Monday, October 31, 2011

Lead With Your Values: Choice & Courage for Enhanced Performance

Your values matter! Every moment that you interact with somebody, you are expressing your values. Even during a race, you are exuding expressions of your values. Values support our beliefs, and both prop up our behaviors. Choice determines if we do something, or nothing. Yesterday morning, hundreds stepped into the holding pen of the Big Splash area to be flagged off for either an 18K or 30K run. To sleep in, or to run a hard race - what's your choice?

Courage is activated when we intend to complete a mission. This value takes on many forms: from deciding to signing-up for an event to training for it. It is expressed not just as bravery, but also daring to do something in the face of adversity and doubt. To plunge into a physical challenge while poorly prepared, is a demonstration of stupidity and recklessness. Planning, following a plan, making adjustments, considering feedback and learning from your mistakes add up to Performance. We need to measure, and measure up to expectations.
My friend, physically-challenged athlete Singapore Blade Runner activated his sense of courage yesterday. As such, many supporters expressed their recognisation for this leader in our running community. Mohd Shariff was inspired by a double-amputee world-class sprinter when he lost his left stump in 2008; and he now runs for many worthwhile and worthy causes. His leadership value saved his life when he switched his perspective – I am proud to call him my friend and one of my running inspirations.

Leadership Lessons: Which value are you expressing at this moment? Which values are parts of your signature? How do you breathe life into your personal values? How do you express yourself clearly as a leader? Who inspires you, and which part of their expression affects you positively? Do you sell with your values, or is it just another transaction?
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Yesterday’s morning race yielded a windfall of photographs for me - thank you, my friends for your consideration! I was so intent on completing the tough race that I was less aware of my surroundings at some points. One friend teased me as being proud, as I did not respond to his call. I was nursing early symptoms of a cough that I refocused my energies to other mind games; thus, I occasionally overlooked external cues. Perhaps it is time for me to get a new set of eyeshades, to give the illusion that I am watching my surrounds.
My focus throughout the two-loop challenge was to focus on my running gait, being relaxed, and engaging my intuition. I hoped to marry all these factors and have a good performance. I am pleased to announce that I did, and my decision to stay alert to my internal balance, awareness and senses equated to a personal best timing.

Photo-credit: Le Giang & Teh Eng Tiong

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Apple Does Not Fall Far From The Tree…

This morning, I raced and completed the Newton 30K Run at The Playground@Big Splash. I climbed over the barricade (with expressed permission) and inched my way to a gun-time flag-off. I wore my Newton Gravity shoes to match the theme of the race; this pair was used only for races, and I have clocked several personal best times in the last three months in them (including a surprising category win).
Last year, I ran the same race and registered an unofficial 2:35, as the electronic sensors failed to detect my RFID signal from my bib. This year, I hope that my performance was captured as I did improve both gun-time (about 2:33) and actual time (2:32). I ran intuitively, occasionally checking my pace and heart rate. I completed my first 21K in about 1:50, and I was doing 4:45-4:50 for the first 10K. It may have been a tad faster than I should for I struggled on my second loop (of 12K).

I ran with a Hilly hand-held bidon that contained my High-5 gels (non-caffeinated). I overtook a few regular faces (which boosted my morale), but was disturbingly overtaken by strangers in my second loop. My body decided that it did not want to bear with the heat, so it took longer pauses, subsequently, at the aid-stations. I acknowledged a few runners along the run, however I missed twice as many as I was focused on completing the race. The cough I picked up did affect my breathing, so I was not able to hold a harder pace for long; I was mildly concerned that I would be affected by it. I was near my 5-minutes-per-kilometre pace today, but not spot-on. I am hopeful that I may dip under the archway of 3:30:00 at the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon on 4 December. A Better Boston Qualifier (BBQ) of sub-3:25:00 would be a brilliant bonus.

Upon completing my run, I caught up with a few friends and focused on hydrating my body (only solid food I ate was a banana). I then walked with Hui Koon to the car park to collect his car; he improved his time by nearly 20 minutes!. Back home, I drank Muscle Milk whey protein (for muscle repair) and pomegranate juice (to ease my muscle soreness). I also stretched my tight muscles (especially the calves and adductors); my plan seemed to work as I was walking with more mobility and less soreness in the afternoon.
Big thanks go out to Wilson Ang and his team manning the Mileage tent. The crew (included Coach Lim Kien Mau) provided drinks, spray mist, and snapshots for runners. I appreciate uber-runner Andrew Ngo for encouraging me on.

Photo-credit: MILEAGE Runner

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Watching Your Time

I watched the recent film release (today in the USA) ‘In Time’ this afternoon, and it is a sci-fi thriller that stars Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried. Olivia Wilde (Tron 2: Legacy) has a cameo as Justin’s screen mother.

