Archive for 2009

31
Dec
09

2009 Favorite Running Moments: In Pictures

Running has taken me to places I never imagined I’ll go to and for my first full year of running the year broke all previous records not only in terms of distance covered, and pictures taken!  2009 toll: about 20 gigabytes worth of pictures and videos, around 11,500 files.  Among these, here are some of my favorites:

January

Transition: from Bench Pedometer watch to Garmin Forerunner 405

TNF Thrill of the Trail: my first trail run and magazine appearance, Side Trip Magazine April-June 2009 edition

Happy Run: First 15K

February

EDSA: First LSD

LSD with takbo.ph

First winter run (Ohio, USA)

March

Condura Run: First 21K

April

Trail run at Montalban with takbo.ph

May

Takbo.ph goes climbing to Mt. Maculot

TNF100: First ultramarathon (100K)

June

Debut climb of the RunHikers at Pico de Loro

Back on trails with Men’s Health All Terrain

Back at ultra via Botak100 (as a pacer)

July

First Marathon via Milo Marathon Manila Eliminations

August

Repeat of Manila-Tagaytay ultramarathon long run (56K)

Ninoy Aquino Day Run

September

Mommy Milkshake

October

Reaching out through Angel Brigade

Pacer duty at QCIM

First sundown marathon via SIM

November

Chillax pacing during Timex Run

Running in Ilocos

December

Running in Singapore

2009 was a splendid year indeed for me, and hopefully yours as well.  Let us make 2010 a better year for everyone and be the change we want to be.  Happy New Year everyone!

28
Dec
09

runningpinoy’s 2009 Second Half Report

Before we look back at the year in its entirety let us first review the Philippine running scene for the last six months.  This period saw highs and lows as far as races were concerned.  Races reached all-time high in terms of participants while inversely its quality fell to all-time lows (since August 2008 when I started joining races).  We’ve also seen race fees skyrocket to outrageous levels but there were still great races from good organizers that gave free races.

July

July marked my marathon debut on one of the best organized race of the year with the 33rd Milo Marathon Manila Eliminations. It was at a caliber unseen before locally and although it fell a little short it served as an epitome on how races should be organized.  Globe’s Run for Home was also a milestone as it introduced disposable timing chips while being virtually a free race when prepaid loads served as registration fees.

Personal achievement: First marathon and half-marathon PR

Disposable timing chip used in Run for Home

August

Kenny’s Open Urbanite Run introduced the first organized night race in the Metro with disposable timing chips to boot.  It could also be credited with starting the steep rise of race fees that would ensue throughout the year.

Personal achievement: 10-mile PR

Scene from KOUR

September

Mommy Milkshake was one of the most organized fun run of the year and the only one to be really free!  It puts in question organizers’ “reasons” for putting up expensive registration fees with races.  It was also during this month when race distance accuracy became a serious issue when RotaRun’s 21K was 3K short.

Personal achievement: First provincial Milo race

Pink Power at Mommy Milkshake Fun Run!

October

International Marathon (IM) season has begun with Quezon City International Marathon (QCIM) followed the following weekend with Subic International Marathon (SIM).  The use of the words “international” and “prestigious” became in question when races that used these didn’t live up to their promises. This month also started the “Kenyan invasion.”

Personal achievement: First marathon pacer duty; first back-to-back marathon (second and third)

World-class competition at the QCIM

November

The Philippine International Marathon (PIM) ended the “IM” season and was also highly criticized for not rewarding marathon finishers with a medal (the only one to do so thus far). It was a month plagued with poorly organized races!  The month seemed to turn for the better when Timex Run came but was derailed when Fit ‘n Right Fun Run didn’t turn out to be fit or fun for many disappointed runners.  Fortunately Run Ahead in Laoag, Ilocos Norte reminded everyone of how races should be with a well-organized, fun, generous, and charitable race making Metro Manila-based organizers look very greedy.

Personal achievement: Fourth marathon; 5K PR

Team Logan during PIM

December

Corregidor was a breather for many local runners and although it wasn’t trouble-free it was definitely unique.  There were still plenty of races for the month but personally I’ve had my dose of preposterous registration fees with mediocre races so I decided to be in abstentia for the month.

Personal achievement: Fifth marathon and new PR (via Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon)

Takbo.ph in Singapore!

