Friday, October 31, 2008

Futuring Work in Finland

Meetings in Helsinki were helpfully arranged by Leena Imola, a partner at Fountain Park. She had an on-going project with us in Singapore and helped to set up various meetings within the Finn futuring community - public administration and academics. It was unfortunate that we did not manage to secure meetings with the private companies - many were too coy and humble about their futuring/ foresights efforts. I met with SITRA, TEKES, TEM (Finnish Ministry of Employment and Economy (equivalent of my unit)), Finland Futures Research Centre, and a senior advisor to the Parliamentary Committee for the Future, and some research work done by Fountain Park.

In essence, Finland has a well-entrenched and structure futuring model. It was started by a few champions, who introduced the concept to the government, which was later endorsed into a permanent structure within the Finn Parliamentary system. Their public administration has many trained and qualified futurists, examining and churning out reports on various aspects of society, as directed by the government. Finland also has a growing community of private sector futuring companies/ consultants, and company-based activities supported by various industry associations. The academia and volumes of research work bridges the two sectors, and there is a thriving network of foresights practitioners interacting with one another.

Much of the Finn foresights work focuses on innovation, science and technology. As Leena observed, the Finns' output was largely positive, highlighting opportunities, unlike say UK, which focuses more on risk assessments. Singapore was in some ways similar, looking ahead to the future in search of new opportunities rather than focusing on threats. However, the Finns' futuring perspective was typically more inward-looking (tackling societal issues, integration of S&T with culture, youth values etc), rather than casting a global view.

Helsinki in 3 Days

Helsinki weather was grey and gloomy. Sunshine was 8am to 4pm daily. It was really depressing when it got dark, and cold. The winds were so strong on one night that I had to fight it really hard to walk forward.

So for 3 evenings, all I could do was hit the malls after my meetings ended and it was pitch dark. Luckily most of the shops close at 9pm so there was still life and buzz after office hours (unlike Lucerne, which fell asleep after 6pm). I checked out the shops and compared prices. Things were still expensive, despite the fall in Euro. I had wanted to buy a pair of Oakley snow goggles for mountaineering use, but alas the shop assistants could not find the key to unlock the display cupboard! In the end I got a pair of much cheaper Bolle. I guess they would work as well.

Winter gear was in full display at the shops. I had to greatly resist the temptation to buy yet more winter jackets, of which I would have absolute no use for in Singapore. Zara had nice contemporary designs. Ecco leather boots were more much expensive than in Singapore. And many local and European labels were found in Helsinki.

Food was a nightmare. Cheapest was MacDonalds, seriously. Next was cold sandwich (panini or some baguette bread, with cold cut ham and cheese). Then came kebabs and Chinese takeouts, at least those were hot food. Followed by the dine-in restaurants of course. Finn cuisine was a LOT of smoked everything..... fish was the hot favourite. Due to the cold winters, where things could be kept fresh for a long time, there was little need to use spices to season the food and musk any dour tastes. Rather, put salt or smoke them and they would keep fine.

Thankfully on the last day, the weather cleared up and there was some sunlight. It was nice to feel the warm rays on my face, while the wind blew up a substantial wind chill. Leena took me for a stroll by the coastal marina - I think I had been there before. Well, on my 1st visit to Helsinki, I pretty much walked 20km around the entire city. After she left me for the day, I continued my exploration to familiar sights. I was pleased that I still knew my way around the city. A new place I went to during this trip was a cemetery park by the sea. It was a tranquil place, befitting of an ancestral resting grounds. Today was All Saints' Day - a day to remember ancestors. So all the shops were closed, and there were many observances at various cathedrals. Tombstones were dutifully cleaned, and candles lit. Reluctantly, I ended my stroll in Helsinki. There were still so many lakes and parks to absorb, but it was time to go home.....

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Over to Helsinki

Sylvia made me breakfast. Sunny-side up eggs! How lovely. Everything was either home-made (organic) or fresh from the farms. The eggs had such nice cheerful runny yellow yolks. The jam was made by Sylvia using her own garden harvest. The butter was made directly in the farm using very fresh ingredients. Drool!

I rushed to the train station thereafter to collect my luggage, and then took a train to the airport for my flight to Helsinki. After much frantic airport shopping and checking in, I made it to the plane. Whew.

The weather was wet and gloomy in Helsinki. I guessed I would not have any chance to jog around the lake on this trip. Sunlight was from 8am - 4pm and it soon turned pitch dark.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Back in Zurich

I took a train to Zurich after the conference ended. Unfortunately, Sylvia's heating system in the house had broken down - no heated rooms and no hot water shower, and she was apologetic that the place would be cold. Everything that ensued was unplanned. She asked Bob to pick me from the train station. Then Bob took me to the public lockers to deposit my luggage (instead of dragging them around half the town), and we went grocery shopping. He was having a surgery tomorrow and had to buy meals for the next few days. We then took a bus to meet his friends - David and Litas - whom we were having dinner with. They lived in a very very old, conserved apartment building that was built in the 14th century. Even the wooden beams that ran across the ceiling were preserved and very old. The apartment was in the Old Town part of Zurich and very conveniently located to many shops. However, it did not have any lifts. David lived on the highest floor (4th?), so imagine having to lug all the suitcases up and down tiny wooden steps every time they made a trip, which was very very often.

