Monday, July 30, 2012

Teamwork and Teambuilding Efforts

As a facilitator, I have been asked if I conduct teambuilding. My response: yes, I conduct teambuilding events. Can you help my build my team? My unreserved answer: no, I can’t.

There are limitations to teambuilding activities. You own your team. You have built your team. You can do more to enhance your team capability. Teambuilding events and activities provide a platform in which to challenge an organic team, to allow it to express itself distinctively, through its team dynamics and team values. No facilitator, worth his/her weight in integrity, can help build your teams. What they may do is, facilitate discussions around the team, with the team, to explore and build on their collective competencies and potential. Through astute observation and acute clarity, a facilitator can bring into your awareness what is working, or not within your team.

Team engagement involves participation and involvement. You want to engage as much of both from members. You want to activate functional dynamics instead of dysfunctional dynamics. You want your team to focus on useful behaviors, team values, and healthy relationships. High-performing teams avoid the energy-sapping efforts of ‘office politics’. They focus on seeking solutions instead of only shame-bringing problems. They regularly indulge in productive conversations, and they create experiences of worth. They feel valued as individuals and as professionals. They believe that you are fair, equitable and impartial in your decisions and delegation.

Build as much value as you can when in your team. Engage in synergistic collaboration, and collaborative synergies. Your team can then face any challenges that comes it way with a sense of optimism, purpose and clarity.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

London Olympics 2012 & The Spirit of Volunteerism

Yesterday was the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics. Creative Director, Danny Boyle of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ fame designed this edition of the initiation ceremony. Interestingly, the lead in this lavish, historical production was one of the best Shakespearian actors, Sir Kenneth Branagh, who is himself an actor and director (recently, ‘Thor’).

It would be premature and unfair to compare Boyle’s work to Chinese uber-director, Zhang Yu Mou who directed the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Olympic edition in Beijing. Both expressed their creativity and flamboyance in different ways. They were uniquely differently styles and thematic orientations; both married the traditional with the contemporary.

In Lord Sebastian Coe (a former world champion over the mile and 1,500m track events) address, he thanked the legion of volunteers for this colossal task. Indeed, volunteers are the backbone of the Modern Olympic Movement. They are critical to the successful and effective functioning of events for the 17 high-key days.

The spirit of volunteerism also extends to the celebrities who involved themselves in this once in a lifetime opportunity. Having volunteered for the Singapore Youth Olympic Games in 2010, I am learned in the ways on how volunteers can be engaged for the unique 5-ring experience. It is a test and validation of personal and team leadership. We have to pay attention to detail, and pay more attention to our volunteers. They are crucial to the success and character of the Games, which is often marked by trial and tribulations.

Having participated in dozens of marathons and triathlons, I am mindful and appreciative of the volunteers who make our personal challenges more meaningful and doable. They express care and consideration for us, beginning, during and after the event. It still means something special when a volunteer places a medal around our neck.

Help us thank a volunteer. We certainly will need them in the future.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Appreciation Letter from Singapore’s Oldest Marathoner

This letter is from Mr Kor Hong Fatt. I share this with you, to recognize him for his achievement, as well as those who support masters-level athletes.

'Many thanks to Kannan and the Organizing Committee for the Trophy Award! I was the only entrant and finisher in the 3,000m run in the 80-84 category of the 33rd Annual Masters Athletics 2012 with a time of 18:32:39 (subject to race officials' verification).

When the announcer called out my name as a recipient of the Trophy Award, I was extremely surprised. I never would have dreamed of receiving this prize at such an advanced age. It is truly encouraging and it has motivated me to commit more in Track and Field competitive events in the coming years.

This was my first attempt at running in a T&F competitive event and also the very first time in my entire 80 years of life, that I have ever received a trophy. Recently, I had an email interview with the Run Society entitled 'Never Stop Pushing the Limit' which has received an overwhelming response and support from the browsers since it went online on 2nd July 2012 and is still continuously receiving Likes and Comments on Facebook.

I received the highest number of votes of 324 Likes among the interviewers interviewed by the Run Society.

For Your Information, please visit and search for "Interviews Category" and scroll down to 'An Interview with Kor Hong Fatt' - You will know why I started running at a relatively age of 71.

Dear Runners and friends, I need continuous Likes and Shares; If you think that I deserve your support, please click on the Like button on my article page. I would be very grateful if you would help me to spread the message to your friends and colleagues for their support. I am Singapore's oldest Boston Marathon finisher at age 79.

Thank You.

