Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Get Ready and Be Ready

Completing a triathlon, marathon and any endurance sport is akin to taking an examination. Much can happen at such an event, for you have to deal with unexpected and expected outcomes. Problem solving and decision-making are two core competencies that can deliver you from unfortunate turns of events. Failure to complete a race can be attributed to myriad factors, however ill preparedness and ignorance is inexcusable and costly a price to pay.

Being prepared allows us to respond, instead of react, with immediacy and relevance. If you are practiced in changing tyres when you encounter a puncture, then you can initiate the change smoothly. If you are untrained and unfamiliar with the procedure, you can only invite panic and confusion, and this interferes with your effectiveness and efficiency.

Travelling teaches us to be self-sufficient and independent. From applying for a visa to booking travel tickets to checking into a hotel, these processes involve a sense of meticulousness and paying attention to details. Doing things at the last minute merely invites stress and tension that sap on your energies and alertness. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable to stresses can also test your effectiveness, and you want to minimise that.

Before your next overseas race, pack early and ensure that you have enough spares and additional nutritional support. Travel with your race-helmet, bike shoes, running shoes, swim-goggles, and one set of tri-attire with you – just in case your main luggage gets misplaced. Remember your racing card (membership of your national triathlon association), photo-identification, and a copy of race entry details. Take snapshots on your mobile phone of your e-ticket, entry confirmation slip, and the like. Reduce the fuss and the fumbling.

Be early. Be prepared. Be comforted by freeing your mind of burdens.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Stories from Las Canarias to Warm Your Cockles

We love stories. Millions of copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul book franchise have been sold. These are some videos on the Big Race in Lanzarote, the Canary Islands. The winners Rachel Joyce and Timo Bracht are seen at the end point. There is also Race Director, Kenneth Gasque who welcomes everybody in with a handshake.

By the way, 25 May was World Planking Day. Time to start this interesting core stability test back home! Assume the position! But please avoid anything higher than 30 centimetres. John, this is for you! You keep planking, and I’ll keep plonking.

The 20th edition of Ironman Lanzarote 2011 presented many heart-warming stories through its bastion of athletes. These are some of them

If you are in town next weekend, do attend Nique Tan's show. This is interactive, amazing, mind-reading by Singapore's leading mentalist. I strongly recommend his show. You will be enchanted.
Leadership Lessons: When was the last time you held your audience captivated with your stories? How much do you observe and return in recognition? How often do you give praise and thanks to those around you?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Nocturnal Weekend Warriors

Congratulations go out to the following friends!

Mok Ying Ren for breaking Singapore’s national record for the 5K: 14 minutes 51:09 seconds. [Thank you Dr Kua Harn Wei for the notification] Watch his dazzling video race!

Sumiko Tan, for winning the Women’s category in this morning’s Sundown Marathon in 3:22. This is her personal best time.

Vijch for a 3:55 finish in Sundown Marathon; Desmond Chow for a strong 5-hour, pre-IMWA 2011 training finish.

On a rare note (for me, at least), Barcelona confirmed their place in the pantheon of soccer on Saturday, out-gunning Manchester United 3-1 at Wembley Stadium to claim their second Champions League crown in three years. Olay, olay, olay. Olay, olay…!
John Cooke returned safely to Perth. He is, officially, the fastest Singaporean to complete the Ironman Lanzarote (unofficially, the one who planks in the most locations!). So, far only two Singaporeans have attempted the course within the last four years. I was glad to race alongside him for my 11th Ironman finish. We John all the best for his eighth Ironman triathlon at IMWA in December!
I booked my airfare for the Gold Coast Marathon; accommodation follows next. My race strategy is to stay near the start-point so that there is less stress preparing on race morning.

Carefully Choosing Your Race

It is sad to hear the announcement that Ironman China cancelled its swim leg, weeks before the race.

It is a disappointment to many; many others were upset. Registered participants have every right to get a full refund, or race and that is the offer laid down (in this case). Whether you are racing your first or tenth Ironman triathlon, it feels like a complete letdown that you cannot complete the whole trilogy of disciplines. Inclement weather is understandable (I experienced two myself) but poor planning and lack of thoroughness is unacceptable.

Live to race another day. Ironman Korea has been re-opened, and perhaps a few European 226K races are still available.
Well, that aside – how do you choose which race to do? Bart Yasso, Chief Running Officer (who used to run 2:35 marathons, and creator of the Yasso 800* drills) of Runners World magazine suggests:

1)    Distance (5K, 10K, 21K, marathon, ultra-marathon)
2)    Location (local, overseas)
3)    Date (your availability)
4)    Terrain (flat, hilly, off-road)

These sound like common sense, yet they can be overlooked. You can be disappointed if you cannot attend an overseas race, or are poorly prepared for it. Lead with your head and heart when deciding on the race you want to prime yourself for. You have your A-races and B-races. A-races are your major races, and B-races are your minor, tune-up races. Both have their place in your performance universe.

