Monday, December 29, 2008

WORDS...

For the last couple of weeks, I was terribly upset after terminating a stressful 'relationship' where my pride was constantly being assaulted. It is extremely hurting being called brainless and worse than senseless things!

My boss of 25 years has always introduced me as her 'friend' to all her friends and clients. Well, we've been working for that long; shared good times and braved through bad times. Can you imagine, I've watched all her four sons from birth and now they are all grown! Yet to me, she is never my friend and I am glad I never regarded her as one. For as long as she pays my salary, she'll remain my boss. My friends will never use abusive words to hurt me. Never!

Thus, ended a relationship of 25 years! My friends never envy my loyalty but admired my tolerance level. Enough. Period. They all supported and rejoiced with me when I made my final decision, so did John. Later, I received an e-mail from one of my good friends which I thought was most appropriate to me at that moment. I took some excerpts from it to share here:

Words are very important. Words can heal and words can harm. Words can hurt grieviously and for a long time. The tongue can bless and the tongue can curse. Many times, when we are angry we say the most atrocious things. We forget ourselves and become indifferent to what we say. We blast the other person without mercy, although we may not mean those words. But words once spoken can not be taken back and it takes a long time to forgive and forget. Many couples are particularly prone to such outbursts when they get mad. It is not an easy thing to control our tongue when we are provoked, boiled over with anger or have outburst of wrath.

Uncontrollable words spoken in anger can have devastating effect. Angry words, that are used thoughtlessly such as "You have no brains," or "You are worse than senseless things" cause pain and feelings of rejection. They give rise to insecurity. The unmeant and foolish words contain full of deadly poison and can play havoc in the mind. It will make reconciliation very difficult.

We must also be very careful that in our anger we do not label our children with ugly names such as fat, stupid, pig, useless, good for nothing. Such negative remarks can do harm to them for years to come and may ruin the possibility of a relationship with that person for life. We must never use words to knock our children down. To help our children to fulfill their highest potential we should be their greatest encourager. A word of love can be the greatest acts of love.

A word of love is the greatest acts of love. It can take away fear, isolation, shame and guilt. It can reconcile, unite, forgive and heal. It can bring peace and joy, inner freedom and deep gratitude. When we choose to speak words of care, words of encouragement, words of praise, words of love, positive words...they uplift and give meaning to life. When we say, "I love you" or "I think of you" to our loved ones or friends, we choose to give life. It is not always easy to express our love directly in words but whenever we do, we are offering a blessing that will be long remembered. When a child says to his father,"I love you" or when a mother says to her child "I love you", a whole new blessed place can be opened up, a space where it is good to dwell. Indeed, words have the power to create life.

The above are excerpts taken from Bread for the Journey and posted by Jason Timothy to me. Thanks, Jason!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

O come, all ye runners!


The Malakoff 12km race was held last Sunday. John and I missed the registration dateline but we decided to go ahead, join in the crowd and still follow the run. The race course was new to us.
Few days before Sunday, an idea came along that John would put up his famous Santa's cap again. This time, he also put on his red vest and shorts and I got him a little red sack bag. We filled the bag with goodies; sweets and chocs and distributed them to runners along the way. O what fun we had!

When we reached Taman Rimba Kiara that morning, we were surprised to see so many participants. We joined runners for the 12km route except this time, John and I stood right at the back of the pack. Usually in a race, at the crack of the starting gun, everyone actually begin running - fast! At the back of the pack, the start goes like this: You hear the gun, stand in place, walk forward, then walk-jog-run.

As we started jogging, we were cheered and greeted by friends, fellow runners and marshals, "Ho!Ho!Ho! Go Santa!" (as if we were in the race). We ran the first few kms with Wah Chai, Uncle Yee, Ah Tai and Pek Moi...chatting and chanting 'Jingle Bells and Santa Claus is coming to town!' Then we met Ngae who switched our carol to 'We wish you a Merry Christmas' and some of the runners nearby joined in.
Although the race course was rather tough with uphills and downhills, there were a lot of fun, laughter, chatterings and merriment as John and I continued running and distributing goodies from the bag. Then it was Ngae again coming from behind singing a few verses of 'O come all ye faithful!' After that I made a few of my own verses too but sang in silence for fear of offending some Christians around.
It goes like this: "O come all ye runners, joyful and triumphant. O come ye, O come ye to Malakoff. Come and behold them, born the Kings of marathon. O come let us adore them, O come let us adore them, O come let us adore them...Kings Of The Road!"

Yeah, we had lots of fun. I was actually enjoying the experience of seeing a race from a new perspective. As the course was 2 loops of 6km, I could therefore watch as leaders of the race ply their various strategies. They (the Kenyans) seemed so in control. When they needed speed, they had it. The very fast are different from you and me - or, at least, me. Some things are the same, though. As confident as the leaders of the pack looked, their eyes give away the truth. They push their limits. They are just susceptible to doubt and worry as those behind them. Their speed and ability don't make them immune to failure.

As for me, I was glad to learn that there are times where I do not have to be 'in' the pack or to be a competitor to enjoy the race. At the Malakoff 12km on 21st Dec. I stayed right at the back of the pack...I ran, I watched, I learned and I enjoyed myself.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Finding the marathoner in me through another marathon

Behind every runner, there's a race. Behind every race, there's a lesson to be learned. And behind that lesson, there's always a story. Here's mine from the recent Maratona de Macau.

Regardless of one's ability, 26.6 miles or 42.195km is a long way to run. Heck, it's a long way to drive! And like any challenge of this magnitude, a full marathon takes a lot of preparation in terms of training. And this time, I was least prepared.
Having not run a full marathon for 6 years now, I decided to make a comeback. Don't ask me why - I don't know and still don't.

My husband always tells me that my body is designed to long distance running, simply because of my high endurance level, my threshold for pain and a strong mental tenacity. Therefore, I will do well. I have no doubts about my potential until...a month prior to the race, I succumbed to a lower tension inguinal ligament strain and back pain. Therefore, preparation for this marathon is minimal (with the furthest mileage of 27km, that was also because I got lost in the woods in Christmas Island!) Since I've registered for the marathon, I just have to try. But the Macau Marathon is not a good choice for the injured as the course is fast and qualifying time is a short 5 hours; not a second more.

As a matter of fact, with my condition I wasn't even looking forward to run any races. I had been to Hong Kong many times but not Macau. It has never been my holiday destination. So, there!

Upon arrival, we were experiencing temperatures of 16C and because of the strong wind, we felt so cold. After checking into Grandview Hotel, John and I headed straight to Taipa Stadium to collect our race kits. As it was late evening, the Stadium seemed somewhat isolated and solemn. After that, we took a stroll around the hotel's vicinity and had dinner. The hotel is located about 5 mins walk to Taipa Stadium where the marathon would start and finish, and 20 mins walk to The Venetian. There's a bus-stop right in front of Grandview which made travelling in Macau extremely convenient for us. The next day, we hopped onto Bus No 33 and spent the whole day sight-seeing and toured Macau's famous sites eg. Ruins of St Paul's, Monte Fortress, Cathedrals etc.
We savoured the tasty Portugese Tarts, the famous Almond Cookies and had Portugese meals. There were a lot of merriment happening at the Senado Square as the Christmas spirit filled the air!

I guess that atmosphere was just right for John as he would be wearing his Santa's cap again during the marathon. It would be his second time being a Santa running a marathon. His first was at Chiangmai 2 years ago where he achieved his personal best time of 3hr 33mins.

7th. Dec was a day of many events and happenings for athletes. Many of our running friends were at Singapore for the Singapore Standard Chartered Marathon, a few ran Angkor Wat Half Marathon in Cambodia, others (Carmen & Team Tri-Hard) went to Phuket to participate in the Triathlon and while we thought we were the only ones running the Macau Marathon, we were surprised and joyous when we met fellow Pacesetters members there. There were Daniel Tan, Terence Chau, Crystal Foong and 17 of the Pacesetters Kuantan group. Except for Terence, John and I, the rest ran the Half Marathon.
Having ran in colder climate before, that morning temperature of 12 degrees celsius was about right for me. We were to start and finish inside the stadium. My nostrils quivered at the heady scent of Deep Heat as I exchanged pleasantries with my fellow M'sian runners. I observed around me that the other runners were filled with excitement of their race journey. I realised almost immediately that I was not sharing their enthusiasm. The morning message was clear, even if the sky was not: this was not going to be an easy marathon (at least not for me!). Ahead of us, lay 42km...

I had only one abiding thought - save energy. All endurance races are more about energy management than about speed and this would be especially true of the 42km. There were such a huge crowd, I hardly noticed the starting gun. Before I knew it, I was walking with the crowd, then striding, then jogging towards the start and once we managed to get out of the Stadium's tunnel everyone ran, each on their own pace. Aware of my injury, I reminded myself to run very conservatively so that I do not aggrevate it or trigger a pain too soon. I just needed to find my own pace, a rhythm that worked for me so that I could complete the marathon within the qualifying time.

