. He's summary to the issue was simple "they won't budge to our needs because they are given petrol cards and hence not affected. and they are all of the same mind... you know... birds of a feather"

which made me wonder, i am not of the same feather, but i am of the same forest, why am i to be discriminated? surely i have an ecology contribution to the system.

over the month i pondered on his point "birds of a feather". i started noticing that this point applies to everything we do in life, including triathlons and weekend rides.

how many of us can honestly say we do not discriminate our friends in this circle? ok, perhaps discriminate is a bad word to use, let me rephrase the question: how many of us can honestly say we do not categorise our friends in this circle?

everyone does: the speed demons, the siput girls, the ever-sweeper etc.

nothing wrong there. and we love our friends regardless of the category we place them in.

however, discrimination i feel comes to play when friends are not in the same category as the 'main flock'.

of late, even the friendly cycling group pcc has lost its niche as your 'perfect cycling partner'. when i first started, pcc was fondly known as the 'le tour de fat farm'. famous for its easy routes, great rides and fantastic eating experience. every ride was centered around where was the best place to eat what. within pcc, we had the fast boys in front, the leisure riders in the middle and the newbies behind with the ever trusty sweeper.

to other clubs like p2k and bike pro, pcc were the underdogs and not to be taken seriously. while it is impressive how pcc has evolved in the past two years, it is sad to know it is no longer unique as it once was. it now breeds speed demons and strong mutants, all very similar to the birds over at p2k and bike pro.

of course it is not in my position to say whether pcc has evolved for the better or for the worse, but i do know that it is no longer the 'perfect cycling partner'. it shows less empathy for new riders or slow seasoned ones. it has also developed a hint of arrogance of how far it has evolved into.

all well justified i'm sure because it is the hard work of the leaders and the frequent flyers of pcc to be faster, better, stronger. we are also no longer the fat farm, which i'm sure is great news to many who see the term as an insult.

but really to me, pcc was the 'perfect cycling partner' because it housed a forestry of birds: big ones, small ones, sleek ones, colourful ones, nutty ones and they all sang a different tune: chirpy and sharp, low and sexy, even god awful screeching. you would imagine with such unorganised tunes, it would be chaotic but no... any new bird, young or experienced that flew into the pcc forest would find a circle of same feathered friends that they can sing together.

it was harmonious. it was the heart of pcc.

today i am sadden that the birds sing the same song as other clubs. it sings of speed, and distance and how only great birds do great things. it sings of competition and without intend, alienates the minority birds. these are not necessarily new birds, just birds that do not sing the same tune. it is as if the main flock birds have grown in such numbers that other birds either have to sing the same way, or move out of the forest.

step back before i continue: i'm not imposing the main flock birds are snobs, merely the fact that minority birds are constantly pressured to be accepted by singing to the main flock tune.

it's really not the main flock's fault. it's the weakness of the minority bird.

let me explain: i am a minority bird.

while i think i am well liked by all birds in the forest, at heart, i am a minority bird. minority in the sense that i'm relatively a seasoned rider but never considered myself a speed demon. never been classified as one either. just occasional spats of speed. other than that, i'm pretty much on my own.

even in triathlons, i am a minority bird. i'm not exactly new.. but i'm not exactly a top 10 finisher either.

i have to admit i have been upset about main flock birds asking me to join them on the higher branches of the forest. upset because i feel pressured to feel belong.

then i realise i play a very important role in the forest's ecosystem.

if you think you are a minority bird like me, here are two main things to think about and hopeful you too will not be pressured into joining the main flock birds:
1. if everybody is as fast, how do we have greatness?
think about this. if we are all main flock birds, able to deliver the same amount of energy and distance, how are we going to brag or admire anybody? we'll all be the same. at triathlons, we will all finish the same and the podium will overflow with people taking turns to receive their gold medal. in fact, we will all be 'normal'. nobody will shine. and since nobody will be last and have a great story of determination to tell, we will lose inspiration and soul too.

2. if everybody was a main flock bird, where's the melody?
an orchestra is never built on a single musical instrument. it needs a range of different sounds and rhythm to make something magical and memorable. a piano solo may sound impressive, but the whole orchestra is what makes it great.

so back to my point about my contribution to this ecosystem as a minority bird.

if i was as great as the main flock, i will not be inspired to write this blog which in turn has inspired many.

if i was as great as the main flock, i will not be able to speak and share experiences that newbies can relate to. hence, they will think you must be great in order to join a triathlon. on hindsight, they may be less competitors! but that's not the point here...

if i was as great as the main flock, i would not have understood what many other minority birds feel and therefore lose out on a lot of soul.

my contribution to the ecosystem is to provide an avenue for slower season riders or newbies to build the courage and inspiration to challange no one else but themselves.

