Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cracking the Double Century-Ride

This morning, I decided to attempt a 200K ride. I rode on my road-bike, with integrated aero-bars, and road-tyres. In the past, I used my ZIPPS 404 that were light, durable and exceeded my expectations once I pushed past 33kph.  42K into the ride, on the second of the 30K Selarang/Coastal Road loop, Hui Koon suffered a flat – a group of roadies riding with us heard the loud ‘pop’. His tyre had a two-inch gash, which pretty much destroyed any chance of patching it, or completing the ride. Disappointedly, we flagged down a cab and he loaded up his bike. I could tell he was very disappointed. I am sure he will do some hard rides in the coming week to compensate for the missed opportunity.

I managed 193K after being battered by sidewinds and headwinds, the dreaded heat, and after I witnessed a fallen cyclist; I think she was bleeding at her chin. Fortunately, her friends were with her and tended to her, sitting her up and assuring her; there was also a suspect truck adjacent to them. It was nearly one o’clock in the afternoon and I decided to head back home due to the insistent heat. My quads were noticeably tight as I did 5 loops worth of gentle slopes; in fact, this was my longest ride so far. My longest one recently was about 70K. I had spent the past six months on developing my marathon legs. After Berlin, I did a 30K and 15K race, and decided that I better get my posterior on the saddle. The past fortnight of evening fast 30-60K rides seem to have engaged my latent riding muscles. Kevin of Perth wrote that the 7K I missed were marginal, and I agree. Today’s ride is 110-120K more than I have done for a while. It was a pity I could have enjoyed more company: I was riding shotgun before I went solo.
Is Macca giving 2011 Kona Ironman the flick? It was reported that this looks likely as he just won his second Ironman World Championships title three years apart in the seventh fastest time ever. Next to fellow Australian, Craig Alexander (twice world champion), he may be the oldest competitor to defend his title, which will be challenging in the face of new and hungry professional triathletes. Macca blew his chance to defend his title in 2008 when he experienced mechanical issues with his bike. It must be sweet to savour success twice (at Kona) in one’s career.

In conversations with friends, it seems that most prefer Crowie’s introverted personality. The extraverted, chatty, and smack-talking Macca may be more direct and honest, however he seems to back up his opinions with performance. It has been four times in a row, since 2007 where Australians have dominated in the Ironman World Championships reign. Rinnie joins them as the female Australian pro to win Kona this year. Mirinda Carfrae assumes the title after Chrissy Wellington, and before that Australian Olympian, Michellie Jones. In Aussie-speak, a braggart is a ‘tall poppycock’. Personally, I like some pre-race excitement, like the Ali-Frazier press conferences in the 1970’s, and also the WWE harangues. Sometimes, the bark is louder than the bite.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Exceeding Personal Expectations

This week has been an unexpected one of results. The over-riding factor was that I used every available hour to ride or swim – two areas that required immediate attention in the next five weeks.

My training preparation has been based on a 3-on-1-off approach; that is, three days training followed by one day of rest. This seems intense enough yet spares my body of depletion and fatigue. I kept my sessions short and intense, with interval-rides on consecutive days. Same mileage but done with more speed and power, stretched over two or three days. I also did short bricks of run-swim, or swim-ride. Just this evening, I rode for about 75 minutes worth of intervals, with warm-up and cool-down. I did one hour of swim drills at midday, before work, and that was one training load off my mind.

Tomorrow morning, I intend to do a moderate 21K at 5 minute/K pace – just to keep my run-legs reminded. Can’t wait for Sunday – my double-century ride on my roadie. I will ride 200K with Hui Koon on Coastal Road; we should be doing about seven loops of the 30K circuit and rehearsing race-day nutritional needs. Most of our feeding will be done on the bike, with Gatorade as the main source of fuel (plus Power-Gels, Power-Bars, et al); that is also the official racecourse hydration system. Incidentally, Hui Koon and I engage the same coach, Craig ‘The Fox’ and all three will meet up at Ironman Western Australia on 5 December. It should be a memorable event for me, with personal expectations of a PB in the 11-hour range. The week should end in the 15-20 hour total training range.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Patience Pays Off Eventually

It has been said that Patience is a virtue. Wait long enough, do enough, and you may enjoy the results of your persistent work. Consider those documentary filmmakers on the National Geographic channel – they are the epitome of patience. The best photojournalist wait weeks or months just to get another shot of the same subject or scenery. The colleagues of the irritating and testing medical genius in the Emmy-winning television series, House, M.D. exhibit extreme patience with his neurotic, medication-infused behaviors.

My friend, Hui Koon did a PB in his swim tonight. He shaved off a significant amount of time in the swimming pool, after months of dedicated swim sessions and master-classes. I am sure that he will do much better than his recently, admirable 1:10 in his wetsuit. With the certain, inherent buoyancy afforded by the neoprene, second skin this means that swimmers can swim more effectively from the trade-off.