Everything went well until I reached the 25km mark or so, the chronic injury to my left hip and back were painful enough to remind me that I needed to slow down even though I was already very slow. Later, I stopped at a First Aid station requesting for a panadol. They went all over searching for it and in the end, found none. Disappointed, I had no choice but to move on. Honestly, after 28km - the remaining kms were all a test of mental strength. 'Soul over Mind over Body'...why do I have to punish my poor body to go through this agony? Ha... the truth is during my entire running life, I've never considered myself a marathoner although I've completed several. I am just a runner, so I told myself. And I'll just keep running.

Then somewhere around my 35km mark, I thought I stumbled upon a small miracle. Instead of hitting the wall, I found myself counting down the last few kms...reciting my own poems and songs. I was running at my absolute limit that I've forgotten about the pain although I knew it was there. As the kms passed, I discovered that there was no small miracle - it was just Me.

I was quite relieved when I saw the distance marker at 38km. At this point, my confidence soared...I passed more than one runner who has left his sprightly legs behind and ran side by side with a weary Irish guy. His body language signalled to me that we should stick to the pace and run together for the remaining 3km. We did just that and trotted towards the sign which wrote Estadio de Macau. As we entered into the stadium, I heard the voice of Whitney Houston's "One Moment In Time". A warm feeling of happiness and euphoria swept through me and I did my final swing straight to the finishing line, wondering about my time..
Time? Sometimes, the watch is the real distraction (wondered why I wore one?). 4hours 21mins be respected. I received my hard earned medal, a finisher tee, bath towel from the Event organizers and then, a hug, a kiss and a pat on the back from John who was there to welcome me.
John did very well and clocked his second best time of 3hours 38mins. Yes, he wore his Santa's cap and had the crowd cheering him along the way, "Go! Santa, Go!". Indeed, he jingled all the way.

Upon completion, the feeling is still good as all athletes would know. I was completely exhausted or perhaps about to collapse to sleep, yet still have the strength to smile and beam proudly and bend down to unlace the shoes and remove the chip even though my legs were stiff with lactic acid.

At the finishing site, I paused and looked around me and saw that not was I amongst a group of marathoners, but I was actually one of them. Whether I clocked a sub 4 or sub 5 - I am not just a runner, I am a marathoner. After so many years of running, I finally realized that "being real" is simply a matter of looking inside myself and finding myself waiting there.

Monday, December 1, 2008

December...it's nice to remember

December has always been one of my favourite months. During my school days, we had 7 weeks of holidays where my sisters and I would spend a week at our school Christian Union Camp. Besides, they are not just school holidays but holidays. And this year, we've got 4 eg. Hari Raya Haji, Sultan Selangor's Birthday, Christmas and Awal Muharram! Last weekend, the Shopping Malls were already packed with shoppers (which is good for the retail business).

Come to think of it; over these past 3 years or so, John and I had planned our 'running' holidays around December. We ran the Honolulu Marathon, Singapore Marathon, Chiengmai Marathon and Angkor Wat Half Marathon, all in December! This December we will be running the Macau Marathon. In addition to that, I was born in December - not that it's such a big deal but it's nice to remember. And to be remembered.

December is when I've passed the water-sheds of my life. It was the month in which I became old enough - old enough to drive, old enough to be drafted, old enough to marry, old enough to make important decisions and old enough to vote.

This December will be the month when I say goodbye to the retail industry, where I had spent half of my lifetime! As much as I enjoy 'retail-tainment' and all the little 'luxuries' and incentives that the retail industry has to offer - I seriously need to take a break and perhaps, give myself a chance to change direction, for the better (I believe).

For most of my life, it seems I've looked at people ahead of me - people with better jobs, higher salary or bigger cars. Like seeing the elite runners ahead of me on an out-and-back course, I've observed some friends getting promoted, receiving bigger pay raises and depending on how you define these things, pull in front of me. And it seemed that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't catch them. But then, there are others behind me as well...struggling to catch me. Now I also know of people who are working as hard as me, who are looking at me and wondering why they can't catch me. And I realized that I must never be greedy but should always be contented and proud to have come this far.

Therefore, this December I shall steer clear of that cliched phrase "how time flies" but rather, as I move on to another year...my hope is that I will come to see myself more honestly. I hope I will become better at assessing my strengths and weaknesses without being controlled by them. I will accept that, as a person, I will always be somewhere in the pack, as I am as a runner. Yeah, as with running, life is a matter constantly checking on how I feel about where I am, how contented I am with this life and whether I have the guts to dare to do something different.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The ups and downs...

After the rain - I went out for a light jog in the park this morning. My legs were heavy, so was my heart. The past few weeks had been like one roller-coaster ride to me, filled with several ups and downs, hi's and low's...which left me feeling totally fatique and sore mentally, physically and perhaps, spiritually too.

The ups were mainly happening around John's achievement in his Powerman debut and I was just happy and proud to be involved, and be part of all his preparations, excitement, joy and finally his successful completion in this event.

The downs were about me...at this moment, being weak in health and low in spirit. At first, it was a flu which lasted for 2 weeks. Then, I suffered a lower tension inguinal ligament strain and also a mild urinary tract infection. Before I even had time to recover last week, the most terrifying migraine came back to attack me! Heck, it was bad - I threw out thrice and my BP (which had been kept stable for so many months) increased. Allergies to medication didn't help much - sigh! Stress at work is mounting and matters made worse when I know I have this boss that is so manipulative and downright shrewd. I guess my liver and kidneys are begining to hurt because of this. I need inner healing badly.

Despite all this, it is extremely comforting to know that I have friends, and there are people who care. Sometimes out of the blue I received a sms from this young man who called me "beautiful girl" (ahem!!LOL!!). Sometimes he made funny poems for me too. I met him during our Christmas Island trip and I started observing him during the line dancing session because he is special. I hope to write briefly about him later because he has taught me something during that trip.
Then there is good old Ms Moey who still remembers to call John & I for dinner one day despite her hectic schedule.
I was also touched by my bunch of old schoolmates who called me during Reunion Day itself and told me they missed me. So they had the phone placed on the speaker mode so that I could chat with everyone there.
And of course, there is always John - who is always there to lend me his ears and patiently listens to all my "pilipala!!"
Little things such as these made a difference and meant much cos' they made me feel good once again and I will certainly include them into my bag of 'favourite things'.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Who are we?

Few days ago, my lady boss made the most atrocious remark over a magazine to my colleague who is the Brand Manager. This was what happened.
My colleague happened to see her boss carrying a copy of The Peak magazine and asked " Hey, Sue! How did you get your copy of The Peak? We've been hunting high and low for it, only to discover that they are not on sale!"
My lady boss replied, " Oh, they deliver it to my house every month. And of course, you won't get it - Who are you? Huh, who are you?"
The tone of her voice was an extreme sarcasm which left my colleague reduce to a state of hopeless perplexity!
Her question was simply out of genuine curiosity and surely, one does not expect to be bombarded with such sarcasm.
As a Brand Manager, my colleague felt ashamed, demoralized and dumbfound when she confided in me. Later, I tried to console her and explained to her that it doesn't matter who you are or who she is?? It really DOES NOT MATTER.
Who are we? We are all the same in different bodies and different forms. When we die, we will all be the same, like it or not! We can't bring along our status, wealth or anything at all with us...Nothing! When we die, we will not be remembered for the high profile career we have. Rather, we will be remembered for the person we were when we were alive. Were we kind? Were we a good friend, wife or sister? How many people will actually miss us when we are gone?
Once upon time, I must confess that I was also caught in the rat-race...working very hard to get to the position I'd always hoped to be. Coming from a poor family, position to me means success. Success means respect or reputation. Then when I was there, I realized that the position is sometimes not so important after all. For the higher I climb - the greater the pressure mounts up and guess what, with all the marathons I ran...my blood pressure went up to 180/120! Walking time bomb - I could explode anytime and that's it...curtains closed. Today, I must say I've come a long way into learning to let go and look at life at a different perspective. I believe I still have much to learn...
"Success is waking up in the morning, whoever you are, wherever you are, however old or young, and bounding out of bed because there's something out there than you to do, that you believe in, that you're good at - something that's bigger than you are and you can hardly wait to go at it again today. It is something you'd rather be doing than anything else. You wouldn't give it up for more money, because it means more to you than money" - Whit Hobbs

Roasted or Toasted...

I was supposed to join my fellow Pacesetters for Breakfast Run at Mon't Kiara yesterday. Instead, I changed my mind later and decided to join Tony Quay's group 'Powerman Stimulation Practice RBR' at Putrajaya and wow, what a day!
I caught the flu bug last week after the Mizuno Wave Run but I believe I'm recovering. I had no idea how many kilometres I can cover - so, I just allow my body to reveal her condition to me and she did.
The initial stage of my run was nothing but pain. Breathing was hard as my nose is still congested. My back ached and my legs felt like iron bars - perhaps, I'm still trying to fight off the effects of the flu pills and at the same time, still trying to recover from the killer Hoki Stadium's slope the day before. Every step was so laborious that even Jezamine was running ahead of me! Anyway, it was okay as we were not in any competition and I moved on at snail pace...struggling slowly to finish the first loop (10km). My second loop (which was only 7km) was slightly better. After that, I decided to stop for a break - to hydrate and stretch out those aching muscles.
At about 11am John has already completed his 60km cycle and moving swiftly into his last 10km run. Unhappy with my current pathetic level of fitness, I was gamed to run another 10km loop even with the sun on top of my head! So, I just trailed behind John...This time, I thought I did it well. My back didn't ache so much and I managed to beat the heat to complete another 10km at 12.20pm.
All in all - I ran 27km, roasted and toasted.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Almost Paradise

Food
All our meals were as simple as can be. So we ate simply - buffet most times and each meal was very Malaysian. No complaints; we ate what the people cooked which were mainly fried rice, fried mee and meehoon, vegetables, fried fish and chicken or tofu. Oneday I overheard someone ordering a cuppa at a cafe asking, "what coffee do you have?" And the reply was, "Our coffee is nothing more than normal! No latte or mocha." Ha! Ha!

