Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Trekking Up Mount Kinabalu, Sunday 28 Aug 2005

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We experienced a tough climb for this trip. With months of training on trekking, our physical fitness is the least concern. According to the mountain guides, it has been raining the past few days: the weather was fine in the morning and rains the afternoon.

While heading up Mount Kinabalu on Sunday, it was drizzling in the afternoon and we had to trek for three hours wearing rain coats and in fairly cold weather. During the last one kilometer to the peak, the weather was really cold and misty, coupled with strong wind. However, all of us managed to pull through and reach the Low’s peak – the purpose of the climb and the view up there was really spectacular.

While trekking up Mount KK, every time when the going got tough (e.g. approaching the peak where tiredness set in under freezing cold condition),I really salute Tony how he can repeat the attempt so many times.
That was my second climb and I have achieved "exceed requirement" status (climb once is "meeting requirement" -- my definition). My next climb at MtKK would be at least another 5 years' time. Of course, with the right company, I might change my mind and climb sooner than planned.

Thanks to Tony, our Team Lead for this climb, who planned the trip well and engaged the right mountain guides and porters. It was like a pampered tour where we only carried the necessary items; all other luggage was carried by the porters. We all managed to reach the peak and later descent safely. The encouragement and motivational words from Tony were really helpful to ensure the trekkers maintain their focus to the peak.

Saturday 27 Aug 05 – Day 1
The Air Asia flight carrying the 12 of us touched down at the Kota Kinabalu Terminal Two airport at 10.30am. Immediately we were greeted by two van drivers (arranged by Tony) ready to take us to the National Park which was a two-hour drive from the airport.

One the way to the National Park, we could see the rain clouds were forming. On reaching the restaurant opposite the National Park at 12.30pm, it started to rain. At 2pm after lunch, we checked into the hostel in the National Park itself. It was drizzling the whole afternoon and the temperature was fairly cold.

We could not go anywhere other than loitering within the hostel building. Looking out the window admiring the rain, it reminded me of a song, Melody Fair, sung by Bee Gees about a girl looking out the window pane, watching the rain falling down. Sound sentimental and similar condition there.

Going for dinner in the evening in drizzle was a problem. At 6pm, the 12 of us have to put on the rain coats for a one-kilometer walk to the same restaurant. That was a good practice session for the group in case we have to trek in the rain next day.

We retired early to bed early preparing for the real challenge the next morning. Though it was raining the whole afternoon and evening and the temperature was cold, that could not dampen our mood to have a good climb next morning

Sunday 28 Aug 2005 – Day 2
From the National Park to the Mesilau Gate was a one-hour van ride. At 9.10am, after the group photo session and answered natures’ calls, we were all ready to step our feet forward on the path leading us to the peak. The vegetation here was of dense forest. The path was clear and well kept. Checking at the time, it was true that the first kilometer took almost one hour. The most impressive stretch was from 2km to 2.5km markers. Due to the sloping down, the half kilometer was complete within 17 minutes instead of 30 minutes.

We packed sandwiches for lunch and we just ate whenever we felt hungry. The weather was changing from sunny to cloudy. At 1pm, fairly strong wind was blowing and it started to rain. The condition that we all wanted to avoid did actually happen. We all have to put on jackets and rain coats and continue the journey.

Trekking up Mount Kinbalu was already tough and now further compounded by the rain. Nevertheless, we pushed on. It actually spoiled my plan to take great photos along the way. During the three hours trekking, I could not take any photos.

The Mesilau trail would merge with the main path from Tembohan Gate. The vegetation from 4km onwards was much interesting to admire at. These are the ones that we do not see in the normal tropical jungle. The trees are much shorter.

Accompanying Miss Choi who experienced pain at the side of the knee, I arrived at the Laban Rata rest house at around 5.30pm. It was cold at that time. What really amazed me was that the porters and guides were playing Sepak Takraw at the clearing in front of the rest house at freezing cold temperature.

Dinner was scheduled at 6.30pm. Most of us took fried rice for the much needed carbohydrate. True to its name, the entire plate was mostly rice. A lot of chilly source was required to help in swallowing the food. We stayed in two dormitories with heaters. We all retired to bed at 8.15pm – I was having hard time sleeping immediately after dinner and at that early hour.

