Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ordinary People Leading Extraordinary Lives

‘If you can find meaning in the type of running that you do, then you might find meaning in that other pastime called life.’ ~ BILL BOWERMAN

What would possess a person to rise at dawn, swim, ride, and run almost the entire day – just to earn a medal and a t-shirt? What would entice a person to run a marathon at night, where it is warm and humid and risk heat disorder? What inspires a person to climb Mount Everest – the highest point in the world – and risk life and limb?

On this daily blog, we hope to provide some form of incentive for you to stay active, engaging, interactive and interpersonal with others. We call these abilities and skills – leadership. Leading others, and influencing them in positive ways towards their destiny – known as their potential – is our mission.

When top-blogger and renowned marketing author, Seth Godin proposed in his book and blog to write one blog post a day, everyday for three years, I took up the challenge. It has been almost two years, and it has been a great adventure so far. We have interviewed many amazing, everyday, people who lead day-jobs and also do extraordinary things as their pastimes and pursuits.

Many of us featured on this blog are Everyday People, who fit the wide profile of 20-70 years. Endurance sports are a way of expressing ourselves. We indulge in sports like marathons and triathlons because we can exceed ourselves, define our limits, socialize and enjoy quality life. We learn how to not judge others too readily, for looks can be deceiving. We are encouraged by the exploits of others, basking in their happiness of achieving their personal best. We appreciate their sense of accomplishment and achievement.

Ordinary people who lead extraordinary lives inspire me. Kyle Pease has cerebral palsy and he just ran a half-marathon a week ago, and will do a triathlon with his two brothers in a month’s time. He writes about how he appreciates fully his caregivers and supporters. Previously, the Hoyts showed how a father’s love for his son led them to share the Ironman triathlon experience.

We take great pride in reporting about these ordinary people with extraordinary spirits and stories. Thus, we will continue to recognize them because they inspire us for what they have done and will continue to do. For that we are indeed fortunate.
*****

The OSIM Singapore International Triathlon 2011 is looming close. Whether you are preparing for your first triathlon or have a couple of races under your belt, how you prepare and what you do leading up to your event is crucial as well as what you actually do during the race makes a big impact on your performance on the actual race day. We have assembled a team of ten experts and practitioners to help with your preparation.
The team will cover topics ranging from event strategies, mental prepping, sports-injury management to nutritional planning. And not just talks! You can look forward to actual run and cycle clinics led by our experienced triathletes. Plus we has organised an actual open-water swim clinic; not just at the swimming pool.
So get ready to prime yourself. For more details and registration, visit http://www.back2sports.com.sg/PrimeYourself/
PS: I will be leading the first run clinic on 23 April, and sharing my learning methodologies on how I progressed from a non-long distance runner to a recent Boston marathon qualifier.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Leading with Pain

Pain: the final frontier. It is the four-letter word that conjures up debilitating movement and the need for stasis. Pain can cause a powerful ripple, or fully cripple a person.

Pain is detected within our body as it is on our skin. Superficial pain is usually manageable, however, deep-rooted pain, manifested in the major muscles and joints of the body can impede our physical and athletic outcomes. Consider the lactic acid ‘burn’, albeit temporary, can cause our muscles to fatigue, cramp or stop moving altogether. By the way, lactic acid is not the enemy, for it can be converted into more energy when there is more oxygen supplied to the bloodstream.

How can we manage our pain?

1)  Through conditioning: deal with pain by getting used to it.
2)  As long as it is not sometime organic, and caused by disease, you learn to cope with it.
3)  Slow down our pace; take a break if necessary.
4)  Shift the focus of the pain to something else.
5)  Pre-empt it, with nutritional means.
6)   Use the pain to stay alert and lucid. Pain can be a process of self discovery.
7)   Use mantras and self-talk to focus on other aspects of your condition.

If you want to be an Ironman, you got to toughen up. If it were that easy, everyone would be an Ironman! The discomfort of waking up early to train and the rigorous long mileage covered, serves to build personal courage, tenacity, resourcefulness and resilience.

Here’s a piece on how hot coffee and love lost are similar in the part of the brain they influence.  

Leadership Lessons: How do you cope with the pain of disappointment? How do you lead those who violate your trust? How do you break bad news to another? 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Airports are interesting places, that is, if you are able to look for different perspectives. If you loath being at these terminals (a creepy name, considering you are about to depart), then time may appear slow or fast, depending on your sense of urgency. Traveller tip: book online earlier, and pay less, and have a wider choice of seats. I secured my aisle seat for the two legs of my red-eye flights.