Lodging
CI Lodge was very basic but clean and decent. At least housekeepers made sure that they changed our sheets and towels everyday. People there are not greedy. We left all our belongings at the lodge almost everyday without fear of things being stolen or missing.
Security
Christmas Island is a worry-free zone where crime rate is almost zero. Imagine this; they never need to lock their cars, they can even leave their car keys inside and not afraid of theft because it never happened! We were told that we can 'borrow' any of the vehicles that has a key in it..drove and have it park at the same parking spot after that. Believe it or not, it is really that safe!

Pulau Tenggol
Christmas island actually reminds me of another island in Malaysia which I visited some 20 years ago with a group of colleagues and scuba-divers. Pulau Tenggol in Terengganu was then still a very virgin island with just one hut. We set our own tent and camp there. Everything was so back to basic and the sea was beautiful with crystal clear waters. Now it's being so commercialized with resorts and pubs etc.

Go with the flow..
The whole Island's experience would be perfect if things were a bit more organized. We wasted sometime waiting. Waiting for immigration clearance - waiting for the Chief to arrive before we could start dinner - waiting for race to start etc. But then again...very often, we tend to forget that we are on holiday and more so, in an island where everyone and everything is so complacent and almost worry-free. So while we're there, we just need to go with the flow...

Perfect Getaway
Otherwise, Christmas Island is a perfect choice for anyone contemplating a getaway to a destination where time and nature have stood still for a million years. You get the best of both worlds - prehistoric trees, plants and fantastic robber crabs that can so easily be seen; while unique birds seen nowhere else in the world cruise the skies of one of the last bastions and where people are learning to live with nature.
If only this rare ambience could be maintained for as long as possible.

10 things I brought home from Christmas Island :
- Smiles of warm & friendly faces
- Nature's Best
- Memories to cherish
- Pictures to share
- Additional friends
- Two fridge magnets (1 for my nephew, 1 for me)
- A medal
- An extra piece of running vest
- Prize money (from the Marathon)
- Suntan

I would like to thank Julie Wong for arranging everything and making this trip possible and memorable. I do believe I'm very fortunate to have a husband, my soul-mate who has been running and going places with me all these years...many thanks to you, John!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nature Unlimited

By 5.30am, the sun rise up and began to brighten the whole island. John, Francis, Teresa and I were ready to do an hour of recovery jog around the vicinity of our lodge.
Beautiful beaches and birds
After breakfast, we were fortunate when one of the locals volunteered to take us to Lily Beach and Ethel Beach. He even loan us another car as his car couldn't accomodate 8 of us. So, John drove the other car and followed him.
Along the way, we passed through the rainforests which are so alive with unique species and subspecies of birds; noisy flocks spreading their wings everywhere. Being laid-back islanders, all of these birds are very approachable.
Ethel Beach and Lily Beach are next to each other - isolated and picturesque sand beaches with coral reef. I mesmerized as sea birds flirt on the thermal updraughts. We spent sometime there and then moved on to visit 2 ancient temples at South Point and the mines.
The afternoon was spent at leisure at the Poon Saan Community Club. Some tried their hands on the snooker table, sing karoeke or just lazed around, not doing anything.

Later that evening would be the Event of the Year (?) for the people of Christmas Island as celebrated their 50th. Territory Anniversary. Excitement filled the whole island as locals as well as tourists came all dressed up for the occasion. Each community work together to put up their best performances; lion dance, malay dance amongst many others.
Ocean Planet
While waiting for the parade to begin. We sat near the beach and there, I looked out to the wide Indian Ocean right in front of me. It reminded me of a poem 'Ocean Planet' taken from the book 'A Fish In My Heart' by Ron Stevens. This poem is kinda fun...a debate between the ocean and the earth. Let's read it here :

It's not really hard and it's not really moist
Depending on location, view point and choice.
Yet the place we call earth is mostly quite wet
It's not a big problem for most, I would bet.

Now the earth was quite firm the name was his,
And the ocean got mad cause the volume was hers.

So they both made comments about size and scope,
To own the name was each of their hope.
Back and forth they made tremors and splash,
And the earth responded with the occasional gash.

With very big waves and monstrous icebergs
The ocean made wet some parts of dry earth.
With volcanic action and piping hot sand,
The earth made a splash and regained some land.

In time it was all done and none was won,
The earth would stay hard and trimmed by some sand,
The ocean would be more and cool the earth's core.

The fish had the vote and this was quite grand.
They voted for the water and not for the land.

The name would stay earth but the ocean is boss;
For the ocean will flood
And the land will be lost.

Many of Ron's poems come with a message : that we can live in harmony with the oceans.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Nature's Wonder

Sight-seeing and Nature's Beauty
The afternoon was occupied with sight-seeing at various spots in the island. The saying "A picture paints a thousand words"...here are some scenes to behold!










As it was a Saturday, there's an open-theatre where the locals can watch the 'almost latest' movies under the stars at Poon Saan at 7.30pm. But that particular Saturday night, we had dinner cum stage performances put by the locals which lasted like forever. Therefore, after the fireworks some of us decided to call it a day. Indeed, we had such a full day.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

One with Nature


Just where is this island?
Christmas Island is a dot in the vast Indian Ocean, an Australian territory and its closest neighbour is Java which is 360km away.
Geographic
It is an island with steep limestone cliffs, a rugged coastline and a plateau that supports rich rainforests. On mostly calm days, coral reef is visible beneath metres of clear turquoise water. When the water swell is up, blowholes spout impressively.
63% of it is national park containing species of flora found nowhere else in the world. The island 80km coastline is an almost continuous sea shift of up to 20 metres in height. In a few places, the cliff gives way to shallow bays with small sand and coral shingles beaches. The largest of these bays forms the island's only port, Flying Fish Cove.



Heritage
The island was named on Christmas Day 1643 as a British merchant seaman sailed past. But it wasn't settled until 1888 following the discovery of high quality phosphate.
Weird and wonderful structures - buildings, train tracks, and odd locomotive are feats of engineering in this remote place, marking its industrial heritage of phosphate mining.
Culture
People who live here are mainly from Australia, Malaysia and Singapore. Thus, a mix of culture. All islanders are permenant Australian residents. While English remain the official language, Malay, Mandarin and other Chinese dialects are widely spoken.
Climate
Christmas Island is in the tropics with an average temperature of 25C. The island is green, cool and lush when it rains; hot and steamy when the sun is out.
Specialty
Crabs - The most noticeable local is the Red Crab with over 100million of these vivid red creatures living on the forest floor. However, no one is allowed to eat or catch these crabs (else, a heavy fine will be imposed if caught. they will also be banned from entering the island for life!) During the crab season (Nov/Dec), the traffic has to stop for crab crossing!

Birds - Birds of the rarest found nowhere else in the world flirts on the updrafts. You don't even need to leave the settled areas to get good sightings at close range of endemic CI Frigatebirds wheeling overhead and the graceful undulating flight of the Golden Bosun, an elegant CI form of tropicbird.
Nature Wonders - lush rainforest, underwater paradise, idyllic beaches and awe-inspiring sea and landscapes...so untouched, pristine and beautiful.

Day 1
We touched down on the island via MH8484, a catered flight which carried 140 passengers (abt. 36 runners and 104 line dancers). After the immigration clearance (which took ages!) we got up the bus which took us for a brief tour around the island.
We learned that the island's population is only 800 residents. There are 7 policemen, 2 taxis, 1 supermarket, 1 hospital, 1 school, 1 Community Center, 1 Visitor Center and a few restaurants in the island. Supply of food is air-freighted on a weekly basis. Therefore, whenever there's a group of visitors coming in, the villagers must be informed or otherwise, the island will experience a shortage of food.
After the introductory tour, we were taken to CI Lodge for check-in. The lodge is clean and as simple as can be. There's no lobby whatsoever. Yet, they made an effort to welcome us with a decent tea reception served with an array of local pastries and coffee.
Later, we freshened up and rested before dinner at Poon Saan Park nearby. It was a dinner and dance with the theme ‘Red Crab’ and as the theme suggests – the dress code was RED. Line dancers were dancing while runners were carbo-loading for the next day’s marathon! There was a dance performance put up by Chris Watson and the girls. After that, most of us (runners) went back to our rooms to retire, leaving line dancers to dance the night away! This brought us to the end of day 1.

