Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Day At The Race: 2XU Compression Run 2013

Photo-credit: Runevent Shots
It was a good performance for my half-marathon early on this Easter Sunday morning. Despite minimal sleep, I managed to score a good evaluation for the 21km race on a fairly, flat course (save for a few mild bridges). As I arrived later than I should, I did not get a decent position in the start-pen. Instead, I had to dodge insanely heavy human traffic to secure space and a faster pace. The medal was nice, with the image of runner. Only 21km finishers received a finisher t-shirt. We had a banana, Pocari Isotonic drink and our medal as we moved into our respective channels at the end-point.
My months of base, aerobic threshold training allowed me to hold my anaerobic heart-rate (Zone 3-4). I succeeded in going under 1:45 for my run. I did not feel winded, just a bit fatigued at my pace of 4:35-4:55 minutes/km; I consumed only one packet of energy gel (Hammer Nutrition). I need to bring it down to an average of 4:40 minutes/km to do well in Gold Coast. More speed and strength work will be included in my preparation for next year's Boston Marathon attempt. I am looking forward to my test in July.
Overall, it was a well-run race with reliable pacers and enthusiastic young volunteers. The route was scenic and covered key landmarks of Singapore including the bay. The reunion with friends at the finishing-area was priceless, with a free flow alcohol-free beer (the same brand served at the Berlin Marathon). I capped the morning with photographs, and breakfast with buddies (Charles, Shireena and Kok Mun). The next 100 days preparing for Gold Coast Airport Marathon will be interesting, with a few short race tossed into my training mix.
My unofficial timing was 1:41:24. I am pleased with it, since it was four weeks after Ironman NZ. Any time under 1:45:00 was a good sign.
 Photo-credit: Charles Teng
Ironman buddies. (Photo-credit: Yellowfish, David Lim)
 The course was relatively flat, so it was tempting to go for a fast time.
Three Men & Their Beers. Photo-credit: Charles Teng
Preliminary Results: Digital Resolutions
Photo-credit: Runevent Shots

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Preparation for the 2XU Compression 21K Run 2013

My race-kit for my first 21K race this year.
Tomorrow, at 5.30am, I will be flagged off with thousands of other runners in a half-marathon.  This will be my first race since Ironman New Zealand 2013, held on 2 March.

I will treat this half-marathon as an assessment of my post-226K triathlon fitness. I have about 100 days before the Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2013. This will be my second attempt on this marathon course. In 2011, I missed my Boston Qualifying (BQ) narrowly by about two minutes. I came in at 3:32, after bout of cold cramps on the last six kilometres. This time, I hope to systematically and specifically train come in at under-3:25:00. My target time will be 3:15. 

I will be calibrating my fitness with tomorrow's race and adjust my training. With the Cebu Ironman 70.3 in early-August approaching, my training will be dual-pronged with the marathon as my priority. A 1:45 finish will be acceptable, and a sub-1:40 will be a good sign of my residual fitness after 4-5 months of aerobic-centred training (133-138bpm threshold). My strategy is to go easy at about 5 minutes per kilometre for the first 10km, and sub-5 minutes for the remaining 11km. I will check my average heart-rate, and establish a comfortable threshold. It should be interesting physical/mental strength evaluation and anaerobic test, since I resumed training a week after my 15th Ironman. Let us seen what happens...Happy Easter, all!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pilsner Beer and Ipoh White Coffee ….what do they have in common?


Pilsner beer is said to have gotten its name by referencing to the city of Pilsen in the Czech Republic, where a special technique was developed for brewing beer. Ipoh White Coffee got its name from the famous town of Ipoh (in Malaysia) where it is famous for producing the traditional white coffee. Peking duck got is name from the way ducks were prepared, roasted and served in a unique way. These are just a few examples where a category has been created by using the name of a place as a new descriptor to an existing product category.  The list goes on for Edam cheese, New York Cheese cake, Selangor Pewter, Chinese silk, and others.

