What’s up, buttercup?

The last couple of months were intense. It started off with 2 weeks in Chengdu for the World University Games in July where I was on assignment for the Singapore University Sports Council. It was back-to-back days of shooting different sports, but an experience I wouldn’t trade anything for. As a photographer, I felt myself being challenged yet inspired. Challenged to get images that were more creative and not run-of-the-mill; inspired because I was pushing my limits and working myself to the bone - because I wanted to. 

secret wefie with zhang yufei

last photo with ZiYi outside the swimming complex

what’s chengdu w/o mala?

the way to photo zone

keeping up with fitness even while working

world class table tennis venue

The moment I landed in Singapore, snagged a couple of hours of sleep before it was on to my first Design in Society class of the season. This time round, I was scheduled to teach all 4 production classes for 7 weeks. My role was to make sure the students had the photography skills to be able to translate their brief/assignment into visuals and then into a photo publication. As with each round, there are some works I’m really proud of. Not only because of the stellar final result, but more so from watching the struggles, development and growth over the course of the term. Pursuing a creative life isn’t easy - how do you overcome creative blocks given a fixed deadline? What about finding ways to translate your grandeur ideas into reality given the limited skillsets? So many designers out there, how do you stand out? This is something we’ll keep learning and navigating together even as we move on to the next semester where we get to do Design for Transformation together. 

At the same time, I taught ‘The Power of Storytelling through Photography’ at NUS College this semester. When I was younger, teaching at NUS always felt like a pipe dream. I applied for this role in Feb 2022, and after some administrative hoops, got hired almost 1.5 years later in July 2023. I’ve wanted to teach at NUS not only because it is my alma mater, but I’ve wanted to experience what it’s like teaching bright minds and adding more intellectual depth in my modules. Preparation for class was serious business for me. I had to make sure I delivered enough for them to leave feeling inspired or transformed in some ways. We did a field trip to Little India where they had to work on a photo essay, had guest lecturers - Ilyas from Rice Media who kindly and patiently explained to them how an online media site like theirs work, and how their photographers get the stories; also managed to get K to share about open source investigations, digital forensics and the future of generative images for the aforementioned fields. 

On top for all these, I was running the social media accounts for Geylang International Football Club. Started with me just doing photography, but I am a stickler when it comes to how my images are used. Like what I always tell my students - you can make good photos but if it’s in your archive, nobody cares, if it’s used badly, it reflects a poor quality of work. That meant I took on an extra load on my shoulders but I take great pride in my work, so it was a no brainer. I eventually started doing graphics for them too. What a season it has been for the first football club I’ve spent a season with. In terms of personal growth, I definitely have learnt a lot - from sensitively and delicately handling posts when it comes to big defeats to creating buzz around strong wins and feel good stories. A lot of figuring things out on the ground, learning on the go and reacting to situations. Created a reel with 60k+ views, and a couple with 20k, grew the page by a thousand followers, and hopefully created exciting content for the viewers and great memories for keeps. 

It’s been a year of many firsts for me. But I’m at this stage in my life when I’m still very hungry to grow and to give. I hope that whatever comes in the year ahead - both good and bad, I’ll be able to go forth with graciousness, a keen spirit and peace in my heart. 

Isaiah 41:10

4 lessons from doing sports photography

#1 Find a job you love, which also loves you back

I think I’ve written about this before, but the joy of making good images during a game and then wanting to go home and immediately check it out - that is unparalleled. The last time I’ve ever felt that was back in the day when I identified myself more as a documentary photographer, when Mel & co would bring me to places like the cemetery, to a gang headman funeral, when petty fights happen, or even nice, quiet moments with nice light and a good composition, and I remember being excited about image making. 

Then many things happened - my dad’s passing, me zoning out on life, focusing on teaching, trying to recalibrate as a human being - before I finally decided to do photography again, but sports this time. 