In the future, time becomes the currency and commodity of trade. Time is money, and vice versa. Genetically-modified humans live until 25 years, upon which they are giving an expiry date of one more year unless they retro-add to this dwindling time-bank. The wealthy can live to immortality, and the poor exist as part of population control/social genocide who may have to work extremely hard, rob, or borrow from banks (at high premiums). This is the story of how one working class/poor person’s inheritance of one century alters his life, and that of others. Imagine a cup of coffee costs 4 minutes, and a bus ride costs 2 hours of your life!

This film is watchable, mostly for its concept of time as a currency of life; and also for its pacing. In one scene, a comparison is made: Judging by the way you were running, you are not from around here! The wealthy (in time) take their time to eat, move and pass their day. Poor people in poverty-stricken sectors (ghettos) have to hopefully seek handouts for ‘another day’. In terms of plot, it is a rehash of Bonnie & Clyde, with a Robin Hood plot, set in a futuristic context.

I conclude that, many sayings in our language do not make real sense, and only in the weak abstract sense. Making time, investing in the time, save time, living on borrowed time – these are popular references to time. We can call for a timeout, yet time keeps moving along, never to be recovered. We cannot make up for lost time, so we need to seriously review how we spend or waste it. Instead of managing time, why not lead with your time?

Leadership Lessons: Do you subscribe to the notion of ‘time is money’? If so, how do you apply that in your life? How much do you value your time? When engaging consultants and experts, how do you perceive the value of their time? How do you utilize your time? How do you respect another person’s time?

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Next Big Hit

I am not referring to a musical hit, but rather the next physical challenge I will be taking on Sunday. The Newton 30K/18K Run will be held at the Big Splash. It will be my last big hit at the punch-bag of preparatory races before the Big Dance on 4 December in Singapore.

Just two Saturdays ago, I raced in the TNF100 Duo, and am still recovering from it. I am experiencing symptoms of a cough, as my throat has been scratchy after four days of teaching workshops. I managed at last night’s post-rain 10.5K tempo run, to hold a 4:50-4:55 minute per kilometre pace. Hopefully, this was a positive sign of better things to come. My training for IM New Zealand has begun; I rode a moderate 75K in the rain and shine on Wednesday, so am done for the week until Sunday’s burst of mid-foot/forefoot speed. My mobile-phone took a soaking and it is now dead as a door-knob.

Wilson Ang will be one of the posted sentries at the mileage tent at car park C4. Together with a team of our friends, he has offered to release nutritional support aids we would leave him with on Sunday morning. He posted this reminder on Facebook for our team of runners from Monday Tri Swim:

‘We are located at C4 car park after McDonalds. We will pick up special needs bag from the start-point at 6.30-6.45am. Kindly label your special needs bag with your name, and I can be contacted on that day. Cold mist-spray, banana, cold water, deep heat (while stocks last) are provided at the aid station...come smile, take a photo and chill for a break before the second loop or your last final leg!’

With such assurances, how can we runners not do well? Thanks, Angster for your generosity. Fingers crossed for a splendid and safe race!
Photo-credit: Jacky Lee

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Joining Jungle Jim In His Swim Drill

Vijch posted on Facebook about his discovery of his dad’s collection of Tarzan films on reels. Last week, Sheila Taormina had us do Weissmuller/Tarzan drills in the water – swimming freestyle with our head above water. It was a tough drill to do well, as it required strong upper-body strength.
Johnny Weissmuller was the definitive Tarzan (akin to Sean Connery as James Bond) who invented his trademarked, ululating, Tarzan yodel. The undefeated, Olympic champion (five gold and one bronze medals) and multiple-world record holder (67) swung his way onto our screens and hearts as the educated jungle man. Unlike Vijch’s rare find, I bought my collection of Tarzan DVDs from Amazon.com. Watching Weissmuller swim was like suspecting the film was speeded up. How could one swim so fast with their head surfaced?
One of interesting film facts was that on ‘Tarzan Finds A mate’, his co-star Maureen O’Sullivan was nude for two full minutes under water. Her co-star had his manhood shrouded by a loincloth. An Olympic swimmer named Josephine McKim temporarily replaced Maureen O'Sullivan as Jane during the skinny-dipping scene. With Maureen back being Jane she gets out of the water and has to tell Cheetah multiple times to "Give it to me, Give it to me." This scene caused the anger of all the prudes of the depression era. It was mind-boggling to wonder how the censors reacted to this version compared to Bo Derek’s ‘Tarzan The Apeman’.

