Thursday, June 28, 2007

My First 10km Run in PBM

A few short reflections of the Penang Bridge Marathon 2007 (PBM):

YES, the starting time was at the unearthly hours (3:00 a.m. for the full marathon; 4.30 a.m. for the half and 5.30 a.m. for the 10km)
YES, the whole bridge was FULL of runners, giving real meaning to the expression “a SEA of runners"
YES, the was hardly a breeze that blew and the weather was rather humid.
BUT hey! This is how I feel after my first 10km ... the simple joys of finishing a race!
(Photos were taken by Moira)

Gerald's (at left) first 10km race – He decided to race or “no aim-lah” just running in the evenings! “My first thought – next race I can do better!”

Chai Gim's (at left) first 10km race – she went along to motivate her friends to exercise! “At the finish line - Great satisfaction came to my mind – I have done it!”

Eliza's first 10km race - She did the race to prove to her better half and more importantly herself that she could do it! And she DID it! “Alas! I did it. And the next thought was my legs …. It is going to drop off … and where are the rest of my friends and where is the St John Ambulance tent!!”

Christina – she started running 13 weeks before the Penang Bridge run. “I had 100 m to go before completing my first 10km fun run of the Penang Bridge marathon. Yes, we have come a long way, baby. It had been quite a struggle working my way through about 10,000 + other runners to finish the course. And then I crossed the line... I DID IT!!!! YEAAAH!!!! Now where is my photographer?? She must have finished ages ago and had disappeared along with her camera!! Never mind, the pictures can come later. Right now, all I wanted was to savor the moment of completing my very first run at a personal best time of ...well, not telling!”

Deborah's first 10km race – She did the race to get extra-curriculum marks in school!! “YES! I have finally finished the last few steps of the race that I nearly gave up on and, MAN! my legs are aching like crazy, but the feeling of actually finishing the whole race is great...I actually enjoyed the race!”

Different runners with different aims, but all finished their first 10km race with same feeling of exhilaration and ready to go for the next race!

By Moira


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Penang Bridge Marathon

Please click here to view 83 photos taken by WENG.
When you are viewing photos (after clicking Slideshow button), remember to press F11 key to expand viewing area; to return, press F11 again.

Pacesetters members gathered at Bukit Aman car park on Saturday 23 June, 8:00 a.m. before going by charter buses to Penang

The Penguin runners traveled almost 800 km to participate in Penang Bridge Marathon (“PBM”), ran the race on Sunday 24 June, and they were already back home in Kuala Lumpur to resume their normal daily lives albeit with a little soreness in legs muscles.

The brave Penguin runners who went to Penang for this full marathon were: Meng (p2), Tony (p3), Steven (p5), Eric Teo (p10), Jason Chin (p12)
and Weng.

Collection of race entry pack in Penang on Saturday

The fastest Penguin Runners’ title goes to Eric Teo with a handsome timing of 3 hr 48 minutes to cross the finishing line in his full marathon. That sub-4 timing is also his personal best record. However, due to heat stroke and dehydration, he fainted after crossing the finishing line (I was shock to hear that piece of news). As informed by his better half, he was warded into Penang hospital for one night and he is Okay and discharged on Monday.

Jason Chin and Meng were quite close in their timing with 4:31 and 4:35 respectively to cross the finishing line.

Steven was not able to complete the full marathon despite that he put in all his best effort. He hit the wall before 30km mark – a solid wall and he could not find the window to escape. I hope he was not affected by listening to the album: The Wall (1982) by Pink Floyd, a famous rock band.

At 1:30 a.m. on race day when going to starting point

He encountered leg muscle cramp together with leg pain. After enduring the pain for considerable amount of time, he was in despair; he decided to throw in the towel and abandon the race.

Though the starting time was at the unearthly hour of three in the morning (3:00 a.m.), the PBM area was hot and humid. There was not a slightest breeze at all. Worst still, the entire area was filled with unpleasant “fishy” smell. Every breath a runner took would remind them of the song by The Police, “Every breath you take”. Or the song “The Air That I Breathe” by the Hollies.