my contribution to the ecosystem is to provide support and encouragement to other minority birds by saying "hey, you know what, forget what the other birds are singing. what do you feel like singing?"

and i know there are some key minority birds out there.

like nabil when he was actively riding in pcc. he was the ever protective and steady sailboat. very reliable and definitely sang his own song. although he was normally the sweeper, he never lost out on respect from other riders. in fact i think we respected him most because he always ensured nobody was left behind and everybody was safe. a very responsible role and no 'flimsy' main flock bird can handle.

so if you are indeed a minority bird like me. do not be ashamed and do not be upset and succum to peer pressure as i once have.

you should realise that your contribution to the ecosystem is very important. do a self check, ask yourself "if i am not a main flock bird, what is my contribution to the ecosystem?". don't be afraid to ask friends close to you as you will be surprised how much you actually mean to the forest without changing the type of bird you are..

i mean, if every bird in the forest sang the same song in the same tune... it would be a very plain and boring forest, wouldn't it?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ode to my string of pearls (and Kenyir tri race report!)

It has been 3 years since i heard this story but i never fully understood what it meant until the kenyir race last weekend..

3 years ago, as i embarked on to the world of triathlons - heart broken, frumpy looking and thrown into a whole new working industry - a good friend of mine said "forget what you have lost. look forward to what you will receive". i didn't believe her and in her sweet quest to help me recover she emailed me a chain letter about a father-daughter and a string of pearls.

i'm quite sure many of you would have received this chain letter one time or the other, but just in case you haven't, let me tell you the story (it was honestly long and boring, so i'll give you the more touching version.. but long still)

on her 5th birthday, her father gave her a pretty pearl necklace he had bought at toys r' us. she loved dressing up and she was his princess so he wanted to make sure she knew that. naturally, over time the pearl necklace chipped and the colour coating peeled.

couple of years later, her father said
"let's give away your necklace, it's old and the colour is faded"
"NO! this is my favourite pearl necklace. it is pretty still" she replied
"my darling, you must learn to let go. it will be alright" her father said lovingly.
and this conversation went on for weeks. each night, her father said "give away" and each night she replied "no".

finally two days before her 7th birthday she said:
"ok daddy, because i love you, i trust you that everything will be alright. but i want you to know my heart is breaking as i give this pearl necklace away"

her father smiled and hugged her.

on the eve of her birthday, her father came to her bedside and found her crying
father: "don't cry my darling. tomorrow is your birthday"
daughter: "daddy, it hurts. i don't want it to be my birthday"
father: "i know it does. but i wanted you to learn that letting go of something precious to you doesn't mean you will never be happy again"
daughter: "what do you mean?"

her father then took out a velvet box and in it is was a real string of pearls.

"i wanted you to let go of the past so that i can give you something more precious and beautiful for the future.. happy birthday darling.."

many friends said "ah! so materialistic! the old pearls may have been in bad shape but it was sentimental". true, but i'm sure there's a chain letter somewhere to cover that issue.

but!

the moral of the story here is never be afraid to let go of something you feel is precious to you as there is always something more precious to discover.

so how does this relate to my enlightenment over the weekend?

well, for 3 years now i have been blessed with a loving partner which i initially thought was my 'real string of pearls' but i was never completely convinced. replacing a lover with another cannot really justify the empty spot left by the previous lover. not because he is insufficient, but because each lover is different so they fill up different areas of the void.

then after almost 5 months since february of not meeting my triathlon friends i realised something: my string of pearls is not represented by one person... it is literally a string of pearls! many many representatives... each one a pearl in my string:
from sweet alisa who is on a constant high and full of love, to her equally energetic father who braved IM 2008 after swimming 2k for the first time 10 days before race day.

from funny mj kalam, to his loving nurina whose heart of gold and determination to complete tris is a true admiration, to his kopi susu family tagging along everywhere like little ducklings.

from the elites of steph, dino, and kim who have achieved far beyond my personal ability yet remain humble and close.

from shen who introduced me to this triathlon world to her devoted KC and now tiny peanut who's almost 1 month old!

from edwin and his endless support and dedication, to his gentle kelly and everybody from imcyclist.com

from willie with his funny ways of waiting for me at races, to shiraz and his "shut up! forget about the medal..just finish the race!

from patrick and his never ending evaluation of what is "necessary" and his growing up son now more interested in straddling the bench press to bulk up than straddling his bike.

from the fast and furious boys of ironmonyet to the new boys in town from bike boutique.

from my evergreen race bunny karen siah, to karoline yee and now michelle looi (all great gals that i target at races and all great gals that beat me flat at races!)

from carmen leong and her admirable win for a spot in kona 2008, to randy tan and his dedicated bench side barbie ivy.

from mac the ever trusty friend sweeping at the back, to adeline, to jaja, to vong, to pk and family and all the great guys/gals at pcc and their enjoyable sunday rides.