I, too, have experienced the outcomes of my patience. After my unfortunate and untimely bike accident, I had to heal completely before Ironman New Zealand (IMNZ). I recovered recently from a series of over-distance related running injuries. I can now run unshod (almost-barefoot) for more than 10K consistently. My core stability has improved after weeks on the wobble-board and lying in the challenging Plank position. I completed the grueling hot and humid 84K night ultra-marathon after weeks of senseless, high-mileage plodding after my dismal IMNZ.

Starting a business requires patience before you experience results. Patience is a subset value of Endurance. It is also related to Loyalty. Loyal friends are patient in their relationships. Activate your patience on a daily basis. Continue improving so that you rise above your standards. Continue exploring so you remain contemporary.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Shorter and Sharper Sessions

Five weeks out to IMWA. My preparation menu includes shorter but frequent sessions; 2-hour sessions of intense riding, or one hour hard running followed by an hour of swim drills. Splitting a six-hour bike ride into two sessions of three hours, is still achieving the results. An hour of running can be made more exciting and rigorous with a mixture of surfaces such as trail, track and grass. Throw in a couple of slopes and you have as stunningly, challenging workout. Intensity shifts the body into overload, and over-drive. Train as if you will race makes sense.

Next week, I will deliver a mini-workshop on innovative practices with my associates. I will make a 40-minute presentation while my colleague will do his part in 25 minutes. I suggested the format of 10/20/30 as proposed by Guy Kawasaki (in ‘The Art of the Start’) to my colleague. The ability to condense our thoughts into a specific timeframe ensures that we crystallize the thinking into a pinpoint focus. Say less and mean more. When we cleverly integrate PowerPoint slides into a verbal presentation, it enhances its effectiveness. A picture is worth a thousand words! Infuse the passive listening with active questioning and interactive activities, and you change the impact of your delivery.

KISS it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Leading with Your Energy

‘Movement never lies.’ ~ Originator of Modern Dance, Martha Graham.

Energy is what keeps us alive and allows us to express ourselves. How do you manage it, and lead with it?

The physical laws of energy are stated as: ‘Energy cannot neither be created nor destroyed’ and ‘Energy is converted from one form to another’. We lose much of our energy through our body heat, via conduction, convection and radiation. Nervous energy burns additional calories. Exceed your heart-rate zones, and you will dip into another energy system (aerobic versus anaerobic); one burn’s more fat, and the other sugar.

That is a real worry for endurance athletes when can lose huge amounts of heat (energy) through our three disciplines and its media: water, wind and mechanical action.

At your next endurance race:

1)    If the conditions permit, use a wetsuit in your swim. Cold water can deplete energy through shivering and the risk of early-stage hypothermia.
2)    Keep insulated, as windy conditions and wind chill factors can severely lead to shivering, cramping, hyperventilation and a false sense of adequate hydration.
3)    Fuel your body. Eat and drink at regular intervals. No fuel equals energy deficit. Work out your energy requirements per hour.
4)    Ensure your core body temperature stays stable. If it hot, stay in the shade. If it is cold, use additional clothing (stash in your special needs bag).
5)    Focus on positive energies and emotions. Nervousness, anxiety, doubts and worries lead to sub-optimisation of your movements. Tensed muscles fatigue easily. Get into comfortable rhythm, stroke gracefully in the swim, get your bike fitted, and relax your upper body during the run.

Your leadership, and how you express yourself through your values, involves energy. Being friendly and demonstrating humility enhances your energy, and radiates to others. Optimism, composure, faith, respect and flexibility are useful values to adopt on race day. Minimise energy wastage. Utilise it. Release it. Renew it. Enjoy other people's positive energy. Value your energies.

Photo credit: Bernard Sim

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It Just Adds Up

Tonight, I rode again – my second consecutive evening. My legs are still strong, save for the last 7K of tonight’s fast 30K ride with my buddies from Eastern Night Riders (ENR). I like this group, for they have a sensible yet competitive attitude towards riding, are protective of their pack, and because the ENR is the first three alphabets of my first name. Perchance I may be a patron of this group one day!

I started my late ride at 6.45pm and did my hour or 30K equivalent of interval training on the 2K stretch of straight road – ruler-straight as a landing strip. After a quick comfort break, I joined the group of seven riders for the fast and furious pedaling session. Aristol and Tee went off like a rocket, overtaking a lone rider who, subsequently, gave chase. I led the second pack, doing my best to brave the headwind. It was windy, since the road circumvented the major airport runway. I managed to hold fort until I was overtaken by one of our younger riders who is preparing for IMWA, too.

Little things count. Every kilometre ran, swam or rode add up to one’s fitness. It matters that every muscle is stretched or core muscle activated. Our body responds to physical stress by coping and adapting. With adequate rest and recuperation, we become stronger, faster and more enduring. A student asked me today how I coped with training and my family life. I replied that I use whatever time I can, even if it is short to churn out a hard workout. Short and intense replaces long and moderate, or longer and easy (Long Slow Distance). You can enjoy cumulative gains as each session builds your resilience and robustness.

Keep doing the hard yards, disciplines, chores, training, and practice. Practise new skills regularly; apply what you have learnt. It will add up to your results and outcomes.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Making Time and Squeezing It In

Take a sheet of paper and pen. Write down: What matters most in your life now? List about 5 things.

