Working for a better future

My cousin and myself when we were lil munchkins. :p 

Well, time certainly flies. I've graduated from university and am facing a different phase in life, now. The cliché statement that many people say about time is certainly true here. Life is moving too fast, too fast for me to be comfortable right now. Looking back at things, I can definitely say that I've matured much more than I was 4 years ago in every aspect of life, which is a good thing, perhaps for a better me, a better future.

There are some days when emotions and feelings blurs the boundary of what's right and wrong. And as a consequence, my pragmatic self tells me that I've made the wrong choice and that my actions are wrong. That's when conscience comes in and tell me that it's time to apologize.... I think for me, it's hard sometimes and my emotions and logic will always, constantly try to override each other. Battling each other at some point in time but I know for sure that the practical side of me will surface one day and slap the reality out of me.

But anyway, I've recently gotten back my habit of writing but this time it's more about writing my thoughts and feelings out.... I've been writing them in my little "book of thoughts" ( some, which I am not comfortable for public viewing), especially when I feel sad or down. For me, sometime it helps me to allow my thoughts to flow and to stop myself from feeling terrible about things that has already happened; things that go against my morality and how I should present myself and treat others.

Since most of that I've managed to solve and satisfy, I'm now faced with a bigger obstacle in life. Securing my future (or at least working towards my ideal life; my career, necessity, goals, and wants in life).  For the past few days, I've been deep in thoughts, weighing the pros and cons of the decision that I'm about to make since whatever decision I make can give a different outcome... It's definitely never easy but I'm working with baby steps at a time and trying to tailor myself to ultimately land in a place for a better quality of life.

Well, I also want to say that at some point in time we all feel insecure, because we are unsure of the future that lies ahead. There's no clear path and consequently that leads to all of our strange unexplained and unjustifiable feelings. We might think that this strange mixed feeling of unknown is perhaps due to the fact that we just fall out of our relationship, or perhaps we fear of being alone, the job we are having right now sucks, how can I earn enough to sustain myself of my wants and need? It maybe a multitude of things but let me tell you this that we are certainly not alone.

My peers, my close friends are also experiencing this 'strange feeling' and well, I thought that it was only me, that I'm the only one feeling this because I don't have a job or etc. But the truth is that, we will all feel it, maybe not now but later we will. Both my friends already have what they needed - education, job, stable relationship, etc. I thought it was already pretty much perfect - but they feel the same as I do as well. So I came with the conclusion that it's a normal feeling to have at some point in time because of the uncertainties of what lies ahead in the future. 

Sometimes, all you need is a friend to talk to. Or perhaps some me-time to unwind your feelings, or a temporary relief from the crazy hustle and bustle in life (but don't forget to come back to reality and face those seemingly monster problems you have). Just remember that God will always give you problems that you can solve so that you can be a stronger person. Oh, that, I should give credits to my good friend Jeremy, who quoted it. It may seem terrible in the moment but trust me, no matter which stage of life you are at or in what point in life, there will always be problems that you think you cannot solve. I may not have been at points where I have no job and no money (I've had friends that talked to me about this in the past and it's definitely not fun) but I've definitely heard enough and seen enough in life to know that it's temporary..... For me, I'll have my faith in God and trust that He will provide and give me all that I need in life...

We're in this together,

My First Full Marathon!

Well, I do have a little something to note before I continue. I just wanted to say that I have participated in a work and travel program (WAT) to America and have decided that I should complete my first virgin marathon over in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I was having my 3rd year’s final exam when I decided to register and participate in this event. It was a perfect opportunity as I have 3 months before the marathon and also, I have been wanting to fulfill this resolution of mine since the year 2014. 

Race course map. More information with GPS mapping 
can be found here

Well, I followed this plan that was forwarded to me by my friend Ashley since she knows that I have own a basic Polar heart rate monitor [Target Oriented Runner 12-Weeks Training Plan]. This plan was designed to be completed in 12 weeks and overall I think the program has worked very well (for me at least) because when I was running the full marathon (FM), I was expecting myself to hit the wall at kilometer 30 or so and not having enough fuel to fuel my run and etc. Also, my expectation of finishing it in 6 hours was well, it didn’t quite go as planned because it was shorter than expected. :D

JH Marathon Pack with my important sidekicks, 
especially my Virtual Buddy there (Garmin Edge 200)

The sky was pouring when I was about to head out to the starting line and I was dreading because it was so awfully cold when it rains (Jackson Hole is located about 6000+ feet above sea level) and I decided to wear my dad’s 20 year old leather glove to keep my hands from getting cold; I do get cold at my extremities a lot so, I would suffer without my gloves. So, as my warm-up before the run (just because I don’t really have another mode of transport), I decided to cycle to the starting point (which took me about 10 minutes); located a little off Town Square. 