from yit thing coming slowly into this tri world to weina across the sea

the list goes on (if your name is not mentioned here, sorry... but don't worry, i still think you would be a pearl in my string too!)

but it doesn't stop there!

since letting go of the past i have been blessed with the company of arif's family and many other 'new' people in my life:
from little shafeeq and shaqeel who's laughter and snoring entertain me over weekend stays to their sweet nanny kye that helps around the house.

from sweet farah and cheeky daughter nana to her ever handy fahar and their great weekend parties/games night

from muscle mania and ever smiling feizal to his calming lynn where everything we do, give or buy is niiiiiiice.....

from the great guys at work like joanna, solomon, chua, leong, wan san, tang and many many others who make 8-5pm tolerable.

i could go on forever... but really what i would like to do is thank all of you for coming into my life and enriching it many folds over.

and to think, i would have missed all these had i not let go...

so a toast is "necessary"!

to all my friends mentioned and unmentioned, you enrich my life and each one of you is a true treasured pearl on my string.

i love you all and thank you for bringing colour to my life!

p.s: hope this post gives you the strength to let go of any past haunting you now as what the future brings is always far better.

p.p.s: i forgot about my kenyir race report! o well, here it is:
- did alright considering no training
- had fun
- finished with medal
- came home.
(figured you're all so well aware of my race capability there's no point dwelling in my imperfections!)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Tridating

What is it like to date a triathlete?

(an interesting subject i found in my 'edit posts' marked draft with only the title and first line crafted. so since i haven't updated my blog for yonks, let's see if i can finish this topic today)

let's see...

i've been dating a triathlete for over two years now and while we have the usual ups and downs, the occasional slam-in-the-face and the point turner break-up-and-make-up, i would say there is a bond that is very hard to define if you are not a triathlete yourself.

just last night i had the following online chat with my bestfriend:
vanisha: how are things?
senn: ok
vanisha: so wat r you doin now?
senn: on facebook, playing scrabulous wid arif (yes! i'm finally on facebook!)
vanisha: how sweet, not seeing him 2night?
senn: i m
vanisha: huh?
senn: we're both online, seated opposite and we're playing scrabulous
vanisha: u guys r weird..

are we really?
and now to think about it, that's not the first time i've heard her say that. here are more examples:
vanisha: wat's up tis weekend?
senn: nothing, just ride
vanisha: wanna go dancing? arif welcome
senn: can't. sleep early. tomorrow 5am 150k ride
vanisha: u need to go on a date
senn: 2moro's ride IS a date
vanisha: u guys r weird..
OR
senn: dinner 2night?
vanisha: can't. work late. maybe sat?
senn: can't. away wid arif
vanisha: dirty weekend! hv fun!!
senn: er, not really. race at pd
vanisha: u guys r sooo weird...

after two years' worth of vanisha's "u guys r weird", i'm convinced we must be.

why else would we find solace in the late night, snuggling on the coach drooling over the latest durace crank online? or be contented trading a happening night out with friends with an early night and a gruesome broga ride the next morning?

which other type of couple can say "i had a good time" when the girl ends up in pain, dried tears on her cheeks and possibly bleeding from her elbows? why would any girl in the right frame of mind swoon at the sight of her equally smelly boyfriend paying more attention to her bike as she lays on the floor out of breathe fully clothed in tight lycra? (then again, which sane girl dates a guy in tight lycra??)

how is it that a guy will allow his girlfriend to seat in his car knowing that she is capable of, and possibly may have in the last 8 hours, 'pee-ed' in her shorts?

and how the hell is it considered a swim, bike or run 'date' in the first place, when the guy is faster and ahead while the girl spends most of her time at least 1km away panting and chatting with another guy?!

it's madness!

well, not entirely..

like all my postings, i will not claim that what i have or think is the best. all relationships have their special bonding. the saying "all we need is love", while true, should not have discounted the fact that a certain level of shared values or interest must be present, kinda like the permanent epoxy that glues the love together. some like quiet evenings, some like frequent dirty weekends, while others prefer starting a mini book club with just two members or underwater basket weaving.

ours just happened to involve alot of dirt, pain and bleeding (for my part anyway)

it's not perfect, we're hardly attractive looking or smelling during our time spent together, i can count the number of times i've actually dressed up and wore make-up on our dates, i can't count the number of times i've been given flowers because i don't think i have been getting any, can't remember what my last 'non-swim/bike/run' present was and i don't think i've bought one of those "special dress for that special outing" in a looooong time!

but hey! it's got its own charm (read as getting bling bike and bling hand- me-down bike parts!) and i wouldn't trade it for flowers and chocolates on valentine's day...


