Running in the Perth City to Surf 2013

After weeks of anticipation and (pathetically minimal) training, Perth City to Surf was finally here! There were options to participate in the 4 km walk, 4 km run, 12 km walk, 12 km run, half marathon, and full marathon, so everyone could definitely pick their fancy! Apparently 50,000 people registered!

with Puneeta at the start of the run

at the starting point

V and I met Puneeta and her husband Deepinder at the starting point. For all of us, this was our first running event! Deepinder, V, and I would attempt the 12 km run, while Puneeta chose to run the half marathon! The girl is very fit and runs 10-15 km on a daily basis, so 12 km would be such a yawn. The half marathon started about half an hour earlier than the 12 km run, so Deepinder, V, and I watched from the sideline while Puneeta joined the throng of people eager to take off. The countdown was called and off they went, 21 painful km ahead of them!

start of the half marathon

start of the half marathon

At about 9:30 am, it was our turn. 12 km runners filled the street, the countdown was called, and we took off! The energy in the air was incredible!

12 km runners ready to go

starting mark

sea of 12 km runners

I won’t lie, I found the 12 km course really hard. I’d only ever run 3 km at a time before, and my training plan didn’t really pan out due to circumstances and plain laziness. Mostly laziness. V could have gone ahead and completed the course in a better time, but he stayed beside me as I walked more than ran, and cheered me on. We didn’t have a shortage of support: people watched and clapped us on from the sides of the road, a group of policemen played the drum and bagpipes, a group of cheerleaders danced, people on the balcony yelled encouragement and waved posters! Not enough support that I didn’t feel the pain in my untrained legs though, damn it!

sprint to the finish line

It felt like the course went on forever, and there were hellish hills and grassy patches, but we finally saw the ocean ahead of us (the finish line was at City Beach) and pushed ourselves to run to it. We did it! If my legs weren’t screaming bloody murder and my stomach weren’t rumbling, I probably would have felt a strong sense of accomplishment, but it was matter over mind this time. We collected our medals and headed straight to the BHP Billiton marquee, where we were promised hot food and foot massage! The photos below were taken after we had a period of rest, some fruits, sausages, bacon, and eggs, so we looked more like our normal selves again.

V and I with our medals

Puneeta, Deep, and their medals

finishers of the 12 km run

finishers of the half marathon

with the BHPB folks

This run was a great experience, but I was definitely outside my comfort zone. Next time we attempt something like this, we’ll be less ambitious and go for a 4 km or a 5 km course. Have you done something like this before? Go out there and give it a try! I guarantee you a lot of pain and fun!

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Learning Scuba Diving

V is a certified diver. He loves to dive and has been telling me to give it a try. For a number of (logical and practical) reasons, I’ve been putting it off, but lately I feel like finally taking him up on his offer. It’s a new experience, and if I end up not liking it, then at least I can say I’ve tried.

See, I’m open. Even to going someplace we humans are not meant to go. And even if our last snorkelling adventure in Sibu island just served to reinforce that biological limit.

So I rounded up a group of enthusiasts (or stupid masochists, depending on where you stand on this issue) and signed up for a diving certification course. V was certified by CMAS, but I couldn’t find any CMAS dive center in Singapore, so between PADI and NAUI, we finally chose NAUI, the less commercial and more technical of the two. I wasn’t too bothered, but after B complained dramatically about the lack of quality in PADI diving education and raved about NAUI’s reputation, I was swayed.

My colleague Zhongjie happened to have a friend who owns a NAUI dive center in Singapore, so I contacted him and got everything settled! No excuse or backing out now.

Last weekend all of us (Luis, my sisters, my sister’s boyfriend Greg, V, and I) attended the theoretical classroom session and the practical pool session. Boy, we did not know what we were in for! The pool session was hard on all of us. We had to swim 200 meters and tread water for 5 minutes at the start as prerequisites! V said at his time the requirement was 15 minutes, by which time I think I would happily drown.

We wanted to call it a day and go home to nap after, but alas, the day was just starting! Throughout the day, we learned how to assemble and don the equipments, how to enter the water, how to recover our regulators, the purge and blast method to clear our regulators, how to clear our masks of water, how to take off and put back on our entire equipments under water, how to share air with our buddies in out-of-air situations, how to do an emergency ascent, and the session seemed to take forever!

Luis did marvellous, considering he’s 65, making all of us feel out of shape in comparison. He was also very calm underwater, though the day after he admitted to staying still because of fear he would shoot up if he moved (he was struggling with buoyancy control). I did alright, but I was too weak to handle the equipments. Taking them off and putting them on underwater was almost impossible to do on my own. Meli was too panicky and her instinct to surface would be dangerous in the sea, so she needed to practise breathing with her mouth and keeping her cool. Christin and Greg were OK too, but Greg lost one of his contacts sometime in the session. He’s severely short-sighted, so he was almost completely blind on one eye after. Lesson to take away: bring dailies!

V? He was completely in his element. He told me how out of shape he felt and that he needed to work on his stamina before the actual dive. He also complained about being more buoyant now that he’s a few kgs heavier (he was a stick back in high school). Seriously, if I didn’t know him well enough, I’d say he was showing off.

We finished the day feeling like we were turtles who just went through a marathon. But we DID IT, we COMPLETED the session! I regret not having any picture taken on the day to brag about, but then again, we were tired, hungry, and sunburnt. Maybe I should be grateful instead.