Monday 29 Aug 2005 – Day 3
The alarm was set off at 1.30am. Immediately, all of us woke up fully charged to take on the second stage of the climb. Breakfast was arranged by Tony and was served at 2am. At the cafeteria, other trekkers were there taking breakfast too and getting ready to go. At 2.30am, after the group photo session, again, we stepped our feet out of the warm and comfortable rest house into the dark and cold wilderness

There were many trekkers heading to the peak at the same time. The trekkers just walk silently and shine their torchlight at the ground necessary to lead them forward. It was most pleasing to hear that Tony still maintained his instructions to the group as to what to do and gave the necessary encouragement. There were a few trekkers, after hearing Tony giving the encouragement words, actually wanted to join him for the journey.

This time, with the necessary training, I was able to tackle the rope climb with ease. I only need to hold on to the rope only at quite steep slope. Other than that, I just walked slowly up. Last year, trekking up the rope area really gave me the scare for falling down the ravine.

While passing through the Sayat-Sayat Gate, trekker was required to show the name tag to ensure every one was accounted for. Beyond this part, the wind blew quite strongly and it was very cold. ML and Kelvin were in the same group with me. At around 5.30am, we could see the ray of sunlight. Due to the cloudy weather, the sun rise was not very colourful.

At around 6am, the entire mountain top was quite misty. I heard one foreign tourist who was on his way down from the Low’s peak, commented that it was misty, cold and blew with strong wind. I was contemplating whether to proceed or to give up for the last 200 meters. Since I had reached the peak during my previous year’s attempt, I decided to abort the climb and I descended to Sayat-Sayat Gate. On meeting Tony who was accompanying a few slower trekkers in our group, after some encouragement words, I was heading to the peak again

At 6.30am, I reached the peak and the sky was quite bright. Everyone was busy standing besides the Low’s peak sign board and started taking photos. I spent about 5 minutes at the peak and then started to descend. We took many great photos on the way down. At 8.30am, we were down at the Sayat-Sayat Gate. Going down was easier as we can use the abseiling method with the help of the rope. At 10am, most of us were back at the Laban Rata rest house.

This would be a tough day for us as we only have half hour to rest and pack our luggage as check-out time was at 10.30am. At 11am, we were on our way down. It was clear weather with blue sky and bright sunlight. Since we were not able to take photos due to the rain, we took a lot of photos on the way down. Most of us reached the base of the National Park at around 5.30pm

At 6pm, we headed to Poring Hot Spring Resorts in two vans. It was a one-hour drive to the destination. When we reached there, it was dark. After checking in, the entire group went for dinner at a restaurant within a stone’s throw away. We were having a good time there relaying the experience for our climbs while savoring the good food.

After dinner at around 8.30pm, all of us went to the hot spring pool to dip our feet in the natural hot spring water. The planning was superb as soaking the feet in the hot spring water would help to relax the muscle which was over-used during the climb

Tuesday 30 Aug 2005 – Day 4

Today would be the last day for the trip. At 8.30am, we went for breakfast provided by the resorts. During breakfast, Tony presented the certificates issued by the National Park to everyone while KC was busy taking photos

After breakfast, we visited the hanging bridges which required a fair bit of walking. And it was good for recovery. All of us do not have problem going up and down the steps.

We left the resorts at 1pm and heading towards Kinabalu town. We visited the Philippine market for shopping of souvenirs. Dinner was scheduled at 6pm at the Ocean Seafood Restaurant where we were rewarded with a sumptuous seafood dinner. We left for the airport for the 8pm flight home feeling really satisfied with the entire trip

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By Penguin-1

Thursday, August 18, 2005

STAR WARS: The Running Saga

[Star Wars music… playing in the background]

Episode 6, Scene 5

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

At the Base Station
Due to miscommunication, Princess Leia (Chantelle Wong) reached the Bukit Aman Galaxy base station at 5.20am on Sunday (on unspecified date; anyway, it was a long time ago …) morning, instead of the usual 6am. She wanted to visit the far, far away Hartamas Galaxy station in order to gauge the extent of the Empire which she has not been there before

At 6.05am, Han Solo (Penguin-2) was still not in sight. At that moment, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker (Penguin-1), Penguin-3 (new character introduced in this new Star Wars saga) and Penguin-x (new character too; guest star by Marvin Lau) were waiting impatiently at the launching platform. They have already turbo-charged their fighter planes and were ready to take off.

Into the Wilderness
Han was finally sighted arriving in his silvery spaceship. At 6.10am, the entire Star Wars squadron was already in flying formation and immediately took off into the dark and cool wilderness. Leading the pack was Han while Luke was trailing behind Princess Leia. Penguin-3 and Penguin-x were flying on the left and right side respectively of Princess Leia in protective mode.