We met Sylvia for dinner at a nice restaurant. All of them knew each other, and belonged to different parts of the funds and banking industry. I sensed a lot of old rich money, and a lifestyle that I merely read about, but was not privy too. Yet they were very humble and down-to-earth people, despite having much wealth and sophisticated tastes for the good life. That night, I left my luggage at the train station (having to return anyway the next morning). I slept on a lamb's wool base padding, put on one of Sylvia's old cashmere sweater, and covered myself with two thick duvets. And I snoozed like a log in the warmth while it rained outside.....

European Futurist Conference (27-28 Oct 2008)

I spent the last 2 days at the European Futurist Conference in Lucerne, which was the main purpose of my trip. The conference was a good platform to network with interesting futurists from the universities, public adminstration and private companies. Most of them were from Europe, with a handful of us from Asia.

Day 1 of the conference was rather mundane, the only spark being a presentation on The Illicit (Deviant) Economy by Nils Gilman from Monitor Group. The BRIC presentations in the morning, IMHO, were rather superficial and merely sketched an overview of the economies. Perhaps it was because we in Singapore were very familiar with China, India, and to a smaller extent, Brazil and Russia. The sessions could have been better called BRIC 101 instead of offering any keen analytical insights. However, many co-attendees found the BRIC sessions very interesting.

Day 2 was much better. We started with a session on Europe consumers 2030 and their perceptions on values, products, income, education, security and so forth. The survey results were tracked by European countries. I got the sense that whilst Europeans were aware (and acknowledged) the fast growth of developing countriest, the competitive threat was less imminent than what we feel in Singapore (being in the hotspot of Chinese and Indian growth). There was a certain 'yes I know China products are everywhere, but I'm not overly concerned about the rise of Chinese economy'. This confidence (or misplaced nonchalance?) was also felt strongly when I chatted with some Swiss bankers. They were very certain that there was no way China or India would overtake Europe (Switzerland) for many years to come. Those economies, in their view, had a lot more to learn and catch up in terms of quality of growth and products and services, before surpassing Europe.

Day 2 also saw some practical sharing of foresights work in established companies. Of particular mention was the presentation by Bayers Materials AG, and how it continuously used foresights research to innovate new products. Google shared on its innovation culture (the 20% free development time, hard-nosed evaluation by numbers, peer-based reviews). Those steps were well-documented in HBR articles, so nothing new there. What was interesting, though, was that Google managed to re-create the same innovation culture in Switzerland/ Europe, as that in Mountain View, USA.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lucerne Marathon (26 Oct 2008)

2nd LUCERNE MARATHON (26 Oct 2008)
Lucerne, Switzerland (

(For pdf version with pictures,

It is not often that one gets to write about being last. The Lucerne Marathon was all plans gone wrong, but what an incredible turn of events and experience it became.


I registered for the marathon a couple of months ago, hoping to do a good timing. All the enabling conditions were present - great weather, relatively flat and scenic route, fantastic supporters and well-organized event. Except for an unexpected factor – an injured runner who had laid off for 1½ months.

I showed up in Lucerne on the eve of the marathon. Race number collection at the Schweizerhof Hotel (one of the most expensive) was a breeze. There were sponsor booths selling race gear, as well as a free pasta meal for all participants. I bought myself a nicely designed long-sleeved black race shirt. Over 7,000 people registered for the run this year, compared to 5,800 in its inaugural event last year. All the race information was in German and I could hardly figure out the instructions. It took me a while to realize that the start point was not at the hotel, and I had to take a free shuttle cruise from the main railway station across Lake Luzern.


Race starts at 9:00am (9:06 for those over 4hrs). I got up at 7:00am for a hearty breakfast at the hotel. There were a number of sporty-looking guests in the dining hall, presumably going for the marathon as well. I tried to gauge the weather and spy what they were wearing. It was clear skies today, a respite from the foggy wet weather in the past days.

A quick stroll to the railway station and I boarded the cruise with many runners. A few wore short tights, but the majority was in long tights with a light wind breaker. I was wearing a most un-photogenic combination of double tops and bottoms – a bright pink Nike long-sleeved top over another, and a navy blue Nike Capri tights over black 2XU longs.

The cruise reached the opposite shore at the starting area near the Museum of Transport (Verkehrshaus). I was almost late, and still had to find the bag deposit tent. After wasting 10 precious minutes and a futile search, I desperately approached some race officials. It was 2min to race time, and Swiss punctuality was renowned. I was all ready to simply dump my bag somewhere and head off. Seeing my angst, one of the officials found me some public lockers at a nearby theatre, and even paid the CHF2 locker fee for me! Merci! I joined the start line, surrounded by race tags that looked like the half-marathoners. There were only a handful of full-marathoners around, so I guessed the main pack had already been flagged off. The clock stated 9min as I crossed the starting mats.

