Saturday, March 31, 2012

It’s How You Interpret It

Sam Kelly received a unanimous decision from the four-person panel of judges at the first round of auditions. His rendition was stirring, poignant and genuine.

How we interpret information and content determines our meaning about it. The challenge about communication includes clarity, preciseness of language, tonality of intention, as well as emotional drive, yet we are slave to how we are interpreted. Being misinterpreted can lead to misunderstanding, conflict, doubt, and indifference. What goes on in the minds of others is hard to fathom and determine.

Authors write books to express their ideas and experiences in a different medium. Biographies and autobiographies give celebrities an opportunity to clear the air, banish doubts, and demystify the person. By bypassing the PR agency and spin-doctors, the legend becomes more human and approachable. It can even enhance their allure and attractiveness.

How do others interpret you? How often do others misunderstand you? How often do you others defend you? How expressive are you?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Inspired By Talent

I was watching the auditions on the latest issue of Britain’s Got Talent, and watched Jonathan Antoine & Charlotte Jaconelli. They submitted themselves as a duo, and emerged victorious on their first round. Like a cliché, the audience judged Jonathan like the proverbial book and its cover. Yet, like tenors Susan Boyle and Paul Potts before him, his operatic talent exploded with such vocal ferocity, that the audiences had to do a ‘double-take’ on their prejudices and pre-judgements.
Talent needs to be nurtured, honed and developed through time, or else it remains raw. Raw talent suggests possibilities, however it can attain its true potential with time and dedicated work. That distinguishes the good from the greats. Jim Collins wrote two books ‘From Good to Great’ and ‘From Good to Gone’, that exemplify companies that have endured or become extinct. Excellence and performance play major parts in the orchestration of talent into greatness.

I am looking forward to tracking their progress a team. They have demonstrated their sense of camaraderie, while demonstrating collaboration, loyalty, respect, diligence and reliability.  I sense valuable lessons coming our way from the teenagers with their strong voices, and even stronger characters. Talking about talent, Perth-based, multiple-Ironman finisher, John Cooke wrote a good review about Chrissy Wellington's biography.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Making Sense Out of Lack of Space






I envy those of us who live in countries where space for sports and outdoors activities is abundant. I really do. What could be more enriching and invigorating than picturesque scenery and clean air to live and train in? In space-scarce Singapore where I live, space becomes a limiting factor to training further and faster. The island-country is almost pancake-flat, yet besotted by heavy traffic and ubiquitous road demarcations. Indoor-training is a possibility but it can be boring, and mind-numbing. Unless you are my friend, Deca-Ironman finisher Dr Kua Harn Wei who can face a wall for a few hours riding on his trainer. A swimming-pool is a safe option, most of the time until it gets packed with students and crawl-pace, breast-strokers. Running is pretty much 'parkour' styled, as you traversed from road to field to the concrete jungle. What do you think?

Re-Tweeted, Re-Thought & Retort?

I posted this tweet a few days ago, and my friend Alvin re-tweeted it. What do you think of it? Let me know what you think. I am certain that introverts will have their reserved 'say' about it? Extraverts may be eager to openly express their opinions. In your profession and business, who gets ahead further and faster - introverts or extraverts? How do we enhance clarity in our communication? We will be keen to hear your tweets, I mean, thoughts.




Monday, March 26, 2012

Three Ironmans In 15 Days: A Shared Purpose

My friend, Dex Tai will be racing in three consecutive Ironman triathlons in 15 days as part of his Race For Autism mission. Dex and I last raced the 226K multi-disciplinary race in 2010 in Austria, and will reunite on 15 July in Zurich, Switzerland for my 13th IM race, and his ‘three-peat’.
Doing an Ironman triathlon is a personal challenge. As much as people believe that we are backed by corporate sponsors, most of the time we travel completely on our own expenses. If you are fortunate to be recognized by sponsors, you may race with some attire or nutritional support. Otherwise, it is a private enterprise driven by willpower, choice, determination and strength of purpose.

In Dex’s case, he is driven by a shared purpose with his wife who has a deep affection for working with autistic children. He has expanded his support for the mutual cause by expanding on his capability to attempt a physical challenge of mind-shifting proportions. Having raced with Dex in IM Austria in 2010, I know that he has the ability to race two Ironmans within one week. He scored a 3:45 marathon on his second consecutive attempt. Our interviewees Wayne Kurtz and Kua Harn Wei have shown that 20 or 10 back-to-back, daily, Ironman distances are possible. It takes a clear plan, intense focus, and dedicated preparation to achieve the impossible. The impossible just takes longer!

Upon notification of Dex’s personal quest to raise S$10,000 for his charity of choice, I applied viral marketing to my community; I sneezed it on two occasions within a week. As an educator, I recognise the massive challenges involved with working with autistic people; they have brilliant brains that just work differently from us.  I hope that he hits his target soon, which is not impossible knowing that Dex depth of character.