This evening, after I cleared immigration – which was thankfully fast because I hopped onto empty lane – I decided to get a cup of java to enhance my soon-to-be bloodshot eyes. This is my pre-flight ritual, one that calms me down and brightens me up - an upper for the downer! I have a romantic fallacy about writing and drinking coffee (provided I don’t spill the hot and sticky contents onto my notebook), so I headed for the nearest, familiar brand. Starbucks it was, and I ordered my café mocca – my choice of stimulant/antioxidants brew. I engaged in conversation with the barrista, and found out that he was from Somalia, although he has been localised.


Sipping on my brew, which will not get anyone in a lawsuit for second-degree crotch burns, got me thinking: how long does it take for somebody to be localised? I am sure we know of expatriates who have worked locally for a couple of years, and who have blended into the lingua franca, local food fare and, can read the morning dailies with one leg perched precariously on the precipice of the eating house chair. There is little difference in the business class airline lounge when you consider you can park Mr Happy Legs in a DVT-prone position (a.k.a. the pathology known as Economy Class Syndrome).

How long does it take for you to go on vacation, and declare to your significant other, ‘Let’s go home!’ when you, actually, mean the hotel room #369? If home is where our heart is, than how many places in our world are our homes? As Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz crooned, ‘There’s no place like home!’ I clicked my Clarkes at the heels, in a poor rendition of a Riverdance cast, and nothing happens.

Airports are places of excitement, anxiety, frustration and relief: it depends if you are arriving or departing. Every one of my overseas marathon or Ironman triathlon experience has airport as its parentheses. Lugging around a bike-case (plastered in the familiar red, FRAGILE and broken glass icon) is vastly different from slinging a pair of 10-ounce running racers. These places of high-security are also a melting pot of cultures and social interaction. Love them or hate them: they do draw the world around us into a smaller cocoon of connection. Our world is made, arguably, smaller in this meeting point of possibilities, priorities and personification.

Upon arrival at the Changi Airport, I will breathe that familiar air, including a raised PSI index. I could take the sky-train and then the family car. Planes, trains and automobiles: it reminds me of the late-John Candy film. It is all about transportation of head, heart and hands, like a magical performance that leaves you enchanted, breathless and eager for more.

I still have a cup left of my coffee to mull over…have a good week everyone. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

What Makes You Think I Owe You?

I was reading, Shade’s blog – he is a secondary school teacher with excellent sleight of hand skills in magic, particularly with playing cards. He wrote a pertinent piece about how young magicians would approach him and insist (if not demand) that he teach them magic methods. I agreed with his observation that these neophytes have little respect for the Art, for I think people have reduced their respect for other people’s time and expertise.
I call this the ‘You owe me’ mindset.
What makes us ‘owe’ you? Isn’t that about obligation? When somebody says ‘much obliged’, it has a different meaning to ‘obligated to you’. Do we need to be obligated to anyone? What about the notions of ‘paying back what I owe you’ and ‘paying the debt’? Why should it be ‘you owe me’?
The attitude employed by those with differing values – mainly, obligation – owes itself to the fact that the perpetrators of obligation have a reciprocal, but imbalanced approach to returning the favour. It is the ‘I help, but you owe me, and need to pack me back in full, and then some’ mindset that rattles the chains of generous persons. Generosity of spirit is about one’s willingness to assist without thought of reciprocity otherwise, generosity has an ulterior motive.
In Guy Kawasaki’s ‘Enchantment’, he suggested that when the Law of Reciprocity (as studied by Robert B. Cialdini, PhD) is applied, no expectation should be considered. If you expect something in return for helping somebody, then it is not true helpfulness or generosity.
Another angle of this ‘con’ is that ‘I am in the know’ therefore you should share. In our magic clubs, this mindset prevails and amateur magicians who have not spent time in the trenches believe that those who came before them are obligated to share everything of value to them – such as secrets. I find this annoying and useless for little is to be gained when information is freely dished about. Unless you pay for something, you won’t fully appreciate its true value.
The same goes for ‘coaches’ who willingly share their skills and applied experience with new endurance athletes. Educators (including coaches and mentors) do not expect anything in the way of payment, but are amply rewarded when students learn and fully apply themselves to building their potential. Teach, or hoard knowledge – there are no two ways to this deal. Dubious teachers will exploit knowledge and information which is not theirs to give. Their claims of expertise and professionalism will implode when their values surface to reveal their true selves. Mind you, it would be nice to reciprocate for these generous teachers and coaches however you do it out of the goodness of your heart. Parasites die when they over-feast on their hosts.
In the professional world, such unfair leverages exist. Arms are twisted into submission because assistance is seen as a ploy, leverage point, pressure point, and the creation of strategic relationships. It all boils down to one’s values. What do you stand for? What do you value in your relationships?  Do you give more than you take?
How about moving from ‘owe’ to ‘give’? Give willingly, or not. If it is not yours to take, stop asking for it!