Whatever your list was, those things listed suggest your priorities in life. If it were important, it appears on this list. You also, unconsciously, ranked what matters to you. Will you make time for these things? I am certain that you will. We tend to do more of what matters to us: our well-being, health, career, finances, happiness, family, travel, etc.

As I am preparing for my tenth Ironman triathlon, I make time to train as frequently as I can. At this stage, it is not so much about distance and endurance, as it is with speed and intensity. My run legs are primed, and I need to focus more on my riding and swimming. My target is: fresh legs after every discipline. I have dedicated myself to squeeze out packets of hours to swim or bike or run.

This evening, with a gloomy forecast, I did a two-hour bike ride. For most part of the ride, I pushed into the wind. I attempted intervals, and pushed mettle to the metal and tar. My legs felt strong enough to last through the 90 minutes, which pretty much depleted its enthusiasm. The bidon of High-Five carbohydrates before and during the ride helped, and I did not experience a dip in my energy. I believe that if I continue with this approach, I will be able to match with the Big Boys on the Tuesday evening ENR Ride. Time invested will spell into results and that well-warranted smile!

Having Friends Over

When was the last time you had friends over for dinner? Have you invited friends to join you on a vacation tour? Have you invited close confidants to give you feedback on a public presentation you made? What was that like?

It is a tough decision when you have limited spaces and group dynamics can be challenging. Who sits next to who matters, as it will affect the energy of the group if there is any hint of awkwardness and residual resentment. Our workplace is rift with an abundance of confusion and misunderstandings.

A few hours ago, on Sunday evening, I invited a dozen guests over to my magic club’s 60th anniversary gala show. This show featured some of our best professional talents in magic. We showcased an astonishing array of magical acts including J C Sum and Magic Babe Ning, Jeremy Pei, Jeremy Tan, Gician Tan, Joseph Then (ventriloquist) and Sherman Tang. American, Jay Scott Berry who is a musician and magician was our only overseas guest artiste and lecturer.

I was glad I invited my colleagues and good friends. They in turn brought along friends and family who they thought would enjoy the experience. It is important to place our sense of faith and trust in our friends, colleagues and associates. Having made that decision to invite them, I was also glad that they enjoyed the event, as I was mindful of their commitment to attending. It is so good when everything falls together well.

Thank you for making my evening special, my friends!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

In the Zone, or In the Moment?

This morning, after an interruptive short burst of appreciated rainfall, I pushed off for a 2-hour ride. The air quality was moderate, PSI around 77, and I made good use of the time. I elected the safer route, save for trick turnarounds at the end of the straight road. About one hour into my ride/drills, I experienced an epiphany. I discerned the difference between being ‘in the zone’ and ‘in the moment’.

Athletes talk often about being in the zone. This is when your actions become almost effortless. Other professionals have described being in the zone when making exquisite presentations, giving inspirational speeches, emanating charisma, and closing serial sales deals. On the other hand, zoning out is a dangerous thing, and that is daydreaming – that’s is when runners and cyclists run into things.

Being in the moment is about enjoying what you do. It is a heightened state of alertness. It is about relishing moments of discovery, intrigue, curiosity and adventure. Friends have lucidly described vivid snapshots of scenery when riding 180K on the Ironman course, and during the marathon.
How often do you enjoy being in the moment? When do you get into the zone? When do you zone out?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pilot Runs and Flying Solo

Today, I ran a one-day trial program for a corporate client. It is a precursor to the pilot run of a series of leadership workshops. The pilot is the inaugural event before the series is rolled out. It is an opportunity to showcase the complete program and tweak it further should concerns emerge at this virgin attempt. I flew solo, and lead the agenda of activities and learning from start to end. It went reasonably well and looks set to go as planned. Seatbelt fastened, seat in the upright position, and ready for take-off!

I passed over the chance to do the TNF100K Endurance Run Solo. I am impressed and pleased for Terence Ng of Crazy2Tri who completed his first TNF100K Duo. The North Face 100K Duo takes place over a 10K circuit cross-country track at MacRitchie Reservoir – a man-made catchment area for rainwater. His personal journey through the ‘rough’ is well chronicled. Enjoy the read!

Tonight, I ran a leisurely, barefoot 11K on VFF and a gnarled little toe (my failure to fit all toes snugly into the pockets). The PSI of 76-80 indicated a safer haze, and better air quality to go out. Having run yesterday, I decided to exercise both my body and options. It was a slower pace than normal, i.e. 5:50 pace instead of my normal sub-5 minute surge. Tomorrow should be interesting: I hope to do a long ride of at least 100K and brave the suspect air quality. I will brace myself for contingencies and exigencies. Better to play it safe, since I am flying solo. It is interesting to note that climatic dramas like these are occurring six weeks out to IMWA. Life goes on!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Valuing Time with Your Coaches

This evening, despite a PSI of about 90 (unhealthy range), I decided to go for an easy run. Shod in my Vibram VFF, I did an hour of running and walking, and spewed random, un-neighborly, mutterings into the direction of the dreaded Haze. This bad air – born from pyromania caused by shifting cultivation - will affect those of us preparing for Ironman Western Australia. It makes me appreciate good air conditions; seems like indoor-riding on a trainer may be the way to chalking up mundane mileage required for a sustainable 180K road ride.

