Sunday, August 30

Smart guys can't run

[in general]

So. One of my students from a couple of sems ago asked me to join the Inter-faculty games, specifically the Road Race. It's a 2.2 km uphill route that each faculty team has to do 6 times. There are 3 guys and 3 girls in each team. Now, because I never can say NO to a challenge (the more preposterous the better), I subsequently TRIED to wiggle my way out of it. Like after the Army half marathon when my ankle was acting up and I met said student in the canteen, I suddenly started limping and told him with a sad face that my ankle is injured and thus I can't train. To which of course he replied: "No problem lah, there's no pressure on the girls ..." HARUMPH?! And thus I kept running hills these past weeks to keep myself from sudden death by shortness of breath a.k.a beached whale syndrome (II).

And so we come to this Saturday morning. Woke up at 7 am after going to sleep at 2. This is because my chinese flatmate entertained 2 girls until that time ... I don't know what he told them or what he did to them but they were laughing their heads off until 2am... when ms grumpy here went to ask them to please shut their face up (not her exact words) because I NEED TO SLEEP (not really in caps).

To make a long story short, I thought I would not enjoy the race because of the lack of sleep but I DID! I even surprised myself by running the distance in 10 minutes or so, not bad for an old geezer on an uphill route! Unfortunately, I think we were second last, having beaten the fluffy University Scholars Program runners by a couple of minutes or so. Ah well, what can I say about them? Smart guys can't run! At least this kind of association would suggest to the unaware that we are smart too! Arts and Social Sciences got a well deserved first place (I will abstain from commenting on this one).

The weekend was totally fucked up running-wise when, after stuffing my face on Saturday with noodles and carbs to ensure maximum performance during the Run NUS run, I ended up queueing on Sunday for 1hr 20 minutes (ONE HOUR TWENTY MINUTES) to register, only to be met by a 4 hour storm when I was 1 hour into the queueing. I was so pissed for queueing for so long that I left after half an hour or so and never looked back. Run NUS was dear to me because last year I was third and got a lot of tampons as prize (no, I didn't need another yearly supply thankyouverymuch) and I always laughed about it because I never win anything, but when I do ... Well ... Anyhow, I guess ONE HOUR AND TWENTY MINUTES of queueing definitely cures one from any fondness whatsoever. Plus, all the unspent carbs are probably on their way to my ass right now so I would like to thank the Run NUS organizers (and the storm!) for this. And to the carbs, happy layering guys!

Wednesday, August 26

Daily sports news

Claudia Ass-a-Lot and Marian Tum-a-Flab have tried to start running seriously yesterday. Here's what Ass-a-Lot, a budding not-so-young athlete from Romania has to say:

Alas, we could only manage 2 big hills, the clementi road hill and the Central library hill and some other small ones in between. We met Nita right at the top of the Clementi hill and of course we told her that we were doing the big route - we didn't ha! Unfortunately, I just could not phantom doing the PGP hill and the Central Library hill again so I called it quits right where the route was closer to our home (ha ha, smart). In my defense, I was super duper tired from all the long physical activities of the past few days. Hell, I wanted to carry a water bottle for Mr. Tum-a-Flab but my biceps were numb from the PT on monday (even though, by normal monday PT standards, it was not that hardd!) and all i wanted to do during the run was to throw the damn thing away. And of course once I had this thing bugging me I could not find any rhythm at all other than "wheez-hum-wheez-hum-are-we-there-yet-are-we-there-yet" and then I started to notice my ankle, and maybe my knee hurt, and it all went downhill from there. Figuratively speaking of course because it was still going uphill. I quit when we were close to Kent Ridge Terminal but I would not have Marian use me as an excuse so I urged him to continue.

Tum-a-Flab managed to run 10 minutes longer than Ass-a-Lot, a clear indication that a big ass is more cumbersome than a flabby tummy.

Monday, August 24


With the end of the year come new resolutions and more importantly, new plans! Like Christmas and New Year's and where-do-we-spend-all-our-money-next plans. Again no more shopping (except window shopping) for me. Again backpacking through MacRitchie reservoir - at night too because that will be when we will have time (there's a "we" in there so at least I will not be alone). A lot of extra days in the lab to make up for all those days spent in the wilderness (mind you, the days are my leave days, but GUILT is an evil bitch).

Dec 20 - Jan 4 Trekking in New Zealand woo hoo! Dusky Track and Kepler Track most probably [Picture is Tripod Hill from Dusky Track - Copyright Ruahine Tramper - flickr set here.]

