Saturday, 30 April 2011

Straight-up Rambling. In the gasfields.

Running causes leg aches, sore feet, blisters, or some sort of injury to hip/thigh knee/leg ankle/foot, not to mention backpains and other body pains. To escape from running, I retired. I ran away. To Chinchilla.
Chinchilla is a vital centre in the coal seam gas fields of southern and central Queensland. I had a working stint there back in November 2009.

One early morning in mid-April, I boarded a charter flight on a Dornier 228 from Brisbane to Chinchilla, to serve another stint in the gasfields – what was that they said about the wicked?
The day was fine from the coast to the inland. The twin-engine DO 228 is a noisy little aircraft and with a width of 1.34m is much narrower than a car. Its low flying height though is a great bonus for viewing the countryside from a bird’s eye view.

We flew from Brisbane towards the northwest over the great dividing range, thence the lockyer valley and beyond to the western/darling downs. Parts of the downs were blanketed with fog that morning and though we flew through to Chinchilla, we had to divert back as the fog wasn’t lifting. The plane circled the Chinchilla aerodrome twice before turning back towards Dalby. It had to save fuel for the return flight to Brisbane.
In Dalby we waited for a bus to take us to Chinchilla. While we were waiting, another plane likewise diverted from Chinchilla due to the fog, landed there.

The Dalby international airport consists of a sealed stretch of tarmac and some buildings (International means that there’s more than one nationality represented there).

It’s pretty much like the Mainit International airport, except the MIA is still under construction and with not even a shack, but the Chonglian domestic airport is operational – with helipads wherever a pilot can find them.

There’s a few light planes, maintenance hangars, crop-spraying terminals and gliding facilities in the Dalby aerodrome. We were treated to some hang-gliding while waiting for the bus.

Chinchilla is just under 300km from Brisbane, a 3.5hr drive by car, or a 45-minute flight. The district known as the ‘melon capital’ of Australia, has evolved from a crop economy to now a broad-acre farming mixed with coal and gas exploration site. Agriculture with beef, pork and sheep products and horticulture are still the main economy around the region. The dairy industry, like the timber sawmills, has declined, but the people here, like most rural Australians are nothing if not resilient. They have diversified into cattle, grain, cotton and fruit production. The future looks rosy and with the coal and gas exploration and exploitation, Chinchilla is a vital centre in the growth and development of the southern downs. I worked in the gasfields for two weeks.

Some days were slow. Once on a rainy day I resorted to itemising delivery equipment.

It’s quite a task to make sure that the material go to the allocated vehicle. Sometimes it’s a headache.

But I even found time to play with a tiny local red and white moth. On the days it rained, and we could not go on sites even if we wanted to. Early in my stint I could not work in field sites pending safety inductions.

The weather was kind for most of my stay there, and five crews managed to make preliminary deliveries to three blocks.

These blocks comprise an area 30 km by 10km, more than twice the size of Baguio and la Trinidad. But within a few fieldwork days we traversed an area as wide as Benguet.

Some of our delivery points were difficult to establish.

These are generally located at the vicinity of fence posts defining the property corners.

At times we only had trees to go by.

Many of the fences are quite old and in various states of disrepair. In despair, sometimes we had to dig holes to pinpoint our location.

Some of the places I saw or passed: Berwyndale, Kenya, Barney, Clunie, Jen, Derby county, Parish of Weranga, Localities of Greenswamp, Crossroads, Goranba, Daandine, Ducklo, Braemar forest. Along the highway are Warra and Brigalow. Out of the way places: Beelbee, Montrose, Hopeland.
Some places had names like Wieambilla, Coondabilla and Kumbarilla.
I think these places are sister towns to Bauko-Bila in Mountain Province. In yesteryears the people of Baukobila used to trade their pottery for salt with the people of Chongnila.
The I-Bila are essentially good people. I visited there once in my youth, and was treated very warmly - like family. However in recent times, the odd wealthy man from there resorted to buying favors from all around the province to build his pillar of salt. I suppose you gotta serve somebody, and it might be the devil for this high degree thief. I don’t blame those communities or clans forced to sell their vote under economic threat, nor do I blame the voters directly intimidated and with veiled threats. I just hope they don’t rue the bitterness of the rice, or the bland sardinas, or the bad smell emitting from their phones' cells. Was it all worth it? This is what they call democracy?
Now we hear of guns. I dreaded this day as a youngster. Yet it had come to pass. Will guns, goons and gold become part of our electoral culture? Quo vadis Montanyosa? Tell us where we’re headin. On the straight and narrow, or Armageddon?