Warm Regards,
Kor Hong Fatt'

Friday, July 27, 2012

Run When You Can

Running is ubiquitous. It is a universal sport. It is as natural as taking a stroll, or running after the bus. You may be reminded by the way running has been integrated into our language:

Run away from danger.
People give you the run around.
Some people run away from responsibility
Others are on the run from the law.
Have you run your own business before?
How do you run your department?
Some run circles around us.
Perhaps it is time to make a run for it?
The house looks run down from the outside.
Beware the runaway train!
So, be mindful of how pervasive and persuasive running can be. This is my ex-colleague, Boon’s new blog. He is a PMET who is a talented, self-taught artist, who we enlisted for years for his visual art creativity. His art deserves a large audience because of his astute and acute observation of life.

Life imitates art. Art imitates life. Make the connection. Run for your life.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Swimming Long & Flying Like Butterflies

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, the annual Kapas-Marang 6.5K Open-Water Swim held in Malaysia is a challenge worth achieving. Open-water swimming can be as long as the standard road-run marathon that is so popular these days. You have a wide menu of races such the Standard Chartered marathon series, Sundown Marathon, and the marquee Sheares Bridge Run/Army Half-Marathon.

Our friend, Tobias Frenz completed the 26-mile (42 km) Extreme North Dakota Watersports Endurance Test recently, finishing in fifth place. In our interview with Tobias two years ago, we know him to be an elite age-grouper, endurance athlete who has completed the Ironman World Championships in Kona. He also once won three Ironman distance races within two days! Tobias is now focused on ultra-long distance, open-water swimming as his current challenge.
Tobias’s friend, Dan Projansky finished last in the same race down the mighty Red River of the North, however he completed it with the butterfly stroke! Dan swam in this excruciatingly challenging stroke from Grand Folks, North Dakota to Oslo, Minnesota. He completed the amazing challenge in 14 hours 30 minutes. You can imagine how difficult sighting was for him. This race is also open to kayakers (single or double), canoers, surf-skiers, stand-up paddle boarders and relay swimmers (2-6 members).

We will be interviewing open-waters swimmers Tobias, Dan, and Darren Miller shortly. Keep your sights forward!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Those Race Participants In Their Colourful and Tight Attire

I could not resist posting this, as it comes as a timely reminder to those attempting their first (certainly not last) Ironman triathlon. Having completed a race recently, I appreciate and fully knowledge my partner for constantly looking out for my interests and safety.

I believe that the 10 points mentioned on this t-shirt summarises the ordeal our Iron-mates (a.k.a support crew) have to bear. I admit I do have a preference for designing ‘racations’ (#6), that is, a race combined with a vacation. The trouble with racations is, the vacation only begins a day (at its earliest) after the event (marathon, triathlon) has past. By that time, your body may not be in optimal state to walk fast, especially downstairs; or hold a drinking-glass to your lips, after a long-distance open-water swim.

And, when you can create some mobility in your arms and legs, give full credit to your Iron-mates and shower them with full recognition. Our personal achievements mean less without they being around us.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Eat Fit For Life

Here are some adjustments I have made in recent months to my dietary and nutritional needs. As an active athlete running his own business, I have researched extensively and tested the way I eat, and what I eat so as to achieve peak mental and physical fitness. Certainly, if I were to be injured or sick, I would still seek help from medical professionals to assist in my convalescence. However, I would also consider options that may be less dependent on pharmaceuticals and choose natural methods and solutions. There is no one panacea for any illness.

Here are some guidelines I follow:

Choose Your Food Properly
Generally speaking, you should be looking to focus your diet on whole, unprocessed foods (vegetables, meats, raw dairy, nuts, and so forth) that come from healthy, sustainable, local sources, such as a small organic farm. For optimal nutrition and health benefits, eat a good portion of your food raw, and make sure you're sourcing your meats and animal products from free-range, and organically-raised, grass-fed animals. Avoid fructose. Sugar, and fructose in particular, acts as a toxin in, and of itself, and as such drive multiple disease processes in your body, not the least of which is insulin resistance, a major cause of accelerated aging. Use whey protein (‘gold standard’) to repair and build damaged tissues after intense activities, or before you sleep.

Engage In A Comprehensive Exercise Program, including High-Intensity Exercise
Eat healthy and exercise just as hard. Exercise effectively, which means including core-strengthening exercises, strength training, stretching, and high-intensity activities. High-intensity interval-type training boosts human growth hormone (HGH) production, which is essential for optimal health, strength and vigor.

Reduce Your Stress and Engage In Positive Thinking
The emotional component of our health and longevity is vital, as your emotional state plays a role in nearly every physical. Effective coping mechanisms are a major longevity-promoting factor in part because stress has a direct impact on inflammation, which in turn underlies many of the chronic diseases that kill people prematurely every day. Energy psychology tools such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), meditation, prayer, social support and exercise are all viable options that can help you maintain emotional and mental equilibrium. Laugh as much as you can, too.