If you cannot handle cold races (10 degrees Celcius and less), choose temperate climates (15-20 degrees Celcius). If you adore the heat, choose one that fits your living area, including those near body temperature, or more. If you don’t train in hilly conditions, opt for flat courses. Never challenge your body with unfamiliar conditions on race day - it can be physically and mentally unpleasant, and the memories last.
I will be leading the Race Clinic 1 for the Marina21K evening race. If you have signed up, remember to be there on Sunday, 8.00am at East Coast Park, next to Car Park F2. I am also excited about the special appearance of our oldest Boston Marathon Finisher who will interact and share his stories. See you there! * I will explain what the Yasso 800 workout is.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bracing Barcelona: A Photo-Log

We just got back a few hours ago; a very lean and tired, John Cooke continued on his return leg to Perth, Western Australia via a budget airlines. At my trusty iMac workstation, I share my adventure tips with you.

Barcelona temperature is about 22 degrees Celcius at this time of the year. The air is fairly dry, with nice breezes so carry your chap-stick/lip-gloss with you, some snack food, as well as a big bottle of water. Supermarkets stock inexpensive drinking water, so buy the 5-litre bottles and distribute them into smaller one-litre ones.
The day that we departed (Friday), demonstrators who camped for several days (at the Place de Catalunya) got into a clash with the police. The news eagerly covered it, as curious tourists lapped it up as part of the action at the shopping belt of La Ramblas.

If you intend to have a vacation in Barcelona, after finishing the Ironman Lanzarote – fly direct from Singapore to Barcelona via Singapore Airlines. You can actually connect from almost anywhere in Europe to the Canary Islands, including Madrid, Milan, and the UK.

Stay near the La Ramblas area, and prices vary depending on vicinity to the main road. We stayed at Atlas Hotel, which we booked online. It is about 50 metres away from La Ramblas, and the nearest Metro station. Get a day pass so that you can travel on both the subway and bus. I would recommend exploring Bracelona, and its top-10 ‘must visit’ places by these two convenient modes of transportation. Ensure that you have your tickets validated at the turn-stills (in the Metro) or ticketing machines on the buses. There are numerous museums you cna go to, however we recommend visiting the Olympic Stadium (Olympic Games 1992) and the Spanish Village (within the same area and walking distance).
Goods and Services Tax (or Value Added Tax, VAT as it is known) is claimable for tourists for single purchases above 90 Euros. It is a pain to claim these precious dollars back, however do it earlier at the airport. Give yourself up to an hour to leave the VAT-rebate queue less unhappy. You only get 10 percent of the 18 percent you pay above the tag-price at the branded outlets or sports mall.

The brand Under Armour, as promoted by triathlon champion, Macca is popular here. I was surprised after buying my compression t-shirt, that the restaurant manager we met at the tapas restaurant wore a polo-short by Under Armour. Many shops are closed between 2-4pm because of the afternoon siesta, or break. So, shops open till 9pm and restaurants even later.

When it comes to eating, the Spaniards love to eat late and their preference is tapas. Tapas is to the Spanish, as dim sum is to the Chinese. It comprises a set meal of paella (seafood-based, pan-cooked rice) and finger-food (appetizers). You choose what you like on the menu, and you share the tapas selection – that is the spirit of Spanish eating! Sangria is a lovely cocktail made of red wine, orange juice and additional surprises that washes well your meal. Lanzarote also presents such savoury fare and savoire fare for participants on the Canary Islands.

Photo-Credit: John Cooke

Friday, May 27, 2011

Educating Rituals

I recall the Michael Caine film 'Educating Rita' which was based loosely on Pygmalion and My Fair Lady. In summary, a lady of humble backgrounds (hairdresser) is educated by an alcoholic college professor into a groomed and respectable one.

This evening, John, Mel and I watched a flamenco performance in a beautiful theatre, 10 minutes away from our hotel. We bought circle seats, at discounted prices. The 75-minute show expanded into 90 minutes with a much appreciated encore by the cast of two guitarists, one drummer, three singers and three dancers. Many in the audience were not Spanish, so we were held enthralled by the rhythmic, graceful and powerful tap-dancing style. I was directed to the edge of my seat most of the time, due to the intriguing dance form as well as having my view blocked by an elderly tourist couple. I learnt early that it is important to suspend my prejudices about people, and focus on the task (in this case, show) at hand.

Having watched 'Riverdance', I drew parallels with the Irish, American and Spanish tap-dance tradition. Dancers are, unarguably, athletes. They train as hard as any gymnast or swimmer or acrobat. The male dancer was drenched in sweat after he removed his jacket, and proceeded to dance even more vigorously. The dancers exhibited strength and power in their graceful movements. Every gesture and posture was deliberate, committed and well executed. Artists seek perfection in their attempts at details. Leonardo da Vinci said: 'Details make for perfection, but perfection is no detail.'

To experience another person's culture and traditions is to build on one's exposure to the world. Each contact and connection enhance our value to the world. The Six Degrees of Separation can only be reduced if we choose to. We can do this by being less judgmental, and judicious in our recognition of uniqueness. Differences can be very charming and alluring. Diversity needs to be managed if we are to draw upon capabilities and potential.