I spent four valuable days with my Australian teacher/coach. It was part of my annual upgrading for a licensed program I facilitate. My associate from Shanghai joined us in Singapore, and we appreciated [from Coach] new perspectives and potentials on how we could manage our personal values and energy. I learnt more about my leadership personal space and energy, such as activating my leadership charisma.

I don’t see my coaches and mentors often, but I fully immerse myself in our learning experience together. It is important to be fully in the moment, and observe astutely and acutely points of association, and departure. Learning to disagree requires courage and an optimistic composure. Admitting that we don’t know is part of the process of progressing and evolving. Ignorance is merely a starting point, a springboard for future possibilities. I felt energized, invigorated, and renewed in these four days – and the 15K run (and decent results) on Sunday did not dampen my spirits and added to my collective value.

Value your time with your coaches! They can add much value to what we are already doing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Calibrating Your Performance

I finally got my timing for the Newton 30K Run held on 10/10/10. This time, the results were sorted according to actual timing. I made the top-6 percent cut in the 30K Men’s Challenge category at 79th position within a field of 1376 finishers. If I include the highly commendable performance of the women (which numbered another 304), I would have been promoted higher. I had a reasonable timing of 2:35:17 while recovering from a marathon.

Comparing how I felt, I believe that it would take less than a month to fully recover from a marathon. I am of the opinion that we can benefit from the secondary gain of a post-marathon peak. You can still register PBs for shorter distances which was what I was attempting during my month-long, evaluation process.

We evaluate and calibrate our performance with others and ourselves. In performance appraisals, both Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and Key Results Areas (KRA) are used to measure our performance. In industries, we call this benchmarking. You can compare your performance with previous results, or contrast it with others. You either measure for similarity or differences. Consider how you integrate your abilities, capabilities, skills, relationships, attitude and mindset into your total value and performance.

As an athlete, you can also calibrate your performance progress through your training. Each training session gives us a sense of how we feel at a certain intensity of effort. Certainly, there are low days as there are highs. It is difficult to stay at the top of the totem pole for a long time.

How are you calibrating your performance?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Can You Be Over-Prepared?

If you train months ahead of a race, will you be over-prepared?

It takes about 16-20 weeks to adequately train for an Ironman triathlon, at least to complete it in decent time. There is a down side to this – and it is plausible – can you over-do the preparation? One danger of training is the period leading to a race. Many athletes have gotten sick before the race (even Chrissy Wellington had a touch of the flu before the race at Kona this year). Perhaps, self-imposed high expectations may lead to this mindset of training just a little more, for it wouldn’t hurt. Or would it?

The recursive pattern of ‘I may not have trained enough’ to reach your goals may be a debilitating one. Instead of building to your peak, you squander it away recklessly because of emotional distractions. Before you can adequately recover before the next training session, you blow the whole lot by depleting your limited resources.

Be aware of your energy. How do you manage it? How do you control anxiety, doubt and worries? How do you harness your energy – emotional, physical and mental – to give you the advantage you seek on race day? Anabolism follows catabolism. Build up after you break down.

Similarly, how do you stay in peak performance for a business presentation? Can you be over-prepared? Do you rehearse until everyone goes home? Do you tweak your script until you give it a salient facelift? Perhaps, under-training is a shade safer than being over-trained?

Monday, October 18, 2010

How Do You Increase Your Value?

I had the privilege to chat with undergraduates and new graduates at endurance races. I am suitably impressed with these bright-eyed athletes who show their commitment to physical training and the rigors of racing – endurance races are hard work, be it a 10K run, 1.5K open-water swim, marathon, or half-Ironman triathlon. Above all, I enjoy the conversations we have about their experiences and learning. It seems that Generation Y is not all about social media tools, apps and gadgetry.

Do all these extreme sports like triathlons and marathons enhance the value of these young adults? They do, if the sportspeople themselves think it adds value to their lives. Value is what you perceive something important to you has. We perceive something as valuable if we believe that it has value to us. The same applies to staff in an organization. If you add value, and continue to build value for your company and yourself, you become valuable. If you enjoy triathlons and appreciate the value that it brings to you, keep doing it. There are secondary benefits beyond training to keep fit, to socializing, to enjoying the emotional shifts of racing and completion.

Staff have promoted extensively, albeit unfairly, that nobody is indispensable. I disagree. I have met people whom I believe who extend and expand their moments of indispensability. They know when to be valuable and dependable, especially during crisis. As a business owner and hirer of talent, I am aware and discerning of the human resources I source for and recruit on my projects.

I look for leadership qualities, including values that I admire and delight in. I appreciate education and educated people, yet it only one aspect of the person’s value proposition. I am more interested in the productive conversations we can engage in, and that add richness and meaning in my interactions. I prefer the person who can communicate with me, face-to-face, and leave me bigger, bolder and brighter at the end of a conversation.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Last Test Race of the Season

This morning at 7.00am, I joined a few thousand runners for a 15K trail and road run. The runners for the 10K set off at 7.30pm.

