Wednesday, March 4, 2020

HOW ARE YOU KEEPING ENGAGED DURING THE ‘DOWN TIME’?

In these worrying times, mired with confusion and a sense of dread, we can do more than just play the Victim to our circumstances. We can stand to attention, decide to change our conditions, and take charge of our own lives. What are you doing to shrug off these Weapons of Mass Distractions (WMD)? How do you treat these symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? How can we support mental health wellness? What can we do to shift from Mental Illness towards Mental Wellness? 

1) Stay fit. Move around, even if it means at home or within the vicinity of your residence.

2) Eat better. You need not spend on costly, organic, foods. Just ensure your get a complement of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, herbs, water, protein, good fats, and complex carbohydrates).

3) Keep your mind alive, alert, and appreciative. Mental health illness is more widespread than we tend to believe. Spread good cheer. Immerse yourself in positive language.

4) Stop sending out videos without discernment (distinguishing right from wrong, fact from fiction. The road to sadness is paved with good intentions. Without clearly and cleverly validating authenticity of content of online videos, we may be promoting a legion of fear-mongers and haters. Stop this unintended infection of non-discerning minds.

5) Be responsible for your responses, reactions and emotions. Entitle yourself to ‘feel’, yet ensure you experience different range of emotions. Feeling down, depressed, helpless, useless, are signs that we need to do something different.

6) Change your ‘state’, and change how you feel. By doing something different, moving about, engaging in conversation, learning, having a healthy argument, doing chores, can lead us out of our ‘loop of being stuck’.

7) Be inspired by the actions and abilities of others. Read about the achievements of others. I am inspired by physically-challenged athletes, entrepreneurs (who failed and succeeded later), outliers who accomplished much, and people who are just ‘hungry’ to be better.

8) Write. Write about anything. You can review the contents of a book, TV series, restaurant or film. You can write a short poem. It doesn’t matter if it does not rhyme. The goal is to start something intellectual.

9) Practise cleanliness and personal hygiene. This cannot be over-emphasised. Cleanliness is next to staying healthy.

10) Read more. Read an actual book, and dust the pages of our sullied minds.

11) Stay curious. Ask questions. The worst questions are those never asked. There are few stupid questions. There are responses of stupidity: Being insensitive, inconsiderate and impatient.

12) Engage with others – online, and face-to-face. Conversations can be directed towards being educating and uplifting.

13) Stay away from ‘toxic’, paranoid and fear-mongering people. They can poison the best of intentions. Play Devil’s Advocate, however avoid being typecast in this role for too long.

14) Fear is a bodily response. Acknowledge your fear. Question it. Direct your fear into alertness and consideration for others. FEAR can be interpreted as ‘False Evidence Appearing Real’.

15) Keep yourself busy by learning a new skill. Learning activates and awakens the brain to make new connections. Fire off your neurons. Making mistakes if part of growing new neural connections, and subsequently, you become more ‘intelligent’.

16) Keep racial and discriminatory remarks to yourself. It spreads faster than wildfire and infections.

17) Love all. Serve them all.

18) Caveat: Practise your discernment, diligence and decisiveness. You don’t have to agree with everything someone says.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