After flying for a distance of 5 million kilometers, Penguin-x was traveling far behind due to miscalculation of the fuel level requirement and was not suitable for long-haul traveling. Penguin-3 was also making a left exit into the Double-hill Galaxy and heading back to base station due to malfunctioning of the engine. According to Penguin-3, there was sign of leakage at the jet propulsion engine and the fighter plane was not able to travel at the optimal top speed.

That left Luke and Han to escort Princess Leia to continue the space exploration.

Since Princess Leia’s jet aircraft was of smaller capacity, she traveled at a slower speed. Luke’s and Han’s fighter planes though were of older models but were of bigger capacity and thus traveling at a higher speed. To overcome the disparity in speed, Luke and Han devised a truly ingenious invention -- loop back technique -- to overcome this problem.

How it works: When it was Luke’s turn to accompany Princess Leia, Han would surge forward with full-throttle ahead for a couple of minutes. He would then reverse direction, charge backward and went beyond. The further the distance, the harder and faster would be the chase. And when Han reached Princess Leia, the repeatable process of flying forward and backward was then performed by Luke.

According to the marathon training space-travel techniques, varies the speed does help to improve the performance of the jet aircraft.

When it was Han’s turn to loop back, he was speeding up and down the space like crazy; overtaking PK Chan’s fighter plane on the way. PK was in fact accompanying two other new fighter planes en route to the Hartamas Galaxy station. Suddenly, Han was seen making a U-turn almost causing a head-on collision with PK in space! And PK jokingly said, “You sure you have the flying license?”

When Luke looped back somewhere near the Hartamas Galaxy, there were a few other batches of fighters planes from the Pacesetters Empire trailing behind. While Luke was passing by one of the fighter planes piloted by Ms. Yap Wai Mun, she sent a message to Luke: “Hey, accompanying ‘leng lui’ (pretty girl) for space traveling (running)?”

Refilling Station
Finally, when reaching the Hartamas Galaxy station, the Star Wars squadron went to the service station for a quick pit stop. Luke and Han refilled their fighter planes with the hydrogen propellants (POWER GEL lah) and H2O (mineral water). Since Princess Leia’s jet is of newer model, refilling with H2O only was sufficed.

Returning Journey
It was amazing that Princess Leia was flying steadily and consistently throughout the entire journey. Her movements were so pleasing and graceful they seemed effortless. Even at the Laman Tunku uphill stretches, she was still flying non-stop while Luke took the opportunity to relax by doing the Galloway walk.

The looping was fun when the fighter planes were fully charged. But after looping for endless time with the total traveling distance estimated exceeding 25 million kilometers, the engine did show sign of weakness and sluggishness. Almost reaching the base station, Luke was seen even more tired compared to Princess Leia.

Back at the Base Station
From far, Luke immediately spotted Penguin-3 and Penguin-x relaxing at the base station with Teh Tarik drinks. And when Penguin-x sighted Luke, Penguin-x pointed to his watch signaling that the space travel time was far, far way overrun. The concern was that with the extended time in space travel, Princess Leia would be subjected to the harmful gamma radiation from other Galaxy which was unhealthy to her fair-skin complexion.

In order to impress Princess Leia, Luke offered to treat the team. However, he realized that he had left his cash in his spaceship. Luke got no choice but to borrow money from Penguin-x in the full view of Princess Leia. To make matter worst, Penguin-x revealed that was the 10th time Luke borrowed money from him while on other missions.

Congratulations to Princess Leia that she had successfully traveled 20 million kilometers to the Hartamas Galaxy station and back with the escort of Luke and Han. With the comfortable cruising speed, Princess Leia felt refresh even after traveling for 2 hours 40 minutes. Since the saga is to be continued, Princess Leia suggested another space travel the following Sunday, at 5.45am. Multiple training sessions for the jet aircrafts are required in preparation for the coming Dec 4 Singapore International Marathon space travel competition. We need new squadron to escort her for another critical mission -- the Empire Strikes Back.


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Four-Minute Mile

Note: The passage below is extracted from a book.

In the 1950s, Roger Bannister became the first man to run the four-minute mile. He managed to break a record that had been the pinnacle of man’s running ambitions since the days of the gladiators. In the year following this great feat, more than 30 men managed to replicate his achievement. After two thousand years of striving, suddenly not one man, but several, managed to run the distance in less than four minutes.

What changed? Did a new super breed of runners suddenly appear on the planet? Was a great new training technique discovered? Neither of these things happened – the only change was that people went from believing that the record could not be broken, to believing that it could. BELIEF IS EVERYTHING. People could imagine themselves doing the same thing – they could see victory in their mind’s eye.