Even with a copy of The Lonely Planet in hand, we need not be alone. Endurance runners know what it means to be alone, but never lonely. You may not be the only lone runner running at midnight; elsewhere in the vast geography of our world, we are united by he invisible connection with a similar runner. Everybody wants to get ahead, and stay ahead in life. Answers abound. Asking the right question is the quest in itself.
Leadership Lessons: How do you keep yourself knowledgeable about things? How often do you seek education? How has traveling enhanced you? What do you learn when you are on the road? Which ways do you appreciate cross cultural interactions?

Photo-credits: Mel Chan (I am postulating to the mythic gods in Mount Olympus)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Clanning or Tribes

Marketing guru, Seth Godin wrote a bestseller called 'Tribes'. Interestingly, in 1997 trendspotter and futurist, Faith Popcorn wrote about 'Clanning' as one of 17 future trends for clicking with consumers. In effect, the community spirit is what moves people to achieve a sense of identity, common cause, unity in numbers, and a sense of belonging.

Triathletes belong to a tribe of everyday people, who lead extreme lives in their pastimes. Lard man from New Zealand writes about his adventures in triathlons. He is an interesting person with a wicked sense of humour. Read his blog if you dare!

Many tribes exists, and universally, tourists are a strong and predominant group. Camera-ready, ever eager, and abundantly curious and pedestrian, tourists will crowd around anything and anyone. You see them cordon off streets watching buskers perform. You also meet them at fast-food convenience outlets. Book-lovers will scour bookstores like a library. Coffee connoisseurs will make a beeline for the next caffeine-infused shot. Foodies will search websites by food bloggers to seek that next gastronomic or epicurean indulgence. Such is the magnetic appeal of like-minded individuals in endurance sports in exotic locations doing the unthinkable. Some groups hold annual runs while in underwear or even naked (Naked Pumpkin Dot Org).

Here are some snapshots that clicked with my sense of adventure (to be upload soon, as working with an iPad has it's challenges, when traveling).
John doing the famous plank at the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona; my version is modified
Photo-credits by Mel Chan

Time to Start Clicking

Faith Popcorn, author and chairperson of her company, BrainReserve wrote a book called 'Clicking' in 1997. Essentially, this book covers 17 consumer trends for marketers and companies to consider. One of these principles proposed was clicking, which was focused on connecting with people through our products and services.

Clicking was in action at our recent Ironman triathlon in Lanzarote. 1,500 participants, obviously, clicked with the esoteric idea of doing a long-distance triathlon on an exotic island. What clicked with them? What drove some of them to do their second, third and even sixteenth race on what has been recognized as one of the toughest bike courses in Ironman?

Arguably, Ironman Lanzarote clicked with the community in many ways:

1) Multiple lives and roles: participants who are parents, breadwinners, caregivers, community leaders, educative, professionals, et al.
2) Down-aging and being alive: people who want to live life differently, be energized, be passionate about something else, and fulfill physical goals. Go on a bike-tour, run an overnight ultra marathon, complete a triathlon, hike 100K, or run 73 stories up.
3) Fantasy-adventure: athletes get to dress up in superhero outfits (if compression tight clothing count) to achieve superhuman, endurance feats that could put some younger or rugged ones to shame. It is equal footing on the racecourse for both men and women, young and mature.
4) Faith: to achieve what we believe and can conceive. The journey of a thousand miles begins with he first step. A marathon is accomplished by both running and walking. You can complete the Boston Marathon at 80 years of age. Ask Uncle Kor!
5) Small indulgences: go on a shirt vacation, even in remote locations. Pampering yourself with a sport massage, chiropractic treatment, concert recital, attend a pasta party, or drink a cup of exotic coffee. These are part of a larger experience called life, and enjoying it in small ways. Costs are kept lower by booking online and earlier.

Leadership Lessons: Who have you clicked with recently? How do you click with people? Which trends do you click with? Have you made the generational click with your colleagues?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Diary of Lanzarote (Part Ocho)

John Cooke, from Perth who raced with me and scored a sub-14 hour finish at Ironman Lanzarote blogged accurately about the race. Read more about it on his blog.

We saw interesting tee-shirts with less than elegant slogans. These included:

CSI: Cannot Stand Idiots

Shit day
Shit day
Shit day
Shit day
Shit day

If only we can capture the slogans befitting Ironman triathletes:

Irony Men

I was influenced by Idiots!

Ironman: NOT the comic book hero

I swam 3.8K, rode 180K and ran a full marathon and only got this t-shirt!

And the daft list goes on...

Diary of Lanzarote (Part 7)

Ironman Lanzarote is a triathlon worth doing.

This year was the 20th edition of this 226K, swim-ride-run. Thus, the finisher tee-shirt read XX, the Roman numerals for twenty. Other than the well-earned tee, why is this a race you should consider doing?