A Grand New Experience

Sunday – End of day 2 of workshop: Delightful students; all engineers with a penchant for learning.
Working on a new project in a new country is akin to scoring a new PB. First experiences are almost pure in nature. An experience reconfigures existing mindsets, perceptions, expectations and prejudices. Until you connect with a culture and its people, then all preconceived notions become irrelevant and useless.
Experiences are subjective; at least, how we interpret them is subjectively correct. There are no wrong experiences, only incomplete information and poor observations. The conditions of each experience leave it indelible mark cognitively, as a memory and its associated emotions. That is why bad experiences leave a bad taste in our mouths, and in our minds. Pleasant experience lead you consider reviving them, and coming back to the same place to renew your connections.
Working out in the gymnasium is a relatively fresh experience for me, since I rarely use apparatus other than my goggles, bicycle and running shoes. To use a stationary-bike with Internet access on its split screen was a treat. I was following the exploits of my friends doing the Twilight Run at the East Coast Park on Saturday evening. It was a ‘no-frills’, run as much for as long as you like training session, commencing 5pm till 9.00am the next day. Several friends of mine were still recovering from the physical challenge of the 1.9K swim, 90K ride, and 21 run.
Yesterday, evening I did a workout comprising of a double brick:
75 minutes of stationary-bike ride @ 130-135bpm and 85-90rpm
30 minutes treadmill running at 5 minute per kilometre and 3.0 incline
10 minutes static stretches; 2 sets each of circuit training: lateral raises (15 reps)/rotator cuff work (12 reps), 25 push-ups, 8-10 chin-ups
It took me a total of 2 hours to complete the whole lot. It was a great sensation to get off my behind, to engage in a serious workout after last Sunday’s half-Ironman triathlon race. After knocking down lots of water, I cooled down before I replenished my body with a buffet dinner.
I will be doing another marathon workout since I will be taking the red-eye flight home. Coach has prescribed me, Week 3 of my Boston Marathon program. I intend to hit another PB on a flat, cool course.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Road Less Travelled & Flown

It is the end of day one of my 2-day workshop in my 19th country of work. It took me nine hours of travel, with another five hours waiting at a beautiful airport I had always dreamt of passing through. Seven hours confined in a plane with a guy with hyperactive sweat glands is a challenge I can do without – and I exercised my profound patience and Zen breathing. Thankfully, three and half films distracted me from the whiff and my lack of sleep. Air Emirates is a very nice airline, I must conclude, with the wide range of nationalities who speak almost impeccable English, wide personal-entertainment-systems (PES) screens, and generosity with drinks (I'll leave this as that).
After capturing a picture of the sunrise, I headed off to prepare for my class. My class started at 8.00am (that is five hours behind my actual body clock) and I ensured a restful evening – no supper/dinner and straight to bed after watching comedy-on-cable-television. I have a class that is open to learning, but bouncy on their time. I learnt that the night before, there was a major sandstorm that blew through town. I was advised to avoid running in the open as it could be risky. Now I understood why there was a whistling at my window late last night. So much for catching nature in its full fury!
I haven’t trained for three days so will head over to the gymnasium for two hours of aerobic stimulation. My legs are not sore anymore, but my lower back is sore (after all my flight-time, seated). It is time to fully focus on my next Ironman quest. Lots of riding, swimming, circuit training and core stability work for me. I have my work cut out for me. I envy those of you working out this weekend. Train safe. I will share with you my new reasearch results on injury-free running and riding shortly. Meanwhile, if your knees or quadriceps hurt while riding - you seat is, probably, too low. Get your saddle/seat-post adjusted. Customised fitting leads to extra speed. Rested legs after riding equals better running performance in the triathlon.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Perception Principle Powers Positivism

Once upon a time, a potential client informed me: ‘Although you are, probably, the most suitable for this job, our senior management would prefer somebody older.’

I was denied the opportunity because of my youth. A few days ago on Facebook, my friend remarked about my abundance of grey hair when he saw a few of my racing shots. It seems, that years after that incident, that my Richard Gere head-of-karmic-returns has received more positive feedback. In turn, I have been accepted for the physical imperfection I possess. Perception is a form of reality. And, reality is both within and without.