Help me, to help Dex, to help his cause. Meanwhile, be more aware, educate others, and spread the word of our human condition. Will you help a stranger? Will you interact with somebody and communicate with them?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Let It Lose, Let It Ride

This week, I gave myself permission and leeway to rest. Rest from triathlon training. Rest from work. Rest from socializing heavily. I decided to take a spontaneous, short vacation to Bangkok when I found out I had a cancelled class. Being optimistic even from lost income, I reframed my thinking and energies towards taking a proper break from two weeks of racing consecutive half-Ironman, over two continents, across two vastly opposing weather systems. I sleep fully and only afforded one hour of gym-work, and attaining full nourishment from my favourite Thai foods.

In tandem with the post-race evaluation, here is a well-written piece by Kevin Siah of Perth. He was both measuring and being measured for this fast race – all in the name of science and friendship.
Committee members of IBM 115, Singapore
Upon my return, I enjoyed dinner with Auckland’s professional magician and magic-inventor, Wayne ‘Chicane’ Rogers (and his wife, Elizabeth). He performed from his repertoire of stage illusions to the delight of my magic club committee (Ring 115 of the International Brotherhood of Magicians) as well as grateful restaurant staff.
A 'live' performance for patrons and restaurant staff.
This morning, having slept in another two hours I rode for two hours. I managed on mega-loop, with mini-loops complete with rolling terrain, and capped with the infamous ‘beast’, Hendon Hill. Surprisingly, my legs held together where it would normally be thrashed. Perhaps, it was residual fitness from 12 weeks of Ironman preparation, and a fortnight of racing two half-Ironman distances. Whatever it is attributed to, Ironman Switzerland 2012 beckons, and my 14-week cycle begins. I predict lots of strength and endurance work on the bike leg, so I will be muscling up my efforts with core-stability and weight-bearing exercises.
The Team from Singapore who completed.
Congratulations to my Coach, FOX for completing yet another Ironman triathlon – this time in the inaugural IM Melbourne. Crowie won in under-8 hours, with a close finish by Cameron Brown. Congratulations to our friends of Triathlon FamilyLap Huan, Conrad, and the Team – for completing the race in splendid times. Enjoy your post-race party and recovery. The fun begins...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Critical Post-Race Self-Evaluation

Photo-credit: Fireviewer
A race is a test, of sorts. It is an event that allows us to measure our performance both physically and mentally. Most coaches, including mine, strongly advise that we review what we have discovered and learnt after our race. Upon reflection, we can discover useful things that can assist us in our future training and racing plans. These insights and hindsight can certainly benefit us, when we apply them with purpose. Here are questions you can ask yourself:

1)    What went well during the race? Why?
2)    What could have been better during my race? Why not?
3)    How did my nutrition plan go? Did I experience abdominal discomforts? What would I do differently the next time? What would I not change?
4)    How sharp were my transitions? Which ways did I delay myself? How could I slice seconds off the next time?
5)    Which mechanical issues did I face? Where and why? How able was I to solve these problems?
6)    What was my mindset during the race? Which was my lowest point, and how did I deal with it?
7)    What was my sense of awareness during the race? How alert was I? Was I ‘in the zone’ or ‘zoned out’?
8)    How did I show my appreciation and recognition to the volunteers and spectators? Did I recall thanking them?
9)    Which is my area of focus for most improvement? How would I approach it?
10) How would I tweak my preparation for my next A-race? What can I learn from others?

By reviewing your performance, you can earn valuable lessons from your challenging event. Triathlons and endurance races are no walk in the park – until you experience the ‘bonk’ or fatigue. Our investment in the sport is high in terms of physical effort, emotional stress, and social impact. Make each attempt at a race count. Be accountable for your actions, so make the post-race review a strategic part of your long-term strategy to sustain yourself happily (and for as long) through your active lifestyle.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Which Life Skills Will You Need To Stay Employable?

Is education important in life? Yes, however it is not critical. Relevant and useful skills are. Education does not, necessarily, translate into learning, and transfer of knowledge.

There is so much information out there, but how much of it is knowledge. Knowledge is power, so it has been said. How much knowledge do you possess? Of this, how much will be relevant to your value in the future?

Is experience important? Yes, only if it is related to your profession. Is working in a company about experience? Perhaps. Too many aging workers take length of service as experience, and they can be sadly mistaken. Unless they develop their skillfulness, resourcefulness, confidence and clarity of thought, they are merely practising loyalty to a job, or their company (or is this dead?).