24 REASONS WHY YOU CALL YOURSELF A MULTISPORT ENDURANCE ATHLETE


More and more newbies are plunging headlong into triathlons, duathlons,and combined-disciplines endurance sport. Just as in other hobbies and recreation, tri-geeks exist and abound. They are passionate to insane levels, and you can applaud their motives and motivations to train ‘long and alone’. Here are some reasons on why we geeks persist vaingloriously in a sport that is ‘painfully rewarding’. This was inspired by an essay written by the irreverent Ironman (yet refreshingly honest) Hawaii champion 1982 and 1985, Scott Tinley.
1)   You enjoying wearing spandex, and few will bat an eyelid when you do wear it when you training it. You also learn very early why you don’t wear underwear underneath your cycling-tights.
2)   Swim in open-water (sea, lake or river) ever wondering what lies in the murky water below. It doesn’t help that you seen ‘Jaws’ and ‘Mega-Shark’ recently, again.
3)   We wear a ‘first-time worn yet funky-smelling’ finisher-tee with pride a week after the cessation of the race. The slogan on the tee has a way of inciting the question ‘Oh, you did an Ironman?’ It was actually a ’70.3’ but the interviewer cannot tell the difference, so we don’t interrupt the perception.
4)   It sounds cool when you give yourself a nickname with ‘Iron’ , ‘Tri’, or something related to swimming, riding, and running. Why do you call yourself #RamRod69?
5)   You enjoy wearing a wetsuit because it makes you feel like a superhero. Some of us cleverly dodge or avoid side-view shots. That Yamamoto neoprene has that innate physical property of compressing us to look like Aquaman.
6)   Have a ‘default excuse’ to avoid family meals and office events. Your reason: ‘I have to train for a marathon’, or ‘I’ll be doing my A-race triathlon this weekend’, or ‘I’m recovering from my 32km LSD run’.
7)   Spout off exotic geographical locations where you will be doing your next race. And, you seem to know the race-course better than the existence of renowned regional landmarks. Plus, you counted the number of aid-stations, measured the gradient of climbs, and overall elevation of the ride course.
8)   You can create amazing hashtags like #triknob or #speedpost on your race-related IG (Instagram), related to this obsession of yours. I mean, ‘passion’.
9)   You can eat all you like, and people actually share food with you at dinner. They suspect you have a ‘dis-eating order’ and need extreme amounts of calories. ‘You can eat a lot more!’ and ‘Your body will burn it off at your next workout’ are commonly heard. So, you ‘tuck in’ in the ‘non-aero’ sense. Still, some quietly think you are a glutton, not just for punishment.
10)                 You can call yourself a ‘wine-drinker with a running problem’, and account for your strangely skinny condition. You also justify the wine as a source of carbohydrates, and that ‘beer is technically vegetarian-friendly’.
11)                 People regard you as an authority in exercise and nutrition. You learn useful stuff like you have to drink when you are thirsty, and that the ketones are not part of the musical scale. Plus, you may be able to create a training program on-the-spot.
12)                 You get away with wearing triathlon attire with a plethora of sponsors’ logos. This ‘human billboard’ is justified by calling yourself an ‘Ambassador’. Those with rotund physiques or Clydesdales, seem more suited to the advertising as they have more fabric per square inch.
13)                 That your very first thing you check when you fall off your bike is, check your bike. Then you check it again, although your body requires immediate medical attention.
14)                 You buy an expensive bike, and it's the latest model, and you feel really good when your spouse says ‘It completes you.’ And, you can’y wait to go riding with your friends as soon as you can.
15)                 You have Mark Allen’s number on speed-dial, and you talk to each other on WhatsApp regularly.
16)                 You have ‘fan boy’ moments when you meet elite athletes. You fawn over them like luminaries, and after that precious ‘we-fie’ shot, you have to reapply more sunscreen.
17)                 Buy race-photos of only those races where you did well. Those ‘bad races’ never happened without photographic evidence, or when you partially hide your race-bib midway on a bad race. Or, blame it on poor shots and they being expensive.
18)                   Pee on your bike during a race, and not raise the alarm by your friends for doing so. And, this includes your training buddies. They tell you they would not buy your bike. You reply that you will not be selling it, anyway.
19)                 Pee at an aid-station during a running race, and both volunteers and spectators are non-the-wiser. After all, you spilled your water on yourself while drinking. Or, was it a sticky sports-drink that you poured onto your groin area by mistake?
20)                 Any label with ‘endurance’ suggests that you will outlast your colleagues, companions and competitors. At almost anything.
21)                 Your fancy sports-watch is GPS-enabled, is a smart-watch, recites your heart-rate and blood pressure and bio-rhythms, racing-pace, and more. It, however, doesn’t give you the time.
22)                 Spout and tested the latest dietary trend, with names like LCHF, Keto-Diet, and ‘eat clean’. After a race, we polish off a fast-food meal because we deserve it. We name it as ‘Comfort food as reward’.
23)                 Correct your friends, relatives and colleagues that you do more than ‘just running’, since you are a well-known ‘triathlete’. You take pride in carefully explaining to them the specific distances and disciplines involved. Until, you have to explain again to the next guy.
24)                 Wear cool gear most of the time, even when you are not training. You consistently check your very low Resting Heart Rate. You get alarmed when your watch tells you to ‘Start Moving’. And you shift your sunglasses from your nose to your scalp like a head-band once evening arrives.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

DO YOU HAVE AN OFF-SEASON? (Part 1 of 2)