1) It has one of the toughest bike courses in Ironman.
2) It takes place on one of the Canary Islands, northwest of the African continent.
3) It is a popular vacation destination with Europeans, and has some of the best scuba-diving sites in the world.
4) The Spanish speak English so communication can be uniquely fun, yet effective. Muy bien!
5) Stay as near to the Transition Area/Start-Point. Book early and there are many inexpensive accommodations beginning from 30 Euros onwards. The rooms are spacious for your bike-case, and you can cook in most of these rooms.
6) The official hotel is about 30 minutes from the race site, however all briefing, pasta party and awards dinner are held there. The bike course runs pass the hotel at the midway point.
7) Race Director, Kenneth gives you a warm handshake when you cross the finish line. How personal is that? He may chat to you and gather warm stories for the Awards Dinner.
8) We enjoyed beautiful opera from an excellent singer during dinner. There age-groupwr awards took place with little drama. It got a little chilly at night, so dress in a sweater to stay warm.
9) The food is typical Spanish, so expect paella (rice cooked in seafood stock) and a large smorgasbord of salads and meat. Thankfully, there was less pasta served.
10) Kenneth recognizes athletes, volunteers and family. The values behind this race are special, and that is why we had finishers who returned after 15 previous finishes on this island. This is, indeed, an island with magic and mystique. The early leg of the bike course is similar to Kona, Hawaii with strong headwinds and sidewinds and a hilly profile.

After two successful attempts at this race, I am still attracted to its allure. Do consider this island for your next Ironman triathlon.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Diary of Lanzarote (Part 6)

Lanzarote is seven hours behind Singapore time, so I have received text messages on my mobile phone while I was sleeping. I apologize if I glossed you over, however rest and recuperation are my priorities now instead of surfing for mentionables at 4.00am, anywhere in the world.

We depart the beautiful, yet menacing island this evening for Barcelona. My trusty bike is packed, and I have never touched so much bubble-wrap in my life. Thanks to Craig, my handcrafted bike fits nicely into his expensive Sircon bike case. I am thankful for such gestures of generosity - beers when I am back, mate! Most of my race nutrition has been spent, save for a few sachets of powdered, caffeinated sports drink. I intentionally reduced my caffeine intake as I was responding too well to frequent bathroom breaks during my ride. Pissing on the ride was risky because of the gusts we experienced during the ride.

I was at an aid-station, and after topping up my fluids in my aerobottle I innocently asked, Aseos?' which meant 'toilet' and the quizzical looks by the volunteers led me to translate into English. The police showed me the side of the retaining wall made from the island's predominant rock. I smiled and scooted off for an alternative moment of relief.

My legs are not as sore as usual, and I attribute it to my new running techniques learnt from Pete Jacobs. My legs are stiff and tender to the touch but I am not walking like the wounded. Riding on ISM saddles were comfortable, however my buttocks are sore now from eight hours of riding. That is a new record, I assure you!

The congratulatory note are pouring in still. At last night's Awards Dinner we were introduced to a participant, Albert (from Holland) who did 16 Ironman Lanzarote races! A Loving father pushed his daughter in a pram throughout the marathon leg. She looked so alive when she raced with her Dad, and she was also awarded a medal for her enduring efforts! It was a special moment of the triathlon that reminded me of the Hoyts. Her Dad said: 'She is more attentive on the run, and alert to the world.' That was a special moment that does touch your soft sport.

Ironman triathlon is more than self indulgence (and self gratification) and, at times, it is for many of us. As the Kiwi, Lardman (who won two consecutive Kona slots at the lottery, and I personally met) shared, triathlons take fifth a place after his wife and children. After the race, the medal go into a shoebox and we wear our finisher-tees occasionally. We invite the ad hoc question of 'What is Ironman?' Our responses get creative by the year, but with no animosity or arrogance. I have never met so many humble people in life, as in Ironman races.

Life is too short and precious to be overly narcissistic, indulgent and self-possessed. At the end of the race, we have our memories to cherish, conversations that we shared, learnings that we assimilated, and friendships we may have forged. Learning to be thankful and appreciative is what matters. Give back what we take in. The Marina21K run is taking in used shoes for charity. Do help them, and support the cause. As a tribe of endurance athletes, we can enhance our cause by supporting others. Karma has a way of boomeranging back in different ways.

Have a great week everyone, and make it so.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Diary of Lanzarote (Part Cinco)

So, the day has passed and the world is somewhat intact, save for 1,500 participants of Ironman Lanzarote whose lives have been transformed. The 20th edition of the swim, ride and run trilogy in the beautiful Spanish island of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands ended yesterday.

My finisher t-shirt reads XX, a testimony of the twentieth year of successful hosting of this endurance event. XX also signifies the hardcore nature of this 226K race that pits newcomers with seasoned, Kona-finishers side by side in a competition that garners more mutual respect than adversarial energy. It came to past that yesterday saw John Cooke and I race under the Singapore contingent. Cookie did well and crossed the finish line under-14 hours while I missed my 2007 timing by about 10 minutes, but with a massively faster marathon. This was, certainly, my hardest race so far. It does not get any easier with age, but the sense of achievement and fulfillment is priceless.

I am always reminded of John Collins' words: 'Swim 2.4 miles, ride 112 miles, then run a full marathon - brag for life!' How true is is? I have yet to fully fathom the wisdom and philosophy of this, apparently, insane sport.

I will post a comprehensive race report soon, as I am headed for a well deserved rest and recovery program in Barcelona. The best part of the race is the post-race feeding and reflections. I hope to get a photo with Natasha Badmann tonight at the Awards Dinner. She is a legend, having won six Ironman world championship titles.

