Sunday, September 18, 2011

Yellow Ribbon Prison Run

It was my first participation but this Yellow Ribbon Prison run event was the third consecutive year on 18 Sep, Sunday. As I missed the registration last year, I therefore registered early for the 10km competitive run - These offenders should be given second chance in lives.

On last Friday, I had a long evening run with Chua, Dora and CK. Chua and I covered some 18km, slowly building up for the year end Stanchart Marathon. Yesterday (Saturday), one day before the prison run, I decided to skip long cycling and gym activities so that I can get ready, physically & mentally for the run this morning. Though it is a 10km event (my usual practice run is more than 10km each time), I can't help feeling the adrenalin rush inside me.

As expected, I was fighting hard to go to sleep which was quite frustrating. I kept waking up, having intermittent sleep until the alarm sounded off at 5.30am. Before 6am, I was already out of my house. I didn't drive as the starting and finishing were not in the same location. We were to flag off near Changi Village, along Loyang Avenue and ended up at Changi Prison. I planned to take a train to Singapore Expo and then hopped on to the shuttle bus arranged by the organisers. When I arrived at Aljunied station around 6am, it was still early and the first train was scheduled to leave at 6.30am only. I then decided to take bus service no.2 which was to take me all the way to Changi Village instead but it was a long 1-hr ride. I was still early as the flag-off was scheduled at 7.45am.

I was early, arrived at the start line at about 7am. Slowly, I made my way up to the start line. The two comperes, Mark Richmond and Maggie from Gold 90.5FM were ranting away on the mike, keeping us entertained. The vip party arrived around 7.30am, led by Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, MG Chan Chun Sing. At exactly 7.45am, the horn was sounded and off we went. Mark Richmond reported on the air that some 9,000 runners had registered in this run.

I positioned myself not too far back but avoided the front row for obvious reason. The sun had just risen and I can feel the morning heat at that hour already, sigh! I simply hate the morning heat but do I have a choice? I kept to my usual pace, knowing I needed 5km to warm up my engine. I was hoping to come under 50 mins (my last registered 10km was in 2008 Stanchart where I clocked 53.34 mins), better still, under 45 mins a bold target for myself.

Running along the main road of Loyang Avenue and after 2km, we turned into Loyang Way, the site which houses the Selarang barrack. We ran past old historical building, Changi Chapel & Museum and Johore Battery, among others. The morning heat slowly built up and it made breathing heavier and heavier. The route is quite challenging, very undulating in most part but it was a scenic sight I must admit - alot of greenery along the way.

I had wanted to accelerate my pace after 5km mark but my legs felt heavy. It must be the lactic acid from last Friday long run. I then decided to keep to normal pace. In my typical fashion, I downed a cup of isotonic drink and then poured a cup of plain water over my head at every water station. Turning into the prison premises at 8km, I opened my pace a little knowing the end is near. It was a long 2km inside the confine of the high prison wall. I gave high-5 to some student supporters when passing them, an acknowledgement to thank them for their vociferous cheering.

When I saw the time flashing 52 mins plus from about 100 metres, I didn't muster all my energy to zoom home like I used to do. I just kept to usual pace and the clock was flashing 53 mins 15 seconds or something when I ran past the finishing line. By my reckoning, I should have clocked a net time of 53 mins and under. Well, I didn't meet my personal target of 50 mins & under but I am not disappointed either. This run was for the prison cause, that is key.

Walking out of the prison to catch a bus back, I saw Carolyn from our last Mount Kinabalu expedition who called out to me. She was participating in the 6km fun run and she was on her final leg to the finish, we acknowledged each other and then, parted way.

It was a well organised event, I like the goodie bag and the medal. Thanks to the organiser for a superb event and barring any unforseeable, I should be back next year.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Gunung Belumut Climb

Our meet-up group led by Kwan and SP organised a climb to Gunung Belumut in Kluang on 28 August, Sunday for some 23 of us with one dropping out at last minute. As it was an early morning departure at 7am at Woodlands MRT, we (Anna, CK and I) had arranged to spend a night at Dora's place in Woodlands to save all the hassle of rushing from our home. Also, we were expected to stay up late to watch the 'LIVE' telecast of the PE result on Saturday evening till dawn.

Everyone turned up on time as Kwan kept reminding all that he was prepared to wait till 7.15am for the last person only. I had fish fillet at Macs for breakfast, so too for Anna, CK and Dora who ordered their own share. When we arrived at the Woodlands immigration, Anna felt faint. She said something in her breakfast could have caused her that. At the Johor immigration, we waited for quite a while for her while she rushed to the toilet. Dora kept her company throughout while we waited in the combi. Finally she turned up, looking quite pale and we asked whether she wanted to drop out if she really can't. She decided she will follow the group and then make the decision, whether or not to scale the summit upon our arrival.

It took more than 2 hours to reach Kluang town and the narrow path leading to the ranger office. Gunung Belumut, standing at 1,010 metres (3,314 ft) should not be that tough for any average climber and should take 5 to 6 hours to reach the summit and another 3 to 4 hours to get down.

The place looked so deserted. There was no other vehicle except ours and not a single soul in sight. Even the ranger office remained closed. We were told that we need to engage a mountain guide and not a single guide was around either. This is very peculiar on a Sunday where, typically local crowd should be expected.
We realised it was the tail end of fasting month thus no Muslims will do the climb and also, it happened to be the last day of the Chinese ghost month and obviously, no local Chinese except for us hailing from Singapore. We practically own the whole mountain and have to trek without a mountain guide.

After briefing by Kwan and SP (both have scaled Gunung Belumut on few occasions), we moved off at about 10am. We were told we have to turn back by 3pm if we cannot reach the summit. SP took the lead while Kwan will be the last man. I was staying in the middle, keeping Anna company just in case. She felt better thus decided to join the climb.

It was quite a fairly easy climb from the start but it gets steeper and steeper on the way up. It looks daunting looking up as it seems to have no ending to it. Some paths are misleading and it can lead to nowhere if not careful. As we did not have a mountain guide, we have to look for markers or evidence such as litters left behind by others to assure us that we were not lost. I did not drink much though I bought a small bottle of mineral water and one 1.5 litre of 100plus. I learnt to sip on the mineral water but I saw some who almost finished their water.

Anna, despite her earlier condition did not show any sign of fatigue while CK and Dora kept together. I was either in front or behind them. Before reaching the summit of Gunung Belumut, we have to pass by a 'false summit'. It was another half an hour or less of walking, we finally reached the summit. All of us made it to the summit well before 3pm - hooray. We took turn climbing up the huge boulder, named the 'Crown Rock' for picture taking.

At 3pm, we had to get down. I decided to go down on own and at own pace, knowing Anna and rest should not have problem getting down. I was moving down very fast, almost like running down the slope and grabbing the tree or branch for stability. I was way way ahead of the rest of the group. We were the only mountaineers in this mountain and I was the only one in front...quite eerie, actually! While looking for path at some point, I heard a roar from a distance. I paused for a while and the first thing that sprung to mind, "was it a tiger?". I decided I better not take any chance, picked up a piece of wood for self defence. I knew if attacked, that piece of wood could not do much help either. But it gave me some comfort, at least. I kept looking back in case a lurking tiger charged from behind. I was moving quite fast but stayed very alert.

Finally, I reached the base at 4.40pm. The two drivers were waiting for us. I recounted what happened to the drivers and one told me that there is a tiger in the mountain. I washed up myself and waited for the rest. The second group arrived at 5.30pm followed by the rest. Anna sufferred cramps on the way down and she was helped by Kwan and Richard. They arrived at 6.30pm. Everyone was safe. We reached home late in the evening.