Our life is the creation of our mind – by a very famous person.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Powered by the King of Fruit

Some runners are powered by PowerGel during runs; some by PowerBar. For Penguin-2 and -3, they are powered by both PowerGel and PowerBar. But for me, I am definitely powered by the King of Fruit -- the Durian.

I had durian for lunch and dinner for the
past few days. Instead of eating the normal fried noodles or rice, I think it is an excellent idea to have durian instead. After all, this is the durian season, and the best thing is that the price of durian is very cheap. For RM10, I can get six fairly large durians.

I went for a run this evening after work. After running for 5km, my energy level was as high as when I started the run -- full throttle ahead. This is the second time that I experiment with durian as fuel. Last November, during the durian season, I tried the same method -- I had durian for four consecutive dinners. And I could feel the power during running. I could run blissfully on and on without feeling tired.

One area that needs special management is that after taking too much durian, not only the fart sounds like thunder; it smells like rotten eggs too. So, avoid letting the gas out especially when you are surrounded by other runners. Otherwise, you could scare the hell out of them due to the thunderous sound or intoxicate them due to the smell.

Why is durian so cheap? According to a colleague, it was published in a Chinese newspaper that other than potent mix of nutrients from the durian, it is also high in cholesterol. I think the cholesterol must have scared many folks avoiding this fruit.

To show how potent this fruit is, it was reported in the Star newspaper that in the northern Thai province of Chiang Mai, a 68-year-old Thai had died after over-indulging in durian. As in the case of diabetics, eating two to three seeds means having to adjust their medication such as increasing their insulin intake.

But for runners like you and me, I think it is very safe that the cholesterol from durian -- whether good or bad ones -- helps to power us during runs. With the extra power, much like after taking steroid, a runner’s performance would definitely improve. But the best thing is that you would definitely pass the dope test because (a) this is a very unusual performance enhancing method; (b) durian is not popular with the Westerners and as such, they would not have developed any benchmarking yet against durian power.

Keep eating and enjoying the fruit. After all, they say eating fruit is good for us.


Thursday, August 04, 2005

Kuala Lumpur Rat Race 2005

Yeah, once again, Penguin-1, -2 and -3 are participating in The Edge-KLSC Rat Race 2005. The event will be held on Tuesday, 9 August 2005, 5pm starting at the KLSC building, Kuala Lumpur.

Note: all photos are from Rat Race 2004 except the photo above.

The three Penguin runners are working for RHB Bank of management ranking. We are really proud that the RHB Group is coming out in full force to support this charitable event. Last year, RHB Group sent in 6 teams while this year, Wow, 12 teams! According to the organizer, 12 teams from a single corporate organization will be the largest contingent in the race’s six-year history.

The distance is about 5km and runners run in the hot afternoon condition with full working attire. Guy participants would have to put on ties, long sleeve shirts and long pants. How about the shoes? Are you guys wearing working shoes or gals wearing high heel shoes to run? Well, we are allowed to put on running shoes to run.

The route:
Starts at KLSC building, passing by Plaza See Hoy Chan, ING Insurence (where Penguin-11 works) Istana Hotel, Wisma Genting, Equatorial Hotel, Life Centre, running towards KLCC, Bangunan Angkasa Raya (Jalan Ampang), Renaissance Hotel, Shangri-la Hotel and back to KLSC building.

So, if you are working around that area, how about going there to cheer the Penguin Runners, and not forgetting other participants too.

What is KL Rat Race?
Kuala Lumpur Rat Race is an annual event for charity which began in 2000. Modeled after the Carey Wall Street Rat Race, the KL Rat Race is a platform for Corporate Malaysia to come together to help the needy in a novel way.

The Race is the one day in the year that top executives and office workers forget about the rat race they run in daily, and join a rat race of a different kind.

Last year, 75 teams took time out to run for charity and help raised over RM 600,000. Each company is to pledge RM10,000 for one team, an additional RM8,000 for a second team and an additional RM5,000 for the third and subsequent teams.

For this year, the amount contributed as of 3 August 05 is RM 715,000-00!

Which means each Penguin runners is worth more than RM1,000-00. Well, running has a different meaning now. Previously, we run for our own glory. Now, we run for the company or for charity.

By Penguin-1

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Cycling Passion Revival

I was analysing why I encountered sleepless night on the eve of recent Johor Duathlon race and the profound feelings lingered on even a few days after the race.