Running in the rain feels good, sometimes. :)

Well thankfully when we started running, the rain subsided a little but it was still cold and wet. The route was fairly flat throughout and yes, there were some elevation but not much. I do remember some elevation when we were at mile 7 or so but it wasn’t too bad as I didn’t quite stop to walk but I ran slower.

Supporters and volunteers were placed throughout the route to cheer
for the marathoners. They placed more especially few miles before
the finishing line, which was a really good thing.

What I do appreciate very much in this race route was that at every 2 mile there were water stations (water and Powerade provided, Powerade is similar to Gatorade) and there were also candies (chocolates, sweets, etc) provided. At some point, I felt that the hunger pangs were coming in so I grabbed 2 candies and ate it on the go.

The failed video that he tried to capture when he was behind me running. :p

At mile 8th , I was looking for Mateusz because he mentioned that he will be rooting for me but I couldn’t see him anywhere at the water station until I turned my back and I saw him on his Mongoose bicycle. There he was trying to cycle and film me at the same time while trying to keep his balance and not fall. He signaled his hands and asked me to keep going and I continued on running but inside, I felt really thankful, happy and thrilled that although I’m so far away from home but, someone was willing to root and cheer for me. It really did give me an extra boost.

Aha..! this is better :P 

After the 8th mile, we turned to the right into what looked like some barn-ish kind of housing area. At some point, Mateusz ran with me for about 100 m while filming me, again and this time he passed me a bottle of water with the label “CrazyWomanWater” on it [link]. I laughed and held on that bottle of water throughout the marathon as it gave me a sorta motivation; it kept my spirits high whenever I look at that bottle.

Yeah..! I feel good! :)

After several miles, I recognize that we’re entering highway 22, to Teton Village route. A route that I was pretty familiar with as I have cycled on that same path to Teton Village a couple of times already. As we entered the highway, there was a slight elevation before it goes downhill and flat again. I felt good, so far although I have already hit the half way mark but I was still nervous as everything seemed too perfect to be true. I guess I’m paranoid that everything is going as planned. I didn’t have too high hopes for myself and I remembered many of my fellow runner friends mentioned about hitting the wall if there wasn’t enough mileage clocked-in. Not to mentioned I only started training consistently like 3 months ago; its like as if I’m cramming my half year university course into a 2 months before exam kind of thing.

Gels. The one on the right was the one that was distributed throughout the marathon.
There was a variety of flavours and I personally liked the chocolate flavour with caffeine.

Also, I really liked the fact that they provided more gels after the half-way mark. The water station was also slightly bigger with more water and Powerade than compared to the first half. I kept running and as I hit kilometer 30, I still felt good and I knew that  I was going to make it and finish as a Sub-5 finisher. I monitored my heart rate and looked at my pace and tried to maintain it at 6:50 – 7:00 minutes per km (11:20 min/mile) and then before I know it, I’m about to pass the 9th water station.

(sorry for the blurry picture)
This is where the volunteers asked if we needed anything. I personally liked
this very much because at this point in time, it's usually where people need help most. 

One of the volunteers asked if I needed anything and I said: “no, I’m good. Thank you!” and I kept on running until I heard a voice calling out my name: “Cleo! Cleo!” I turned and I saw Mateusz filming, again and then in a split second I also saw Matt. I was surprised; as I didn’t expect to see him there since they mentioned the day before that they were going to meet me at the finish line. I smiled from ear to ear, again and that just made me run a little faster but I tried to keep to my pace so that I don’t go over my limits. (Remember that I’m a paranoid person)

Done and dusted!!! :)
(Video Below)

Finishing my run! YEAHH!! Thank you for filming this Mateusz! 
Thanks Matt for supporting me throughout, too! :)
Thanks Ivanka for being at the finishing line ;)

Well, the route after was pretty flat and I realize some of them actually have a very slight descend at some point that aid in my run and made it easier. I was glad there weren’t much crosswinds or any stuff of that sort, though. And so, I just continued on my 6:50 – 7:00 minutes per km pace and finished it in slightly less than an 5 hours. I was over the moon when I hit the finishing line and amazingly, I could, still walk. :p I felt good but of course my legs felt tired but there wasn’t anything bad I predicted that happened. 