Weissmuller also assumed the role of Jungle Jim on television after his cinematic efforts. In the 1924 Olympics, his 100-metres freestyle time of 58.6 seconds became the new world record! It was thanks to my late-father, Roland that I was incepted into the world of celluloid and the swimming and athletic prowess of Weissmuller. My Dad was an excellent, self-taught, swimmer and painter (artist) - unfortunately, these two abilities did not find their fluid flow towards me. I am pretty much a terra firma and crayon sort of guy. Live and learn!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Slippery When Wet

That is the name of the music album (with hits such as Livin’ On A Prayer, You Give Love A Bad Name, Wanted Dead Or Alive) by Bon Jovi, and road conditions when it rains.
This morning, I decided to take a late-morning ride after sleeping in. As this was a public holiday – Diwali or the Indian ‘Festival of Lights’ – sleeping in was good news for my body. I recovered well after the Monday Tri Swim hour-long session; the pomegranate juice I have been drinking seems to have helped in easing any potential muscular soreness. Additional sleep and rest days have been factored into my training schedule for Ironman New Zealand 2012. I have also benefitted from training less, and getting fitter and stronger. I am considering raising funds again for Cystic Fibrosis New Zealand, like I did in 2010 (we collected about $2,000 due to generous and gracious well-wishers) as part of my 10th Ironman triathlon attempt; it was a race I completed a month after being hit by a taxi while riding home.
I saw at least a dozen riders on the road bordering the international airport; most of them were preparing for Ironman Western Australia on 4 December (same day as the Singapore Marathon). I saw friends like swim-coach Alex ‘Sea Monsta’ Tung and his crew of swim students, Kelvin, his uncle Tham, and James (who, like me, owns an Elite bicycle). I recognized a few immediately because they were wearing the same bike-attire as I was – Elite by Panache. You could say we had panache while we rode!

As it was my first long ride (75K) after Mega-Tri long-course triathlon (102K cycling leg) on 11 September, I focused on high-cadence, light-gear, spinning. I also tossed in a few short bursts of 30-60 seconds on each of the 15K loop. I feel that intervals will add another dimension to my riding abilities, and intend to build on the duration of my ‘pulls’ and improve my power within the next 16 weeks. I also tested out the Maxifuel Viperactive (with caffeine) and ViperBoost gels during my ride: nice, natural tastes; easy to down as it is less viscous (not sticky) as it is more solution-like (similar to SIS); and the packing is easy to fold and dispose of later. It has been raining non-stop since I was caught in the rain on today’s ride – once during my loops and then on my way home (heavy downpour). The slippery roads and impaired visibility led to more cautious riding; I had to remove my shades to see clearly. The dedicated Ironman neophytes were still cranking their pedals, with an hour or two more to go. Well, it is going to be a cool night to sleep, rest, and recover.

Leadership Lessons: How often do you institute changes into your schedule? How soon do you change when you detect routine in your work and life? When was a time, where you stuck to routine knowing that you could have explored new territories and opportunities? How do you navigate around things that may dampen your enthusiasm?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Suck It Up And Move On!

It took me almost a full week to work the soreness out of my legs; the high antioxidant pomegranate juice helped. I did not use compression tights to accelerate my recovery, or at least reduce the stiffness however watched my nutrition and rested for about five days. On the fifth and sixth days I did swimming; Friday was 2 hours of pool drills, and Saturday was a 75-minute, open-water session.

At Monday Tri Swim, we had a total of 22 swimmers. Our menu by coach Dion was: 200 Warm up > 100x3 Front & back kick/Free > 100x2 dolphin kick breaststroke/Free > 100x3 Paddles w/fins > 100x5(4) Sprint 75 jog 25 & 25 dolphin dives 75 freestyle > Treading. Plus, 25m butterfly stroke/75m freestyle. I felt fitter and able to hold my sets, although I was fatigued towards the end.

After a dismal finish at TNF100 last Saturday and a DQ (apparently, I missed the second timing-mat) was just a result, and I have moved on. If I was reinstated, my partner and I could have been on the podium. Such is life!

I have signed up for Sunday’s Newton 30K Run, and I think I may just race in it. My last foray took me about 2:35 for the distance. If all goes well, I may just equal it. This will be my last long run until the 4 December Singapore Marathon. I hope to do better than my 2009 PB of 3:36, if the weather is not too hot and humid. I also signed up for the Berlin Marathon 2012, since I missed out on Boston. I have not decided which Ironman would be my 13th and Switzerland would be an option, however it would be smack before the London Olympics 2012.

