Never Stop Exploring – Bulim Forest

The Bulim/Tengah forest will soon be gone – converted into another block and block of flats and condominium. So before it is gone forever, I went down with some friends to have one last look and also first look at the place.

First thing that strike me when I entered the place was its sheer size. From the main road, it looks just like any small patch of forest but once in, we were like Oh Wow! Just take a look at these photos:

As I understand, these place used to be a kampung before the villagers were resettled in the Chua Chu Kang and Bukit Batok areas and the SAF took over the place for the army training. Hence, the nice wide paths that criss cross the entire area.

There is supposed to be a small stream but we didn’t manage to locate it. Instead what we saw was this little longkang which I understood was a lifeline for the people there during the second world war.

This stream and all the mini waterways there eventually leads to this new longkang.

While we were there, we observed many birds including a large flock of Long tailed Parakeets and many other smaller forest birds. We also spotted Brahminy Kite and White Bellied Sea Eagle flying overhead.

A rather beautiful place to admire Mother Nature and admire its beauty. Sadly scene like these will disappear soon as the crazy Gahmen continues on its relentless quest to concrete the whole of Singapore.

Sundown Marathon 2017

If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. The people at Hi-Velocity, the organizer behind the Sundown Marathon (SDM) should have remember this wise saying when they set up to “improve” this year edition.

The Sundown Marathon is an event which is close to my heart and which I have fairly good opinion of, unlike the SCMS. I seen the SDM grown from a small little race in 2008 with just 800 + runners to a mega race involving more than 20000 runners in 4 different categories. In its early days, the SDM could be considered a true heartland race running through the Eastern part of Singapore. It was also the first race to have a 84 km distance – probably the first ultra race in Singapore. While I didn’t run the SDM in those early days, I had many friends who did and those of us not running had a great time providing support to the runners as they ran through the Eastern Park Connector. We were there for the runners in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. Those time, we made many friends and got a lot of appreciation including this nice little cap. This was also the only race that I won something – haha not a running trophy but a photo contest in the 2009 race expo. I did ran the SDM eventually – twice in fact, in 2011 where I had a horrible time and again in 2015. By then, the SDM had moved from Changi Village to Changi Aviation Road and eventually to the current Marina Bay. Along the way and over the years, it has became a race catering to the mass instead of being a niche event and I guess as it grew bigger and bigger, it became more and more difficult to manage. First to go was the run through the heartland making use of the park connector. Next was the 84 km Ultra Distance which I feel was unfortunate as that was to me the main highlight of the annual event. And by moving to Marina Bay, it has became just another race in the area – nothing really great or special other than it being held at night. But I guess to many marathon wannabes, this race was a much welcome introduction to running a marathon as it enabled them to avoid the harsh heat of a day race. And so years after years, the numbers continue to grow…… Continue Reading →

Crocodiles!

I been seeing crocodiles and I mean real crocs and not monitor lizard like these people actually saw and mistook for crocodile. And no they are not at the zoo either but out here in “wild” Singapore.

A few years ago, one can hardly sight a crocodile at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve but nowadays a visit there is almost guaranteed one or two sightings. And there is no need to wander the whole place. There are usually at least 2 or 3 of them around the main river and can easily be spotted from the bridge. Like these:

And although I haven’t encounter one on the walking path yet, there are some that can be see basking in the sun

While  I happy that there are so many of them now, I wonder what is going to happen if one day some idiotic visitor gets too close and ends up getting injured. I have seen the antics of some people especially from a certain country in Asia and the stupid things they do. I couldn’t care less if they get bitten in the process of getting a selfie with the croc or while throwing things at it to make it move but I will pity the poor croc who will only be protecting itself. 

Hopefully that day will not happen when the crocs have to be relocated or culled for the “safety” of the visitor.

Scammed and Conned Willingly

Take a look at this photo. There are 3 different items in it. A few pieces of stickers, a pen and a baggage tag.

These 3 different items actually have a lot in common.