Day 2
Flora & Fauna Run
The theme of this run is initiated by a runner Julie together with the locals. The running course took us a loop into the woods, then out to the open road into the woods again and then back to the road and into the woods to complete the 21km route.
We gathered outside our lodge at 6am and waited to be chauffeured to our starting point which was at the Christmas Island Cricket & Sporting Club. The weather was extremely windy and the race didn’t start until 8am (9am M’sian time). As everyone was in holiday mood, no one made a fuss about the delay in time. We mingled around and get to know one other. Fun Run started an hour earlier than Competitive Run and by the time, we finally got started – it was getting warm.

At first, I found it rather difficult getting my feet to adjust to running the uneven paths in the woods. However after awhile, I got used to it and soon gained momentum. I was actually enjoying my run and when I was out to the open road, I increased my pace and ran comfortably.
Lost in the woods...in reverie
Next, I returned to an easy mode again when I entered the woods. It was then I got diverted and lost! It was own carelessness. I was admiring the beauty of Nature and day-dreaming, trying to make poetries that I missed the turning at 8km marker. When I finally ‘woke up’ from my fond reverie…oh my god! I realized that I was all alone and there weren’t any distance markers. I turned and ran all the way back to locate the last marker which wrote 8km.

Aiyoh! By then, everyone else was ahead of me and I knew I was way behind…needless to say, I was the last runner! Still, I was in high spirit and being mentally strong I told myself to continue running the best I could. So I ran with absolute abandon and finally managed to catch up with Gail, Julie and Wai Keen who were walking then. Slowly, I ran passed other runners and overtook them one by one, the last one being Teresa. They were all surprised to see me coming from behind. But the last 7km proved to be rather painful as the sun was already high up and shinning mercilessly on us. The open road was hard, hot and a bit hilly. I stopped at the last water station and gulped half a bottle of water, which was so unlike me as I normally don’t stop when running a half marathon.
The last 4km was running in the woods again…not long, I was so relieved when I sighted John, who waited anxiously for my return. He was also relieved to see me! I told him that I lost my way but I didn’t give up. Then I realized that I’ve ran an extra 6km. The clock read 2hr 27mins (yeah, for 27km!). Despite that, it was a good run and I still managed to secure third placing.
to be continued...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lesson from An Old Chinese Zen Story

Once upon a time a big monk and a little monk were traveling together. They came to the bank of a river and found the bridge was damaged. They had to wade across the river. There was a pretty lady who was stuck at the damaged bridge and couldn't cross the river. The big monk offered to carry her across the river on his back. The lady accepted.

The little monk was shocked by the move of the big monk. "How can big brother carry a lady when we are supposed to avoid all intimacy with females?" thought the little monk. But he kept quiet. The big monk carried the lady across the river and the small monk followed unhappily. When they crossed the river, the big monk let the lady down and they parted ways with her.

All along the way for several miles, the little monk was very unhappy with the act of the big monk. He was making up all kinds of accusations about big monk in his head. This got him madder and madder. But he still kept quiet. And the big monk had no inclination to explain his situation.

Finally, at a rest point many hours later, the little monk could not stand it any further, he burst out angrily at the big monk. "How can you claim yourself a devout monk, when you seize the first opportunity to touch a female, especially when she is very pretty? All your teachings to me make you a big hypocrite."

The big monk looked surprised and said, "I had put down the pretty lady at the river bank many hours ago, how come you are still carrying her along?"

This very old Chinese Zen story reflects the thinking of many people today.
Lesson : We encounter many unpleasant things in our lives, they irritate us and they make us angry. Sometimes, they cause us a lot of hurt, sometimes they cause us to be bitter or jealous. But like the little monk, we are not willing to let them go away. We keep on carrying the baggage of the 'pretty lady' with us. We let them keep on coming back to hurt us, make us angry, make us bitter and cause us a lot of agony. Why? Simply because we are not willing to put down or let go of the baggage of the 'pretty lady'. We should let go of the pretty lady immediately after crossing the river, that is after the unpleasant event is over. This will immediately remove all our agonies. There is no need to be further hurt by the unpleasant event after it is over.

Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.

Lesson from the frogs

THE FROGS
A farmer came into town and asked the owner of a restaurant if he could use a million frog legs. The restaurant owner was shocked and asked the man where he could get so many frog legs!

The farmer replied, "There is a pond near my house that is full of frogs - millions of them. They all croak all night long and they are about to make me crazy!"

So the restaurant owner and the farmer made an agreement that the farmer would deliver frogs to the restaurant, five hundred at a time for the next several weeks.

The first week, the farmer returned to the restaurant looking rather sheepish, with two scrawny little frogs. The restaurant owner said, "Well... where are all the frogs?" The farmer said, "I was mistaken. There were only these two frogs in the pond. But they sure were making a lot of noise!"

Lesson : Next time we hear somebody criticizing or making fun of us, remember, it's probably just a couple of noisy frogs. Also remember that problems always seem bigger in the dark. Have we ever laid in our bed at night worrying about things which seem almost overwhelming like a million frogs croaking? Chances are pretty good that when the morning comes, and we take a closer look, we'll wonder what all the fuss was about.

Lesson from the turtles

THE TURTLES
A turtle family decided to go on a picnic. The turtles, being naturally slow about things, took seven years to prepare for their outing. Finally the turtle family left home looking for a suitable place. During the second year of their journey they found a place ideal for them at last!

For about six months they cleaned the area, unpacked the picnic basket, and completed the arrangements. Then they discovered they had forgotten the salt. A picnic without salt would be a disaster, they all agreed.

After a lengthy discussion, the youngest turtle was chosen to retrieve the salt from home. Although he was the fastest of the slow moving turtles, the little turtle whined, cried, and wobbled in his shell. He agreed to go on one condition: that no one would eat until he returned. The family consented and the little turtle left.

Three years passed and the little turtle had not returned. Five years...six years... then on the seventh year of his absence, the oldest turtle could no longer contain his hunger. He announced that he was going to eat and begun to unwrap a sandwich.

At that point the little turtle suddenly popped out from behind a tree shouting, 'See! I knew you wouldn't wait. Now I am not going to go get the salt.'

Lesson : Some of us waste our time waiting for people to live up to our expectations. We are so concerned about what others are doing that we don't do anything ourselves.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Road to recovery

I am supposed to write this earlier than today but as usual, once I got caught up with other issues of the everyday life - I became lethargy and to be honest, lazy. It was a chill out Sunday afternoon for me and I appreciate just being able to laze around doing nothing. Then my guilty soul beckoned me to write something...

It's been 3 weeks since John's crash. Slowly but surely, he is recovering. He is currently seeking TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) treatment for the injury on his left rib and perhaps some clot blood that might've been stagnanted somewhere. Sometimes the after effect of a fall may not be immediate and can only be felt after a few days. Another cyclist, Lisar also experienced pain on her chest, ear and back 3 days after her crash. In fact, she lost her memory for a few minutes that very instant but managed to regain her consciousness and equilibrium rather quickly.

Anyways, they are both back to running on the roads again! John and I tackled the Double Hill and Carcosa yesterday, and this morning, we made it to Hartamas and back, giving us a total mileage of 35km. I believe he is still quite fit...so, no worries.

By the way, the air is so cool and breezy right now that I just couldn't wait for dinner to happen cos' it's gonna be Steam Boat at Mother Teresa's house. How appropriate!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A journey to remember...

A couple of days ago, John had the biggest blow in his life! He suffered a nasty crash while descending downhill at Genting Peres during the Inter-State Cycling tour organised by the Pedalphiles Cycling Club (PCC). His helmet and bicycle handle bar broke and his jersey...torn! It was the helmet that saved his head, otherwise it's curtain close for him!


Fortunately, he survived with a deep cut just above his right eye, wounds and bruises all over from his face down to his legs and his left elbow was the most critical. Who cares about anything else...thank god, he's alive! The other cyclists were all very helpful, quick to respond and came to his rescue almost immediately. One of the support team crews drove him on his car to catch up with me and we took him to the nearby clinic in Titi to get medical attention.

Actually when I first saw him, he was such a bloody mess; blood griping all over the place, yet he was still beaming and assured me he's okay. "Ok? I wasn't too sure..I doubted and thought he was playing poker." Well, after an injection, 3 stitches near his right eye and left arm bandaged - it's amazing that his spirit was still high. He was still keen to stay with the group and we decided to continue the journey and move along with PCC team but as a supporting crew.


Throughout the 3-day journey, John was his jovial self and became famous too...everyone (even the taukeh at the kopitiam and ah pek at the roadside stalls) got to know him and asked about his plight. I noticed that human beings are by nature kind and caring. I was also glad we made the decision to continue our journey with the pack and not return home despite the mishap that befell John. I observed that it was the collective energy of friendship that had helped ease the pain and the amount of compassion shown that helped heal the wounds. The sight of John actually made one feels that this guy must be in great pain. Pain - yes, but not as serious as he looks. We were also fortunate to have Dr. Raymond with us - he helped change the dressing for John during the journey.

We also had fun being the support team. We enjoyed cheering and taking photographs for fellow cyclists, handling food and water to the thirsty and rendering assistance to a trio with flat tyres. The fellowship over dinners were great. Like runners, cyclists are another special breed of humans with their own stories and their fair share of experiences (mainly accidents, oops!) and I was inspired listening to them.


