Vietnam Jungle Marathon 2022

[Vietnam Jungle Marathon race report, 12km]

[Signing up for ‘trouble’] In Aug, K and I registered for this Jungle Marathon thingy and boy oh boy, sometimes it really is just easier to ‘don’t think so much’ and ‘just sign up only’. Because that is the first step and the very impetus needed to motivate oneself into working towards something. Works super, at least for me!

Had such a bad BAD BADDDDD first trail race at Cultra in July, I almost swore off it. This time round I did things differently - I prepared. Was more coy about my lead up because I really wasn’t sure how it was gonna turn out and if I had a shitty race I could pretend it never happened. Lo & behold, Covid struck 1.5weeks before *inserts crying emoji* Thankfully, my symptoms were pretty mild and I turned negative really quickly. I felt ready enough to do a light run on Day 4 and a few days later I ran a conservative 5k (5:30 pace) for a SUP-relay event where Hakeem and I teamed up and got 2nd! Even then, I went into this race with very low expectations. I wasn’t sure what my body could take, especially the heart.

[Pre-race things] K and I flew into Hanoi on Thurs, took the VJM transport down to Pu Luong on Fri and raced on Sat. Pu Luong is this quiet, sleepy town nestled 5 hours away from Hanoi. We took a recce jog/walk in the surroundings to loosen the tight legs and found it to be so beautiful.

The next morning K woke up really early to get ready for his 25km which started at 7am, while I slowly trudged around and got ready for mine. Had 2 bananas and 2 dates and off I went to the start line, with a bunch of nerves in tow. Squeezed myself to the front (learnt this from smelly welly) so I won’t be part of the bottleneck at narrow trails. 

[First half of the race]The first 500m was a pretty steep uphill and I found myself huffing and puffing as I moved my legs one step at a time. After which it was running on some terrains through the village, and then the uphills. I was already slightly more ready for inclines (compared to July!!) but even then I was still left with laboured breathing just midway through the climbs. It was also at this time that I realised I *might* just be in the front of the pack and that very thought kept me pushing through. 

And then, the bestest most favouritessstttt part of the run would be the 2-3km of gentle undulating road running. It allowed me to gain good ground quickly, and also increase the distance between my competitors and myself because I know when we enter the trails again they’d catch up in no time. 

True enough, when we were at the padi fields I was moving around gingerly, hoping not to fall into the fields and ruin the farmers’ crops, but more importantly, I just didn’t want to fall! Mid way, I saw an old frail man planting his rice right beside where we were running. I offered him an apologetic smile and a weak wave as a peace offering for destroying his hard work. Oopsy daisy.

[Are we there yet?] The last part of the race felt never-ending. When my Garmin hit 10km, I was happy and thought to myself, “ok 2 more km”. I passed on my enthusiasm and good energy to this feisty lil’ teen boy running behind me, signalling to him that we were almost there!! At 11km, I was like “are we there yet???” and then 12km came and went, and I didn’t see no ending line in sight. Wahlao eh, like kena cheated feeling.  And then a spectator clued me in with a “300 more metres!!” which gave me the much-needed energy for one last burst. Crossed the line at 12.5km and SO glad to be done with this :) 

ALAS, I DID IT!! It was beautiful - some little river crossings, bamboo bridges, running on padi fields, trails and roads. Enjoyable? 🤔 Less painful? HAHA. Icing on the cake: came in 4th for women’s category and 17th overall in a field of 447 🤡 All in all, I can confidently say I’m not a trail runner :P I fell so many times and was timid like a mouse 🐭. BUT BUT BUT if I choose my races properly, maybe can try a few more. Let’s see!
Happy to be repping @reddotrunningco and wearing the amazing gears they bring in. 



#geylangboleh

What a season 🦅

Glad to have been able to document Geylang’s prolific rise after a slow start. The fight for 4th was down to the wire and the team didn’t disappoint even when they were up against the champions Albirex.

It was fun, I enjoyed this stint. Thank you for having me, Eagles.

Next up, Singapore Cup.

#geylangboleh #singaporepremierleague


Beach Backyard Ultra 2022

This weekend we saw 15 athletes representing Singapore at the Big Dog Ultra Satellite Team Championships. It took on the last man standing format where each runner has to complete a 6.7km loop every single hour. Those who can’t hit the timing, or choose not to complete the loop gets eliminated. I just touched down from Vietnam Sunday night, and could only witness this feat from loops 30 onwards. Even then, it was spectacular!