  1. They are all pirated ripoff of copyright items
  2. Each particular item cost $10.00 each. Grossly overpriced for imitation items
  3. They are all sold by  people who purported to be “students”
  4. They are sold for a “good cause”
  5. A “sucker” bought them even though he knew they are overpriced and may be a scam.

That sucker is me and yes I bought them with my eyes open even though I knew that they are overpriced, not original products and the proceeds may not really be for a good cause. So what drove me a usually practical hard headed man to buy them?

As stated, they were all sold by people who claimed to be student. The pen and the Batman baggage tag were bought from pedlars who went door to door. The stickers were from a young men standing in the middle of Cecil Street. And I bought them because I admire them. It takes a lot of guts and determination to go door to door to sell some stuff that nobody actually needs. It takes a lot of mental power to have door slammed in your face and yet to continue on knocking at the next door. And it takes a lot of will power to stand in the middle of a busy street and try to persuade people to buy the cheap imitation stickers.

I half buy into their story of raising funds for their studies and I like to believe that it is true and it is not a rip off especially that nice boy selling the stickers. This is not the first time I bought the stickers from him. In fact I make it a habit to buy something from him every time I see him never mind that I don’t need the stickers. I just gave them all away to my colleagues for their children. On the most recent purchase, I managed to find out that he is a first year student at Ngee Ann Poly and selling the stickers to raise funds for his studies. The baggage tag and pen were also from 2 youths who claimed to be selling them to raise funds for their studies.

I know I shouldn’t be encouraging people to sell imitation and rip off over priced items but somehow I hope these young people do raise some money for their studies and nothing goes to those syndicate.  And I also like to think that I earn some good karma for helping these young people a wee little bit.

 

Singapore Marathon 2016 Cut Off Time and Diversion Points

Finally, Ironman Asia has announced the cut off timing at various points along the race route. But instead of at easily remembered distances like say every 10 km, they have it at various weird distances.  But this is still better than not having one. Here is a rundown of the cut off and what it means to you if you are dangerously close to it.

First, there is the overall race cut off which is 8 and 4 hours after last flag off respectively. Assuming the last wave starts at 5.20 am as per the Race Guide, that makes it 1.20 pm and 9.20 am. So if you cross the finish line after these times, you will not get a timing, the finisher tee and the finisher medal and the finisher tee.  However, the cut off timing for the full marathon is pretty generous considering the early start and the flat route. It is a bit tight for the Half Marathoners if they choose to walk all the way but still very doable.

Now lets analyse the consequences of failing to reach the various “diversion points” as the organiser choose to call it.

First up is at 3 km or 3.5 for the FM and HM respectively just along the start of Cecil Street between the Raffles Place MRT and Upper Cross Street  . The cut off time is 6.00 am which gives the runners starting at 5.20 am 40 minutes to run the 3 km or so making it roughly around 11 – 13 minutess per km. At that speed, that is walking pace! What it means for you is that if you have to take 40 minutes to touch 3.5 km, you probably have not trained a single mile for this race and you cannot possibly hope to complete the race be it the half or the full by the cut off time of 4 hours or 8 hours unless you can do the balance distance at a considerably faster pace which will seems like a pipe dream since you need to take that long just to walk 3.5 km.

Don’t waste your time and the volunteer’s time. You are better off going home to sleep.

Assuming you managed to clear the first hurdle but is now hovering dangerously close to diversion at 12 km. This is the start of East Coast Park at junction of Fort B and East Coast Park and you need to be there by 7.30 am. FM goes into East Coast Park whereas the HM goes up Fort Road. If you reach here just slightly before 7.30 am, said 7.20 m, and again assuming you start at the last wave at 5.20 am (I don’t even want to think that you start somewhat earlier and took that long to reach this point) , you are now averaging 14 minutes per km which is like dragging your feet and walking.