Food Pack that was given and the medal on the bottom right of the picture.

Of course, it didn’t just ended like that after the run. I went for a free 10 minutes leg massage (oh, trust me it felt so so good) that was complimentary, provided by some volunteers (they were professional masseurs and have their own business). I had my medal and my food pack that was packed neatly in a little tote box filled with healthy stuff inside. I have just one little thing that I’m not quite satisfied, though. I wished they would produce medals for half marathon finisher and full marathon finishers instead of putting both distance on the medal. I mean, all races I’ve participated (well at least the ones I have back home in Malaysia) have 10k, 21k and FM finisher medals so why not this as well?

I wish Matt was in this picture, too! :(
(left to right): Ivanka, Mateusz and Me.

Anyway, all’s well and before we all went home, we had a little munch time at Wendy’s.  The boys needed to rest, Ivanka has work and I, on the other hand will be visiting the National Museum of Wildlife Art in an hour’s time. (I’m really glad I could still walk around the museum after the run)  

Cheers to more international events ahead,

Hiking Mount Kinabalu's Low Peak (Via Timpohon Gate) & Map included

Trail difficulty rating: Medium - Hard
Time to from Entrance Gate to Laban Rata (hotel): Approx 6 hours
Time from Laban Rata to Low Peak (Summit): Approx 3 hours
Time from Low Peak to Laban Rata: Approx 2 and half hours
Time from Laban Rata back to Entrance Gate: Approx 4 hours
Recommendation: Please, at least have decent stamina if you plan to hike Mount Kinabalu. It'll really make your hike a more memorable one. I know of people who trains at Batu Caves, carrying weighted bags as a simulation or you could find for a nearby forest to hike (for most KL dwellers it would be Apek Hill, Cheras or Bukit Gasing, PJ or Ayer Hitam, Puchong and etc). A good place as a 'tryout', I would say be Gunung Nuang.

Altitude sickness might be a big thing for some of you. Personally for me, it wasn't too bad as I realised I only needed to breathe harder at certain altitude. I also had altitude pills 2 nights prior to the hike and during the hike (Thanks Ashley for being our pill provider!). If you're afraid of cold, DO BRING thick clothings (base layer, thermal wear, gloves and etc.). I would've enjoyed it way better if I had a proper pair of gloves (I thought I'd stinge on gloves so I wore my cycling full-fingered gloves. Nope, didn't shield me from the cold) and socks (I wore thick socks made of polyester and it didn't protect me from the cold at the summit aka low peak)

There were no leeches inside (but some blogs said there were but we didn't encounter any at all). I know some blogs mentioned that we needed to bring a lot of food up but... well, I baked 2 batches of pumpkin muffin (24 small-medium pieces) and didn't exactly ate any at all.. (well, I had 3 but that was because I was hungry when I was waiting at the KK's airport, not during the hike). The others also brought their fair share of food but we had way much more than needed because we're all fully fed from the hotel's food and all.. Maybe if you're a really big eater than you'd need to bring so much of food. Or maybe if you didn't book from the hotel or hike up and down of Mount Kinabalu in a day then, you'd definitely need to bring a lot of food.

I've also scanned the maps I've obtained from the park for your own reference, which can be found below this post.

