Friday, June 26, 2015

The Art of Precision Writing

Are you languishing in your language?
‘Precis writing’ is a tough skill to master. In effect, you summarise an article or essay into its key components. To do so requires critical thinking skills in analysis, convergent thinking, and synthesis. To encapsulate such thinking is to possess crystallised thinking, and applying your linguistic/language ability into a readable format.

How can you approach such skills?

Do Write Regularly
With the social media platform, write your thoughts on your postings on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Share your comments, instead of clicking on ‘Like’. Write with/on any media: prose, poetry, reviews, recommendations, comparisons, and feedback.

Create Useful Lists
Summarise with a list. Use PowerPoint bullets. However, write with at least three words. My favourite exercise is to create a Top-10 list. That is why bestsellers tend to use numbers between 5-9 principles. For example, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, The Eighth Habit, The Power of 3, and the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.

Formulate Your Opinions
What did you like? What did you dislike? Opinions are theories and they reflect our thinking at one stage in our life. Film reviews are the best. Write about your experience at a hotel through their Feedback page. Twitter challenges us to compose our thoughts, all within the 140-character, framework. Edit, by replacing, eliminating, words and phrases. Avoid shorthand that enhances confusions and wrong assumptions. Generation X may not understand enough of Generation-Y/Millennials’ language of brevity.

Review What You Wrote
Looking back, on reflecting, you can appreciate the wisdom of your hindsight, or the naivety of youth. There can be much to glean from previous thinking, and assess how far we have progressed. Use your vocabulary to your advantage and exactness.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

10 Things To Do When You Have 24 Hours Available

Do you frequently un-clutter your notebook, or update your Twitter account?
What do you do when you have 'spare time on your hands'?

There are only 24 hours in a day. It is a myth that we can save time, make time, call for time out, invest in the time, et al. We can do these with our relationships - initiate, engage, build on, explore, strengthen - and time is merely an expendable item. Once the moment is gone, it is, and was. If you have a few hours to a few days on your hands, how could you use it valuably. Prioritise your use of time, tasks, and relationships. [Refer to Steven Covey's 'Time Management Model' from 'First Things First' for guidance.]

Instead of sitting on our hands, we can do much more (effort versus results) with our time. These are lessons I learnt over the last few weeks. Do consider engaging in a few of them. Your results may be startling!

1) Start writing an EBook (Start with the first page; I completed two in a fortnight and ready-to-publish).
2) Give yourself an active-passive treat (sports-massage, read your books, have coffee with dear friends).
3) Clean your room (library, bathroom, shelves).
4) Do a short workout session (stretch, yoga, strengthening, balance, aerobic fitness).
5) Stick to your time-line (compress it all in).
6) Re-arrange something (wardrobe, library, kitchen, sports equipment).
7) Clean out your PC (eliminate out-dated information, sort out files, create more storage space). 
8) Learn something useful (about how things are made, simple skills, useful skills).
9) Post an article, share a link with your community, recognise somebody on the Social Media platform.
10) Rest or sleep if you must (especially if you feel fatigued).

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Geek, Nerd or Fan?

Who is telling the truth? 
I am a fan of Star Wars and Star Trek. More the former, as I do have a few pieces of figurines, a light-saber, and tee-shirts with Star Wars prints.

A friend of mine is a 'trooper' and is part of '501st Garrison', based in Singapore. He enjoys dressing up (cosplay) and appearing as the iconic foot-soldier in charity events. I admire his spirit of generosity, as he gets to troop and give back to society. He also plays Stars Wars Miniature game. So, is he a larger fan than I am?

I read that, in the Geek Hierarchy:

GEEK: Understand, create and fixes really cool stuff.
NERD: Understands and collects really cool stuff.
DORK: Confused by really cool stuff.
I am a Nerd in Star Wars. I am a Geek in Magic. I am a Dork when it comes to smart-phones and high-tech gadgets. But we can chat about slider technology, nanotechnology, and socio-linguistics.