Lessons and Tips

There were a lot of lessons both runners and organizers can learn with these period.  As long as these points were taken we have no reason not to improve next year.  Personally here are some tips I can give to fellow runners especially those that are just beginning to join races here in the Philippines:

  • Time yourself. Not all races we join are “reliable” and if you intend to monitor your progress get a watch.  You don’t even need one with a stopwatch, you just you’re your common sense.  Buy an über cheap children’s digital watch for P20 (from sidewalk vendors; no reason not to have a budget), remember your time when you start and look at it when you cross the finish.  You should get a rough approximate of your time which not accurate but it’s much better than nothing (what do you expect for P20?). You may validate it later when the race results come out.  If you have some dough buy a stopwatch, but if you have some serious dough get a GPS watch!
  • Bring your own water/sports drink. You need not buy a hydration belt; just bring a small flask or bottle of water or your preferred sports drink in case the organizer didn’t fulfill his obligation.  Consider investing in one though but ask around fellow runners first before purchasing.
  • Don’t be a distance freak! A few meters off the mentioned distance doesn’t mean you’ve been ripped off by the organizers.  Here’s my point: try to make an accurate 1K route using any GPS device.  Run that same route at least twice and see if you can get an accurate 1K every single time.  If you do try to make routes in 5K, 10K, 21K, and 42K and do the same.   If you still have an accurate distance every time you can make yourself a race route director.

I hope that newbies don’t get intimidated by bad experiences from previous races and continue joining reputable races, especially those with a “real” cause.  Before signing up for a race, don’t just join because everyone else does—ask fellow runners about the reputation of the organizers or the conduct of its past races.  Even the “pros” have “bad days” while on the other hand everyone deserves a second chance.  Best of all follow your heart—regardless of what everyone says it’s up to you to decide where you’re investing your hard earned cash.  Remember that we are not only paying for our right to join their race, we are also paying for the experience.

Summary

It was a “one step forward, two steps back” half for the year.  Disposable timing chips definitely placed Philippine races forward at par with races abroad but the proliferation of unbelievably disorganized races with outlandish registration fees were really traumatizing especially to newcomers to the sport.  Even race results became optional as we saw some races with no official race results, and those that do have inaccurate, very much delayed, or alphabetically-sorted race results!  Common sense wasn’t very commonly applied as far as this half was concerned!

25
Dec
09

Singapore Special: Solo Flight (Day 04)

Bags packed, ready to go—not for home, not just yet.  For my last day in Singapore my good ol’ friend Ernie who’s now based in Singapore was kind enough to take me on a quick tour.  I had pretty little time but I was thankful I was able to visit places many of my friends weren’t able to.  Let’s start this Uniquely Singapore tour!

Last morning in Singapore

View from our window: Bugis Junction

Hotel InterContinental, also across our hostel

Bugis Junction seems to be old structures refurnished for the 21st century

Just a few steps away was Singapore National Library

The library’s atrium

Books borrowed from the library can be returned anytime of the day through this terminal conveniently located at the lobby

The lobby was very spacious and conducive to reading

What’s inside the library

There’s also a café at the lobby

Very inviting library entrance

Travel Tip: Free Wi-Fi in Singapore is everywhere but unlike in the Philippines it requires a login (creating an account is free as well).

Waterloo Street

No feeding the birds

Sri Krishnan Temple

…with very intricate details

Still at Waterloo Street (doesn’t it look like a street in Manila?)

Chinese Temple

Uhm, a lion?

Another mall, The Cathay, blending the old with the new

Plaza Singapura

Istana Park

Metro Manila has big trees but Singapore has much more and bigger!

A divider in one of the pedestrian crossings in Orchard Road bearing the country’s symbol

Taking a quick round trip tour of Singapore via MRT

Travel Tip: With the MRT via North South (NS) and East West (EW) Lines you can virtually cover almost the entire island in roughly an hour and a half!

Clean and green Singapore

Despite having a small area it’s hardly crowded due to excellent urban panning

Back at Changi Airport, Terminal 2: this was as far as my friend can take me

Travel Tip: If you have a lot of spare time before your flight, grab a copy of Changi Airport’s brochure as there are a lot of activities you can do at the airport itself.  Since it is much like a mall and hotel combo I could even suggest that you dedicate hours before your flight to tour the airport!

Airline counters

F1 fever still on!

Scale model on display

Finding my gate

Too far too walk

Not window seat, again!

