Tuesday, October 30, 2012

From Ironman to Open-Water Swimming: Tobias Frenz & His New Challenges (Part 2)


EV: This question came from my swim group: How do you last so long out there in the water and weather?

TF: Physically, I find it much easier than, say, an Ironman or ultra-marathon. But ‘heavy shoulders’ are certainly part of the challenge. Mentally, it is more challenging as you are on your own for a long time, with only a short distraction when you have a quick feed every 30-40 minutes. The elements are certainly an additional challenge, in particular, in saltwater. You get burning sensations in your nose and tongue that can become quite unpleasant. Other swimmers suffer from chafing and sunburns. Then you might have choppy water that doesn't allow you to settle in any kind of rhythm, tides/currents working against you, or jellyfish.

An issue you don't read much about is peeing in cold waters. On my 25km swim in Spain, a swimmer had to be pulled after four hours, because he simply couldn't let go. The problem is that it can affect your kidneys. Some swimmers use a warm-water bladder to overcome this problem.

EV: How do you stay in peak performance for the duration of the event?

TF: The training isn't much different to other long-distance events. You do long (weekend) swims of 3-4-plus hours to get used to it, complemented by shorter, faster sessions during the week.  The nutrition is quite important. Many swimmers, including myself, take a carbohydrate-drink every 30 minutes, and a PowerGel (or the like) every full hour.

EV: How is the mindset of a long-distance OWS different from other sports?

TF: Besides being able to cope with physical discomfort or shoulder pain over long hours, you need to be mentally able to cope with long hours where you have little distraction. This is different to land-based sports like triathlon, running or cycling, where you have spectators cheering you on, and you have a changing environment. None of that in the open-waters! Although, there are some swims that are indeed scenic (like river swims or swimming along the coast). But, it is difficult to fully enjoy that as you can only take a peak every few seconds when your head comes up for a breath.

Then, you need to be prepared to deal with things that can go wrong. In the sea you might run into jellyfish, driftwood or other rubbish. Changing current/tides are a challenge where you aren't making any, or only little progress. This can be rather frustrating, which you need to be able to cope with.
With Daniel Projansky from Chicago, better know as Mr Butterfly - he'll swim butterfly. All the way. Unbelievable. I wouldn't last 50m. — with Daniel Projansky in Grand Forks, ND.

EV: How often do you train?

TF: When preparing for an OWS, I do two long swims on the weekends and 2-4 during the week. I complement these with 2-4 rowing sessions and some running, when I feel like it. But I'm keeping it easy, as my competitive days are long gone. I'm in for the fun of it.

EV: Which other sports/activities do you supplement your swimming with?

TF: I love rowing on my C2 Concept indoor-rower: it is the greatest thing on Earth since the invention of the wheel. Other than that, running and an occasional ride.

EV: Which are the next events on your ‘to accomplish’ list?

TF: As of now, I have only two more swims planned for for 2012 and a few confirmed for 2013 already: a 15km CleanHalf swim in HK (in October) and now, a 20km Geobay swim in Perth, WA.

2013: 10km swim in Perth (January); BEST FEST:  6 swims of 5, 4, 7, 2.5, 7.5 and 25km in 7 days on Mallorca (June); 40km Menorca-Mallorca channel (in July, and this is my A-race for 2013); 27km Rose Pitonof swim, Manhattan, USA (in August).

EV: As the Boston Marathon and Kona Ironman World Championships are the holy grail events to marathoners and triathletes respectively, which is the One for OWS?

TF: Hands-down, the English Channel wins. No swim can compare to this, in terms of history. But the bigger lifetime challenge is the Ocean 7 (which Darren is currently attempting) - pendant to the well-known 7 Summits mountaineering challenge. This is a different league of OWS that only few people can achieve.  

EV: How do you truly feel after a long swim event?

TF: As in any other race: happy and somewhat relieved that it is over. Physically quite good, except for heavy shoulders.  

EV: Which are your personal methods for easing sore arms and shoulders?

TF: During the swim, switching into backstroke is a common technique to loosen your muscles. I also do, occasionally, a few strokes of breaststroke after a feed. After the swim, nothing beats a good massage.