I ran this time with more preparation: I put on my Avia Avi-Stolz trail-running shoes, two-piece tri-suit, race-belt, and a packet of caffeinated energy gel. I meandered my way through the nervous runners and their vibes, so I could jockey a better position. With a High-5 packet of energy gel and a full bottle of water, I felt hydrated and charged up to race.

I struggled through the 1-killometre stretch (11-12K mark) of sandy beach, which was littered with molehills. I navigated my way near the shore where the sand was flat, although risked getting my shoes wet by the eager waves. This portion took me about 7-8 minutes as I was struggling to run on uneven ground. The time and position I gained earlier was compromised by this challenging stretch. This one kilometre of sandy beach was engineered to fatigue the runners and add variety; annoyingly, it worked splendidly.

I held a 4:55min/K pace overall, although I was zipping along at a 4:25min/K pace till the 11K. I enjoyed a PB until that point (after a 3/4K stretch of trail at the beginning). My final time was 1:12:57, which placed me at about 20th position in a field of 528 of veteran male runners. Although I was about 90 seconds slower than the previous year, I noticed that this was the pattern of delay for a significant number of the runners. I wonder what was different with the route?

Looking back, I have done since September a half-marathon, 10K run, Berlin Marathon, 30K race and 15K. Enough running! The long rides await me before IMWA on 5 December!

It was great catching up with Ironman finishers Danny, Roger, Chong Mein and David after the race. That’s another 15K to our individual tally for the newly incepted ENR226 challenge. The first person to complete a total of 226K in race running distance (within triathlons, biathlons, or pure run races) wins the award.

Photo credit: Ng Chee Beng

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Rest, Recuperate, Perform

I have a busy weekend; I will be attending a workshop, racing and training. I make time for each, so there is no concern about not having enough time. Excuses have a peculiar way of robbing us of our actions and results.

My challenge would be to integrate some training around it. This morning, I slept in, as my body needed it in a good way. After teaching for four days, and riding almost every night, I skipped a planned morning ride as I will race in the New Balance 15K Real Run, which is my second attempt at the dirt trail/road run. I aim to improve my time last year; which was run with low-cut socks. I suffered a heel blister the size of a fifty-cent coin, which nearly crippled my run for its prominent distraction (felt like a large grain of sand was incessantly gnawing at my heel – which was true).

Rest is important; sleep is essential to full recovery. Sleep allows muscles to undergo anabolism, or the build up process. Our muscles get an opportunity to rebuild its stockpile of resources, including muscle glycogen – critical for long-distance activities. You also stay alert in the classroom, and on the roads.

I intend to train in the mornings, and also in the evenings in my last six weeks to Ironman Western Australia. I have a few long rides (150-200K) ahead that I will accomplish in the next three weeks. These long sessions help me build my mental and physical fitness and practise my nutritional plan. I tend to include a solid meal just after I pass the 90K Special Needs aid-station.

I had very little running this week since the 30K race last Sunday. I merely did a barefoot (VFF) run after a two hour ride last Thursday. This brick indicated to me that I am recovering well as the residual soreness has left my legs. I will need to stretch more although I have given myself sports massage to release tight spots and spasms.

All the best to tomorrow’s Real Run runners!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Measured for Performance

I have a friend who has the rare skill of bespoke tailoring. He sews, by hand, high-end gentlemen suits, and each piece takes many dozens of hours. He tells me that accurate measurement is a vital factor in producing these customized clothing that costs in the high hundreds to early thousands of dollars. He studied this craft of exquisite tailoring from English bespoke tailors, who are masters at what they do. Prior to this, my friend did skillful carpentry, and measurement mattered just as much. Patience is a virtue and value appreciated by both tailor and client.

My name and timing was, noticeably, missing from the results page. Yet again in a span of five weeks, I was denied once again the opportunity to identify my relative ranking in this 1,300-strong field of men doing the 30K run. I was not alone, as a few of my registered training buddies suffered the demise of their timings.

I found it strange that, with mechanical (good old, hand-eye) and digital technology, the sensors did not detect a significant number of race-bibs. Perhaps it was a case of human error and judgement. I don’t know, however it does reflect on the level of sports organization. Inaccurate or missing timings leave a sour taste in our mouths. I hope at this Sunday’s 15K trail/road race will yield more optimistic results. On the bright side, I met up with new old friends and new ones.

Seven weeks to Ironman Western Australia. I have started riding, and since Saturday I have cycled four times. Tonight I rode for nearly two hours with another 45 minutes with barefoot run and walk. This is my first of many brick training sessions, and I intend to be fresh off the bike for a strong run. Tomorrow will be a swim-run affair, and I am looking forward to it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Turning the Ride

Just as I suspected: the strip of road I cycled on tonight, was also shared by another cyclist. He, too, rode it up and down, like a predictable yo-yo. Traffic at the U-turn was somewhat heavier and I had to be acutely alert I was not in the path of an urgent motorist. I did my 35K worth of interval-laps, albeit on a makeshift circuit on the two-lane, linear road. My legs were still slightly sore from Sunday’s three-quarter marathon, but the ride seemed to help flush the lactic acid and toxins out of my quadriceps.

