Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Got My Boston Passport: Boston Stronger!

I, finally, received my Boston Passport in the mail. I was, probably, the last one on my team (Singapore) to get my ticket of assurance.

This is my first attempt at Boston Marathon, my second in the World Major Series and I hope to finish in a decent time. However, I will not be bludgeoning myself silly to get a personal best timing as the course is tougher, with elevations and a likely colder climate. Parts of the north of New York is still cold, and I am not friendly with cold climes. 

I did three 10km runs last week, and yesterday a 21km run (at a comfortable 1:55 pace). I have lost significant speed, and if I am at all close to last December's fitness (at the Singapore Marathon 2013, minus the muscle strain injury), I would be very pleased. Otherwise, it will be a comfortable attempt to finish sub-4 hours.

Already I know that two Singaporeans - physically-challenged athletes - will not be going. I wish them all the best for a future showing. Meanwhile, I still have work to do: to recover fully from two Ironman triathlon completions in March and have enough to have a solid experience with thousands of amazing and better marathoners.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

18 Ironman Triathlons and Counting...

Nine years of racing in marathons and Ironman triathlons, and these are some of the medals I have amassed. These include 16 out of 18 Ironman medals, two Ironman 70.3 world championships, one Ironman world championships, and medals from completed the Berlin Marathon, and Gold Coast Marathon. I am thinking about #19 and #20. It could be a full Ironman-distance triathlon, or a Double-Ironman, or 3-day Ultraman race.
Only Boston Marathon awaits me on 22 April...

An Evening With Deca-Ironmen

On Monday evening, I hosted a sharing session with Deca-Ironman Dr Kua Harn Wei, and Triple-Deca-Ironman Wayne Kurtz. Held at the Hotel Bayview, Bencoolen Street, about 30 friends of or local triathlon community attended. A Triple-Deca comprises 30 Ironman-distance triathlons held one-a-day over 30 days.

(From left to right): Harn Wei, Enrico & Wayne 
I opened the session with introductions of the luminaries in the room:

Dex Tai who completed three Ironman triathlons over three weekends in Europe
Oldest Singaporean marathoner to complete Boston Marathon, Kor Hong Fatt
Wilson Low, adventure-racing coach who completed all world champions over the Ironman, half-Ironman, and X-Terra distances
Teryn Tham, who is one of the few females to have completed 12 Ironman triathlons
Tan Eng Boon, ultra-marathoner who completed a race in Nepal
 Intense concentration and purposeful attention.
 The emcee entertains with preambles and introductions.
We interviewed both speakers earlier in 2010 and 2011. Each of them shared their experiences doing ultra-triathlon distances, which drew laughter, awe and admiration. Harn Wei is, currently, on the management committee of the IUTA. The academic from the National University of Singapore is well regarded as a role model for endurance athletes. Wayne is a serial entrepreneur and astute business opportunist with an eye for the extraordinary and unique, from commodities to real estate to financial planning.
We had an enjoyable session, with keen interests in our two guest speakers and the notion of multiple formats for endurance, multi-sport, events. The Q&A segment explored sleep deprivation training, motivation, mental conditioning, nutrition, recuperation and formats of racing.
Photo-credits: RICHARD LEONG, Relish Photography

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Risks That Affects Decisions

A bout of hypothermia cost me to have a terribly poor finish in my marathon leg of a recent Ironman. I must have expended additional calories from loss of heat from my head, as well as my body. Upon emerging from the lake, I was breathing deeper as I felt cold. My muscles felt tight and I had to move 400m up a slope to the Transition 1 area. I was assisted by a gentlemen volunteer, who noticed my shivering and difficulty in putting on my gloves and riding-top. In my haste and confusion, I unzipped the sleeve off instead of its main opening access. We took a while to zip it back on. When the medical assistants asked how I was, I replied that I needed calories and I would be aright. I must have been pale and it concerned them. After taking my pulse, they concluded that I could continue with the race.
Having decided that I had to be conservative with my energy, or risk cramping, premature fatigue, or injury I decided to ride my first 45km at an easy pace. The first of two climbs up Napier Road, was a gradual ascent and I shifted to a lower gear. I merely spun my way up, and not exert too much intensity.
I decided to load up on my calories every 20-25 minutes for the first two hours. If I lost more heat, I would drain my reserves and sap my energy. 180km of the two-loop ride would dip into my stored glycogen, which I would need for the 42.195km marathon. I made six pit-stops at the portable-toilets, losing up to 3-4 minutes for each deliberate stop. I was hydrated however the chilly winds induced diuresis, which mean I had to urinate once every hour. I used these compulsory stops to fuel up, drinking my bidon of Perpeteum (Hammer Nutrition) and Cramp Fix electrolyte tablets.
I ran my first 14km loop, walked most of the second, and half-and-half for my final loop of the undulating run course. It was what it was, and I had to bear with my condition. These 'down moments' helped to consolidate my thoughts and strategy. I put on my hoodie, so as to keep my head warm. Each walk up the slope (saves the legs) gave me time to assert my next move: walk or jog. No stopping was allowed except aid-stations. I shifted my hardships towards the volunteers, and thanked them for their care and consideration. They were out there just as long as we were.
All in all, it was a hard day at the office. These many decisions I made allowed me to completed my race, albeit in a disappointing time. I appreciated a finish than a DNF score, so my cumulative decisions were well made, to focus on the main goal instead of an ideal set of performance goals.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Ironman New Zealand 2014