For my maiden attempt at the Lumut Duathlon on 15 May 2005, it was even more bizarre: three days before the race, I felt dizzy and was given half a day medical leave to rest. But on the race day, I was perfectly okay. Penguin-3, who went to the Lumut Duathlon with me, can attest that.

So on two occasions, the symptoms showed there were tensions before the race and pleasant feelings after the race.

On the eve of Johor Duathlon, though I was sleeping on a firm and silky smooth bed in a comfortable hotel room equipped with air-conditioning, it did not help. I woke up every two hours to check the time passed.

After more than 48 hours of deep thoughts and self-analysis, I somewhat found the answer as follows. It is similar to those artificial intelligent robots that diagnose problem themselves through DIY.

Childhood Days
During my childhood days, I spent most of my years running around the entire neighbourhoods with Tang Chee Loon as the Team Lead. He is now a marathon runner with one of the Johor running clubs. Back then, we went fishing at the nearby rivers, catching fighting-fish at the padi fields, flying kites during windy months, going to the nearby rubber estates for some outdoor quests, etc. Most of the times, it involved riding bicycle.

At that time, there were no BMX bicycles and no mountain bikes, just the normal Phoenix branded bicycle made from China. Since there was no gear system, we have to push the bicycles whenever we cycled up hills. And when the bicycle was taken up by the family members, we just made do with whatever bicycle: we even have to ride those black, heavy and huge bicycles meant for carrying goods. It was really a test of manoeuvring skills.

There was one day when I saw a teenage boy riding a racing bicycle with gears system (only three gears!). I was captivated by the machine and I said to myself that one day I would own one. Yes indeed, I owned one. With the advent of technology, my entry-level racing bicycle comes with 18 gears. And now I am into the Duathlon racing circuit.

No Speed Limit
Imagine buying a car with big engine capacity able to do 200km per hour only to be restrained by the speed limit of 110km. However, in cycling race, you can go as fast as you want to your heart’s content, and the authority would not issue you any summon. So, while on the racing bike, I have the “I want to break free” feeling. Obviously, I wish that I could cycle as fast as Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Le Tour de France champion.

Hearing My Name
I must admit that the Duathlon race is the only race in Malaysia where the organizer, Quick Release Adventures, take the trouble to announce your name when you were finally approaching the finishing line.

Two hundreds meters to the finishing line, I heard it loud and clear over the speakers that: “Number 170 from Pacesetters Kuala Lumpur Penguin Runner, KC Leong.” Well, that was the sweetest statement that I have ever heard. The power of that announcement lifted me up. The last 200 meters were run in the most effortless and blissful manner. At that moment, whatever complains on leg pain was just vanished.

It would be the icing on the cake if there was followed by big round of applauses. Since Malaysians are so busy, the moment that mission was accomplished, most of them left. Obviously, there were insufficient masses to generate the audible clapping sound. I think my profound feeling would double if the organizer could play those pre-recorded applauses. Just like those fire-crackers sounds played through the loudspeakers during the Chinese New Year festive seasons.

By Penguin-1 :-))

Monday, August 01, 2005

MMDS 3 – Johor Duathlon on 31 July 2005

Yeah, Penguin-2 and I survived the Johor Duathlon. Both completed the whole race in sub-4 hours. I was very satisfied with my timing: 3 hours 37 minutes. We did quite well considering that the race was Penguin-2’s maiden attempt. As for me, it was my second attempt after the Lumut Duathlon on May 15.

At the finishing area, I was quite shock to hear that a tough guy like Penguin-2, who clocked in 87km (more than two full marathon distance) within a 12-hour non-stop Kedah Ultra marathon, suffered muscle cramp at the biking segment. However, he was completely fine when taking on the final running segment.

The terrain here is challenging as the cyclists have to pedal hard for 5 ascents (hills). Unlike the Lumut Duathlon, the terrain there was as flat as airport. According to one experienced biker, the head wind was not that strong as compared to last year.

In biking, I was frustrated that no matter how hard I cycled, there were always fast cyclists who went past me, even the lady cyclists over-took me. But during the last segment of 9km running, I was having my sweet revenge.
Most of the runners within my vision were just running in slow motion or walking due to tiredness. At round 11am, the weather was hot and sunny. With the full marathon experience, I was still able to run though the pace was slower. I was able to over-take at least 25 runners; I liked that.

Not only that I am busy with the running/biking, I am also busy with taking photos. To capture the moments for you, I have slelected 62 great photos to share with you.

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By Penguin-1

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