Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Singapore Sports Hub

The new Singapore Sports Hub and National Stadium has now been opened for about a month and during this period, the public are free to use some of the facilities. Like all the curious people, we went to look see look see.

Unlike the old National Stadium which is just a sports stadium with a cluster of smaller facilities nearby, the new stadium is housed in an integrated complex. The new complex called the Sports Hub have beside the stadium, an aquatic centre with swimming and diving facilities, tennis, badminton and basketball courts. There are also beach volleyball courts, watersports facilities for sailing, kayaking and dragon boating. 

The main complex comes with a retractable roof so no more wet soccer pitch


There is also a 880 metres running track outside the stadium itself for the public to run around.
The sidekick doing the obligatory run round the stadium
The new stadium beside the retractable roof also has arrangeable plastic seats. Somehow it feels a bit different from the nice wooden seats which has since been turned into decorative benches and placed all over Singapore.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

IPPT

I find it weird that Mindef has seemed it fit to respond to all the cry father cry mother about the IPPT and after a review, took such a drastic step of dropping the standing board jump, shuttle run, pull up and replacing it with a push up. Only the sit up and 2.4km remain untouched.

I know many people cannot do the standing board jump (SBJ) and the pull up and that is the single biggest cause of the high rate of failure.  When I did my NS more than 30 years ago, I couldn't even do 1 single pull up. As a result, we had to do pull up before and after every meal. Over the course of the BMT, most of us eventually manage to do the minimum 6. SBJ was a different ball game altogether. It was not something that we could train for everyday. For me, I was lucky that I usually managed to scrap through. However, for many others, even though they excel in all the other stations, a failure at the SBJ means they failed the entire IPPT.

So after so many years, I guess Mindef has finally decided to listen to the complaints and did a review and removed the 2 biggest bugbear of the soldiers. Or maybe the current commanders cannot stomach a high failure rate and decided to get rid of the problem the easy way.

The IPPT was modelled after the international NAPFA test. Each station was supposed to test different aspect of one fitness like pull up for upper body strength, sit up for core muscle, SBJ for agility and so on. Personally I don't see the relevance of the SBJ for a soldier's fitness. Likewise, the shuttle run, the sit up and the 2.4km run. These are measures of a person fitness in a mainly sports environment. Not for a soldier and definitely not for a soldier engaged in a war. As it is, our soldiers are already quite a big softie with so much pampering compared to the bad old days. Probably the toughest test for the soldier right now is the route march but even then, the distance has been shorten considerably.

If Mindef is really serious about ensuring that its soldiers are combat fit, I would suggest that they seriously reconsider the whole idea of the IPPT. Why have a half pass 6 type of standards? Soldier don't just run 2.4 km in a war. Being able to run 2.4 km under 10 minutes is not going to make anybody a great soldier. Likewise being able to do 20 pull up or push up or 40 sit up. What has that got to do with one fitness?

To measure a soldier's true fitness, I will suggest that Mindef bring back the full battle order obstacle course test. That is definitely a more intense measure of a soldier's fitness and strength cum ability to manoeuvre, dodge and climb obstacles. But that is only for a short assault. To test a soldier's endurance during war, make every runner runs a half marathon in Standard Battle Order not PT kit. After all, when a soldier goes to war, he is not going to wear running attire and sport shoes. If a soldier can pass the obstacle course test and the SBO half marathon test, I believe he should be fit enough to fight a war even if he can't run 2.4 km in the required time or jump 251cm.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Cyclist vs

Cyclists in Singapore have always been on the wrong side of the news. Either they are immortalised on youtube and stomp for their riding antics or they are making the headline as accident victim. Social media here (and I think in other countries as well) are full of complaints about cyclists.

Over in Singapore, one of the biggest pet peeve is cyclists who continues to cycle on pedestrian walkways, which except for Tampines town, is illegal in very other estates. Yet these cyclists ride like they own the pavements and expect pedestrian to jump out of their way when they zoomed by. On the road, the tables are turned on them when motorists forced them to the curb and in some extreme case, mow them down like bowling pins. Yet, despite these risks, the behaviour of cyclists on the roads seem to have gotten from bad to worse and worst still, even if they are the one in the wrong, they behave like they are not like this one here.