It definitely was a memorable trip for me and unexpectedly four days wasn’t enough to tour Singapore!  Now I definitely have reasons to return and next time I know better.  For when or what main activity would bring me back is yet decided, but is already considered.  Until the next time, thank you Singapore!

Singapore Special Index:

24
Dec
09

Singapore Special: Sentosa (Day 03, Post-Race)

Everyone’s races are over, most got a new “personal best” (as how they refer to a “personal record” in Singapore), it’s time to celebrate!  We haven’t gone all out to save our strengths for our respective races and now, we can!  And where do adventure-seekers in Singapore go?  Sentosa!

The ladies…

…and the Gents…

…off to Sentosa! (Me behind the camera)

Sentosa is the southernmost territory of Singapore and as such has the southernmost coast of continental Asia (since Singapore is connected by land to the Asian mainland via bridges to Malaysia).  You may think of Sentosa as Singapore’s playground as it centralizes a lot of attractions here like Underwater World, Tiger Sky Tower, Palawan beach, and Southeast Asia’s first Universal Studios theme park (opening first quarter 2010) among others.

Sentosa

From the mainland you may get to Sentosa via a cable car (under repair) or the monorail.  The obvious choice for us was the monorail and interestingly its station was inside a mall (like many MRT stations in Singapore), Vivo City.  Getting to Sentosa (Imbiah Station) takes only a few minutes from Vivo City Station as it really wasn’t that far away—from a Filipino’s perspective you may compare it to crossing a slightly wider (and much deeper) Pasig River.

Here comes the monorail to Sentosa

As much as we want to explore this entire island and enjoy everything it had to offer time was not on our side as we only had less than half a day!  Some of our friends would also return to Manila later that night so all we had was the entire afternoon.  Without spending much time thinking we started with the obvious: the Luge and Skyride.

The gang at Sentosa with Singapore’s biggest Merlion at the background

Tiger Sky Tower

Luge

Skyride

Travel Tip: As many who have tried the Luge would tell you, “once is not enough.”  Take our word for it, get the combo!

At first the Skyride doesn’t look intimidating; I mean it’s just an open cable car, right?  But later on it proved to be a “screamer” for the ladies—it gets really high so it isn’t exactly for those who are afraid of heights.  It was quite enjoyable though as you get to see the island from a high spot but it’s a little too short (get the combo!).

View from the above

An even higher view!

Weee!

…what do we do next?

After the rides we settled to touring the area on foot as it was also getting too late for us to visit other attractions.  But before we left we were visited by the free-roaming peacock that just walks about the place.  Interesting.

The roaming peacock

Nice gate

Imbiah Station

A monorail stopping at the station

Upon returning to Vivo City I was quite tired to roam around the mall’s rooftop garden (I just did a marathon earlier so it was reasonable) so I just settled with lying on the grass.  I realized that our Singapore trip was coming to its conclusion so we had to maximize the time we had remaining.  All three of my “housemates” would be leaving that night and for our last activity together we decided to have a somewhat fancy dinner, back near our hostel in Bugis.

Getting some rest at Vivo City’s garden

Vivo City’s garden Christmas tree

Finally that night I had to say goodbye to my friends.  I was so tired that I didn’t even had the chance to think that I was alone in my room and just fell to sleep without trouble.  Tomorrow I’ll be checking out and be returning home, alone.  I wasn’t even able to think about that before I got to sleep…

Hotel InterContinental’s Christmas tree, just across our hostel

Meatball Spaghetti, always a favorite

Spicy Pasta, although it didn’t say so in the menu

Travel Tip: Watch out for the word “spicy” if you’re not used to it.

Last dinner in Singapore for this trip

Our hostel

Special thanks to Carina for some of the pictures that appeared here.

Singapore Special Index:

23
Dec
09

Singapore Special: The Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (Day 03)

One of my dreams is coming true: “to run a marathon abroad.” Not only am I fulfilling it, I’m doing it with flying colors with SCSM which is one of the most popular marathons in the world.  I remember when I first knew of SCSM a year ago I was quite envious of the runners that were racing here especially that they got full gear from a leading sports brand.  Back then my longest race was 10K so I never thought that a year later I too would be in Singapore, doing a full marathon!

From our hostel it was an easy kilometer to the Starting line and along the way we met runners of all sorts, nationalities, and races also on their way to the Start.  Aside from the heat you feel because of the humidity you can feel the heat of competition in the air!  We were in the presence of thousands of serious runners and world class elite athletes, definitely not your regular “social” race.  If this atmosphere doesn’t motivate you to run better, I don’t think anything could.