My approach would be to suck it up, and just do it. It is so easy to make excuses, and procrastinate from work. I had enough rest and a painful recovery and it is time for me to start engaging the Ironman triathlon training mindset. I have about 16 weeks to get into competitive shape and a sub-12 hour PB. I owe it to myself to achieve that. If push goes to shove, I will embrace the suck. If I want to earn a personal best, I will have to brave the tough days ahead. After 11 Ironman races later, it is business as usual. Tonight I will do a tempo 10K run and tomorrow I will do a short ride just to reinstate my riding legs; it will be science meets my senses strategy.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Immersion Process: Getting Into It

On Wednesday, I attended a lecture on swimming with our coach Sheila Taormina.

On Friday, we enjoyed a 2-hour ‘Call The Suit’ pool session. This included instruction, correction of strokes, swim drills and video capture. With Sheila’s encouraging approach and our open-mindedness, we allowed ourselves to feel the watery. I must admit that having fun was a new aspect of the swim training equation. We learnt to analyse and focus on one thing to improve at a time.

On Saturday morning, I supplemented my pool session immediately with an open-water session with six others at the beach opposite Big Splash@ East Coast. We learn to go around buoys, sighting (forward then head turn for breathing), drafting in a pack, taking turns to lead, and some drills (Weissmuller/Tarzan drills). David Greenfield of Elite Customs reminded us that muscle memory takes place in 23 days through repetition.

What I learnt from my session were:

1)    I can and will enjoy swimming in the future. Always begin with a proper streamlining posture.
2)    Specific drills must be done in order to correct ineffective and inefficient strokes.
3)    Focus on high elbow pulls.
4)    Feel the water at the pals, wrist and forearms.
5)    Form vortices (whirlpools) with sculling drills, as well as with a good high pull.
6)    Press palms against the water upon completion of the pull.
7)    Use swimming bands to practice on land; linear return at completion of stroke (not simulate the overhead return).
8)    Watch videos of the best swimmers and remind ourselves of the high elbow pull, and feel of the water.
9)    Eliminate gliding as it adds time to the stroke. Stroke X Rate = Speed.
10) Coaching well leads to heightened self-awareness and motivation to progress and improve.
Photo-credit: Edwin Low of Elite Customs (Sheila interviewed by MediaCorp Radio 938 Live in 'A Slice of Life')

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sell, Not Tell When You Are Speaking

Having taught over 20 years in at least 19 countries, I have heard many perceptions about my business, as well that of others. Some are spot-on, precise and accurate. Others are well off the mark into the stratosphere of ignorance and obliviousness. Again, perception is reality for humans. Rene Descartes said, ‘ I think, therefore I am.’

Often, I have heard friends, acquaintances and even clients remark that speaking is simple. Interestingly, the challenge would be to marry simplicity with ease (easiness). In practice, not all simple things are easy to do. Anyone can play the violin – badly. An aspiring musician asked a veteran musician, ‘How do I get to the Esplanade Music Hall?’ His answer: ‘Practice, practice and practice!’

I am not a full-time speaker, and I know many who belong to the national speakers’ association. I operate on a different wavelength, leveraging on my expertise in leadership, languages, and love for life. It is a fact some draw huge fees for their presentations (PowerPoint slides and a wireless microphone) on one major achievement. Yet, to be able to speak with the influence and impact so desired by the booking agents and clients require these aspects of credibility. This weekend, I spent a few days as a student with Sheila Taormina – 4-time Olympian, Olympics gold-medalist swimmer, swim coach, author and motivational speaker – and learnt that delightful personal values makes her an asset to the organizations and clients she serves.

1)    Speaking is about creating influence through a sharing experience. Influencing is how you lead others, and position yourself as a leader.
2)    You need to make sense and talk sense. Nonsense has no place on the stage. Apply uncommon sense to creating a session for your audience.
3)    You need to build a resume of expertise, education, and engagements. Completes some personal challenges. Build a list of your achievements, accomplishments and experiences (rest assured, nobody can take these away from you).
4)    Both introverts and extraverts make effective speakers. Talkative and unfocused speakers will often lose their audience. Silence on-stage is suicidal.
5)    Self-indulgence, self-aggrandisement and over-indulgence in one’s ego are not topics that many care for. Talk about things that matter to people.
6)    You need to develop exquisite presentational skills through constant practice and honest feedback from others.
7)    Tell stories that matter. Recognise as many people as you can. Draw upon people who inspire you (there must be hundreds).
8)    Have a few anchor speeches that you have delivered. Over-exposure of the exact talk can be dulling to your audience: vary your content, however stick to familiar things.