What a carnival it was! Lucerne was a small touristy town. The marathon closed off roads in the main section of the town centre and everything came to a standstill that morning. Crowds lined the streets and supporters made a party out of the event. Everywhere we ran, there were many people cheering “Hoppe-hoppe” or “Super”. The marathon route was a 2x 21km loop that took us around the bank of Lake Luzern, major landmarks, and into the scenic neighbourhoods of St. Niklausen, Kastanienbaum, and Horw. The average Luzern altitude was 400-500m asl, and the course was relatively flat except for 2-3 sections that had rather steep and long rolling hills.

Twenty-one musical bands lined the route (almost every kilometer) and added to the festive cheer. The bands ranged from formal ensemble decked in traditional garb, or traditional instruments, to recreational groups that jammed together for a fun time. I ran with a bottle of Endurance drink and power gels in one hand, and my camera in the other. I was constantly distracted by the bands and scenery, pausing ever so often for quick snaps. I must have taken about 2-3 shots per kilometre!

There were 3 race categories – Marathon (full), Halbmarathon (half), and Schnupperlauf (13km). The cut-off times were 2:45h (21km mark), and 5:30h (42km). I had eased off running for many weeks following a knee injury, and the longest I did was 2h a week before the race. And I paid the price today with unconditioned legs. The first 5km was a breeze, high from the excitement and relatively fresh legs. But the Swiss and Europeans were strong runners. Even old ladies trotted along steadily and faster. Many people ran in organized teams and clubs. I spotted a group of T-shirts that read “Desperate Housewives. For Charity”! I ran ahead of the 4:30h pacers (they were called “pacemakers” and carried a bunch of blue balloons), and chugged up the unexpected slopes. But by 10km, the balloons were in front of me and I felt tired already. We crossed the finishing mats for the Schnupperlauf, and I eyed them with envy. By 15km, I was low on sugar and my nose was constantly running ahead of me. Perhaps it was the cold, coupled with my unconditioned state, I was perpetually hungry. Power gels did not help. Thankfully the aid stations were well-organized and stocked with water, Endurance drinks, bananas and cut-up pieces of Powerbar.

As I neared 18km, the 3h-ish marathoners were already coming in the opposite direction on their second loop. Running into the u-turn zone, the men’s podium winners came up behind me in around 2:30h. I u-turned with an English girl who instantly identified my Singaporean accent (having studied in Singapore before) and we ran together for a while. The women’s champion returned around 3:00h as we headed a distance into our 2nd loop. We were amongst the last few in the full marathon, and the streets were quieter now. However, kudos to the encouraging supporters in the 25 – 35km zone, who were clearly enjoying their parties in the nice sunshine. Each time a runner ran by, they would start smiling broadly and shout Hoppe-hoppe in earnest. Mothers pushing prams would stop and cheer, little girls perched on their daddies’ shoulders joined in the shouting, old couples flashed genuine smiles and clapped along. Most of the bands were resting, but as each of us approached, they would drum up a few notes to keep the cheer going. The festive mood was awesome. Each time I pointed my camera at them, the supporters would be momentarily surprised before posing gamely.

Despite the cheering, it was a painful run for me, both physically and mentally. Hungry, cold and miserable. My legs were aching and almost 30km. I stopped many times to walk. Suddenly at 33km, I spied a convoy of bicycles riding slowly behind me. I thought they were cleaning the streets of discarded cups. Then it dawned on me that they deliberately stayed back and were escorting me! Unlike the podium finishers who each had one cyclist with a flag stating their rankings (1, 2, or 3), I had a group of 6-7 bicycles merrily chatting away behind me, and an ambulance. It was utterly hilarious! I was very tickled and started taking photos. One of the cyclists took my camera, rode ahead and snapped pictures of me on the run. Then another held on to my camera and promised to take my finishing shots, urging me to keep going in the last 3-5 km. It was pressurizing though, to have so many people staring at my back.

Being last (or nearly last) had its privileges. As I alternated the “last” spot with another guy, the bicycles faithfully kept their distance behind the last runner. The finishing line seemed forever and so far away. At 38km, they fed my bib number to the main control, and I kept hearing my name over the public speakers. I did not understand the announcements, except these words – my mispronounced name in the wrong sequence, Singapore, and Welcome to Lucerne. As I neared the finishing mats, a guy with the finisher medal grabbed my hand and ran with me across the line with raised arms. I think I was the last or 2nd last to make it under the cut-off time. The (rather cute) guy introduced himself as the Vice-President of the marathon organizers, and had me shake hands with the President as well.