EV: Which are your major concerns when swimming in the sea, river or lake?

TF: I'm quite naïve about this and don't really think about it. I'm not afraid of anything in particular, but I need to qualify that I've not yet encountered any real problems, other than strong currents or debris or tree trunks I have swam into. Poisonous jellyfishes are every swimmer's nightmare, and something I would certainly worry about.
EV: Which are the common comments you get when people around you hear that you do OWS, and at such unimaginable distances and duration in the water?

TF: Not unsurprisingly most people cannot really relate to the distance or effort. It is such a niche sports that has yet to get any wider public attention.  Only friends that have done a triathlon or are swimmer can put that somehow into perspective.

EV: Care to relate any incidences that affected your swim?

TF: Cold waters.

EV: Martin Strel, risked life and body, and swam across the Amazon River to make his two statements about deforestation and river pollution. What is your personal message when you swim across vast bodies of water?

TF: It would be a stretch to say that I've a message to relate. For now, I'm just in for the fun and challenge.

Swimmer Profile
Name: Tobias Frenz
Nickname: Tobi
Profession: CEO, Reinsurance
Age group: Exact age, or age-group range, 43
Years in OWS: One
Favourite swim-stroke: Front Crawl
Favourite piece of equipment for swimming/training: Medium-sized paddles
Supplementary exercises/activity for training your swim: Indoor-rowing.
Key races completed: 4 this year
Number of OWS (of at least 10km) races completed: 7

Monday, October 29, 2012

From Ironman to Open-Water Swimming: Tobias Frenz & His New Challenges (Part 1)


Based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia now as the CEO of an insurance division Tobias Frenz is no stranger to us. We featured him a few years ago, where we highlighted his prowess in the endurance field. His company won an industry award recently, which describes his commitment to excellence, mastery and strength of purpose.
His company won the "Most Outstanding Retakaful Company 2012" Award recently (a second after their first, in 2010).

Tobias has achieved the dream of many an amateur endurance athletes. He has made the move from cycling to long-distance triathlons, and now to long-distance, open-water swimming. We sprinted to him to capture this interview, of which describes his new passion.

Enrico Varella: Thank you for making time, once again, for an interview. Tell us more about your challenge to swim in the English Channel…

Tobias Frenz: English Channel – yes, I'm been confirmed a slot in the week of 22 July 2015. But I'll do as part of the Arch to Arc race (www.enduroman.com). [Tobias will run from London to Dover, swim the Channel to Calais, and then cycle to Paris. He had, initially, planned for 2014 but decided to do the Race Across America instead with a team of four friends.]

‘So, today I finally got my tide for my first (and, hopefully, only) English Channel swim attempt confirmed. I'll be on the neap tide 22-29 July 2015. It is actually part of an event called Arch to Arc. I'll start on 20/7/2015 in London, run south to Dover for 140km, then dive into the Atlantic Ocean to cross the English Channel and, when making landfall in France, will hop on my bike to complete a 290km ride to Paris. Finally popping champagne at the Arc de Triomphe. The run and ride is only appetizer and desert, it is all about the swim really.’ [Yes, every EC aspirant has to do a 6-hour qualification swim in 16°C cold water. I wouldn't be able to stand such cold waters right now and need to put on a bit of weight for insulation...]

You might wonder why 2015 only. This is because there are no earlier slots available for A2A. Secondly, the 3,000-mile Race Across America (RAAM) team relay is on in 2014.

EV: How did you begin your journey on Open-Water Swimming (OWS)? Were you a swimmer in school?

TF: I have a cycling background, and only got into swimming in my early-30’s, when I started training for Ironman races. The first peek into OWS was a 15km swim called Clean Half along Hong Kong's scenic, southwest coast in 2010. I truly enjoyed being out in the open sea and thought that this was a sport I'd like to pursue further, as I had become somewhat tired of Ironman and marathon racing. But it took me a good year to actually put that thought into further action. Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) is not a good platform for swimming, with no proper public swimming pools and the next beach an hour's drive away.
I applied for a slot at a 26km swim through Lake Zurich (in Switzerland) that is often used as a qualifying swim for English-Channel aspirants. I was fortunate to get accepted for the 2012 swim. With this goal in mind, I decided to finally take swimming a bit more seriously and joined a swimming group.