Leadership Lessons: Credibility is necessary or you would be perceived as lacking the credits, and substance. Over-indulgence of your resume’s design may lead others to question your incredulity. Moving from credible to incredible is about being inquisitive, involving your self with experts, and investing time in improving yourself. Build a manifesto of the cause you believe in, and develop eagle-eyed focus on it. Be a beacon of hope and inspiration if you are to be a motivational speaker, telling stories that others relate to.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Call The Suit: Evening Swim Clinic With Sheila Taormina

Last night, 10 swimmers of Monday Tri Swim group had their practical session with Sheila. She led us through specific drills and simple assessments that focused on the swim techniques of the best swimmers in the world. This is a summary of what we learnt and experienced from the passionately talented, 1996 Olympics gold-medalist in the 200m swim relay held in Atlanta. We learnt by discovering for ourselves how our strokes felt against the water. It felt elusive and subtle at times, yet deliberate and obvious in other moments.

We warmed up with gentle front-crawl strokes, with Sheila verbally emphasizing the high elbow pull and engaging our lats (not shoulders). It was revelation when we felt how the correct muscles worked to propel us through our watery medium. 
Having a streamlined body after your (low) push-off (from the wall) is important. Shoulder flexibility is a skill to strive for as it offers us greater stability and range of motion.
Bands are good for building arm strength and enhancing your high elbow pull, however we need not trace a circular path on the recovery phase. Keep your wrist straight, and remember to salute!
We did pull-buoy drills, with one arm – not easy as it isolates the leading arm.
The finish of the high-elbow, arm pull activates our triceps and completes the continuum of propulsion.
We enjoyed making and seeing vortices (whirlpools) during our sculling session. The emphasis is to ‘feel’ the water on our palms, wrist and forearms. We were enthralled when we were successful in making these vortices during our 'pull' phase.
The Polo Boys? Our group underwater shot before we ended the class on a swimmer's high.
Group shot with our Coach. Big thanks to Wilson Ang for helping us out!

Photo-credits: Wilson Ang, Richard Leong & Sheila Taormina

Friday, October 21, 2011

World Tour Swim Clinic With Sheila Taormina

Here is a photo-log of our lecture session with Sheila on Wednesday night. She arrived from Hong Kong for her 18-24 October leg in Singapore; she heads off for Cape Town and Johannesberg immediately after this. 10 members of the TriFam Monday Night Swim will be doing our swim session on Friday with her, and we are excited about testing out her ‘perfected techniques’ that translate to actual speed for us in the near future. In a nutshell, the glide increases stroke time that could be translated instead to a higher rate or shorter stroke. The emphasis is on feel of catching the water, activation of the lats muscles, creating the ‘vortex’, and ‘rolling over the barrel’. You can enquire with Elite Customs for small group sessions still.

Here are highlights of our fun and educational evening:
Everyone had his copy of ‘Call The Suit’ autographed by the Olympic gold-medalist
Finally, I met Sheila who I interviewed a month ago (one of our most read pieces ever).
Everyone got a chance to hold, wear and pose with Sheila’s gold medal that has seen much action (and boosted confidence for children and adults alike)
Master-bike fitter and founder of Elite Customs, David Greenfield wore it around his confident neck
Sheila demonstrating how the swimming bands works best for learning the pull phase of the front crawl
She put such passion into teaching that our hour-long lecture exceeded, much to our appreciation
Photo-credit: Richard Leong (who is also a participant of the workshop)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Why Batter Yourself When You Can Better Yourself?

I have been asked why I elected to do triathlons and marathons? Wouldn’t I harm my knees? Isn’t it time consuming?

Yes, triathlon training during on-season can take up a lot of time. With a specific training and racing plan, your body can withstand progressive physical challenges. With adequate rest, you can become stronger. In your off-season, you can taper off your training yet retain most of your fitness. You deserve to rest after a lengthy season of racing and personal best timings.

Actually, my knees are in reasonably healthy condition; my plantar fasciitis has almost cleared. I never had a history of weak knees or injury, and I have met many younger athletes hobble home after a training session. I am most concerned with those who have their knees wrapped up in braces and struggling in pain. Why would you train through an injury? Isn’t rest the best way to heal your battered body. Their technique suffers most definitely, and their pronounced poor posture purposely places undue stress on other parts of their joints such as ankles and lower back. Walking would have been preferred and safer; running in the pool is another option.

My thighs are still aching after last Saturday’s 50K however that’s part of the deal I signed up for. Do the deed, got to have sore feet! Instead of bludgeoning yourself prematurely, rest and recuperation matter most in salvaging the body from additional and prolonged stress. I learnt to stretch more deeply, continue to feed my body good nutrition, and maintain normal activity.