Baggage Counter

It’s pretty difficult to miss the baggage counter because signs were all over.  What’s good about their system was that they probably had enough space for every runner, and they don’t just take your bags, they place it inside huge plastic bags and seal it so you know that your things are protected.  Your baggage claim number would be stapled on your bib itself so you won’t lose it.

The Starting Line

From the baggage counter signs were placed that lead to the Starting line, the only difficulty would be navigating your way through the thousands of runners in the area.  Even in the area signs were very visible on where 21K and 42K runners should assemble.

Edu, Pepsi, Myself, and Carina (white bibs 42K, red bibs 21K)

The Starting line of SCSM was located across Fullerton Hotel and runners were assembled on the bridge all the way to the Esplanade.  There were a lot of portalets around the area (although there were so much more runners!) and water was also overflowing.

Thirsty?

Not all runners are created equal.  We all have different goals and capabilities and as such sections were dedicated for different target finish times: there was a section for over 5 hours, over 4 hours, over 3 hours, and of course up front the real competitive athletes.  Since timing chips were employed and if you’re not aiming for the podium your chip time would be your reference as getting through the Start line would take some time.

The Race

At exactly 5:30AM (Garmin time, to the second) the race started.  There were runners of all levels as far as the eye can see!  It took us more than two minutes (from the sub-5 hour section) to get through the Start line as the road was just jam packed!  It’s not that anyone was walking; everyone was running—all at the same pace!  It was strange for me at first to be surrounded by runners all running at about the same pace but despite the skill level of my company, because of the crowd we were running at an average of 6:30/km pace for the first 4K.

What’s nice with having a competitive pack like this was that you’re kept motivated to run.  You wouldn’t want to stand out in the crowd by being the first one to walk?  In the first place you picked your pace by choosing which section to start so there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to keep up with the crowd’s pace.  Everyone around you has the same goal as you: it’s either you let yourself be pulled towards the goal, or drag people to miss it.

After the euphoria and fatigue starts seeping in you’d just realize you’ve already ran 21K and the crowd is still there!  The jam packed crowd from the Starting line only loosens slightly at around 10K and even at 21K it was still pretty packed.  It was good I was in the sub-5 hour pack as nobody’s walking (so far) with the roads getting narrower when we entered East Coast Park, a beachside park with huge trees.  We were running on the park’s jogging trail so even if it was wide enough there were so many runners for the space.  Since we were already on our way back past 21K we can see on the other side the “slower” pack which was of course more crowded.

East Coast Park was one of my favorite parts of the course since it was very lively, it was beachfront, it had fresh air, it had a lot of supporters, and there was food!  You can feel the community’s support here as individuals give runners bananas, sandwiches, candies, and moral support.

As you progress with the race you just feel like the water stations get further and further despite being consistently at every 1.5K.  It was those moments where your mind would carry you.  Without a strong disposition you may give up.  Realistically it’s also at this point where you start slowing down without knowing it.  I remember that there was a runner who was starting to walk behind me.  One of the supporters put out one of his several banners, “this is a no walking zone.”  It was quite a funny moment and apparently it worked as the “walker” started running again with the supporter replying with a “thank you.”

I vaguely remember the details but around 10K before the finish I felt an imminent cramp setting on my left thigh.  I feared that I might walk all the way to the finish if it ensued so I had to take a brief rest and a walk break whenever I reach a water station.  Then I remembered my goal: “minimize walking.”  All my prior marathons have more than ideal walk breaks so if I were to stick to my goal I had to keep running.  As a compromise between preventing the full onset of cramps and minimizing walking I settled for easy and cautious running, of course walking a little after each water station.  Still, I think I was spending too much time at the water stations without realizing it, so when one of the volunteers at the water station cheered me up “Keep going, Dennis!” I was startled, but it woke me up and surprisingly got motivated to do just that, to the finish.

Finally back at Esplanade Drive, the Finish is just a few hundred meters away.  It was very, very crowded as runners from all categories converge in the area (think Milo Marathon) of course including “walkers.”  Looking at my GF405 I knew I would set a new PR and at a better than expected time!  I had to take it.  Out of nowhere I suddenly had the strength to run and finish strong, thinking fast to find my way through the sea of walkers and finally there it was, the Finish line.  I actually entered the wrong area of the Finish so I had to jump to the other section and make a mad dash against the clock.  As I crossed the Finish I was just so ecstatic that I just raised both my hands. It actually felt much longer than it actually was when I reviewed my video, which was probably adrenaline rushing.  Another marathon, my best so far, a “perfect” race for me.