It was no easy task when approaching the final 100 meters for the full marathon runners. The “runway” was criss-crossed with other runners or school children who have completed the race. I could imagine that one has to elbow all the way to cross the finishing line – that would enhance the fighting spirit (or “pia” spirit) to complete the race.

Steven (L2), Rustam (L3), Gurdev (R2), Meng (R1)
Collection of bibs – each person spent almost 30 minutes to get the race entry pack on Saturday afternoon. There were just too many raw processes: to make or confirm payment (through online registration previously but payment was by means of remittance); to verify a runner’s details; to identify correct size vest or T-shirt. Due to insufficient vests, guy runners were given ladies vests. The runners were directed here and there waiting in line to get the procedure right. Looks like this area requires process re-engineering to ensure the repeatable process are smoothly handled.

Beautiful sunrise along the running route of Penang Bridge Marathon on race day

After struggling for 42 km, the full marathon runners began to realize that the bus chartered by Pacesetters Club was another 5 – 6 km away from the finishing area due to closure of road for the PBM run. For those full marathon runners who finally reached the bus, congratulations to you as it is an indication that you can take on the more punishing ultra-marathon race (distance more than 42km).

What motivates a runner to travel hundreds of kilometers away, with not much time to relax, run the grueling race and the next moment, they packed their bags and were on their way home? This is the extraordinary spirit of full marathon runners!

Weng (in yellow vest, R3) after completing his full marathon

According to schedule, the specially arranged bus ferried the runners from hotel to the starting point at 1:30 a.m. They could hardly sleep on Saturday night. They just rested for two hours and off they go for the race. After the run, the bus came at 1:30 p.m. to fetch them back to Kuala Lumpur.

Cheers to all runners… BRAVO!

Steven with Mr. Lee, a hometown friend from Parit, Perak.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Lodges & Teahouses - Trekking in Nepal

While the Penguin brothers are in the thick of action in running the Penang Bridge full marathon today, Sunday 24 June, let me share with you more insights of my recent trekking trip in Nepal. They will only return to Kuala Lumpur late this evening for more stories in that run.

Best View -- The lodges at Gokyo

Before I went for this trip – a 17-day trekking trip to Cho La Pass, Nepal – I have no idea of what or how lodges and teahouses along the treks look like. All I know is that they provide food and accommodation, much like a hotel, minus the luxury and comfort which are normally expected.

Let me share with you what I have experienced to expand your horizon. Dotted along the main trails of Cho La Pass are lodges and teahouses (herein “lodge” refers to teahouse also). They can provide anything from a cup of tea to a full meal and a bed. So for the entire trek, there is no need to carry food or shelter (camping tents). However, every trekker is recommended to carry his drinking water while trekking.

Lodge along the treks with display of drinks (Coke, water, beer).
The level of comfort and facilities in the lodges are meeting basic requirement. For sure, there is no heater in bed room as the solar energy is only used to power lighting.

Every lodge has a kitchen, a dinning room and bed rooms for a night’s stay. Oh yes, not forgetting the toilets – located in between rooms and individual detatched unit outside the lodge. Bathroom is usually outside the lodge.

Bed Room – Depending on the size of a lodge, the number of bed rooms range from five (small lodge) to say, 20 (big or new lodge). Most rooms have two beds in them with a 4-inche mattress. Certain bed rooms have no blanket! It is important that each trekker must bring along his sleeping bag.

Time-warp heater - Other than wood, it is also powered by dried Yak dung. Interestingly, it is odourless that you won't know the different fuel. Otherwise, the smell does not go down well with the food.

Dining Room – It is usually square in shape with a barrel-shaped metal heater in the middle. The tables and long benches are lined at the side near to the window; so that there is space in the middle and next to the heater. Most dinning rooms have glass window so that trekkers can admire the mountainous or lakeside view. The best view is in Dole (4,200 meters high; fronting the magnificent mountains) and Gokyo (4,800 meters high; fronting a beautiful and serene lake).

