Categories
Running

Sundown Ultramarathon 2011

This morning, I completed the 2011 Sundown Ultramarathon. Spanning a total of 100 kilometres, the entire journey took me a net duration of 16:39:58. It was definitely challenging both physically and mentally. Starting from Marina Barrage, runners were brought through East Coast Park, Changi Village, Pasir Ris Park and Bedok Reservoir Park, then back to Marina Barrage via the same route. In fact, this was the first time I preferred an out and back route, as I could expect what to go through for the second half.

The race was flagged off at 6 pm on 25 June atop the Marina Barrage building, where I followed Alvin on his 4-minute run 1-minute walk strategy. After crossing the Barrage, we ran past the Indoor Stadium and towards East Coast Park, crossing an overhead bridge along the way. After 7.5 kilometres, we emerged from an underpass and started the East Coast Park leg. The East Coast Park stretch was some 11 kilometres long. Soon, massive dark clouds started appearing, signifying the threat of a downpour. Nearing the 20-kilometre pit stop (which was located just after the 19-kilometre mark), it started to drizzle. Luckily, the drizzle did not transmogrify itself into a thunderstorm.

The next 6 kilometres was a straight along Changi Coastal Road, and we soon arrived at the 30-kilometre pit stop (located at the 29-kilometre mark) just across the bridge from Changi Village. The next stretch was similar to the 2009 Sundown Marathon route, bringing runners up a hill and towards Loyang estate. However, I could not keep up with Alvin’s pace just before the 32-kilometre marker and continued running at a slower pace. By 36 kilometres, I had to walk in the middle of Pasir Ris Park due to a slight strain on the knee. By then, the time elapsed was 4:47. In order to have enough time to complete the ultramarathon, I had to reach the halfway mark by 7:30. The 40-kilometre pit stop was located just before entering the housing estate. There was another overhead bridge at Ikea Tampines which brought us across the expressway. We ran down a relatively straight stretch of Tampines Avenue 10 and entered Bedok Reservoir Park. With just three more kilometres to go, I gave myself 11 minutes per kilometre to reach the pit stop.

At the pit stop, I collected my Special Needs Bag and changed into a fresh set of running attire. I also managed to do some stretching and grab half a hot dog bun. After spending close to 28 minutes at the pit stop, I deposited my bag and embarked on the next half of the journey. As my legs started to hurt, I decided to walk. A few minutes later, Kelly appeared and encouraged me not to give up. By taking small steps, I was able to run for short distances and complete each kilometre in 9.5 minutes. At 72 kilometres, I decided to walk for the rest of the journey due to the strain on my knee. Indeed, I felt a sense of loneliness as the Changi Coastal Road stretch. However, volunteers cheered on as they rode their bicycles up and down the course. By the 80-kilometre mark, it was already past 7 am.

Upon entering East Coast Park, I could feel the heat from the sun. It was indeed a long and tiring stretch, and I aimed to leave the place by 9.30 am by walking at 11 minutes per kilometre. I had to consume lots of water in order to keep myself hydrated. For the last 7.5 kilometres, there was an underpass and an overhead bridge to conquer. Although my knees started to ache further, I increased my pace slightly and managed to overtake a few people. At the 98-kilometre mark, Marina Barrage was in sight. While it appeared near, it took me 18:36 to reach the end point.

After crossing the barrage, we had to run up the slope before crossing the finish line, where we were presented with a finisher T-shirt, medal and towel. Also, runners were given a bottle of mineral water and isotonic drink.

Throughout the entire route, supporters were constantly cheering. For the 100-kilometre ultramarathon, runners were encouraged to bring their own source of hydration as pit stops were located at every 10 kilometre or so. At each pit stop, I refilled my water bottle with mineral water and grabbed some food such as muffins, cookies and raisins. And I was glad I chose a 1-litre bottle instead of a 600 ml bottle, given that the last 20-kilometre stretch was somewhat hot.

Many thanks to Alvin and Kelly for pacing me, as well as to friends who gave words of encouragement during the run!

Categories
Stamps

Oriental Small-Clawed Otter

On 3 June 2011, Singapore Post released a se-tenant strip of four stamps featuring the oriental small-clawed otter. An endangered species that is native to Singapore, this mammal has been spotted at the northwestern coast, the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, and on offshore islands such as Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong. Often found in zoos, children are attracted to its playful and inquisitive character. The oriental small-clawed otter is regarded as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) in the Red List of Threatened Species.

Over a year ago, SingPost approached local artiste Edmund Chen to design this stamp series. The graphics designer is Wong Wui Kong. In this issue, there are two 50 cent stamps and two $1.10 stamps. The postmark for the first day cover is designed by Chen’s daughter Yixin, 11. A total of 1000 limited edition collectors’ sheet was also released.

Image: SingPost

Categories
Stamps

New C11 Stamp Cancellation Datestamp

Singapore Post will be introducing a new stamp cancelling datestamp from 8 June 2011. In a notice issued on 31 May 2011, the new C11 stamp cancelling will be used for the postmarking of mail items. The design of the stamp is similar to most round datestamps currently used, namely machines C1 to C7 and C9. The occasional octagonal cancellations are made by dot matrix printers C8 and C10.