If the silver population reflects wisdom, and we value it in our communities, then we should continue to hire skillful and capable staff. If tacit wisdom and experience matter, then we can farm it, and grow its potential. On the other hand, youth and youthfulness is not to be dismissed. We can be energised and rejuvenated by new and radical ideas.

Watching my older friends excel in their choice of sports and pastime makes me pleased. It motivates me, and I am stoked by it. I enjoy watching their progress. It is, as if, aging is regressed. They do get better with age. In sports, there will be days where we succeed in besting our times, and there are others where we miss the mark. As Bill Bowerman of Oregon/NIKE used to say: ‘The real purpose of running isn’t about winning a race. It is to test the limits of the human heart.’

Congratulations to all the age groupers for last weekend’s race – and to those who qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas in September. I will be off for an overseas teaching assignment today, and I hope to update you on a daily basis. This will be my 19th country in my resume of overseas work, and I am looking forward to my work, and even a few short running sessions there.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Keeping Up With Appearances

When you update your blog, Facebook, Twitter account, website, and the whole array of Social Media tools what is your intention? Many will cite their reasons as updating, informing, sharing and disseminating others. As you enthusiastically plant new content on these platforms, are there other reasons for bringing your audience up to speed?

Besides the mundane activities that we post about on Facebook or Twitter (which few close friends may read and disavow your idiosyncracies), or if you have a legion of Followers/fans (as a celebrity) which will hang onto your every word – not much fascinates us. At best, it is called ‘keeping in touch’; at its worst, it is self-indulgent and self-gratifying.

Several of my loyal readers have suggested that I update my profile picture as well as cover photograph. One professional photographer has offered to take some action shots for me, so that I can replace the existing ones. Thus, I changed the covering photograph, which was taken during last weekend’s endurance jaunt at the Half-Ironman race. I have been tagged for a large album of photographs; fortunately, this time I look more photogenic instead of fatigue and disenchantment. It’s all about the smiles and enjoying the moment – I learnt. Suffer in silence but express your deepest joys. I also removed the sponges and zipped up my tri-top as I dashed through the finishing-chute.

I wrote that endurance athletes seem to have unhealthy looks – not intentionally – and having low body-fat levels just makes us look haggard. The physical appearance of an endurance athlete is about being skinny, light-footed and, perceived as eating-all-we-want-of-what-we-love (which is not true, well, not all the time). Perception is reality to many, and perhaps, we should wear clothes one size larger? Allow the bodybuilders and narcissists the room to manoeuvre in their compression-tight clothes.

When was the last time you updated your website, blog, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts? How often do you answer e-mails in detail? Is your website static or dynamic? Do you need bells and whistles on your website to progress, or is content still king? How have you expressed yourself as a leader to your team? Did you initiate changes to your leadership style after you attended that leadership program?
*****
This will be a busy weekend, as I will be teaching in the Middle East - I am looking forward to it. Eight weeks to Ironman Lanzarote, so enough of mucking around! Time to get more active in my physical preparation.

I am still sore after last weekend’s 113K-triathlon challenge; I suspect it is because I have been doing less mileage with harder intensity. My running week did not exceed 40K, which was what I achieved before the Hong Kong Marathon. A day after Ironman 70.3 in Singapore, I attended Pete Jacob’s running techniques workshop with Hui Koon (who will do the Cairns Challenge); there we ran barefoot for most of the session. Yesterday, I rode for 90 minutes to flush out residual waste products in my muscles. Now, I am still stiff and sore, and I wonder if it was caused by the muscle cramps I experienced. Hopefully, my deep tissue massage will sort that out.

Kevin Siah (who missed narrowly going under-5:00) blogs about his racing weekend.

This article is about Lance’s quest for a 2:50-2:55 marathon time in an Ironman race. Alberto Salazar assists the Yellow Strong founder. Hui Koon writes about his running clinic with Pete Jacobs.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Enchantment: An Exclusive Interview with Guy Kawasaki

‘At least, writers try to say new things. Even if there's ‘nothing new’, the fact remains that most people aren't as enchanting, likable, or trustworthy as they could be. When everyone is perfect, then redundancy is truly unnecessary. Until then, we'll keep saying the same things.’ ~ GUY KAWASAKI
Guy is a friendly author. He is also a straight shooter. He says it as it is, and he writes it as it is, although respectfully. Otherwise, he would not be as likeable as he is as a successful writer – with his books on the bestseller lists. Underlying his writing is his unique sense of humour, honed from being in the trenches and spending time with some of the best entrepreneurs – business and marketing rebels if you like.

