Monthly Archives: November 2013

Haruki Murakami and his “Running Memoir”

 

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CK recommended this book soon after my Penang Marathon , and I managed to get my hands on it last night from the library (paid $1.55 to reserve it, as a small “donation” for the wonderful “free” libraries and services).

It is a simple book to read (I finished it in one go last night), with plenty of anecdotes (poster in a gym  “Muscles are hard to gain and easy to lose; Fats are easy to gain and hard to lose”), life lessons (on distance running: “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional”, approaches to dealing with people), and his thoughts on running (marathon, ultra-marathon, and triathlon).

With random thoughts interspersed here and there, and written in a casual style, the book makes for an easy read and those who run (long distance, especially) can easily relate to the experiences he shares …

 

 

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War and Peace – next “marathon”

Started on my next “marathon”, which is to read War and Peace … 267 pages so far, out of 3569 – helps somewhat to watch the movie (1956 version, 208 min, starring Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda), which I recently did, after doing 100+ pages of the book, to better “identify” the key characters; I found it rather hard to sort out the Russian names!

nice covers, but I'm reading  on iPad mini ...

nice covers, but I’m reading on iPad mini …

 

Not sure why Tolstoy, but possibly having to do with interest in history “recently” (i.e. one, two, three years ago?) and European history in particular (early this year) … and like, how  people say that one gets interested in history when one becomes history, hahaha!

 

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Painting Plum Blossoms

“In China, plum blossoms are seen as a symbol of winter’s end and a harbinger of spring – a symbol for resilience and perseverance in the face of the adversity of harsh winter weather. The blossoms are so beloved because they are viewed as blooming most vibrantly amidst the winter snow, exuding an ethereal elegance, while their fragrance is noticed to still subtly pervade the air at even the coldest times of the year. Therefore the plum blossom came to symbolize perseverance and hope, but also beauty, purity, and the transitoriness of life. In  Confusianism, the plum blossom stands for the principles and values of virtue. More recently, it has also been used as a metaphor to symbolize revolutionary struggle since the turn of the 20th century.”  Source: Wikipaedia

Painting plum blossoms in Lesson 2 of the third instalment of Chinese Ink Painting Class – there were many new students, so the instructor Mr Ang decided to start with something “simpler” i.e. plum blossoms.

I did one in class,

This piece done in class, ... (trunk is too thick and flowers too small)

This piece done in class, … (trunk is too thick and flowers too small)

and these four pieces were done at home over the next few days …

Flower and bird - the thin branches are a bit too "kinky" ...

Flower and bird – the thin branches are a bit too “kinky” …

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This one is based on a painting at home, but much smaller in size …

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Teochew Artist Exhibition@Tank Road and exhibition next year!

 

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one of the few calligraphy pieces I could read, haha   ... (emphasis on few)

one of the few calligraphy pieces I could read, haha … (emphasis on few)

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By a twelve year old

By a twelve year old

By an eleven year-old

By an eleven year-old

Our Chinese Ink Painting exhibition is confirmed for next year 31 May – 1 Jun!!

I visited the 15th Annual National Teochew Artists Calligraphy & Painting Exhibition 2013 on 20 Nov 2013, and sent images of the last two paintings (done by young artists) to my classmates, with the comment: “wo3 men2 de1 exhibition you3 xi1 wang4 … pretend 12 years old”

(because, some of them are a little “nervous” about showcasing publicly because of the “standard” or “quality” of their works! don’t xian4 chou3)

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After the race … (Part 3: post Penang marathon 2013)

post marathon activity - patting a cat on the nose

post marathon activity – patting a cat on the nose

Walking to the free shuttle bus that would bring us back to the Weld Quay bus terminal was a pain … especially at places where there were steps (and there were plenty if you know Penang pedestrian walkways, which is why many end up walking on the roads)

We did not want to hang around as the crowd would only get larger … the bus waited a little while to fill up, and soon, we were headed back to Georgetown, and into a MASSIVE TRAFFIC jam nearer town; my guess is that this is due to the bridge closure, as cars were crossing over to the mainland via the ferry, near to the bus terminal! In a very silly way, we were all stuck in the bus as it inched forward, and, even more silly, endured it doing a U-turn to get back to the bus terminal on the opposite side of the road as the driver refuse to let us off any earlier.

Anyway, we finally made it to the bus terminal, and walked back up Lebuh Chulia to go back to Yeng Keng Hotel, stopping for egg prata breakfast along the way back.

While I rested till 2 pm, Chien went out to explore some shopping area (Straits Quay?).