April 2010 Annapurna Circuit Trek yay!

The pictures are just wonderful but I bet they don't do justice to the real thing. I can't wait to find out :)

Wednesday, August 19

The Cupcrimpch

Yesterday's climbing session was not light. I would say it was hard, but there wasn't anything specifically hard that we did. We just did endurance sets (two sets of one easy endurance route and one hard endurance route) and then we free climbed. I don't know if it was the fact that we rushed through our endurance sets in order not to inconvenience people in the super packed gym or the fact that we are out of endurance shape (Ahem), but afterwards we were super pumped and believe it or not, my forearms ache today.

Next I set some crazy route that only Sandra could do and then she set some crazy route that only she could do (notice pattern here?). On my route there was this tile that was not really a sloper, not really a crimp and not really a pinch (and was shit!) so the only way to hold it was to super tension and kinda cup it while you crimp it while you pinch it with your thumb. And so, a new word was born by Sandra's mouth: CUPCRIMPCH! So in order to hold that tile, you must cupcrimpch it! I dare you to say that fast :)

I am looking forward to friday when hopefully the gym will be less packed - I am hoping that all caucasians (except me, ha!) will go clubbing on friday night and drink their brains off as it is their stereotype. Climbing in a small gym full of people you do not know gives one a weird, caged, feeling. But then among the clouds of chalk (somebody used loose chalk, cough! cough!) you see friendly well-known faces (charlene, cherlyn, daniel!, vincent, san, jensen, adrian) and things are not so bad after all.

Tuesday, August 18

Army Half Marathon 2009

I wanted to blog with the actual time, but what the hell, it still sucked so I will get it out of my mind asap. It's around 2 hours give or take a few seconds to one minute. It's the worst timing so far but then again I haven't trained and this run is the second in a series of failures.

I was running swiftly uphill when suddenly I got hit with the most horrible cramps ever, the ones that make you want to crawl into a fetal position and lie down in bed with a book and warm covers. Alas, I couldn't do that right at that moment. All in all until km 5 I was well under 25 minutes (about 23?) when I realized my first mistake.

First mistake: I didn't hydrate at all the previous day which made me stop to drink like a hippo at around km 6 or so. I think I drank about 5 cups of water at the first water point I could find, and subsequently I had to stop and drink at every one until km 9 - three water points in total. Still I was nice and dandy and managed to clock about 54 mins for 10 km.

I then decided to try for negative splits and run faster. I ran and ran, clocking about 1hr 20 mins or so for 15-16 km. I even high-fived all of the men on stilts at km 12 woo hoo! Around the slope from km 16-18 I found out mistake numero dos.

Second mistake: Try to go for speed when you HAVE TRAINED FOR SPEED and are able to keep up the pace.

If not, you will end up slowly plodding and counting your remaining km. I swear it! I yelled at my feet to run faster but all I got from them was: "Yeah. WHATEVER."

Oh yeah! Super inspiring! There was this blind old man running the half-marathon. He was not running alone, there was his wife with him (she carried a super big backpack). How's that for an inspiration? What's your excuse reason not to run (other than not liking it, thankyouverymuch) ?

Saturday, August 15

Gunung Stong, Ayam and Baha with no guide

Day 0 - Singapore to Dabong
[First of all, we didn't have a guide because the guide company said they were fully booked. By all means, get a guide if you can]
We boarded the train at Tanjong Pagar railway station in Singapore. Did you know that this railway station belongs to Malaysia? How cool is that? we crossed into Malaysia (and went through customs!) BEFORE going out of Singapore. Here's us looking super prepared for what was to come.

The gear of an explorer: WATER - we ended up drinking about 5 l per person per day - thank god for water purifying pills! Dry fit t-shirt (especially if going into the jungle)! Semi-rigid sole trekking shoes - some very sturdy Salomon ones - turning out to be my favorite ones because they lasted through 2 months in South America including some very tough gravel step cutting; Tough trekking pants - Columbia titanium (from the men's section of course) - I love these because you can take the lower half off and on my left lower half I have a zipped pocket in which i can store ... guess what?! Toilet paper, ha! A watch on my left hand (with an alarm for those early mornings woo hoo) Funny hair cut completes the gear.