In the evening, the ower would "activate" the heater and the entire room was filled with warmth of the fire. The lady lodge owner at Gokyo, in her forties, speak quite good English. In the evening, we saw her collecting the dry Yak dung. The action was much like harvesting pineapples. She carried a big basket and she just threw the dried dung over her head into the basket behind her.

Dinning Area in Gokyo -- with patio overlooking the beautiful lake

Meals – Meals are ordered from menus in English. There is standardisation as most menus look similar and consistent in interpretation. The main categories are breakfast, lunch or dinner, drinks, western style cooking, etc. It is very common that we have to wait for almost one hour for lunch or dinner to be served. Food is only started to prepare and cook after orders have been received. Usually, the mountain guides double up to assist in taking orders. They will write down the order in a thick log book and they then convey the orders to kitchen. Every lodge has a person-in-charge (mostly women; can be husband and wife team. But in Dole, the men are in-charged) who cook for the trekkers.

Mega carbo-loading - Kumar (second mountain guide) and Pani (one of the porters) having lunch at Khumjung. The rice in second serving is as much as the first.
Foods - when we go higher up in the mountains, there is no meat. They don’t kill animals and meat is only carried up from lower villages. When we travelled deeper into the Himalayan, we become almost vegetarian. However, eggs are still available. So, my usual meals are potato fried with vegetable and carrot that go with rice. They do have fried rice and fried noodles.

For breakfast, I usually eat toast bread, pancake or Tibetan bread (variant of fried pancake). The Austrian guy team member always ordered Tibetan bread for breakfast; so I joked that it is the "standard procedure" for him in the morning. Since the source of water is from high mountains and food is cleanly prepared and properly cooked; so it is very safe to consume.

Another favourite is the vegie momos - steam dumplings akin the dim sum.

My breakfast at Nanche Bazar - Tibetan bread with milk tea. The egg is an extra order from the original menu.
Beverages – We order hot chocolate, milk tea (something like our teh with milk but very plain taste), and ginger tea. As you can see, the food is very simple here, how not to loose a few kilograms of my weight?

Wash Basin – Most lodges overlook the importance of wash basin. They do not have a wash basin for trekkers to wash hands or to brush teeth, etc. So we have to squat at the open-air tap in freezing cold to brush teeth.

Brushing teeth in the cold morning - Mr. Rum (main mountain guide) in action right in front of the entrance of lodge in Pheriche
Toilet and Bathroom - every lodge (or tea house) has a toilet in between rooms so the trekkers can pee at night without having to go out in the freezing cold. Bathroom, however, is usually located outside the lodge, say, about 20 meters away. Bathroom is used for taking bath during day time only as temperature is cold.

With the abundance of mountain water, the owner usually uses a rubber host to divert the water near to the lodge. But the water is cold. At Machhermo (4,410 meters high) while I wanted to brush teeth in the morning, the running water in the tap was frozen into ice !! BTW, I never use the wide-mouth bottle (recommended by a trekker) that I bought specially for peeing at night since the toilet is quite near to the rooms. Eventually, I gave it as a gift to one of the porters when we returned to Lukla.

Oh Yes, not forgetting the following critical crew members who form the entire team. They were friendly, committed and dedicated in thier work.

Mountain Guide – They speak reasonable English. In this trip, there were two: the main guide (Mr. Rum) and the second guide (Mr. Kumar). One will lead and the other one will be the last person when trekking. They are always very happy to answer our queries on the various landmarks. If we slowed down to take photos, the “sweeper” guide will wait.

Mr. Pani in action - the red bag belongs to Klaus (the Austrian senior army officer) and mine is the green bag while Pani's is on top. Estimated weight: 50 kg
Porter – Crew members to carry our luggage. They are very strong. One porter can carry the luggage of two trekkers. Without the need to carry our luggage, our backpacks are light consisting of drinking water, camera, extra warm clothing and a few energy or chocolate bars.


Yours truly standing in front of a lodge in Manjo (first evening). This is my attire for sleeping. We arrived at 5:30 p.m. It was very cold. After a quick "dry cleaning", dinner was ready at 7:00 p.m. and we went to bed at 7:30 p.m. That was my record for sleeping so early.

