Sleep Can Wait. Beat the Sunrise

May 29, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Posted in itchy backside | 2 Comments
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Itchyfingers gave ourselves a big challenge last December. We decided to join our first night race, the Sundown Marathon. After much consideration and a lot of self doubt, I decided to sign for the 21km Half Marathon while Tisu Boy signed for the 42.195km Full Marathon, since he already tried the half distance during the last Safra Bay Run and Army Half Marathon. We thought we had a good half a year to train…but as usual, with busy work schedules as well unwillingness to compromise on our travel plans and nature outings, the longest distance Itchyfingers had ever ran together during trainings was up to 15km at East Coast Park. For my Half Marathon, this is still considered reasonable training distance, with the remaining 6km to be completed hopefully with a strong determination. But for the Full Marathon, this is not really enough training…

Race Day finally arrived! 28 May 2011!

I always like Sundown’s promotional poster…so inspiring…hahah

The starting time for Half Marathon was 8pm whereas the Full Marathon was 10pm. So we gotta reach the venue by 7pm. But the traffic started to get bad at Changi Coast Road, with cars and 10km Runners sharing the road. It only got better at Aviation Road…

10km Runners on the way back to the Changi Exhibition Centre. There were
some who were only starting their race now…think they were late… 

Then we were told by road marshall that there were no more parking lots and were asked to park our car at the road side and walk down two lamp poles to take the free shuttle bus inside. Had to clarify this cos on the Facebook page, many runners taking the shuttle bus from Singapore Expo thought drivers had parked their cars indiscriminately at the road side, hence causing traffic jams. There used to be another carpark but now it was closed, probably due to some construction work. We din take the shuttle bus cos we weren’t sure how long we gotta wait for the bus to fill up and walked in with some other runners. Didn’t know the stretch of road was alread two kilometres…Sweating already by the time we reached the Exhibition Centre. Poor Tisu Boy had to walk back to fetch the spare car key so that I could get my clothings for change after my run.. 😮 While waiting for him, I did my warm up but was getting anxious and nervous….This was my first race for the year. Had a cramp on my right calf on Friday night while sleeping and unfortunately, I was inconvenienced by my monthly cycle…sh*t…what lousy timing for my maiden Half Marathon attempt. In the end, I think I started my race six or seven minutes late…gotta try to calm my nerves…

The route I was supposed to run..gosh…what a straight boring road….This was where we did
our New Balance Real Run last year, but then we had a mixture of trails whereas this was
 on the road…with no scenery on the way…it was too dark to see anything anyway…hahah 

If you think the 21km looked scary, wait till you see the 42km route! My goodness! What a
straight long, long….road!!!! 

I was feeling strong at the beginning, with very constant pace. The temperature was not too hot but it was still quite humid. As I carried my own water, I skipped the first three water points…it was so crowded too…But just as I was still keeping good pace, my calves started to cramp at about eight to nine kilometres…Gotta slow down a little..wanted to get some 100plus at the 10km water point but there was only water. The next two water points were also water, with one of them ran outta 100plus…Aiyo…Many runners also crowded around the tables after getting their drinks; other times, the volunteers were not quick enough to fill up the cups. Crossed the 10km marker at around 1.18hr…didn’t wanna do it faster as it was not my usual 10km race, so needed to conserve some energy for the second leg of the run. By the time I hit 15km, it was around the same time as during our training, which was around two hours…My calfs were still cramping up, so I stopped for a while to do some stretching before continuing to press on. I told myself consistantly that I can do it as I was still feeling very good other than the cramps on the calves, which I really gotta control them from worsening by not trying to go any faster…

Luckily the long road which Itchyfingers ran during our training didn’t feel so boring cos there were many runners in front that kinda distract you a bit, making it a bit interesting. And it was always good feeling if you could catch up with them, one by one…hahah… :p

As last, I reached the last hydration point before heading back to the Exhibition Centre on the dark road. At one point it was really dark, so if you were among the fastest or slowest runners, you might find yourselves alone in the dark…quite scary….hahah…Luckily I had kept some water to last me through this last stretch…

Then…after what seemed like eternity, I finally saw the Exhibition Centre with the big Sundown Balloon. With the last dash of energy, I finally crossed the finishing line! :D! I had wished for a 2hr 30 min timing but was more confident of a more realistic timing of three hours given the limited training sessions and my calf condition. In the end, I finished under three hours, about 2hr 56min…but will need to see the official result later. :p

The next few hours while waiting for Tisu Boy to come back, I kept myself busy by changing into a fresh set of clothings (which I needed to walk 2km with a slight limp back to the car and stupidly walked back another 2km cos I CANNOT DRIVE the car nearer now that carpark lots were emptied by those who left!!!!) Watched some B grade movie that the organiser showed, which was really boring, while worrying if Tisu Boy could finish his race and come back in one piece… :p

Waited at the finishing line for nearly an hour and at about 3 plus in the morning, received a SMS from Tisu Boy saying he was reaching…Then finally saw him ran across the finishing line! My goodness! He made it! Nevermind the timing, cos it was already an achievement to finish a full distance marathon, especially when the route was so boring, it was really a test of determination to finish!