I cannot stop thinking about my triathlon buddies who trained with me and supported me online. Thank you, my enduring friends!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Diary of Lanzarote (Part Quatro)

Exactly twelve hours to the race start.

I watched CNN and it was reported that the end of the world is tomorrow, well according to an expert doomsday expert. Shall we listen to Hollywood or a Nostradamus follower or an ancient calendar? Well if it is tomorrow, can we ask for 17 hours grace as we attempt to finish the 226K worth of swim, ride and run? Somebody's reputation is going to get buggered!

My partner, Mel volunteered for tomorrow with bag sorting. I am a strong believer of getting your Iron-Mates involved in my madness. She gets a nice looking t-shirt for her efforts while I need longer to earn mine. Ideally, in much less time than my 2007 foray on this beautiful island of the Gran Canarias.

With 1,500 competitors there is millions of dollars of serious speed weaponry on the Transition Area. There ar many Orbea bikes, since the brand is manufactured and born in Spain.
The run route is littered with many bars, caves and restaurants. I will stay focused on my marathon and ignore the sangria-laden revelers on Saturday evening. I wish to run in during residual daylight.

John and I met lovely couple, Mark and Helen from Manchester, UK. Mark will be doing his second IM Lanzarote after last year's. Helen volunteered for today and tomorrow. We met world class paralympians - awesome wheelchair athletes: sprinters and Kona finishers and world record-holders. It was a jaw-gaping experience to hear war stories from tougher athletes than us. It is humbling to meet athletes with fierce determination to succeed despite physical disadvantages. I appreciated a few drops of inspiration from them. I kick my own backside for slacking, while they train in some of the harshest weather conditions in Glasgow, Scotland or Manchester.

I have done what I can do, and all I can do is have my dinner, relax and rest up. By the time I post again, I would have crossed the line, showered and ate a hot meal, and hopefully, find no reason to lick my wounds. Carpe diem! May all training, rehearsals and good judgement prevail on Judgement Day.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Diary of Lanzarote (Part Tres)

It is about 17 hours till race time. I did my final spin on a few slopes behind my domicile. Bike check-in wil be at 3-6pm local time. All my race bags are packed, and I have yet to affix my stickers to the bike. My compact crank, transplanted from my Orbea Vitesse feels comfortable on my Elite Razor tri-bike. A custom-made and fitted be feels tremendously different from my other bike, which was thrashed last year when I was hit by a taxi. The driver rear-ended me and I was fortunate to be alive!

Anyway, today is an easy day and Coach insists on me staying off my feet as much as I can. Tomorrow is a good day to climb the one-loop Lanzarote bike route. The looming, gloomy clouds do little to dampen our competitive spirits. It is all or nothing - no turning back since we are here.

John Cooke looks strong and stoked. He completed his rehearsal of the three disciplines, albeit in small doses. His friend, Gaye who has completed Kona thrice looks calm and ready. The mindset of a multiple-podium earner is vastly different from first-timers and even those attempting their first dozen. They spent more time than enthusiastic age-groupers looking forward to their finishing line, medal and tee-shirt. Eye of the storm.

Thank you well wishers! I will do my best.
Thanks for reading. Time to get ready!

Diary of Lanzarote (Part Deux)

Time is of the essence. You emerge from your swim and have till 6.30pm to complete riding 180K. By the way, the swim is worth doing as my trial swim this morning showed me more marine wildlife than swimming in a national aquarium. I swam in a tank with sharks in Shanghai in 2003, and it had its moments worth recalling fondly. This morning swim compared well with Ironman Western Australia and New Zealand. Fish in almost every denomination and depth met my sleep-deprived eyes. The flight took us about 24 hours, which was shy of six hours that it took me to Clearwater, Florida in 2008 & 2009 for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.

Fish tales aside, I connected with John Cooke (Singaporean based in Western Australia), who arrived two days before. He is in splendid shape, looking lean, fit and excited about Saturday's quest for his seventh Ironman finisher title. I know he will earn it for sure, and be richer in the depth of perspectives that he will learn from the island. We joke a lot about our dream to participate in Kona, Hawaii one day in our mature lives (however long it takes) yet we are serious about getting there one day. Even if one of us bags the lottery ticket, we know that we would have to work our posteriors off for the Big Island is to be respected. There are no easy Ironmans! Beware, Ironman has a way of nipping you on your behind, so that we can learn from hindsight.

We skipped the Big Feast known as Pasta Party, and a renowned way of stuffing your face full of gluttony, so we skipped it. Carbo-loading works only if you are a finalist on Survivor, left in a caloric-deficient, mind-starving state. All you can benefit from is wisdom of a tummy ache. Some quick updates, and off to bed for one night of restful sleep.

Later...by the way, we had a nice evening run. Get the legs going. Nightfall is about 9.00pm. So, enough buffer time to finish in daylight this time. Should be a PB. Fingers crossed...

Diary of Lanzarote

My apologies for not posting for two days, my friends! Two days away from my 11th Ironman triathlon, and preparations are in full swing. Four years after my first successful attempt at this 20-year-old race on one of the Canary Islands, and it still feels like my first race here on this arid island, off the African continent.