Proper Sun Exposure to Optimize Vitamin D
The ‘sunshine vitamin’ D comes from sun exposure, and if at all possible, I ensure you're getting out in the sun on a daily basis. There is preliminary evidence suggesting that oral vitamin D may not provide the identical benefits, although it's still better than none at all. Get out – into the sunlight. Nature provides anti-depression solutions. Beware the toxicity found in many sun-blocking sprays and creams (I stopped using such skin-suffocating chemicals). Melanin is nature’s natural skin pigmentation that protects our skin from harm. Yet, still exercise caution when sun-worshipping in countries with scant ozone protection.

Take High Quality, Animal-Based, Omega-3 Fats
Animal-based omega-3 fatty acids found in krill oil helps fight and prevent heart disease, cancer, depression, Alzheimer's, arthritis, diabetes, hyperactivity and many other diseases.

Avoid as Many Chemicals, Toxins, and Pollutants as Possible
Without being paranoid, toss out your toxic household cleaners, soaps, personal hygiene products, air-fresheners, insect-repellants, lawn pesticides, and insecticides, just to name a few, and replacing them with non-toxic alternatives.

Disclaimer: These are my own opinions, and not a recommendation as I practise these guidelines. When in doubt check with the experts, especially if you have a prevailing medical or congenital condition.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Race Report: Ironman Switzerland

This is a blow-by-blow account of Ironman Switzerland 2012. Held at Lake Zurich, this event attracted about 1,800 participants. Like Ironman South Africa, it does not sell out early and you can attempt last-minute entry for this 226K triathlon. Plan a vacation around this triathlon, and you can travel to Lucerne by train and enjoy snow in the alps. Otherwise, there is more to Switzerland than watches, cuckoo clocks, cheese and fondue meals. And, you can appreciate the high Swiss standards of living and precision approach to timeliness and exactness.

Background to my flight of plight at this Continental outing: My last excursion to European Ironman was Ironman Austria in 2009, and Ironman Lanzarote in 2011 and 2008. I had instituted my Ironman racing after a disappointing foul-weather IM New Zealand in March (a weather bomb disposed the full 226K triathlon for a 70.3 version the next morning).

Swim: This is a two-loop, 3.8K, beach-start, wetsuit swim. I exited the Transition Area early to warm up in the fresh-water lake. The outside temperature was way lower than the water, so it made sense to stay immersed and do my preliminary strokes. The professionals were flagged off earlier at 6:55am while mortals set off at 7:00pm. The first is a clockwise, semi-circle (3 buoys); the second portion is a diagonal swim to the first buoy, then second and then third. You swim under a makeshift bridge (overlooked by spectators) and exit on the islet-portion. You need to sight accurately or else swim extra distance, and risk a subtle current that sweeps beneath the fresh-water lake. I made the mistake of drafting a few swimmers who mistook the end-point buoys. Subsequently, I sighted more effectively and focused on my strokes, aiming to be fresh out of the water – which I successfully did. My sprained ankle held on with the mild kicking. This swim reminded me of Ironman Austria with the finish in a congested channel, complete with panicky first-timers and eager-beavers aiming for T1.

Ride: This is a two-loop course marked by three climbs: Egg, The Beast and Heartbreak Hill. Consider them as warm-ups for each other. The Beast is a series of intermittent climbs that ends with a scenic view of the city. Heartbreak Hill is a short 2-3K climb however it is the steepest portion of the ride, before turning into the Transition area for the second and final loop. After the first loop, done conservatively at 3:30 (recommended by Kua Harn Wei), I decided to cranked it a notch up on the flatter sections of the course, and ensure my nutrition was adequate for both second loop, and marathon. On my second loop, I received a yellow card from a race-official, for blocking him and the safety motorcycle! I was dodging part of the right lane, as I did not want to steer into the barricades due to bumpy road conditions. My left ankle was flexing and bowing, ungracefully, and the climbing was beginning to strain it further. However, I could only push on, with lower gear-ratios and complete the three dreaded climbs. I swore I would not cuss but I did, albeit, quietly to myself. I propose to rename The Beast as The Bastard! You can, of course, use compact cranks and road-bikes which makes more sense on this course. I drank a bidon filled with Hammer Nutrition 'Perpetuem' that would last me about eight hours - just in case. I used 1.5 scoops for every hour expected on the route, and mixed water to fill the bidon. I consume a mouthful of gel to the mark (used indelible ink to calibrate each hour), then chased it down with water. I carried two bidons of water, just in case it got too hot.