Some philosophize and say that:
perhaps why so many rich, powerful … people descend into… the basest depths, is that deep down they sense the material things they have are really very empty and temporal— They experience disappointment after having acquired… wealth and power …and go into denial that they still are not fulfilled and at peace. So they actually believe that having these things is some sort of an accomplishment. So the game goes on - the more money and fame they get, the emptier they feel. The more empty they feel, the more money and power they seek. And the cycle continues…
(paraphrasings and errors are all mine).
How despicable. I shed tears not for them - the wealthy and mighty, but for the poor pitiful people that they coerce. The good people of Mountain Province will not be duped for long. In future they will choose their leaders freely at the ballotbox, or they will get the leaders they deserve. (It's been 12 months since the May 2010 elections in the Philippines. And there was this blog I meant to write...)
When I was a child I read stories from the bible – the same book that many claim to follow. It said there from what I remember: "What will it profit some to gain great wealth, and lose their souls?" Or their name, reputation, legacy? (I think my memory does not serve me well). But this could well apply to many people in high office. A good moral injunction really. But I don’t read bible stories no more. I just try and remember the stories of my apo, my lola.

Oi Polichay. Ay apao ka. Back to Chinchilla! Oh thanks. Did i doze off? Ahh digressions.

The Clear skies beckon. Let’s go.

Chinchilla suffered from flooding disasters early this year. Many of its roads, rail, schools, fields, homes and businesses sustained some damage.

Initial payments in the hundreds of millions of dollars from the government helped the affected councils, from the Western downs to Gladstone, Toowoomba and the Lockyer valley region, through to Ipswich and Brisbane. It will be some time before full recovery, but for now these regions are back on their feet.

And so am I. Back on my wings...

Thursday, 21 April 2011

April listens too

Might be away this late April to some out-of-town assignment. Will need some music for company.

David Gray. Draw the line. 2009

Jackson Browne and David Lindley. Love is strange. En vivo con tino From a tour in Spain from five years ago. Includes some of Browne’s older songs: Take It Easy, For Everyman, These Days, Running On Empty

Norah Jones. Featuring some of her friends: Ryan Adams, Ray Charles, Herbie Hancock, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings etal.

Flood Relief. 3 CDs featuring various artists from around the world for the Flood Appeal. Midnight Oil, Springsteen, Sting, Go-Betweens, Dylan, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, among many others.

Allison Moorer. Mockingbird. Some good covers: Ring of fire, Revelator, Both sides now.

Uncut magazine. January 2011. Reviews 2010 and features Paul Weller

Celia Cruz. 3CDs. The Queen of salsa.

Music. Andrew Zuckerman. Portraits and interviews. A picture book about musicians. Includes some of the thoughts of Rosanne Cash, Sinead O'Connor, Chrissie Hynde and others.

The definitive Ray Charles.

The Essential Janis Joplin. With concert performances.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Pinnacles Classic 2011

April is the gruellingest month, breeding
hightracks out of the race lands.
(with apologies to T.S. Eliot).

Pinnacles Classic – 18km and 18 hills. 9th April 2011.
I am now in my second year of fun running but very much still a novice in real running. Last week I heard some running mates talking about an upcoming run over some hills in the Brisbane Forest Park. It is called the ‘pinnacles classic’ and organised by Trail Running Association of Queensland (TRAQ). I asked some details just to be polite, not even thinking of actually running. Late entries by email are still being considered so thinking that they’re limiting the field, I emailed the organisers soon as I can. What can be so hard about a few hills? I thought to myself. Just this year I ran the ‘uphill’ in the recent sandgate run, the ‘incline’ of the Ted Smout bridge in the ‘cliff2cliff’, and the ramps of the Eleanor Schonell bridge in the ‘twilight run’. Those were all ‘hilly’.

