Thursday, November 19, 2015

For Sparta: Spartan Race Singapore 2015

The inaugural, Spartan Race Singapore was held on Sunday, 15 November 2015.

I bought a last-minute slot ( expensive, by local standards), and got the 2.00pm flag-off.

The event was well-organised, despite the 6,000 participants that ploughed through from dusk till late-afternoon. They were altogether 15 stations, or series of stations in the 6-8km route. The route was designed along the scenic Bayfront area.

I was in the lead for the two loops until I suffered two penalties at two stations: Monkey-Bars and Spear-Throwing. Each of my failures cost me 30 Burpees (with pushups and squat-jump), and these left me fairly knackered. I was happy to jump across the hot fiery coals just before the finish-line. I think I may be fifth or sixth, due to lost minutes.

I look forward to next year's edition, likely a 16km, however with more preparations in the following areas:

1) Join a CrossFit class to learn the specific movements required in Spartan Games.
2) Really strengthen my body in all planes (forwards, sideways and rotatory).
3) Achieve completions in  various WODs (Workout of the Day).
4) Perform run-push-pull-climb-run 'brick' sets.
5) Ensure complete recovery of my shoulders and rehabilitate. This is my Achilles Heel.
6) Lift heavier weights, and perform Spartan-related exercises.
7) More plyometrics (jumping and landing) in my exercise diet.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Endurance Events & Being In The Zone

When I participated in the Nanowrimo 30-Day Challenge, I wrote 50,000 words for an unedited story/novel in 30 days. If I missed a day, I had to catch up with twice the amount. Each session was described as hectic, and sometimes, being ‘in the zone’. Yet, I got it done despite he crazy self-imposed timeline.

Athletes have described being ‘in the zone’ as a trance-like state, where focus becomes pinpoint sharp, and performance feels effortless. It is distinctly different from ‘zoning out’, where focus is lost due to daydreaming.

Endurance sports and its requisite training sessions, demand that we activate our values of patience, tenacity, determination, persistence and resourcefulness. Long sessions require such values to complete long sessions for swimming, running and cycling.

Leadership Lessons: Just do it. Plot a time slot, and commit to completion. Do your best, and exhaust your time. Assess your results. Write first. Edit later.

Beat Your Best: The Time-Crunched Athlete

If you need something done, give it to a busy person. If you are time-crunched for a race preparation, you can do twice-a-day sessions. The current ‘haze’ condition and bad air quality has led to jettisoned sessions, or indoor-sessions. Nevertheless, with creative scheduling and workout design you can still save your race (and race fitness).

Upside: You can split a long run into two shorter sessions. For instance, a 21km run can be split into 10km and 11km sessions. I have done two hours of indoor-cycling on the turbo-trainer in the morning, followed with an evening o1-hour session. My legs, generally, feel fresher and I can opt for similar intensity, or higher. It is now wonder that elite swimmers train twice a day, 4-5 days per week. When I was training for my Boston Qualifiers (BQ), I sometimes did two sessions per day as my additional session in the ‘Run Less, Run Faster’ approach. I never exceeded four sessions of running, all done at tempo-paced. A second session may be shorter, and focused on slopes or off-road surface.

You can also integrate short (15-20 minutes) strength and core stability sessions. These sessions will shift focus onto rehabilitative interventions, muscle-rebalances, and developing functional strength. I end each aerobic session with balance-work (proprioceptive), kettle-bell training, and free-hand/bodyweight exercises.

Down side: You will have to wash another set of exercise attire. Also, be mindful of your energy levels. If need be, fuel up about 15-20 minutes before a session with Hammer Nutrition Perpeteum or Hammer Gel. I use a 645-ml serving bottle (26 servings). Hydrate throughout the day. I use ginger-tea to reduce post-exercise swelling and inflammation.

Leadership Lessons: Prioritise. Make important things important. Shift your focus to relevance and the necessary. However, chores still need to be done.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Valuing Oneself & Others

How do you measure performance and value your talents?
Have you 'actually' measured your value?

'Perceived value' translates into 'actual value'. That is why the best people are sought after by potential employers and executive search specialists. When these people value your skills, wisdom, experiences and competencies you get compensated more, are recognised and  valued even further. 'Pay for the best' is the truism when it come to employment and employability.

How do you appraise your value? How do you get valued like a precious diamond is assigned a price-tag, or your property/real estate is appraised?