I posed for a shot on the finishing bridge, kissing my hard-earned medal. The Lucerne Marathon was a race that eventually ended well, for all the wrong reasons. Now, pardon me while I hobble around on a bad knee for the next few days.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


I took a morning train from Sylvia’s place at Tiefurbunnen to Zurich HB and then Lucerne. I was totally charmed by Swiss hospitality. I had asked for directions from a lady waiting at the train platform. We took the same train to Zurich HB and started chatting. She lived in the Philippines for 5 years and liked Asia. She was on her way for a day hike in Bern. With 30min to spare, she kindly brought me to the correct platform for Lucerne, before continuing with her journey! I was so thoroughly touched, a stranger’s gesture that was timely and unassuming.

I was meeting Qi at the train station and going to Mt Pilatus with her. She was a friend of Sylvia, and had recently worked in Singapore for a year. She was with UBS and poised to head the Shanghai office, until the financial crisis struck. We found our way to my hotel, left my luggages, and headed out.

First, we went to Hotel Schweizerhof for my marathon race pack collection. I bought a black dri-fit long-sleeved souvenir tee. Then we took a bus to Mt Pilatus cable station, bought a very expensive ticket (CHF64) for a cable ride all the way up the mountain. It was very foggy today, and many locals commented that we would not be able to see anything. Nonetheless we took a risk and hopped on. Mid-way up the mountain, the cable car was totally ensconced in thick fog and we could only see white fluff. It was rather surreal, like in heaven. As luck would be, the fog cleared up as we went higher, and we were greeted by brilliant sunshine. The panaromic view was awesome. We took a few scenic short hikes to nearby peaks and soaked in the sun and views.

I left before Qi, who wanted to stay on and enjoy the sunshine. I found my way back to Hotel Schweizerhopf, in time for the free marathon pasta. I was famished! Then I wandered around the Old Town of Lucerne, wooden bridge, and took many photos along the way. I managed to figure out my way back to my hotel. I still felt hungry and wanted to go to the hotel reception to buy an ice-cream. By chance, I bumped into a guy at the lift lobby. He was a student staying long-term at hotel. His girlfriend was visiting and they cooked a huge tray of beef lasagne. He generously invited me to join them. What a perfect timing for the delicious offer! So there, my second encounter of Swiss hospitality!

I returned to my room and prepared my gear for the race the next day. It was officially the start of winter and all clocks were tuned back an hour. Happy that I gained an extra hour. The bed beckoned….

Friday, October 24, 2008


My flight to Zurich was relatively empty and many of us could afford a 3-seat lie down and a decent sleep. I arrived at Zurich airport, and before the passengers even got off, I heard an announcement paging for my name. Turned out that Sylvia had left a message for me with the SQ ground staff. Swiss efficiency! I was very impressed.

I took a train to Sylvia's place and she picked me from the Tiefurbrunnen station. Her house was a villa in the very exclusive and expensive part of Zurich called "Gold Coast", overlooking the Zurich lake. Nothing but the very best for her consumption and residence. It was a lovely place, so tranquil and comfortable. According to Sylvia, the villa had 13 rooms (but I did not see so many). Philippe had connected me with Sylvia who very generously put me up at her place, and arranged a day's programme for me! Her friend Yvette showed me around the entire Zurich, on public transport.

The transportation system in Switzerland is really world-class: precise, efficient and clean. Trains, buses and trams arrive and depart on the dot. 9:02 means 9:02, not a minute ahead or late. Well, if it was not on time, it was probably only 1 min off!

Enroute, we stopped at Helen's boutique. Helen had just returned from a purchasing trip in Milan. I posed for a shot in one of the new season's lilac sporty jacket with shiny ‘scales’ outside the shop. Apparently a customer drove by, saw us, and drove back to buy the jacket!

At night, Sylvia cooked and had a cosy little dinner party at her house - Yvette, Helen, Bob. Both Bob and Sylvia had businesses in Singapore, and they were ardent supporters of our country. They each spent considerable time in a year living in Singapore. Bob said the humidity and weather was good for his old bones. J Sylvia whipped up a pot of lovely fresh-water mussels simmered in an alcohol-based stew. Very very fresh and good. There was no shell or fishy smell at all. Considering that I never ate shell-fish in Singapore, I polished off a decent serving. Sylvia had a garden and grew her own herbs and fruits. She made an aromatic pilaf, with veal stewed in ‘quinces’ – a fruit that looked like a small pear and was supposedly very good for health. The freshness and organic taste of the food was evident. I had a good rest that night. Sylvia apologized that the room was not luxurious, but it was already very comfortable for me.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Last Spin

My last RPM Challenge class before I fly off tomorrow. In a bit of a frenzy and panicky state as I had not packed, nor gotten all my things ready! Breathe breathe.

