Monday, October 29, 2018

Chicago Marathon & The World Marathon Majors

-->
I completed the Chicago Marathon on 7 October 2018. This is the third of the Abbotts World Marathon Majors series for me. I have completed Boston Marathon three times, Berlin Marathon twice before this.
Why did I complete the Boston Marathon thrice?  It was because the lottery was harder to earn, since it is almost a random chance to get a assured spot. A spot in the Boston Marathon is earned through meeting Boston Qualifying (BQ) timings. Thus, runners around the world attempt their BQ in recognized international marathons. Certainly, there is a personal satisfaction to qualify from your hard-earned performance.
Today, some of the marathons in Marathon Majors – Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, New York City and Tokyo – include confirmed slots should you meet their qualifying times. These can be more stringent than the revised BQ timing established by the individual marathons. My qualifying time for my age group has been changed from 3:30:00 to 3:25:00. That means, I have to run a recognized marathon in 3 hours 24 minutes 59 seconds and faster, to be considered for a slot in the 2020 edition of 122-year-old marathon.

For confirmed slots outside of Boston Marathon, there are entry pathways that include charity or race travel packages (premium costs). Thus, you can enhance your chances to complete these ‘Big 6’ marathons at an accelerated manner. However, Boston Marathon remains the ‘holy grail’ race because of the stringent qualification. It is akin to the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii and UMTB for ultra-marathoners.
In addition, should you officially complete these marathons you will earn the distinction as a marathoner who has completed the World Majors. This is another badge of honour for the runner who aspires to complete this particular challenge across wide geography and stunning national landmarks. There are challenging marathon quests such as Seven Marathons Across Seven Continents In Seven Days, which puts the finisher in rare territory. It is analogous to the Seven Summits for serious mountain-climbers.
Each marathon is unique for its identity and character: prevailing climate, course design, hilliness, spectator support, public entertainment, aid-station offering, start/end locations, and much more. When choosing these races, it would make sense to follow up with a vacation, thereafter.  One’s total race experience includes immersion into the tourism available.

Pick your race, earn a spot at the start-line, and enjoy the total experience capped by your hard-earned medal! You can read race reviews at @RaceAdvisors

Saturday, August 11, 2018

HERE'S A COOLING TRICK FOR RACING IN THE TROPICS

Heat disorders can be, potentially, dangerous. I recall I experienced my one and only brush with heat disorder in my first biathlon in 2003. I did not drink, I was dehydrated, over-heated, disorientated, and really in trouble. I was so 'out of it' that I ran past the end-point and towards the sea! Thanks to alert first-responders, I cooled down and recovered. I swore that it would never occur again, if I could help it.
Lessons learnt from racing triathlons since that fateful day include:
1) Put ice-cubes/chips under your cap: It lowers your body temperature.
2) Put a handful of ice cubs under your racing-vest, nearest to your heart. The chances of skin-burn is low as you will be generating lots of body-heat: Fastest way to lower the heart-rate (HR) and race within your prescribed HR zone.
3) When ice is unavailable, douse your head with cold/cool water. Start from the head and let gravity assume the rest.
4) If you have a glove, put ice in it. It helps cool you down, too. We lose large amounts heat from our extremities - thus, encourage the body to displace this heat release. I learnt this from Ultra 520K Canada runner-up Arnaud Selukov.
5) Replace the ice before it completely melts. Downside: the moisture and liquid runs down the legs to your shoes, thus making your feet wet and blister-prone. Use socks with wicking properties.
6) Above all, hydrate: Drink a cup or two of water, or electrolyte-drink at each aid-station.
7) Rinse your head under a public-tap. This helps when you feel yourself burning up, and when no ice-bath is available or within reach. #EVRacingHacks#IronmanEV #IDFast #IDFastSingapore#OnRunningSingapore #OnRunning#RunningOnCloud #runninglabsingapore#IM703Philippines