The finishing line…The cut off time for the Half Marathon was 5hours while
the Full Marathon was 9hours. Actually with a relatively early starting time at
10pm for the Full Marathon, unless you were really the slowest walker/runner,
most could beat the sunrise, which only happens at around 7.15am here… 

Tisu Boy suffered from old heels injury after the second half of the route…
but luckily he bumped into one of the 6hours pacer and followed him…and
managed to finish faster than that…

Tisu Girl with her medal

Itchyfingers had made it! And we did it not too far from our projected
timing…not so bad for first timers I guess…hahah

Finisher tee for the 42km runners…I wanna have one of these one day….

Results out for the master categories of the various distances…

Sleep can wait….We all waited…everyone was a winner!


Some Sundowners were still hanging around when we left…probably too
tired to move those legs…We ended our night (day?) with MacDonalds
brekky at East Coast with my friend Butterfly and her running buddy… 

Yeah! My first 21km running medal! Actually I am not sure if I can do this
if it was not a night race…the hot sun would be such a killer…

The back

Yeah! Tisu Boy’s medal!

Also see related posts:
> The Fox Legacy Runs On
First Marathon
Scaling New Height
Taking Baby Steps
Life is Great – Great Eastern Women 10K Run
The Ultimate X-Terrain Challenge – New Balance Real Run 2010
Ten Ten Ten Ten – The Prelude
An Uphill Task
Getting into Shape
Stepping Up @ NLB
Tortoise and Hare


Wake Up Call – Aoraki Mount Cook, New Zealand Trip #11

May 25, 2011 at 1:23 am | Posted in itchy backside | 1 Comment
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I was in nice warm Slumberland when a high-pitch screech woke me up…I opened my eyes and got a shock when I saw something outside the window…moving…Then it let out that squeal again…It was only then I realised what was that…

Oh my goodness! I couldn’t believe my eyes! A Kea standing at the balcony 
of my room, waking me up at 4.30 am! The sky was still so dark!

Can you imagine how excited Itchyfingers was? To be woken up by a mountain parrot! :D!!! It was still so dark and yet this naughty parrot was already warming up his vocal! (Click here to listen to the kea’s call)

The naughty parrot kept walking to and fro…He had rings on his legs…
must be tagged by the national park people… 

It was tough trying to take decent photos of the bird since it was still so dark…Itchyfingers were fully awaken by now…hahah…Not too long later, we realised we weren’t the only ones “terrorised” by the Kea…There seemed to be others jumping around on the rooftop and our neighbours’ balconies as well! Could hear the other people laughing in amusement as well as flashing of cameras. Hahahah…All woken up by these “natural alarm clocks”! Hahah….

An hour or so passed while the Kea continued clowning around, the morning
sun began to extend its golden rays on the
 mountain range. From our balcony
we could see Mount Cook on the right…

Colours reaching its full intensity!

The first Kea flew off, only to be replaced by another one very soon…These
mountain parrots were so cute, totally unafraid of people. We were the ones
who were more wary of their sharp beaks and claws…hahah 

Being curious, these Kea can be destructive also! 

Our neighbours gave this Kea a apple core…probably so that it would stay
longer at their balcony for them to take photos…but this guy preferred to
come over to our side….

The tentcard in the room with advices on not feeding the Kea, apparently
ignored by our neighbours…

Luckily some still preferred to snack on natural food sources…

Strangely, the naughty parrots seemed to have enough fun disturbing people’s sleep and fooling around on the balcony shortly after the sky turned bright, and one by one, they left. It was also time for us to wash up… :p What a great start for the day! 😀

The previous day afternoon after we had checked into the hotel, we decided to explore around the area….

The Hermitage, a hotel with a long history dating back to 1884

From the hotel, there was this trail that led to the various walks… 

We decided to go for the shorter Kea Point walk due to time constraint, as
day light could end quite early here…

Very easy walking

On the way, we saw raspberry tree! So tempted to pluck and eat!

And also these miniature apple-look-alike fruits…cute…

It was very peaceful as we only met a couple of other visitors on the way..
Maybe we walked too slow so din get to catch up with them…hahah

Most of the path were well-laid…

I think we much longer time to reach here…stopped too long for photos
along the way…hahha…

I forgot to take a photo of the Kea Point viewing platform, which by the time we reached there, was occupied by a couple of other visitors.