Rodney audited KL's class today. Then there was a foreign trainee guy on stage shadowing KL, and kept being teased by KL for looking like Batman (George Clooney) or James Bond. Me, my mind was wandering off, mentally ticking off a checklist of things to do and buy. Last minute my winter coat went missing. Turned the house upside down for 2 days, and nil coat. :( Had to frantically go out and shop for one within a day.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Yellowfish Swim Class #4

I went for swim class tonight as I would be flying off on Friday. Monday's Lane 1 swimmers were faster than our Friday's. Coach made us do the following:

Warm up drills
6x50 FR, BR
kick 4x50
pull 6x50 fist
finger swim 2x50
back scull

3x200 Ez
4x50 moderate
4x50 Hard

Treading water 5min

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Happily Misguided Run

Did not manage to wake up for Safra run. So I went for a long run in the evening at ECP instead. Well, attempted long run for as far as my knee could go. I had no target, it was like a blank cheque. I managed to go from B1 to Changi Coastal Road and part of the PCN. It was quiet at ECP after the rain. I was happy that I could run for such a long distance, my longest since the last 2 months. And I u-turned. But by then I was starting to get hungry and low on sugar. I managed to trot back to Safra resort chalets. And then walked, and walked, and walked... There was no cab in sight, not til the hawker centre. I must have walked forever..... before getting one. Oh so starving... yet happy with the run.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Run & Ride

Went to ECP early in the morning to get the Nike pacer shoes from Anthony. My plan was to test run the shoes for a short distance, and also to see if my knee was better after Philippe's physio. First thing was to clear a longer mileage, before introducing new variables like new gear.

The Nike Triax Structure had a lower ankle profile than my Asics, so the shoes felt like they were slipping off. Hmmm, will have to re-do the laces to loop it round ankles. The shoes felt slightly stiff, perhaps because it was a first run. In any case, I was distracted by my knee to really notice the shoes. I guess the shoes were ok.

Managed to run from B1 to C4 carpark and back. Saw many people along the way, Fennel, Henry (Kops), and then a group of my ex-WDA colleagues at a run clinic conducted by Eddie & KPI! They were testing the Newton shoes.

Chris cycled past me as I was nearing BigSplash. I returned to B1 in time to meet him and KC for a ride. We rode from B1 to Coastal Road (11km), looped around at Safra Ferry Terminal (8km each way) and went along the main road leading back to East Coast Service Road, the park and out to Coastal Road again. We did 2 loops that Coastal Road sequence before stopping at the hawker centre for lunch. The return trip to B1 totalled 62km ride for the day.

I went to the acupuncture clinic near my house for a tui-na. Perhaps it was the way I used the patella guard, the front of my knee hurt during the run. Sigh. The tui-na guy did a very very thorough and painful run on both legs and back. Ouch...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Treatment and Swim

Had an appointment with my 'manipulator' physio, Philippe, this morning. Such a charming European old gentleman. He was Swiss, and when he heard that I was going to Lucerne for a run next week, he was rather apologetic that he did not manage to fix me right previously. More cracks, and this time, we focused on the butt muscles, ankle and neck.

There was no swim class this week. So I went to Safra pool in the evening. My first swim in the week. Perhaps the break was refreshing, because I managed to do 40 laps decently (and felt good for more) in an auspicious timing of 59:59min. Haha.

Went for acupuncture for back and legs after my swim. Ok, sense of desperation. Tomorrow I shall try running and see how it goes.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

RPM "Elite"

Andrew took the RPM Challenge today, non-stop 10 tracks, and really smashed it. The class was loud, fast and full of energy. *Gasp* Andrew had his brand new tri-bike in the studio, right in front of me. Staring at it was enough motivation for me. A full carbon Trek, with super sleek parts. Had a chat with Andrew, who showed me his speeds for previous rides. A whopping max 76kmh and average of 43kmh, no kidding! That was almost like a vehicle! Whoa....

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

RPM Challenge

Went for KL's RPM Challenge. Gym has started a new registration system as the class is often full-house. Did not manage to get my usual bike, and had to keep adjusting the 'new' one. Ride was ok. There was a trainee instructor, and none of us could hear her over the music. Her cues were mis-timed and it was quite disastrous.... Luckily she only took 1 track, and KL did the rest.

Met KC and Dom for dinner after class. Had to pass Dom his Sabah Tea boxes. We were discussing next year's races and trips. But oh darn, can't plan for anything in advance now with my knee like that.... Sigh.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Safra Run

I joined Safra for part of their run tonight. I did a slow Club - Ridley - Tanglin Road route, it took me almost 1:22h. Knee hurt intermittenly through the run, and I stopped several times to stretch. But strangely, it felt ok, not strained, after the run, unlike previously. Hmmm, could not understand the mystery to my knee.

Over dinner, a few of us discussed if we should go for the HK marathon next year. It remains one of my favourite marathons, because the post-race R&R was fabulous. Great weather, loved the rolling slopes.

Borneo International Marathon (Post-Race)

Post-race (13 Oct 2008)

We had a full day to spare today before our return flight. TTG went for a Thai massage, highly recommended by Eliza. Alber and I drove to town to jalan-jalan. Not much of a shopping scene there. We met Fiona after our hotel check-out, and she brought us to a Chinese dessert shop for tong-shui. The barley beancurd skin was nice and thick, and an assortment of other desserts. The cake was disappointing though, I think they should just stick to their strengths in traditional tong-shui

Next we picked up Ting Kwang from the church, and he drove us a long way to a recently discovered Taiwanese restaurant famous for braised pork trotters. The owner was a fiesty, fierce lady, who refused to let us order more food lest we could not finish! When Alber asked if she sold beer since there was an alcohol license, she retorted that she did not feel like selling alcohol! Whoa....