Sunday, July 1, 2018

THERE IS A TIME TO GRIT AND GRIN

We do know that, at times, we may need to knuckle up and get down and dirty, even feel the hurt (GRIT) - to achieve our goals (GRIN). The suffering we face, is part of the pre-nuptial agreement we committed to, in order to enjoy the richness of fulfilment and a fulfilling life. 
As with life, so as it is in triathlons and endurance sports, the gradual overtaking in a race, mired with the gradual attrition of the body creates a mental and physiological dissonance, much desired by performance-chasers. To earn that personal best (PB/PR) timing, or even to complete a long and/or arduous race, demands that we 'dig deeper'. To yearn and earn a sense of achievement, we will need to engage a sense of adventure and occasion. Surely, the Hurt Locker is a place we rarely want to dwell for too long, yet it is where 'moments are defined', and we get to 'define ourselves'.
Training is a hard matter. Racing can be menacingly, and even brutal when we choose to define ourselves, and seek personal glory and self-gratification. We get to GRIN and enjoy the reflection. Yet, in those many moments of self-imposed suffering (GRIT), we may glean parts of our character, add to it, amplify it, and decide to reduce it.
For the years of military training that I was immersed in (including the following years in the reserves), I am grateful to find pieces of me that identified my talent and capabilities. I am grateful for these opportunities, I am also deeply thankful I was able to recognise these, together with my colleagues. I wear my uniform and badges of honour inside my heart - with pride, appreciation and mindfulness.

Friday, June 29, 2018

HAIL CITIZEN ATHLETES: KEEP DOING & PUT A DING IN YOUR UNIVERSE

To weekend-athletes-warriors and serious age-group athletes: Wherever you are based, whichever sport you are passionate about, whatever you do as a profession, whatever your Cause - we salute you!
Effort outside our profession, day-job, or work demands more energy, motivation, and strength of purpose. We see you run-ride-swim-skate-ski-plough yourself on the roads, trails, pool, sea, gym - working relentlessly on your personal or shared goals, without recognition or praise or reward - that delivers a message of hope, optimism, earnestness, determination, and many other values that define YOUR CHARACTER.
What we do in public is expectedly a 'mask' or 'face' that we are likely to display well. What occurs outside, where you are bathed in sweat, and sometimes, blood and tears speaks volumes of your Inner Universe.
Keep doing what defines you. Keep enduring despite what naysayers attempt to dampen you. Persist when the climate of doubt and uncertainty is overwhelming, and when it is so easy to cave in and surrender to conformity and pressure of GroupThink. Dig deep and reflect on your passion, sport, art, and any other Forms of Self-Expression. You inspire me, and many others hoping to feel your nudge and guiding hands to achieve the unimaginable and unbelievable.
Sweep away some of your doubt, worry and anxieties. Set larger and hopeful goals. Practise patience and baby steps. Put one foot forward. Take a step at a time. Fall twice, rise thrice. Cough away bad thoughts, spit out your weakness, and swallow your pride.
Delve Deeper, Push Harder, Focus Clearly, and Define Yourself! BE THE BEST YOU THAT YOU CAN BE!
We will be cheering you on!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

HAIL CITIZEN ATHLETES: KEEP DOING & PUT A DING IN YOUR UNIVERSE

To weekend-athletes-warriors and serious age-group athletes: Wherever you are based, whichever sport you are passionate about, whatever you do as a profession, whatever your Cause - we salute you!
Effort outside our profession, day-job, or work demands more energy, motivation, and strength of purpose. We see you run-ride-swim-skate-ski-plough yourself on the roads, trails, pool, sea, gym - working relentlessly on your personal or shared goals, without recognition or praise or reward - that delivers a message of hope, optimism, earnestness, determination, and many other values that define YOUR CHARACTER.
What we do in public is expectedly a 'mask' or 'face' that we are likely to display well. What occurs outside, where you are bathed in sweat, and sometimes, blood and tears speaks volumes of your Inner Universe.
Keep doing what defines you. Keep enduring despite what naysayers attempt to dampen you. Persist when the climate of doubt and uncertainty is overwhelming, and when it is so easy to cave in and surrender to conformity and pressure of GroupThink. Dig deep and reflect on your passion, sport, art, and any other Forms of Self-Expression. You inspire me, and many others hoping to feel your nudge and guiding hands to achieve the unimaginable and unbelievable.
Sweep away some of your doubt, worry and anxieties. Set larger and hopeful goals. Practise patience and baby steps. Put one foot forward. Take a step at a time. Fall twice, rise thrice. Cough away bad thoughts, spit out your weakness, and swallow your pride.
Delve Deeper, Push Harder, Focus Clearly, and Define Yourself! BE THE BEST YOU THAT YOU CAN BE!
We will be cheering you on!

Training with friends in inclement weather can nudge you from sloth to satisfaction.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Ironman Number 22

I did it!

On 3 June 2018, Sunday, I crossed the finishing-line of the Ironman Philippines in 14:30. It was a terribly hard day at the office, yet it was one of my sweetest moments. I completed my 22nd Ironman race: 3.8km swim, 180km ride, and marathon (42.2km).