Guy is a rare breed: He makes time for his tribes; he is accessible to his Facebook and Twitter fans. He responds to his e-mails promptly, despite being involved now in a busy, nation-wide, book-signing campaign for the launch of his new book ‘Enchantment’. I trust that you will enjoy this interview I had with him. He is truly enchanting, and for this enchanter we wish him every success in his new book launch.

Enrico Varella: How is ‘Enchantment’ different from ‘The Art of the Start’? I noticed some nice linkages.

Guy Kawasaki: The Art of the Start focuses on the process of starting a company, so it must cover a broader range of topics. Enchantment focuses on a particular process: enchanting people. Entrepreneurs must enchant people too – investors, customers, and employees – so they can use Enchantment too, but the Art of the Start is focused on the tasks of startups.

EV: What enchants you in business?

GK: More than anything else, great products enchant me in business. I love great gadgets and technology.
EV: How was writing Enchantment different from your other books? How do you approach writing a new book?

GK: Every book is similar for me. I spend months fleshing out a Word outline and gathering thoughts and stories. Then I sit down and fill out the outline with text. Enchantment is my tenth book, so I have mastered this process.

EV: Something old, something new! Many critics say that there is little under
the sun that has not been considered. How do you bypass criticisms from
pundits about your book content?

GK: The critics are right – but then again, every criticism they have come up with has also been said already, too. At least, writers try to say new things. Even if there's ‘nothing new’, the fact remains that most people aren't as enchanting, likable, or trustworthy as they could be. When everyone is perfect, then redundancy is truly unnecessary. Until then, we'll keep saying the same things.

EV: Your company is called Garage Technology Ventures. Hewlett-Packard was, literally, a computer company born in a garage. What is it about garages that fascinate you?

GK: I like cars, and I like the concept of two people pursuing their passion at night, after work, and on the weekends. This is the purest form of entrepreneurship – untainted by venture capital and greed.

EV: You are recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on business
marketing and high-tech entrepreneurship. How do you live up to such a distinctive reputation?

GK: I don't take it very seriously. If I win a Noble Prize for marketing, then I'll take it seriously. Until then, it's just words.

EV: Do mavericks have a place in business? If so, who would you consider mavericks in today’s business?

GK: Mavericks create businesses. Think of Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, and Herb Kelleher. They were all mavericks. Without mavericks, we'd still be rubbing two sticks together to create fire.

EV: Thus far, which have been your highest points in your career and professions?

GK: The highest point was probably the work I did in the Macintosh Division evangelizing Macintosh to developers. The Macintosh Division truly made history, and I'm honored to have been part of it.

EV: Which contributions would you like to be most recognized for?

GK: I'd like to be recognized for empowering people with my writing, speaking, and advising. I want to empower people to change the world and make it a better place.

More about Guy at the following resources:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Scenes From A Race: A Photo-Log of Self-Discovery

I was intensely fortunately that many friends and acquaintances took photographs of me during yesterday’s Aviva Ironman 70.3 Singapore triathlon. Here is a sampling of the many great action shots from these immensely talented shutterbugs. Photography can be described as accidental blink, or an artistic form of stalking – depending on your sense of humour. The following is my blog-roll of appreciation to the sun-kissed, digital publishers for yester-morning. High-5 to you!
Photo-credit: Dave Poh
Photo-credit: Richard Leong
Photo-credit: David Tay
Photo-credit: Tomoya Tsurata
Photo-credit: Agatha Susila
Photo-credit: Grace Li Hui Koeppen
Photo-credit: Raymond Croc Borromeo

I intend to replace one of these photos for my blog; perhaps, have a rotating series every month as suggested by one reader. Race photographers surely know how to make us look good, and they are some of our ardent supporters. Because of these visual captures, I was called a ‘poster boy’ – not too shabby for a middle-age, amateur, triathlete.

Race-day is an event to test the plan. That is where the training is supposed to fall into place. Yet, plans do go awry and results may vary (sounds like a disclaimer for a weight-loss advertisement). You discover aspects of racing which training did not reveal. You also learn about managing disappointments and doing damage control. However, photographic evidence reveals a lot about the inner workings of the human mind and heart as you proceed in the race. Unless you have a mirror of how you look, you may be unaware of what happens at that moment when you were photographed. Did you hesitate, doubt yourself, or consider giving up? When you smiled, did your mantra work? When you acknowledged the spectators beside you, were you optimistic, enthusiastic, intrigued or appreciative?