Some of this naming convention happened by choice, and others by accident. The question is, why do people do this? This is because the name of a specific place represents a set of unique associations that manifest the differentiating benefits of a new category formed. Not only that, the name of a place also brings along with it a sense of aura or mystique that creates curiosity. This is because a town or city encapsulates a rich set of associations such as its culture, resources, heritage and people that create its uniqueness. By using it as a descriptor to an existing category, it is able to transfer this set of unique associations to create a new category out of an existing one. New categories with relevant and new perceived benefits often create new excitement in the marketplace.

This is a concept that cognitive psychologists define as conceptual combination – where an adjective or sometimes a noun (e.g. descriptor such as colour, shape, size, etc) that is place in front of an existing noun (name of an object) will be able to change, partially or completely, its existing meaning. For example, “Sports” placed in front of “car” gives a deeper meaning to the word “car” that one is describing.  Similarly, in branding and new category development, conceptual combination is a powerful technique (if used correctly and carefully) to create new categories. New categories with relevant and new perceived benefits, often, create new excitement in the marketplace.

Taking this concept to branding, we can see an immense opportunity for brands to differentiate and stand out. So, for brands to find new extension opportunities or new line extensions, think about conceptual combination. Create a brand new market opportunity and capture the space by being a first mover with your brand. If managed well (after considering brand relevance and positioning), it will definitely rejuvenate your existing category and help you discover your very own “blue ocean”.

CASE IN POINT -  White Coffee – Old Town vs. Nescafe

Before the term White coffee was known in the market place, pre-packed coffee came with variation in sweetness, richness (intensity of caffeine) and creaminess. Then, a new entry made its presence into the market - Old Town White Coffee.

Old Town was a brand that was then, synonymously, associated to Ipoh, a town with great mining history in Malaysia. This is the Brand Story for Old Town. It has claimed that making white coffee involves a traditional process which they have mastered that was established many years ago. It portrayed that it had an authentic approach to roasting coffee to product its unique taste. As such, it somehow created a strong linkage to tradition and authenticity. The taste and preference for Old Town white coffee gain rapid popularity and many other brands introduced their version of White Coffee. However, the unique thing about white coffee (apart from its unique taste) is the emotional appeal that comes with the consumption of it – the feeling of nostalgia and the appreciation of heritage that goes along with its consumption. Many brands who introduced their version of white coffee missed this point! They introduced a product rather than a brand. They introduced a product that is only linked with its functional appeal – that is the taste and packaging. They missed out on the most important ingredient in white coffee, which is its nostalgic appeal.

This is where I think Nescafe did their homework right. Nescafe by itself is a contemporary brand – not one that is linked to heritage and nostalgia. In order to capture a piece of the market for white coffee, they need to infuse the element of nostalgic appeal to their product. They introduced their version of white coffee by naming it “Ipoh White Coffee”. Given that “Ipoh” is a town that is strongly associated to the origins of white coffee - thanks to the marketing communications by Old Town, Nescafe is able to invoke the nostalgic appeal of their new brand line extension. Thus, with its established channel and marketing muscle in place, I can see that they are gaining traction.

Dr Lau Kong Cheen is a Branding Authority and Branding Consultant. I believe that what he writes about branding also relates to our personal leadership. How do we position ourselves, and what are our distinctive styles and approaches, are major considerations when we establish our leadership presence. Even legacy has its branding. Our brand is a summation of our personality, identity, character, and actions. We are who we are, reinforced by what we do, and what we have done. Therefore, keep building your brand, wherever you are.