Run: I asked around for the ‘sin-bin’, as I thought I had to serve out my yellow-carded penalty. About 150m from the Run Exit, I found the station manned by a male and female volunteer. I learnt that I had to merely fill in details of my being, then continued with my limp – I mean, run. Fortunately, my penalty was held off, but I incurred down-time from paperwork (not my preference nor forte). No sub-4 hour marathon for me that day, since I was having difficulty placing my whole weight on my left foot. I was feeling like Daniel Day-Lewis in his Academy-winning film, ‘My Left Foot’. I strategized my run as a series of footfalls, where I placed weight on the least painful portion of my foot. My gait was not aggressive, and I had to fall back (literally) on the occasional heel-strike. I played with foot supination and pronation; in other words: with the lest stressful motions. I was glad to have done well in my kinesiology classes in the 1990’s to apply this knowledge. I had a fairly brisk first loop but faded into a manageable pace of about 140-145bpm at about a 6:30 minute/km speed.

Between uncomfortable feats of running, I visited the [horribly mutilated] porta-loos after every two aid-stations. I focused on having adequate water and carbohydrates. I took my caffeinated Perpeteum Solids to give me a lift when I got tired. I drank Coke early during the run, as I did not want to experience the ‘bonk’, and treated myself to three ‘Red Bull Shots’ (on each of the first three loops) from two attractive female volunteers. I still think Red Bull tastes like hell, but it did give me the ‘wings’ I needed to do a 5:05 marathon – my worst Ironman 42K run in years. The four loops were testing on my mental fitness and mettle, and I opted to focus on the positive aspects, and my Iron-mates who spread themselves throughout the course. I am thoroughly and deeply grateful for the encouragement and shows of concern from them.

I enjoyed a brilliant blast of enthusiasm and euphoria on my last one kilometre as I made my slow but committed entry into the finishing chute. I crossed the line, forgot to do my Blazeman Roll, and was given an insulation sheet. With that wrapped around me, I had to seek my finisher’s medal which was strangely not presented to me at the end-point. I enjoyed the last traces of daylight when I crossed the line. So, that was #13 for me with no drama or diatribe.

Post-Race RecoveryMel passed me my sweater to cover my shivering body. The hot food began to lose its caloric effect on me. Did I mention that the soup was salty as my sweat? Wrapped in the golden foil blanket around my waist, I did not appreciate the stares I earned from the locals on the trams. I did look like Michael Jackson in his ‘Remember The Time’ MTV video. However, the crackling sheet provided me with the warmth I needed. Somebody left a bicycle-pump by the ticketing machine.We boarded the next tram, loaded up my bike, and stood the four stops to the hotel. I then walked slowly back in the cold night air towards the hotel with bags and bike in tow.

After a hot shower, and soiled clothes deliberately procrastinated for the next day, I ate what I could (which was paltry: cherries, cheese) and laid in bed. It took me a few hours before I could sleep. I concluded that it was the enormous amounts of caffeine I consumed which upset my Circadian Rhythm. The next morning, we attended the Awards Banquet at 10.00am at a nice banquet hall on a hill; 30CHF for each spouses or guests, and they get an entry wristband. Breakfast/brunch consisted of bread rolls, sausages, and drinks (non-alcoholic). The awards started first, which led to the winners’ speeches. The announcement was held in both English and German. A rush of the race-day video was screened, and unfortunately it focused too much on the professionals and less on age-groupers. On our departure, volunteers presented a small bouquet of flowers to the ladies, which was a touching gesture. I sat with a few Singaporeans including Ironman finishers Chris and Kelvin. We met the excited group of Malaysian friends. Unfortunately, I missed Dex and Rachel. Dex must have been exhausted and relieved after completing three, sub-12-hours, Ironman races over 15 days in Europe. They were racing S$10,000 for children with autism. I hope that they will reach their target.

My legs were still mobile but in turmoil, because of all the adrenaline and cortisol flushed in my bloodstream. True to scientific observation, my Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) settled in only on Tuesday evening. Thankfully, my legs were not as sore as they used to be as I walked almost normally on Thursday. My left foot was, unfortunately, inflamed and I wore running-shoes for the entire week.

Beware: The cheaper hotels may not have air-conditioning, mini-bars (i.e. refrigerators with ice), and electronic-safe.