The organiser accepted my late entry and emailed me some race information.
The route for the 2011 Pinnacles classic went anti-clockwise.
Runners don’t make excuses, especially not me :-). We don’t even mention little mishaps – like the checkpoint man taking a wrong turn while driving back to base. The post-race website did not mention that, did it? Apparently they went admiring the scenery under the powerlines.
In that spirit of racing etiquette, I won’t tell about my pre-race blues either. Like the night before the event was a restless one. It rained for some time, and I was tossing and turning. Earlier I was packing some things at work and strained my long-suffering lower back. I had an upset tummy and suffering from that ailment we call boris in my homeland. I think the English word is that which precedes diary b in the dictionary. So I had troubled and little sleep. But I won’t mention all that.

I actually had some doubts, fears even, about the ‘hills’. So on race day I drove out to the race site early, intending to run with the ‘early starters’ at 6:30. Westwards past Mt Coot-tha, Chapel Hill, and Kenmore Hills, I drove along green and lush vegetation out to the end of Gold Creek Road in Brookfield. I got there some minutes before the ‘early start'. I picked up my race bib and was pinning it on when old tummy grumbled for some relief. I ducked away to the sheds and missed the early start as a result.

They look serious. It's just a few hills fellows.
I looked around the hills and felt very daunted. I ran Mt Coot-tha last year, but I haven’t ran a series of hills before, and I was worried about what these 18 hills entailed. The hills looked so high and so far. I overheard some talk that 'the aim is not to win but to finish'. Uh oh. There’s chills in dem dar hills.

7:00 and we started off – straight up the first hill. I saw that this trail run is on dirt trails used by rangers only. It is rough and seldom used. There were 70 other runners. I kept pace for a long 1,000 cm, but within a few minutes they’ve all gone from sight past the many bends going uphill.  That was the last I saw of them until the finish, except for one runner who hurt himself. I caught up to him and asked if he’s okay. He’s gallant as many runners are, and said he’ll trudge up to the checkpoint at the halfway mark.

I plodded on, and soldiered on, sailed against the headwind, arrgh. The winding steeply rolling route was marked with white ribbons and I kept checking that I have not strayed off course. I started counting hills. I reckoned I counted 19 hills before I stopped. I was about to call for help, when I finally saw the checkpoint at the race halfway mark. 19 hills and this is halfway? I jogged up, got my race number ticked and checked my watch. 67 minutes for the first 9km.
I chatted a little with the volunteer checkpointers. One looked like gary cooper and the other could easily be the male version of cameron diaz. They both resemble cary grant. They kindly granted me some water, lollies and an electrolyte drink. They told me the return leg was easier, that there was no more hills, just speed bumps. It’s what I wanted to hear, and I wasn’t born yesterday, but I believed them anyway. I wanted to just stay and ask for a ride back with them, but I could not really take the place of that injured runner coming up behind me. I grunted thanks to the grants, (volunteers do make these events possible) and resumed my own battles.

I felt spent but managed to catch another runner, who promptly sped past me again. He was doing drills - speedwalking up hills, and then pausing. I was impressed. He actually walked quicker than I could jog up the hills. There was hills and then some more hills, and then some more hills. but wait there’s more... I got up to 34 hills on my count then I gave up counting them, and I could not jog up them anymore. ‘Speed bumps’ indeed. My donkey. If I see that gary cooper fellow again...

The hills had names like “the mother”, or “brute”. Very aptly named. The inbound section of the trail looked to be closed, even to rangers’ 4wd vehicles. It’s now used only by horseriders and hikers. It was very rough in parts with ruts, loose rocks and gravel, and surfaces slippery from the overnight rains.