Before your next performance appraisal, do a SWOT Analysis. Born of marketing, and used to assess the value of a brand, SWOT can be used to assess your valuable skills, and Unique Selling Points (USPs). SWOT is an acronym for Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. By identifying, in detail and exactness, your Strengths (abilities and capabilities) - you can project your Opportunities (including future value and potential). Your Weaknesses need to be reduced, and converted into competencies or your Threats increase to become your risks.

Do a SWOT Analysis before your next Performance Appraisal interview, job interview, or when updating your LinkedIn profile. 

Leadership Lessons: How do you value yourself? How do you value others? How do you answer questions relating to value, relevance and importance?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Currency of Wisdom

How do you actively develop your wisdom?

How often do you seek your wisdom of hindsight? That is, your inner-eye that helps you reference your future decisions with your past.

On the one hand, we experience self-talk like 'once beaten, twice shy', 'I should have listened to my gut feeling' and 'rash decisions'. On the other, you may have appreciated moments like 'Eureka!', 'my intuition talked to me' and 'I was fortunate/lucky'. We can attribute our success and failures to being acutely attuned to both our senses (sensitive, sensible) and our intuition (sixth sense, gut feel, instinct).

Learn From Your Failures
There is a truism that we can learn from our mistakes and failures. How exactly does one learn from disappointing results? Unguided, we may wallow in self-pity and become depressed. With the right internal lenses, we can filter out the emotions to attain the filtrate of 'good stuff'. These include lessons that we may apply at the next decision. What to avoid, be mindful of, cognisant about - we can apply this to our next business venture, relationship, and commitment. Sports-coaches remind us to write our thoughts and feelings while they are freshly-imprinted in our minds. We can review our results, and make adjustments in our planning and preparation for future attempts.

Learn From Your Successes
When you achieve a new milestone in your life, reflect over what you enjoyed about it. Ponder over how you would achieve your results and performance differently next time. Which values did you learn from your success? Humility, patience, consideration, respect, trust, care, and many more. What did you add to your character in your success? How can you build on your abilities, and expand and extend into your capabilities? Wisdom from our success can help us become confident to 'dream bigger for longer'. We can enter the realm of personal excellence and mastery, as such.

Leadership Lessons: How do you draw on your wisdom? How often do you convert to your currency of wisdom? How do you apply it to your decisions in business, socially, as well as in your personal relationships? Add to your wisdom. Observe, reflect, extract, from your experiences and use it for your learning and application.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Go Nuts With Your Nutrition

Stock Photo: Markus Mainka

I wouldn't say that I am a nut person, yet I do enjoy the occasional handful of these crunchy pieces of nutrient-dense foods. I also enjoy dried/desiccated fruits.

As an active endurance athlete, I use nuts as a supplementary source of nutrients. Here are how I eat them:

1) I sprinkle them over my raw salads. I enjoy pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almonds, cashews, chia seeds, dried fruit and raisins. They provide a protein boost to the pigmented leaves. I, sometimes, spruce up my nut count if I eat my salad at home.
2) Drink water when eating nut by itself. It can dry your throat.
3) The easiest way to consume nuts is from a bag. Ensure that unused nuts are kept in a resealable Ziploc bag.
4) Although nuts and dried fruits can be refrigerated to ensure shelf-life, consume them as soon as possible. The refrigerator is a dehumidifier, and may cause precious essential oils from the nuts to escape. The same goes for coffee powder.
5) I enjoy nuts as a snack, especially when I feel peckish on a long indoor-ride. I get a mild feeling of satiety or fullness, whilst enjoying the energy from the oils. I have also raced with nuts in Ironman races.
6) Certain nut oils complement the essential and stable cooking fats (extra-virgin olive oil, butter and coconut oil).
7) I developed an appreciation for nut butters (mainly peanut and almond) after I ate some during my time in the Boston Marathon 2014. A trip to Trader Joes convinced me of the relevance of buying a prepared version, or a home-made, bespoke recipe.
8) Invest in a powerful blender/grinder and make your own nut butter flavoured with Himalayan salt, raw honey, bee pollen, berries, and other oils.

Nuts and the nut oils are a relevant complement to our dietary needs as serious athletes. There are many nut-based products you can create in your kitchen like health-bars, smoothies, and spreads.