Post Race

Finishing SCSM wasn’t enough; part of the experience was getting your reward: the precious finisher’s medal and the nice finisher’s shirt.  We also got a lot more freebies from the sponsors but I’d say the ice cream (more like ice popsicle) was one of my favorite treat (I got three).

Proud SCSM 42.195K Finisher

Singapore City Hall: the site of SCSM’s Finish

The activity area…

…with the skyline

…and the VIP tent

…where fruits, drinks, ice cream, and candy floss were served for free

It was definitely quite an experience, uniquely Singapore! I had so much fun that I am seriously considering returning to Singapore next year, although it may be with another event (who knows maybe I’ll return more than once).  I needed to fly three hours just to get the race that I was craving for, and despite the costs incurred it was well worth it for me.  This is an excellent example that when you give your best in anything you do, people will know, and you’ll get the credits and benefits you deserve.  Costs and distance will not be a factor if people know they’d get an experience they won’t forget.  Thank you Singapore and thank you Standard Chartered!  I am now a fan of SCSM!

Special thanks to Carina for the pictures that appeared here.

Singapore Special Index:

22
Dec
09

Singapore Special: Pre-Race Tour (Day 02)

As a tourist in the 21st century it is probably a mortal sin not to have a camera of sorts especially on foreign land, so for my second day in Singapore finding one comes on top of my itinerary.  Being a gadget hub I sure didn’t have any difficulty finding one for me in Singapore.  What’s good about being a tourist buying gadgets in Singapore is that you are entitled to a 7% GST (Goods and Services Tax) refund of up to S$300 for purchases above S$100 (in a single receipt).  For many gadgets Singapore prices are among the most competitive in the region and the additional incentive sure makes shopping more gratifying.  Here are the first sets of pictures taken from my new digital camera:

Raffles City

Raffles City fountain

Shopping sure makes you hungry

Travel Tip: Most modern gadgets won’t have any problem with Singapore’s voltage but if your gadget’s charger or power cord is Philippine-standard make sure to bring an adapter as Singapore’s outlets are different.

Lunch time with friends at Raffles City

What do tourists normally do? Tour!  That’s exactly what we did, and yes it’s the day before the marathon!

Jedi caught by the empire! Storm Troopers help gather funds for The Salvation Army (courtesy Carina)

Inside Swissotel The Stamford

War Memorial Park with the famous Singapore skyline in the background

One side of the baggage counter for SCSM at the Memorial

Travel Tip: You may consider bringing along a small bottle of water when touring Singapore.

A typical double decker bus

Travel Tip: Civic District is best toured by foot, but don’t forget to bring your map!

Marina Square

Lookey what we found

Esplanade

…from another angle

Fullerton Hotel with the Singapore skyline

The Merlion

…and the Merlion cub

For dinner since it’s the night before race day it can only mean one thing—carbo loading time!

Glitzy Christmas by the bay

Raffles City Christmas tree

Time to carbo-load!

Hmmm… Spaghetti!

Pizza, courtesy of Rico V. (By Sheer Will)

Seafood Carbonara Pasta

Before calling it a day we stopped over a supermarket to do some shopping.

Fruits

Cavendish Bananas from the Philippines!

Finally just before having some shuteyes I thought of writing some inspirational message on the extra bib provided, but being tired of touring my mind wasn’t generating creative juices so I just prepared my things for my marathon the following day.

My K-Ona ready for its Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon debut

The moment I have been waiting for, the reason I am in Singapore, has finally arrived.  What will happen on race day remains unknown so far…

Singapore Special Index:

21
Dec
09

Singapore Special: Southward Bound (Day 01)

After nine months finally I get to travel outside the Philippines and for my first ASEAN destination, Singapore!  It would be my first time to be a “sports tourist” and was very excited to have my first marathon outside the country.  Of course I am not alone with this “addiction” as I have my close friends with me doing the same.  Yeah, I guess you may call it that if you decide to go to Singapore for four days just to run a marathon.  You may also call it “crazy!”

Just before 4AM at the Centennial Terminal (Terminal 2), Manila, Philippines

Singapore is about a three-hour flight from Manila which isn’t that particularly long, but isn’t exactly short either.  There’s not much things you can do in a plane so after eating there’s still time to catch up on some sleep.