We are not getting younger, and the young will push us to the back of the queue. Unless of course, you possess and apply skills that reflect your competencies, experiences, values and resourcefulness. Tweak your character. Respect others. Recognize them. Reassure others when appropriate. Build relationships instead of destroying them.

Which life skills do you possess? Which life skills will guarantee your existence? These will include: Interpersonal skills, written communication, influencing skills, presentation skills, conflict management, creative problem solving, decision-making skills, motivation, managing meetings, and leadership skills.

An openness to learning, staying broadminded, being involved and participative with others – these are useful attitudes to one’s profession and colleagues. What you know, who you know, and who knows you: these are properties worth developing in your human assets and capital. Be a lifelong learner. Actively apply what you have learnt. Be relevant. Be valuable. Be worthwhile. Make it worth your while to stay employed.

Arm yourself with skills, and capability. Forewarned is forearmed.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Nobody Reads Anymore

Do you still read?

In this day and age, we may have unlearnt how to suspend our need for instant gratification. We want it and we want it now. There’s no stopping the rebellious child in us. We disguise this impatience with the excuse called digital technology. We claim to be busy. What with? Our job? Our family? Our commitments? Reasons or excuses?

In the 1960’s, the conservationists’ slogan was ‘Save a tree, eat a beaver’. Then it devolved into the sorry statement ‘Why are you killing trees?’ as we flout the recycling rules. So much for paper-less, when many still fear the online ways to conduct business and commerce! Hypocrisy abounds, and in abundance. Perhaps, we have read less and become skillful in making sweeping statements about the global issues and the human condition.

As newsprint surrendered to the online versions, how many of us are truly more informed with the plethora of information? Do you wiki it up? Do you share your reads publicly? Do you discuss matters on the public forums, and behind closed doors? How much do you express yourself as a critical thinker?

Some people get depressed when reading dreaded headlines. Somehow, there is more bad news than good news. News is still news. Man bites dog. Dogs bite man. Even on a slow news day, there is always something to report within the community. If you believe in most of what you read, it may account for your sense of pessimism and hopelessness. Perhaps, it is time to direct our attention from reading newspapers to other sources of news and commentaries.

Reading can be a rewarding pastime, and discipline. It takes time to read. It requires strength and appreciation of language to comprehend good writing. Good writing is manifested through fiction, non-fiction, letters and commentaries. Reading is akin to an exploration of the landscape of our minds, and those of others. The writers before us propose their ideas, observations and perspectives in a myriad of ways. Writing is hard work. Not physically, yet the toll on the mind can fatigue your limbs and heart. Topics that writers tread on may not be for the faint of heart. Readers share the journey with their guides who prod minds into a beehive of activity. 

Reading works on an individual’s pace. Fast or slow, deliberate or casual – this intellectual activity requires brain-power. Vocabulary, grammar, opinions, perspectives – so many cognitive processes are in play – when we read. It can be very demanding work on our eyes and brain.

Will you still read?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

War Stories & The Trinkets Bowl

In the 1990’s, I was privileged to be part of local professional drama company, TheatreWorksWriters’ Laboratory. I started with a lead role on Michael Chiang’s ‘Army Daze’ – a definitive and coming-of-age play of Singaporean youths and national service – feeling like a new recruit in boot-camp in the history-making, 25, continuous runs of the show.

This group of playwrights met regularly to write, discuss and test out new material. I was honoured to have my first play recognized and earn an honorarium by the Ministry of Information and the Arts (MITA). I was fortunate to direct, act and produce my two playlets (dissected from the longer version), Conversations In The Dark Part 1 & 2. It was a tough by rewarding experience to work with an awesome cast comprising actors I worked with, on Army Daze.

I learnt from established playwright, Desmond Sim of his creativity trigger. He puts stuff he finds of interest, into an empty fishbowl. When he needs to make a nexus with his characters, he fishes into this bowl and makes a connection with the object. I really liked Desmond’s suggestion, which endures with me as a stimulus for my creativity.

On 30 March, my team of TriFam triathletes and endurance athletes will be meeting for a beer-and-share session. Each person will bring a medal and share their story behind it. Each medal tells a story of achievement, accomplishment and attainment. It should be fun to hear of war stories, wounds and wonderings, and I wait with anticipation. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

This Long-Course Triathlon Is Mighty Tempting!