Coming Up Next: Photo-commentary of race.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What You Need To Know About Ironman Switzerland 2012

Should you consider signing up for Ironman Switzerland 2013, also known as Ironman Zurich in 2013 here are some salient points:
1) The race fees are in Swiss Francs (CHF), and is one of the more expensive ones. Cancellation fees are high and cancellation claims are meagre.
2) Your day racing licence is 30CHF. You can probably escape this if you are a member of your national triathlon association (TAS, or Triathlon Association of Singapore in my case). You MUST show this as proof of membership of the current year.
3) This is a no-frills long-distance triathlon, meaning that you race like an Olympic Distance race. No wetsuit strippers, no bike valet upon your return to T2, and all your transition needs in your own bag, parked at your bike-rack/stand. You will get a large bike-cover for your bike.  All participants will be photographed with their numbered bikes and helmet upon checking in your bike. This is your visual evidence and security for your bike and transition bags.
4) You can receive special needs from outsiders at specific locations (Heartbreak Hill) only.
5) There are three surmountable hills to complete on each loop: Egg, The Beast, and Heartbreak Hill.
6) Heartbreak Hill is the shortest and you have to complete it before the end of the first 60K loop. The Beast is a series of short climbs and where you either get very religious or vile about it, or both. Egg is a long stretch of rolling terrain that prepares you for The Beast.
7) You may not hear the words 'You're an Ironman!' as you traverse the finisher-chute, even though there may be a few hundred Ironman 'virgins'.
8) There is an elaborate Ironman race fair/exposition with the latest nutrition or equipment. There are refreshment points for you to purchase F&B for your family.
9) It has become almost the 'standard' for the European Ironman races, and you should receive an official IM Zurich/M-Dot back-pack as pre-race memorabilia. You will collect your finisher polo-tee (after handing in your Champion Chip) at the Athlete's Tent upon crossing the end-point. Be alert to collecting your race-medal, lest the volunteers forget.
10) Prepare for inclement weather. This year we experienced intermittent rain, sunshine and hailstones! It was mostly windy and cold when it rained.
11) There is no T1 and T2 bags; only a bag for your pre-swim casual clothes. Lay out your stuff, and plastic rack(or a used cardboard box from the supermarket) is useful.
12) Road-bikes will suffice, although tri-bikes can be useful on the flats. Keep to the right-most lane at all times. You WILL be given a yellow card if you 'block' a participant or official (in my case) during the ride leg. You will serve your time at the penalty-box after two yellow cards.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Lessons From Ironman Zurich 2012

What did I learn from racing in my 12th M-Dot race, and 13th Ironman triathlon (to date)?
1) A bike-case with upright wheels is best for commuting at the airport. I use a pre-owned Sci-Con bike box. Use a variety of packing-material like newspapers, cable-tie, and bubble-wrap to protect the bicycle frame. Pack as much light material in your bike-case.
2) Bring your own nutrition ONLY. Never veer towards something unfamiliar because they tout it at the race-exposition. It will only expose your gastro-intestinal (GI) weakness. I used Hammer Nutrition Perpeteum powder  and Solids on my ride and run legs.
3) Take it easy on the caffeine! I took a little too much, as it came from hidden sources like Coca-Cola and Red Bull shots (tastes like hell, but it gave me wings!).
4) Dress warmly if it is windy and raining. I was glad to wear a long-sleeved Pearl Izumi riding top which keep me fairly warm, and protected from rain and the hailstones (pelted halfway on my ride). You can always peel your extra top off if it gets too warm.
5) Thank the spectators and volunteers. I cannot over-emphasise this key point. Without volunteers we will not enjoy our personal glories.
6) Dig deep. That was what a spectator asked to do at my second attempt at Heartbreak Hill. Positive affirmations and encouragement work, However, digging deep hurts initially.
7) Focus on your goals and mantras. I focused on appreciating my donors for Ironman New Zealand. It was my way of paying back my gratitude at a different race. Thank you charitable friends!
8) Be aware and cognizant of what's around you. There is more to the race than 'tunnel vision' racing. Smile, say 'thank you' to volunteers and spectators, acknowledge your competitors, and give yourself a self-compliment.
9) You are not alone. 1,800 competitors including professionals and 'virgin Ironman' are there to spur you on. And, we had original Ironman Dave Orlowski race side-by-side with us. It was a touching and precious moment.
10) Thank your Iron-Mate crew. They are more to us than a medal, t-shirt,  towel or race merchandise. Share your 'high' with them. Celebrate immediately with them after the race.