These were the final moments of my 17th Ironman finish...much to reflect and ponder on.
My fifth, successful foray at Ironman New Zealand, yielded a challenging race and my poorest finishing time. I suffered symptoms of early hypothermia so that made Transition 1 longer. I received medical attention, and pulse checks suggested that I could carry on, after I assured them that I would consume calories on the way out of the changing-tent. I did just that, whilst they gave me an extended observation, seeing me out from the aid-station.
I had a decent swim time, easing into a nice rhythm and pace. The two-loop ride leg was made more challenging with a fast, downhill decent for the first 45km, and a slower ascending return leg. Headwinds were prevalent on the second 45km stretch. This would zap the legs and tap on energy reserves on the second loop. This year, I took six pee-stops at aid-stations (with some queuing) as I played it conservatively with more fluids, more calories and CrampFix (my electrolyte solution). I warded off some potential (cold) cramps, and finished my ride with relief. I suspected that my marathon would be a make-or-break proposition.
The three-loop (undulating) course was achieved as such: I jogged the first 14km, walked most of the second loop, and did a run/walk combination on my last. For a few occasions, my mind questioned the validity and relevance of completing this cold course, powered with a chilly breeze. 
What began as a cold morning start (7 degrees Celcius ambient temperature, and 17-18 degrees Celcius water condition), warmed up into the mid-20's. However, I believed I dipped too much into my 'box of matches' and drained my glycogen and mental reserves. I had exhausted myself prematurely, but regained some control at the end. On my third day or rest, I recovered well to walk steadily with little residual soreness.
Overall, I had a memorable 30th anniversary of Ironman NZ in Lake Taupo.
*Photo-Credits/Video-Credits: Melina Chan*

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Badge of Achievements

Badges are signs of identity. They are used to allow us to identify with a group, tribe or community. Uniforms are an extension of these identifications, so by wearing them we are associated as being from the same team, business unit or company. When weekend athletes wear race t-shirts, it brings together others who completed the same race.

This is my new badge I earned from my 17th completion of an Ironman triathlon. It also reflects the fact that this was the 30th edition of the race's history in New Zealand. Personally, this marks one of my most challenging races in recent years. Although I did not perform as I expected, yet I take personal pride for completing it. I enjoyed a sense of achievement and satisfaction from finishing the race. I am about one year away from my next qualifying age-group.

Leadership Lesson: Which was your last badge of achievement? How did you earn it? How did you feel when you earned this badge? How do you feel when you look at this badge?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ironman New Zealand (#5 Is Alive)