As is the norm with Malaysia trains, the train was late (1 hour late in leaving the starting point!) and the train ride was LONG! Lasted about 12 hours actually (truth be told, we were going close to the Thai border) and because it was a holiday long weekend, we didn't manage to get sleeping cubicles.

Day 1 - Dabong - Baha camp
Arrived in Dabong at around 6.25 am (1 hour later than expected). There were a lot of singaporeans (with guided tour) there. We finally managed to get something to eat at the coffee shop next to the station (in the entire village there are three coffee shops, two of which are near the train station), after which I rushed us off from there.

The thing is, you have to get to the entrance to the Jelawang Jungle, Kelantan National Park from the train station. This is located at about 6 km from the station. In a 2005 report that I read online, I found that we first have to cross a river by boat and then take a van. Turns out, after we wandered through the sleepy village at 7 am in the morning and finally found the river, that in between 2005 and 2009 they have actually built a bridge over that river. What do you know?! So we wandered through the village a bit more in an attempt to find the way to the bridge. Eventually I asked this sleepy young woman how to get to Gunung Stong. She went inside her house, talked to a man (to ask permission?), came out with her head covered and a young boy clinging to her pants and we were off. Guess where? Of course she took us back to the train station and talked to one of the guides for us (the guides were not there when we left). One of them was kind enough to board a van that took us to the park entrance (10 RM).

I guess he had wanted for us to join them but I knew he had another group coming (singaporeans as well) and I didn't want to wait for them because a) singaporeans* are SLOW to get started (or maybe I am a speed freak!) and b) I wanted to get there fast to secure a tent space. And so we paid the entrance tax (15 RM each) and were off. There are two trails to Baha camp, on top of the Stong waterfall, the Jungle trail and the Waterfall trail. We unknowingly took the Jungle trail. We wanted the waterfall trail because you can really see the waterfall and the weather was clear (flash floods can happen when it rains). We were in Baha camp in about 1 hour. I read online that it can take up to 2 hours. The jungle, especially the lower, thicker parts, is like a SAUNA!

We arrived in camp at 09:30 (the group of singaporeans arrived at 11:30 - i would have been at my wits end by then). We set up tent, walked around, took some pictures. This is our tent (40 SGD from Giant) - the biggest two person tent I have ever been in (all the others I have been in are expedition ones and they. ARE. small)

Here we are at the top of the waterfall.

Contrary to what it looks like, I am not scratching my ass.

A bit later we went for a swim in one of the ponds, to get our appetites working before lunch. In the background there be the waterfall (warning! shorts and sports bra pics coming up)

We dried up by sitting on the rocks at the top of the waterfall and taking a lot of goofy shots (more here).

Later it was time for lunch (baked beans mmmm) . While I was preparing it one guide came to us and told us to move our tent because there was danger of a tree falling. Sadly, we had to leave our perfect (well, not so perfect now) tent spot.

Went to see the higher waterfall.

Day 2 - Baha Camp to Gunung Baha & Gunung Ayam and Ayam Camp
Woke up at 6:10 to see the sunrise.

And then we were off. Rumor has it that it takes about 7 hours to go to the Ayam campsite. We did it in 4:30. There are some plastic threads tied to the trees and some newspaper pieces (i kid you not) on the trail to show the way (for the guides i guess). From Baha camp, you have to cross one river, reach another small campsite and very near from it there is a small intersection. Take the right trail to Ayam (it might have a bamboo barrier on it). From then on, you will cross a second river (go a bit upstream to find the entrance on the other side into the jungle).

Here I am at the first river. Notice that I am also the official trash bearer.

A lot of logs on the way:

And few orchids:

And there you have it, 3:30 hours later, Gunung Baha, 1450m.

Marian changed into my t-shirt because his was super soaked.

We next missed Gunung Ayam and reached the Ayam campsite but found it the next morning. We got to the camp, set up the tent, changed into dry clothes and I started to make food - mashed potatoes with fried luncheon meat, mmm.

A couple of hours later two more teams arrived and were very surprised to find that we had actually found the way (the marks are subtle indeed but there are a lot of marks - why don't they just paint the trees?!). We had the misfortune to have a group of 6 loud frenchmen camp next to us (I guess their guide thought we would fit in?) They were loud, burping, farting and swearing (the fact that I understand french did not help me). In the end at about 9pm I had to ask them to shut their faces up (I was more polite than this of course).

Day 3 - Gunung Ayam, Gunung Stong, Dabong - Singapore
First, we found Gunung Ayam and took the summit pic.