Leadership Lessons: Which are you? Knowing oneself, and making that distinction is an important part of progressing and growing as a leader. Discernment, and the ability to make distinctions in details is a core skill of leadership, as are diligence and decisiveness. Think about it, and decide.

A Legend, Or Legendary?

In the fine company of Singaporean 'legends', who completed the legendary Ironman in Kona, Hawaii in the 1990's and early-2000's. I managed to do it in 2013, after eight years of attempts. 

What is a legend? Usually, a famous person who is deceased. Think of legends like Elvis Presley, James Dean, Steve Jobs, and other celebrities.

However, legendary achievements may create the reputation of  being a 'living legend'. Thus, the things that you do become something of legendary proportions. These achievements could reflect a defiance of your age, physical capability, and social status. The classic 'from rags to riches' and 'phoenix rising from the ashes' stories are such hyperbolic description of philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and wealthy people. Yet, these labels stick indelibly as they do, effectively, describe a person and their exploits.

I am not comfortable with the moniker of 'legend', however, it may suggest a person who has achieved greatness, or completed challenges that defy doing or attempting. Or worst, that was the last great thing that person did before succumbing to sloth, despair, or death. 

To have climbed Mt. Everest, or all Seven Summits; finished all World Marathon Majors; completed a deca-Iron distance triathlon (10 Ironman triathlons in 10 days); completed a Triple-Deca (30 Ironmans in 30 days); run 50 X 50km marathons over-50 days; these are examples of mega-achievements that earn the achiever the unofficial title of 'legend'. In the esoteric world of ultra-endurance athletes, there are many legends who have become iconic through their grand, unbearable, and unthinkable achievements.

To do something new, or seemingly impossible, might be your first step towards achieving personal greatness. If 'legend' means attain personal mastery or personal greatness, go for it. We have one life to live well, and living it truly and thoroughly may be one approach. Be legendary, be 'epic', and rise above your true potential. Enhance your capability, capacity and credibility. Be incredible, ultimate and super-human. To live up this superlatives and hyperbole is to continue to demonstrate values of leadership and relevance.

As my late-friend, Dr Winston Koh said: 'Life is not about how many breaths we take, but how many moments that take our breath away.'

Leadership Lessons: What are doing to become legendary? Who do you know who is legendary, and you can learn from them?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Boston Strong: Boston Marathon 2014

Boston Marathon was not on my bucket list (and I have one, which has been updated umpteenth times and is now in the nth version). I completed Berlin Marathon 2010, enjoyed it as I crossed the line in about 3:37. What I did not know was 7,700-plus runners were ahead of me. Talk about depth of field in European marathons!
So, after two BQs later I took the lottery (after an excited yet excruciating wait of several days), waited a couple of weeks, and I was stoked when I was admitted into the 118th edition of the race. Friends who had completed the 2012 edition assured me that my margin of difference would be highly certain.
What did I enjoy about the Boston Marathon?
1)    It was special, as I felt I was celebrating not only a personal journey, however a shared one. One million spectators, 20,000 marathoners, and an entire city - an extended family.
2)    The days leading up to the marathon was extensively covered on the local television network. It was scary, courageous, and inspirational. The resilience, recovery and optimism was ever-present and ubiquitous. Very touching!
3)    When I walked back to the hotel, okay, as I limped back to the hotel, the locals congratulated me on my achievement. I felt like a champion – something never experienced at home. I was deemed an idiot back home for doing the 42.195km (it is a cultural matter).
4)    Most memorable moment: Running the Boston course.
5)    Next most memorable moment: Kissed by the Wellesley Girls. Admittedly, I was hesitant to approach them however I yielded to massive peer pressure from other runners (who were obviously having too golden a time).
6)    Running alongside fast runners in my Pen (‘That will do, Pig. That will do…’). Some were so comfortably attired in t-shirt and shorts, yet flew past the first downhill 10km. It is not the look or appearance, but the fact that these were amazing age-grouper who qualified by the strength of their performance. Respect!
7)    The warm-up/warming tents with hot cocoa and coffee. They also dispensed energy-gels.
8)    Meeting Boston-veteran, entrepreneur, and Primo-Coolness Celene Loo (a Harvard graduate) who was reading a magazine while waiting for her turn in the pen: ‘Enjoy the race. Time to celebrate!’ She was business-like correct. I had earned my way there, so respect the runners and the race, and complete it comfortably.
9)    Most golden and inspiring moment: When a few ladies said to me: ‘Thank you for saving our city!’ I had to hold back my emotions.
10) The organisation of the event (in its entirety) was efficient, effective and exciting. I heard The Hoyts speak and run for the last time. The race exhibitors were generous with sampling and friendly. I felt that we were truly among friends.
What would I have done differently?