Monday, April 7, 2008

Triathlon 2020

Ever wonder what triathlons will be like in the future?

i had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of it over the weekend at the first ever tri-kids, superbly organised by mejar kalam and gang. (thank you everybody for making it such a memorable race for the kids and parents alike)

the race was divided into 3 main age categories: group A 5-8, Group B 9-11, Group C 12-15

on the menu:
Group A 5-8: swim 50m, bike 500m, run 100m
Group B 9-11: swim 250m, bike 1.4km, run 800m
Group C 12-15: swim 350m, bike 4.2km, run 1.6km

while all the contestants, except for the kids in the oldest category, were about or below 4ft tall their courage surpassed their built and height. of course it helped that most of them had triathlete parents.

here were some highlights of the day:
1. azwar's Group A daughter came in a full pink gear complete with matching pink bike. the bike had a little box at the rear which i suspect is for keeping powergels. i also suspect that if i'm still in business in 2020, she'll be a hard contender to miss and i may not hold the title "ironman in pink" for very long.
2. ishsal's Group B daughter had just learned to pedal her bike the thursday before the event (in true style of her father's, who completed his first ever 2km swim 10 days before IM 2008)
3. abu's Group A daughter was one of the smaller and possibly the youngest participant. she wasn't last so by that virtue, i say she can kick some serious ass!
4. both arif's Group A sons finished 2nd and 3rd. the younger one come in ahead of his brother, 2 years his senior (not very true to their proud dad's style of finishing)
5. mejar kalam had a Group A son and two Group C sons. one of the Group C sons finished dead last but in true ironman style and spirit.

but the moments weren't always cheerful.

admittedly i am not a parent. but i do have my own and i would say to a certain extend, all parents are the same. they all want the same things:
1. a happy healthy child
2. a child that makes them proud
3. a child that achieves and excels in everything they do

of course the list is longer depending on the parent but the above three seems to be the most popular and while points 1 & 2 are relatively easy to define, and obtain (especially for my parents who thinks that me being a self earner and never been to jail has made them proud) point 3 is a little fuzzy.

point 3 is fuzzy because parents often cannot distinguish whether a child is excelling in something the child wants to do, or something the parent wants the child to do. and i see that in a lot of parents whether they are new ones around my age or old ones like my peers' parents.

a simple example: how many of us can say with confidence that our parents did not compare us to our cousins/friends/siblings when we were growing up?

the topic whether it's "why can't you study more, like your cousin?" or "why can't you behave and dress better, look at your best friend" or whatever, is irrelevant. the point here is, as a parent, do they say this because it's what the child wants to be or do they say this because they feel that's how their child should be?

again, i'm not a parent so i may actually be very ignorant in this topic. i apologise in advance before continuing what i think are my inner thoughts.

here's what i think.

i think all parents are competitive. the moment they have a child, the child automatically carries the weight of their parents' pressure to excel.

many disguise this pressure by saying "what's wrong with having hopes for my child?". some say "a child is like a canvas, you have to paint it and mold it and make the best of it". some insist "i do not want my child to live how i have. i've learnt my mistakes and why would i let my child feel the same pain when i know how to control or avoid it?". and the most popular one i've heard "my child can do it. he/she has the potential but he/she is just not wanting to push for it"

don't get me wrong as i thread on thin ice here. i believe each parent has the right to the above and any other statements of why they don't see how they children can't be successful. when i am a parent, i would probably have the same hopes and dreams.

but, however we justify it or put it into a philosophy, it all translates into one thing for the child: parental pressure.

and parental pressure was alive and well last weekend...

i saw one young girl and at least two of the older girls breaking down as they crossed the finishing line. and these older girls were not 'dead last' qualities. they were strong from start to finish.

the first girl who cried was in Group A. she had finished last. her sweet mom was there to comfort her and i overheard her telling her daughter to stop crying.

however, when i passed i asked why she was crying, the mother said "she's tired". now, that, i found strange. it's either the mother had no idea the mental stress of competing in a triathlon, whatever the distance, or she didn't want to say "the race got the better of my child". was she too competitive or did she feel that i was a stranger and deserved no intimate information of her daughter's condition. either way i gave the girl a big smile and said "hey, don't cry. you're a triathlete! i saw you and you were awesome!". the mother gave a big smile after that and said "yes! you were great out there!".

i think she's a great mom. one with hopes yet gentleness when the child feels defeated. one with enough privacy for her child, just in case others made the situation worst by comparing yet, to join in the encouragement to make her child feel better.

other parents were not as gracious.

the heat of the competition for the oldest group was very high... and the pressure from parents comparing their children, even higher.

i must admit i was very impress by what the older age group could do. their swim stokes were incredibly smooth, running into transition for the bike and blasting through the 1.6km run leg.