It geared towards a crazy showdown between Deric Lau and Joshua Toh as both gentlemen showed resilience and tenacity, gritted their teeth and just kept going. This wasn’t just about running - it was also about mind games, fighting the 💤monster, keeping your gut stable and staying in the zone.

51 hours and 341.7km later, Joshua took the crown 👑

This was the first time watching a backyard ultra and it was truly an eyeopening experience watching not only how the runners had the resolve to keep going, but also the importance of a solid support crew tending to you at the tail end of each hour. While races like this will always have a competitive element, it was nice that the community spirit shone through. 

This event has been nothing short of inspiring for a lot of us as we watched them go #onemoreloop and back into the pain cave. Thanks Jeri & co. for organizing this, it was a great spectacle. Jeri also runs the *BEST* running gear shop, so if you’re looking for supplies to hit the trails or road, head on down to Red Dot Running Co.

Roberto wrote a beautiful piece of this event here:)


Janja Garnbret visits boulder+

Now that the dust has settled and Janja-fever has subsided, I sit down with some thoughts on how the entire episode was like for me to be up close and personal with this global climbing superstar. Some context for some of my non-climbing friends, Janja’s superstardom can be read here and the screen grab from wiki below.

The gym, boulder+, that I do socmed is no stranger to hosting big names. We’ve had another global superstar Ogata Yoshiyuki gracing our gym in 2018. The idea of having Janja was first mooted sometime in Mar/Apr. It took some correspondence, long periods of waiting, a lull, almost forgotten, and then an email which confirmed the visit. We only had 2 weeks to make this show work in late Aug, and we sure as hell did! Props to the b+ bosses for this vision and materialising this gig, making it a dream come true for many Singapore climbers - young and old, new and seasoned.

Caveat: was never a Janja fan only because she always appeared cold, aloof and serious (on tv!); and I like underdogs. But this experience, right from the get go, altered my impression.

Two adjectives to sum up my interactions with her - easy going and genuine. Having greater access to Janja in photographing her when the team was out for meals/visits, chaperoning her to the toilet, convos in between waiting, watching her behaviour both ‘onstage’ and ‘offstage’ led me to this conclusion. The way she carried herself was extremely professional - even after a long day but yet still friendly with fans, emitting v good energy, polite - it was a good reminder for me to keep my own standards as well, i.e. doesn’t matter how up on that pedestal you are, it really is about how you treat everyone around you that shines.

The one big event that the gym held was a demo climb for Janja with 4 of SG’s finest climbers - Dennis Chua, Luke Goh, Judith Sim, Vanessa Teng, with a crowd of 300 backing everyone with cheers and applause. It was a nice atmosphere and something the climbing scene has been sorely missing. I’m pretty sure the climbers who had the opportunity to meet and speak with Janja left mighty pleased and inspired. 

In Sg, climbing is still a pretty nascent but growing sport. With the proliferation of climbing gyms sprouting across the island, one is now spoilt for choice when it comes to training in different setting, wall profiles and holds. Sure, there’s more room for growth and so much potential when it comes to route setting and growing our batch of national climbers, but hopefully with the expansion of the sport to the masses and growing interest in the community, it plants seeds for the future generation to step up and shine on the world stage. 

One can always dream, right? :)


Running bug

It’s insanity, I swear. I’ve been hit by the running bug. Who’d have thought? Not me, really. But now that I try to piece things together and understand why it has happened, I’ve realised that running feeds into my checklist-personality. I set weekly schedules for myself to follow and if I fall short, it irks me. Y’know the feeling of not completing something? That feeling, ugh. Also, most runs are less than 2 hours and can be done almost anywhere, so it fits into my flexible, yet erratic schedule. Even when I was in Ubon Rachathani for a 2 week shoot, I could get my runs in and it made me happy. 

I began running in July 2021. It’s been slightly over a year, but this year, 2022, has been a year of new experiences. It started off with me meeting my 5km target in Jan.

It didn’t come easy. I stuck to the plan and did my weekly intervals in Nov and Dec. The runs were painful and dreadful, but my goal was a sub-26 5km, and if I didn’t put in the hard work, I cannot expect things to fall in place for me like *this*. There were good sessions, but there were those where I wanted to throw the towel. My mental game needs work. Week in week out, I grind, and on time trial day, I outperformed myself :D This training cycle taught me that your body is really capable of SO MUCH more! 

My next big running goal was to do a 21km and upon my friend’s, Juibian, persuasion, we signed up for a race in Gold Coast in June. From not running in June 2021, to doing a 21km in Aussie 1 year later. Insane in the membrane. So it was a few months of building up my base, self-talk, managing a terrible achilles tendonitis, eczema (I never ever had it!!!), possibly covid, and work, but I made it to the starting line and really all glory to God.