After hearing that at Olympics-level, swimmers train up to 65,000 metres per week, what we train for triathlon sounds relatively minor. That is a whopping 10-12K per day of stroking up and down the chlorinated pool. You have to do a heap of mind games to stay sobre and centred. It can be almost insane chasing the unwavering line in the 50K choppy waters of the pool. However, that is the price of pursuing athletic achievement and accomplishment. Train with the best, rise like the rest!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Evidence That You Are Still An Ironman…

Having rummaged through my drawer for a proper shirt to wear this morning, I was shocked by the plethora of finisher’s t-shirts I own. Some have been rarely used, while others have seen the light of fray. From cotton to dry-fit to spandex, each scientifically knitted piece of fabric was sewn together by months of blood and sweat (and sometimes, tears). Eleven Ironman-distance races later, I am still at it and so are many of my friends (who I have experienced these tough and challenging experiences with). John Cooke from Perth wrote about this with poignancy, that endurance-athletes can fully relate to.

As a way of celebrating these moments of indulgence and insanity, I have compiled some observations, circa 2011. Most endurance athletes:

1)    Still have a drawer-full of race/finisher t-shirts.
2)    Have yet another drawer filled with purchased race memorabilia (mostly M-Dot).
3)    Own a library divided between magazines and books (running, swimming, cycling, nutrition).
4)    Are analogous with being the Imelda Marcos of running (including Vibrams Five Fingers, huaraches and minimalist) and cycling shoes.
5)    Have evolved to barefoot running, or at least exploring the realm of minimalist shoes.
6)    Have skirted the edge of ultra-distances by doing your first marathon-plus race.
7)    May earn a diploma for their many visits to the TCM, sports massage therapist, physiotherapist and chiropractor.
8)    Have attended ancillary classes in pilates, yoga, core stability, and self-massage – and perhaps have a certificate to teach or coach it.
9)    Spend many hours watching online videos of competition, coaching and cycling crashes.
10) Own a watch that tells every detail of relevance (heart-rate, temperature, rate, distance, and location) except tell time clearly.

Leadership Lessons: Once you earned you badge of honour, what happens? Do you rest on your laurels? How do you sustain your interest? How do you distinguish between you riding on a fad and embracing a lifestyle of endurance sports? When was the last time you clear your junk from your trunk?
******
Tonight, our first batch of seven swimmers of Monday Night Swim attended Sheila Taormina’s swim clinic; another solutions-focused trio will attend tomorrow. We had a blast learning about the history and theoretical bases for faster pool and open-water swimmer. As this Olympic gold-medalist (200m relay) shared her basic formula for faster swimming, many of us had to challenge our paradigms about our swimming. Although she made sense and explained herself convincingly, we had to grapple with our mindsets and experience about our swimming abilities; muscle memory is a hard habit to break. As the shortest swimmer in the history of Olympic history can attest, we can revisit our swim strokes and enhance it based on historical evidence, physics, and her astute observations. We had an educational and fun evening and look forward to Friday’s evening session. Each of us left with an autographed copy of Sheila’s book ‘Call The Suit’ which we referred to during our near-2 hours of generous sharing by our coach. Copies of 'Call The Suit' are still available at Elite Custom Pte Ltd.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

If A Tree Falls In the Forest…

There is a saying: ‘If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one to see or hear it – did the tree fall?’
I found out today that I was penalized for my TNF100 Duo run. After running through the woods for about 52.5K, I had apparently missed the second timing-mat. I was among many others who did not get a placing, and so was waylaid for a ranking. Fortunately, as a result of the oversight (or poor directions) my partner was ranked third. I am pleased for him. It reminds me of the half-marathon fiasco in August, where misdirected runners ran extra and I was unknowingly declared winner in my age-group. I am not fussed about it as my partner got his first win for the year. Congrats, buddy!
It is all about evidence. Place a CCTV in the vicinity of the tree-fall and you may witness the demise of the tree. If the CCTV botches and fails to capture the images, will the crimpled heap of the former-tree matter? If electronic devices faulty, or fail to capture data from the source what will you do to the one measured? Caveat emptor: Buyer, beware! Run at your own peril. In fact, there were many signboards that cautioned the runners about potential deadfall. We were expected to run, alert to this possibility.
Looking at the bright side, I had a few shots of me making my way through the trails. I managed to connect with these photographers who lined up at the most unexpected places to be photographed. Thank you, kind photographers!

Sheila Taormina is in Singapore today. She begins her evening theory lectures, and begins her swim clinics tomorrow. I am looking forward to my theory session tomorrow with my swimming-mates, Hui Koon, Richard and Jimmy. 4-time Olympian and Olympic gold-medalist, Sheila has a long list of achievements including the ITU Aquathlon World champion in 2005.

Photo-Credit: Sasha Farina, Gy Chau, Joanne Loke, Joe Cheung

Leadership Lessons: What do you do when you get penalized for something? How do you respond to unexpected results? How much do you pay attention to the guideposts around you? How often do you capture evidence of connections made with people?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Leading with Discomfort: When Push Goes To Shove

There is innovation in desperation. They say that ‘invention is the mother of necessity’.