My first tattoo of a familiar icon.
It was a cold morning - about 7 degrees Celcius - before we were flagged off at 7.00am for the one-loop, 3.8km fresh-water, swim. I had a reasonably comfortable-paced swim, and  emerged the wrong side of elation when I experienced early symptoms of hypothermia. Thanks to an alert volunteer (who served me) who alerted the medical team, I was given the all-clear to resume the 180km, 2-loop, ride. After consuming a packet of gel and cup of electrolytes, I took off for my bike, dressed in tri-gear and long-sleeved jacket. Cramps teased me throughout the windy and undulating route, but I managed it albeit at a much compromised pace and speed. My marathon was a poorly-executed one: I ran the first 14km, walked most of the second loop, and walked/ran the last loop. In the end, I found some residual speed in my legs to ensure my strongest, last, 3km home to a supportive crowd (and bikini-girl who popped up during my last 100m and brought a grin to my face), and Mike Riley's reassuring words: 'You are an Ironman!' The Voice of Ironman, finally, said his signature mantra completely for me.
The day-after: Beaten up but not broken. Brag for life?
This is my first of two Ironman triathlons in three weeks, before I take on the 118th edition of the Boston Marathon. This was my fifth successful attempt on the course in Lake Taupo, and my 17th Ironman completion. I trust my second assault on the 226km triathlon in Melbourne will be better, and keep the chill in absentia. This frail performance is a bold reminder that results are part of the measurement called performance. 
 30 years of Ironman history from Auckland to Lake Taupo.
 Iron-mates are vital to our survival as active competitors.
 My first Ironman NZ in 2006.
Post-race replenishment. Certainly more than 30 calories each.
Congratulations to all first-time Ironman triathlon finishers! You deserve to celebrate your special achievement. Discipline and effort translate into performance. Thanks to the 2,000 volunteers for making it OUR DAY, and making it special and sustainable. The 30th anniversary of the Ironman New Zealand was an unique occasion and extraordinary experience for the 1,650 participants. Thank you, friends for supporting us online and tracking our performance. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bucket List 2014

Racing season begins for me this week.

It will be a year of firsts for me: Two Ironman triathlons three weeks apart in March; and Boston Marathon a month after. It will be my fifth trip down to Lake Taupo, Auckland as it is its 30th anniversary - the oldest Ironman race outside of the USA. Ironman Melbourne will be my first championships in the Asia-Pacific. My last Ironman championships was in October 2013 (Kona), and the Ironman 70.3 World's in 2008 and 2009. A special lottery for participants will be the icing on the cake, and I would love another serious shot at the World's in Kona. I read that David Beckham might be racing as the next celebrity.

The Boston Marathon - 118th edition - will be my first, having qualified on my second BQ submission. I had to erase 13 minutes off my last BQ/PB to ensure a better chance this year. Having never been to Boston - an expensive city - I am excited about my itinerary and the race. My race goal is to complete comfortably on the hilly course, and a 3:50 finish would be rewarding (30 minutes off my best timing from a flat course last July). I have exactly one month to get into marathon shape, after having done two marathons before that. I will focus on recovery and speed word instead of mileage and endurance.

Two more days before I fly off to Taupo. I am excited about earning a better performance. Digits crossed!

Meeting Up With Inspirational Friends

I met up with the Koeppens at the Changi International Airport, hours before their departure back home to Germany. My busy teaching schedule forbade me from meeting them earlier. I have kept in touch Grace and Hannes annually, and I have been inspired by their enduringly strong relationship and shared sense of athleticism.
Months before my personal assault on the Ironman World Championships in Kona last year, I spoke extensively to both of them, garnering useful pre-race and racing advice. Hannes Koeppen competed on the Big Island four times and was world champion twice in the wheelchair/PC category. With a PhD in biology, he now shares his knowledge of nutrition with physically-challenged (PC) athletes. With our brief time together on this trip, I regaled them with my amusing stories at my 15th Ironman finish. We had a most enjoyable time.
Here is a photograph with my regular swim buddies (on Saturdays) - from the Tanjung Beach Swim. Davy Koh went to Kona in the early-1990's. We shared a swim and run 'brick' last week.
I am blessed with friends like them.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Six Days To the Dance (IMNZ 2014)

It is six days out to Ironman New Zealand, my first Ironman-distance triathlon for this year. My bike was just ridden, checked and packed into its hard-case. I have taken a conservative approach to this race, as I was occupied with a challenging but rewarding two months of work assignments. I weigh heavier now, with more upper-body strength, stronger core, and better rotation of my trunk. Hopefully, this will translate to a better 3.8km wetsuit-swim in the perennially cold Lake Taupo, and a stronger and improved two-loop ride. I have reduced my running mileage, focusing on speed and technique (mid-sole landing).

My second Ironman follows three weeks after, at the Asia-Pacific Championships in Melbourne. I will assess my fitness and recovery abilities between the two 226km, multi-sport, races. In effect, these will be Ironman races #17 and #18. My diet has been primed with more vegetable, fruit, good fats and antioxidants. I have expanded on more quality sleep and rest, too.

My first Boston Marathon (my second of the Big Six World Series) will be a moth after, in April, right after the Easter weekend. I look forward to Boston Strong, and a hopeful sub-4 hours finish. The weeks after Melbourne will be spend, exclusively, with running short sessions (10-15km) 4-5 days per week.