but my blood boiled as i hear parents adding pressure while their children raced. from shouting the number of laps left at the edge of the pool, to "pick up your bike quick", to "why did you stop your bike short of the transition? they've already said you could go nearer"

as we watched the older children run two loops around the field a particular set of mothers were bantering each other at the expense of their own children. comments like "she started the run first but look my son is catching up" and the other replies "we'll see, it's only their first lap". then later a sarcastic "see? see? my daughter's slowing down. there goes her race."

and it made me feel sorry for the boy who won the Group C race as his mother was more interested to know why he came back from the bike late than to congratulate him on his victory.

the leading girl crossed the line second with tears in her eyes. her mother immediately went to her side and although they were way out of ear shot, i have a good feeling the daughter's getting some sort of pressure talk about you did good but you could have been better.

and i know this because shen has similar parents. she used to tell me of how nothing is ever good enough for her father and how his comments always centered around the message "is that all you could do?" no matter what she achieved academically or athletically. it was only after 4 years in triathlon when she started bringing home prizes that her parents acknowledge that she's actually, in their own words "not bad at what you do".

i really felt for that girl that came in second and i actually felt a lump in my throat watching her look defeated although coming in second in her category. children her age should be enjoying themselves not feeling the weight of the world and definitely not that of her, to my personal opinion, under achieving mother.

perhaps i should bite my tongue as i wasn't there to hear everything her mother had to say. i hope i am wrong about the mother. i hope she gave comfort and encouragement. i hope the girl cried because of mental or physical pressures of the race and not of parental pressure.

honestly though, i think if my child was doing her first triathlon, i would hope for her to excel. but more importantly, i would want her to have fun. hope to excel, want to have fun.

i think arif shares my sentiments because we had this conversation after the race where i chaperoned his eldest son:
arif: did shafeeq come in last?
senn: er... not sure, i wasn't paying attention
arif: hmmmm
senn: actually, i don't think so
arif: you sure?
senn: i think so... why, does it matter if he did?
arif:... emm... i guess not

while i believe arif secretly hoped his two boys would excel, he ensured they had fun above victory. unofficially, and based on assumption and memory, we took a guess that shaqeel came in 3rd and shafeeq came in 5th. even with these placings arif showed his boys that he was ecstatic about them toughing it out and finishing so you can imagine how on-top-of-the-world he felt when the official placing was 2nd and 3rd!

and that, along with the 'privacy mother' is how it should be.

or perhaps this is exactly where future triathletes and tryathletes seed from. chances are if the parent applies constant pressure, a child will excel and become a successful triathlete (or it may back fire and the child shrugs the sport all together). chances are if the parent is a 'hippie' about the race results, the child may end up being a tryathlete (or then again, build enough confidence and love for the sport to excel in their own right)

whichever way the scale tips, i think it is safe to say:
parents,
have all the hopes and dreams you want for your children but let them lead the way without your pressures and do your victory dance in private when your child excels because the victory while shared, belongs solely to your children.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Race-ist!

If an individual decides, for whatever reason, to do the shortest possible race distance, does that individual deserve to be treated any less special?

i think not. i think any person who chooses exercise over sleeping in on a sunday morning, should be given due merit for their efforts.

i realised as i signed up for the KLIM 10k that it would be my first 10k race. honest! i've done 10k during od tris, but never signed up for 10k as a stand alone race (i ran the mizuno 10k with mac last year but i gate crashed to keep him company, so that doesn't really count as a race participation)

my first ever run race was the GE30k last year. here are the 'first time' run race distances i've covered chronologically:
1. GE30k 2007
2. NB15k 2007
3. Addidas King of the Road 21k 2007
4. Penang Marathon 42k 2007
i notice my distances are very erratic as well!

so, seeing that this was my first official 10k race i was extremely excited.

**plus i have managed to convince my colleague, jo, to join in the fun with the promise that i'll run with her all the way, at whatever speed she can manage. as i had also volunteered to accompany mac throughout the race, the deal was whichever of the two were behind, i will hang back and support. they both kept up very well with each other and we finished 1:19 - 1:20!

heroes! good job guys.
(admittedly, this is also a PB timing for my 10k. my other 10k during tris have always been 1:30 onwards, so really i wasn't hanging back too much during the race)**

anyway, my first task was to sign jo and i up for the race and collect our race numbers.

arif helped out here, and i was disappointed that the 10k race kit did not even have proper receipt/registration coupons (they were photocopied coupon and numbers written individually!)let alone the rules and regulations booklet. our numbers were not determined upon online registration, rather allocated on the spot using mass produced cloth prints. Our kit paled in comparison to arif's 21k kit which had nicely printed registration coupons, full rules and regulations booklet and artcard race numbers that allow you to write emergency numbers and allergies at the back (don't we 10k-ers deserve to tell the organisers what we're allergic to?). also at registration, the 10k counter according to arif was a small little makeshift one at the corner.

i felt so discriminated! :(

my next task was to help jo buy a new pair of proper run shoes.