Today, I join many of the TNF100 runners that hobbled down steps, or anything with a sheer drop of more than 10 centimetres. Eccentric action, or movement with the muscles stretching under load, is painful for me. This pain is caused by several physical and physiological responses:

1)    Landing on the slopes (eccentric action)
2)    Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) – most severe 48-72 hours after cessation of the activity
3)    Buildup of inflammation (as a response to strenuous muscular activity)

So, the last 48 hours (the NorthFace100 event was on Saturday, 8.00am-3pm for me) was spent reducing the inflammatory response of my body (as a natural response to healing) to a minimum. I resorted to the following active and passive methods of recovery and recuperation:

a)    Consumption of carbohydrates and protein from a wide variety of natural food and supplements (whey protein from Tiger Milk – which Chrissy Wellington uses)
b)    Increased consumption of antioxidant-laden foods (vegetables, berries, pomegranate juice, ginger); 100% pomegranate juice has the highest antioxidant/phytochemical value compared to berries, cherries and red wine
c)    Walking (low intensity for at least 20 minutes), cycling and water-jogging
d)    Deep stretching poses (hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, soles)
I am still sore in my thighs, however the pain is bearable. I walk with knees partly extended so as to provide temporary relief when walking. I know that the pain will subside fully in another day or two, as it has in the past. Stiff muscles in masters-class athletes are expected, so there is more work involved to stay in the game for a longer time. Two books address this in interesting perspective: Roy M. Wallack’s Run For Life (which focuses on the aging athlete), and Dr Phil Maffetone’s The Big Book of Endurance Training & Racing. I recommend that you read them for more interesting training and recovery choices.
I am glad that my online conversations with members of the running community have yielded their shared solutions for managing their post-exercise pain? We share much in common, yet there is uncommon sense that prevails and that works! Our personal discoveries when shared can reveal a wider net of affirmation and confirmation.

Leadership Lessons: How do you work past your discomfort? What are doing to stay ahead in your game? How creative do you get when you face challenges and difficulty? How do you seek solutions to problems that have plagued you? How much do you read and ask, and apply to practice?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Snapshots of Runaway Moments

This Friday, our group of regular swimmers will enjoy an evening swim clinic with Olympic gold-medalist, Sheila Taormina. She will be hosted by David Greenfield of Elite Customs – customized bike manufacturer and master-bike fitter. We interviewed Sheila last month, and her interviewed earned one of our largest readerships of all time. The former-triathlon world champion will be on a world tour for her swim clinics.

My legs and feet were stiff and sore when I awoke this morning, since it was less than 24 hours after ceasing all intense activities. Despite one mild bloody blister on a right toe, I had zero abrasions. The Elite Customs (Panache) bicycle-top I wore under my water-pouch protected me from any welts or chaffing. I have been feeding my body with high calories from a wide variety of food groups, drinking antioxidant-loaded berry drinks, and ginger (for its anti-inflammation properties). I did some walking (skipped the three bus-stops altogether as the wait was longer), and deep stretches and succumbed to a well-deserve nap. According to an episode of ‘The Doctors’, it appears that pure tart cherry (for making pies) juice does wonders in reducing muscle soreness. I bought a bottle of POM Pomegranate Juice as it has the highest antioxidant value from Giant supermarket and consumed a glassful. I also supplemented my nutritional needs today with ginger and raw salmon.

My thanks go to Freddy Yeoh for his aid-station where I got a photograph, two cans of Coke, and iced-water. I endeavour to return the favour to this enduring endurance athlete and his thoughtful friends in the future. Ironman Austria finisher, Roger Chow also staked his shop at Water-Point 4 where he offered me iced-cold Milo and some savoury food – thanks, buddy!

Here are some photographs taken by our caring and alert photojournalists during the TNF100 run yesterday. These shutterbugs braved the often-sheering heat and heady humidity to capture a moment in each runner’s personal challenge. They do it out of their passion for immortalising memories, and recognition for the participants. I think it is synergy and synchronicity at work.

Do you give credit where credit is due? The least we can do when we use intellectual copyright materials is to make a request for use, or provide a mention. There are many generous people in our social network who render their help on their own accord. Yesterday, I witnessed runners stopping to assisting badly cramping runners at the side of the running route. These displays of consideration were priceless within a physically tough day.

They say that photographs are a mirror of one’s sides. Here are some perspectives of our especially long day, yesterday. Thank you all the lens-people for making what we do feel important.
Photo-credit: Joe Cheung (Me giving the Double-One as I earn my second wind)
Photo-credit: Chris Voo (Me traipsing through the abundant greenery)
Photo-credit: Andy Ng (With my faster run buddy, Hui Koon, #127)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

So I Missed Boston by A Minute, What Else Can I Qualify For?