First stop after getting up famished: LUNCH@Joo Hooi Cafe (chendol, laksa, rojak, vege cracker) and eating while standing by the road. The queues were long for the chendol but moved fast; char kuay teow queue was slow and we gave it a miss.

Outside Joo Hooi Cafe, along Lebuh Keng Hwee off Jalan Penang - the famous chendol store

Outside Joo Hooi Cafe, along Lebuh Keng Hwee off Jalan Penang – the famous chendol store

laksa (foreground) and rojak (background)

laksa (foreground) and rojak (background)

yummy vege cracker!

yummy vege cracker!

Next, we search for the “famous” street art scenes:

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and then, dinner@7 Terraces – fine dining at swanky boutique hotel

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Starters

Starters

Main course and vegetable dishes

Main course and vegetable dishes

dessert

dessert

and more food (and street art) the next morning … wanton mee, pancake, nasi lemak

min jian kuay the next morning (peanut, corn, banana, 3 for RM2.70)

min jian kuay the next morning (peanut, corn, banana, 3 for RM2.70)

and we are back in Singapore, 48 hours later (Monday, 18 Nov, touch down 1:30 pm)…and I end up with a nett weight gain of 1 kg, in spite of doing a full marathon!!

(see also Part 1 Getting to start line, Part 2 THE RACE)

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My Penang Marathon 2013 journey … Part 2

Part 2: THE RACE

Full marathon route

Full marathon route

My timings at various check points, can be followed on fb or twitter

My timings at various check points, which can be followed on fb or twitter

The race starts at 2 am and I am only 50 m from the starting line … the pacers with their balloons are in front at the start line, with the different colours (yellow, red, blue, green, etc) for different finishing times such as 6 hr, 5:30, in steps of 30 min, all the way to 4 hours; my plan is to keep between the 4:30 hr and 5 hr pacers.

pacer balloons

pacer balloons

One minute after gun time, I cross the start line and start my stopwatch … the crowd is thick at this point and we are all going really slowly, even as the roads are fairly wide. There is one small bottleneck at a left turn (to join the expressway heading SSW?) but after this, it is less crowded as the runners spread out heading towards the 4 km turn-around point (about 10 min since start). I have already lost sight of the balloons carried by the pacers at this stage!

Soon, there was the sound of motorbikes and horning – the traffic police were clearing the SAME road (there was no barriers for those doing the return leg) to my right most side of the highway, as the elite runners start to come from the opposite direction. As usual, leading the pack were several Africans…

Near to the 4 km turn, I overtake the first group of pacers – 6 hrs finish! 😦     “Hey, going way too slow, must speed up!” were my thoughts. At the 4 km mark, my watch shows 28 min+ which means 7 +min/km = more than 5 hrs finish … I tell myself to speed up a bit, but not too much as it was still early days (38 km to go!)…

Before hitting the bridge, the beach and trees on the coastal side of the route (Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Highway) becomes a field toilet (including for me, haha!).

Soon, I go onto the start of Penang Bridge, after running for about 9 km (the bridge span is 13.5 km, with 8.5 km above water). After a little while on the bridge, the 10 km mark appears … a gradual up slope takes me to the highest part of the bridge (somewhere in between the 10 km and the high-point, I caught up with the 5:30 pacers, and was overtaken by the elite women half-marathon runners who had to zig-zag their way pass us; their race started at 3 am). A light drizzle and moderate headwind accompany the runners as we head to the mainland side of the bridge.

Penang Bridge

Penang Bridge

Continuing past the highest part of the bridge, most of the road is either a gentle down slope or flat/banked … my pace picks up, and I take some drinks at alternate drink points. The turn-around at 19 km near the mainland side is near, and I decide to eat my cereal bar knowing that the drinks point will come up soon … after the turn, the 19 km marker appears and I am heading back to Penang island on the opposite side of the bridge from earlier on; the highest point of the bridge looks super far away!!! (Note – the whole bridge, each side having 3 lanes, was closed for the event!)

after 19 km turn-around, the high point of Penang Bridge seems very far-off (see middle, right side of photo)

after 19 km turn-around, the high point of Penang Bridge seems very far-off (see middle, right side of photo)

Pressing on, I reach the turn-around point for the half-marathoners (9 km) (before the highest point) and it suddenly becomes rather crowded as both the men and women half-marathoners do a U-turn from the opposite side and join in to head back to the island. Many are walking already, so it becomes rather irritating to dodge and overtake them; some who are still running shout “walkers, keep to the side”, but to no avail!