This morning, I met three ex-colleagues; one of them was on home visit. Based in Seattle, he has been enjoying his weekends as he related stories of long, arduous, hikes and his foray into the 70.3 Ironman. Well done, Ed! One other was the founder and editor of popular website, REDSPORTS SINGAPORE. We enjoyed catching up on war stories and regaled at each other’s career. I was happy for their success as unique individuals of distinction. One salient point brought up was how executive advance themselves in their careers: by sheer luck, talent, experience, competencies, guts or riding on the coattails of others.

When was the last time you connected with old friends and colleagues? Do you participate in networking? Are you an active or passive networker? How short is your Six Degrees of Separation? Do you actively engage in conversations? Do you go out of the way to visit a friend or business associate? Have you communicated with them face-to-face (actual meetings, video-conferencing, Skype) instead of electronic mail?

This afternoon, I walked a friend through a presentation he would be making tomorrow. I coached him through a PowerPoint approach, with Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 Rule (from ‘The Art of the Start’). I worked him through his value proposition, his personal branding and design. I believe that he will do well since he is riding on his personal mastery.

Safeguarding Your Secret Surf Spot

I hear from my coach, Craig that there are surfers who stake their claim on the waves. Like that is possible! Yet, serious surfers protect their watery territory selfishly. Sharing is not a value they extend outside of their exclusive group.

I don’t know much about surfing, except that Craig taught me to body surf; I did not have a core stability and strength to stand up before I plummeted into the cold waters of Samurai Beach in Newcastle, Sydney. It was a humbling and fun experience, save the part where I scrapped along the abrasive sandy beach, underwater. I am more at home surfing the bandwidth tunnel of the Internet for nuggets of resources. However, when I find a nice, yet controversial website I may share it with like-minded friends.

Last week, I found a nice stretch of relatively empty road to cycle on. Except for the occasional car turning off at the far end of this desolated stretch, I had a straight and clear pathway to sprint and cover some sensible distance. I hate junk miles, as time is a valued commodity for me. I aim to have stress-free, safe and uncluttered roads to ride on; I welcome the occasional headwind.

It is like finding a new, secret surf spot; I hear that possessive surfers may eject fledglings and strangers both verbally or physically. Keeping confidences enhances its cult-like status of elite and hardcore surfers – not that the distinction between the two groups is explicitly clear.

You will realize, eventually, that popular sites will attract other curious, adventurous and explorers in search of new thrills, spills and landfills. My secret will not go unnoticed for too long, as others will discover by accident or incident, and be shared by others whether I like or not.

This leads to me consider what else confidential I hoard? Do you hoard knowledge? Are you possessive of certain friends? Do you share your clientele freely with associates and business partners? Do you selectively offer full disclosure? How reliable are you keeping other people’s secrets? Can you carry a secret to the grave?

I think I’ll go for a ride shortly and enjoy my claim, until another cyclist joins in the fun. Then there’s this 6 0’clock guy on his Specialised road-bike…

Intensity May Be the Name of the Game

I posted, two days ago, on the social media networks my meeting with a student who ran both the 25K in The North Face (TNF100) race on Saturday, followed by the 30K in the Newton 10.10.10 Challenge 30K Run on Sunday. Her second run was done in about 2:41. She shared with me that she runs about 4-5 days per week, about 10K on a hill.

That is amazing considering that she does not do any speed-work such as intervals or tempo. Perhaps, less is more. The scientific research points towards shorter but more intense, frequent sessions. Perhaps my previous ironman program of 11-21K sessions done at tempo pace, worked best for me? I am working out my preparation for Ironman Western Australia, which will be my second attempt on that course, and my tenth long-distance triathlon in five years.

Hill training develops strength and power. Include it at least once a week to encourage your muscles and cardiovascular system to experience more intensity.
Singapore secured its sixth and seventh gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India. Our shooters earned four gold medals so far, and more is expected from table-tennis; the total weight in gold has exceeded Team Singapore’s gold medal tally of four, set four years ago. We hope to earn a few more first places soon. I hope this bolsters Singapore’s sports culture through our athletes, fans and sportspeople.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pushing It of Punishing It?

How much punishment can we subject our body? How much can you push your body to its limits before it retaliates? Your mind may say 'go' yet your body may say 'slow'. 

After racing in nine Ironman triathlons and about 11 marathons (three of which were ultra-marathons), I learnt that my body could take a whole lot more testing (beating). Yet, everything has a limit to its ability to perform before it breaks down - a snapped chain or punctured tubulars in the rural areas is enough to give you pause. Yesterday, I met runners who did The North Face (TNF) trail runs on Saturday, who then completed the Newton 30K road run the following day. This morning, one of my students did the TNF 25K or 50K format then ran the 30K in 2:41. Without fresh legs, she was only six minutes behind me. I don’t think I would have gone as fast if I had spent my legs on Saturday on a trail run. I was glad I gave the grueling TNF100K Solo run a pass.