New NYC Marathon guidelines have emerged for guaranteed entries. This may make it easier or harder for applicants. In the past, internationals had a perceived better chance to earn a slot; those previously denied three times were guaranteed to be fourth-time lucky. The BQ for Boston Marathon has been reduced by five minutes across the board for the 2013 edition.

Ironman (M-Dot) races will raise the favour for those who have completed 12 M-Dot Ironman races in the annual lottery. The emphasis is on the M-Dot logo/WTC-sanctioned Ironman triathlons. Sorry, your Challenge Series and Enduroman Ironman-distance triathlons do not count. Many have speculated that WTC is attempting to preserve the sanctity and stability of the M-Dot brand. With many M-Dot races sold out days to hours in advance, we can conclude that Ironman is alive and well, and the Kona Dream is still the Holy Grail dream many neophytes and seasoned long-distance triathletes seek.

Will the madness end?
This morning, I partnered Hui Koon for The North Face (TNF) 100 Duo: each of us ran 50K over rugged terrain and road. I struggled after my 10K as the mid-morning heat began to take its toll on my physical fitness. I learnt from ultra-marathoners to walk up the slopes, and to run down the reverse side. The stifling heat, muddy portions of trail, and loose rocks made for a challenging race. My race attire was my Panache cycling top (no abrasion even though I wore my portable water-pack), triathlon tights, Avia Avi-Stolz trail shoes, and two pairs of socks (including Injinji as my innermost pair).


I took a wrong turn-off at the 37.5K-mark as the signpost indicated more of a leftward slant; I was among four others who realised that we veered off-course. We warned a few others running our way after we retraced our steps. I ran an additional mile (1.6K) with downtime spent reading a map and finding our bearings. I also assisted two cases of cramped runners by offering them squirts of ‘Stop Cramp’ (they sprayed the natural oils under their tongue), which seemed to work. I reckon I will not be doing another trail run any time in the future, as I prefer to do road marathons. Hui Koon did well and registered a 6:14 while I crossed the line in 6:51.

I have the Newton 30K Run in a fortnight’s time, and judging by my recovery time and current situation, I may skip this race altogether. I elect to do a better marathon in Singapore on 4 December (same day as Ironman Western Australia), and assess my chances of a personal best and even a BQ. So, rest, recuperation and lots of interval training sessions will be the menu for me, after my superbly long run today.
Photo-credit: Freddy Yeoh

Friday, October 14, 2011

Updates on Running Strategies: The North Face 100 Duo

I have been studying hard the running traits of our top professional triathletes, as well as local runners. My criteria for emulating proper form are economy of moves, fluidity of action, and being injury-fee.


These are my recent lessons on running, and modifications I have made to enhance my running ability on road:


1)    Run in minimalist shoes: the flatter the better. Worn-out shoes are fine as long as your shoe-soles are intact and not peeling apart.
2)    Land on your mid-sole, not so much on forefoot (it strains the toes, and may cause fractures).
3)    Keep your feet close to the ground at all times.
4)    Expand your chest by keeping your arms to your sides; expand your diaphragm. Stand tall.
5)    Vary your runs with tempo that range from easy to moderate to race-pace.
6)    Include one long run a week (at least 21K).
7)    Race at least once every fortnight, or do a time-trial of 5K, 10K or 21K.
8)    Include water-run (in 1-metre high water), barefoot with high-cadence or intervals – push with arms as if sprinting to get more upper-body resistance.
9)    Run intuitively – without a stopwatch – to assess your race-pace and optimal pace.
10) Run without 10K without hydration (done before hand), and hydrate regularly at aid-stations with distances above 10K.

It is back to the drawing board for me for my next Boston Qualifier (BQ) of 3:24:00: nothing extreme, merely some refinements. I believe I am on-track for a BQ in Singapore, where it is, probably, the least expected. I have learnt to respect the heat and humidity of the country, and I train by the beachside where most triathlons and long-distance races occur. My key races for the next few months will include:


TNF 100 Duo (50K); Newton 30K Run; Singapore Marathon; Singapore Biathlon; Duathlon; Ironman New Zealand 2012.


With the TNF 100 Duo this Saturday, I intend to pace myself steadily with no pressure on myself, since I am unfamiliar with the course. Also, I am not fully trained for trail or cross-country terrain. I intend to walk up steep and slippery slopes, and jog done carefully. My tactical approach is to recover lost ground on the flats and roads. I will determine if I can get close to an even split time with a moderated first 25K. If I can get sub-6 hour timing, it will be a major achievement for me. I have run almost every evening this week, so my legs are primed for some hardcore off-road action.