Could see Mount Cook so much nearer here! The highest mountain in New
Zealand, reaching at height of 3,754 metres! Er, did my eyes play tricks
on me? I thought I saw a face on the mountain!? Did you see it?

There! Can you see the face? Even the old English couple Itchyfingers were
talking to agreed that it looked like a face!

As the cloud kept moving in from the right to cover the mountain, we sat there patiently hoping to see the mountain cleared up….

And it did… 🙂

We sat on the platform chatting with the couple, admiring the beauty and peacefulness of the vast mountain landscape, until another Malaysian chinese girl who backpacked with two other friends joined us. She walked here alone as her friends were tired. Interesting to meet fellow asian in foreign country!

Walking back took slightly shorter time, but we were still being caught up by other visitors…hahah…

This ang moh guy was brisk walking behind us so we thought he was 
rushing for time and made way for him to cross over first. But after he passed
me, he just decided to lie down amongst the grass to take a nap! Totally ignoring
other people! Hahahah…! Another asian couple in front of us was posing
for photo with Mount Cook as backdrop…

Another look back at Mount Cook…

Just as we hastened up our pace, we saw something small flew past…To our surprise, it was a raptor!

The New Zealand Falcon (Falco novaeseelandiae)! We were lucky to
see this!

Also see related posts:
> Sound of Silence – Fiordland National Park, New Zealand Trip #10
Mega Fox – Wanaka, New Zealand Trip #9
Ice Age – Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand Trip #8
The Kueh Lapis – Punakaiki, New Zealand Trip #7
Changing Landscape – Arthur Pass, New Zealand Trip #6
> Seal with a Kiss – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #5
Freezing Sunset – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #4
Alfresco Dining – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #3
A Roller Coaster Ride – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #2
Mass Exodus – Christchurch, New Zealand Trip #1

Sound of Silence – Fiordland National Park, New Zealand #10

May 15, 2011 at 11:21 pm | Posted in itchy backside | Leave a comment
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The roller coaster experience I had in Kaikoura for whalewatching made me a bit worry about Itchyfingers‘ next cruise in New Zealand. But we had prebooked it online so like it or not, I would still have to give it a go…hahah…

We would be taking one of these for our cruise to Milford Sound

The Milford Visitors Centre and Terminal…

As it was a noontime cruise, we could choose to pay extra for sandwich lunch and hot beverages to be served on board at the start of the ride. Itchyfingers didn’t wanna pay for the costly meal (we had our own sandwiches at the visitors’ carpark!) so we joined some other tourists (looked like poor backpackers like us…hahah) to sit at the outer deck of the boat….looked a bit miserable…hahahah….

Milford Sound is one of the most accessible fiords in the south west of NZ’s South Island, within the Fiordland National Park and the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site. It is approximately 16km from the head of the fiord to the open sea, which means visitors can comfortably travel the length of the fiord to open ocean and return on one of the many cruise options available.

So, what’s a fiord?

Fiord, or Fjord, is “a long narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created in a valley carved by glacial activity. A fjord is formed when a glacier cuts a U-shaped valley by abrasion of the surrounding bedrock. Glacial melting is accompanied by rebound of Earth’s crust as the ice load and eroded sediment is removed.”  Milford Sound is one of the 14 fiords in New Zealand. They were mistakenly named sound by James Cook, the British explorer. A sound is a drowned valley (flooded by the sea following a rise in sea levels or depression of the land, or a combination of both), whereas a fiord is a valley carved out by glaciers (flooded by the sea after the glacier’s retreat.)

There were many small waterfalls snaking their way down along the cliff


So many of them…

It was a peaceful and quiet scenario, looking at the landscape enjoying the cool breeze. By now my worry about getting sea sick was gone, as the water seemed to be much calmer. It helped that we were sitting outside, getting fresh air. 🙂

A fellow cruise vessel…

Vegetation thrived despite the harsh condition…

Gulls were plentiful…so were the streaks of fecal waste on the cliff face…

Terns were also seen…Not too sure the identity of this tern….could be the
White-fronted Tern…

Not too long later, the serenity was broken and replaced with exclaims of excitement from the tourists when the tour operator alerted all of the sighting of Fur Seals (Arctocephalus forsteri)

Sound of clicking of cameras on three fat Fur Seals snoozing on the rock
broke the silence!

As the boat turned, more seals were seen at the same location! So cute! I
wished they could have stopped longer for us to observe the cute fellas

So lonely

Then another group of Fur Seals were spotted! This group was slightly
more active…It may not be as close as the ones we saw at Kaikoura but
the seals here were found to be gathering in much larger groups…

How did they manage to climb on the relatively steep, smooth and slippery

It was a fine day when we started our cruise. But it started to drizzle heavily…something that was expected – Fiordland’s weather is what gives the region its unique character. Rainfall is what makes Fiordland a land of lakes, rivers, streams, waterfalls and fiords. So visitors should always be prepared to enjoy some rainfall during their stay. It is recommended to bring sensible clothing for cool and wet weather to fully appreciate your stay. According to our cruise operator’s site, “the temperatures you can expect in the different seasons are as follows: summer (December-February) 19-23 Celsius, autumn (March-May) 8-18 Celsius, winter (June-August) 5-9 Celsius, spring (September-November) 10-19 Celsius.”