Competing Like Chrissie Wellington, Well Not Exactly

Hello, friends.
It has been a while since I wrote as I was preparing for, and racing Ironman Zurich/Switzerland. I completed my 13th Ironman triathlon in painful style, having discovered a sprained left foot prior to the race. I have no idea what caused it, however I experienced gout-like symptoms, suspected metatarsal fracture, and I could not put my whole weight on it. With such worrying conditions before the race, I had to consolidate my race-strategy and race on a series of tactics. It was an uncomfortable (read: painful) and carefully positioned (literally) race, where I had to focus on the end-game. Complete my 226K in spite of the debilitating injury, or risk losing the goal by falling out due to injury. I decided to shift my focus to what I could manage and control.
Ignore the uncontrollable factors, and pay attention to what I could do - that was my approach. I opined: If Chrissie could do it, so could I. My plan worked, and I am grateful for having read the words of wisdom of Macca and Chrissie from their biographies. I will post more on my experiences and race review shortly. Thank you for your patience.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Countdown to the Big Climb

I have not been a big fan of hilly courses, although the former-Ironman Malaysia was a varied one with nice hills thrown in like the idiomatic ‘spanner’.

I have been studying the profile on the ride course of Ironman Switzerland. Three names come to mind, and finishers of the Ironman course in Zurich have uttered their names with respect. They are: Egg, Heartbreak Hill, and The Beast. As poignantly as these sections of the course are christened, those who survived have told the traditional tale of pain and heartbreak.

Having done what was considered one of the more challenging Ironman bike courses in Europe – Ironman Spain a.k.a. Ironman Lanzarote (Canary Islands) – twice, I have grown to respect foreign soil and my own fear. When confronting hills and harsh climbs, it is akin to facing your fears. Interestingly, our fears may reveal little more than anxiety, natural nerves, and an apparent lack of practice and training. In hill-scarce, Singapore sans mountains we can only ride on heavy-gears, up a relatively, pancake-flat island. Our only choices are to take a getaway trip to Desaru or Phuket or Bintan Island, to experience the frustrations and physical challenges of hilly terrain. Until you bravely train on rolling terrain and climb steep hills, then your riding skills and strength is limited only to superbly speedy (and often-times, stupidly fast) time-trials on flat roads. Or else, you can afford time on a Compu-Trainer, or crank it out on a turbo-trainer, indoors on high-gears, at specific heart-rates.

I haven’t done enough time on the hilly terrain of Malaysia or Indonesia, so can only courageously meet with my fate on Sunday with a sane (?) mind and my sound body. I have 16 hours to complete the task, and I await with bated breath my rundown into the finishers' chute.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Week’s Rundown To Ironman

The tapering week leading to the Ironman triathlon is often mistaken as the time to either do more training, or to rest completely. Neither option is the best. In fact, a blended approach would make more scientific, bodily and intuitive sense.

A proper tapering process, when adhered to closely, is not a cessation of activity but rather a reduction of overall physical workload. You will still swim, ride and run however you will do a fraction of the usual workload. Your overall mileage is reduced gradually, so that your body does not go ‘cold turkey and be shocked into inactivity. You want to rehearse your three disciplines so that your body is primed for the race. The delicate balance is to not do too much as to exhaust and deplete the body before race-day, and not too little as to lead to a loss of fitness. Up to three weeks before the race, get a weekly sports massage to work out the kinks in your muscles. Muscle spasms (knots or cramps) reduce the muscles ability to exert the most power and strength when you need it most. Over-stretch tight muscles during racing and, you may incur the wrath of a painful cramp as retribution.

The mysterious aspects of tapering is that you may experience soreness, potential niggles (injuries), and a sense of frustration that you may be doing too little. This is a risky proposition: to want to do a little more, when you should be repairing your body, nourishing it, and allowing it to fully recuperate from weeks of intense training. My electrolyte intake will be at its highest as I want to infuse water within my muscles (intramuscular fluid).

For my tapering week, my swims are limited to a total of 1.5-2.0K (mostly practising drafting, sighting and some speed work), rides to 2 hours of intervals (short fast bursts with longer recovery sets), and running to 5-10K at race-pace. The day before the race, I will rehearse a short ‘triathlon’ just to keep my muscles attuned, and then I will check my bike in. I will do nothing at all two days before, and get most of my restful sleep. It is hard to get quality sleep the night before, if you spend the night going to the bathroom as you rehydrate on your return. Pre-race nerves also upset your restfulness.

Go over your race gear, and ensure that you carry enough nutrition for your ride and run. If inclement weather prevails, prepare extra attire and warm clothing. Check and test for quality of race-gear. Whenever you can, raise your feet and rest. Keep shopping to after your race, especially when you need to up early to purchase the finisher’s merchandise.

Rebooting 'The Amazing Spiderman'

Spiderman does it again!