It was quite a random decision to one day get advice from Yong Teck and then plunge into shooting SPL in 2022. I went in for experience initially, shot for myself and just tried to get a sense of how this whole gig was gonna work. I remember after my first match, I told Teck that this sports thing is SO difficult and different from documentary work. The ball moves so fast, I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to keep tracking it to make images. What do I focus on? Am I using the right gear? Did I get good moments? But I just kept at it, until I started getting calls from FA, LCS and Geylang to cover their matches on days they needed an extra hand. Wow, from just trying it out for fun to suddenly getting paid for it in 2 - 3 months. 

Fast forward to July 2023, I pledged my services on a monthly retainer for Geylang. It’s been 7 months following a club and I can’t be more grateful that it is with *this* club that I’m with. No crazy budgets, big fanfare, fireworks, 5* treatment, just me doing things I genuinely think is right and want to do. Bundle this with a bunch of friendly players I’m happy to be around and a group of coaching staff who teases me to no end (but this must be love, right?), I think I’ve scored a fairly sweet first gig. I have the autonomy to decide what content I create and put out, and the creative freedom to express for a decent amount of audience. I’m grateful. This also brings me to the second point.

#2 Be sensitive

When I first started out shooting football, I was most interested in what happens ‘behind the scenes’, i.e. off the field. What team talks were like, what training was like, what did the players talk about, how are they like as people. Coming from a non-football background made all these things more novel for me. I’m just your average everyday Singaporean, who doesn’t have much of a clue about this football scene, but it is also my very own position and biography which gives me the leverage to create content interesting to me (and others), and in turn humanising for the players!

When it comes to my work for Geylang, because I’ve so much freedom, there’s also this constant reminder nudging me at the back of my head to be responsible, to be empathetic and sensitive. Apart from photos for the club, I’ve been creating video content. You don’t know the amount of videos I’ve made, but still sit in my archive, maybe never to be seen by the wider audience ever. Putting out content has to be well timed. It also depends on the type of content. If it’s something more fun and light-hearted, it can’t be put out on the back of defeats. It’d get slammed as the team being frivolous, not serious and then *insert tons of nasty comments*. This includes team talks, us at bonding sessions, random tiktok inspired challenges. This is probably where my documentary background translates well with what I do now - it has taught me to read situations and act accordingly.

#3 Lens is important, but otherwise find a way out

More recently, I was very fortunate to have been able to loan a 400m f2.8, amongst others, from Sony. This beast of a lens is approximately 17k, weighs a ton, but produces sweet images *chef kiss* Because I’ve only switched camera systems over to Sony end of last year, it’s gonna take me awhile to build my entire set up. I have been considering adding this in my arsenal, so I’m glad to have be able to try it. And well, I love it!!!

My current set up includes a 100 - 400mm, f4.5-5.6, which allows me to take decent photos across the field when the lighting is okay. When it gets darker/less light, I’d have to bump up my ISO and sacrifice my shutter speed, but it doesn’t work so well in sports where you need fast shutter. When I shoot the COE (age group) games, you don’t always get 100% floodlights on. In this darker environment and with the freedom to walk around (you’re fixed to a spot in the SPL games), I shoot with a 70-200mm f2.8. No 400mm, but got legs right? So I’ll walk to good spots and make those images happen. We make do with what we have, or we can just keep complaining about what we don’t :P

#4 “My mother also can take one” 

Research. Last year, I got thrown into the deep end when I covered the Asean Uni Games because I had to shoot sports I’ve never done before, like swimming, basketball, archery etc. 