The first hour of the ride brings you through barren land, save for what can survey in dry desert conditions, on what was a volcanic island. The remnants of the last, earthly, ghastly gag of incendiary spewtum and phlegm, yielded an island of natural wonder. Agriculture thrives, with hardy people, a tourist industry, and for the past twenty years a magnet for pain doyens, who crave a 17-hour physical challenge. If that was an immensely long sentence (and I cautioned you about that in our writing essays), so is the 226K challenge called Ironman. On Saturday, 1,500 athletes from about 14 country, will attempt what is known in triathlon circles as one of the toughest bike rides on earth. Certainly, hyperbole and superlatives sell tickets and race entries, however there is inherent truth and irony in this claim.

More about Lanzarote and its uniqueness after this...

Thank you, well wishes for your kind thoughts over the social media. I will do my best! Cheers!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pace Off or Place Off!

I was reviewing my race performance for the Duathlon I did in February. In the run-ride-run race, I was holding a 4:40minutes/km pace for the first 10K, and 5:10”/kmthe last 5K. It was a loss of 30 seconds for each kilometre for the second run.

I could attribute it to fatigue, and lack of conditioning for the pace required to sustain a similar pace throughout. Pacing is very important for we can go too slow, or too fast and pay the consequences. Holding the pace in training is called Tempo Training.

The ride cost me at least three positions (overall, for second), costing me nearly two minutes downtime (attempting to fix loose equipment) due to my detached bike cage. I had to earn my keep by plundering the run (to recover 7 spots). Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn! (Note to self: Do a final equipment check, especially loose bits).

6th, Enrico Varella           
10K Run       00:46:44       6th          
40K Ride      01:11:58      13th           
5K Run         00:26:41       2nd           
Overall          02:25:22       6th

Does the Crane Kick in Karate Kid work? It just could, if you look at this clip of MMA experts in combat. (Warning: It is a violent blow to the head, even if they are trained exponents).

Mr Miyagi said to Daniel-San that there was no defence to the crane kick.

Mr. Miyagi: "Called Crane Technique."
Daniel: "Does it work?"
Mr. Miyagi: "If do right, no can defense."
Daniel: "Can you teach me?"
Mr. Miyagi: "First learn stand, then learn fly.”

For fans of chop suey, kung pow, kung fu – here is former-Hollywood, action A-list actor, Steven Seagal training MMA students – for real. That is Lyoto Machida who beat Randy Couture with the Crane technique.
Thanks to Peter for this video gem of a lead! Less than 24 hours to my departure for Ironman Lanzarote: My second time racing there, and #11 in Ironman triathlon attempts. My friend John Cooke wrote about his travel adventures en-route to the Canary Islands. No, we are NOT triathlon addicts! We are just in denial...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Steady – One Thing At A Time

A lot can happen at the last moment. Crises and exigencies can surprise us like digital ambushes from cookies and pop-up screens. It is not these startling events that tend to throw us off kilter, but rather how we respond to these challenges and distractions. Think about coping mechanisms: to adapt, to adopt, and be adept.

Focus is best activated, for one thing at a time. Those who claim to be multi-tasked alone, fail to appreciate the notion of being multi-skilled. As a manager, you can delegate if you have too many tasks that restrict your movement. Delegate the task to those who need the challenge, so that you can focus on the bigger issues. However, delegate those with some degree of competency and are motivated by such offerings. Never delegate because you are lazy and de-motivated!

To remind me of my state of equilibrium and balance, I stand one foot (stork-like) and then close my eyes. This immediately activates my sense of physical and mental balance. When you deprive yourself of vision, it allows you to consider your strengths and weaknesses.

With swimming, you focus on one thing at a time: buoyancy, glide, hip rotation, sighting, breathing, kicking, and more. However, each element extends your potential in the water: faster, smoother and safer.

Leadership Lessons: How do you manage last-minute requests? How do you shift your priorities? How do you regain your equilibrium when you are thrown off course?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Putting Your Best Forefoot Forwards

Thanks to the organizers, Epic-ESR (for Marina21K Run) I was able to lead a sizeable group in an interactive, practical-based run clinic this morning. I appreciate their open-mindedness and eagerness to learn. It was assuring to meet a few barefoot/unshod runners, who were proficient with running naturally. The best part was when I suggested all shoes off, and everyone enthusiastically removed their unreliable footwear.www.marina21k.com.sg

In summary, we can focus on the following postural adjustment to improve our running effectiveness and efficiency.

1)    Run ‘tall’ (suck your belly-button against your spine)
2)    Warm-up precedes stretching; activate your gluteals (buttocks), hamstrings and lower-back.
3)    Lean slightly forward until gravity begins to take over: close your eyes occasionally to feel the lean
4)    Reduce the bend in your leg (more bent, more muscular effort required, thus more fatigue)
5)    Land flat, and ‘light’ (less sound preferred)
6)    Go back to basics: run barefoot as part of your warm-up
7)    Activate your proprioceptors (stand on one leg with eyes closed)
8)    Upright posture looks good but is more ‘braking’ in function
9)    Land on forefoot, smaller but more frequent steps

In addition, consider these sessions as part of your weekly training (10K or Half-Marathon): Long Slow Distance (LSD), tempo (hold the pace) and intervals (sets of faster runs interspersed into a shorter run session).