The braised trotter was really good though. Worth the wait and scolding. Haha. It was done so soft and succulent, the meat tore off from the bone upon the touch. The cartilage around the bone joint was the loveliest. Oh, I could imagine Ah-Chua and Adam loving that stuff.

Borneo International Marathon (Race Day)

Marathon Race Day (12 Oct 2008)


The pickup for full marathon was at 3.45am for Alber, TTG and Gene. Eliza took my half marathon pickup slot for 4.45am. As for me, Fiona kindly offered to give me a ride to Likas stadium at 6.30am. The sun rose very early in KK, by 6.30am it was bright and sunny outside. I saw marathoners running past our hotel. The 10km was starting at 7am and I got to the start line just in time by 6.55am. The men's champion (Kenyan) for the full marathon ran into the stadium just as we were about to start our event, finishing in 2:25h.

The 10km was flagged off. I started at the back, unsure if I was able to run after an entire week of rest. There were many recreational joggers at the back, and I began weaving my way to the front. Legs were light and refreshed. We began the route along the scenic coast line. I spied red 'cones' on the road lane markings and wondered how come the traffic cones had such weird shapes. On closer inspection, they turned out to be big red plastic cups, overturned and filled with some sand/ cement to keep them grounded! No wonder I spotted a couple of squashed ones, ran over by cars. Haha.

Gradually I overtook many people and could see the starting group of the 10kmers. Around the 4km mark, I saw a purple Nike tee in front and made a mental note to catch up with the runner. It turned out to be TTG! Haha, she called me when I ran past her. I saw the 10kmers u-turning and tried to count if there were any female runners ahead. I spotted only 1. Ah-ha! I could try to catch up with her, which I did after the u-turn point. On the return loop, I saw Uncle Soon and waved at him.

For the last few km into the stadium, I just focused on not slowing down and not letting the other lady catch up with me. There was a tall caucasian who entered the stadium with me. We had about 200m loop to the Finish banner. I picked up pace, but could only match his rather relaxed long strides. And then there was applause. Ahh. I crossed the line, 55:12min (according to my watch, official time 55:18min). I think I won something. :) Turned out I was 2nd for the Women's Open category. The lady that I overtook belonged to the Local Closed category. I guessed since many of the good female runners were out at the half and full marathons, the 10km was less competitive. Ah-ha! My first time ever winning anything at a running event, and my first trophy! What an amusing and amazing turn of events. :)

Fiona lent us her car, and we drove to town for lunch. The stalls at the Sunday Market were packing up and closing when we reached. Alber, TTG, Gene and I popped by a coffeeshop selling ban-mian (noodles) and we ordered 4 different types of noodles to share. Then we strolled around Hyatt and the malls, and tried to find Ah-Chua and Sok Hwa at the hotel. After 1-2hours of walking, our legs were protesting, and we plonked ourselves into the nice sofas at a Hk cafe. We finally bumped into Ah-Chua and Sok Hwa at Hyatt in the late afternoon, and we made an elaborate plan to ferry 7 people in 1 car to catch sunset and seafood dinner. It was an amazing feat, a tribute to all 5 slim female runners in the back seat. Haha. We brought Ah-Chua, Sok Hwa and Eliza to the same coconut pudding stall, en-route to the beach. Alber was happy he found his drinking buddy. Apparently the guys could not find any coffeeshops selling beer in town.

The sunset at Shangri-la Rasa Ria was lovely. There was a wedding reception on the beach, and deck chairs for people to lounge around. There were some clouds in the horizon, so the sun peeked intermittenly behind the puffy cover.

After the sunset, we drove to nearby Salut Seafood for dinner. The way in was a dark and bumpy road, lit only by a few random bulb sticks to guide us into the kelong compounds. The seafood was fresh, and we selected whatever we wanted for dinner - prawns, fish, crabs, and shells. I think it was too much indulgence for me considering I only ran 10km! Of course the joy was in the raucous company, drinking and eating heartily after a good race. :)

Borneo International Marathon (Pre-race)

Pre-marathon Day (Saturday 11-Oct 2008)

The pickup at 430am and ride to Senai airport was uneventful. We arrived at the airport and saw the TPY Safra runners. There was a big group of them going to Kota Kinabalu for the run, and they had camped overnight at the airport. We saw Bev's father, Uncle Soon, and his elderly kakis too. My gosh, some of the uncles looked like they had trouble walking, but they were still bravely going for the full marathon. Wow. I slept blissfully throughout the flight, vaguely aware of some announcements of turbulence and seat belts....