EV: Who was your major influence into the world of OWS?

TF: I cannot put a particular name as my interest grew over time. You surf OWS websites and get, more and more, into it. One book fuelled my interest though. ‘The Great Swim’ features the quest of four young American women trying to become the first woman to cross the English Channel in 1926. American Gertrud Ederly (aged 19) succeeded in a time of 14:39h, which was 2 hours faster than the existing men's record of 16:33h. Only 5 men had crossed the EC before, with Englishman Matthe Webb being the first in 1875 in 21:45h. For a comparison - today's record stands at 6:58h for men and 7:25h for women. I found it very inspiring what women achieved during the early days.

EV: Did you make the transition from long-distance triathlon, or are you a purist and specialist in swimming?

TF: I transitioned from triathlon. What was my strength – lean body, strong leg power with a high power-to-weight ratio and coping well under hot conditions – turns out now to be more of a weakness, as far as open water swimming, is concerned. Leg muscles are of little use for swimming and the upper body still needs years to build up the muscles a swimming specialist has developed from his early years on. Lastly, I do struggle in cold water as I'm lacking body fat, and it does not help that I'm living in a tropical climate. So, I'm still at the bottom of the OWS food chain and this makes the journey so interesting and motivating for me...trying new things you are not yet that good at.
EV: Which was your first OWS race? Describe that briefly.

TF: My first marathon swim was a 10km charity swim in 2010 along Singapore's East Coast.  But, as I mentioned earlier, it was a 15km swim in Hong Kong coast that really triggered my OWS interest. I liked being exposed to the elements and the casual and relaxed event atmosphere. And all I needed to carry was a Speedo, a swimming-cap, and goggles instead of a bulky 30kg bike-box for Ironman races.

EV: Which was your most challenging race, and how so?
TF: The most challenging and my first swim DNF was the recent 26km Lake Zurich swim on 5 August 2012. I felt I had a perfect build up to this race as I had participated in various open water swims in the two months before (20km, Australia; 10K & 25K in Spain; and 43K in the USA). So, I had no doubt that I could go the distance. Well, I had to eat humble pie, as I simply couldn't take the ‘cold’ water (~20 degrees Celcius). Cold is a subjective feeling though as some fellow English Channel aspirants felt it was actually ‘warm’. To put this into perspective, the water temperature in the English Channel during the swimming season mid year is only about 15-16°C. Darren Miller will attempt to swim the North Channel between Ireland and Scotland in 2013 where temperatures are only between 10-14°C. This underlines the fact that distance says little about how challenging a swim can be.

In Zurich, I simply wasn't acclimatized to such temperatures and the moment I stepped into the lake I got the chills. But I wasn't thinking too much about it, initially, as I was hopeful that the sun would come out in two hours’ time and that swimming would make me warmer.  However, neither did the sun come out nor did I warm up. Quite the opposite, I got colder and was breathing too fast to compensate for the cold; so I called it quits after 10K or 3hours later. As much as a DNF is always a disappointment, I felt okay with it as I acknowledged that I wasn't prepared for it, and my mind wasn't fully committed to it. It is a lesson learnt and motivation to get it right next time.    

EV: What is your advice for beginners to long-distance, open-water swimming?

TF: Don't be afraid of the sea or long distances, it is easier than you might think. Unless you want to break speed records you can cruise for hours at a modest speed. The challenge is more mental than physical as there is little distraction in the open waters.  Athletes used to long-distance, endurance sports should, thus, have full confidence that they can cope with an OWS challenge of 10K or more.
(Tomorrow: Part 2)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Lessons Learnt From A Recent Race


This morning, I raced my first race after the Berlin Marathon (four week ago). That dismal performance on the cool, world-class, German marathon course, was done with almost no training, as I had to fully heal from a stress fracture on my foot.  This morning’s 10-miler race was a test of my mettle and might under testing (hot and humid) conditions. I aimed to complete the race in 1:25 (which would be my best-case scenario), or worst. Having considered my structured but minimal training for speed, I decided to pace myself at about 5:15-5:30 minutes/kilometre. In effect, I would play by intuition and my watch.