Here is a report of a fellow endurance athlete who paid tribute to his wife for his race.

Leadership Lessons: When was the last time you raced for a cause? Think of a plan, and execute the plan. Let your actions do your talking. Were you aware and alert to your surroundings when you were focused on an important task?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Post-Race Recollections & Ruminations

Congratulations to John Cooke for his strong finish at the Aviva Ironman 70.3 Singapore. Also, my big bow to Kevin Siah of Perth for his 5:00 hour completion time [Banyak kuat, kawan!]. Both residents of Perth have been training hard to make the field of competition deeper and wider – for which we are grateful for.

In spite of a disappointing swim, Hui Koon also did very well scoring a 5:23 for his half-Ironman. He looks on-track for his assault in his Ironman equivalent race in Australia in the mid-year. I’m sure that our Coach is proud of his achievements.

Today’s race was a B-race for me, in that I did not focus on it to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in September in Las Vegas. After earning the privilege to participate in the 2008-2009 editions in Clearwater, Florida I was keen in treating today as a training day. I had a very bad swim, escalated by an undercurrent and nasty swimmers. Engaging damage control, I rode harder which led to a series of mild cramps. Having eased those tight moments, I ran at a moderate pace of 1:55. The main goal was to complete the race with sharper and tighter transitions, which I did. I was reasonably pleased with my ride which was hampered by witnessing many drafting episodes; I rode my own race, mindful of the accidents I saw on the road – including an unconscious rider with severe bleeding to his head and face.

I knew that with my mild cramps that my run would have to be compromised. I decided to take the higher limit of my run, holding a 5:30 minute/K pace instead of a stronger and more challenging 5 minute/K. Kua Harn Wei texted me later and observed that I looked relaxed – which he was spot on. My aim was to keep moving, overtake as many participants in front of me (that’s for allowing you to swim over me!), and finish my race with a memorable chute experience. I was pleased with my transitions, ride and run.

I was amazed by the large library of action photographs of me, which I received from my friends including sports photographers. Unfortunately, my greyness is beginning to rear its ugly head. Fortunately, my renewed fitness seems to shade my silvery character well. Because of my chosen attitude to have a no-pressure race, the photographs forwarded to me by photography-passionate friends – Richard Leong, David Tay, Julian, Tomoya, Grace, and Agatha – had me in smiles, instead of my usual serious, constipated facial expressions.

In a nutshell, yestrday’s 70.3 race was my measurement of my readiness for my second attempt at Ironman Lanzarote (first in 2007 where I did it with Don Ng in 14:40!). Looking back, I was not fully ready for the rolling profile of the beautiful Canary Islands. After today, I still have my work cut out for me, albeit more on building my strength and power on the bike and run. Note to self: write a post-race report to Coach ‘Fox’ to tweak my race preparation.

I will be conducting two public running clinics (for two organizations) in April and May; each will be focused on running techniques and training for a marathon. I will share my approach to training with less mileage but with more intensity. Meanwhile, it is back to training for a 3:15 at the Gold Coast Marathon and a sub-13:00 at Ironman Lanzarote: exactly 12 and eight weeks (respectively) to go!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Check-In at Aviva Singapore Ironman 70.3: After the Rain

Here are some afternoon scenes (during my check-in, after two bouts of showers) for those up and about still. Have a very good race tomorrow! It was great to see my friends from Crazy2Tri (sponsored by Toyota this year), Deca-Ironman finisher Dr Kua Han Wei, triple-Ironman finisher Jack, and my new friend, Daniel (one of our readers who did the Singapore Biathlon 2011, and racing tomorrow).
My trusty iron-horse: Many have asked if it is aluminum - it is full carbon painted in the classic colour of steel-bikes in the 1980's. Recall 'Breaking Away' and 'American Flyers'?
Faris Al-Sultan's bike...
...with nice wheel tattoos.
Other pros' bikes. The jury is still out: bottle-cages behind the saddle, or on the main frame.
Transition area, with bikes hooded up for the Big Auction tomorrow...I mean, the Big Race.