If you are a HM, congratulations. This is the last diversion point for you and you now have 1 hour 10 minutes to complete the last 9 km. If you are lucky, the Gods are kind to you, you get good weather and you can now improve your pace to 7 minutes per km to get that finisher medal. Can you double your pace? If you can’t, stop a taxi or hop on to a bus or the MRT and take a ride back. Don’t waste your energy cause what the point of walking back to the finish line if you can’t get the coveted finisher medal?

If you are a FM, you now have a new lease of life. Another 1 hour 15 minutes to do 6.5 km and reach the next diversion point of 18.5 km by 8.45 am. I reckoned that somewhere around the Car Park F2 area.  That seems pretty doable even if you have to walk this whole 6.5 km. The average walking pace is approximately 10 minutes per km but here you have an extra 1 minute per km so unless you need to go to the many toilets along the way to do Number 1 or stop at the food centre or MacDonalds for breakfast, you should be able to complete this stretch.

After this, the organiser has generously given you 3 hours 45 minutes to complete the next 21.5 km which is at the 40 km at Republic Boulevard outside F1 Pit building. 12.30 pm noon. This means if you have continued walking from East Coast Park to this place without stopping to dump, piss or take pictures or buy drinks, your are on target to complete the FM! If you had somehow found some inner reserve of energy, who knows you might even have a fair bit of buffer till the final diversion point.

By now, you should be hot, sweaty and if it is hot, hot, hot, super tired. Pray for rain. That always liven thing up a bit. But if you reach the last diversion point on time, you now have only 2 km to go. And a whopping 50 minutes to finish 2 km and collect your finisher tee and finisher medal. And I think even if you crawl all the way back, you can still make it on time. Congratulations, you are a Marathoner!

 

 

Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2016

This is going to be a super long post.

Once again it is the time for the biggest running event in Singapore, the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore, the only Gold Label running race in South East Asia.

This year’s edition has thrown up some new surprises and controversy way before the flag off.

First up was the shocked announcement of the financial situation surrounding the previous 2 edition’s organiser, Spectrum Worldwide. Following that, a new company, Ironman Asia took over. The change of organiser and race director raised some initial hopes that finally the Singapore’s edition will live up to its Gold Label status. After all, Ironman the company is the organiser of the World’s Ironman series

And indeed things seem to look good when the event was launched this year in June. No huge jump in race fee and big promises to give participants a good experience. “it’s all about making sure that the athlete experience is the best it possibly can be,” said Ironman Asia managing director Geoff Meyer, –.TNP 8 July 2016. But that was the only well received news as after that everything that came out from the organiser were bad news and PR disaster!

During the launch, the organiser came up with a “Digital Race” where people were invited to post their experiences on social media and get as many Likes as possible to win race slots and other prizes. The idea seems great until friends’ Facebook got spammed by friends trying to win that free slot. And after frustrated Facebook users complained about the spamming – guess what was the suggestions from the organiser? – to temporary unfollow their friends who are participating in the digital race! screenhunter_154-nov-26-22-43Wow! What kind of a response was that? This particular gimmick certainly didn’t win them any friends and will certainly count as one of the biggest failure of a digital marketing campaign!

Then the surprise announcement that the Full Marathon(FM) and Half Marathon(HM) will start together from Orchard Road instead of 2 different locations as per the last 2 years – from Orchard Road (FM) and Sentosa (HM) much to the disappointment of many recreational runners who were hoping to start from Sentosa and take some photos with the mascots from Universal Studios and Resort World Sentosa. However, this move is understandable as logically it is easier and financially cheaper to have 1 start venue than 2. Interestingly, the event website still state  “2016 will mark the 15th anniversary the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore and we are set to once again feature three different routes for the Marathon, Half Marathon and 10km”

Except for the longer route at East Coast Park for the FM, the route is almost identical for both the FM & HM and much of the 10km overlaps the route for the FM & HM. Immediately runners were concerned with congestion at the start but the organiser were quick to allay these fears with reassuring statement that the runners will be separated until….