True to my nerdy self, I did research prior to the games. Looked up how other photographers have done this work, and what kind of shots I should aim for. This is what I tell my students too. Don’t just make shots that “my mother also can take one”, there are plenty of that on the internet (and even more on our mother’s handphones hurhur). How do you compose your shots differently? From angles, to lighting/shadows, to moments. It’s a tall order to expect everything to align all at once, but have these considerations in mind. This year I’m headed to the World Uni Games in China. I can’t tell you how excited I am with this opportunity. God has been very kind to me. With a camera gear loan deal from Sony and this chance to shoot many sports and some top athletes, it is imperative for me to make the most of this and hopefully set the path for future gigs. On my desktop, there’s a folder called ‘future’ with sports photos I really like. These are images I’ve been conscientiously collating over the last 1-2 months. It’s an exercise I do to train my eyes and my mind, so that I can “take photos my mother cannot do”. 

I’ve been feeling this urgency to pen some thoughts down because it’s all been floating around in my head. I hope these 4 lessons I shared are useful for you. For now, I’ll hold my head down and keep grinding. This learning journey never ends. And it never should.

Only way is up.

What a cliche title but some days this rings true for me. It’s been a rainy few days here in Singapore and now that football season has resumed, it also means shooting in the rain. It brings me back to the first time I had to photograph a game in the rain. 

It was 20 Aug ‘22, Hougang vs Young Lions at Hougang Stadium. The first half went great, but it started pouring in the second half. There was no shelter in the photographers’ zone, I had no raincoat or wet-weather gear, but I kinda had to still shoot the game. I was paid to do so - how could I back out just because I was ill-prepared and inexperienced for such a scenario. Got a poncho from the home team, went out and braved the rain. The images weren’t great. It was lack lustre and I was definitely disappointed.

But I learn. Through the good and the bad, there’s always something you can take home from there. I’m now better equipped for the rain and a tad bit more confident for such elements. Last Tuesday’s shoot for Geylang-Young Lions was under a heavy downpour. Waterlogged pitch, poor visibility and it got quite cold at times, but my first exposure to bad weather in Aug ‘22 has made me a slightly better photographer. I was ready with my army-green poncho, hobbling around. I knew when to be out in the rain and when to be in the shelter for a bit. I had an extra cloth to wipe down my lens when it was damp. ‘twas cold and wet, but all was good. The rain allowed for some dramatic looking images too.

Really, after a bad day/game/episode, the only way is up - if you allow for it. There’s always a silver lining waiting to be noticed, realised, worked on. The more I err and am active about learning from it, the better it is for me. Same goes for you - to whomever is reading this - don’t mope, work on it ;)

If it’s to be, it’s up to me.

3 life hacks I abide by

It’s only January and I’m feeling incredibly stretched. I’m obviously signing up myself for too many things, but I can’t help it if they are all things I love doing. Last Sunday after church, I had this quiet time of self-reflection where I pondered about how I’ve made things work for myself thus far. I thought to write it down as a reminder for myself. Some have been lifelong habits I’ve followed, others came along as I evolved as a person.

#1 Deliberate action to cut distraction

It’s natural to get distracted by things - it could be that extra 30 mins of TV, that innocuous 5-minute-turned-1-hour of doom scrolling on the Internet, lying in bed for “a bit more”, chatting with friends at inappropriate time. I’ve realised that the *one* thing I do for myself is that I try my very very very best to cut these away when it comes to being present. What do I mean by that? Since I was in university, I’d be sitting in the front few rows during lecture because I know sitting at the back is a recipe for disaster - I’d be dozing off or using my phone or just doing very unproductive things - which would have been a total waste of my time attending class at all. Same goes for my attendance in church, if I’m there, I choose to sit in front so that I’m more present and immersed. Sure, classes, sermons, lectures can get boring but this is the very least I can do for myself. If not, just don’t go at all lah right? Oh, I uninstalled  FB app from my phone awhile back. It hasn’t been intellectually or creatively stimulating for me, hence.

#2 Priorities

I’ve so many things on my plate now. I get up at 7am, wash up and get straight to working on my computer (whether writing a new module guideline, editing images and videos, preparing for lectures etc), and then it’s class from 10 - 1, or 10 - 5pm. Some days I go to the East to shoot the Geylang players at training/games. Get back home 10pm, work on images for a bit, and sleep hopefully by 11pm. On days I don’t have classes, or have a bit of time, I make sure to clock in my runs (which is now 4x a week) and climbs, and then it’s at my computer working. Easy? No. But for what it’s worth, I’m enjoying the process. I like making good work! Who doesn’t? 