a)    I would have pre-booked accommodation in advance. I sat on my hands which developed sole-like callouses.
b)    Accommodation is very costly nearer the Finishing Line. This extends to a 5km radius. My room cost me US$250 per night. (But it was worth every dollar).
c)    I would focus on running the route faster on my second, and subsequent attempts. It is a world-class course and it is not easy or the faint-of-heart. A must-do in the Marathon World Series - done in any order.
d)    I would stock up more of Trader Joe’s foods, and bring more home (short of it akin to smuggling and becoming a sub-distributor).
e)    Too cold! I was freezing and shivering. After using the porta-loos, I had to re-queue to use it again. I will be higher in body-fat count next year.
f)      I will certainly do more (uphill) hill-runs, strength-work, core-stability enhancements, and run with faster runners.
g)    Not my best time, or even near my BQ, but 32 minutes off my best performance was not too shabby. You can assure me later (I hope).
Would I do it again? Absolutely. As surely as I would love to drink the special edition beers of Samuel Adams*. Not during the run, although it would be a splendid idea. (Note to self: Add to Bucket List). As definitely as I would bring a camera to take we-fies and selfies with the Girls from Wellesley. And, as badly as my grammar and sentence construction (destruction) have been in this paragraph.

Next stop: Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2015, in July. I will ensure every footfall matters and translates into better performance. I just booked my flights  30 minutes ago with frequent-flyer points and dollars-in-taxes. Nevertheless, we will prevail. Okay, that was my Morgan-Freeman moment and minor misuse of artistic licence.

Thus, I wish the very best to you at the 119th edition of the Boston Marathon. Best of running, and enjoy your experience on Patriots Day! One million spectators lining the street from start to end, is a major motivation for any runner present.

*Time for more visualization, and a bottle of chilled Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

My Boston Marathon Journey: Qualifier (BQ) For 2014

I qualified for the Boston Marathon 2014 at the Gold Coast Airport Marathon (GCAM) 2013. My first Boston Qualifying (BQ) time was at the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon 2011. I came in at 3:29:59, one minute the qualifying time for my age group (45-49 years). My second BQ was 3:16:49, earned while preparing for the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

I was running then on a meagre diet of 3-4 sessions per week, with my short runs averaging 10km and my longest from 15-21km. On a long week, I hit about 51km (or 3X10km plus 21km), supplemented with the pool swimming and long indoor-cycling sessions.

I chose GCAM as I attempted a BQ there but missed my BQ narrowly there. It is, generally, a flat course and the weather in July is cool but not too chilly. Plus, many Singaporeans preferred this course and I had familiar faces I could pace.
My nutrition was adequate although I exceeded my caloric need when I went harder than I should. Thus, I struggled on my return leg, passing the start-line and the last 8km became a complete haul. I began slowing down and I knew I was losing precious minutes, earned from a potential sub-3:10 performance. I was fortunate to go under-3:17:00 by sprinting my guts out (as can be seen in the accompanying video).