Peak! :) Calvin (bottom Left)
Ashley, Christine, Me, Benjamin aka Ben (Left to Right)

This time, we are visiting Kota Kinabalu! :) All thanks to both Christine Peh and Shimri Lim, we managed to pre-book our guided tour and accommodation earlier (during December 2014 and we had to pay a deposit to secure our booking for 2 rooms at the base, Kinabalu Park and 1 room at Laban Rata) which includes our pass and insurance at Mount Kinabalu, accommodation and meals. Here's the meal provided for us at Kinabalu Park:

dd/mm/yyMeal 1Meal 2Meal 3
 Note: Standard Check-in time at 2:00 p.m
Buffet Dinner @ Balsam Restaurant: Served at 6:00 p.m - 9:00 pm
Buffet breakfast @ Balsam Restaurant: Served at 6.30 a.m - 11:00 a.m
Packed lunch @ Balsam Restaurant: Collect during breakfast
Note: They gave us 3 halves of a cheese sandwich, an apple and a 500 ml bottled water. This is for during our hike up.
Buffet Dinner @ Laban Rata Restaurant:
Served at 6:00 p.m - 9:00 pm
‘Supper’ @ Laban Rata Restaurant (before summit): Served at 2:00 a.m.
Note: More like food before the hike up to the low peak (summit).
Buffet Breakfast @ Laban Rata Restaurant (after summit): 
Served at 7:00 a.m - 10:00 a.m
Lunch @ Balsam Restaurant: 
 Served at 12:00 pm - 4:30 pm 
 Note: if you reach after 4pm, will only provide you packed fried rice
Adapted from Christine's summary for us! :) Thank you! :3

Let me provide you with our brief travel itinerary before I continue with our adventure.

10:00 a.m. arrive at KK town and stay 1 night at Masada Backpackers
12:00 p.m. checkout Masada Backpackers and take a taxi to Kinabalu Park.
8:30 a.m. start hike at Timpohon gate until Laban Rata
2:30 a.m. start hike to summit, come down, have a short break then, descend back to Kinabalu Park and back to Masada Backpackers at town
6:30 a.m. rise and shine, pack up and leave KK back to KUL

Christine (left) & Me (Right) at the airport

I love milk! :) Love their local milk at Sabah! (Daily Dairy)

We met at the airport and boarded the morning plane so we'll arrive at KK together. Then, we took a taxi to Masada Backpackers (dorm-style hotel) [Waze / Google],  chilled in the room, went for some quick-shopping for necessities, unpacked and head out for dinner at Welcome Seafood Restaurant. [Waze / Google] (This place is recommended by my Sabahan friend as it's where locals have their seafood with reasonable price and taste. I'd say it's pretty good for the price we paid.) Then its lights out! :) Just a quick note on the hotel, no complains and it's pretty good. Nice, cozy and clean. They even provide a 'mini-buffet-breakfast' (toast, jam, milk, cereal, banana, coffee, tea, milo, biscuits; some of the things i remembered on the table)

The building opposite where we waited for our taxi

Telling us some stuff about where we're about to stay

On our 2nd day, we walked out of our hotel to their 'taxi-waiting-place' to Kinabalu Park. It wasn't exactly like a proper place you'd have in KL (with taxi-stand), its just like a 'meet-up' point where all the taxis are. You can either take the Kinabalu Park's bus shuttle or either you book a whole taxi. The bus shuttle is a few ringgit cheaper per person and for either transportation you choose, you'll probably spend about RM 12 - RM 18 per person. It took us about 2 hours from where we were to the park. The place was really really cozy and nice and it wasn't long before I fell in love with that place. We were ushered to our hostel, which was Rock hostel and there we were briefed on where the places is and etc. The briefing about tomorrow's hike will be at 6 p.m, before our dinner. After loading our bags, we then loitered around, had dinner at Balsam Restaurant and then we dozed off to sleep.

Our mighty strong but small porter!

They weigh your bags before the trip for the porter service :) 

Christine giving the tag to Ashley. 
Next to Ashley is our guide, Freddie Akau

Today's the day we hike to Laban Rata! This is Day 3 of our trip. We had breakfast at Balsam, then went to register, got a porter for all (we had 2 bags of about 10 kg each, packed for the porter to carry. Items we put in the 'porter-bags' were things we do not need during the hike like our food, clothes to change, etc.) of us and were greeted by our quiet but friendly guide. He introduced himself as Freddie. We decided to take the park's shuttle van to the starting point (which was about 1 - 2 km away from the Reception). I think it costs each of us RM 8 one way. When we were on our way to the starting point, our guide quickly briefed us, again on the hike and what we'll be expecting. These are the 2 pointers I thought would be useful for my readers that our guide mentioned:
  • * 3 - 4 hours for fitter/faster groups & 5 - 6 hours for moderate speed group. 
  • * Best to arrive Laban Rata by 3 p.m and when coming down back to Kinabalu park, try to be back before 4:00 p.m. so to not miss 'Lunch Buffet' at Balsam.
  • * Toilets and rest huts are available at almost every km of the hike 
  • * If you're injured and not able to come down, per person would be RM 3k :p
Beginning of the hike 