On the ‘brute’ my race was over. I lost the battle with my legs. They were no longer responding to my brain, and even though I wanted to keep going, I just could not. My water had ran out too, and was parched. Treading carefully, I finally stopped running/jogging at about the 14 km mark and walked the last 4km and last 4 hills back. I barely managed to catch some female walkers before the finish.

Just a few hundred metres before the finish, I came to the reservoir. I ran 17.7km around the ridges of its catchment just to see this. Had I gone the other way - it was only 300m!
Shrivelled and with my face creased with pain I stepped over the finish line. I felt high.

An exhausted exhilirated straggler. Photo by Granta very cool trail runner.

Seconds earlier, my legs though were rubbery and oozing something. I looked at them. Mud was splattered all along the back. There was more mud there than if I went plowing ricefields (with a water-buffalo) back home. I washed some of the mud off at Gold Creek, only 100m back from the finish line.

My time for the 9km return leg was a bloated 82minutes. Total race time for the 18 km and 18hills - 2h30m. At least I saved the organisers the trouble of searching for me.
A prized trophy. For conquering 81 hills.
Afterwards, I picked up a brochure from the TRAQ tent. There the ‘pinnacles classic’ was described as 18kms of the ‘toughest trails’. Still later back at home, I looked up a website which said that “This is a course for seriously fit runners, with 18 hills over 18km!” I counted 38 hills, but maybe I was delirious. But I would not have dreamt of running this race had I known all that beforehand.

There's a race report, with links to the results and photos.

I may consider running it again. When I grow up.

The equivalent hilly trail run in the Cordillera is the Mainit-Sacasacan trail (approx 17.10'N and 121.0'E). It took me 8 hours to complete a 20km trek (Mainit-Ampawilen including lots of detours), so running the 9km direct route from Mainit to Sacasacan, should only take a lazy couple of hours, there and back.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Sandgate fun run 2011

Sonomas Sandgate 10km fun run (3 April 2011).
Sandgate by the sea, is a sleepy suburb on Moreton bay. I visit here every couple of years or so, sometimes for work, sometimes for r & r. One glorious sunday morning, I found myself there beside a church (note: glorious is reserved to describe a fine day only in queensland and chonglian). I am now a bit religious. Religious in the sense that I attend to running once a week, as a born-again runner.

And this church in Sandgate is beside a park (in Cliff Street corner of Flinders Parade) where we have come to take part in the Sandgate fun run. The start/finish line is right under the trees.

The races for 2011 are 10km, 5km and a 1.5km for kids. I did not qualify for the 1.5km (I kid you not), so I put in for the 10km.
This is part penance for the lost years in the wilderness and for not running until my middle age. I knew I would have a mid-life crisis at some stage. Hopefully the running gods will forgive me, and grant me speed. The registration fee includes a tithe to the flood appeal, so we do run for a good cause.

I have not been to Sandgate for some time. The foreshores and pathways look somewhat familiar. It was some race in the distant past called “cliff2cliff” when I set foot here last. That’s now a distant memory too, some one hundred and seventy hours ago.
Race day was dazzling. I saw some familiar faces.

Emcee Tim and his two daughters were there. They are a class family they are. Many other families also took part in the fun run fest. From babies in prams, to nannas and gramps, they were all there, listening to Tim and his amps.

At just after 8:00am the local councillor (sandgate ward) started the 10km runners off in the brilliant sunshine.

The councillor later tweeted:
Lovely morning on the Sandgate waterfront: Run Inn's annual Sonomas Fun Run this morning.Around 200 entries.$5/ entry going to Flood Appeal.
There would have been many more entries with 'more' publicity prior to the event.

hey, wait for me!
The first kilometre had an uphill stretch. It’s good for views around the bay but not so for running.

The remaining 9km was out and back along the picturesque foreshores. The sun was up in the mid-sky, just rolling around as usual. It started making its rounds and was warming up. A long run was in store for me...
One by one the others disappeared from sight. One by one the runners passed and left me in their wake. I held my own against another group – the group of walkers.