we went to the NB shop at 1-utama. feeling hyped up about jo doing her first 10k we "arrogantly" asked for the sales guy's assistance. this is how we were slapped on the face for asking:
senn: could you please recommend the type of shoes for long distance running?
salesguy: o! 42k?
(senn and jo exchanges sheepish looks)
senn: er... no. for now, 10k
salesguy: 42k is long distance. 10k is short distance
... piak! #1

he then showed us 5 shoes that were suitable. of course being women, when restricted, we automatically didn't like any of those he shortlisted for us.
senn: how about this? (pointing at another model out of shortlisted scope)
salesguy: nope. only these 5 for you
jo: how about this? (picking up a red one out of shortlisted scope)
salesguy: nope. only these..
jo: but i like this design better
salesguy: NB is not for fashion. we are not nike. it is for function. to run short distance, 10k (thanks for reminding us bro!) only these are suitable
... piak! #2

i then picked up this lovely pink(!) running-lightweight model.
senn: how about this, do you have my size?
salesguy: no, this is for serious runners! for your 10k (yeah - yeah, we know...) only these!
... piak! piak! piak! #3

more discrimination... :(

feeling disheartened, jo decides on one of the 5 while i said i'll think about mine. we went for dinner and returned after. by which time the salesguy had left and i just told the shop owner which model and size i wanted. (the running-lightweight model is incredible btw. for all you serious runners out there, you should try it!)

so, race number in, shoes ready... time for race day!

of course at race day, the 10k and 7k 'second class citizens' were placed in a different section from the 21 and 42k aristocrats. which was fine. it just makes it easier for the organisers anyway.

but!

10k runners do not get timing chips and as i later found out, 10k times are not even recorded! whatever time you clocked your watch is whatever time you finish.

the finishing was a total anti-climatic experience. we had to line up (about 20-30 people length to the finishing tape) to get our mass produced certs which we need to write our own names and medals in pre-inserted plastic covers. our earlier plans to have a final dash to the finish line were crushed! sure know how to make us special, don't they...

then of course there were the recovery tents and water stations only for 21k & 42k runners which no one else were allowed access to. i can understand the recovery tent being an exclusive thing seeing that 21k & 42k are quite gruesome distances and deserve priority.. but water stations?! after a brief runaround, a kind organiser showed us to a water dispensary tent some distance off the finishing line where we could quench our thirst.

full on discrimination! so much so that after seeing how i was treated, arif refused to remove his race number in case he loses his privileges as well!

admittedly though, despite feeling second class, the run on sunday was full of fun. seeing that i was quite bummed about being treated so casually, arif suggested i added some spice and wear a pair of white, feathery angel wings. i thought it was a great 'pick-me-up' and quite cool since i volunteered to be guardian to two runners.

the angel wings made quite a blast with other runners. here are some of the comments i received/overhead during the run:
1. are you in the right category?
2. do the wings give you an advantage?
3. why are you running when you can fly?
4. nice.....wings... (wtf? was that a pick up line?)
5. so, when are you taking off?
6. haiyo! angel girl pass ady... faster! (seems i'm a race bunny as well! perhaps next run with bunny ears?)

maybe the salesguy was right after all. which 'serious runner' would run with angel wings? perhaps the organisers were right too, to treat us so casually. it's only 10k, why would we need a full leg massage and foot dip?

but i just wish they'll understand that 10k runners are possible newbies with a serious intend to run longer distances in future.

just wish they'll realise that if a newbie is turned off by how they are treated they may not even join longer distance races.

just wish they'll see that we 10k 'underdogs' are the ones that need the highest level of encouragement and credit - we're like kids in the running world. you don't shrug a kid on his first bike ride do you? no, you don't. you praise them and encourage them to learn more.

Just wish they wouldn't be so race-ist!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

This is not a race..

…something I had to constantly tell myself while on our great trip to Mt Kinabalu last weekend.

Last weekend a group of 20, decided to pack their bags, leave their rat race and head to the land behind the winds to conquer South East Asia’s highest mountain: Mt Kinabalu (which originated from the Kandazandusun word “Aki Nabalu”, literally translated as Aki – ancestors, Nabalu – Mountain). They were: Bunny, Cass, Brandon, James bak, Christina, Jamie, Alex, Soh, Sallina, Alice, BK, Jesster, Annie Soh, Ivan, Annie Chee, Demi, William, Oneill, Arif and I.

The objective was fun in the sun, but Arif and I being the only triathletes in the group and the only ones that have been competing regularly found this very hard. It was extremely hard to suppress our competitive mindset and try to relax and enjoy to activities at leisure pace.

Here’s the funny part: neither of us wanted to admit to each other that we couldn’t help being secretly being competitive throughout the trip.