In the rebooted version of the human arachnid, ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ cost US$215 million, and redressed and addressed in fresh ways. It is presented in digitalised and in 3D versions with a brand-new cast. Like The Matrix Trilogy that came reloaded and unloaded, this version is rebooted and re-imagined, to varying results and responses. Either the new version pales against the original, or or exceeds it. In recent years, the success with the re-invention of Spiderman, Superman and Ironman bear testament to successful franchises.

The salient changes to Spidey is his costume, and originations; mainly his web-slinging comes in the form of a wrist-wrapped device and genetically-modified protein that is stronger than steel cables. A star-studded ensemble cast fills the non-CGI segments of the 135-minute film. Spoiler Alert: Stay on during the end-credits where there is suggestion of a sequel. Peter Parker, who underwent a tough childhood is transmogrified into the science freak he is known for, harboring dark and foreboding secrets, amazing superhuman powers, and huge responsibilities to bear. Superheroes, appear to be unhappy characters who cannot get close to others (for fear of violent repercussions), and reluctant heroes with a gift/curse. They have to surrender to their good side and help others, or succumb to their dark side and become criminals. Use your power for good, or evil. 

There is much to learn from animated series, previously known as cartoons in a former-era. Comic-books filled the void of hope during major world events and conflicts. Director, Night Shyamalan did a great job with ‘Unbreakable’ where the world’s most fragile man meets the world’s most indestructible person. The plot is plausible, where the polarity of 'opposites' means the yin and yang of human character. When science meets fantasy, a new genre is born which invites many interesting questions regarding our status as humankind.

How will you reboot yourself? Two legs good, four sticky limbs better.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Listening To Your List

We have written about using lists and even designing our own Bucket List. What else do we need to know about the listing of important tasks and priorities? Even Santa Claus’s list has been audited annually for any inconsistencies and miscreants. Do the crime, and do the time.
Have you considered your internal list? That is the list that we all subscribe to, now and then. This list includes our: dreams, aspirations, wishes, values, doubts, worries, unhappiness, and suspicions. We need to manage this internal list, which can upset our equilibrium of our mental health, confidence, spirit, and trust in our world. What bothers you most in life? What are you struggling with? Which aspects of your achievements are you most proud of?

Listen closely to your list. Sometimes, our mind reminds us to listen in to our ‘list of demands’. It is natural to be selfish for some moments in your life, and take care of yourself. Even caregivers, parents and nurturers need to take good care of themselves. Submit, occasionally, to your list of TLC and WIIFM and you may be in a heightened state of capability and performance. Celebrate your success. Learn from your defeats, failures and disappointments. Develop wisdom. Write your philosophy and wisdom out, and articulate with others.

Have a private chat with yourself, and review your list. And, listen closely to it.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Nagging Feeling and Niggles

It is about a week from the big race. I am now in my tapering stage of preparing from Ironman Switzerland. It is, mostly, packing right, eating well, sticking to the tapering plan, and recovering well. However, I discovered a serious, nagging pain in my left foot and am taking care of it now. I may have incurred it when I running up the beach, after swimming in the lagoon last Saturday. Or, I could have earned it while doing my fitness testing last Saturday afternoon (with poor technique on the treadmill). Or, I may have injured my foot while riding on the indoor-trainer.

The symptoms are serious: I have mild pain on the top of my foot, and I diagnosed it as strain/sprain of my metatarsals (and associated tendons). I could not put much weight on it yesterday, so abandoned my rainy day short run. I am actively applying RICES to it as a means of reducing my discomfort, and reducing the inflammation and pain. Not really addressing the organic source. This evening's 25 X 100m pull-buoy sets in the public pool was relatively pain-free, but I cannot put too much weight on the foot as it is still sore.

I am left with a few major decisions. Do my main race next weekend, however skip this Sunday’s 21K race. Also, I will have to focus on active recovery like swim and ride (depending on how my foot feels), sports massage, and absolutely no running. Passive recovery would mean eating very well, and resting/sleeping as generously as I can. Moreover, I will have to stay vigilantly positive and optimistic that I have the base fitness and it will sustain me through despite a less than precise tapering stage.

I have prepared too long to toss this A-race away. I will, therefore, deal with it one thing at a time, and one discipline at a time. If I have to walk the marathon, so be it. The Big Picture is to complete my thirteenth Ironman triathlon. Toes crossed.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Races As Training (A Review)

Mount Faber 10K Run (PB of 2 minutes) which really tested my run-legs. Pleased with my improvement (annoyingly close to a podium finish) even though I did not train specifically for hills.
A PB for the  TRI-Factor 60K ride (bike fit was comfortable, and race pace was spot on); bike is now beautifully painted.
A midnight half-marathon (sub-1:40) that indicated my training was on-track and on-target. One more 21K race (hopefully another sub-1 hour 40 minutes) this Sunday before packing for Zurich.