I had just under-six hours of sleep; it sufficed, as I felt reasonably fresh. My healing gums after last week’s wisdom-teeth extraction still bore a migraine-like headache on my left temple. I hoped that the adrenaline rush and ensuing excitement would erase the discomfort temporarily. Having such a procedure and surgery done at such a later age, is not encouraged as the healing processed is delayed and extended.
My breakfast was a cup of black coffee, chased later with a glass of Hammer Nutrition ‘Perpeteum’ and some water. After last year’s lesson where I hit the wall early at about the 11K mark, I decided to have some available complex carbohydrates in my system. One more cup followed before I headed for the start-line. My plan was to consume a cup of water at every station as I suspected the morning would get hotter. I stuck to my intuitive pace, using the participants in front of me as my pacers. I referred to my race-pace on my Garmin 310XT, so as to commit closely to my strategy and race-goals. If I could sustain a 5min/K pace, I would be stoked as I was only hitting 5:20min/K over my last three 10K training runs (at 155bpm maximum).
All in all, it was a great race for me as I realized my goals of regaining my racing ‘mojo’ before the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (on 2 December). My uploaded data speaks for itself. The only lapse on the 15K-mark was due to slowing my pace for a breather, and stopping for a drink at the aid-station. I also wanted to have a comfortable run into the finishing-chute. I have one more 10K trail race to go, before the next Big Hit. I hope to hold a 5:00min/K pace for my next marathon. A PB in Singapore would be a bonus (last set in 2009). Meanwhile, its back to loads of core-work, road-running, and cross-training. My sports-doctor, Dr Roger Tien emphasised NO interval training and hill-running.
Photo-credit: Run Event Photos

Saturday, October 27, 2012

If You Can't Find A Way, Make Your Way!


Q. What are the eligibility requirements for the 2013 IRONMAN Legacy Program?

To enroll athletes must meet all four of the following requirements*:

1.       Athlete must have completed a minimum of twelve (12) full-distance IRONMAN-branded** races (includes existing and past events) by December 31, 2012.
2.       Athlete has never participated in the IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i.
3.       Athlete must have completed at least one full-distance IRONMAN event in 2011 and 2012.
4.       Athlete must be registered for a full-distance IRONMAN event in 2013.

*Legacy athletes will be required to submit their information during online registration.
**2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run.

That's the plan, man. I have met all four requirements. Having audited my list of races completed over the years 2006-2012, I found I have completed 13 M-Dot branded Ironman triathlons, and one non-M-Dot Ironman (Vineman). My next race in March in New Zealand, will be my 15th attempt at the 226K-triathlon. Hopefully, the new Legacy Lottery gives me a better chance than the General Lottery, and qualification by podium finish. I am pleased that Clifford Lee was the first Singaporean to benefit from this process, and he successfully achieved his dream in Kona in the Ironman World Championships.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Preparing For Your First Ironman Triathlon (IMWA), Part 4


Leadership Lessons From: John ‘Cookie’ Cooke, Perth-based lawyer and committed endurance athlete – 8-time Ironman finisher (5 X IMWA).
IMWA is a great race for the beginner. But like any Ironman, it is an endurance race and it is about preparation. The next six weeks is crucial and, hopefully, they would have had a solid block of training behind them. I think a 4-5 month preparation is necessary. In no particular, order my quick thoughts:

The key suggestions, now, are to do at least 2 long rides of 5-6 hours and some long runs.

Start planning and writing down a nutrition-plan and practise it. Work out how many calories and electrolytes you will need with hydration, and practise it. Be flexible to test it against a very hot day and a very cold day, although for the past few years IMWA has been a warm day.
A Singaporean, John races in IM Singapore 70.3 when he can.
Do practice some open-water swims. Most triathletes still have issues with the swim leg, and I still need to get a lot of practice in the ocean before I am comfortable.