Our body is a highly intelligent and adaptive meta-system. It learns from experience – both pleasurable and painful ones. Within the recess of my mind, a small and distant voice is saying: ‘Perhaps you should have done it…’ However, the vision of doing my best Ironman performance on 5 December obliterates that voice of possible regret. Next weekend’s 15K New Balance Real Run on trail and road should quell it, and give me a stronger stance for my next A-race. Live and learn!
The following announcement I make as a satisfied participant of training sessions I had last year with professional triathlete, Pete Jacobs. Pete did reasonably well at Kona two days ago, to place top-10 despite an unfortunate broken collar-bone earlier this year.

On behalf of, you may be interested to train and learn from the professionals like Mirinda ‘Rinnie’ Carfrae and Chris ‘Macca’ McCormack. These two seasoned pros won the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii on Saturday. The next camp with Rinnie will be held in Phuket, Thailand on 4-8 November. The camp is aimed at all athletes, with groups to suit all levels and abilities.  Comprising intensive training sessions, the camp will help you get ready for upcoming races with an emphasis on the Asia Pacific 70.3 Championships, Laguna Phuket Triathlon and IMWA. You will also have time to ask Rinnie her secrets to success while sharing a beachside sunset drink with her, and there are a few special surprises in store too!  

Please contact Nicole Gallagher for details (+65 9009 9421).

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Digging Deep & the Kona Connection

Chris ‘Macca’ McCormack won his second Ironman World Champion title this morning. He completed in about 8 hours 10 minutes, with a smashing 2:43 marathon. A very strong runner, he strengthened his bike ability and swam close to the big boys. This is his second win, a rare notoriety for winning two such titles in this hot and windy island of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. This should mute his naysayers who think that he could not pull another winning title after his 2007 win, and subsequent pullout in 2008 (due to a faulty bike-derailleur) that denied him the chance to defend his title. 2-time Kona winner Craig ‘Crowie’ Alexander was relegated to fourth although he posted a spectacular 2:41 marathon time.

This amazing two top-4 wins, plus Australian female compatriot Mirinda Carfrae’s championship title put the Aussies in major contention for the next year. This may suggest the beginning of a reign that is analogous to the Europeans' in the 1990’s.

What I learnt from watching the online broadcast of Kona was ‘digging deep’. When you push harder, and draw on your reserves you are digging deep. All the professionals had to dig deep - emotionally, physically and mentally. If you wanted something really badly, would you have pulled all the stops just to inch your way forward? You may need to dig deep to secure a better position even if your hopes of winning are dashed. If you missed your chances at personal bests, then finishing the race becomes the litmus test of your character, fitness and reputation.

This morning, I joined my triathlon and running buddies (AniMiles, Triathlon Family, Team FatBirds) in the Newton 30K run. The 3-loop race started just after a mild rain that may have worried a few of us. The first 20K was moderate and manageable, I was doing a sub-5 minute per kilometre pace, however I slowed down to keep to a consistent 5min/km shuffle. The last 10K were much harder, and I had to dig deep (focused on the finish line, and holding my intended pace). And, it hurt. When your breathing becomes laboured, you are in the anaerobic zone and the longer you immerse yourself in this zone, the lactic acid accumulates in your muscles.

I was thinking: what were the 1,900 athletes at Kona including the professionals thinking as they race? How much did each of them have to dig deep to earn their positions? Perhaps, the digging and soul-searching occurred way before the race began? Yesterday, some of my friends dropped out from The North Face (TNF) 100 race. I’m sure that they explored their psyches as much as they did the rugged terrain.

Dig deep, I did. After my 3:37 at Berlin Marathon two weekends ago, my 2:35 run this morning was assuring. Sure, I missed my 2:30 target, but I was pleased I stuck to my guns and ran as well as I could for the remaining 10K. In that last brutally taxing 55 minutes I was glad I kept moving, enough to take over dozens of strugglers and stragglers. It is a pitiful sight to see runner slow down to a walk, yet you are one of them, too. When my turn came for my free massage, the masseur dug deep into my muscle fibres to release my tensed muscles. I actually suffered a muscle cramp on my hamstrings, 10 metres from the end-point!

My legs are recovering, and I look forward to my next tapering race: the New Balance 15K Real Run. It takes place next Sunday over road and sandy trail. I wonder how much deeper I may have to dig in next week? It will surely depend on my fitness and my expectations.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Pre-Ironman Swimming Tips

The following set of race-tested guidelines comes courtesy of Matthew Wong, whose blog is a very good read. After I wrote my set of 10 considerations for Ironman triathlon participation, I requested his inputs. Matt leads the once fortnightly open-water swims we hold at Tanjung Beach, Sentosa Island, Singapore. Those who attend are those who enjoy a morning dip, and actual open-water swim training. You can turn up in your tri-suit, Speedos or wetsuit. During our brief breaks – we wait for the slower ones to reach shore – we exchange experiences and observations on racing and training. Here you go, in Matt’s words:

