Monday, March 31, 2008


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.


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!