View from Laban Rata's Hotel

So, we started hiking at about 8:30 a.m. and then we arrived the hotel at 2:15 p.m, which gives us a total of 5 hours and 45 minutes of hike (rest included). And, our porter arrived way earlier than us...! He's so tiny but have mighty strong legs! It's just so amusing to see porters and carriers carrying heavy and big things up when we're on the way hiking. We had lunch at Laban Rata's hotel and then our guide came to our table and told us a few more things for the next day's hike to the summit. Here're the more important ones I've also noted:
  • * Hike to the peak starts between 2:00 am - 2:30 am. No later.
  • * Headlamp is highly recommended.
  • * It is recommended to leave your hiking poles when you hike up and bring sufficient water (personally needed 1 bottle of 500 ml throughout the trip to the summit and back to Laban Rata).
  • * Going up the first part wouldn't be as cold but during the last 2 km it would be really cold. So, bring proper gloves (as aforementioned above), beanie and other necessities you'd need to shield you from the cold (especially if you're afraid of the cold). 
  • * Here's a list of what I brought/wore when I hiked up there, that might be useful for you:                        
  •    - headlamp and a spare battery
  •    - base layer/thermal wear, 1 outer-wear and one jacket
  •    - shorts (inside) and 1 long base-layer pants.
  •    - 1 bottle of water, 500 ml
  •    - camera ( to take pictures of course! :P)
  •    - Powerbar
  •    - full-fingered cycling gloves (which, clearly didn't help me shield from the cold at all. It was as if I soaked both my hands in ice,cold water. For me, my feet and hands gets cold very quickly.)
  •    -Thick polyester sock (Didn't help me when i was on top. My feet was crazy cold)
  •    - Sports glasses (Thankfully for these glasses because my eyes were dry from the wind blowing! But the rest of my buddies were not affected, though)
  •    -My faithful Columbia shoes :) 
I hurt my back quite badly a week before the hike so 
I wore this throughout the hike :) Thankfully I pulled through!

I decided to go to shower because today's the 3rd day I decided not to wash my hair and it seems that I can't really take the itch on my hair! I had to bath in cold water because their hot water at Laban Rata is limited. It's mentioned that only when there's sun there will be hot water. The reason why I didn't dare to wash my hair because I assumed that, in the cold weather, my hair would not have sufficient time to dry; not to mention we needed to sleep early. Well, thankfully with about 2 and a half hours, my hair is dry enough so that I'll be able to get to bed.

As Christine quoted: "stair stair stairs...!"

We slept at about 7 p.m. and during the night's sleep, Christine and Calvin was really sick from the altitude. :( Even with the pills, it didn't quite help them. Calvin was vomiting when I was fast asleep and Christine was having diarrhoea. While both of them had their little (unfortunate) date with the toilet, they also heard other hikers share similar fate with them in the toilet. They heard few others vomiting. Both of them didn't quite exactly had a good's night rest but they still manage to get up for our hike up to the summit. 

Pitch black! :)

This is the 'cliff/edge of the mountain' I mentioned. 
The picture doesn't do justice because it's scarier than it looks. 

We woke up at 12:30 a.m. , had our 'supper' at 2:00 a.m. and then started our hike at 2:40 a.m. The hike up was dark and we all depended on our headlamps to get up there. As for poor Christine, she vomited along the way up but thankfully felt better after that. The hike up was pretty steep as we needed to ascend a flight of stairs and rocks. After about 1 km, we arrived the part where it gets a little bit tricky. It's actually also quite dangerous and you'll need to hold on to the ropes as you walk along the cliff/edge of the mountain. But not to worry, listen to the guide and you'll be good. We're also super proud of Ben because he manage to get all the way up and overcome his fear for heights! With some little 'voice-guidance' and 'sight-detour' (Christine made him look at my back and shoes), he made it up. The cut - off time to reach Sayat-Sayat hut is at 5:30 a.m. If you arrive there after the cut-off time, you are not able to continue up. All of us made it pass Sayat-Sayat on time, although we didn't get to arrive to the summit to catch sunrise. 