[This was based on the first essay I wrote on this blog on 31 December 2009; This is my update of it 10 years later.]
Triathletes, marathoners and other endurance athletes have asked me if I have I taken time off from training. Yes, I do. Don’t I rest? Yes. Do I have a season off from racing? No.
Why do I persistently race and train constantly?
I have been alleged to be rich, unencumbered by children, and having a ‘good life’. As insensitive as the those who voiced these remarks were, I mainly do them because my fitness has been hard-earned. It took me about 17 patient years to build my fitness to this optimal point. Why discharge and dismiss it by having an over-extended rest and recovery period? I reason that I commit to this pursuit because sports is PART of my lifestyle, so it is integrated and ingrained into my curiously complex and convoluted life. [I do have other pleasant distractions called hobbies, and I make time for them.]
On occasions, my friends announce to me that they envied me for my active lifestyle of racing; I had to correct them. I don’t race wantonly and impulsively. Every race was predetermined, planned and pursued according to a timeline. I just injected more of such challenges and vacations in a year than most people do.
One example I can cite would be completing the Boston Marathon. In 2011, when I marginally earned a Boston Qualifier (BQ) at the Hong Kong Marathon I decided to give myself a challenge. After having a few short conversations with Singapore’s octogenarian Kor Hong Fatt, I decided to earn my second BQ. I signed for the Gold Coast Airport Marathon (GCAM) in Brisbane, Australia and earned a PB/BQ of 3:16, and subsequently earned a spot at the starting line of the Boston Marathon 2014. Two more BQs followed in 2015 (GCAM) and 2016 (Osaka Marathon), and I completed the Boston Marathon 2016 and 2018. Having committed and achieved the goal thrice, I am mildly fatigued from the intensive preparation, yet I am glad I can report this 10 years later. Yes, financially I could have spent my money elsewhere or saved it for my rainy day, however I would not trade these precious memories and tacit wisdom earned.
As a self-employed professional, I decide on my lifestyle patterns, so I can have my life choices, instead of ascribing to a ‘work-life balance/harmony’. Priorities make it challenging to have balance; I experience and engineer dynamic balance. This reminds me that the childhood game of see-saw sitting is not about achieving static balance – it is a highly energetic activity, and requires strong core muscles and lower-limbs to execute that perceived sense of ‘immobility’.
When you do something consistently, you develop ‘muscle memory’ from the repetition. You refine what you have defined. Does a concert musician have an off-season from practice? Does a Michelin-rated chef stop cooking a few weeks in a year? Do teachers stop teaching? Does a yoga-master stop stretching through her limits? Does an opera-singer stop singing? Writer Stephen King locks himself in his room 3 hours everyday. It doesn’t matter if he writes a word, sentence, paragraph or page. There is little in the way of ‘force of habit’ when you enjoy your craft, profession, hobby, and learning.
LEADERSHIP LESSONS LEARNT: Martial artist Bruce Lee said: ‘Beware the man who practices the SAME KICK 10,000 times.’ Persistence, consistency of correct action, and perseverance can get us to our goal. By keeping the habit up, despite the ‘down period’ or ‘stagnant economy’ may elicit opportunties to SHARPEN THE SAW. We can use the ‘off-season’ to work on our deficiencies, shortcomings and frailties. In that way, we can sharpen our mental, physical and spiritual faculties and possess facility of effort.
[This was the first of a series of blog posts I made on this website, where I blogged daily for three years as an indirect challenge by marketing guru, Seth Godin.]

Monday, December 16, 2019

A Racing Summary of 2019

This year has proved to be tumultuous, insofar as racing was concerned.
After Chicago Marathon 2018, my Plantar Fasciitis (PF) reared its ugly head, and persisted through this year. I had to manage sub-optimal conditions for training, markedly reducing my running mileage, which was my strength. I spent most of my year riding indoors (on a spinning-cycle), swimming (including frequent open-water immersions), and minimal running.
I raced in five races altogether, with Powerman Malaysia as my first and only duathlon (run-ride-run). I did top-10, but off my 4th placing last year. I completed Challenge Roth for a second time, however within 10 minutes of its 15-hour cutoff timing. My body had gastrointestinal (GI) issues in the marathon, and my PF made running fast uncomfortable, and I succumbed to walking. I was grateful to have finished, to a resounding hero's welcome. I would strongly recommend Challenge Roth as a must-do long-distance triathlon.  
I did not get a Rolldown slot for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships 2020, when I was in Cebu, The Philippines this year. With a cancelled Ironman Gurye, Korea completing my second half-Ironman race seemed daunting and less motivating. Yet, I decided to complete it instead of abandoning the trip altogether. I was glad I stuck to the plan, and raced. I improved on my time slightly over that of Cebu's, earned a spot for Lake Taupo next year, and also a 2nd place in my Age Group. I was one of the oldest in my age group (AG), yet I stuck to guns when I emerged from swim in 4th (and stung painfully by jellyfish), ride (3rd) and 2nd, finally, in my AG. I have never done so well, and it happened after 14 years of racing the 113km triathlon. I had qualified for the world championships in 2008, 2009 and 2017 with 5th and 6th placings, and this was the best I have ever placed. Timing-wise, it was not my best on a brand-new, unfamiliar and congested course - yet it was one of my most memorable and joyful racing experiences. 
It was a sweet taste to a troubled and ineffectual year of racing internationally. I also had time to determine and decide if endurance multi-sports racing was still relevant and important to me. 
Leadership Lessons Learnt: We may be surprised by how things may end, despite poor starts and tough 'middles'. As with most matters being JOURNEYS, we can learn to extract wisdom from each each experience. By distilling each outcome (result) with an eagerness to learn, we can glean something of value which we can take with us at our next foray, challenge or excursion. 

Monday, October 29, 2018

Chicago Marathon & The World Marathon Majors

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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