Basically, the more preparation you have the more you will enjoy the race, and the faster you can go without bonking.
In terms of the mental side, like any problem that needs to be solved, do not focus on the whole problem (race) for it can be daunting for any first-timer. It is a long race, and so just start to think and even visualize the different legs, how you plan to start in the swim, and where you are going to position yourself. In the ride, visualize riding, getting into a routine of eating and drinking, and trying to maintain a pace that is suitable.
John completed the challenging Ironman Lanzarote, Spain in 2011.
Where possible, always drive through the course for the bike leg. Get your bike serviced, before the race and make sure you have all the equipment you need. Make a checklist.

Most of all – enjoy the experience. Too many participate because it is on their bucket list of things to do. Whilst the race is important and finishing is important, it is the training, and the day itself that enlightens us about testing our self. Each race is different, and how we react will be different, too. Have a Goal A, Goal B and Goal C. Set targets that are realistic and achievable. The aim is to finish, and then to get a PB in each leg, if possible.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Preparing For Your First Ironman Triathlon (IMWA), Part 3


Leadership Lessons From: Teo Hui Koon, Educator and 2-Time Ironman Western Australia Finisher

I think of all of us, I have the least number of finishes. I did IMWA twice in 2009 and 2010; and the inaugural Challenge Cairns in 2011. Had signed up and prepared for Ironman Japan in June 2010, before it got cancelled one week before the race due to the mad cow disease epidemic. This year will be my third attempt at IMWA.
Photo-credit: Richard Leong
I usually train 5-6 months prior to the Ironman triathlon, as I believe in doing my best. The reason being: Ironman is an expensive overseas race, and having spent so much on it, I will want to be as prepared as I can and make sure it counts. After all, I only travel for Ironman races, and nothing else.

Everybody knows that WA is a flat course, but Ironman is, in no way, easy. Regardless of what many say, this is still a 3.8km swim, 180km bike and a 42km run – done, consecutively, with no rest in-between. I have seen how many who are great in any of one sport, but do not do well in an Ironman. One rule of the thumb which I learn from my Coach, Craig ‘Fox’ Holland – it's about knowing how to be patient in the race and not be aggressive in any one of the discipline. I will rather play it safe and end strong with energy left in the tank, then running half the race with an empty one.

This may be my 3rd attempt at the same location, but I learnt to respect the Ironman distance triathlon. There are many things that can change the race for the athlete. I will not go into the race thinking I know the course well enough. There are weather conditions that will change the race, perhaps, like more current and stronger winds on the ride.

Preparation comes in three forms: Physical, mental and mechanical. We all know that we need to train the physical bit. But the mental side is just as crucial. Remind yourself to ignore the little devil telling you to give it up, that you can't do it at the swim start; during the bike when your quads are burning from the 6-7hrs of pushing the crank; and the cramps that will occur at the strangest parts of the body during the run. The mechanical: yes, do service your bike AND bring it out for a ride to test it out. You wouldn't want the bike to have brake-rub, or any mechanical failure during the race. Yes, I have experienced the brake-rub for a good 90km, before – in my first Ironman. And believe me, it's not something you will want to experience: Because, it will totally wreck the confidence during your run.
Photo-credit: Le Giang
And having said all these, soak the atmosphere all in, when you enter the finishing chute. Nobody can experience that for YOU. And enjoy THAT moment. Because YOU deserve it! All the hard work, all the sacrifices, the early-morning training, the huff and puff sessions on the track or on the trail, the sun on your back while riding – and the list continues. Remember: YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Preparing For Your First Ironman Triathlon (IMWA), Part 2


Leadership Lessons From: Kevin Siah, Perth-based Acountant and talented triathlete.
Kevin (in blue) races just ahead of Kona-finisher Wong Ah Thiam.
Hi Enrico, very honoured to give some input.

IMWA 2012 will be my 6th Ironman, and 3rd one on the same course. The swim being – out and back – along the jetty is relatively straightforward. However from previous experiences, there are not many buoys to mark the course and there can be some pretty big swells in the water. First-time participants just have to keep calm and keep swimming, gauge their distance from the jetty every now and then, to ensure they're swimming in a straight line.