Somewhere along the bridge, I have overtaken the 5 hour pacers (hooray! :)) and pass the 25 km mark! And then, I am back on Penang Island, on the highway heading north towards Georgetown, and the 33 km turn-around point.

This stretch is where the crowd really thins out, especially after the half-marathon runners are out of the scene (when they turn around at 17 km). I am starting to feel just a little bit sore here and there, but tell myself “this is what you trained for” and “doing well”. There are three bridges in this part, but I take them easily, overtaking many who are by now walking – the faster runners heading for the finish are coming from the opposite direction but there are very few of them – again, there are no barriers separating us, we just keep left.

Two 5 hr pacers with their blue(?) balloons catch up with me, and I stay with them for a while, before pulling ahead … I talk to myself: “keep them behind” (… indeed, this happens for the rest of the race). The 4:30 hr balloons then come from the opposite direction and I wonder if there is any chance of catching them … not sure how much ahead they are, but not too concerned as long as I am between them and the 5 hr balloons – my target of finishing between 4:30 and 5 hrs would still be met!

The POWERGEL “station” appears – this is just two men at the roadside, with some cardboard boxes holding the gel, and they hand it out one by one to the passing runners – haha, I thought there would be at least some tables where the gel was placed, for us to pick it up. I take the gel and finish it off, getting a small energy boost in the process (like playing Wii, the Mario racing game speed boost, haha!). Next, looking forward to the banana station, which is at the 33 km turn-around point.

After what seem like a long stretch (passing the final one of the 3 bridges in this stage), I start to see runners holding/eating bananas … good, means turn is near. About 3 hr 48 min, I reach it and grab two bananas; finished off one immediately to keep up the energy level, and held on to the other for a while to spread out the food intake to a few minutes later. On the “home stretch” now and feeling strong still … (with aches, but not bothering me too much; unlike first marathon in 2010, where I felt very tight in the groin area after 33 km and had to mix run with walk for last 9 km).

Estimating that there was about 5 km left to go, I finished off my pack of gel that I was still carrying (as a morale/energy booster and reward)  … very crowded now just after passing the bridge, as all the 10 km and 21 km people were together in this final 3 km stretch back to the finishing line at Queensbay Mall (But luckily avoided the FUN run group, who had not yet started, and who would be using the same final part of the route).

I finished strongly (i.e. with energy to spare) with a PB 4 hr 51 min (unofficial time),

crossing the finishing line  ...

crossing the finishing line …

quickly collected my medal and finisher t-shirt (bright orange! not black), and took in whatever “breakfast” was provided for the full marathon runners – hashbrown, tomato soup, orange juice, milo, vitasoy, 100Plus – and went to look for my sole on-site supporter.

Chien, at the ASICS booth the day before ...

Chien, at the ASICS booth the day before …

Bless her for coming along for this entire journey, and to bring me my change at the end – its really great to change into clean clothes and slippers at the finish, and to have your favourite and most important supporter with you at the end!! And thanks to all my friends, and ex-students for your support on fb!

medal and finisher tee

medal and finisher tee

a photo before leaving race area ...

a photo before leaving race area, in clean clothes …

the scene at the finish, with bodies everywhere ...

the scene at the finish, with bodies everywhere …

(Part 1: getting to the starting line) (Part 3 Post marathon)

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My Penang Bridge International Marathon 2013 Journey … Part 1

It all started early in 2013, with Mark, my (then) NYJC colleague , asking “casually” whether I wanted to take part in the Penang Marathon … (this post is only about getting to the starting point; in some ways, as eventful as the actual race!)

Chien and me arrived at Penang airport on 16 Nov at 1 pm (13 hours before race start-time) and went to the race area to collect the race pack; just take direct public bus 401E from the airport (very cheap, cost only RM2, but rather long journey) to Queensbay Mall. There were three other Singaporean runners on board the bus and I struck a conversation with those standing beside me – one was a veteran of several races, while another was a second timer who did not finish last year and was back to try again. After about one hour (due to bad traffic), we arrived at Queensbay Mall –

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At Queensbay Mall, direct from airport, to collect race pack.

The race pack collection tents had 3 lanes for those doing the full marathon – not sure why, but the queues moved very slowly! TIP: just pay RM10 at registration time to get the race singlet and bib couriered straight to your house, and save the trouble of this “last minute” collection.

Queues in the sun - better to just pay RM10 to get race singlet and bib couriered!