While cyclists like Jason, Gerard, Jezamine, Tomato and others achieved their record of the longest ride; I achieved my own record of the longest drive in 3 days covering a total of about 665km. From Kajang - Bahau - Kuala Rompin - Kuantan - Kuala Lumpur...passing through plantations, lakes, estates, some very remote areas I hardly knew existed in M'sia and some very scenic and 'heavenly' places like Genting Peres, Felda Land at Gemas, the beautiful beaches of Pantai Lagenda.

All these and perhaps much more...will certainly etch to my memory and remain as one of my forget-me-nots.

As for John, I bet with my last dollar that you'll see his ass on that Scott again in two weeks time!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Some forget-me-nots

Remember this oldies ?

"Try to remember the kind of September
When life was slow and oh so mellow
When grass was green and grain was yellow
When you were a tender and callow fellow
Try to remember and if you remember, then follow...

Try to remember when life was so tender
That no one wept except the willow
That dreams were kept beside your pillow
That love was an ember about to billow
Try to remember and if you remember, then follow..."


Little things in life have a strange but pleasant way of reminding us of the big things. Sometimes a brief moment is all it takes to shift our focus and align us back on course. We hear and see so much about so much but how much of it is significant enough that it retains in us?
In the recent Olympics, the world witnessed numerous records being broken, in the world of education, we often hear the highest distinctions scored, in the domain of medicine, the breakthrough in cancer research. All of them are fantastic feats and worthy of applause. But just how much of it is good enough for us to remember for the rest of our lives? Often we marvel over the information and forget them the next week if not tomorrow. So, what really matters then?
Besides a very memorable and spectacular Beijing Olympics in August that got me glued to that idiot-box, a series of events took place in my personal life as well.
And it has helped me realized and learned that touching mortal lives have a longer if not a lasting impact than chasing after the many things which can so change as long as others live after us.
Remembering a kind deed is by far easier and more meaningful than memorising the steps of a salsa dance!
I can vividly recall the times when my nanny spent all her time nursing me and helped me cope with a difficult childhood. She was always sensitive to my needs eventhough she has 6 children of her own to tend to. She is 93 years old now and still very much a mother to me even until today.
When I twisted my ankle and couldn't walk for a week, there was Susan an ex-colleague who never failed to chauffeur me to & fro work, to the doctors and everywhere. She even made sure that all my meals were taken care of.
I also remembered the time when I had high fever just the night before the Penang Bridge Marathon - it was John and Francis who took me to the doctor.
Then there's my mentor, Miss Moey whom I can always find solace. And she remains to be my role model for as long as I'm around.
All these and many more remain not because I want to remember them but somehow, they etched themselves to my memory and my heart.

"Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your names on hearts, not on marbles." - Charles Spurgeon

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Triple Ten !

The climate determine my health or so I believe. The past 10 days was difficult to cope. The weather was hot and hazy with not a drop of rain for more than a week. And I had been hit by a bout of migraine almost every other day. If that wasn't bad enough - my eyes got itchy and inflammed followed by a return of running nose last Sunday. I guess it may be due to the accumulation of medication. I don't know. But on Thursday, the long heavy downpour actually helped clear the haze. Perhaps it's psychological but I felt so much better now.

Adidas King Of The Road 22.7 km
Many races took place this morning : Hatyai Nature Run, Penang Malakoff 26km, Ekideen Relay at Putrajaya, Avon Walk and Adidas KOTR Shah Alam. Looking at the crowd in Shah Alam this morning, I believe this race received very good response. John and I had chosen to run here because it's 22.7km and the race course is more challenging. Met Adam at the race site and he reminded me that '2 young lady runners' will be targetting on me! I felt honoured but at the same time, pressured. With that in mind, I was determined to do well.

Being a slow starter of any race - I was overtaken by all my fellow runners : KK Onn, Carmen, Ngae and a host of others. Later, I found myself pacing with a lady from Ipoh. We were trying to outpace each other for awhile. This made running quite strenuous for me, and for her too, I guess. It was until the 1st Sponging Station that I met KK Onn and he advised me to increase my speed and break away from this lady. In fact, he helped me and eventually, I managed to break away - what a relief!

After that, I decided to maintain my pace and slowly I overtook Yaziz, Carmen, Tomatoman, Khoo Yit Kiat and a few others. But the race course was really like a roller-coaster with neverending uphills and numerous roundabouts (about 10, if I'm not mistaken)! There were no distance markers except the last 500m. Therefore, you just keep running, turning and attacking the hills without the slightest idea of how much you've covered! Initially it was rather fun but then later, it was tiring and torturing.

An unfortunate thing happened to me at the 2nd Water Station after a sip of 100 Plus - my body suddenly broke down, exhausted. I felt like I just lost all my energy and succumbed to fatique. This is not my first experience with 100 Plus in a competiton. I always try to avoid 100 Plus but in this case, I had no choice as no plain water was available and I was beginning to dehydrate. I slowed down and as expected Carmen passed me followed by Dr Raymond and Khoo Yit Kiat. Whatever it was - I told myself to hang on and must not allow the '2 young lady runners' to overtake me. I stayed focus and in my heart, I sang an updated of my own version of 'My Favourite Things' which I borrowed from Julie Andrews Sound Of Music. Hey, it uplifted my spirit so that my legs could still carry me slightly faster and further.

Towards the last 200 metres, both Tomatoman and KK Onn did their last sprint and overtook me. My performance of 1hr 58mins was somewhat below par but I did the best I could.

Upon finishing, I was surprised that I got 10th placing! Then John further surprised me when he announced that he got 10th placing too!
It was a happy day for me and I don't know why. The weather was very kind this morning with little sunlight and cool breeze throughout. After the prize presentation, both John and I sat outside Secret Recipe at Shah Alam enjoying a cuppa with the wind still blowing on our side.


10th August : 10th Position Men Veteran (John) - 10th Position Women Veteran (WMun)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Of menopause and allergies or maybe more..

A Matured Man and A Menopausing Woman
Some months back...I recalled having a light moment with Kelvin Ng (Buluman) and some of our running mates just before the start of a race. We were joking about being 'creative' in naming our race categories instead of the extremely boring Men Open, Women Open or Men Veteran and Women Veteran. Very quickly we came up with a few ideas eg. Fast & Furious Men, Fit & Fabulous Women, Modern Men, Wise Women or Matured Men and Menopausing Women!! Ha! Ha!
Kelvin immediately admitted that he'll fit himself perfectly into the 'Matured Men' category while I'll just categorise myself into the 'Menopausing Women' category!

The "Midlife Crisis"
Hey, I am not joking! These days it's rather common especially when women entered "midlife" - the popular euphemism for menopause...
Sometimes when I ran out of steam, lost my energy and started getting annoying aches and pains (esp. at the lower back); I began to wonder.."Is it menopause or just the normal effects of aging that kick in simultaneously with menopause?" As a runner and being a woman, I assumed that sometimes my aches, pains and loss of performance are menopause-related, but was informed that the research is vague and the connection unsubstantiated. Nobody knows for sure. I believe that every woman experiences menopause differently and I also know of some women who passed through it with little complaint.

A Hyper-Sensitive Guinea Pig
Perhaps athletic women have more difficulty than other women because we are so used to being in control, and menopause is a phase when one feels tired and definitely not feeling in control anymore especially over what's happening to the body! But things always happened quite uniquely for me, perhaps this is because I was given a super-sensitive body in this life. One of my doctors commented that it is a very good body for them to work as an experiment...No Way!! In other words, I am actually a good guinea pig? Ha! Ha!

A Victim Of Allergies
Jokes aside and to be honest, the slightest misuse of drugs would irritate my eyes and cause it to swell. At times, it's the environment or surroundings that would trigger an explosion of rashes. Sometimes it's the application of a certain product that made me vomit like crazy. Other times it's just the consumption of certain food and I would succumb to an allergy of sorts and my hormones would go hay-wire! I remembered the year where I had 3 analphylatic shocks and living with a BP of 180/120 and gosh, I survived! Last week, I had a piece of Roti Canai for dinner and I passed out a bowl of blood for 3 days!! Scary..

A Seeker seeking to know herself
Some of my friends panicked when I related this to them but to me, I've been quite used to this kind of drama now. So I don't worry too much. This morning I woke up feeling totally unwell..I was sneezing with watery eyes and my head felt heavy as if a migraine would attack anytime. My body, as always was burning. So I need to examine myself - what went wrong? Many times, there's no answer. Sometimes, I just assumed.
My physician suggested that I should record down all my encounters with allergies and share my experiences in the blog. Well, I don't know...I'm still trying to discover more about my body first.

So many questions, so few answers...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The walker strikes back!

For so long and now at last, we had a race walking event held last Sunday and perhaps the only one for the year!
Race walking has always been my pet event (perhaps it's because I started learning walking before I learned to run!). Unfortunately there aren't many walking races in Malaysia. Perhaps walking events here have not drawn as many participants as in running. Perhaps, the sport itself is too technical and takes time to train. In addition to this, the country also lacks quality coaches to train and guide us.

Race Walking
Ask any runner who has tried race walking and not continued with it, they will tell you that race walking is difficult. It is because it reflects the fact that the sport takes a much greater degree of sustained focus and concentration on tecnical details than running. Nevertheless, once the basic techniques are mastered, race walking can actually be an easier sport to progress within, because competitors avoid the injuries that plaque runners.