It turned out that Uncle Soon and us were staying at the same hotel. We had to ask the bus to pick up Genevieve along the way. She was Chin KK's friend, a last minute adoption into my group of 3. She needed accomodation, and TTG had a single room to herself. We reached the new 1Borneo Hypermall, where our hotel Best Western Courtyard was. The rooms were not ready, so we went to roam the mall and had KFC. When we finally got our rooms, we realised that the hotel was not fully completed and there was some renovation and construction work on-going. Other than the slight mess along the corridor, it did not bother us. At least the hotel was brand new so most things were in working order.

Fiona and Ting Kwang picked us up for lunch. We went to a coffeeshop along Gaya Street selling claypot chicken rice and beef soup. The chicken rice was really delicious, using drumstick meat. We ordered a few pots of different stuff to share. Next we went to Likas stadium to collect our race packs. There was a minor error, and my category had not been changed to half marathon. The organizer said it was easier to put me into the 10km category instead because there was no champion chip timing. Which worked out well since I was apprehensive about running 21km anyway. The race tee was an addidas blue running vest (like our Stanchart vest), but in men's sizing only. Sigh...

Fiona wanted to bring us to Shangri-la Rasa Ria resort to see the sunset, but the weather looked like it was going to storm. Along the way, we stopped by a wooden makeshift hut for an amazing coconut pudding and barbecued giant clams. The pudding was very interesting because it was coconut juice and pulp somehow converted into a pudding texture, scooped back into the coconut. It was very refreshing, and amongst the 3 girls, we ordered 4 coconuts!

We headed back to the hotel for an early rest. TTG and Gene knocked out quite early by 5pm. Alber and I went to the mall for a quick dinner, and bumped into Eliza. She was staying at the new budget Tune hotel next to us! So we 'adopted' her as well and we all went for dinner together.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Yellowfish #4

Class went ok today. We used the swim buoys in our drills today. My arms were still dropping though. We stopped our long distance swims and focused on 200m-intervals. Coach said 200m was the best distance to train for swimming, incorporating both aerobic and anaerobic training. 3 sets of easy 200m, followed by 3 sets of fast 200m, ending with 1 set of 100m sprint. Rushed home to pack, had to leave for Sabah early in the morning.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

RPM Challenge

Went for acupuncture this morning. It was my second time. No promises, just kept hoping that it would speed up recovery. Finally had a chance tonight to attend KL's RPM Challenge class. It was a full class, fun. I gained weight from all the rich feasting and no workouts.... Sigh... Hope to be able to start my trekking training soon. Time was running out.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Rest is harder

Injury is hard. Rest is even harder. Lack of activities and workout makes a moody girl.

Attempted a shorter RPM class today, was paranoid and tentative about knee so the workout was not as tough as it should be.

Monday, October 6, 2008

AH Visit

On a spur of moment, I decided to try my luck at Alexandra Hospital's Sports Clinic and check my nagging knee. I could not make an appointment over the weekend, and just showed up at 8am. A series of lucky turns ensured that I could get a slot. There was a cancellation at 1015am, so I hung around. Then I was told to go through A&E for a referral, which would grant me subsidized rates. Being early, there was no queue and I breezed through the consultation, complete with a knee X-ray. No fractures there. Back to the Sports Clinic to see the doc.

The Clinic was filled with guys and army boys in all shapes and crutches and bandaged knees. I was the only female there. Geez, the clinic scene almost seemed to say that we should stay still and not be active. Doc diagnosed inflammation (uh... I forgot to ask where, so I guessed basically the entire knee), and prescribed some anti-flammatory capsules. He also checked that my running shoes were ok and upright. Swimming and cycling were ok, but no running or a while. Rule of thumb to gauge recovery - if no pain during walking, then test run.

Got an MC for the day. In the evening, I went to see the TCM that Jimmy recommended. Acupuncture this time round involved 7 (not 2) needles around each knee.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

ECP Training

Did my longest run since knee was injured a month ago. A paltry 18km in like 2:25h. Not sure if to be happy that legs survived (barely) the distance, or upset over the time.

Alber and I joined the FatBird marathon pacer training at ECP this morning. Many familiar faces were there - Anthony, DO, Jancy, Bev, Ros, Ricci, Ultraman, Benny etc. Along the way, many friends called out - Sandy, Helen, Jumi, and others. There was a Terry Fox run going on and many many people crowded the area near F2. The run felt good while it lasted. The first 9km took 63min, fabulous. The return 9km went on forever. Knees felt quirky after the run. *Sulk*

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Woke up early to get a Q-number from the clinic for acupuncture. Had to wait for some time before it was my 'torture' turn. Two needles stuck in each knee, with electrodes attached to channel electric pulses deep under. Ouch ouch. The intensity started off too high, pure pain! Lowered the intensity to something more bearable..... and it went on and on for almost an hour. Followed by some light tui-na. Ouch....

Hung around Queensway for a bit, before going to Safra for a swim. I was spending so much time in the waters lately! The pool was quite crowded but still ok for laps. But I was not. I barely completed 20 laps, with a long pause after every 50m. It was like doing a 10km run, but in 10 sets of slow 1kms.... Finally gave up and hoisted myself out of the pool. Stepped onto the weighing scale later and saw an extra 1kg! Eeeks! Need my runs.........