Nuts can vary in pricing, source, agricultural treatment and preparation. The website 'NUTS.COM' incorporates the expertise of a dietitian to recommend simple treats and solutions for your nutritional needs. Check it out to learn more about healthier solutions about nuts, dried fruit, and other tasty treats for your energy, recovery, and racing needs.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Boston Marathon 2016: My Second Slot

I earned my second Boston Marathon slot two Fridays ago.

It came as a surprise as I did not expect to get confirmation so soon. I registered on Wednesday, on the second-tier (more than 10 minutes faster than my BQ) of submission of my entry.

I look forward to racing on Patriot's Day next year. I aim to earn a BQ there, as several of my friends have done for years.

Run Clinic 2015

I gave a running clinic two Saturdays ago. It was, essentially, about my lessons learnt from racing in marathons and triathlons. Dubbed 'Run Less, Run Faster to a BQ', about 50 participants turned up on a hazy, afternoon to hear me talk about my 11 years of Ironman training as well as racing in marathons.

One of my inspirations to do the Boston Marathon, 83-year-old Mr Kr Hong Fatt (on my left). Pris Chew is the author of the blog,

A summary of my clinic (minus the 5km run, as the air quality was deemed 'Unhealthy' at a PSI of about 150), was featured in Pris Chew's award-winning blog. Enjoy!

Additional data that was missed out were:

1) I eat clean, generally, following the 80:20 Rule. I have as much vegetables as I can eat in my meals.
2) Tart cherry juice is great for reducing muscle soreness. I learnt about this while watching an episode of 'The Doctors'.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Trust Your Base

Trust your base. I don't mean the 'bass', and treble.

Your base is your foundation. In endurance sports, your base is your 'aerobic base'. It is one of the main engines that drives your ability to 'go far and long'. Yet, the aerobic engine is shrouded in misnomers and confusion.

To build your aerobic engine, let's review the mathematics of heart-rate. Using Phil Maffetone's approach: 180 minus AGE is your Maximum Heart Rate. Never exceed this, when building your aerobic foundation. Even if you have to slow down, and walk, keep committed to this heart-rate limit. Once your heart-rate falls at the same intensity of work, you can then step it a notch higher. The main goal and intention is to teach your body to be more effective in using fat as a main source of fuel. Today, the popular term is applying the ketone-diet. You can train on an empty stomach, or breakfast-free. I use Bullet Coffee (with coconut oil) to run up to 2 hours or ride up to three hours.

Your aerobic base will buoy your anaerobic system, or higher-intensity workouts. It will also relieve stress on your body, reducing the chance of injuries, sleep better, and recovery faster.

Leadership Lessons: Return to basics. Maintain 'Beginner's Mind'. Learning and re-learning can be useful, whether you are a specialist, expert, consultant, teacher or champion. There is something to be gleaned from each experience, perspective and result.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Pace Your Way To A Faster Run

With running-mate and pacer, Melvin How in Gold Coast Marathon 2013.
The difference to earning a new PB/PR in your running, may be more than just more training. Your choice of race, climate, and use of pacers can make a big difference in slicing minutes off your time, and finishing strong.

In my best races, I almost followed a pacer. The pacers are either the officially-appointed ones, or those I designated to follow - my friends.

In 2013, I was pacing with my friend Melvin How for the early part of the Gold Coast Marathon, until his injury side-lined him. He still held a decent pace and an honorable finish. I earned a PB and BQ, thanks to his early fast-pacing. We were holding a 4:30min/km pace, and both aiming a Boston Qualifier (BQ).

This year, I followed the official Gold Coast Marathon Pacers, until the 2km mark, where I had to pee. Costing me precious minutes, and losing sight of the 3:15min/km pacers, I had to catch up with familiar faces. I designated them (in my mind) as my pacers, and kept up with them until my pace led me to overtake them. A few of the F1 Runners from Singapore kept me company for parts of the first 21km. My occasional running and racing-buddy, Andrew Cheong was my other pacer, who I kept in my gun-sight for most of the 42.195km. I was concerned about holding my mild lead of less than one minute over him. This year, my focus on slopes and hills gave me more confidence over the mild rolls of the Gold Coast. 

Thanks, pacers for egging me on!

Leadership Lessons: Be broadminded to run with faster runners. Ask permission to stick closely with these pacers. They can give us a massive psychological boost. The Gold Coast Marathon Pacers are so accurate that they guide you through to your potential PB. They also actively cheer you on, with positive energy and explicit encouragements. It is perfectly fine to follow them. Followers can prosper!