Faris Al-Sultan was runner-up this year, and he leads Team Abu Dhabi. Remus Henning won this race, about half a minute ahead of the 2005 Hawaii Ironman World Champion. The prize purse is one of the largest in triathlon, and is an attractive feature for professionals. The wetsuit sea-swim, and 200K ride (that traverses the Grand Prix circuit) is the other allure. Held in March this year (around the time of IMNZ), this could be the next Big Thing in long-course triathlons. Architect, David Chambers raced there in the hot (and sometimes, dusty sandstorm conditions) and provided us with lots of first-hand news. Watch the race video and enjoy the highlights. 
Tempting, isn't it?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Aviva Ironman 70.3 Singapore 2012

Two weeks after I completed the half-Ironman in New Zealand, I scored a last-minute entry to the sixth edition of the Aviva Ironman 70.3 Singapore. From one extreme to another – very cold and dry, to very hot and humid – I braced myself for the race and the myriad experiences and sensations that met me. As always, we appreciate the photographers (officials, as well as friends and acquaintances) who stood at the wings, capturing the ‘moment.’

Spectator support was plenty, as they lined up the three courses. As competitors, we must thank those ’lone wolf’ spectators who urged us on. Their ‘one voice’ magnified in timbre to encourage us on during our nadir; an encouraging word echoes deeply and resonates in our moment of need.
Photo-credit: David Ong
There was the usual knock-about with eager and anxious swimmers; it was a mash-pit of thrashing amphibians in two-loop swim course. I took a few jabs to my face and torso, but had to suspend my anger aside - the race goes on. There were a couple of bloody spills, where riders failed to take the sharp turns accurately and decelerate. One rider collided into the light barriers just after I manoeuvred past; that was soon after the recently crashed barriers were rearranged!

The Handcycling Association of Singapore (HAS) made a huge impact on spectators and competitors. They raced strong and proud, and made the event more special and exiting. In recent years, physically-challenged athletes have proved their worth to race with any able-bodied athlete. With only pure, upper body strength and endurance they race with more courage and larger hearts. Featured here are national champions, a world-record holder, and a Kona finisher. They are truly the real Ironman!
Photo-credit: Aviva Ironman 70.3 Singapore
My friend, ultra-marathoner/national runner Adam ‘One-Armed Runner’ completed his first half-Ironman and, unofficially, he could be the first upper-limb amputee to complete the race.
Photo-credit: Jodan D. Cheng
My TriFam friends, who did splendidly: Congratulations, Sin Guan, Robert Chan, Teo Hui Koon, Dennis Quek, Winston Koh and Donald Piret!
Photo-credit: Richard Leong
That's me on my ‘what’s that bike’ I proclaim as the ‘Flying Singa’ at the grateful end of my third loop. My brand-new, unpainted, bespoke, Elite Custom Razor-Tri bike provided a very comfortable ride throughout the slightly tweaked, 3-loop, 90K. Quite a few dry splashes occurred at the sharp turns.
Photo-credit: Ng Shi Wei
It morphed into a hot day that placed a wet (humid) blanket on the runners doing their three loops of the 7K-course. It was great to see the finish-line as I bolted past a strong lady athlete; we congratulated each other immediately afterwards. The race-tent was filled with spent but appreciative athletes who wolfed down the post-race banquet. A sudden torrential downpour deliberately ensued after the 6.5-hour mark, and we empathised with those still out on the course. There were truly Ironman triathletes!
Photo-credit: Jodan D. Cheng

Macho Observations By Endurance Athletes

Disclaimer: Not to be taken too seriously, especially if you were surreptitiously mentioned. Take this piece as a parody or satire, without the Mad Magazine foldout picture surprise on the inside back cover page or compromising, posed, photographs in over-21 year only glad-rags.

Here were some ‘No-No’s’ that my conversations with triathletes yielded yesterday. These were more amusing than of major concern. What do you think?

1)    Long compression socks that remind us of the Harajuku schoolgirls on Glico Pocky TVCs of bygone days. Swimming with compressions socks? Soggy fabric, however space-aged it is, may not be fully effective. Trust my bespoke tailor's knowledge of cloth and cutting.
2)    Fully-decked out in compression-wear/suits that suggests to us that we have superheroes walking/running among us. We are not referring to our much-respected ultra-marathoners.
3)    Two-piece, mid-riff-bare, tri-suits. So wrong if you need a shave down South (to your Downtown Line).
4)    Crippled runners who have knee-braces/straps holding their knees together. If you’re injured, please rest. Do RICES. See a sports-medicine doctor. You are running on a house of cards!
5)    Pink, powder-pink or shocking pink – not a colour of choice for multi-disciplined endurance, male athletes. Ladies - you look great in almost any combination of colours.
6)    Aero-helmets worn the wrong way: Angry Birds in disguise?
7)    I am waiting for bike-mechanics to change my flat tyre! Self-reliance is the way to go.
8)    Luminous, green, Speedo swimming trunks: Rarely seen these days, but I predict it may make a strong comeback to pit against the speed-suits. This may be the next trendsetter complete with gaping holes and groin-rash and abrasions. Ouch!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

10 Tips For The Day Before The Half-Ironman Race

What do you do before the race? Your state of mind matters, both before and during, a race. As life can attest, emotions can upset our thinking faculties. Conserving energy and banishing energy-sapping activities can help prime you on race morning. Here are some quick tips to engage your ‘Centre’. Nothing new yet reinforcement matters if you tend not to heed your own plan. Fail to plan, and plan to fail.