Namche Hotel in Namche Bazar (in red roofing) - this is the only "town" along the entire trek where there is attached bathroom with hot water supply

High up in the hill - Lodge in Khumjung

Overlooking the unique Khumjung village. Notice all roof are in green

Lodge in Dole overlooking high mountains

Lodge in Machhermo - detatched bathroom and toilet at left. Snowing at 3:00 pm. Tap water turned into ice the next morning

Bed room of a lodge in Gokyo - typically with two beds and sufficient space to put bags

The lodge in Dragnag - Nestled in between majestic mountains; just before we cross Cho La Pass the next morning

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Next Exciting Trip to Mulu-Pinnacles

Penang Bridge Marathon 24 June: Wishing all runners pleasant journey and enjoyable run. As for the Penguin Runners, the line-up are as follows:
Meng (P2) - full marathon
Tony (P3) - full marathon
Steven (P5) - full marathon
Eric Teo (P10) - full marathon
Jason Chin (P12) - full marathon
kWeng - full marathon
Note by KC: After the successful trip of leading a group of Pacesetters runners to climb Mount Kinabalu from 27 April to 1 May 2007, Tony, a.k.a Penguin-3 the Mountain Sifu, will be the Team Leader again leading another group of 25 runners and trekkers for an adventurous trip to Mulu-Pinnacle from 27 June to 1 July 2007.

Here are a few of the Pacesetters runners who are going in this trip: Francis Toh, Sonny Ng and wife, Eric Teo, Vivian, Siok Bee, Jezamine, Gerard, etc.

After months of training in trekking up hills within Kuala Lumpur, the group of trekkers is adequately prepared for this exciting trip.

Wishing them pleasant journey and memorable excursion. As I mentioned earlier, call it “expedition” (if one likes) depending on the toughness of the trip.

Let us take a look at the itinerary:

Day 1 - LCCT - Miri -Mulu – Check-in at Mulu National Park. Visit Bat Observatory Tower if time permits.

Day 2 - The trip to view the Pinnacles is tough and challenging and is usually done as a 3 day 2 night trip.

A boat-ride on the Melinau River for 1-2 hours and as we pass Batu Bungan, the Penan Longhouse and Wind and Clearwater Caves we can visit these along the way. Our boat driver will leave us at Kuala Litut which is the beginning of the 8km walking trail to Camp 5 and return in 2 days, at a pre-arranged time.

Camp 5 is a forest shelter that caters to visitors traveling on the Head hunter's Trail and to the Pinnacles. Located beside a clear stream, Camp 5 is an ideal place to swim and relax after our walk. We will camp here over-night.

Day 3 - The following morning, trekking begins around 7:00 a.m. The trail to the top is only 2.4 km long but rises 1,200 metres to the viewpoint. The last section of the trail is near vertical with rope sections and ladders to climb. Fit, experienced trekkers may reach the top in 2-3 hours, the not so fit around 4-5 hours. For many, the descent is more difficult and can take 5 hours or more.

The climb is well worthwhile though as it culminates in spectacular views of the pinnacle formations, some of which tower up to 40 metres high. The trail itself, which climbs steeply from the Melinau Gorge passes through some intriguing limestone forest and as we reach the higher altitudes includes some spectacular pitcher plants (Nepenthes sp.), sightings of rare orchids and Mountain Shrews.

Day 4 - After another night at Camp 5 we will retrace our steps back to Park Headquarters or continue along the Head Hunters Trail to Limbang.

Day 5 - Home Sweet Home

Photos are by courtesy of ChongYF.

By Tony

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

First Dog To Scale Klang Gate Ridge

Please click here to view 33 photos taken by KC on a climb at Klang Gate Ridge (or Bukit Tabur) on Saturday 16 June 2007.

Back row: Kar Leong, Lee Puh Heng, Jason, Kathy, Tony, Debbie, Kenny
Middle row: Kelly, Lee, Jezamine
Front row: ChongYF, Lee, LimSH, Lily Lim
Photo is taken by KC. Click photo album below for much bigger frame.