The bike course – although very flat – is not an easy one, as it is open to winds; and, the constant pedaling and posture can take its toll later in the course. A good strategy will be not to get too excited and go out too hard in the beginning. Also keep your nutrition topped up. If it is the same as last year, you can only access your special needs on the 2nd and 3rd lap. But there are plenty of food/drink stations every 20km, or so.
Kevin is highly disciplined to do his preparation, and thus performs very well.
The run course is along the coast so, again, could be impacted by winds. There would be food/drinks stations every 2km or so, but no sponges though. The local crowd really embraces the event – they'll set up tents with music to cheer you on; some even use their garden hose to cool you down. It's always been said ‘It all comes down to the run.’ Whatever discomfort or fatigue you experience, the key is to keep on moving. If you have to slow down or walk, do so with purpose i.e. when going through a food/drink station, preventing a cramp, etc. Remember, the faster you get moving, the earlier you will finish!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Preparing For Your First Ironman Triathlon (IMWA), Part 1


Leadership Lessons From: Clifford Lee, Kona-Finisher (Ironman World Championships) 2012 & 14-time Ironman finisher

Mahalo Enrico!!!

The theme for this year's Kona is 'Aa Na Maka O Na Aa'. It means 'The Sparkling Eyes of My Roots'. It's a meaningful theme to remind us of our roots! No matter how successful you are, think back on how you started...think about your roots.
The Voice of Ironman, Mike Riley.
On 2 December, this will be my third Ironman Western Australia. I completed the first two in 2006 and 2008. Initially, this was a standby race if I didn't make it to Kona this year. Since I had to suffer a DNF (Did Not Finish) in Ironman Texas 2012, due to an accident on the bike leg, I will be doing this race. This would be my 20th time at the start-line. On successful completion, it will be my 15th Ironman; a goal I set for myself back in 2006, i.e. to complete 15 IMs by age 45. I am on-target.

As you would have known by now, I take my sweet time for each IM except for those with 16-hours cutoff times. *Laughs* I do swim in my office, on alternate days, to cushion bike and run sessions. I joined my colleagues in the SAF healthy lifestyle runs every week, except when I have to cover longer distances.
For bike training, I rely on Mandai-LCK loops and my Desaru, long-haul, rides. I must say those Desaru rides contributed to many of my IM successes, including the recent Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. As an average-man-on-the-street, this is what I can do for my IM adventure, bearing in mind that I am a single parent with two great kids to focus on. Ironman Western Australia 2012 will mark a temporary end to these endurance adventures. There will be no more races in 2013, as my son is having his PSLE examinations. But then again, I do have some urge to do one more IM, say end-2013, when my children’s exams are over.

To me, race day is really just a day of experience. The experience you get is really how much preparation you have put in: Setting aside organisation efficiencies. Great experiences from an Ironman race are absorbed only by a clear and steady mind. A good and clear steady mind comes from good race preparations. I do a lot of mental rehearsals before each race. I familiarized myself to the race location and course, via satellite pictures and street pictures. I study weather (temperature, and wind directions) and course elevations prior to each race. These are useful tips to prepare your race in the right direction.
Do not listen to people who scare you about the course. Trust your Inner-Self. Trust your training preparations. It will be a fair ending, if you have put in the requirements. Good luck!!!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

10 Tips For Preparing For Your First Ironman (Western Australia)


1)    Be clear about what you are signing up for. It is 226K of triathlon with a 17-hour dateline, and at least three months of dedicated, and family-approved, training.
2)    Be committed to your training and the discipline behind it. If you must, train in small groups (of aspirants for the same race) for motivation and safety reasons.
3)    Train for the full distance (at least) except for the marathon (32-34K will do as your longest run). Accustom your body to the lengthy duration of each discipline. Do race in the same attire and equipment that your trained in. NO NEW STUFF ON RACE DAY!
4)    Do a ride-run brick each session. Run off the bike (within a short transition of 3 minutes) for 2-3 kilometres. On shorter rides, follow up with a longer run of 10K.
5)    Over-distance for swimming (more than 3.8K) and riding (do at least two 180K, minimum as your longest rides). A 200K ride or eight-hour ride (indoors/outdoors) would be a bonus.
6)    Eat as you would in racing as in training (bring your own food supplements, if you won’t risk what is given out). Accept only water from the friendly volunteers at the aid-stations, progressively and generously positioned in Busselton.
7)    Pack your additional race nutrients in the Special Needs bag. Pack only powders, not liquefied forms as they may spoil in the heat.
8)    Study the race-course, on the map as well as on the ground. Do a recce for part of the courses a few days before the race.
9)    Get your bike fully serviced (and parts replaced; brake-cables, tyres, brake-pads) close to the race, but not too close as bike-shops get jammed with anxious first-time entrants. Get new tyres. You risk it all with used ones. Keep your existing training tyres as spares on your bike/Special Needs bag. Learn how to change your tyres, at least once, from your bike- mechanic.
10) Talk to recent graduates of the race (2010, 2011) and tap on their experiences of completing the race. Learn more about exigencies and crises that emerge, and how they managed them.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