Currently, there are no known methods of obtaining the C11 cancellation via normal post. On days with normal mail volume, it is observed that cancellations are often made by machines C1 to C4. However, the new cancelling machine is expected to be placed on a trial run, at least on 8 June, to assess its speed. If you would like to be among the first to obtain the C11 cancellation, you may try your luck by dropping a self-addressed envelope into any postbox by 5 pm on 8 June, or 7 pm for any postbox within the Central Business District.

Categories
Running

Sundown Marathon 2011

This morning marks the completion of my third full marathon, with a net timing of 4 hours 52 minutes. This time, the organisers decided to bring forward the starting time by two hours to 10 pm, making it inconvenient for participants to leave the event venue after the race. Getting to the event site at Changi Exhibition Centre took quite some time, as the traffic congestion started building up all the way to Changi Village. Earlier editions of the Sundown marathon started at Changi Village instead.

Before the flag off, participants were dazzled by colourful strobe lights at the starting point. However, I would probably end up dizzy if these flashes continued! The race started in front of Changi Exhibition Centre, and brought participants through a relatively flat Changi Coastal Road and East Coast Park. Other than the first and last three kilometres, the scenery mainly comprised trees and cyclists. This made the route somewhat boring, especially in comparison with Sundown Marathon 2009 – which included urban and physical obstacles such as overhead bridges in the second half and undulating terrain near the end.

The weather was somewhat warm and humid, which can be felt along Changi Coastal Road. Water points were conveniently located every two kilometres apart, with signs reading ‘Hydration Station Ahead’ placed some 200 metres before the station. This time, participants may miss the energy gel station as it was located in a dark zone after a bend without any sponsor banners. Towards the end of the route, some volunteers (who reported to the site as early as 4 pm) were already sitting down or lying flat on the ground to catch some rest after standing for more than ten hours. However, as the starting times for the different categories were staggered, there was no congestion encountered.

This year, the race pack – coupled with the increase in race fees – made the entire event rather disappointing. It also made it seemingly and excessively profit-orientated. Other than a running singlet, the drawing block-sized bag was filled with promotional leaflets. On the website, it states that ’42KM Marathon Participants will receive a race kit bag containing an exclusive New Balance Event Singlet and other goodies.’ It seems that other goodies refer to the pieces of paper. Clearly, the organiser was cutting costs in order to maximise their profits as far as possible. Compared to the Standard Chartered Marathon series, the quality of the Sundown Marathon could be improved upon.

Categories
Stamps

Hawker Centres (2011)

Hawker centres are a common sight in Singapore, and they have become part and parcel of life for most Singaporeans. These food centres are conveniently located near public housing estates or transport hubs to serve the residents and commuters alike. They are often said to be highly symbolic of the Singapore lifestyle and culture, some citing it as a meeting place for social interaction and family bonding.

Stalls in hawker centres sell a wide variety of food, keeping prices low to attract more customers. In fact, one can easily find hidden treasures in the form of high-quality food at these places, with some highly recommended by television programmes. Unlike food courts, these hawker centres are not air-conditioned. Over the years, efforts have been made to enhance the aesthetics and ventilation.

Today, Singapore Post has released four stamps of 80 cents each, featuring the illustrations of East Coast Lagoon Hawker Centre, Newton Food Centre, Maxwell Road Hawker Centre and the Lau Pa Sat. These stamps were jointly designed by Leon Yeo and Jean Ng.

In the 19th century, hawkers of the various ethnic groups started selling food along streets due to its low starting capital. They slowly grew in numbers, Patrons often purchase from these makeshift stalls out of convenience. The high unemployment resulted from the Second World War has led to the surge in the number of hawkers. Concerns about the hygiene of the food were raised in the late 1960s, leading to the introduction of policies to curb the growth of these street hawkers. In 1971, the government started building hawker centres to relocate these street hawkers into a more hygienic environment. By the mid 1980s, over 140 hawker centres were built across the country. In 2001, the Hawker Centres Upgrading Programme was introduced to enhance facilities. While maintaining the unique flavours of these iconic structures, improvements have been made to give them a new lease of life.

Adapted from article by Singapore Post, Images by Singapore Post

Categories
Banknotes

Singapore $10 Banknote with Two Triangles

A new variety of the $10 Singapore banknote with two triangles on the reverse was spotted in early May 2011. The two triangles were similarly printed in red, beneath the word ‘Sports’ on the bottom left corner of the note. Currently, there are a total of five varieties for the $10 note – with no symbol, one square, two squares, one triangle and two triangles, making it the denomination with the largest number of varieties at the moment.

Another denomination which has two triangles printed on it is the $1000 note.

Categories
Singapore

The Additional Cent

It appears that a well-known securities and investment company in Singapore has decided to add one additional cent of postage to the mail it sent out. A rare sight – the numerals ‘0033’ has been imprinted onto an envelope dated 28 February 2011 in red ink.