Accompanying the trekkers, we have the first dog that has successfully scaled the peak of Klang Gate Ridge (to the best of our knowledge). It is a cute little dog belongs to Kenny and Debbie. I could see the dog was very excited running up the peak on its special mission.

Fourteen of us – quite a big group – climbed up the ridge. It was organized by Tony, the Team Leader for the coming Mulu-Pinnacles trip, as training ground (or hill) preparing the trekkers for that excursion.
ChongYF is busy cutting watermelons while Kelly (in red) helps to distribute them

We also have two big watermelons specially delivered to the peak by the Watermelon Boys – Chong YF and Tony. Thanks to their great effort. Try to carry extra 3 kg of weight up the steep hill and you will know what I mean.

The appearing of mist on that morning was interesting: now you see; now you don't effect! At one moment in time, it covered the entire opposite ridge, just like David Copperfield who made the Statue of Liberty disappear in his magical act.

On the way down, we passed by the same stream. Only the cute little dog swam in water while adults just washed hands and legs (including the shoes). When the dog shook water off its body to dry, all the water splashed on to Jezamine, who was sitting on a rock in the middle of the stream with no where to run.

Yes, Kenny's cute little dog made it to the peak

On the way back, the group adjourned to a mamak restaurant. The steep uphill climb must have generated tremendous chemical reaction in our stomachs that our appetite level soared as in recent share market. We were treated with gastronomical delights having special orders such as Roti Canai Teluk (with egg), Roti Canai Sardine (with Sardine). ChongYF even ate extra two hard-boiled eggs. Jason, who drives a brand new dark grey Mercedes model C200 Kompressor car, was most generous to pay the bill for all.

Sunrise at the peak - Yours truly in profuse sweating T-shirt

Two days later, one runner said she liked the photos taken by me, especially Kenny's dog – it is absolutely adorable! She declined the invitation to go because she is not comfortable with the steep ridge. She felt a little bad now – even the dog could climb!

To those who are joining Tony for an excursion to Mulu-Pinnacles from 27 June to 1 July (or if you like, call it expedition), wishing you an enjoyable and memorable journey.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Cho La Pass - The Journey

Dear esteem runners and friends,

Let me take you on a virtual tour of my 17-day trekking trip. I have included the captions to share and highlight with you the moments of joy; the cold, the wind, the tough journey, the high mountains.

What a view to behold: Excursion at Gokyo Ri (5,357 meters), Day-8 of trekking ... It turn out to be a very tough climb. The settlement next to the lake are where we stay for two nights.

Part 1 of photo album - Please click here. From Kathmandu (capital city of Nepal) fly to Lukla to begin the treks; passing by Pkakding; put up a night in Monjo and arriving at Namche Bazar.

Part 2 of photo album - Please click here.

Part 3 of photo album - Please click here.

Part 4 of photo album - Please click here.

Note: when you are in photo album, click Slideshow to begin viewing of photos. To exit, click the "X" sign at at the photos navigation bar (at the bottom of page). To return to initiating page (my weblog), click the Back Arrow (at the top left of PC screen; you may need to click a few times).

On top of the world feeling: With Kumar, the second mountain guide.

by KC

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Cho La Pass - I Made It

It is good to be back in Kuala Lumpur !!!

Yes, I have withstood the cold, high altitude, thin air and tough environment for almost two weeks on the trek. After the strenuous trekking trip in Nepal, to my big surprise, I actually lost four kilograms in weight!

Most of the time, we were trekking at altitude between 3,000 meters to 5,400 meters (at Cho La Pass). Any ordinary mountain there is more formidable than our Mount Kinabalu, which stands at 4,100 meters above sea level.

Photo is taken at the peak of Cho La Pass

Everyday, we have to walk for a minimum of four hours; at time, we stretched to 7 hours. Usually, we start the walk at around 7am (local time in Kuala Lumpur is 9:15 a.m.) For certain important days, we started as early as 5 a.m. Yes, the sky is bright at 5 a.m. there.