I was struggling massively 2 weeks leading up to GC - like I couldn’t even complete a 6 min pace 10km run? And I had to drop my intervals cos it was hurting my achilles. So to be able to do a 5:55 pace for this race was divine intervention and a prayer answered. I’ll work on doing a 1hr 55min next!!!

2 weeks later, I was due to do my first trail race at Cameron Highlands (Cultra). It was *merely* a 15km with an elevation of 600/700m, I didn’t make too much about it. Just use my leftover fitness from Gold Coast, I thought. But boy oh boy, it was the most painful 4 hours of my life. There were a few points in the race where I thought, ‘aiya just DNF lah’, but even if I wanted to, I had to still complete the route and make it out of the forest. 

It was especially terribad because my legs (quads!) were not ready for climbing and I’m SO bad at moving on trail. Mid-way through my quads died, and I didn’t have Crampfix, and I was just on all-fours when I had to move downhill. Bulat documented these stupid sights and laughed at me but she also was super encouraging and I’m glad she was around. Throughout the last part of the trail, I was telling her how much “I hate trail!! I’m never ever gonna do this again!!!”, “who signed me up for this!!!”, but now that the dust has settled, it is crystal clear that my lack of preparation and underestimation that killed me :’) 

But y’know in life, they say “never say never”? I’m gonna have to take back what I said on the trail because I signed myself up for something crazy again. For. Revenge. and I’ll hit the trails to work on my weakness. Is this not insanity? :) Well, I don’t know if I’d regret this, but I know I’d regret not trying again because I didn’t give it a good shot the last time round. 

Wish me best of luck!


Asean University Games

What a crazy 2 weeks. I’m very grateful for this opportunity - thank you Stefanus for lobang and Singapore University Sports Council for the trust. More than just a carousel of my fave images, these snapshots will be etched as memories of my time watching our athletes face off, falter and fight. I hope I did you all justice. For those of us whose paths crossed, thanks for taking time to share your sport with me and for the convos. I’ll see y’all around.

They say you need 10,000 hours to have mastery of a skill. In essence, it really is about the grind, the smart effort and the tenacity to keep going at it. I’ve never shot all these sports before, in fact I’m still very new to this genre. The last 14 days has been a steep learning curve, but it’s also imbued in me this desire to be at the top of my game. This is just the beginning and the first 1%. I’ll work hard. Watch me 😎

The best feeling about photography for me is when I’m doing the shoot itself and can’t wait to get home to review the images. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt this way and I’m looking forward to more such days :) Also, right now I’m doing a more pure sports photography but can’t wait for the day and opportunity where I’ll be able to combine my photojournalist skills with sports and document the true, all-access, no-holds-barred, honest journey of a team/sportsman. Hit me up if you think you’ve the perfect gig for me!


SG Women Soccer League

Covered my first #SGWPLfor Lion City Sailors WT against Tiong Bahru FC at Yishun Stadium last evening. Fairly uneventful first half, but the last 45 min was lit up by a brace from Danelle Tan and a spark of brilliance from TBFC.

The atmosphere sure as hell felt very different from SPL, marred by the lack of scoreboard, dug out and joggers around the track 🤯 - these girls deserve better, surely! Football is a physically demanding game and when the atmosphere, facilities, circumstances are not the most supportive, there’s an added barrier the athletes have to overcome. It is easy for naysayers to lament the state of football/sports in Singapore when we perform unsatisfactory, but hello does anyone out there want to donate a pool of cash or reform the system? Page me pls, and at the same time fund us poor photographers too :P 


Greece greece baby

Though I may not be really good at it (just yet!), I love to make things with my hands. I’m very much a paper-pen person and because I also have the memory of a goldfish, there’s no better way for me to remember things then to have it in a tangible form. I have a diary for EVERYTHING - my daily calendar, my photography, my thoughts, exercise etc. 

I did this small little book project of my recent Greece trip - played with different types of paper, washi taped some receipts/printouts, made a couple of fun folds here and there, and hand-stitched it together in an A6 + A5 format - just so we all got something to look back on next time 🙃

It was my first time to Greece - we spent time in Athens, Santorini and Thessaloniki. Wish we had more time to explore the islands and the trails but this just means we will be back again. Greece is a lot more affordable compared to her Europe siblings. A good meal wouldn’t cost more than $20 and the portions were huge! and! yummy! We had so much gyros and pitas and gelatos - I love eating :D But also, thank God for good weather throughout. We had nice sun (hello Vitamin D!), cool temperature accompanying us for most of the trip. It made our 10km hike from Oia-Fira enjoyable. 