Just this morning, I was running along Changi Beach Park when I came across an altercation between a group of cyclists and a runner. It appeared the cyclists were cycling on the pedestrian path and not on the empty cycling path. The runner apparently shoved one of the cyclist. Not too sure whether that was deliberate or accidental. What I gathered was the cyclists were angry he had pushed one of them down. He, the runner was angry the pack of cyclists were forcing him off the path onto the grass patch. There was loud voices raised and it looks like 2 of the cyclists was not going to let up. The runner stood his ground and insisted that the cyclists should have not been on the pedestrian path. They in turn retorted that there was a child on the cycling path and so they had detoured onto the pedestrian path. At one stage things got pretty heated up but eventually better senses prevail and everybody moved on.

I cannot judge who was right or who was wrong. A lot of us runners also run on the cycling path as it is made of asphalt which is kinder on the leg than the concrete on the pedestrian path. So to fault the cyclists for cycling on the pedestrian path can be hypocritical. But having said that, when a whole pack of cyclists rushed down a narrow path at speed of 35 to 40 km/hr, it can be quite scary for the pedestrian and is an accident waiting to happen. I go to the East Coast Park frequently and I am always shocked at the irresponsible attitude of pack (yes I will describe them as pack rather than train) of cyclists. Even though they are cycling on the cycling path, East Coast Park is not the place for competitive cycling. The cycling path is between the pedestrian path and the facilities on the other side and all park users has to cross the cycling path to get to the toilet, car park or the underground passage on their way to Marine Parade. There are pedestrian crossings at regular intervals but I have never seen a cyclist stop for anybody. With so many people including children and pets running across the cycling path, it is really scary to see pack after pack of cyclist charging down the path scattering everybody in the way.

It is the same situation on the road. At Upper Thomson Rd, I see pack of cyclists cycling together. Perhaps they think there is safety in number and they are more visible to motorists. But some part of the roads are single lane, like Old Upper Thomson Rd and motorists are forced to crawl behind them until the road widen enough or there is no oncoming vehicles and motorists then overtake them against the traffic flow. But of course the cyclists don't care because they expects motorists to give way to them just as they expect pedestrian to give way to them on the pavement.

Either way, cyclists are not endearing themselves to the general public with their blatant flouting of rules like riding across overhead bridges, failing to stop at pedestrian crossings and very rude and obnoxious shout at people or  the incessant ringing of the bell to clear the way for them. At the end of the day, it is a life at stake be it theirs (most of the time) or that of the pedestrian (very rare). If only they can realise that and rather than try to be king of the road, practice a little humility and patient and learn to co-exists with other road users without coming across as the villain in all the situation.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Journey to Mt Kinabalu - The Descent

What goes up must come down. And so do we. After climbing for 14 hours over 2 days, we were finally ready to descend to Timpohon Gate. We had a shower in the freezing cold water of Laban Rata, a light breakfast and off we went.


Our target was to reach Timpohon Gate by 3 pm. The distance from Laban Rata was only 6 km yet it felt like 60km. It never amazed me that 500 metres seem so long in the jungle. 

The first part of the downward climb was on the uneven rock surfaces and so progress was much slower. And we stopped to allow the climbers coming behind us to overtake. Its is so amazing to see these young people jumping down so easily without any fear. For us old fogeys with our aching knees and joints, every jolt felt like somebody using a hammer to hit us.
Photo by Alicia Koh
But thankfully, the rocky part was only about 2 km long and soon we were on the main Timpohon trail. And as we descended, we were thankful that Tony had chosen for us to summit via Mersilau because there was really no view at all throughout the Timpohon trail. It was just a single trail with lots of steps sandwiched between 2 side of jungle. In fact it looked just like our Bukit Timah trail! 

Photo by Alicia
There was a small little waterfall but that was about it. 

Less than 200 metres from the waterfall was the end of our climb. The Timpohon Gate. And it really is a gate!
Photo by Alicia
From Timpohon Gate we were transported by shuttle service to the Sabah Park HQ where we had our lunch before transport back to our hotel in Kinabalu town. And with that, we ended our 2 days 1 night journey to Mt Kinabalu. Did we bite off more that we could chew? I don't think so. Other than the altitude, I think this is a fairly easy climb. No technical climbing skill is required and what is needed is just lot of energy, determination, a pair of good shoes and anyone can reach the peak.

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