Currently, standard mail up to the weight of 40 grams costs 32 cents when posted to a local address. Therefore, the 33 cent impression was probably an error made during the franking process, unless Singapore Post recently (or secretly) introduced a new premium of one additional cent for franked mail. However, I would say that the latter is an unlikely scenario. There was no justification for SingPost to do so, especially since the use of franked mail reduced the need to print stamps and subsequently process stamped mail.

Major establishments often opt for the more convenient franked mail over postage stamps, especially when they regularly send out large quantities of mail in assorted sizes and weights. The franking machine prints the value of the postage on the envelope and records each impression in its log.

According to SingPost’s website, the franking machine ‘allows (the user) to maintain accurate and up-to-date postage records and it prints any value of postage required’. It certainly does – 33 cents is indeed an odd value. As far as I know, certain franking machines have built-in weighing features, while others require a manual adjustment of the postage required. The older franking machines involved adjustments similar to a new day on your typical rubber date stamp.

While it seems that one cent is a small amount and that the error is insignificant, it could have cost the company much more. If this happened to be part of a bulk-mailing spree extended to the entire clientele, a huge amount – thousands of dollars – would have been incurred by this securities and investment company. As this may just be an isolated case, investors should carefully attune their confidence level in the company at their own discretion.

Categories
Stamps

Revenue Stamps

This morning, I chanced upon this Singapore 10-cent revenue stamp while looking through my old collection. A revenue stamp is often used to collect taxes on documents and licences. Businesses would purchase these stamps from the government, and stick them onto the document, such as contracts and agreements which can be tendered in court. Documents which are unstamped may therefore be deemed invalid by the government.

To prevent the reuse of such revenue stamps, they would then be cancelled, often using a simple pen stroke, using an inked stamp, or punching a hole. Higher denominations may include security features due to their high value, in order to prevent counterfeiting.

In Singapore, stamp duty is often imposed on documents relating to properties and shares by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, more commonly known as IRAS. Today, electronic stamping has replaced these physical stamps in most countries, including Singapore.

It seems that there is not much information on Singapore’s revenue stamps online. If you would like to discuss more about these revenue stamps or would like to share pictures of your revenue stamp collection, feel free to leave your comment below.

And lastly, if you have not e-filed your income tax, remember to do so at the IRAS website by 18 April!

Categories
Stamps

Pond Life Definitives 2011

On 13 April 2011, Singapore Post released the low value definitive stamps for the ‘Pond Life’ series. This series aims to showcase the detailed and vivid images of various pond creatures, which is said to ‘give a glimpse beneath the water’s surface of life on a pond’. There are a total of ten denominations in today’s stamp issue.

Two plants – the water lily and water hyacinth – were featured on the 1st Local and 2nd Local denominations respectively. The water lily has round leaves and fragrant flowers that lasted only for a few days, while the water hyacinth with lavender to pink coloured flowers with six petals is often found in water catchment areas.

Other creatures featured include the white-collared kingfisher (5c), diving beetle (20c), common redbolt (30c), ornate coraltail (45c), black marsh terrapin (50c), white-breasted waterhen (55c), common greenback (65c) and common toad (80c).

This issue was designed by Eric Kong, and was printed by rotogravure. If you were to pick up these stamps, you would find that the drawings of the flowers and animals printed on them are coated with a shiny coat of reflective ink. For this issue, note the slight variation in the perforation at the top and bottom edges.

One design defect would be that the denomination is printed in a small fanciful font at the bottom corner of the stamp, which may unintentionally inconvenience users. I might say that the value of the stamp is rather tiny and unobvious, especially when it is white in colour. If you happen to get hold of one of these stamps sometime soon, do take a look. The mark for the first issue ‘2011A’ is printed in black, at the bottom right corner of the stamp. Now that’s even smaller, collectors may soon be using a magnifying lens to detect any new reprints.

Two months back on 16 February, a set of high-value definitive stamps on Pond Life were released. They include the common tilapia ($1.10), pond wolf spider ($2), water skaters ($5) and water scorpion ($10).

Categories
Running

2XU Compression Run 2011

The 2XU Compression Run 2011 was held on 10 April in Singapore’s Central Business District. The 12-kilometre run brought participants to places such as the Esplanade and Marina Bay Sands. The race was flagged off at the F1 track next to the Singapore Flyer at 6:55 am.

Participants first headed north towards Republic Avenue and into Kallang Road, making a turn into Kallang Riverside Park at the 3-kilometre mark and back to the Singapore Flyer. Up next was a right turn to the Floating Platform and subsequently the Esplanade. Yes, the bright red Merlion Hotel was also spotted along the route. This is followed by a left turn into Marina Boulevard and towards the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort.

Before realising it, there was a flight of steps ahead leading up to the Helix Bridge. At the 10-kilometre mark under the Helix Bridge, participants were running in both directions along a narrow path – and with a number of them cutting across to the other lane – for an entire kilometre. This left many runners on the return route to run across a rough path filled with pebbles. The race officials should have used barricades instead of orange cones.

There were a total of six water points along the route. Despite the slight drizzle midway through the run, participants continued running towards the finish point, which was at the Singapore Flyer. My timing for this run was approximately 1:01.