1)    Prepare your race-day kit early (two days, at least). One-piec eor two-piece race-gear, Race-bib/belt, heart-rate monitor/strap, shoes (bike/cleats, running), nutritional support (mainly carbohydrates and electrolytes), and towel (to wipe away crusty sand from your naked feet).
2)    NO NEW CLOTHES, SHOES or FOOD.
3)    Check-in and rack your bike earlier in the day. Remove things that may go missing or spoil overnight (speedometer, CO2 cylinders, nutritional powders, etc.).
4)    Have your bike serviced a week before, and test-drive it to assess any inconsistencies.
5)    Never shave (your face or legs) the day before a race. Sweat and seawater may sting your skin and cause discomfort.
6)    Test your goggles for leaks. Bring another a spare, just in case.
7)    Lay out your pre-race meal and race nutrition. Eat only what you are used to, and bring more than enough. Nothing new on race day.
8)    Keep a tube of skin-saving lubricant, and apply before the race on the parts of your skin that tend to crease or get rubbed.
9)    Bring three bottles of water (one for rinsing) and remember to load it into your missile-proof cage.
10) Do some mild activity, but nothing lengthy or strenuous. Run in hip-level water and visualize your race. Swim for 10 minutes in a pool or the sea. Spin on a stationary-bike. Keep your muscles activated and not lazy.
Attending the pre-race brief helps allay concerns about routes, number of laps, rules and inspection process. Photo-credit: David Ong

Friday, March 16, 2012

Residual Fitness

It has been almost two weeks after the cancellation of Ironman New Zealand, and the half-Ironman replacement. Iconic race-announcer and emcee, Mike Riley called us in but did not call us ‘Ironman’. It was only appropriate, as the race did not meet our distance expectations.

As such, I decided to ride on the fitness I earned and developed over the last 16 weeks. I managed to squeeze in a last-minute entry at the Aviva Ironman Singapore 70.3, and collected my race-pack this afternoon after a midday ride. I am grateful for the heat and humidity I had trained in, that Sunday’s 113K-triathlon may reveal interesting results.

Will my post-race peak fitness carry itself through to my half-Ironman? Matthew Wong did very well despite the fact that he had to taper earlier and do minimal training two weeks before the race in Taupo. Between now and 15 July (IM Switzerland), I am contemplating several small races including a slot in the Ironman Cairns (formerly known as the Challenge Series). I know that 17 triathletes from Singapore will be racing, and I have to decide soon or forfeit a confirmed place in 2013’s edition of IMNZ, or a select number of races in Europe and USA from now till end-June.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Your 30-Day Endurance Challenge

I dare you. Take part in this 30-day, continuous, challenge that will prove your worth.

You have 30 days to perform a continuous task. This will involve dribbles of discipline. It will mean enthusiastically engaging your Core – values, character and self-belief – to get down to serious business about your Potential. You could consider the following suggestions for your personal challenge:

1)    Exercise (do something physical) every day for about 20 minutes.
2)    Blog, on whatever you like to share or discuss, daily.
3)    Post 3-5 quotations of well-known people on Facebook.
4)    Write a page, of your 30-page novel/screenplay/play, everyday.
5)    Talk to, send a text message or e-mail, to three latent friends, each day. Actively keep in touch over Social Media, or in-person.
6)    Do something that is not your preference (i.e. a prejudice/dislike). It could be completing household chores, putting out the thrash, bathing your pet, or checking conditions of objects.
7)    If you are injured or recuperating from injury, diligently do your rehabilitative exercises for the next 30 days (and beyond) to become stronger and stable.
8)    [Insert your own challenge/Dare].
I am participating, too, with new challenges. Come May, this daily blog (on leadership) will be three years old! Thanks to author/marketing expert Seth Godin for initiating this challenge for me. This month, I will be focusing on my ride and swim (on alternate days) as these are my major areas for improvement. On the professional side, I will be researching and learning how to enhance my businesses, both online and face-to-face. Exciting days ahead!

I dare you. You can dare me back. All the best! And, enjoy the process in the next 30 days.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Damage Control

About 200 metres from the finishing-line of Ironman New Zealand a fortnight ago, I cramped badly. It reminded me of the courageous scene of Craig ‘Crowie’ Alexander experiencing a similar attack on his hamstrings a mile before he won in Kona last year. I had a few jabs from my quadriceps on the cold and windy ride and thought little of it. In retrospect I could have amped up   my electrolyte (salt) intake. When I took to the hilly run course, those ‘niggles’ started to manifest themselves as a more serious condition.