In-flight meal

Before 10AM we landed at Singapore’s Changi Terminal 2, a terminal that is more like a shopping mall and since computer terminals with internet access were offered for free at the terminal itself we were able to briefly check our e-mails and of course post updates to our social networking sites.

Free internet access at Changi Airport

What I love about this airport was its extremely tourist-friendly atmosphere.  As a first timer in Singapore I had no idea what to expect or do and for that the terminal offers a lot of free brochures and maps with special focus by interests like shopping, electronics and gadgets, night outs, night safari, and Sentosa.  Even the airport in itself had so much to offer that it needs to have its own brochure!

We have arrived!

Travel Tip: Philippine Peso (Php) along with other major currencies are readily exchangeable for Singapore Dollars (Sgd) at the terminal itself so you need not hassle yourself to buy US Dollar from home.  In fact it is much better to directly exchange your Php to Sgd that you incur the least amount of conversion value loss.

As an epitome of a city with an efficient public transportation system, their MRT is an excellent way to get around Singapore.  The organizers of Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCSM) utilized this fact and placed their distribution center for race packet distribution at the Expo—just a station away from the airport station of the MRT.

Still at Changi Airport bound for the MRT station

Travel Tip: bus and MRT bus fares are more expensive via cash than ez-link card, but regular MRT tickets can be returned at the General Ticketing Machine (GTM) for a S$1 refund.  You may also keep it as a cheapo souvenir!

A typical Singapore MRT General Ticketing Machine (GTM) to buy and return MRT tickets

First stop: The Expo.  If race kit distribution in Manila spells trouble for runners, for SCSM it’s the other way around as the entire process of claiming your kit won’t take you five minutes!  Aside from claiming your kit you also have a chance to see and buy a lot of running-related products a lot of which are not available in the local market.  A lot of items were also on sale including shoes and apparel from this year’s SCSM shirt provider, New Balance.  For me I settled with window shopping and a can of liniment spray.

Expo Station

Meeting fellow Pinoy runners at the Expo

At the expo

Huge banners mark where runners should queue for their kit

Kit claiming area at the Expo

Race bibs are packed in clear zip-lock bags. Race kits also include an SCSM event shirt and product samples and flyers from sponsors and are distributed inside bags

Travel Tip: Shoulder bags (regardless of the weight) are not the best choice when travelling.

At the expo we were joined by more of our friends, some Singapore-based, who would be running the SCSM, and by time everyone was done with their shopping it was time for lunch.  Conveniently there was also a food court at the expo but unfortunately it rained!  Most of the seats were located semi-al fresco so we had some issues with rain.  I thought that we left the rains back in Manila but it’s not exactly Sunny Singapore that greeted us.  Apparently it had been raining the past few days in the afternoon, and consistently for the last several years, days before SCSM, but according to our Singapore-based friends it had always been rainless at the day of the SCSM itself.  Will it rain during SCSM?

Strong rains aren’t enough to dampen our spirits!

After lunch it’s time for most of us to settle down on our hotels and of course it’s back to the MRT station.  It was like the pre-mobile phone era for us when we agreed to meet again for dinner as even the cost of sending an SMS was restrictive (most of us were carrying our Philippine SIM on roaming).  We had to do things the “old-school” way by agreeing to meet at a certain place at a certain time—makes you appreciate more the convenience of being at home.

Tourists finding their way “home”

Singapore’s MRT

For me and three of my friends our destination was Bugis—a popular tourist destination in itself.  We picked our hostel in this area because of its proximity to the Starting line of the SCSM near Fullerton Hotel which was only about a kilometer away.

How to spot a tourist in Singapore

Later that afternoon despite having less than ample rest Carina and I were off for some walking tours of the area.  With that tour we found out how close everything was—being from the Philippines where the scale of a typical map is in kilometers we were used to walking long before reaching a spot in the map.  In Singapore maps normally have scales of about a hundred meters making locations appear farther than they actually are—making the lives of some gutsy Pinoy tourists with hardly any orienteering skills roaming the streets of Singapore to have a very difficult time.

Expressways in Singapore uses non-disruptive RFID to collect tolls

Are pedestrians allowed here?