It emerged that both FM & HM will start together from 4.30 am onward, abide with different pens and wave start for runners with different race timing. With an expected 50000 runners and assuming divided equally between the 3 categories, we are looking at 30000 runners converging on Orchard Road and running together. How the organiser is going to separate the runners remains to be seen. Knowing the ugliness of our local runners, I am sure many of them will try to jam up the front areas not meant for them. This year Sundown had a similar pen system and wave start. And the FM & HM starts at separate time. Yet many runners were caught in a human jam trying to enter their respective pen and were delayed by more than 30 minutes. Will the same thing happen at the SCMS? 

And the congestion fear is all too real. The FM & HM will run together for the first 12 km until separation at East Coast Park. Will there be full road closures to allow the runners to run through smoothly throughout? From past experiences, inevitably the full road closure at the start narrows down to 2 and even 1 single lane further down the route especially at road junctions. Based on the Traffic Advisory issued, there will only be full road closures at Nicoll Highway and some of the roads around the Marina Bay areas. There are only partial road closures in the CBD and Fort Road areas. Will this mean a nightmare for runners trying to get a PB or hoping to use this race as a qualifier?

According to the SCMS website, the FM & HM routes will merge again at Fort Road on the return leg. The organiser has promised lane segregation. I don’t know whether they will do it all the way from Fort Road, which I hope they will really do so, otherwise this will result in a frustrating experience for the sub 4 & 5 hours runners in the FM who will have to weave through the strollers and walkers from the HM for the last 9 km.

It seems to me that this year, the combined start will only benefit the elite and fast runners, those FM sub 3 and HM sub 2 who will reach the finish line well ahead of the main group of runners. Pity the FM sub 4. They will be caught in the mass of of the sub 3 and sub 4 HM and the sub 2 10 km participant.

The latest bomb shell was given barely 3 weeks before the flag off. No MRT services! Unlike the past few years, this year due to “track maintenance” reason, there will be no early MRT service to bring the runners down to Orchard Road. Instead, private chartered bus will be available at $5 per person from 30 separate locations. SMRT claimed that it has informed the organiser way back in May yet SCMS only announced it this month. Why the delay in the announcement? Was it due to fear that the sign up rate will be lower if this was made known earlier? Whatever it is, the non availability of the train service means that runners will have no sleep at all with the first pickup starting at 2 am. And with so many bus converging on the same location within the same period, will there be a big jam and chaos at the drop off point?

So far it seems that there isn’t any evidence of a good experience yet and in fact all evidence are pointing to a chaotic start venue and real bad congestion both at the start and at the end.

Am I done? Not yet. Back in the bad old days of 2014, I broke the news of diverted runners. Since then there has been some changes made. Runners who are diverted will be disqualified and will not get a timing and medal although I understand they still get their finisher tee. But that ok and still an improvement over the days when diverted runners who run shorter distances or are assisted to run shorter distance can still get a timing and their medal and finisher tee. So why am I harping on this again?

The thing is, I still fail to understand why despite this being a Gold Label race, the organiser is still not able to set checkpoints cut off timing or state where the designated cut off points along the routes. This is the very vague statement from their website:

Note: There might be staggered cut-off times at selected sections of the race route. Details of diversion points will be released closer to race day. For participants’ safety and to avoid being caught in between live traffic, diverted participants must obey as instructed, or they will be pulled off the race course immediately.”

What is “staggered cut-off times”? And where is “selected sections” of the route? And “might be” meaning there may not be any at all? Having pre-determined checkpoints and announced cut-off times will help the runners to plan their race strategy. All major international races have them and even the KL Marathon have them and that is not even Gold Label. So what is the problem with Singapore?

I hope my misgiving are unfounded and after many many years of grumbling and complaints, with a new organiser on board, this year our runners will finally get a race that they can be proud of and truly have a great experience. And I really hope I don’t have to come back here to write a “I told you so” report.

Meanwhile, to all the runners doing this. Happy Running! Chin up and smile when you see our camera.