Collection of Race-Kit Day & Grand Reunion

I collected my race-kit at about 4.30pm; it was a smooth and fast process since the post-office hour crowd emerged only an hour later. I went early to earn an easy run with Pete Jacobs – last weekend’s winner of Australia’s Long Course Triathlon. Nicole Gallagher, owner of triathlon coaching company, Beats Per Minute (BPM) organised this run for those who were available. I will have my formal run techniques clinic with Pete on Monday evening. There are slots available if you wish to join. Just write to Nicole@BPM-Sport.com for more information. I strongly believe that you will benefit from the additional speed, if you are racing competitively. I did, so I am recommending it.
Pete advised me to activate my core more, mainly my gluteal muscles, and to relax my arms and legs (I admit I am not a graceful runner). From the sound of it, I seem to be chopping the ground a bit hard, instead of gliding over it with the flats of my shoes. He also urged me to stand tall and lift my body up, hips forward, and lean forward. Like swimming the front crawl, it can be a lot of information to process however that is the price to pay for learning how to run faster from one of the sports fastest. We ran along the Marina Bay, pass the F1 grandstand and past the iconic Singapore Flyer (think, London Eye).
The race briefing was held on the 4th floor, in one of the humongous exhibition halls. This was followed by a fine buffet spread, one of the better one’s I’ve enjoyed in years. A lion dance, cultural dance and live band provided the entertainment for the evening. I was pleased to meet my friends from Crazy2Tri (sponsored by Toyota), and Triathlon Family/ENR regulars Matthew, Richard, Desmond, Lap Huan, Hui Koon, and Derek Lau (expatriate in Vietnam). I also met the legendary age-groupers like Victor Chan (60-year-old I have yet to beat – but, soon), ‘Cyborg’ Poon, and Kona-finisher Hannes (with the ever-fit Grace). Sports-photographer Richard Leong, finally, caught Faris Al-Sultan (after my alerting him) to sign his 30th Kona Anniversary book; he left deeply satisfied with both Faris’s John Hancock and photograph.

Thanks to Christopher Oh (picture, second from left) for this gem of a photograph we took at my second Ironman Malaysia in 2008. Faris, subsequently, won the title there by a large margin.
I was so pleased when fellow blogger, Kevin Siah of Perth said hello to me; he introduced me to his fiancée, Li-Ann too. I have come to know them from reading Kevin’s blog over the past year that this is a handsome and dedicated couple from Malaysia who seem to have made their home in Perth. Kevin is an elite age-grouper who, I believe, will do very well in Sunday’s race. All the best, Kevin!

The sextarian Victor, who is itching to do yet another Ironman will race on Sunday. He accompanied us on our way back, and I encouraged him to do the Hong Kong Marathon and I may have succeeded. He congratulated me on my recent marathon PB, for a course notorious for not being flat. Victor’s consistently early-3’30” timings for the marathon do qualify him for Boston – although he has not considered making the long and costly journey to Massachusetts to complete the Holy Grail of marathons.

The Saturday ENR Swim Group will be doing an easy, swim at Sentosa’s Tanjung Beach lagoon at 9.00am today. It was unfortunate that, just last week, a foreign national drowned there. We will take care of each other, as we always do. After that, we will check our bikes in, in the afternoon. Desmond is experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions since it is his first 70.3 race, and we wish him a successful finish. That would be a realistic and relevant goal, as he prepares for IMWA 2011.


Action-Photos: Richard Leong

Friday, March 18, 2011

My 20 Pre-Race Preparation Tips For Singapore 70.3

It is two days from the fifth edition of the Half-Ironman in Singapore, and here are my pre-race tactics that are designed to enhanced my racing focus, and reduce my confusion and anxiety.

1)    Lay out exactly the race-day stuff you will need.
2)    Eliminate unnecessary weight (equipment).
3)    Load all my energy gels (High5 Energy Gels and Energy Source 2:1) into two fuel-bottles (one each for bike, and one gel bottle for run).
4)    Eliminate unnecessary stuff on the bike/body (except watch, race-ID band).
5)    Use elastic laces or lace-locks (reduce chance of dangling shoelaces and affected rhythm and pace).
6)    Put your bike shoes on your pedals, and keep them horizontal with rubber bands. Practise mounting/dismounting and slipping the shoes on/off before the race – not that difficult.
7)    Use your regular sports-drinks (one prepared bottle on your bike), and one empty cage for disposable bottle. A drop-bottle between your aero-bars may be convenient for constantly having your drink.
8)    Stick fuel-bottle into running shoe, so you can retrieve it as you shoe up.
9)    If you think that constitutes extra weight, stick the gel-sachets into your tri-suit pockets. Swallow the gels before you drink at the aid-stations.
10)Final bike check for brake cables, tyre quality, and tightened bottle-cages.
11)Use a running visor, or have a haircut instead. Stay cool.
12) Bring a tyre patch-kit, or inflatable system.
13) Bring spare goggles and racing socks.
14) One large towel to locate your bike, sit down on, as you wipe your feet before wearing your shoes. Grit and debris can cause abrasions.
15) Do one swim in your actual race-gear. Avoid changing tops or tights – wastes time.
16) Fasten your race stickers early onto your bike and helmet.
17) Do one last, easy, wetsuit swim the day before to stay sharp (I did a 30-second ride/run workout 12 hours before the Hong Kong Marathon) or short run/spin. It keeps your muscles activated without exhausting them. Avoid it if you are fatigued.
18) Be up, at least, 2.5 hours before race. Have a light breakfast, black coffee (if you need it), water and one energy gel.
19) Have a mild warm-up before race. Rehearsing your swim strokes in the water certainly helps!
20) No mental pressure on yourself. Pace yourself, smile, feed and hydrate yourself. A PB is a bonus.