The most difficult and crucial day was when we crossed Cho La Pass. We started at 5 a.m. and end the trek at 5 p.m. – a 12-hour walk.

When on an uphill climb, every few steps required heavy breathing due to thin air. For a little fast pace, I could be standing there breathing heavily for the body system to generate the equivalent amount of oxygen. Nevertheless, with all the hard training in running and trekking, my body system was able to cope with the new parameters fairly well. Oh Yes! I was glad that I did not have headache – the sign and symptom of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness or high altitude sickness).

After trekking for nine days, one of the lady trekkers, however, developed high altitude sickness on the eve before we crossed Cho La Pass. Half the team (including the second guide, a porter) started to walk down at 4:15 p.m. in the cold, cloudy and misty environment to a lower altitude.

Though the trekking trip is tough, it is worth every effort and Ringgit to be there for a different kind of experience. The view was scenic, beautiful, spectacular and magnificent – surrounded by all the high mountains and ice-caped peaks. Being there in the high mountains was exhilarating, rewarding and satisfying.
Yours truly is standing at the peak of Cho La Pass covered in ice.

When we returned to Lukla, the starting point of the trek and a small village accessible by only small aeroplanes, we were stuck there for two days due to bad weather amid the start of monsoon seasons.

One funny experience: my brain does not seem to compute fast at high altitude. The thin air and high altitude probably did something to the brain cells. Possibly, my brain cells have got use to the local environment and they work best in polluted city. So, with the pure mountain air, the brain was a bit disorientated.

With slight tan, slim figure and sunken cheek, a runner said that I look like elite runner now. I think I am now qualified to stand in the front row rubbing shoulders with Kenyan runners in a running race. Yeah, I was told that many ladies would like to go to Cho La Pass too since there is a sure-fire way of losing weight amid admiring the high mountains and ice-caped peaks.

Wish you were there with me. Possibly, we could have a friendly run on a high, flat plateau of 4,800 meters above sea level.

KC :-)

Below are a few photos showing you Cho La Pass.

Next few days: I will share with you photos showing the journey.

At Lukla on 24 May 2007 -- the start of the great trekking trip. The guy behind me is Pani, the porter. He is of almost same height and weight as me. But he could carry heavy loads.

At Namche Bazaar -- this is an important "town" where most treks pass by here. It took us two days to reach there. There are many shops selling trekking and climbing related stuff. Internet and Maxis connection were possible.

Yes, there is the Everest Marathon running from Everest Base Camp to Namche Bazaar. Date of event was on 29 May 2007. Any takers for next year?

The team members are heaving tea at the Everest View Hotel (Day 4 of the itenary) while admiring the Mount Everest at the background. On the left is Mr. Klaus, an Austrian. He is my room-mate. He is a friendly and humourous guy that initiated much of the laughter. He is a senior officer in the Austrian army.

Part of the great journey ... the gentle wind blows; the warmth of sunlight; the roar of flowing water; the scent from the wild flowers along the trek.

Fast forward to Cho La Pass: All rocks here. The rest of the photos will be included in the online photo album.

This is a very steep pass (though from the photo, it does not look steep). Condition is made difficult with the present of ice and flowing water on the ground. Certain part is icy and treacherously slippery. We must not step on to them and slip down the slop, that would be fatal.

Looking backward and downward. Another team member was behind me (bottom right). It took me 5.5 hours to reach the peak starting the trek at 5 a.m. (day-11 from Tagnag to Cho La Pass of the itenary).

Yeah, I finally reached the peak of Cho La Pass. I was so excited to reach thus far. It was covered with ice!!! There is a pond behind me where the ice was not fully formed yet. The photo was taken by the second porter, Mr. Rai, a Nepali.

Yes, I was actually walking on ice... the main mountain guide (Mr. Rum) is taking a photo for another team member.

We were told to be cautious in order not to drop into the water. There is water flowing beneath the ice. The ice is spiky shape. When I step on them, they crushed with loud sound under the trekking shoes.

The descent: My backpack (in red) and our stuff (in two green duffel bags tied together; provided by the trekking agent) carried by the porter.

... to be continued.