It was a straight-forward race for me: Arrive on Thursday, race on Sunday, and depart on Tuesday. I did not have adequate preparation, working on time-crunched sessions positioned before work, after work, or on my off-days. With sub-optimal training conditions, I knew I would finish with a struggle, even do the 'Walk of Shame' during the marathon.
I had a satisfying swim, with a few moments trapped between desperate and panicky swimmers. I survived these assaults and onslaughts, thanks to 14 years of open-water experience and wisdom. I faced a mild current on the way out, and enjoyed the push on my return segment of the 2-loop swim. I emerged in 1:38, which was on-target. I felt fresh, not panting, and enjoyed my cup of water. I ran up the long transition. With human obstacles lined up along the narrow row of bike-racks, I wore my shoes at the Mount-Line.
The ride occurred on the hottest part of the day, with temperatures feeling like 40 degrees Celcius. A short burst of torrential rainfall made riding risky, however provided respite from the engulfing heat. The rolling course sapped my legs on the second loop, however conservative pacing deflected premature fatigue. Lots of congregating riders at the aid-stations was annoying, yet I empathised with those attempting their virgin race. I sipped on my Hammer Nutrition 'Perpeteum' every 30 minutes, chased with water. It pays to lose time at the front-end so as to earn time on the back-end of the ride. I arrived in T2 in about 6:45. Not a quick time at all, however considering the challenging bike-course conditions it was all good. I had no punctures, sat stable, had no gut issues, and completed it safely.

I wore my running-gear at my transition-rack. I put on the compulsory race-belt on, after wearing my shoes and cap. I ensured I carried my Hammer Nutrition electrolytes and sports gels. Then I was off on my final discipline.
And disciplined I was not, after 10 km. That was where my wheels fell off, became squared, and I made compromises. As reminded by multiple-Ironman champion Belinda Granger, I got into some 'dark places' early in the marathon. I walked for about 20km, electing to finish my race, rather than risk heat disorder. I either drank or took a 'cold shower' from each of the generously-placed aid-stations. Each turnaround point was cruel, especially the one headed into town. It had more twist and turns than an season of 'Lost'. I was only too glad too walk-jog the last 10km, thanks to a few buddies who were hauling butt like I was. And, my Garmin watch went to sleep at the 30km mark. I was running (walking, too) 'blind', and by intuition.

On crossing the line, with applied etiquette - I let the guy in front who was prancing/dancing enthusiastically go ahead - I was greeted by Craig 'Crowie' Alexander, who crowned me with the finisher's medal. I thanked him gratefully. How often do you get a 3-time Ironman World Champion wear a medal around your neck? Adjacent to him was 6-time world champion Dave Scott who shook my extended hand and he said to me: 'Go rest your feet!'

Why do 22 Ironman triathlons? It was not my original goal (from 2006). One race became, multiplied through time and experience, ambition, and personal challenge. Each 226km triathlon meant slightly different things. This one defined me for my ability to get things done, stay committed to a goal, and refine my competitive attitude. It also tested my resilience, on how I bounced back from disappointing results and outcomes, fighting an aging body, and wanting to excel in an elusive and complex sport.

Will I do Ironman number 23? It would be likely. However, this is a matter for another day, as I have two half-Ironman events to complete and the Chicago Marathon. Time to recover fully, recuperate, and reset my brain. A 226km field examination saps the brain of its sanity and willpower. So, more easy days ahead before preparing for more intense sessions and new strategies.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

RUNNING DURING THE MIDDAY

Unless you are time-crunched or embarked on a fat-loss challenge, I would only suggest running at noon as a last resort. Imagine running at 30-33 degrees Celcius at 75-90 percent humidity…not fun, is it?

In a hot and humid climate, what deters runners to do their thing outdoors include:
1) It raises and races your heart-rate rapidly.
2) Dehydration is a major issue due to increased sweating.
3) You can increase your risk of heat disorder should intensity be kept too high.
4) Looking sweat-soaked like a limped biscuit is not glamorous.