I hope that this helps you. Remember to attend the race briefing to have a sense of the route and safety rules (bike-length penalty). For the Ironman 70.3 Singapore edition, we do the following pattern: Swim (2 loops); Ride (3 loops); Run (2 loops)

Racers and supporters - Have a great day out! 
*****
Last night, I did a 11K tempo run of about 4:25 minutes/K. I was pleased I finished relatively fresh, without the telltale laboured breathing I am used to when my body shifts to anaerobic mode. I almost ran into 2005 Hawaii Ironman Triathlon World Champion, Faris Al Sultan near my finish. The crowd was getting thick with pedestrians and picnickers strolling, unaware, on the running path. I recognized Faris from my 2008 Ironman Malaysia on Langkawi Island.

I completed my dual-set with 30 minutes of easy swimming. My coach, Fox sent me a list of things to do before Sunday’s race, mainly on transitions. I wasted too much time in the past on silly, useless, methods. With two more days of rehearsals, I am sure I will reduce some of this down time and enhance my racing experience. Today, I will collect my race-kit at Suntec City, perhaps watch the press conference with the pros, and then follow up with an easy run with Pete Jacobs – Kona’s best marathoner (and one of its best swimmers) last year. I will do a specific run clinic on Monday with Pete; the last session I had with him was about a year back and I focused on forefoot running. It obviously worked as my running improved much over the past year. It should be a fun day.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Indelible Imprints on An Island

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee’. ~ John Donne, ‘No Man is An Island’

It has been a difficult week for humans. The Acts of God wreaked its mighty havoc on an industrial giant called Japan. Watching the tragic scenes replayed on primetime television makes it very hard to stomach. Reality bites. Under crisis, people can and do band together to weather the storm. This is human drama at its best. Citizens have been described as stoically calm; they still queue in orderly fashion to make their purchase, and ethical practice still exists. Is it really calmness? Or, is this calm after the storm?

‘It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.’ ~ Albert Einstein

Elsewhere in the world, panic has reared its ugly head. Psychologically, we have been disturbed, or aroused out of our stupor. We are sending out messages without regard for its authenticity. Many are taking uncertain, and fearful, steps to ward off the unknown. Perhaps, the unknown is already predicted for humankind can be selfish or selfless when chaos prevails. Ignorance is to be feared. Fear is the ultimate ignorance.

‘If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith.’ ~ Albert Einstein

When you run alone, are you entirely alone? Can one be alone, but never lonely? Ultramarathoners can appreciate this sensation and experience when they make their weary, tiny steps through the desolateness, darkness, and the cold. For them, the future is mere steps committed ahead of them. Thus, how can we make small steps into our future mired with confusion and calamity?

Perhaps there is something for you here. More mileage and speed - blended. Karno a.k.a. Dean Karnazes a.k.a. Ultramarathon Man is still running out there, somewhere. If a lone runner can provide hope for others, then the group of people bound by a common cause can create a beacon of hope and optimism for even more people. Small step. Large leap.

To paraphrase Sir Winston Churchill: Let us celebrate mankind at our darkest hour. For it may be our finest hour. Let us send out our positive thoughts to the world, and do our small part in assisting others in a time of need. Athletes like Pete Jacobs are doing their part, giving up their coaching fees for charity. Next weekend, there is a charity 10K run. Perhaps you would be keen to participate? I received in the same mail the following details.



Details of the run:
Date:    27 March 2011 (SAT)Time:   08:00 - 12:00Venue: National University of Singapore Sports & Recreation Centre (SRC),
2 Sports Drive, S117561