We were originally heading towards the Merlion that afternoon but we ended up in front of the Singapore Flyer and eventually in Suntek City.  With sunlight gradually fading we had no choice but to return to our hostel via a bus, which proved to be a not-so-easy task, but picking one was very “educational.”

The Singapore Flyer

We had another bonding moment with friends through dinner at Funan Digitalife Mall, a small building much like Gilmore IT Center in Quezon City.  Here we had our first taste of a mall-style food court.

Having fun with my selection of dinner

Excited tourists as we were, we refused to end the night with dinner and instead headed off to Clarke Quay, which was more like Riverbanks in Marikina meet Eastwood City.  Here I found my favorite “Ice cream slab sandwiched in wafer” which was only S$1.  The famous G-Max reverse bungy ride is also found here.  And from here most of us are just an MRT away, but for me and my “housemates” it was still walking distance away from home.  Some quick tour to cap our first day in Singapore.

Christmas tree in front of Central Promenade at Clarke Quay

G-Max

Special thanks to Carina for some of the pictures that appeared here.

Singapore Special Index:

18
Dec
09

Shoe Review: K-Swiss K-Ona

K-Swiss isn’t particularly known in the Philippines as a company that makes running shoes so I was quite surprised when I saw several models in the local market.  One particular shoe that caught my eye was the K-Ona.

K-Swiss K-Ona

K-Ona is definitely a looker with its design.  It looks very breathable but what surprised me was when I lifted it—at mere 9 ounces it was one of the lightest shoes I’ve ever handled!

Judging by looks of the K-Ona one may think that this is just your regular cushioning shoes for those leisure runners but the K-Ona is anything but that—it was the pair that Terenzo Bozzone wore at the recent Ironman 70.3 CamSur (Philippines).  Not only was the K-Ona Ironman 70.3-certified (half-Ironman), it is also Kona-certified (full Ironman).  A very impressive ultra-lightweight shoe!

Top view

Shoe Features

An Ultra-light (9oz) and stable running shoe perfect for fast days, races, and triathlons.

  • Durability is achieved with an Aosta® II rubber outsole.
  • Flexibility is enhanced by anatomically correct flex-grooves.
  • Support is obtained with a direct injected urethane support cage with five-stripe branding on top.
  • Stability comes from a rigid TPU midfoot shank.
  • Breathability is enhanced by a Flow Cool System™ for moisture management.
  • Cushioning is provided by Superfoam® technology, an Si-18 technology crash pad and a k-EVA midsole.
  • Comfort is enhanced with a seamless upper construction.

Technology Features

Aosta II AÖSTA II RUBBER COMPOUND
High-density outsole provides unsurpassed durability from heel-to-toe.
Flow Cool System FLOW COOL SYSTEM
Enhances breathability and moisture management from heel-to-toe to keep feet cool and dry.
K-EVA K-EVA
Special formula EVA to provide maximized cushioning and enhance durability of the midsole.
Superfoam SUPERFOAM
A space-aged energy-return foam that resists compression and lasts longer providing cushioning and comfort.

Of course shoes are not meant only to be looked at, but to be worn.  It was love at first step as I tried the K-Ona for the first time and run with it on a treadmill.  The first thing I noticed was how comfortable it was, not to mention that you hardly feel that you’re wearing a shoe because of its light weight.  Of course you know you’re wearing one because you land softly on the surface.

Don’t you just love the scent of new shoes?

The Test: Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon

Four days before SCSM I decided to have a piece of Kona myself, K-Ona I mean.  I’ve never had this much fascination with a shoe before and that same night I had it for a 6.75K test run.  It was one of those rare shoes that you need not break-in—it was excellent out of the box!  With just a single test run this shoe earned my trust that I decided outright that this would be my SCSM pair.  They said never to try anything new during race day but hey, if it’s good enough for Ironman, it’s good enough for me!

Ready for some action in Singapore!

Unlike other shoes that force you to conform to, the K-Ona is perfect for forefoot and heel strikers alike because of its excellent cushioning in these areas.  The rubber outsole is also very durable as it hardly exhibit any wear and tear even after a full marathon.  And unlike other shoes that feels hard after a long run, the Superfoam remains soft and comfortable even after the end of the 42K spree.  I’ve never had a shoe that was this comfortable that I actually never worried about my feet all throughout the run.  The flow cool system was also better than other cooling system used by other brands as you get unobstructed air flow from virtually all directions, which proved to be very useful for those humid runs like SCSM.  All these without sacrificing weight!