Coach Khoo Chong Beng
In my earlier days, I was rather privileged to have met Khoo Chong Beng and be coached by him. Mr. Khoo won his first Gold medal and broke the SEA Games 20km walk record in 1971. In the 1973 SEA Games, he won another Gold and upped the Games record again. In 1976, he represented Malaysia in the Montreal Olympics and a year later, he won his third Gold at the Asia Track and Field Championship in Seoul and also his fourth Gold in the SEA Games with another record. The same year he was honoured the Best Sportsman of the Year award by the Olympic Council of Malaysia. Now most of his time is spent participating as an official or judge at international race walking events.

Training under Mr Khoo was fun because :
He never pressured me - His motto is to have fun, relax, enjoy the walk and never forget to smile.
He never pushed or rushed me - His advice is always to walk with the right techniques and get into the rhythm. Once you achieved the rhythm, you will automatically walk faster. In fact, slower pace builds solid skills enabling a walker to walk faster later.
All these take effort, patience and passion.
Effort because unlike running, every part of our body need the correct co-ordination in order to 'get into the groove'...therefore, you get to use your body's untapped resources. It takes time to master.
Patience because you just can not rush. A simple mistake eg. a skip, knee bend or if the feet fail to touch the ground is considered as illegal and one can get disqualified half way through the walk or even at the finishing!
Passion is like anything else...when there is no passion, one will not be able to progress further.
Nowadays, I observed a number of novice walkers rushing the learning process which resulted illegal techniques and other inefficient habits. Such habits quickly became ingrained and difficult to unlearn later.

The Malaysian Insurance Institute Big Walk
When I arrived at Dataran Merdeka, I already observed Kelvin Chow and several other serious walkers doing their warm-ups. Kelvin in particular, was all set and ready as he was really very anxious to win. He had messaged me several times before the race day to enquire on John's previous timing etc. I advised him to stay calm and enjoy the race just as Mr Khoo would say to me.

At the starting line, I met many seasoned walkers namely; Shew Keng, Tong Lean, Teoh Tay Wah, Siew Cheng and Agnes. Kamala was missing. Anyway, I was behind all of them soon after the gun off. As usual, I needed time to obtain my rhythm and was glad that it did not take me too long to begin walking smoothly and swiftly. Soon, I was enjoying my walk...then slowly but surely, I overtook my friends one by one.

As I was approaching the Parliament, I met Melvin (from FRIM)..he was fast and furious that morning, so I decided to just pace with him. Ah! later, I sighted John at Padang Merbok traffic light, he was there to cheer me and signalled to me that Shew Keng was 50 metres behind me. As the finishing line was about 800 metres away - Melvin suggested that I should just charge ahead. I took his advice, left him and went ahead.
I reached the finishing line....1st!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Behind that finishing line...

Days of being busy...
I had been busy lately. Busy because June was the month when my final project with a Brand that I've been working with expired. Because it was my last project - I was determined to set a record for it in terms of sales.
"You are as good as your last project!" my late MD Robert used to tell me. In my area of work, performance counts and not only had I over achieved the target - I did set a new record. But at the end of it all, only to find out that I was doing a thankless job!! Well, things like that happened sometimes (sigh!). So instead of feeling jubilant over my 4 months stint - I was upset.
Now that I had so-called recovered from it, it's time to pause and think about what I do. Perhaps it's also time to get off the time machine and catch my breath. I want to reflect on what my life is all about so that I can decide what my life should be all about. BUT I always find myself stuck in the time machine again. My days keep passing and rolling. Whether it gathers moss or momentum, it just keeps rolling. Everything is revolving around as a vortex and I get stucked into it without realising or comprehending anything.
Somehow there is always a reason not to stop. There is always a seemingly legitimate reason not to reflect and ponder.

Of being patient and understanding...
Then last week, I made a last minute decision to 'let go' of my selfish self to accompany John to Ipoh. He was to participate in his maiden 160km Century Ride. Initially, I wasn't keen with this idea of following him as I would be wasting my time. I shuddered at the thought of waiting for him to complete his ride in 6hrs or more! "I would be able to accomplish many tasks myself.." That was the selfish side of me speaking.
Eventually, I made up my mind to go with him...as his wife, supporter and chauffeur. Once that decision was made, I was clear and focus on my objective and my presence there.
On race day, while waiting for John's arrival at the finishing line, brought me to mind that John was always the one who waited and supported me at the finishing. He would just wait patiently for me, rain or shine and with no complaints. I recalled during my 24hr walk event, he was there to cheer and motivate me. I looked around and I didn't see any other husbands doing this for their wives and I feel really fortunate blessed for having him as my husband and soulmate.
At that moment, I felt ashamed of myself when I realized that after so many years, this is the 1st time I ever waited for my husband and cheered him at the finishing line. John was surprised to see me there, greeting him. He didn't expect that for he knew his wife never had the patience. I felt proud that I gave him that pleasant surprise.
Overall, it was a weekend well-spent. I was glad I came and played my part even though I didn't participate in the event. Had I stayed back at home - I would never have learnt - I would never have felt - I would never have understood...
behind that finishing line.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A fishy affair...

If you are a spa aficiaonado, you would have heard of fish spa, the latest treatment to wash up on our shores! It's not new - it's been in Malaysia since last year and it is something I'd wanted to try for sometime and finally, today.
I was given a voucher by Kenko Fish Spa to enjoy a trial of their signature Fish Spa treatment at half the price (normal rate : RM38). But I paid RM38 for John & myself.

After registering ourselves, we were ushered to the washing area to clean our feet before entering the Spa. As we settled down and submerged our legs gently into the tank, a large school of greyish brown fishes called Garra Rufa moved at the speed of light and swarmed our legs! The next thing we know; those little 'biters' were charging all around our feet and attacking all the dead skin cells. For a moment, I felt a slight discomfort as mental visions of piranhas in a feeding frenzy caught on. The feeling was like a hundred pins and needles vibrating and prickling at your feet! Then I began to seriously wonder how would I entertain this 30mins of anxiety?!

Not long after, I soon started to get the hang of these little nibblers and began to feel more relax. This incredibly ticklish and squeamish feeling made John and I giggle a lot. As there were about 5 tanks, we were encouraged to try out all of it, so John and I decided to switch to the tank with the larger fishes. Within seconds after placing our legs down, the feast began...the repeated pecking of the larger Garra Rufas obviously applied more pressure to the skin and it felt more intense and stimulating!

While enjoying the 'massage', I read up some of the information provided on the Fish Spa. Apparently, Garra Rufas are found in the hot springs in the Eastern Europe eg. Turkey, Syria, Jordan etc. The locals there actually discovered the unique habit of these fishes to nibble away the dead skins of bathers in the hot springs. These fishes only feed on dead skin without destroying healthy skin in the process. They are natural exfoliant and by biting of the dead skin, they make room for new skin to surface and flourish. Other than promoting the healing of skin diseases, these fishes can also help increase blood circulation due to their 'micro-massage' capabilities. They also help lighten small scars and smoothen skin, allowing easier absorption of moisture. And the ticklish sensation that caused perpetual laughter help release stress and tension.

Our 30mins was over too soon but it was an experience filled with squeals of laughter and controlled giggles not just for John and I, but also amongst others who shared the same tank with us.
The verdict? We could see that our feet instantly feel squeaky clean, smoother and lighter. Hey, for RM38 this is certainly a new kind of skin-renewal therapy with definite results!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Before we complain...

I read this from CPWaterman's and was so touched by it that I thought I would like share it here as well:

There was a blind girl who hated herself because she was blind. She hated everyone, except her loving boyfriend. He was always there for her. She told her boyfriend, 'If I could only see the world, I would marry you.' One day, someone donated a pair of eyes to her. When the bandages came off, she was able to see everything, including her boyfriend.He asked her, 'Now that you can see the world, will you marry me?' The girl looked at her boyfriend and saw that he was blind. The sight of his closed eyelids shocked her. She hadn't expected that. The thought of looking at them the rest of her life led her to refuse to marry him. Her boyfriend left her.

In tears and days later he had a note written to her saying: 'Take good care of your eyes, my dear, for before they were yours, they were mine.'

This is how the human brain often works when our status changes. Only a very few remember what life was like before, and who was always by their side in the most painful situations.

***************

Before you say an unkind word -

Think of someone who can't speak.

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Before you complain about the taste of your food -

Think of someone who has nothing to eat.

***************

Before you complain about your husband or wife -

Think of someone who's crying out to GOD for a companion.

***************

Today before you complain about life -

Think of someone who died too soon.

***************

Before you complain about your children -

Think of someone who desires children but they're barren.

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Before you argue about your dirty house someone didn't clean or sweep - Think of the people who are living in the streets.

***************

Before whining about the distance you drive -

Think of someone who walks the same distance with their feet.

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And when you are tired and complain about your job -

Think of the unemployed, the disabled, and those who wish they had your job.

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Before you think of pointing the finger or condemning another -

Remember that not one of us is without sin and we all answer to one MAKER.

***************

And when depressing thoughts seem to get you down -

Put a smile on your face and thank GOD you're alive and still around.