The Respite From Rest & Recovery

I have rested thoroughly for continuous two days: not even the slightest hint of active recovery, just an absence of training for triathlons. After Monday’s deep tissue massage, my muscles are slightly sore and recovering. The weeks of extended and intense training and racing have proven its toll on my body. 10 days out to Ironman Switzerland, and the tapering work is critical to my performance on 15 July.

It is interesting to note that it is during rest days that you feel restless and sore. This suggests that our muscles and tissues are recovering. The pain that you may experience involves actual repair of muscle fibres, reconstructing, and becoming stronger. When you continue training, residual hormones like adrenaline and cortisol in the bloodstream masks injuries. When the pain dissipates on your rest days, you begin to lose all pain-killing effects. The process of recovery and recuperation can be painful.

During your rest days, aim to focus on resting both mind and body. Nourish your body with more protein and fats, and moderate amounts of carbohydrates. Achieve as much restful sleep as you can. Distract your mind for endurance sports, and spend time on recreation and pastime. Our mind can suffer fatigue from the repetitive, routine workouts that we tend to do.

Fully commit to your rest and recovery days; treat them as part of your training. The time to do nothing will enhance your potential performance. Train + Rest + Recovery = Performance.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Monday’s Musings

I met up with the mildly jet-lagged, Dr Kua Harn Wei this afternoon. We chatted about ultra-endurance races and how he trained for them. I clarified that his longest indoor session on his bike was 12 hours! He did it while preparing for his Quadruple Ironman assault; he rode from 7.00am-7.00pm with brief pauses for bathroom breaks. He also shared his success (running the Twilight Ultra-marathon and Sundown race) with the Akuna range of sports supplements including the amino acid blend comprising L-carnitine and taurine. The good news is that Mega-Tri series of triathlons are back in November.

My longest session, so far, on the turbo-trainer has been three hours and I did that last weekend. Last week, I did a split session where I rode two hours in the morning and rode (one hour) and ran a 10K tempo run – a two-hour ride-run brick. This was a personal achievement for me, as I accumulated a large puddle of sweat on my Ironman Western Australia beach-towel. Those humungous towels that the volunteers wrap you up in, after you cross the finish-line, are great for both sun-worshipping and turbo-training.

I also completed my maiden experience as a subject in a sports science study. I had my blood lactate and lactate threshold measured, in both compression and non-compression attire. I realized that the h/p/cosmos treadmill could also be used for a bicycle-test. This treadmill is wired up to a computer that measures a battery of indicators that can be useful for training athletes.
Dex Tai completed Ironman Austria successfully in 11:48. By my guesstimates, he is racing conservatively as he has two more triathlons to go. However, I know for a fact that he completed Ironman France and Ironman Austria in 2009 within a week. We wish him a splendid recovery and all the best for this weekend. I look forward to racing with him next weekend in Zurich.

Got washed out by the rain this evening, so wasted an hour commuting. Thankfully, I rode for an hour this morning and got a deep sports massage this afternoon. My legs feel battered and lack the tonus I am used to. Today is recovery day, and tomorrow is a day of rest. 12 days to go to the Big Dance!

Have a good week!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

My Tapering Begins

Yesterday, I swam four laps of the 450-470m long, lagoon at Sentosa with about 20 swimmers. Desmond ably led us through our paces with words of assurance between the swim sets. I enjoyed an easy but very good wetsuit taper swim, keeping the lead with Alethea (preparing for the inaugural Ironman Sweden in mid-August) and Bernard ‘The Shark’ (both very good swimmers). I am stoked about my swim in Lake Zurich as my strokes (and race-pace) are gradually coming into place. I also shared with the group (after the third set) about the use of proper lubricants on wetsuit and tri-suits, as well as observing points of chaffing on their skin.
This is my newly painted and freshly serviced, Elite Custom-made Razor bike. I kept my colour scheme of maroon, while retaining the original colour of carbon. I will be collecting it on Tuesday, and spin on it before I pack her into my bike-case.
In the afternoon, I completed the second part of the sub-maximal stress test wearing compression gear. I went through the entire program (conducted by Wilson and Matthew), and experienced a little heating (in my full-body attire) but RPE was about the same. Robert and I completed our second and last test, while Craig and Desmond did their first. They will complete their second test (with compression gear) on Tuesday evening.
Hooked up, and starting my warm-up for the progressively, fast run.
Dex Tai races his first of three Ironmans today in Austria. World-champion Chrissie Wellington penned some powerful words for him. We wish him the very best in his challenge!