To run injury-free, add one kilometre per week to your long run. If you start with 5K, by race-day you will have hit 15K for your longest run (more than enough for your half-marathon). If you progressing from 10K to 21K, these incremental gains in distance will keep you fit and strong to a 20K long run. The 1K/week increment is a guide, yet it is adequate to test you if you had a tiring week, or had less sleep.

Add two short classes of circuit training, including core exercises every week. Focus on push-pull combination of exercise (example: push-ups followed by chin-ups; forward lunges and horse-kicks; Plank and side rotations with a medicine-ball). Never sneer at Jumping Jacks (worked for Jack LaLanne) and burpees (the non-gastrointestinal version). They activate your lateral (side of body) muscles which are, otherwise, not used during running (a predominantly unidirectional activity).

Note to self: Speak slower, especially when I get excited over the questions and topic.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Day Blogger Took A Jog

The news is confirmed: Ironman China has been cancelled and the organisers are making amends. Affected participants have been offered complimentary slots for other 70.3 and Ironman races in Europe and the USA. Some have responded to this move with positivism; others are still upset, and a few Kona expectations have been compromised.

I found it frustrating when my blog post on Friday vanished! Apparently, Google had issues with its free and popular blog application, Blogger. I integrated a new widget for Facebook videos, however this seems to be activated. Thankfully, it was as I found that the filtration process did not meet my needs. I decided to post select videos when I encounter very useful ones. Beyond Transitions is a promising new website, set up by dedicated triathletes in Malaysia. It is certainly worthy of our visit as it was created by a tribe with deep passion and recognition for triathlons. Thanks to triathlon blogger, Kevin Siah of Perth for his timely notification. Cheers, mate!
I have been quite the sponge for sleep. Again this morning, I slept in and then set off for a 2-hour ride. It is important during tapering to keep the muscles alert and activated. Complete rest is not useful as it may lead to a loss of muscle tone. I hope that I am not suffering from chronic fatigue, as my muscles feel stronger and I feel fitter. Just awaiting my competitive vibrations to kick in. Not doing the regular mileage is annoyingly frustrating – that is the way of tapering: doing less is more.

It rained out about 90 minutes into my ride. Braving the drizzle, I planned to do a short swim if the rain let up upon my arrival. It was not to be, and I gave my bike a hose-down (what an irony). I then had a chat with our area maintenance supervisor – a polite young Bangladeshi, Osman who has served us loyally for a few years – about the potential conflict in our serene neighbourhood. Like tensed competitors at a triathlon who invade our rack-space, so were my neighbours. It may be a small matter to some however left to escalate conflicts can lead to unpleasant behaviors. Not a good example to children modeling after parents and adults.

Desmond, Lap Huan and a few others will be attempting their first 100K overnight marathon, next month, and have invited me to join them for a run this evening. I am tempted. I will consider… 
Tomorrow morning will be my race clinic. Rain or shine, I will be available to share my knowledge and stories. Most participants will be running the evening 10K or 21K race. It should be a great Sunday!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Catch My (D)Rift?

In Africa, animals take these long exoduses across the continent called The Great Rift. The African Rift Valley is also a great line of geographical fault, equated with the tensional forces on the tectonic plates. It forms crests and troughs, thus beautiful valleys with beautiful flora and fauna.

Exodus also refers to departures of people from an event, place or relationships. When they stop supporting a cause, or the cause diminishes in value or favour it would be time to seek another cause worth supporting.

We can experience rifts in our relationships. A rift is a fracture or split in our relationships. It can manifest itself during conflicts. This may lead us to avoid, compete or be accommodating to others. Sometimes, we choose a ‘time out’ or ‘take a break from each other’ so as to refocus and regain our ‘centre’.

When a staff leaves our company, it can be a bitter-sweet event. What is left behind may be a ‘vacant sense’, or power vacuum. Do you support the person or the cause? Or, is it about discovering inconvenience because you cannot delegate to them anymore? Working with the ‘generation rift’ can create drifts from our intended outcomes. How can we reconcile the differences and create uniqueness out of them?

For endurance athletes reading this blog, there are those of us who are contemplating a drift to non-M-Dot sanctioned events. Too many compromises to races only create disappointment and dismay. IT can only lead to the inevitable conclusion that there will always be a ‘live-with-it’ SNAFU factored into the event. Ironman China 2011 announced recently that its swim leg would be cancelled due to forces beyond their control. This has tossed the plans of many participants into disarray. On the other hand, creating a new location for the 226K-race may entice others to consider a race-vacation format for their precious personal time.

It was reported also that the average income of competitors is US$160,000 annually. Really? Time for me to look for loose change between the fold of my cushioned armchair!

Whenever a commercial race has been compromised, participants may insist on a refund. Unless they have been fully compensated, they will experience ‘Buyer’s Remorse’. Buyer’s Remorse leads to loss of loyalty and distrust for the organization or brand. Few people enjoy a continuous spate of good bargains; we get fleeced, sometimes. Instead, seek ‘gain-gain’ relationships. ‘Win-Win’ is, probably, a myth for ‘win-lose’ is a likely outcome in competition, conflict and ambition.