When these spasmodic episodes emerged, I slowed down my pace aiming for the next aid-station to nurse my battle wounds. However, I was only disguising the symptoms of a more serious nature. My last 200 metres took a crawling two minutes, as I attempted to stretch my tight, fighting muscles into submission. Two minute later, in less than steady form, I shuffled in (almost on my heels) to my worst finish of a half-Ironman. I was, however, pleased for my effort especially during this tough run. What doesn’t kill me makes me learn. Limp and learn.

Leadership Lessons: How often do you fight fires? How many of these can be eliminated or reduced? How do you cope with exigencies and emergencies? How do you manage the beginnings of a ‘bad day’? How responsive are you to impending changes, and what do you about them?

Photo-credit: Matthew Wong

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Locking In the New Goals of The Season

Racing season has begun!

Looking at the local calendar, there is almost a race every weekend that makes for a confusion of choices for some. I know of friends who have raced, continuously, for weeks without much chance for their bodies to fully recover. Recovery is a crucial part of continued high performance, and if you wish to attain your sporting goals you will need to pick your races cleverly and clearly. Bludgeoning your body with mind-over-matter strategies may inch you towards your goals, yet they may wear you down into a sorry state, eventually.

Take a few minutes to list down races that interest you in the next nine months. Identify existing races that you enjoy, and factor in new ones that interest or intrigue you. You could consider off-the-beaten-track races that challenge other aspects of your fitness. If you are a pure runner, you may consider a biathlon, or an off-road race. If you are a swimmer, aim for a long-distance, open-water challenge (Kapas-Marang Swim, Malaysia).

If your budget allows, select an international race or a popular race within the region. If you are a marathoner, you could apply and qualify for the Big Five Marathon (Berlin, London, New York, Boston). If you are a triathlete, you could aim for an Ironman triathlon in Australia or New Zealand (IMWA, IMNZ). There are a significant number of inexpensive entry-level and demanding triathlons in Malaysia hosted regularly in Malaysia.

Once you have selected your races, prioritise them into A-races (key races) and new races. Lock these in onto your training journal or blog, and begin to visualize how you would train for each one. Focus on the results that you would like to attain: completion, personal best (PB) time, or pre-race trial. Work with the experts (if you need guidance), and stick to a plan of action. Each race is different, and a coach may help you to integrate your goals around your lifestyle. That way, you can train and race with a purpose, and stay motivated and passionate without risking fatigue and boredom. Race to place!

Monday, March 12, 2012

It All Adds Up, and We Are Not Just Talking About Google Plus!

Here is Guy Kawasaki’s latest book, which is his first e-book that was inspired from his use of Google+. The book is called What the Plus! Google+ for the Rest of Us, and it explains how to master Google+.  Written only as an e-book, it will only cost $2.99, and will be available on Kindle and iBooks.

Guy wrote me to say, ‘I didn't plan to write this one – except that I fell in love with Google+, so I decided to write a book about it.’

As Guy extended the reach of marketing communication with his new book with existing social media devices, and so can you. Using the four principles of marketing, you can expand and extend your Presence. Every person that connects with you on Facebook or Twitter can enhance the reach of your cause. Like all things useful, it requires that you invest in some energy before you see movement and momentum. The journey of an ultra-marathon begins with the first step; it then adds up as you decide to keep going.

Leadership Lessons: How do you measure up to expectations? How patient are you in building up your wealth and worth? What is your accounting system for measuring value?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Quote from Tecumseh, Chief of the Shawnee

Here is a quote I found, while exploring the notion of valour. I enjoyed it because it conforms to my beliefs about Nature, and affirms the Laws of Life that prevail if I keep my senses open.

So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and
Demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life,
Beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and
Its purpose in the service of your people.

Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend,
Even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and
Bow to none. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the food and
For the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks,
The fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and nothing,
For abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.

When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts
Are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes
They weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again
In a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lesson Learnt From A Weather Bomb (Part 2)

7)    As tempting as it was, I avoided drafting other than during the climbs. I saw too many drafting situations, however what is the point of cheating yourself of your potential?
8)    The headwinds at the Broadlands stretch are notorious; they sneak up on you in the return leg. You may post one hour on the first 45K, but suffer a 2-hour return. Going aero is the only way for both headwinds and tailwinds – just ‘tuck in, and suck in’ and let your legs move. Just another day of windy riding on a blue-sky day.
9)    I had a tragic swim, lethargic ride, but a strong run. I did not walk except for aid-stations; chased down my buddies, succeeded except for one (our Fearless Swim Leader, Matthew) because I ran out of real estate on the run. Felt like Rinny chasing down Chrissy last year in Kona. I enjoyed the tough, hilly, half-marathon, and was glad for a 1:50 time after all the biking brouhaha. I, successfully, earned an average of 5:13 minute/K pace - a pace that would have given me a sub-4 hour (3:50) marathon in a Ironman. The hilly, 2-loop, run route made it harder on the ascents although I did not adopt the 'walk uphill, run hard downhill' strategy at all.
10)    Friends say I share too much about my training regime on my blog, so I will cease and resist for a while until the next race (in July). Haven’t trained for five days since last Sunday’s race, so I may see you at the Aviva Singapore 70.3 race on 18 March.
Photo-credit: Brightroom, official photographers of Ironman NZ 2012