Also, surely in Santorini you’d expect to see those Instagram-worthy model-esque poses right? (not me, I’m nasty at this just look at mine)

Glad to have made this trip out post-pandemic and appreciate the solid company too! Thank you, K, but make sure you get your International Driving License next time ah.

p.s: the above images aren’t the spreads of the zine, just some photos to summarize part of this trip :]


See you again, one day

The only way I can close this chapter of our lives together is knowing that after 25 years she’s going back home to her family.

Luce has been there since forever. Also probably the one person who knows all the deepest darkest secrets of the household. Watched our dramas and heartbreaks, took care of us when we were under the weather, and held the fort when my folks were away. Hosted me at her village when she went back for a holiday, fed me, nourished me, cheered for me silently. And so much more 💔

Hand on heart, it’s been tough because I’m such an emotional sentient being, and even more difficult when it’s someone so close to heart. Wish I could say this is not goodbye and that I’m not heartbroken, but deep down inside, in the recesses of my heart, I know how final this might be. God-willing, may we meet again one day 😭😭


ennui

Hi! I’m showing work here:

ennui is part of a body of images that manifested from months of long morning walks, in a bid to make sense of my restlessness and disenchanted state of being.

The free-flowing fabric symbolises a state of surrender to the ineluctable flux of life and circumstance, whilst being tethered by an anchor.

Our body’s circadian rhythm is an unfathomable thing. Was stricken by bouts of insomnia for the longest time but 2021 had new plans for me. It decided that I should get out of bed at 6 or 7 am every morning. Frustrated, I could have been (who wouldn’t want to sleep in more!!!) but with an extra 2 hours to my day, I decided to go on morning walks instead. I didn’t want to be cooped up at home, or in bed, restless and mad at the world for throwing me this spanner.

These walks did me some good. It gave me time to think. It cleared my head for a bit. Prob gained some knowledge from the hundreds of podcasts I’ve listened to, and it was refreshing to be out there before everyone else. Cool, quiet mornings on the walk up; familiar strangers on the way back, made even better with the glow of the soft morning light. 

As a photographer, I’m pretty sensitive to the quality of light and how it reflects/bounces off different surfaces. Most days during golden hour, I’d find myself looking out for this. Eventually, I started making some images with my phone. 

This process of photography was spontaneous and unpremeditated. I would only whip out my phone from my pockets whenever something caught my eye. It could be anything from the soft shadows of vines creeping behind the tarpaulin, the tortoise that took forever to cross the road, to the canvas crisp yet being gently blown in the wind. And oh, the interesting blend of colors on weathered bark. 

The theme of this exhibition is ‘invisible’, and it was birthed from Buangkok Potters’ initial outreach with a group of APSN students. APSN is a school providing special education for students with mild intellectual disability. Our friends at Buangkok Potters shared about how ‘normal yet invisible’ this group of students were in mainstream society. I’m not doing justice to their project with my second-rate explanation, but you could always slide in their DMs to ask more or come see the works of the kids at the show!

How I decided to interpret this theme for and through my work, I leave it to you to make educated guesses. Share with me if you’d like, I’d be happy to hear your thoughts. 

Just as an extra note:

·       Experimented with printing images on fabric and mulled quite a bit about form vis-à-vis space. This series is antithetical to my usual photojournalistic work, a lot more introspective and contemplative. Pretty pleased with how ‘random’ images coalesced to form this triptych.

·       Also! Made some merchandise, in the form of a scarf, with 2 of my fave weathered-bark images. They come in an edition of 8 (more exclusive than the BTS MacDonalds thingamajig), and measures 1m in length. All proceeds from the sales of scarf goes back to serving a group of marginalized individuals/families we reach out to in Cheng San, championed by the X-team. X-team is a non-partisan volunteer group consisting of friends, ex-offenders, good looking folks, aunties (not me!!), seed funded by my cool illustrator friends Jackie & Nat from 8EyedSpud last Dec. We do weekly home visits to some vulnerable and isolated seniors, keep up with youths falling back in school, hang out with adults who need a little bit of help in life. All profits from purchasing a scarf, at $120, goes back to supporting the efforts of X-team and makes a small little difference in the life of someone I guess :) 

Say hello or throw me some questions at bernicewsf@gmail.com :D

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