Saturday, August 29, 2009

Safra Bay Run & Army Half Marathon 2009 (3 of 3)

Coming from a great night with friends who visited Singapore, I managed to grab three hours of sleep on the eve of the Safra Bay Run & Army Half Marathon 2009. I was still dreaming about Leonardo Da Vinci and his creations, which I saw in the exhibit at the Singapore Science Centre that Saturday, but I didn't want to miss my first half-marathon so I hauled myself to the shower and allowed the running water to rouse me fully awake.

Breakfast was too quick for me to remember what I had, but I do recall drinking a lot of water. Fortunately I didn't forget to slip three packs of GU Energy Gels into my belt bag knowing that the lack of sleep would severely affect my performance. Of course nothing beats having enough rest during the night.

Thank goodness it was easy to get a cab. I was thankful too that there were no signs of rain coming. The commute was fast as I expected it to be early in the morning. We did experience bit of traffic when we got near the Suntec area however, something I simply attributed to the road closures.

It was easy to find my way to the starting point as a lot of runners were heading towards that direction. I didn't even need to exert effort to locate the the portalets — the queue pointed me there. I think the visit to the portalet is really becoming part of the pre-run routine.

My watch said 5:45 a.m., which only meant I was late for the flag off. But there were numerous runners still behind the starting line so I felt hopeful I wasn't too late. Then the man on the mic announced the second wave was just about to start. Luck was with me.

Then it was time. I was off to a slow start, knowing it took a while for body to warm up. An endless stream of runners passed me by. I tried my best not to think of my recent misadventure with the X-ray and the ECG but the thought hunted me incessantly and I caught myself with my hand over my chest quite a few times as I ran.

I didn't even take time to review the race route. I knew it would be easy enough to follow other runners. I was right of course. Soon we were making a left to Marina Boulevard, then we were climbing the ECP flyover.

Right after the flyover, one male after another made a detour on the side of the road to take a leak. How could the marshals complain? Besides, the heavy Singapore rains are sure to wash away any evidence afterwards.

The longest part of the race would have to be the East Coast Park leg. I think there were three water stations in this area alone. They were giving away bananas at one of those stations. It was too good to resist.

It was this part too, after the 10 km mark, that a lot of participants had began walking. While I certainly wasn't among the fastest runners, I managed to run all the way, unlike what I had previously done in the Mt. Faber Mizuno Run and the first TNF Progressive Run.

The cheerers did a great job of motivating the runners. At one point, there were belly dancers doing their thing on one side of the road. My friend Paul managed to take a picture of them. I wasn't that fortunate. I don't even have a copy that I can post here.

Speaking of my friend Paul, to my surprise, he found me near the finish line. He was running 10 km, and their flag off was at a later time. It was great to be able to finish together.

It was easy enough to get the medals at the finish point. Unfortunately the same could not be said about the isotonic drinks. As for the bags, there was a bit of queue but nothing major.

I think it was a well organized run. I like the fact that the race started very early so that runners are not exposed to the debilitating, late morning sun. There were just enough drinking stations, sufficient volunteers to man the routes and signage that were easy to spot. A separate finish line for the 6 km was an excellent decision on the part of the organizers.

After about another hour of walking around, we found a place to eat in Marina Square. I managed to go home after, enjoying a few hours of sleep before I put my heart to the test again just a bit later in the afternoon.


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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Safra Bay Run & Army Half Marathon 2009 (2 of 3)

It was my friend Joan who suggested I go for 21 km on the Safra Bay Run & Army Half Marathon. She knew I had taken a bet with friends for the first to finish the half-marathon among us. If you’ve read one of my previous posts, you already know that staying fit was our primary goal, that running was the form of exercise we chose, and the small bet was a neat trick to keep us focused on our goal and sustain our interest when the hard work began. While I was sure I could go 15 km if I had to, I had gone only as far as 13 km once and running 8 km more seemed like a gargantuan task. But I felt there was enough time to prepare so with a bit more prodding, I registered for the half-marathon.