Here’s my share of secret competition:
Day 1: White water rafting
I slept most of the way there so I can’t really say I know where the location is or how our journey was, but I do know I occasionally woke up to see some extremely steep slopes which the group said would be interesting to see if we can pedal up on our bikes. And I do know we eventually ended up in a cold-water stream, which was extremely welcoming.

We were divided in groups of 5 per raft (arif and I together), and off we went. Our raft was the first out and I immediately intended it to remain pole position. Whenever the second raft came nearby I pedaled harder to break away.

I faced two problems breaking away:
1. Since I’m the only one in the raft that got the message to pedal harder, there isn’t much response in speed as the others were taking it easy.
2. It becomes even harder to move forward when I’m the only one pedaling while the others were resting (something that often happened after a row of rapids and the guide asks us to stop pedaling and relax to enjoy the scenery. Imagine a relaxed group and one hamster behind pedaling furiously just because her auto-competitive mindset kicked in when another raft approaches… hilariously stupid!)

Here’s another funny part: none of the other rafters and even those on my raft were racing!

Kept reminding myself “this is not a race”. Finally, the hamster got the message and I managed to relax but within seconds later, our raft hit the river wall and capsized. That was fun! Enjoyed the rest of the rafting after that, which was a pity because we capsized on our last 100m or so.

O well… perhaps Day 2 will be better

Day 2: Island hopping and hot springs/canopy walk
It was a nice hot day. Perfect for island hopping.

We marched to the jetty, got on a boat and off we went. The islands were serene with nice clear water (although the first island we went to had oily shores… euww). No competition here so I had a good time (and not much to write about either!)

After a couple of hours on the islands, we headed to Poring hot springs. Nice shady park where you can either dip yourself in healing sulfuric water or take a hike up to the canopy walk about 1km away. Seeing that we just had lunch, Arif and I decided to head towards the canopy walk instead of dipping in the hot springs.

Again, no competition here, just lots of trees and heights and swaying suspension bridges.

Day 2 a success!

Day 3: Climb up Laban Rata via Mesilau trail
We started the day nice and fresh. The air at Mesilau park was crisp and cool. All were joyful and excited…

Then we started trekking up.

Immediately, hamster power kicked in and I wanted to make my way to the front. It was difficult as the front pack was really full charged. Finally, one by one they stopped to rest and take pictures. Eventually, arif and I caught up with James, Jesster and Annie Chee who had stopped to take pictures. Passing them Arif said “ok, we’re in the lead now”. “How strange!” I thought, as I imagined I was the only one with the hamster power turned on. So we trekked and trekked ahead of the pack, happy and relaxed.

Few kilometers in, the trail started heading for a downhill.

Now, hamsters by nature have chubby bodies, short legs and a very small heart. Very much like me. Going downhill with such a built meant:
1) body too fat to respond quick to bends
2) legs too short to stretch for uneven downward stepping
3) heart too small to brave jumping down uneven trail.

As a result I got dropped. Very badly until nobody else was in sight. I trekked alone for a while till I saw arif just ahead, waiting for me.

The rest of the way was with arif. With no one else in sight the hamster power went on standby mode and I finally started to enjoy the scenery.

Then it started raining.

How horrid! We started getting drench and I asked arif to push off without waiting for me and we’ll meet at laban rata. Alone again, I started my slow trudge up the final 1.5km to laban rata. Slippery conditions made me lose my walking stick. It dropped and flowed downward with the rushing streams made by the rain.

Ok-ok.. that’s what I told the group and arif. Here’s what really happened:
1. I was trudging along till I realized that my cigarettes and handphone in my pouch could be getting wet
2. I stopped, placed my walking stick against a tree to check my pouch
3. My suspicions were right, they were getting wet
4. I relocated these items into my windbreaker pocket
5. I started walking again and slipped less than 2 steps away
6. Wondering how it happened, I realized that I left the walking stick leaning against the tree
7. I turned back and the stick was gone… :(

Shocked, soaked and probably suffering early stages of altitude sickness I stood there in the heavy rain puzzled over my missing stick. A porter was following me and I asked him “where’s my stick?”. He pointed downwards indicating it was gone. My eyes saw the action, my brain didn’t read it. I stood there, still in puzzlement. A guy passes and asked what I was doing. I looked at him and said “where’s my stick?”. “Gone down there” he pointed. Eyes and ears got the message, brain still blur. I asked again and this time he shouted in the rain “Gone! Your stick is gone! Move on!” Brain finally got the message.

I reached laban rata 30mins after arif did. Boy, was I glad to be there!