At one point, the operator announced that we were going to go nearer to
this waterfall. Couldn’t really catch all he said cos the broadcast system
wasn’t very clear
…But this should be one of the bigger ones that we could go
was taken from our boat. Even at this distance, we could feel
the powerful splatters of water

Many tourists weren’t bothered that their small cameras would get wet and
went to the upper deck to experience the full power of the waterfall! So fun!
Too bad I was still sick and my thin windbreaker would not protect against
heavy rain….

This was as far as Tisu Boy could go! Head on with the powerful splash!

I think that was how close our vessel went towards the waterfall…

As the rain got heavier, many retreated inside to take cover. At a point it got so wet and cold that Itchyfingers also tried to take shelter inside, only to find there were no more seats available. Most of the tourists look like foreigners, with the majority being older folks with their families or groups of friends. There was only one other asian family. We were drenched and feeling so cold, trying to look around for a seat to rest but no one offered to invite us to join their tables although some of the seats were not fully occupied but were used to put their belongings. Not very gracious and considerate. We couldn’t even find a proper place to stand…Looking at them happily laughing and sipping hot coffee and tea while ignoring others who were standing around shivering suddenly made me feel like an inferior being…felt so discriminated…Maybe we should have tried asking nicely…We weren’t even sure if we could help ourselves to the drinks to warm ourselves since we didn’t pay for the food. So we stood near the door with a few other caucasian tourists (who were also late to take shelter) for a while before going out again to take photos…

Tisu Girl happy again…hahah…

On the way back, we saw these…


No, these were the
Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)! There
were a few of them but they didn’t do as much acrobatic leaps as the
Dusky Dolphins Itchyfingers saw at Kaikoura whalewatching, so it was
tougher to predict when they were gonna emerge outta the water. It was
still raining and the boat was moving, so this was the best picture we
could manage…And suddenly the coffee or tea sippers inside all ran out
to take photos also…

The Red-billed Gull and possibly the
White-fronted Tern (Sterna striata),
the most common tern in New Zealand…It was still drizzling…

Last look at another waterfall before we ended our cruise…

We left the Visitors’ Centre/Terminal and as we drove along the road up, we were delighted to find multiple streams of waterfall from the top of the cliff…it was such a majestic sight….

The steep road up…The waterfalls were absent when we drove down to the
Visitors Centre but after the
 whole afternoon’s rain, waterfalls streamed
down like opened taps…

We were treated to a panoramic view of waterfalls on the rocky cliffs…
Here we were approaching the Homer Tunnel…Some site said that you
could see the mountain parrot, Kea, here but we didn’t see any…

The Homer Tunnel is 1,270 metres long and used to be pitch dark inside until
a tour bus carrying tourists from Singapore caught fire about 150 metres
from the eastern portal in 2002. A satellite phone and fire extinguishers
were installed in the tunnel as a result of this incident. Roof lighting was
fitted and traffic lights reintroduced in 2004 to reduce capacity constraints
and safety issues. Here we had to wait for cars from the opposite end to
pass before we could enter, giving us the chance to take in the amazing

Even if there were lights now, you still have to turn on the headlight when
you enter the tunnel

No words could describe the majestic view in front of us…Itchyfingers
were speechless

The valley in the fog…This looked so Lord of the Ring! 😀

A coach from the same tour operator as our cruise…Notice anything
unique about the coach? It was titled upwards so that people at the back
could have an unobstructed view along the way…interesting

Many of the pictures on travel brochures we saw on Milford Sound were mostly colourful, bright and cheery taken on sunny days, but on a rainy day, it presented a different look that was so peaceful and serene too. Moments of silence were always broken with lives of animals and the waterfalls…and not forgetting the sounds of camera shutters of excited tourists…Come experience a different Milford Sound, be it a sunny or rainy day, the fiord will definitely leave you speechless….

Also see related posts:
Mega Fox – Wanaka, New Zealand Trip #9
Ice Age – Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand Trip #8
The Kueh Lapis – Punakaiki, New Zealand Trip #7
Changing Landscape – Arthur Pass, New Zealand Trip #6
> Seal with a Kiss – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #5
Freezing Sunset – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #4
Alfresco Dining – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #3
A Roller Coaster Ride – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #2
Mass Exodus – Christchurch, New Zealand Trip #1

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