In wanting to appear smart, sometimes we allow ourselves to be easily swayed or pressured to change. Stick to your plan, strategy and vision. Make the occasional corrections when you deviate, yet do not steer too far away. Keep to the yellow brick road.

We experience highs and lows in our lives; most of these are manageable when we put some time and effort to address it. If we feel emotionally affected, give it some time to release, or do something else to change our physiology. Movement can be very helpful when we experience the dips in energy through emotional responses. It is certainly acceptable to be in an ‘emo’ mood!

Catch my drift?

Leadership Lessons: When was the last time you made an exodus? Under which conditions will you make an exodus? How do you recover when you experience emotional drifts and relationship rifts?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Taking Care of Risky Business

After a week of stress-inducing disappointments from my online travel-ticketing agent, I managed to amend my flight details. I now arrive one day later than planned, and three days before the Big Event in Lanzarote. Such is life and we learn to accept it with initial frustration and annoyance.

It is official that the inaugural Ironman China in Tianjing has now cancelled its swim leg. Having experienced my first non-starter in the watery stage at Ironman New Zealand in 2006 (90-100kph winds) and IM Korea 2006 (choppy, white-water, sea conditions), I have learnt to live with emergencies and exigencies. Peter Principle is always operating in the background. Guano happens! Time to convert it into manure or organic fertilizer! With the additional day, I can ensure I leave no stone garden unturned in my packing list, and enjoy another good night’s sleep (and naps) on my own bed at home.

Over five years of Ironman and marathon racing, I have learnt to bring extra, just-in-case stuff (nutrients and equipment). Other than flammable or potentially-explosive items like CO2 cartridges, I bring all my equipment and food I need for race-day. The costs for buying forgotten items at race-fairs may be punitive. In a foreign land, with no other nationals racing with you, you may have to travel with a tyre-pump, patch-kits, and your own assembly tools (traveling with a Frequent Flyer who has 20kg excess baggage certainly helps!). You are your own bike mechanic, race advisor and meal planner. If you have peculiar race rituals or eating habits (or condiments) prior to the race, ensure that you bring enough and clear with custom officials as you enter the immigration gate. Declare or denounce – that is the convention.

I now bring my own race-day food as I may not agree entirely with that offered at aid-stations. Energy gels and Special Needs food are your personal preference. Use what you trained with and bring enough. Apply the Plus-20 Percent Factor: on a particularly bad day, your need for energy and nutrients will increase. You tend to consume more calories in cold climates, raining days, rolling terrain and a bad section of the race.

Through years of planning, organising, directing and control (PODC) I have learnt that we can implement entry and exit strategies. We create options for ourselves when we also factor in seemingly uncontrolled factors. There is no stopping Acts of God, cancelled flights, baggage theft, and staff going on lunch-breaks or union-led strikes. We do what we can do under the circumstances, and seek assistance wherever we can. I am sure we know enough people, within our span of Six Degrees of Separation, to be able to consider our next route of advance or retreat. There is always a solution, or somebody with a solution.

The weeks leading to (and possibly after) an ultra-endurance race such as marathons, Ironman triathlons and ultra-marathons can be risky. Our immune system may be compromised and we can get ill. Colds, coughs and flu may be the repercussive effects of taxing our body’s stress hormones. Increase slightly your intake of vitamin C, B-vitamins (to calm us down), zinc, antioxidants (from natural sources), water, L-glutamine, and protein. Reduce stress as much as you can – however, avoid getting fussed and flustered in the process.

As we load up on training, we need to ensure a corresponding increase in nutrients and sleep. There is no one single Secret Formula, however there may be many formulae we can apply in this mega-formula. Stick to the Basics, and then some. Go back to nature – that is, eat natural foods, cooked within your control, and not tainted by the glamour of food science. You don’t have to be vegan to learn useful things from them. Learn how to eat fresh, prepare safely, and eat wisely. Avoid biting off more than you can chew. Anything more than a mouthful is a waste! But I digress…

If it is your first time as a triathlete…live and learn!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Need For Proper Positioning

Jack Trout and Al Ries – marketing gurus – wrote the definitive 1981 book ‘Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind’ which has become a must-read book for those practising marketing and branding. It can certainly be extended to leadership.

Positioning also shows you how to:

1) Build your strategy around your competition's weaknesses
2) Reposition a strong competitor and create a weak spot
3) Use your present position to its best advantage
4) Choose the best name for your product
5) Determine when, and why less is more
6) Analyze recent trends that affect your positioning

Battles may be won without seeing your adversaries. War of words can take place off-line as well as online. The digital domain has become a non-physical, yet honest platform for people to air their emotions and opinions. Each approach has its consequences and impact, and these must be considered for we leave our imprint behind.

Writers leave their indelible print behind. Noam Chomsky writes about his reaction to global news and questions our over-reaction and premature celebratory responses.

Leadership Lessons: How do you earn the hearts and minds of your team members? How does your staff view you in their mind’s eye? What is your status to them? How alert and aware are you of the impact of your messages on others? How do you lead the head, hearts and hands of your people?