We left early (7:20 am?) to make sure we reached Stong. Thus we could see stuff like this:

Now there actually is a shortcut from Ayam to Stong. But of course we didn't know about it so we had to do it the old, harder way. That is, reach the intersection I told you before and take a right and go straight up. And when i mean straight up, it, really is straight up because at one point you are actually climbing up tree roots for about half an hour. Imagine how bad it is to descend this. The other teams with guides of course only had to descend those parts (we met them and some wished us good luck in climbing). It was super tiring and the fact that afterwards you reach a forest ridge that always gives you the impression that you reached the summit did not help. Anyhow the summit is a big boulder that you have to climb up on so you can't miss that. We have very few pictures from this part because we were too damn tires to take bobby out.

But first! We reached a big cave and spent about 20 minutes fooling around on a jungle vine, playing Jane and Tarzan.

To the left of where marian is sitting in this picture, a bit uphill, is a very beautiful and quiet pool - no pic, sorry.

And the summit pic.

And next a super duper descent and by 4 pm we were down at the base. Super tired, muscles super aching but happy nonetheless.

Spent the next 6 hours or so (train was 25 minutes late - but 1 hour and 30 minutes late in singapore!) in the train station coffeeshop eating bad food and unknown fruits but happie as a bug! [the people there actually sent some english speaking guy to ask us at one point around 9pm what were we doing there and what were our plans - to say nothing of the stares we got from small kids that were waiting for the train :)) ]

Speaking of creepy crawly things, a trek in the jungle would not be complete without pictures of them. We saw two BIG spiders (big enough that I had to scream to get over the aaargh! feeling).

Ginormous ants:

Huge spider no 1 (sorry, new lens and still trying to figure it out):

Wtf is this?

Huge spider no 2:

And a beautiful butter-flee:

* One of the group of singaporeans had a 71 year old woman, a 75 year old man, and a couple of more seniors. Super inspiring!! The 71 year old wanted to do the Appalachian trail next year!

Tuesday, August 11

A dare is a dare!

I am too old for dares, but since Edwin promised a coffee, here's me after a hairdresser here decided that my curly hair had to go. And it is so that I met with a straightening iron for the first (and last, i hope) time in my life.

Tuesday, August 4

The perfect running program

When i said program, that's exactly what I meant. Here goes:
- run at own pace
until (you don't want to run anymore)

Yup. It's as simple as that. This time, I didn't impose any time or distance constraints, e.g. run for at least an hour or at least 20 km. I didn't set out to push myself or to ignore any possible pain. I did not grind my teeth or clench my fist when it got hard, and I did not push myself when I lingered. I did not defer stopping. And most importantly, I answered all quitting thoughts with "you'll know when you'll want to stop".

When I did stop (other than the omnipresent traffic lights), it was because I had put my ankle guard on bare skin (instead of on top of a sock) and I had adjusted it too tight and it was giving me trouble. Instead of bearing the pain (an oh too normal behavior and which got me into having to wear an ankle guard in the first place), I just stopped to adjust it. It didn't do much good because I think I should have just put it on top of the sock. Imagine that, I had a guilt-free stop.

I knew after the first 10 minutes that I will have to take a bus home so I had to take off my shirt and I ran only in my sports bra. I did this because I wanted to make sure that I had a dry shirt when I boarded the very cold air con bus, whichever it might be. I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize to everybody that was insulted by my appearance, but frankly, I care more about my guaranteed pneumonia than I care about your retinas.

My initial planned route was taking me somewhere on Farrer Road, but I remembered that last time I ran towards Farrer Road I had to cross a highway, which is an experience I do not want to repeat ever again. I felt like a rabbit (albeit a fat and slow one) dashing across very dangerous fields. I don't know back then who was more scared: me, quickly running across some highway entrance and then jumping the protective fence inside some bushes, or the poor drivers that witnessed me popping out from the bushes at various points (it was also night-time!) So instead, I ran on Orchard Boulevard and towards the Business District.

I stopped when I had done 14.2 km, 1hr:19 min. My ankle guard was painful already so I did not push it. The thing is, I was feeling so good and so relaxed that I know I could have run at least until 21 km (of course this does not mean anything, as when running, I can feel great one second and then die the next). So I stopped at a bus stop and stretched and felt super good.

As predicted, the bus was super cold and by the time I got home I was one shivering rabbit, having spent all the endorphins I so painfully acquired trying to ignore the c-c-cold.