This is at the expense of a lot of things though. I don’t have time and energy to socialise, especially if I want to clock 7-8 hours of sleep. I want to be disciplined about this because otherwise my body can’t work the way I need it to. There are days when all I want to do is edit the content I’ve created because it’s most fun when you see the ‘fruits of your labour’. It’s short term gratification. The more tedious job of preparing for class or writing/reading academic stuff is easier to push back on, but I need to focus. I’ve my goals and if I don’t be smart about it, they’ll just remain lofty dreams in my head. With only 24 hours a day, priorities need to be made.

This is also what I tell some of my students - your role in school is that of a full time student. Some of you have to engage in part time work to make ends meet and that’s understandable. BUT when it comes to a point where you don’t even attend class, submit sh*t work, or have late/no submissions all the time - maybe it is time to reconsider your priorities. Are you doing yourself any justice studying poorly and working poorly at the same time? 

Same goes for those who are full time athletes. If you can’t get simple things like nutrition and sleep right, then you’re forever shortchanging yourself. Ask yourself - what are your priorities?

#3 Don’t let it just be a “what if”

When it comes to making decisions, for the most part I’ve been quite daring. Armed only with a Sociology degree and no prior experience in photography, I trusted myself and dived deep into the world of visual arts. What’s the worst that could happen? I’d have wasted a few years of my life, but it’s not that I wouldn’t have learned anything. At least it wouldn’t be a “what if” in my head. 

When I decided to try sports photography in 2022, I obviously had doubts and fears. My lucky break came in May when I was appointed to shoot for the Asean University Games in Thailand. I had never shot any sports, other than 2 months of football and the occasional climbing, prior to this stint. Archery, swimming, badminton, basketball etc, were all new to me. What if I screwed up and came back with bad images? What if this, what if that. I’ve my moments too. At the end of the day, I made it work. Am I talented? No. I’ve got some brains, but sure as hell, I work hard for it. If it’s important to you, you’ll find ways to make it happen. But if you never try, you’ll never know. So if you’re reading this today and have a “what if” in your head, I urge you to just go for it.

I hope this little piece brings you all some love and light :)

Doi Inthanon by UTMB race report

[Doi Inthanon by UTMB / 14km +710m]

I wasn’t even sure whether I wanted to do this run until mid Oct after VJM. The run in VJM was a confidence booster and after some egging from K, I convinced myself to give it a shot. Got quite a few things going on in my head post-race so this is gonna be a verbal diarrhoea of a reflection. Thanks for reading!

Race preparation

I’m not some big time, professional runner, but I guess when I decide to do something, whatever the results, I’d like to do it to the best of my abilities. It’s the personal challenge and thrill of achieving one’s own goals that propels me in this pursuit. Most of the trail runners I know of are doing these incredible 30 - 50 -100km distances, and some days I do feel like a baby compared to them. But I’ve learnt to manage my expectations and to embrace my own preferences, which for now would be for anything under 16km. I want to be able to do well in it before moving on to bigger things :) 

Having just completed VJM in Oct, I knew I had glaring weaknesses to address coming into this race. For one, I was terribly slow in downhills and had great trouble traversing the padi fields. I also felt my achilles tendonitis was getting iffy and I knew I had to address that. 

Came up with an 8-week excel-sheet training program to follow which included 3 run days, 1 optional stairs workout and 1-2 gym days per week. The runs included a good mix of tempo runs, trail practice, elevation training and slow z2 jogs. I did most, if not all, of my runs alone. This gave me the flexibility to start anytime and not be pressured into following any pace -  which is good and also bad lah. Could have done with a kick in my ass at times. The gym sessions were important for me to strengthen my calves, and soleus muscles, which would alleviate the achilles tendonitis issue. I also focused on doing single leg press (working up to close to body weight, yay!) and exercises to build my glutes and quads. I needed to keep these muscle groups strong to carry me through all the pounding on the trail. 