See the crowd at the summit? Everyone wants a picture.
I mean, who doesn't? So, snap and leave so that the place can be less clogged up. 

I'm freezing!!!! That's why I'm squinting :( 

It was freezing cold when we arrived up there and the guide told us that the temperature up there was about -1°C. No wonder I was freezing my hands and foot off when I was up there! Then again, my hands and feet gets cold first so, it might be a different story for you. We quickly snap a group photo and ascend down. While going down, Calvin was suffering from his tummy ache and so, thankfully for our guide, he stayed with him behind while we hurried down as we were trying to checkout from Laban Rata's hotel before the cut-off time. The check-out time for Laban Rata hotel is at 10:30 a.m. I believe they're doing this so they have sufficient time to clear the rooms for the next batch of hikers to come in since spaces are quite limited. They impose a fine of RM 100 per hour for not checking out on time.

A picture with our guide (next to Benjamin's left)!

They offer personal guide, too and they usually hold your
hands and tell you where to step and not. Even if you didn't hire one,
certain sections (when they see you're struggling) they'll hold and pull you 
through as it's obvious safety is their priority.

Private Masseur for Ben :p 

Thankfully, we arrive the hotel quite early, at about 9:15 a.m, in time for breakfast and to quickly pack our items out. We relaxed for a little before our final push-off back to the entrance! We started at  11:00 a.m. and came out at 3:15 p.m. I needed a lot of small breaks in between because my quads were burning! It's as if I had leg day!!!!!  We had to 'leave' Calvin and Ashley behind with our guide (thank goodness for the guide!) because we were trying to get back to Balsam for late-lunch and also to try and get a taxi for us to go back to Kota Kinabalu town. There weren't much left when we arrived and since both our buddies can't get back in time for the buffet, we tried to get some food for them.

...and we're back!

Christine got a taxi for us but it costs a lot because its already after 5 p.m. We were told that busses are hard to get after 5 p.m. (and also because it's a Sunday) as the time schedule is not fixed and if you're unlucky, you might need to wait for an hour or 2 before the bus comes. Also, not to mention you had to walk out of the park and cross to the opposite side of the road to the bus station to get the bus. Taking the bus would cost you about RM 2x (I can't re-call the exact figure).We're all also pretty pooped out to walk so, looking at all the circumstances, we spent RM 200 per taxi to get us back to town.

The 'ikan bakar' (means grilled fish in malay) we didn't have :( 
Picture taken on the first day we arrived KK.

Noodles we had for breakfast on the second day we arrived KK..!

We reached town at about 8 p.m. feeling crazy exhausted and Christine ordered some pizzas for us but she herself couldn't even eat any because she still feels sick and can't eat. So anyway, I slept pretty early, at about 10 -ish pm while the rest were outside the common area mingling with Calvin's Sabahan friend (she decided to drop by, impromptu, because she bumped into calvin while he was out with Ben). 

my surprise gift! So nice of them! :3
So they say I'm "Shy but naughty." :p

So, the following day, we woke up, packed and it's time to head home back to our respective home. Just when I thought our trip was over, Calvin, Ashley and Ben got me a surprise little gift! *cheesy grins* Thank you! Ben got the idea when he was looking around at the airport's gift shop and he said he'd get a monkey shirt for me and Ash spotted one, which all of the agreed whole-heartedly that I'm true to the shirt's statement. What you'd say?

Looking forward to another adventure,

Disclaimer: There are many many blogs out that might recommend different from what I wrote here so, just take mine as another piece of advice...! what you ultimately decide to pack and prepare is entirely up to you! :) But you can drop me a message/comment if you'd need help and I'll try to help whenever I can. And no, I'm in no way affiliated to any of the hotel or restaurant that I have mentioned above. 

This is the map from Timpohon/Mesilau to the peak

Description of the trails you'll find around the park

Map of the park you'll find around the park