***************

The happiest people don't necessarily have the best of everything;

They just make the best of everything they have!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Silence is rest - Rest is silence

This morning, I lay pinned to the bed listening to the rhythm of the heavy rain outside. I peered at the clock - 4.10am. In a little over 2 hours, I was supposed to meet my running mates at Bukit Aman for our usual Sunday morning run. What prospect could be more edifying?
Realistically, I knew we'll probably gonna miss the run as the downpour looked like it's never gonna stop...and this notion always filled me with guilt and self-loathing. Don't ask me why.
But perhaps, nature itself is trying to tell me that I need to rest. Yes, tell me about it..I have been resting for the last couple of days. I had been bitten by the flu bug that left me sneezing non-stop every morning without fail for 2 weeks! Antihistamines made me drowsy, swollen eyes and ultimately did not seem to work anymore. I resorted to herbs and after the first dosage, I lost my voice! Ha. It was then I realized that silence is rest - rest is silence. My cell-phone was put into silent mode too as I was not able to answer calls. Knowing that I was speechless, my naughty husband took every opportunity to tease me but it made me happy! Happy because I suddenly felt like a child again; I couldn't talk - I don't need to talk - I just watched and observed.
I continued with the chinese herbs, got better and regained my voice after 2 days. I stop sneezing in the mornings but I began sneezing in the evenings now. My God! My body system and immunity have gone so low (just as stated by my physician). Even a brief trip to Pasar Malam last night left me with another round of running nose, watery eyes and itchy ears...what else? sigh!
Bad weather matters little to me but would I dare to go out and drench myself in the rain today? Later, Gary texted me suggesting that I go back to bed as the rain ain't gonna stop. I did for awhile, then being awakened by Francis who has cancelled his trekking trip to Gunung Nuang. As his wife is away in Singapore, John and I invited him to join us for breakfast.
The rest of the day was rather uneventful as John is also suffering from a slight fracture on his rib. We cried over a meaningful Korean movie at home in the afternoon.
We rested.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hardwork and hardwares for the month...

One of the great things about running as a sport is we get medals. Most of us. Every competition from that biggie KL International Marathon to a simple 5k World Asthma Run.
I know of some runners who gave theirs away, some stashed them in boxes together with bib numbers and race T-Shirts, while others hang them in showcases. A few wore them to shopping the very day or the next day (I could only witnessed that in Hawaii after the Honolulu Marathon)!
I kept mine where I can see them all the time because I like to remember what or how I did in last 24hour Walk or what fun I had running the World Disney Marathon in Florida. Yes, it took me back all the time to where I've been and motivates me.
Today, our medals are mostly mass-produced and some of them look as generic as some Mc.Donald's tokens. Below are the better designed hardwares from my hard work this month...

I guess to a runner, the quality of that piece of metal doesn't diminish their value. To me, every medal tells a story, even if I'm the only one who hear them...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

RMAF : Running in Memory and Absolute compassion For...

The air is really getting bad these days...
Given a hypersentitive body - it can detect the air, atmosphere, drugs and even food!! I haven't been well for the last couple of days. Running nose, watery eyes, itchy throat are all signalling to me the eruption of an allergy or flu anytime. The condition worsened yesterday with a headache and a cold.

Since RMAF (Royal Malaysian Air Force) run is one race which I had been looking forward to, I decided to race anyway. I last ran this race in 1996. Today after 12 years, they made a comeback. I had enjoyed this event especially at the starting where runners had a chance to run the 2km runway. Fireworks display, a decent race course, adequate water stations add up to making this event commendable.

Medals and cash awards aside, I believe that as I "moved on to maturity" - my priorities are different...I'd like to look for having a reason, a cause or a purpose to race. This, I guess will add meaning to an otherwise mundane competition. Therefore, as I stood there at the starting line this morning, I was not filled with anxiety, but with a purpose and that purpose was : I'm gonna Run in Memory n Absolute compassion For...victims whose lives and families that have perished in the recent disasters in Myanmar and Sichuan, China. Instead of focusing on the prize $$ that awaits me or lament about being unwell, I decided to spend the entire 21km remembering the less fortunate.

Sometimes unfortunate things happen beyond our control. Some pastors said it's the evil one working to destroy God's people, while feng shui masters said it's ancestral sin! I subscribed to believe that some things happen to build character and teach us important lessons. But 2 natural disasters in a month overwhelm, not only for the victims whose home were wrecked, but the hearts of bystanders like me. First, it was political injustice, then famine which resulted in skyrocketing prices. Global warming and now cyclones and earthquakes. "Just how much can one do to support?" Monetary support only play a small part. Kungfu superstar Jackie Chan suggested, "just by not spending lavishly - by being conscious about the food that we consume - by spending a little time in solitude each day dedicated to the victims; we are in a way showing our support to them."

As I made up my mind to focus my running for a higher purpose than self, I realized that my body was not as wrecked as it should to be (the fact that I was really unwell). In fact, when some runners were dropping off at the KL/Seremban Highway stretch, I increased my pace and moved forward. Today, I crossed the finishing line with a time of 1hr 48mins - completely exhausted, but with a sense of reverence and satisfaction in believing that I've achieved my goal of Running in Memory and Absolute compassion For the people I don't even know!

But this race has brought me closer to my concept of becoming an athlete and a whole sportsperson - one who is feeling and connected to others. Unfortunately, postrace ceremonies do not include any awards for achieving your own personal purpose for running or becoming the person you've always wanted to be.

To my surprise, I still managed to maintain my top ten standing and won a cash award and it will certainly benefit a charitable organization.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The forgotten lesson

The book and the movie...
Fresh from viewing the movie The Chronicles of Narnia : Prince Caspian, I would like to share some of my own thoughts and lessons learned from this movie...
I recalled having enjoyed reading CS Lewis series on The Chronicles Of Narnia in my teens - and all the seven of them; from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe right to The Last Battle! Watching the movie brought to mind some spiritual lessons and deeper truths which I had learnt behind each of his books. And the one who taught me to look for these deeper meanings was none other than my dear old teacher - Ms. Moey. By now, the lessons are long forgotten and have completely diminished with time. What lessons?
In the begining...
In Prince Caspian, the Pevensie children felt out of touch with London and found it boring and difficult to adapt after their adventures in Narnia, where they were Kings and Queens. But before they knew it, they were magically transported to Narnia! But Narnia looks nothing like the way they left it. They came back expecting to relive it but Narnia has changed and they were forced to accept it.
Of letting go...
The children has grown too, therefore the transition from childhood and adulthood, they soon realized that there are things they need to let go of. Back in Narnia, they were still hanging on to their past experiences which in the end, they learned to let them go (esp. Susan, who was in love with the Prince then). This is what I learnt from this movie : the theme of letting go of past experiences and moving on.
Of having faith...
The story is also about faith. Aslan (being the God symbol) had disappeared for ages and everyone was losing faith after not having seen Aslan for a thousand years and then regaining that faith again when Aslan appears. In the movie, it was Lucy who saw Aslan - the rest did not. It was because she believed Aslan was there. And eventually, she found him! Likewise, it kinda reminds us that God is always there...somewhere or everywhere. Those who believe (have faith)in Him will see Him. Those who seek Him will find Him.
The question?
Now I question myself as I often do..."Just how much faith do I have? Do I have that faith strong enough to let go and let God?" Indeed, I have strived to learn much but accomplished little.

Monday, May 19, 2008

New Balance Pacesetters 15k Run

I had been a volunteer for this event for the past 3 years. I intend to compete this year, I don't know why.
When Adam heard of my comeback, he volunteered to pace with me without any hesitation. In fact, he ran alongside with me twice in the previous New Balance 15km Race few years ago (both on different routes). I was fit and fabulous then (ahem!)! I wasn't sure about myself that instant but I knew more than anything else, I just wanted to perform well.
The refreshing thing about this NB15k is that the race course gets changed slightly every 2 years (I think)...so, one gets to experience running a new route and not get bored with the same old boring race routes like in most competitions. Aha! This year the race promises to be challenging, period. Anyway, any race organized by Pacesetters has always been tough and never easy.
The minute Adam saw me in the morning, he vowed he would run with me but I guessed he must be in such top form that when the race began, he zoomed off. That mattered little to me. I was destined to run alone and at my own pace. At halfway, my pace was just right and comfortable, I felt confident as my legs were carrying me smoothly. Many runners were already ahead of me but that mattered little to me. What matter was I was moving at ease, breathing well and not struggling. And before I realized it, I had caught up with KK Oon before the double hills...I'd wanted to run with him but when he signaled to me that he was struggling - I moved ahead to tackle the hills.
When approaching the double hills, I anticipated many runners would slow down and I was right. I caught sight of Carmen, Siok Bee and Marianne at a distant and ran with absolute abandon to overtake them all. The challenging part of this race is that you arrived at a hill only to find the start of another hill in front..ha! ha! (Isn't that part of life? You achieved your target this month but there's always the next month's goal waiting there for you to work on and it's like never-ending!) After attacking the hills and passing my fellow runners, I smiled to myself...pleased.
Next, I finally saw Lee Woon Khau and my pal who was supposed to pace with me - Adam close by. I chased and passed them at Wisma Tani water station. Just as I expected it, Adam caught up with me not long after that and this time, he paced and ran alongside with me all the way. We increased our pace and managed to overtake many runners along the way. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to catch up with Ultra-marathoner Ngae who was just about 100 metres ahead of me. Overall, I ran a good race, pleased with my timimg of 1hr 17mins and secured 9th position in the Women's Veteran Category.
When I went to search for John, my instinct told me that he performed well too...he was busy savouring slices of juicy watermelon to even notice his wife!! The rest of the morning was spent in sharing the race experiences. Everyone agreed that it was nothing but tough. As usual, we compared results and performances based on our timing. To me, the rewards of racing can't be measured by a stopwatch alone. My physical efforts should not result in trophies or medals but in lessons learnt, friendships gained and another memorable moment to cherish.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Weekend Feats