Our open water diving trip is scheduled on the first weekend of October. We all wanted it earlier so we wouldn’t have much time to dread it and chicken out, but arranging this based on the schedules of six people is not a walk in the park! In fact, we’re cutting it close to the start of the monsoon season. While we’re in the spirit of overcoming our fear of the unknown that is the ocean, why not throw in choppy waters to elevate the experience and make it more fun!

Till then, we’ll be preparing ourselves for the theoretical test. By any luck and evolutionary leap, we may even grow gills.

Ice-Skating in Tropical Singapore

With the opening of Jcube, Singapore now has an Olympic-sized skating rink so close to where I live! Of course V and I have to check it out!

Skating in Jcube costs about SGD 20 for an adult. Depending on whether you bring your own skates, gloves, and socks, it can be cheaper. The rate applies for fixed two-hour blocks, between which a Zamboni (ice-smoothing vehicle) prepares the rink for the next session.

Mind you, I’m not a good skater. Very few people here are, since we do not get natural snow and winter, but I know how to move on ice. I’m still figuring out how to move backward, brake, twirl, and more, but it’s pretty fun just moving around the rink, enjoying the rush of cool air and the wet, slippery ice beneath your feet. Plus, everyone on the rink were generally having a good time, beginners or otherwise. We saw some fall multiple times, some hang on to the railings for dear life, and a few experts zoom really fast past the rest, zigzagging, racing against one another, showcasing their tricks. It was lively! We had a lot of spectators! People crowding around the rink, watching amusedly and taking pictures.

By the time our two hours were almost up, my feet were dying to be let out of the skates. It’s hard work, so we rewarded ourselves with a good Japanese dinner at Ginza Bairin, also at Jcube. Ginza Bairin is famous for its tonkatsu don, and now we know why! Go give them (skating and the tonkatsu at Ginza Bairin) a try?

A Saturday with the Rinconeses

V and I watched A Chorus Line yesterday, and we went with the Rinconeses (Luis, his mom, and his sister)! It was a privilege: Luis’ mom was gentle, beautiful and you could tell she took care of herself pretty well (eye and face cream take priority over food, she quipped jokingly). His sister Ilsa is an artist and a practicing interior designer, so she knows a lot about trends and finds inspiration everywhere she goes. Both of them would be in Singapore for 2 months, but while in the region Luis made plans for them to travel to China and maybe Japan as well.

A Chorus Line was a great production. We followed a dance audition involving sixteen dancers with various backgrounds and personalities, and got to know each of them before eight were finally chosen to be in the final lineup. The dancers’ life stories were amusing, touching, and heartbreaking. The actors and actresses playing them did a fantastic job portraying the characters, and at the end of it, I marvelled at how dancers, who have to lose themselves to be in perfect sync with one another in performances, are singularly distinctly different people, with their own past, their own demons, their own reasons to dance, their own dreams, but share the same love and passion for dancing and wouldn’t be happy doing anything else.

And finally, I managed to find the time to sort through, pick, edit, and upload the hundreds of vacation photos V and I took in our recent trip to Bangkok! Bangkok was magnificent, and we would definitely go back there again. Check out the photos at http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150819181565840.399818.508000839&type=1&l=f51696715c

I hope you had a good weekend!

Recipe for A Perfect Weekend

I hope everyone had a good weekend. I certainly did! I had a Saturday packed with exciting activities and a relaxing, stay-at-home, no-fuss Sunday. That’s how I love my weekend, busy but fun Saturdays to shake the work worries away and put me in the weekend mood, Sundays to recuperate from whatever happen on Saturdays.

This weekend, the Iwasaki Onikenbai are in town and they were performing at a number of venues: the Japanese elementary school, the Japan Creative Center, and at the Outdoor Theatre of the Esplanade. V and I registered for their performance at the Japan Creative Center and met Luis there. It was a captivating event, in which we learned about the 1300-year-old tradition of ogre sword dance born in Iwasaki farming village of the Iwate Prefecture, Northern Japan.

The dancers wore elaborate costumes consisting of 24 items. The dance was a form of prayer made by the farmerfolks to rid the land of evil and hope for a bountiful harvest.

Though they wore masks which made them look like the demons, they were protectors of the land, believed to be reincarnations of Buddha.

The troupe wore masks of 4 different colors: white, black, red, and blue, symbollizing the 4 seasons and 4 directions, but only one of them had a white mask. He was the leader of Iwasaki Onikenbai and had to perform the Hitori Kago, One Person Protects.

Do you notice? Each of them actually held a fan in the right hand, a sword sheathed on the side, and a modern interpretation of a red walking stick on the left hand.

It was so special, to see the people preserve this important cultural heritage to this day and age.

Remember Arts, We Used To Learn It At School?

Last weekend I went to see a choir concert at School of The Arts because my friend Jon performed in it. I admire Jon for a lot of things, but now I’m convinced he also has superpowers. He’s a mechanical engineer, a freelance florist, and a singer. Is there a logical explanation for that range of talent and time-juggling ability?

For those of you living in Singapore but have never heard of SoTA, you can seek comfort in the fact that even our taxi driver had never heard of it. It’s a relatively new establishment in Dhoby Ghaut. You won’t miss it if you drive past, the architecture is quite eye-catching. It has a cozy concert hall which is a perfect venue for burgeoning artists.