I ran as much as I could during the weeks that followed. On lazy days, covering 5 km felt sufficient, but 10 km suited me just fine on regular days. Still, I wasn’t able to run the full distance of 21 km at least once as I hoped to.

One of the things that greeted me after a good 10 km run was a letter stating I needed to undergo a physical checkup, which included getting an X-ray. I thought that wasn't a big deal so I arranged for an appointment as soon as I could. I was only happy to obtain the results from Raffles Clinic that Friday morning, nine days before the Safra Bay Run & Army Half Marathon. I was certain I didn’t have TB to be worried about, which proved to be the case when I gave the results a quick scan. Later that night however, when I gave the results a second look, I was filled with disbelief when I read “Heart is slightly enlarged” as part of the interpretation.

I then spent a good number of hours surfing the Net and filling my head with information about Cardiomegaly, but not after I sent a quick e-mail to a close friend-slash-doctor back at home. To my surprise, I got a reply from him in less than thirty minutes. Here’s part of his reply:
..more often than not, especially in someone as young as you, it is usually just an incidental finding on x-ray, because the heart, at the point the x-ray was taken, rotated slightly and thus looked like it was enlarged -- in this case, you don't have anything to worry about. (If you want to imagine how this happens, look at your palm directly face up, then rotate it so that you only see the side. That's how you can have an illusion of an enlarged heart when in fact the heart can be of normal size, just that a different cross-section was captured in the X-ray.)

“But I am almost sure (95%) that there is no problem with you. But just to make sure, I want you to consult with a cardiologist so that we can rule out any cardiac problem.”
I made an appointment to have an ECG the very next morning.

“It looks normal,” the physician said on our second meeting that day.

The clinic had required me to consult with him first before allowing me to get an ECG. I couldn't get the reaction I needed from the nurse who conducted the actual test. I was in fact more worried when she had to run it twice, putting cold gel on the suction tubes on the second try.

“I don’t think you need to undergo any further tests,” the doctor concluded.

I thanked him profusely and told him I was relieved to hear that because I was planning to run the marathon. I think my statement had the desired effect as he proceeded to listen to my chest in three different places and then checked my blood pressure before finally dismissing me and sticking to his earlier assessment. Having read about 25-year-old Captain Ho Si Qiu's death in the same run two years ago, I had to be sure.

That didn’t stop me from spending another few good hours in the evening comparing my ECG diagram with as many as I could find on the Internet. I didn't know ECG images were so abundant online until then. I only gave it a rest when my friend replied to my e-mail and reiterated that my ECG looked normal and that I could run as much as I liked.

That wasn't the end of it though. On the succeeding days I ran slower and shorter than usual. If I felt chest pains I didn't know for sure if they were for real or if that was just my imagination playing tricks on me. It was difficult to get back into the groove after that finding; I had to get over it soon if I wanted to accomplish what I had initially set out to do.

Half-asleep on my bed two days after my checkup and seven days before the run, I realized I was not able to claim the race pack. To add to my anxiety, I was responsible for collecting the kits of two other friends who were flying in and decided on the last minute to join the run so they could experience how it's like here in Singapore. I thought that was the absolute sign that I should not be running in the Safra Bay Run & Army Half Marathon. But I thought better and decided not to give up. I sent an e-mail that very hour to the organizers asking for their special consideration. I got their reply the day after saying they were giving everyone who failed to pick up their kits a last chance. I could not and did not waste that chance.


To be continued...

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Safra Bay Run & Army Half Marathon 2009 (1 of 3)

Strapped tight to a distinctive steel chair and about to be hurled into the air at a force many would not get to experience in their lifetime, I felt resigned to my fate having no energy left to resist.

"Are you all usually so quiet?" asked the man in black, a big jovial character with a bald head and a thick beard.

"Only when we're about to die," replied our friend on my right. That got all of us laughing.

After making sure my two friends and I were all safely bolted, the same fellow stepped away from the platform and made his way to the controls.

He broke our silence again a few minutes later.

"Do you prefer a countdown or —"

"Yes, please," came my hurried but enthusiastic reply, cutting him off.

"Alright!" he said. "One..."