With less than 3km to go, this pretty young woman ran up alongside me. Name of Lisa. I thought she said she’s from St Lucia, am going deaf now too. We chatted a little. I could not really talk. I panted mostly, and grunted some responses. She’s with the ‘run inn’ club. I said am just in training- always a good excuse for going slow.
'Please don't let me hold you back', I said reluctantly. She said 'we can run together'. So I tried to keep pace.
But after a few seconds, Lisa got impatient and bored, so she said cheerio as she sped away. I kinda like her because she wasn’t wearing one of those discriminating shirts that read “I run like a girl”. She had a ‘twilight run’ shirt. Some kindred soul. Might see her again if I don't backslide.

I’ll cut to the chase, did the race in a PV. A personal vest? No, a personal vorst, PW. 1:00:36.

After the race we watched the kids run their 1.5 km races. The three age groups are 3-6 yrs old, 7-9 yrs old, and 10-13 yrs old. There are some champions in them kids. I’ll lay claim to seeing them before they conquer the world.

After the races, prizes were awarded to the winners. Some sponsors kindly contributed various vouchers and the like for random draws. Out of the 200 runners on the day, about 90% got a prize of sorts, whether cash, vouchers, t-shirt, shoes or something else. Poor me of course went home empty handed. Well the odds were that high that....

Did I tell about the day I came second in a chess competition? There was only two of us, but hey I came second.

photo of my left foot. it does not paint, but is in pain
Photos and results for the 2011 Sandgate fun run are out now, but I know where I finished. At the back as usual.
photo from PB Photographics
Congratulations to the winners and all participants. I think the race announcer said 'any finish is a good finish'. I concur. Well done to Tim and H and C.
A 'thank you' to all the volunteers, race officials and organisers, sponsors and others who make these events possible.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

What I'm reading in April 2011

Let's take a break from running. Am still sore.


Nelson Demille. Three books here. Plum Island, The Lion’s Game and The Lion.
A hero in the mold of Bruce Willis or Rambo conquers the bad guys in the first book, play’s with a big cat in the second, and then in the third finally confronts the lion from Libya. The lion must have won. Gaddafi is still in the news.

Joyce Carol Oates. Little bird of heaven.

Gao Xingjian. Soul Mountain.
This book is now overdue and I still have not finished it.


Sam Harris. The Moral Landscape.
This is my pick of the month.
Harris argues
“...that morality and values depend on conscious minds experiencing various forms of well-being and suffering, constrained by the laws of Nature, and that hence there must be right and wrong answers to questions of morality and values that potentially fall within the purview of science.”
The book has caused some debate, the kind of debate we should be having.

Maya Angelou. I know why the caged bird sings.
The first of Angelou's autobiographies.

Maya Angelou. Letter to my daughter.

Modern Critical Interpretations on I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. Edited and with an introduction by Harold Bloom.

How to read and why. Harold Bloom writes in the introduction:
Reading well is one of the great pleasures that solitude can afford you, because it is... the most healing of pleasures.
Bloom then quotes Virginia Woolf who warned:
The only advice, indeed, that one person can give another about reading is to take no advice.
Harold Bloom. The best poems of the English language.
This is Bloom’s choice of the best poems from poets born from 1343 through to 1899.

A New Literary History of America.


Richard Glover. Why men are necessary.
An Aussie author stands up for the blokes.

Noel PearsonQuarterly Essay.
In Radical Hope, one of Australia’s most provocative thinkers turns his attention to the question of education. He strays a bit. The essay did not impress either.

Bob Ellis. Suddenly Last Winter. 
An account of how the Australian Labor Party (ALP) replaced Kevin Rudd with Julia Gillard as Prime Minister. Gillard and Labor just managed to hang on to power with a litle help from Independents. Ahhh politics. But that was last winter. The fall before next winter sees more intrigue after Rudd's appearance on abc tv's q&a Rudd on candid QandA camera.