Thus, if you opt for the Spartan, outdoor-gym, remind yourself:
 a) Hydration is a must. Drink every 2-3km as you would in a marathon. Stash your bottled-water at key landmarks, especially U-turn points. Remember to remove your thrash.
b) Keep your intensity/speed moderate to medium. Zone 2 heart-rate would be good for an easier run, while Zone 3 would be pushing it. Your heart-rate will go north of your normal due to the uncontrollable external heat, and still controllable internal heat buildup.
c) Wear light clothing. Cotton-shirts soak fast, and may give you nipple-rash, or worst. Get a Naked waist-band to hold your smartphone, money, keys, a pack of sports-gel, and a water-bottle.
d) Run where it is most shady – no, not in underpasses or in the air-conditioned gym. Most of the large trees in local parks are of the equatorial or rainforest varieties. They provide a larger umbrella of umbra/penumbra. Shift to where these are, even if it means moving from road to grass to sand. Just be alert when running on uneven ground.
e) Slow down if you are panting. Use the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale as an invaluable guide. Your HR-monitor is part of your backup. In fact, intensity directs how long you may run. I have run from 60-120 minutes, with less discomfort.
f) Hydrate with water upon cessation of running. While you cool down, you can do some deep stretches. Fuel up with a sports-drink (read: sugar and electrolytes) thereafter, and a carbohydrate-rich meal within an hour. Recovery takes place upon cessation of sports.

Running outdoors requires smartness extended beyond your phone. It is better to be under-cooked than be over-cooked. And, if you suffer heat disorders, your remaining workday may be impaired, as would your subsequent workouts.


Leadership Lessons: Be prepared for any emergency or exigencies. Keeping our senses alert for risks and surprises, balances the benefits to be accrued from a certain activity or intervention. For instance, when would a ‘working lunch’ be useful? It can infringe on employee rights, and personal time. Be mindful about how our personal action affects others.   

Thursday, August 31, 2017

MY TAKE ON LONGEVITY IN ENDURANCE-SPORTS (Anecdotally-Scientific) Part 2


Ironman 70.3 Philippines 2017: Thankfully, did not walk except between aid-stations
This concludes a two-part series of my tacit experiences and wisdom gleaned from racing in endurance sports for 14 years.
11) Stretch whenever you can, systematically would be best. However, in its absence a sports massage, or self-massage (with a trigger ball or roller) helps in promoting recovery. Learn to knead, jostle, press and pummel sore muscles.
12) Water-based activities like swimming or water-jogging, reduces undue impact from land-based activities like running. Use aquatic activities to release the body from gravity-based sports-induced stress. Also, cross-train by including other activities (swim, ride and run are examples).
13) I never had a major spate of injuries, save for one case of a hairline fracture on my toe (2 months NO running), mild plantar fasciitis, and being hit by a taxi while riding (beyond my control) where I sustained a cheek fracture in 2010. Staying injury-free means being disease-free. Move from dis-ease to ease!
14) Increase your intake of antioxidants, and choose those that suit your body (natural and packaged). Include tonics made from herbal remedies and concoctions. Bone-broth or soups are very useful.
15) Seek the help of physiotherapists, chiropractors, bodycare specialist, nutritionists, massage therapists, and the like - they help remind us to stay mobile, nimble and functional.
16) Include High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) sessions, occasionally. 1-2 such sessions awakes the body to new-found activation and, perhaps, speed. Use strength-based , gym sessions to supplement your development of musculature.
17) Seek a coach to help you with plateaus and form/gait correction. Seek a coach if you wish to be competitive and improve on your personal best (PB) timings.
18) If you are racing, then train to race. You cannot work beyond your trained threshold of intensity.
19) Seek your motivation: If you train with a team, it has its inherent 'push and pull' factors. If you prefer the occasional solitude, then do your long sessions alone. If you are uncomfortable with toxic members, steer away from them. Mix with those who help you achieve your Best Version of Yourself.
20) It is a life-long journey towards personal excellence, so there is still much to learn, educate and glean from personal experience.

MY TAKE ON LONGEVITY IN ENDURANCE-SPORTS (Anecdotally-Scientific)

After being in the endurance game since 2002, I wanted to share my mild wisdom sustaining my performance over 4 competitive age-groups.
1) Have more than 6 hours of sleep each night. Get a comfortable mattress, curtains drawn, and away from electronic devices (if possible).
2) Skip a day of exercise, if you feel like it. It is, after all, an extreme sport. You need not be extreme about life, in general.
3) Nutrition is one of the keys to recovery: Eat sensibly, guided by what is healthy for you.
4) Reduce your intake of refined sugar and refined grains. Whole-foods, relatively-unprocessed, home-cooked, allows control in this option. Pack your home-cooked food to work.
5) You need not live a monastic life: Exercise may be part of your lifestyle, and may not be your only life. Exercise is a form of self-expression.
6) Race occasionally to test yourself, however each race is an intense workout that requires full recovery. Our races validates our hard and consistent training.
7) Focus on good sources of fats: coconut oil, olive oil (EVOO and normal), butter, eggs, and animal fat. Figure this one out on your own as it is very subjective based on beliefs and practice. Reduce the GMO-versions (corn & soya), when possible.
8) Have 'easy' days intersperse 'hard' workout days. Off-Season, focus on Low Heart-Rate, Distance-Training.
9) 80:20 Rule when it comes to eating. Use your intuition and tastebuds as your guides.
10) Check for food allergies. Once identified, reduce or eliminate that food type.