Lessons Learnt from my BQ
1) I should have arrived earlier to tail the 3:15 pacer. By the time, I caught up I was winded.
2) I should have given my body more time to warm up, instead of meeting the anaerobic zone earlier.
3) I could have spent more time building my base at a lower heart-rate, sticking to less than 135bpm instead of 150bpm.
4) I could have done some interval work (zero) and included some hill-work (zero).
5) My training was all tempo, and moderate to high-intensity. I was not training my aerobic engine enough.
6) My 'no guts no glory' approach served me well, as I improved my time by more than 13 minutes. Having said that, I could have made a 3:09 if I had been patient and not fatigued at the last 8km.
7) I could have a stronger core, more confident arm-swings, and not overtake the 3:15 pacer too early. The pacer (and, thus, pacing) is key to one's BQ success.
8) I lost my 'pacer' friend early as he dropped out due to injury. I should have stuck to the official pacers as they were reliable, and verbally encouraging.
9) I could have integrated some trail or off-road sessions, to strengthen my legs more.
The finishing 'kick'.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

My Boston Marathon Journey

I am not a big fan of running. I love watching runners. I enjoy watching competitive runners on television. I enjoy the big sprints to the finish-line by Olympic-Distance triathletes.

I began long-distance running in 2003, having never gone beyond one 10km race in my life. I had assumed a middle-distance running career in my youth; mostly self-trained and driven by personal motivations. I studied all I could about running and runners. I lived and breathed Sebastian Coe, Steve Ovette, Jim Fixx (The Complete Book of Running), Dr. George Sheehan, Abebe Bikila, Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, Alberto Salazar, fartlek, interval training, cross-country, Adidas, et al. I was obsessed about running, doing it almost daily while pursuing an education.

I excelled in running although it was more a means to an end: To finish the session as soon as I could. My mantra was ‘Get it over’.

In 2004, I began doing triathlons and my first marathon. I was hooked on both. No, I did not enjoy running but I loved running faster and earning Personal Bests (PB) and Personal Records (PR).
The cool weather (end-winter) in July on the Gold Coast is conducive for a BQ/PB.
My first marathon yielded a 4:11; my second was 4:24 (with my first and only attack of ITB syndrome). That was when I discovered the need for deep-tissue massage before races. A spate of sub-4 hour marathons followed when I completed the Bangkok Marathon under the elusive 4-hour mark. When I earned a 3:36 in Singapore and 3:37 in Berlin (2010), I knew I had the capacity and capability to earn a BQ on my flip-side of 40 years.

I qualified for Boston Marathon in 2011 at the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon (SCHKM). I clocked 3 hours 29 minutes and 59 minutes, which put me within one minute of the qualifying time of my age-group (45-49 years). With my first BQ, I applied for the lottery and was declined.

My second attempt to earn a BQ at the fast course in Berlin Marathon 2012 was marred by a hairline toe fracture two months before. I was diagnosed with that painful symptom during Ironman Switzerland, and I hobbled to an uncomfortable 4:00 finish. And, that was that.
Minutes after clocking my second BQ of 3:16 at GCAM2013.
My second BQ (and third attempt at a BQ) was at the Gold Coast Airport Marathon (GCAM), where I clocked 3:16. I was eight minutes within the revised BQ of less than 3:25:00. I also improved my PB/BQ by 13 minutes on my ‘Run Less, Run Faster’ approach: 3-4 running sessions of 10-21km each, supplemented by a triathlon diet (cycling and swimming). I applied for Boston marathon 2014 and was accepted into the 118th edition. Despite strong objections from naysayers that it would not be possible on such a meagre running diet, I achieved it. It is important to strongly believe in your ability, training plan, performance, and be focused to accomplish the seemingly impossible. What is deemed ‘impossible’ might be ‘unrealistic goals’ at one time.

My next goal is to earn a stronger BQ for the 120th edition of Boston Marathon. A performance near-3 hours would be deeply satisfying. I will begin serious training for it after completing one marathon (within Ironman Lanzarote) on 23 May. A narrow recovery and fitness training of seven weeks, will make it highly challenging after my 19th Ironman attempt to hold less than 4:30/km throughout the July 2015 race.

I will share more of my Boston Marathon journey shortly.