Before I realized it we were being catapulted into the air at an impossible height in such a short period of time at a previously unimaginable speed. Just a few minutes earlier there were four of us free falling from a height of about 50 meters, held by the same type of straps and cradled by the same kind of chair. This time, there was room only enough for three. I had chickened out first but the only female among us wouldn't allow herself to be outdone. That's how I got myself into that position, a high and adrenalin-pumping at that. I raised my hands in an act of bravery and surrender, like I had done during the free fall, copying my friend Paul actually, letting out a scream while praying all the while for a safe landing and a strong heart that wouldn't fail me.

That was about eight hours after I completed my first 21 km run at the Safra Bay Run and Army Half Marathon. But that's getting ahead of the story, let me start from the beginning.


To be continued...

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Singapore 360 - Day 10: Underwater World

Part of the package we got when we last went to Sentosa was a visit to the Underwater World. Though I've been there several times before, I still find myself in awe looking at the underwater creatures.

This is a giant octopus. Looks like this guy came from another planet.

Crab. We had chili crab in Jumbo, Riverwalk and black pepper crab in No Signboard East Coast. I wonder what this guy feels about that if he knew.

Mermaid, er, Dugong. Apparently often mistaken for a mermaid, the dugong is the only strictly-marine herbivorous mammal.

The Sea Angel. It looked to me like it resembled a different kind of angel because of the red color and the projections, the horn-like structures.

Plant or animal? It's the dragon fish. Looks like it came out of lab experiment.

The Nautilus. I'm always reminded of the movie, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen every time I see this.

I thought I couldn't eat seafood for a few days after having gone here. Well, that's what I thought. We went to No Signboard Seafood for dinner the day after that.


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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Singapore 360 - Day 9: Songs Of The Sea

When friends visit Singapore, I encourage them to watch Songs of the Sea. Most of time however, I don't have to do that because they find their own way there. Sentosa is usually on their list of places to visit.

The number of times I've watched the Songs of the Sea can still be counted on one hand, I think. It was only during the last time that I managed to take a few good shots, at least a lot better than the ones I took before. My worst visit would have to be the one before that, where the rain almost ruined it for us and we had to contend with inconsiderate people who wouldn't bring down their umbrellas as close to their heads as possible but were very good in asking the people in front of them not to block their view.

I was fortunate to catch the original Musical Fountain when I first came to visit Singapore in 2004. I kinda miss the part where the music was synchronized to the spraying of the water, like that of the stereo equalizer. What's better with the Songs of the Sea is that there's more interactivity with the audience. Of course, it's a grander show too, with the fireworks, lasers and the balls of fire.

I couldn't help but notice that night that the star of the show wasn't as convincing as the previous one(s). He didn't look like he had enough energy at all. In fact, he looked a bit lethargic to me. It was still a good show, so no complaints really.

As a side note, I was surprised that a taxi driver didn't know how to get to the area near Songs of the Sea. One of our friends was trying to find her way to us and took a cab to save time and chose the first one that came along. He didn't even know where Beach Station was. Good thing he knew where Siloso Beach was — quite far but near enough. I guess it's too much for me to expect taxi drivers to know the places in Sentosa when they only get to go there once every several years.

I'm sure we'll be back again soon.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Singapore 360 - Day 8: Singapore Flyer

It's definitely not a thrill ride but I'd certainly recommend it to anyone who hasn't given it or its counterpart in London a try yet. I'm talking about the Singapore Flyer. Well, if you've tried the London Eye and would like to compare notes, then ride by all means.

As for me, I had to chance to get aboard one of those room-sized capsules just a few days ago, when friends made a visit here in Singapore and thought of giving the Singapore Flyer a go. The good thing about its slow movement is that those who are afraid of heights among us didn't seem the least concerned. But they did remain seated during the ride while the rest of us were constantly roving around to enjoy the surrounding view.

I wanted to time our ride just before the sun was out so I booked for 7:30 p.m. I was thinking it would be great to see the best of both worlds — bright and dark. That's not meant to be metaphorical. Seeing as far as Indonesia when it was bright and getting a view of the Singapore skyline when it was dark would've been great. Unfortunately, it was a bit hazy that day and night came sooner than expected.