Friday, October 3, 2008

Yellowfish Swim #3

Late for class. The folks were already in the pool doing drills when I arrived. There were few trainees today, as most of the better swimmers were taking part in the FINA open waters on Saturday and had gone for classes earlier in the week. So that left all the slow novices in class today, which was great!

Learnt some new drills today.
1. Started off with side-kicks. Then progressed to side-kicks with rotation to the other side and continue with side-kicks, and rotate back.
2. Rolling drill - Essentially, keep both arms down by the side of body, and only kick the legs. Face down, then roll over face up (aka float on back), then roll back on the same side. I found that to be the easiest drill, and happily rolled myself over and over, like a skewered-satay stick on the BBQ pit. Haha.
3. Feel water drill - Basically lightly kick legs, arms outstretched and gently rotate wrists to 'feel the water'. My gosh, it was hard to breathe.

Next we did laps - 600m, followed by 400m. Then the dreaded sprints: 4x 100m. My lungs were bursting and gasping for air by then. It was a real struggle to complete, not to mention a few of us paused after every 50m (instead of non-stop 100m) to catch oxygen.... Just as we thought the training was over, Coach sprang another set: 2x 50m. Ok, much more manageable, though still oxygen-deprived. Lastly for cool down, we had to do backstroke - to 'stretch and lengthen' our arms in the opposite direction.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Another 5km Jog

I went to Safra today to try the 5km route again. Knee was less strained than Tuesday's trial, but there was still an uncomfortable tension beneath the knee cap. I did not like that feeling, it should not be there. Jimmy passed me a contact card for a TCM acupuncture clinic near my house, but it was too late to pop by. Both he and Eng Hwa tried acupuncture previously for their knee problems, so I thought I could try as well.

So I decided to try my luck at another clinic at Mei Ling Street that was quite popular with many heartlanders. I had accompanied a friend there before on a few occasions and the husband-wife team seemed pretty knowledgeable. They certainly had a good rapport with the patients though, chatting them up like old friends. There was a queue of 4-5 people ahead of me and the consultation hours ended at 9pm, but my turn came only past 9pm. The physicians treated the last few of us until 10pm. The wife-physician aligned my tailbone/ hip, and then did a most painful pressing of sorts on both knees. None of the other therapy sessions inflicted such pain. Was I masochistic? I tended to go with the no pain-no recovery path of treatment. Oops. I was more hopeful.... Had to find another chance to return this weekend for acupuncture.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Holiday Long Ride

Long awaited public holiday! Had a date with Alber and Henry, but my sub-conscious was refusing to wake up this morning. Finally dragged myself out of bed and got changed. We were going for a long ride. Perfect weather to be outdoors today, nice and cool after last night's torrential rain.

Alber and I rode from my place to meet Henry at 10-mile Junction. Henry planned the route for today and led the way up towards Woodlands Rd and right turned onto Mandai Rd. It was a route full of rolling hills and headwinds. Traffic was relatively light in the morning. We went from Mandai to Sembawang to Upp Thomson Rd and did a loop through Lower Pierce Reservoir to Upper Pierce.

Too many rolling slopes and long downhills! It was scary to go down fast, knowing that there was a traffic light at the other end of the slope. In particular, the long winding path along Old Upp Thomson Rd was challenging. It was one of my running routes around Macritchie. Well, running was low speed. Cycling was high speed. It was difficult to slow down at the end of the slope, yet critical as it filtered into high-speed traffic hurtling down Upp Thomson Rd. For a brief moment, I was reminded of a flying tumble. Then we headed to Yio Chu Kang and Seletar. Henry's wheel dropped into a curb-side ditch at a traffic light and he fell sideways. Thankfully it was red light, stationary traffic, and he got away with a few surface abrasions. After a short stretch, we stopped at Selegie Soya Bean for chin chow, tau huay and you char kway. :) Distance clocked ~35km.

The next segment of the ride took us through the scenic Seletar airbase, where the fields open up in front of you. It felt as if we were on a joyride into the countryside! We cut out at Seletar Reservoir and followed the road (Yishun Ave 1 - Mandai Ave - Mandai Rd) all the way to the Shell Petrol Kiosk at the junction of Woodlands Rd. U-turned and did the reverse to Seletar Reservoir, and U-turned again. Each uni-direction was about 12-13km, so 1 loop was 25km. I stopped on the 2nd loop at Seletar Reservoir for a Gu-gel.

Henry was very fast, and he went back after the second loop for a lunch appointment. Alber and I slowly made our way through the headwinds and upslopes - an intoxicating combination, light-headed from lack of oxygen! Haha. We finally plodded our way back to Woodlands Rd, Upp Bt Timah Rd and Bt Batok, stopping for lunch at a coffeeshop near home.

Total distance 90km. A lovely way to spend a public holiday. :)