You Are Sorry - Because You Got Caught (Part 1)

The truth is out!  A press statement by leading sports-shoe manufacturer Nike on CNN: 'Due to the seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade, it is with great sadness that we terminated our contract with him.' This was released yesterday. Just this morning, Anheuser-Busch (brewers of Budweiser beer) just dropped Armstrong from their contract. With a reported $12.5 million earnings from sponsorship earnings last year, the uber-biker associated with the Livestrong brand/charity has much to lose for one simple reason.
The prolonged process of systematic doping (parlance for cheating), and coercive tactics on professional cyclists led to the cyclist's eventual downfall. When the whistle-blowers confessed, in gradual numbers (both fellow competitors and ex-team-mates), this once sturdy and stable house-of-cards toppled over. The snitches's role in this cheating scandal will be the proverbial 'straw that broke the camel's back'. Plus, with the obsessive witch-hunter, the United States Anti-Diping Association (USADA) backed by mounting (mountain?) and irrefutable evidence, Armstrong is now a lone wolf backed into his corner. It will be time he will chew off his hand.
Mind you, I am not intentional bashing Mr Armstrong for his systematic doping program. He has been successful in evading the radar of scrutiny by the watchful eyes of the national watchdogs for years. Sure, his weekly ordeal of being tested before and after races seemed unfair and discriminating, however was this a case of 'a matter of time'? Do the wrong deed for a long time, and eventually one slips up. Plus, people may forgive but not forget.
What will this landmark case do for fans, charity (Livestrong), and the sport of cycling? As is, the landfill of secrets will reveal the goings-on in time to come. Live and let live? Meanwhile, wait and see. Be strong. For our sake.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Writers Rediscovered


The films ‘Finding Forrester’ and, recently, ‘The Magic of Belle Island’ portray writers who have lost their motivations, and eventually finding it. Both feature seasoned film and theatre actors (Sean Connery & Morgan Freeman respectively), at their matured best, who become unwilling mentors. They are influenced by their students to regain their passion for writing.
The key messages in each film are ‘First write with your heart, then with your head.’ And, ‘Imagine what is not there.’ Each slogan is a useful strategy by itself. If you want to be a better writer, you will have to write constantly – however good or bad the writing is. Just keeping the words flowing is vital to the writing process. The NanoWriMo Challenge, which takes place in November, is about inciting writers to write at least 100,000 words over 30 days. I managed to complete this colossal task over a heavy work schedule inn 2009, yet learnt much about discipline and time management. If you want something done, give it to a busy person. You can achieve so much.
Just today, my friend Clifford Lee (multiple-Ironman finisher) completed his personal challenge in Kona, Hawaii. He successfully completed the 226K Ironman World Championships after qualifying for the Legacy Lottery. He wrote his report a day after, which drew much praise for his honesty, passion, humour and naturalness. Sometimes, the best pieces of literature come deep from one’s heart, which is what endurance athletes do, when they ‘dig deep’ to finish their long-distance tests. Clifford’s piece continues to draw congratulatory messages as well as kudos for his narrative style of reporting. His piece is inspirational, as he drew inspiration from his fellow competitors during his 16-hour feat in the heat.
We will be doing an interview with this 14-time Ironman finisher shortly, so stay tuned.