But the Singapore night skyline was still a great scenery and the view we got from the revolving capsule was different from what we've previously seen from our visits to the nearby high-rise buildings.

I could only wish there was some way for them to keep the glass panels continually clean. The stains get in the way of nice shots.

While I'm at the wishing stage, it would've been great too if there was something going on at the bottom — perhaps fireworks from the floating stage, or F1 cars racing through the tracks. That ought to give you an idea of when you should time your ride.

Of course the Singapore Flyer made the headlines a few months ago when people were stuck for as long as six hours because of some glitch in the power system. In the end they had no choice but to do some sort of rescue operation and rappel people to safety. That must've been something.

We tried to imagine how it would be like if someone were to throw a party there. "Oh waiter, we forgot to ask for water, could you get it up to us immediately please!?!" How about karaoke? We figured nothing was more challenging than answering the call of nature. Our dream ride had to end there.

I guess we'll give the Singapore Flyer a try again when a new set of friends visit.


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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Singapore 360 - Day 7: Ion Orchard

It's the newest mall in town, it's Ion in Orchard Rd.

During my last visit to Orchard, the nearby malls weren't as packed as they used to be; I was theorizing they must have all been there in Ion.

I don't find it as attractive during the day as it is during the night. Although I have to confess—yet again—my photos don't do much justice to its unique beauty. When the sun is out and I look at Ion, for some strange reason, larvae and aliens come to mind.

As for the interior, it's elegant and fashionable —posh— enough to be considered among the best there is in Singapore. Expensive shops abound too of course.

I actually had a chance to visit it during the sneak preview, just a few days before it formally opened to the general public. Aside from the omnipresent smell of contact cement, an air of urgency and excitement was very noticeable. Too bad I can't upload more pictures because blogger is currently having with the postings.


Just a thought, it would be difficult to rank the malls here in Singapore without a fixed set of criteria. I like different malls for various reasons. I preferred Vivo City over Suntec before the latter was renovated. Aside from being a fan or Marché in Vivo City, I used to find Suntec suffocating — notice how it's very difficult to navigate during events like the I.T. Show because of sections that are very narrow. I like Paragon because it's never too crowded except during special holidays. I like Raffles City because it's not too far from the MRT and there are lots of shops and restaurants there that I frequent, not too mention there's a cold storage outlet at the basement level. I like the smaller malls for their convenience and their unique product offerings too.


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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Singapore 360 - Day 6: Shu Teppan D.I.Y. Teppanyaki

Shu Teppan Do It Yourself Teppanyaki is one of the restaurants in the newly opened ION mall in Orchard.

One Saturday noon, feeling hungry, but not too much to be unadventurous, we decided to give this Japanese dining place a try.

I ordered Wagyu beef, thinking no one could possibly make a mistake with Wagyu beef, unless of course it was fake. My companion went for something else, the name escapes me now, for it was the wrong dish that made it to her iron plate anyway.

And if you're curious where Teppanyaki got its name from, here's a bit of info from from Wikipedia:
Teppanyaki (鉄板焼き teppan'yaki?) is a style of Japanese cuisine that uses an iron griddle to cook food. The word "teppanyaki" is derived from teppan (鉄板), which means iron plate, and yaki (焼き), which means grilled, broiled or pan-fried. In Japan, teppanyaki refers to dishes cooked using a iron plate, including steak, shrimp, okonomiyaki, yakisoba, and monjayaki.
How was the food, you ask? I was right about the Wagyu beef, it was perfectly fine. As for the thingamajig my companion got... Oh well, better luck next time! She wasn't too happy with it. I tasted it and I immediately understood why. She did enjoy her Japanese soda though.

But are we coming back? Hard to say. It's good enough to try at least once for the experience, the do-it-yourself kinda experience. If you want to try, I would of course suggest you go for the Wagyu beef first. Or at least make sure it's among your orders. If it's fun you're after, nothing beats watching Teppanyaki Chefs in action.

Speaking of which, you might like to watch this "Amazing Chef" do his tricks, while preparing Teppanyaki, something I found in the World Wide Web:


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