Queues in the sun – better to just pay RM10 to get race singlet and bib couriered!

Race pack collection on Saturday 16 Nov at 3 pm - very slow and crowded

Race pack collection on Saturday 16 Nov at 3 pm – very slow and crowded

We went for a late lunch (first carbo-loading, spaghetti bolonaise) at the mall after getting the race pack, and wanted to take a taxi to the hotel. However, it was not clear where we could catch a cab, as the whole area was very crowded. We ended up near to the bus stop while walking around to look for a taxi, and decided to hop onto another public bus (307, RM2) to Weld Quay Bus Terminal – this took another long journey of almost an hour due to the traffic jams near to Georgetown but allowed me to see in daylight part of the marathon route (25km after Penang Bridge, to 33 km turnaround point, along Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu). From here, we walked about 1 km along Lebuh Chulia to Yeng Keng Hotel (very nice boutique hotel, rank 2 in tripadvisor, did not realize when booking it!).

Yeng Keng Hotel, Georgetown, Penang

Yeng Keng Hotel, Georgetown, Penang

And “Room 101”, said the receptionist … (so coincidental, just finished reading “1984” only a week ago! haha)

Room 101 (1984, George Orwell!)

Room 101 (1984, George Orwell!)

After a short rest, we went out in search of dinner and ended up at a coffee shop along Jalan Penang/Lebuh Campbell (??) – ordered and shared bak kut teh, char kuay teow, and yee foo noodles for second round of carbo-loading – before heading back to hotel  to prepare (pin the bib, load the waist belt with energy gel and cereal bar, set alarms for 11:20 pm, …) and to catch some sleep before the race…  (tossed and turned, not sure if really slept, but anyway, was glad to be not on my feet anymore; too much standing around and walking before the race up till now!).

At 11:16 pm, the first alarm went off; I rolled around a bit until second alarm at 11:20 pm, and got up to get ready – MILO drink, two slices of bread with peanut butter and strawberry jam, brought from Singapore, put on gear and contact lens. IT WAS RAINING and WINDY, drats! I don’t want to get wet while making my way to the free shuttle bus to the starting point and was not planning to use umbrella (as this would mean using the bag deposit, which was some distance from the start point) … Luckily, Chien had brought along a disposable poncho (HOORAY!), so problem solved (see photo, poncho in my right hand)…

Just before leaving the hotel room to go to shuttle bus pick up point ... holding poncho in right hand

Just before leaving the hotel room to go to shuttle bus pick up point … holding poncho in right hand

Good idea that Chien had decided not to go for the start, as it was raining (much better to stay in home and sleep; it would have taken a lot of time in terms of travelling just to go to start point, and then head back again to hotel, and then go back again to the start/finish point again). There was a bunch of people outside our room from KL, all geared up and eating bananas, while I was eating what was left of my sandwich (no. 1) … we exchanged good wishes for the race, and off I went, in the light rain at 12 midnight, … in my flapping red oversized poncho, attracting “curious” looks from people having supper in coffee shops along Lebuh Chulia, towards the free shuttle bus station at the Weld Quay bus terminal.

Nearing the terminal, a PBIM bus drove by (DRATS again! I just missed the shuttle bus); while waiting in the next bus, spoke with this local chap who was doing his ?? Penang marathon and he described the “gentle” up-down slopes along several parts of the bridges along the route, including his experience in 2010  – “like running in a small stream on the Penang Bridge” as it was pouring then, haha! Anyway, the bus soon filled up, including with the people I met outside my hotel room (but they had to stand), and we were off to the start point (left terminal around 12:40 am).

Reached near the start point after a half hour journey (very strange how the bus went into some small lanes and then looped back into the same lanes again on the way there) and we were dropped off about one kilometer from the start (due to road closures) and started walking in light drizzle to the start. I started to eat my second peanut butter jelly sandwich while walking and promptly caught up with the fellow hotel guests (turns out to be a party of four, two ladies and one younger guy, and an older man (60+ yrs)); the younger guy said to me: “still eating your bread?!” haha, actually different one from the earlier, but impossible to tell the difference in the semi-darkness!!

So, half an hour before the start, here I am, all set to go … (after a quick toilet break, see below for daylight scene …, and some light stretching and adjusting of shoe laces)…

portable loos at the start area

portable loos at the start area

and quite near to the starting line as the number of runners is not that many, maybe max 5000?? (unlike Singapore Stanchart!)

pacer balloons at the starting line

pacer balloons at the starting line

(Next: Part 2 the RACE)(Part 3 post marathon)

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