Lessons Learnt From A Weather Bomb

Last Saturday, a ‘weather bomb’ befell the town of Taupo shattering all windows of opportunity for 1,600 participants to do Ironman New Zealand. Winds of about 120-140kph and punishing rain compromised the safety of participants, volunteers and spectators. Although painful, race-officials made the right call to cancel the race on Saturday, but instead held an alternative half-Ironman race on Sunday. These are lessons I learnt from racing in the inaugural, 70.3, triathlon format.

1)    Despite the use of a wetsuit, I found it too cold to swim well in 15-degrees Celcius water. The cold knocked the wind out of me. Hypothermia is a serious threat to weaker swimmers, as over-exposure can drain your body of heat or fatigue you prematurely.
2)    I took about 10 minutes to complete Transition 1 yet think it was worth the delay. A 400m run up the slope to T1, removing my wetsuit with cold hands, putting on two layers of clothes, and using socks during my ride. Still cold during the ride, but bearable.
3)    I took only Hammer Nutrition ‘Perpeteum’ powder as my main source of nutrition. Suffice to say, it met my energy needs and filled my stomach without gastro-intestinal (GI) issues. Just add water, sip the ‘paste’ and chase it with water.
4)    If you got to pee, you got to pee. System check: I was well hydrated. My body responds to the cold air (low 10’s) and headwinds the same way it does to caffeine, by seeking refuge at a porta-loo.
5)    No caffeine on this race, except for the last 5K with flat Coca-Cola. I did it as Macca suggested in his biography. Sweet as hell, but beats the ‘bonk’.
6)    I suffered cold cramps on the 70K mark of the ride, and thereafter during my run. Imagine getting cramps about 300m away from the finishing-line! I did my best Crowie impression by stretching my hamstrings – did not do much except to irk the spectators to cheer me on – I gritted my teeth and pushed on, painfully. Four days of sore thighs suggested the extent of damage from the cramps. (Note to self: take more Endurolytes, like 3-4 per hour on hard rides)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Playing Catch & Catching-Up

Playing catch is an American game of casual baseball, where mitt-wearing throwers toss balls to each other and catch. It is a useful practice for developing speed and accuracy of both throw and receive. Having played softball as a child, and having a broken small finger (on my right hand), I have learnt to appreciate the relevance of simple drills.

When I was a child, I had to play catch up on some of my least favourite topics in schools. At one point, physical education (PE) was one of my prejudices, as compared to recess (which I naturally excelled in). Playing catch up in subjects and procrastinated homework was painfully boring, and I had to resort to the All Or Nothing principle: either do it, or not. Lag behind, or play laggard and you may never attain your results.

In swimming, we use Catch Up Drills to learn how to synchronise our swim stroke. For the Front Crawl (Free-Style), this drill helps develop our timing for complete strokes (stretch, glide, pull, and recovery). It is performed with one out-stretched arm (with or without a kick-board) at a time, so as to appreciate the ‘time lag’ between strokes and an optimized momentum. It is akin to maximizing ‘hang time’ in a basketball, or in the long-jump trajectory. The 'catch' phase is an important component for efficient and effective swim strokes.

Leadership Lessons: How do you respond to playing ‘catch up’? Does playing ‘second fiddle’ make you feel inadequate? How do you move from ‘catching up’ to ‘taking the lead’? Learning can seem slow, until you develop ‘muscle memory’, coordination, agility and strength. Turn your weakness into a potential strength.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mapping Out Your Plans

Have you ever gotten lost before? Have you travelled without much of a firm plan, other than purchase your air-tickets and a few nights’ accommodation? Have you struggled to find your way to your destination without incurring a large cab-fare due to your negligence to prepare your documents and maps?

Going ‘blind’ and leaving it to luck can be a useless decision? Even when travelling with a partner, you cannot rely on an uninformed person and leave them to decide on your mutual fate. You are still responsible for master-minding the original plan, and sticking to a semblance of that plan. You need to do homework – this being your ‘hard-yards’ – before making any definite plans to move.

Map out your plan, decide on possible courses of action, and initiate the first steps. Otherwise, you will remain lost and become dependent on the leaders around you. You may not be factored into their plans. Map out, and man up!