1) Try your new goggles at least one week before your big race day. This allows adjustments and replacement, if necessary.
2) Race at your training pace. If you are a 1:30 swimmer in the pool, follow that pace [during the race].
3) Have a sachet of spare gel under your swim cap. This is not a joke.
4) Be comfortable with the 76 laps in the pool, first; be comfortable swimming in open water later.
5) Apply lubricants on your main contact points during the swim (armpits, inner thighs) There are also other lubricants that can replace BodyGlide IF you are sufficiently adventurous.
6) Learn to suit up and strip off your swim gear by yourself. Most people are surprised when they could not reach the zipper or string behind their back. Ensure that you are comfortable in your race clothes underneath the wetsuit.
7) Stretch everyday. Period.
8) Get a swim- instructor if you need stroke correction. Get a coach to 'torture' you in the pool with insane swim sets (e.g. Pyramids) to get you faster. Faster must mean, firstly, right strokes.
9) Learn to draft swim, it is the only time you can draft legally in the race.
10) Learn to count your strokes (when I first introduced this, I was sure I had people laughing), it is your pacing and the only way to swim your desired swim spilt. 

Special Swimmer Illustration: Tan Boon Fong

Friday, October 8, 2010

Rolling Stones Gather No Moss

True Fiction
By EVangelis

Today, 9 October would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday. Alas it is not to be as the ex-Beatle was stoned down.

A rolling stone gathers no moss. What does it mean? Was that an experiment into kinetic energy?

Hall of Fame rockers, The Rolling Stones are still playing at major stadiums and ampitheatres; there are no signs of these deep-furrowed, crevice-faced, musicians slowing down. As I age – gracefully, or disgracefully – I ponder over three observations about journalists. I now read discerningly from a wide variety of sources – no, newspapers are not my favourite source of true information – including the word ‘PROOF’ on Eminem’s left arm. In one of his poetic chants, he proclaims ‘I am who I say I am!’

I have read the almost iconic rock magazine, Rolling Stone for many years. It is akin to the sophisticated guy’s GQ, or the less-sophisticated (but happier) guy’s FHM. Inasmuch as the contents are about rock music and rock music icons, features in the reformatted magazine include introspective interviews with leaders in music, madness and mayhem – and that’s just about business! On this month’s cover (which can be easily passed over as GQ) is a prominent leader of the Free World.

Experts, authorities and hardcore hobbyists share these traits in common:

1)    Everyone has an opinion.
2)    Some are more opinionated than others.
3)    Many claim to know the truth.

One man’s meat is another man’s poison, or Lady Ga-Ga’s dress. Talk-show host, Ellen DeGeneres said: ‘Opinions are like colons – everyone has one!’ Opinions abound about slaughtered animals, dietary preferences, music, art, politics and hobbies. Some people think that endurance athletes are insane, and inane. Perhaps we are, in some unexplainable, demented and conspiracy-based way. Or, are we merely concealing the truth? Perhaps, the truth is OUT there, hidden within the elusive rhythms of tidal ebb and flow, sunrise and sunset, push and pull of Newtonian forces, or choice and circumstances.

Pre-dawn ride.
Facebook update.
Teach a class.
Quick swim.
do Volunteer work.
Run intervals.
18-hour day.

Are rolling stones the bastion of the young, or the youthful? Can we be young and foolish, older and foolhardy? We live in a time of gregarious geographic and geological upheaval – there are movements and there are Movements. Each tremor, tremble and tenor beats a different drum. We just need to tune in. Imagine…

Keep moving those stones! There might just be more time to get more things done!

10 Things To Consider Before Doing An Ironman Triathlon

It is an exciting yet anxious proposition. Doing your first Ironman triathlon! Swim 3.8K, ride 180K, and run 42.195K. Sounds giddy? Perhaps you are heady with excitement for there is lots of drama and action at this personal trial. The Ironman format is a personal test of your guts and gumption, and more. After nine such races, I am still learning from my mistakes and successes.

To make it more assuring, here are some thoughts before you plunge into the long but memorable day:

1)    Never do anything new on race day (NO new goggles, change of eye-wear, brand-new attire, unfamiliar nutritional supplements).
2)    Train as you would race (work out the kinks and identify potential problem areas: climate, terrain, and race conditions).
3)    Test out your nutritional needs on your long runs and rides.
4)    You should do each discipline in its complete distance at least once before the race (ride 180K, and run at least 32K).
5)    Body-lube and sub-block lotion are your best friends (post-race chaffing and abrasion are the prolonged segments of the triathlon).
6)    Learn to assemble, disassemble and service your bike (including how to change punctured tyres and tubes). Ensure that you feel comfortable on your ride (fit).
7)    Treat all injuries before the race (Be 100 percent ready! Regularly stretch, massage, and do your rehabilitation exercises).
8)    If it is about 3-6 months before a race, seek the guidance and expertise of a coach (either face-to-face or online; invaluable for training correctly, periodisation, and mental condition).
9)    Train solo (alone) for the discipline (it is a lonely race at times) and in a pack for the rush (for simulating race pace and working at a higher intensity).
10) Have clear and realistic expectations (completion within 17 hours, safe race, injury-free, PB in one station, sense of achievement and accomplishment, etc).

We will go into detail over the next few weeks. Stay tuned! Send us your questions and our seasoned triathletes will be pleased to help you. Welcome to the Ironman family!

Photo: Team Ironman Singapore, Triathlon Family