Saturday
I was caught up with so many things running at the same time and at different places last week...Mother's Day promotions, juggling my time between 3 Brands and not to leave out the endless staff problems etc.etc.
My decision to participate in the Larian Bomba was very last minute as I was feeling a bit blue and fed-up with myself. I thought I needed a competition (any competiton)just to give me that little perk! John registered me in the Women's Open 10k as he felt it's been once-upon-a-time since I competed in a 10k race. I agreed. Ever since I got upgraded to the Veteran Category, I hardly ran that 10k Jalan Duta route for ages! There were 5 Kenyan ladies in the Women's Open Category, therefore it was very obvious that they will dominate the top 5 positions and indeed they did. I was placed 8th position and I was pleased with that.
But I must not deny that I was struggling to keep up during my first 2 or 3km. Everyone else I that know had all surged ahead of me right from the beginning. Although I always prefer to start slow and later, stalk those who went out too fast - I was feeling miserable for lacking that 'pick-up' pace. In other words, I lack speed! However, soon after 3km I was relieved that I finally regained my rhythm...I managed to sneak on some ladies when they began to look over their shoulders. Ha! Ha! I felt like a wolf, and they were my preys and when I passed them, I pretended not be tired and never looked back (naughty! naughty!). Yeah, I arrived at Dataran Merdeka feeling energised and good. Good in knowing that I am still competition-fit for a 10k race again!
I won some cash prizes too! John and I headed for breakfast immediately after the prize presentation - went home for a quick shower - rushed to work - then, attended a wedding dinner that night.

Sunday
As expected, there were not many Pacesetters at the Bukit Aman carpark that Sunday. A group of them went for the Asthma Run at Padang Merbok, while another group (my John included) went to do the Triathlon Relay at A'Farmosa. Initiated by Tony, about 75 Pacesetters gathered at Putrajaya since midnight to train and get themselves equipped for the Sundown Marathon that will take place in Singapore end of this month.
However, I was fortunate I still had my running buddies who agreed to run Hartamas with me. That morning, my feet were extremely heavy due to that 10k race the day before. Well, I guessed as one aged - the recovery rate tends to slow down - at least for me. Anyway, we were running at such a snail-pace that even Siew Cheng overtook us! After crossing the Duta road, I decided to move ahead irregardless and abandoned my buddies. Upon reaching the Petronas station, there was still no sight of anyone at all - so, I ran all the way back to Bukit Aman alone.
I realized that at times, it's good to run alone. The solitude appealed to me. I cleared my head, renewed my soul, pushed on down the road and embraced the quiet, out-of-breath feeling of exhilaration when I'm done!
Elsewhere at the A'Farmosa Triathlon, John and his team (comprising Dr. Raymond and a lady named Yit Thing) emerged 2nd Runner-Up in the mixed relay.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Mad Rush

The whole of last week could only be described with one word : Rush! Yes, I have been rushing...Rushing for my Che Che stocks to come in. Rushing to fulfil April's target. Rushing to Bidor, run and rush back on the same day.
I was thankful for Labour Day cos' I was able to squeeze in sometime that morning for a double hill run. But soon after that, we need to rush to Temerloh Hospital to visit my sister-in-law who's been admitted for acute pneumonia (so said the doctor). Then rush home the same day.
Yesterday, I was supposed to run the New Balance 15k route with my buddies : Gary, Ho, Wah Chai and their friends but as I was not paying much attention to the route direction, I took them to a shorter distance instead and got lectured by John. We had our usual long table breakfast at Tung Shin to chat and catch up. Then rushed home again to finish up some household chores before my next appointment for acupuncture.
Then more crazy rushes..
Rushed to EYS for acupuncture..
Rushed to visit my mom and my sister June..
Rushed to a Secret Recipe to get a cake for Ray Broughton's birthday..
Rushed to Teresa's mansion at Bukit Jelutong for a mini pacesetters do..

However, I had a ball of a time at Teresa's place. She has always been a good host. Good food and fine wine aside, there were so much merriment, laughter and happy chi circulating amongst us. We also celebrated Ray Broughton's (who is back for a short break from NZ) birthday but then decided to celebrate all the May birthdays since we had an extra cake from Young Ooi. Then we were happy to have that witty Richard Tan to entertain and amuse us with his creative jokes and I laughed unitl my jaw almost drop!
Both John and I were extremely weary, sleepy and drained as we had such a long day, almost everyday. As we were on our way home, I reflected and realized that despite all that rush, I was most relaxed that evening because I had laughed much. I then recalled a quote from George Gordon which said, "Always laugh when you can; it is a cheap medicine. Merriment is a philosophy not well understood. It is the sunny side of existence."
The habit of being happy enables one to be freed.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Bidor Half Marathon ...and more.

There were 3 races that took place at the same time last Sunday : Power Run at Dataran Merdeka, New Balance / Klang Half Marathon in Klang and The Bidor Half Marathon. John and I chose Bidor as it has been sometime since we visited that town and this race is associated to nature. Bidor Half Marathon was timely because we were getting weary of running in the city.

Bonding
We started our journey at 4.30am. So far, my husband's estimation of time has always been accurate - we reached Bidor at 6am sharp. Upon arrival, we were surprised to meet some 'kwai lohs' eg. Robert and Neil there. The response for the race was fairly good. Gary, Francis and friends were there the night before...for social bonding and some big feasts. He proudly showed off his protuding tummy to everyone!! The result of over-indulgence from the recent Full Moon Relay Run in Thailand and now, Bidor. Apparently, the whole gang ran only 10k and they were looking forward for a sumptuous 'Fatt Tew Cheong' (Buddha jump over the wall) lunch at Tanjung Malim that afternoon! Yes, we were there for the fun, food and friendship - weren't we?

Global Food Crisis
I gently reminded them of the Global Food Crisis...exactly what we (Gerard and I) briefly discussed over buffet at Eric Teo's last night. 'Act Now, Eat Later' Despite countless warnings in recent years about the need to address a looming energy crisis in poor countries and a looming energy crisis worldwide, world leaders failed to think ahead. The result is a global food crisis. Read more from Time mag. May 5th issue. If you are interested to make a donation and support the United Nation World Food Programme, please go to www.wfp.org
Surely, we all need to be mindful of this.

The Race
Runners were given a colorful Adidas wristband to wear upon reporting. I got mine which wrote "BELIEVE IN MIRACLES". Is Someone trying to tell me something? How come I was the only one (I think) who receive it (amongst so many of my fellow runners)? Anyway, I like this.
The race started at 7am. As usual, I took my time to warm up and ran at an easy pace until two young runners Kim and Jessica (who call me Aunty Wai Mun) came, and suggested that we run together. While I welcomed this idea, I alerted them that I was there to enjoy the beauty of nature and therefore, will not push myself crazy. They were okay and we were talking most of the time, at least for the first 12km where Jessica broke away from me to attack the hills. Kim actually left us earlier at the 5km mark.
The race course took us through some palm estates, lakes, a park, rubber estates and kampung (squatter) area which reminded me of my childhood days with my nanny and her family. The ambience was rather quiet so that I could clearly hear the cock crew and birds chirping merrily in the air. Although the hills weren't tough, there were many to tackle and it felt like a roller-coaster ride!
Soon the marker said 1km to go and I gave myself a final push to pass more than one runner to reach the finishing line. Jessica was 1st and I was third. John ran an impressive time of 1hr39m and earned 4th placing in the Men Veteran category.
Overall, we enjoyed the run as it was well-managed and runner-friendly. Unlike some more serious races, I noticed a gathering of friendly runners here because mainly they were here not to fight for the prize but for friendship, fun and of course, good food. Yes, social bonding, that is.
No need the ridiculous coupon system, no need to queue up for food and drinks..there were food and drinks aplenty for everyone. The medal and trophy designs look good - one that I would proudly want to show it off and not chuck aside after the race. Thanks and tumbs up to the organizers of Bidor Half Marathon for a simple yet well-organized event.

Food, Glorious Food..
The prize giving ceremony took awhile with lucky draws in between. After that, all the Pacesetters went separate ways for their favourite and well-deserved meals. We met a group eating at Pun Chun Restaurant, a few groups gathered at Mee Wah for wantan mee, Mr Lee and the Ho brothers went to Sungkai for fish and of course, Gary and gang headed to Tanjung Malim for their 'Fatt Tew Cheong'. Apparently, Wan Yew Leong and friends went to eat their 'Choo Sau'(Pig's arm) at god knows where? Oh well, for the sake of food...people just travel anywhere in the name of Food! Eat, drink and be merry but again, let's not forget the hungry. Let's be responsible and aware of the World Food Crisis.