Stock-Taking & Taking Stock

When I was a ‘temp’ (temporary help in recruitment jargon), I used to work in warehouses. At these large stockpiles, I was tasked to do inventory checks. It was a laborious task requiring patience, thoroughness and attention to details. I found it hard but necessary to get the job done, as it reflected on my abilities and reliability.

Years later, I learnt the notion of ‘taking stock’ which is to review my results and evaluate my situation after performing major tasks. Take stock of what you do after your performance, and you can assess the relevance and usefulness of your actions and inactions. After last weekend’s cancelled Ironman race, I took stock of my fitness from the half-Ironman that I participated. I took stock of my fitness, mental preparedness, and ability to withstand disappointments and upsets. My resilience was tested after I heard impending news of a possible cancelled race due to a ‘weather bomb’ that befell New Zealand on Saturday morning (the day of the 226K triathlon). I raced, appreciated my capabilities, appraised my performance, and made decisions for my future races.

Leadership Lessons: How often do you take stock of what you do? How flexible are you to alter your plans? How fast do you bounce back from disappointing news? What are your personal strategies for shifting back on-course when bombs fall around you?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Race or Training Day?

Yesterday, I completed my 12th Ironman event at Lake Taupo, New Zealand. Our 226K-triathlon was cancelled, and in its place we had a contingent half-Ironman triathlon. 
Due to a 'weather bomb' that hit New Zealand, Lake Taupo suffered strong overnight winds and rain. As race organisers judged it dangerous for all 1,600 participants and more than 2,000 volunteers the race was scrapped for the first time in 28 years of the event's history. 


About 1,400 decided to race yesterday morning at 7.55am. The professionals, comprising multiple-Ironman NZ winners Cameron Brown and Joanna Lawn took off from a 'wet start' at 7.45am for the single-loop 3.8K swim. At 15 degrees Celcius, the lake swim was cold for many, especially equator-dwelling participants like us. Most of the Team Singapore raced in what looked like the original event.


It was, nonetheless, a tough day. Call it a race or label it a training day, it was still a hard hit for us. The swim took the breath out of me, and being swam over by strong and competitive swimmers was troubling and anxiety-building. The 90L ride was smooth and uneventful for the first-half, yet the headwinds on the return leg made it harder to attack the ride with the same relentlessness as found earlier. I cramped a little at the 70K mark, and I attributed it to cold cramps - which was to plague me later during the 21K. I found good success in my nutrition with Hammer Nutrition Perpeteum (a soya-protein based energy drink) which caused no stomach distress, and gave a sense of fullness. I wore adequately to keep warn, although this extended my usual transition time in T1: I had to use socks, arm-warmers and gloves.


I enjoyed myself on the run, focusing on recovering my lost time on my race-buddies. I started with a 5:45min/K pace for the first 5.25K, and then throttled it up to a 4:43min/K for the last 6K. I made up some ground, but ran out of real-estate to earn more time. No PB for me this time, and more like a PW; however, I was pleased that many of friends did well and they deserved their personal victory. In the end, for a shorter format race, the strong swimmers and riders determined the race. I learnt many lessons from this alternate race, and will use it to prepare for my next full-format race in July. I am not a cold-weather athlete, and excel in hot climates. I will decide how to handle such chilly races in future.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Decisions, Choices and Consequences

Last night, we had a feast at Wilson's motel. The Singaporean team gathered with their contributions of food and drinks for a pot-luck dinner. We had fun feasting and frolicking. You can say we were 'work-a-frolics' having done the time to train for Ironman New Zealand, however with no race to fulfill.
Last night, the storm blew hard and it rained harder. Interestingly, I slept through the threatening conditions. It would have been dangerous to swim and ride. The cold is painfully aware of our existence. Such is life, when outdoor sporting races are subject to the fickle-mindedness and foibles of nature. You have no control over a potential storm of near-biblical proportions (I exaggerate, since I am an urban-folk) looming over a extended swim, ride and run course. The Ironman was cancelled for today. I found out 30 minutes after checking-in and racking my new ride. By the way, each bicycle was photographed with the minder holding it: a nice system of cataloguing who has which bike.
At 4.00pm today, we will find out if there will be a Ironman 70.3 in place for tomorrow. If it goes through, we will have to prepare for it - for those who choose to do it - as it is still 113K of three disciplines. I will decide after the briefing, as my mindset is still on racing, and may even do the Singapore 70.3, if special slots are still open. 
Otherwise, I will focus on IM Switzerland on 15 July, and sustain my fitness and push it to the next level. Coach 'Fox' has encouraged me to still race and aim for PBs in my half-Ironman format. I am curious to discover how my current fitness will see me through a better time. We will see...