*This was first posted on my Facebook page.*

Monday, April 3, 2017

Which 10 Life Hacks Do You Do?

1)   Exercise regularly
Movement is life. Exercise is ‘prescribed movement’. By doing exercise at least three times per week – a combination of short & intense, versus longer and enduring – we can activate muscles, stimulate hormonal secretion, reduce mental stress, and engage our nervous system. Exercise is know to reduce the occurrence of mental depression, and retard some of the effects associated with aging. While you are at it, exercise in the sunlight, sometimes.

2)   Read
Reading helps us nourish our mind through the provision of ideas, knowledge and opinions. Words help us form images in our minds and bridge both cerebral hemispheres (both left and right sides of our brain). It also allows us to access our imagination. Reading is a form of ‘quiet time’ or meditation for our self. Read for information, education and entertainment. Read, consider, reason, argue and discuss –activate your thinking (cognition) through engagement with others.

3)   Write (express yourself: teach, share)
This is a way of expressing yourself privately and openly. It gets our thoughts onto paper, or on-screen. Writing is a way to think in words, phrases, and sentences. It allows us to express random thoughts, and place them in logical perspective. Writing helps the introverts express their inner feelings and deep thoughts ‘outwards’.

4)   Eat well
Eat as natural and unprocessed as often as you can. Apply the ‘80:20 Rule’, and eat as well as you can afford to 80 percent of the time. Eat your comfort and ‘cheat foods’ the remainder of the time. Focus on foods that do not encourage inflammation. Inflammation has been associated with a wide range of maladies and diseases. Focus on foods high in antioxidants, filtered-water, and herbs to cleanse your body and encourage healing. Keep fruit (and fruit sugars) to specific times, as it tends to stimulate hunger.

5)   Frame and re-frame my mind
Positive psychology is about learning to apply mental strategies and techniques to quell negative thoughts. We learn to focus on positive matters, like results instead of failure. Re-wording helps us appreciate another perspective and dimension in our communication. Our ‘self talk’ can be filled with excuses, blame, disappointment and resentment. By re-framing, we can focus on more useful parts of our communication with others. We take responsibility in the quality of our conversations with others, so that we can benefit from each interaction. Positive and optimistic people are also more fun to be with.

6)   Posture
This is about how elongated and stretch your spine is when you sit, move or sleep. Proper posture concerns us on how we move with ease and comfort. Pains, strains and stress place undue discomfort on our body, so that we do not breath deeply enough. When that happens, it disrupts our digestion, blood circulation, and how we use our body effectively. Minimise excessive time spent sitting. Sit on large balls or stand at your workstation.

7)   Seek Experts & Learn From Them
The Room is the expert. In almost every social setting, we can meet somebody of distinction. This may be an area of expertise, or self-mastery. Even hobbyists can be passionate in talking about their hobbies. Most of them are knowledgeable about that area which excites them, and provides them with a form of expression. It can be delightful to hear someone talk passionately about what they enjoy doing, or what they are competent in.

8)   Challenge yourself and measure your progress
Challenges allow us to expand our abilities. These can be translated into goals, and we can direct our resources and commitment to achieving them. As we measure our results, we can ascertain our progress. Part of the reason why people do sports, is to test their mental and physical limitations. Excuses surface when we test our limits, and we learn to curb them when we face chores, work, duties and other discipline-required matters. Challenges also provide us with a sense of purpose, so that goals can be created around them.

9)   Be inspired and motivated
Be curious. Be excited by new things. Enjoy new experiences. Nature can inspire us. People and their actions, can inspire us to be better versions of our selves. Read inspirational stories. Consider engaging some of their ideas into your life. Once we develop a sense of purpose and strength of purpose, we can act on our dreams and goals.

10)                  Sleep well

Sleep at least 7.5 hours a day. Six hours would be an absolute minimum. It is a single non-activity that allows our brains to do ‘housekeeping’. A comfortable mattress, a firm pillow, drapes drawn to keep our light, can help us sleep better.  Dreaming helps us in an unconscious way. If we sleep well, we awake refreshed and clear-minded, without the mind-fog that caffeine cannot fully vanquish. Tart Cherry juice can stimulate sleepiness and gives more sound sleep.