Diet wise I ate everything and anything - from chocolate cookies, to egg tarts, pizza, nasi lemak and ice cream <3 I needed all these happy food to keep me going. 

Pre-race things

Because we only decided on going to Doi quite late, the ticket prices were astronomical. The cheaper option was to take a transit flight - extra time but oh well, beggars can’t be choosers. Flew in on the 9th and joined the good folks at Xtrailblazers on the 10th. Edi & Shu Hao from Xtrailblazers were amazing - they arranged all the transport and accommodation for us and it was seamless. I am very appreciative of all the behind the scenes work they’ve done to make this happen. The trip up from CNX to Chom Thong where we were based took under 90 minutes. We weren’t sure how isolated this little ‘village’ was gonna be so we had van loads of trail runners stocking up frantically at a 7-11 enroute. Quite a funny sight for me.

Took it really easy on 10th Dec. Went for a short jog, had lunch, and just nua-ed the whole afternoon away. Was gonna be sleeping at 8pm BUT pre-race nerves got the better of me. I tossed and turned in bed and only managed to sleep a grand total of 1 hour. Even got SO hungry I had to eat the 7-11 sandwich I was planning to keep for my morning. The absurdity of it all :’) 

Race Day

Woke up way before my alarm, did some stretching, had coffee, and the van came to pick us up at 6.45am. My fuel for the run was 5 dates + 2 white toasted bread and of course Tailwind. 

Got into the pen at 7.40am and was probably in the 5-6th row at the start. Didn’t want to squeeze my way to the front because I thought it would be nice to have some people in front of me so I could spend less headspace navigating the course. I was nervous but also ready to “just go only”. 

My game plan was to not get too caught up at the start and to go conservatively because I didn’t want to kill my legs before the last big climb and to run back with my dignity intact (i.e. glamorously). The gun sounded and off we went. The first 400m was uphill so I was already huffing and puffing and wondering if things were really gonna be like this the entire journey. Thankfully after awhile, I managed to settle into a comfy pace before the first big climb. 

I’m vvvv glad I brought along my $20 decathlon pole because it helped take weight off my legs during the incline. I mean it’s not the easiest to wield around because I can’t compact it small enough to fit it nicely in my pack, but it was still a very useful equipment that I’m glad to have had. Some of the inclines were so steep, I felt myself slipping back with each step and constantly looking at my watch to see if we were reaching soon!! I remember Layton telling me previously that I should ‘just keep moving’. Bearing that in mind, and Phil 4:13, I kept going.

While I definitely improved my downhills (compared to the joke that I was in Cultra), I was still significantly slower than many. I could only watch in envy as folks glided down effortlessly, while I galloped along with lots of care and some trepidation. Alas, I was comparatively slower at the padi fields again but I could cover decent ground when the trails were less technical. 

The second big climb was trying. By then, our paths had merged with the runners doing 25km. They were also at the tail end of the race, and the people I caught up with were probably mid-to-end pack, so I managed to overtake folks ‘one person at a time’. As I emerged out of the trails into the road, I was surprised to see K waiting there! He had already completed his 25km earlier on, took some rest, and came back to make sure I finished strong.

Far from a stellar performance, but I definitely surpassed my expectations. 8th in my age cat, and 21st woman (out of close to 300?). I’m glad I challenged myself to this. Feels like I’ve still got so much to give and grow in trails, and I’ve got my eyes on bigger goals in 2023.


[Gear check] Top - t8 / shorts - rabbit / shoes - hoka mafate 4 / cap - ciele / watch - coros apex 2 / race vest - ultraspire basham 2.0 / fuel- tailwind. All available at Red Dot Running Company.

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. 


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!

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