Well, not quite. I was quite the drama queen because:
1. soaking wet and freezing at 9.6oC
2. porter with my clothes hasn’t arrived
3. arif said my lips were blue
4. I had to remove my pants and sit wrapped in a towel to stay dry (didn’t help at all!)
5. after waiting more than an hour for the porter the stress and cold was too much, I started panicking, hyperventilating and crying, shocking everybody and ending up with 3 jackets, a pair of gloves, and a pair of socks. I looked like a Christmas tree with the mixed colours
6. more panic and tears when I found my clothes that the porter carried were wet! My water bottle cap popped off because of altitude pressure

One thing that did make me feel proud was that I was the 5th person to arrive laban rata. I know I know, this is not a race! And it’s even funnier that no one else even knew it was one, let alone wanted to race!

Day 4: Climbing to the peak and back down to Timpohon, Kinabalu Park
My tears dried up and clothes were returned to me dry from the makeshift laundry area they had at base camp. The night before, I slept with damp clothes and stuffed toilet roll to keep my skin away from the wet clothes. Even my toes were wrapped in toilet paper to simulate socks!

We started climbing at 3am to the peak. So many people lining up the winding steps! Hamster power was in full rage! “We’ll never catch the sunrise with all these mowers” it whined. Our porter skillfully guided us through slower climber and at last we were fast approaching the peak.

Well, not THAT fast…

The high altitude made it hard to breathe. I felt my heart rate going mad and I could even feel it in my ears! Every 3 steps forward, rest to lower the heart rate. It took us close to 3hours to cover the 2km walk to the peak.

At the peak, arif and I were relieved and rewarded by the most beautiful clouded sunrise ever. Colours of orange, blue and yellow filled the sky. Extremely romantic.

Having Soh propose and Sallina going “I want! I want!” made it even more memorable and sweet.

After awhile, we started our journey down to laban rata and eventually Timpohon park. By now it was close to noon and I had fallen 3 times enroute to laban rata. The first fall was so bad, the bruise recently won Most Ugliest Moment by James Bak.

Arif and I took 2.5hours to reach the junction of Mesilau (about 2km from laban rata). He was clearly upset. We had another 4km to go, we were last in the group and the restaurant at Timpohon closes at 5pm. Even more upset because he told the guide that we had planned to cover laban rata to Timpohon in 3 hours. To which the guide said “For you, no problem. But for your ah moi… very hard to say”.

“Babe, it’s now 2.30pm and we’re last. At this speed we’ll take another 4 hours to reach the park. I’m hungry and the restaurant closes at 5pm. We need to pick up speed..” he said in his ‘loving yet very firm and annoyed’ manner.

It helped that the terrain improved after that junction, we moved a lot faster. It also helped that arif started pointing out which route downward I needed to step. This cut my thinking time to zero because it was very visual to have him move ahead, turn around and point with his walking stick the rocks to land on. “Here, here, here” he would say as he pointed (but as his frustration of being lugged by a fat hamster grew, it later became silent pointing, no words. Very nazi-like)

I finally thought we could relax when we caught up with Jesster and Annie Soh and later BK and Alice and later still Christina, Soh and Sallina. But no, we marched on with full speed as if to see how far we could drop our friends. It was beginning to feel ironic that my mental chanting of “this is not a race, this is not a race” became a rhythm meter for me to move forward faster!

I later found out that Arif suffered the same mental torture and had tried to stay ahead of this particular couple (not from our group) that kept close distance to us on our last 2km! We both refused to slow down to let them past! And they seem to have the same thought because they speed up every time we did!

Finally reached Timpohon gates at about 4pm. 2.5 hours to cover first 2km, 2hours 15mins to cover last 4km. Hamster power!!

Day 5: Night at Shangri-la and home!
Ahhhh! The joys of a proper bed and hot shower at the Shangri-la..

I showered and washed everything twice. We had a great dinner and an even greater night’s sleep.

The next day, it was beach volleyball, bruise admiring, winning Ugliest Moment Award and heading to the airport at 2.30pm. What a great way to end the heavy weekend.

Or so we thought!

Arif and I took the 4.20pm flight while others like James and Christina, Annie Chee & Family, BK and Alice, Oneill etc took the 5.10pm flight on Air Asia.

4.20pm came and went and there was no sign of our plane. We finally took off at 5.10pm with two other Air Asia flights taxing behind us. “Wouldn’t it be funny if that was James’ plane?” Arif said as we took off.

True enough we landed at LCCT the same time they did although we were on an earlier flight. We exchanged pleasantries with them and went out to have a last cigarette before our long cab ride home.

While smoking, we saw the group appearing at the exit gate. I thought for a bit and told arif “you know, if we were in The Amazing Race Asia, we would have lost a positioning just by smoking here while the others hoped onto their cabs.”

Ah! But then again….. this is not a race.. :)


Footnote: I would like to thank everybody for the great time and warm clothes when I was feeling really tortured. You guys are great company and even greater traveling buddies. Special thanks to Bunny for organizing it and making all of us feel like we won something over the weekend. Great job guys! Let’s do Everest base camp next!