Among other noticeable features of this shoe are the excellent grip (despite the holes on the soles), excellent fit, seamless construction, no “hard” zones, and interesting shoe laces.

Even the soles feature the Flow Cool System™

The only drawback of this shoe was that it is definitely not for those who need stability or motion control as the midfoot shank provides only a moderate amount of control. You may also want to think twice before running into that puddle of water or mud as it may enter through the holes under the soles, although it may dry faster than other shoes would.

Aftermath of SCSM: My K-Ona didn’t get dirty during the marathon, it was during the claiming of the finisher’s medal!

Conclusion

The K-Ona is easily one of the best shoes in the market as it is very versatile in terms of use (good for sprints and long runs) and target audience (forefoot and heel strikers). It offers one of the best rides while maintaining support, good traction, and some level of control without sacrificing breathability and weight.  Even the insoles were very well made like those custom insoles. Add to that cool looks without breaking the bank. Don’t just take my word for it, seasoned Ironman champions use it!  It was a “perfect” shoe for that “perfect” race. If there’s anything more I’d like, that would be to have another pair (wait, make that two)!

15
Dec
09

Pinakbet Chronicles: Blue Lagoon, Bangui Wind Turbines, Pagudpud, and Cape Bojeador (Day 03)

Monday, November 30, 2009, Bonifacio Day, a holiday and also our last day in Ilocos.  For this day it’s northward-bound to the ends of Luzon. But first we had to bring along some food for travel and the local Biscocho was the perfect: unlike its Manila counterpart that is hard, Ilocos Biscocho also comes in soft variety with distinct taste that’s really delicious without needing any fillings.

If you’re in Ilocos try both varieties of Biscocho from this bakery

First stop, Blue Lagoon.  This would be the northernmost point I had ever reached in Luzon thus also the farthest kilometer marker I’ve seen at 562 kilometers.  Blue Lagoon got its name from the color of its water, Blue.  I thought that water only turns blue because it reflects the color of the sky, but it was gray at that time due to thick rain clouds and yet the waters of Blue Lagoon remained blue, attesting to how pristinely clean its waters are.  Strong winds greeted us here but it didn’t dissuade us from testing the waters.  I could only imagine this place being a surfer’s haven.

Blue Lagoon

Another view of Blue Lagoon

Running barefoot at the fine beaches of Blue Lagoon

Survivor Ilocos?

Another self-timer moment, with Sir Faivo as our guide with this tour

Surf’s up!

After spending some moments at the Blue Lagoon we headed southward towards the famous beaches of Pagudpud.  All I can say was that the beaches were so beautiful I had to run on it, barefoot!  (That was the runner in me speaking, hehe)  Of course the waters were perfect for dipping and for some reason despite being a holiday we virtually have the beach to ourselves!  I can spend the entire day on this beach—it was my idea of a perfect beach getaway: company of good friends, an excellent weather and practically isolated beach!

The famous beaches of Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

Distinct Pagudpud Coconut trees

A perfect spot for barefoot running…

…which isn’t what people normally do at the beach!

In case you’re Garmin-curious of my barefoot run in Pagudpud, or simply want to find out where Pagudpud is, here’s my Garmin data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/19889959

Lunchbreak!

Halfway into the day, still more spots to visit!

Did you see that? (Courtesy McCoy)

These are the popular wind turbines of Bangui, Ilocos Norte

The only wind farm in the Philippines located beachfront

Can’t resist the urge to run…to measure the distance between each turbine

Ever been to a lighthouse?  On top of a hill?  Well I haven’t so our trip to one in Cape Bojeador was another first for me, not to mention that it also had a historical significance.

Lighthouse of Cape Bojeador

History

Wonderful shot by Sir Rene

View from the top

Three days definitely wasn’t enough to tour Ilocos as there were still so many things we could do and places to visit.  Despite the nine-hour travel time from Manila it was well worth the effort as you get to do a lot of things here.  I have no particular favorite as I loved every place that we visited and for a food lover in me I loved all the food that we tasted.  Best of all was the hospitality we received from Sir Faivo and his wife Ma’am Babette.  Thank you Sir and Ma’am for giving us a wonderful tour of your province!  It was definitely an excellent experience and we look forward to returning to Ilocos.  Thank you as well to Sir Rene, Wilnar, and McCoy for the company and of course the pictures!

That’s the story of our peregrination in Ilocos

Pinakbet Chronicles:




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