Monday, March 18, 2013

In Memory: Professor Winston Koh

Photo-credit: Winston Koh (our 50km, pre-ultra-marathon practice run)
We, recently, lost a great member of our endurance and adventure family. I have trained with Winston Koh for my first (and last) 84km run, where we completed 50km in a practice run. He took his challenge, steadily and calmly; I was a knackered mess. 
'We will miss him dearly.'
We raced in the Singapore edition of Ironman 70.3, and also competed in Ironman New Zealand 2012, which was affected by a 'weather bomb'. He was my neighbour who stayed a few units away, and enjoyed a few meals together. The accompanying photograph supports one of our most read article.
Photo-credit: David Ong
Although I did not know Winston very closely, I learnt that he was an avid photographer, a serious ballroom dancer, and adventurer. He was, regularly, completing an endurance race, locally or internationally. He made time to enjoy his passions and pursuits with like-minded individuals. He was also a well-respected colleague and adulated teacher. He was the consummate Gentleman, through and through. We will miss his positive attitude towards life, and yet be inspired by numerous achievements. What a fellow competitor, adventurer, positive role-model and inspiration he was! Rest In Peace, Mate.
Winston was also one of my earliest donors to my charity for Ironman NZ; he supported athletes-with-a-mission. He seeded the pot, which grew tremendously. Thank you, Professor! You will be truly missed.
Photo-credit: Richard Leong (post-event, celebration drink)
'I will tell you how he lived.' ~ The Last Samurai

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Ironman New Zealand 2013 (Part 4): A Photo-Commentary

As this day unfurled over 15 hours (and more for me), allow me time to upload the commentary and illustrations. It was an awesome day, especially for the more than 500 first-timers. We are proud of their achievements and accomplishments, regardless of whether they finished or not. Next year will be the 30th Anniversary of Ironman New Zealand. Entries opened this week, and organisers are optimistic of the participation level.
My competitive race finish. Both of us shared the same sub-13 hours, finishing-time! (Check out my Crowie-Heel Click)
The swim-start: Fast, fluid and furious. Fast swimmers in the front, and slower ones (like me), parked behind patiently.
Pre-swim warm-up: Not as cold as 2012, after the infamous 'weather bomb' that cancelled the full-distance race into a 70.3. You can see fishes and creatures once the sunlight beams in. Thirsty: drink from the lake!
Exit from the one-loop fresh-water swim; unfastening the strap from my wettie (US$199, bought from the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in 2009).
Bike Exit: Happy with my relaxed swim, and improved transition time (T1). The game is afoot, and months of indoor-riding will test my preparation. It appears to be a slight warmer day than in 2012.
That's mainly the nutrition I carry: Hammer Nutrition 'Perpeteum', salt-tablets (Endurolyte) and full water-bottle. I sip at least twice per hour from the self-made gel, chased with water. Result: no cramps and fatigue.
On the way to completing my first leg (90km) of my ride. I am, conservatively three hours into this discipline. The 90-km loop is rolling, with gentle climbs, and one steep initial climb at Napier Road (once you depart Lake Terrace, which faces the beautiful Lake Taupo). There are adequate aid-stations to keep you going. Thank you, Volunteers!
Part of the race-course circumvents the retail stores of Lake Taupo.
The inspirational, multiple-Ironman NZ winner, Cameron Brown runs his way to a strong third place. He has great running posture, wears his signature head-scarf, and proves why he is the 'Boss' on the course. He has placed as high as 2nd in Kona.
Shifting into new gear. Here is where 'ride-run bricks' matter. The transition from ride-to-run is laden by heavy legs. 
The new surge of adrenaline as I emerged from the Run Exit. 42.1km to go!
I just aimed my wrist into a loop, like I was taking a water-bidon on my ride-leg. Volunteers (marathon) were bedecked in yellow.
On my first-loop, I was given a coloured-loop to dress my wrist. Three loops meant that you were on your last 14km leg. My posture was confident until I faded slightly on my second.
A bird's eye view of the marathon and ride exit/entry. Spectators lined up on this street for a vantage view of the professionals and age-groupers. 2,000 volunteers enhanced the race experience.
The Iron-Man or 'M-Dot' logo is omnipresent - one of the strongest brands to emerge and grow rapidly in the last 35 years. Ironman began in 1978 as a 'personal dare' by SEALS officer Jim Collins and friends.
Imagine that: An angry burger! These were some of the pleasant distraction from staring at the road.
The strange but mesmerising 'Orange Couple'. They stood out as Supporters and Iron-Mates.
John 'Cookie' Cooke from Club Exceed, Perth. He is a 10-time Ironman finisher with a great competitor attitude, and mental toughness.
The marathon chain: all lined-up to attack the hills and 42.195km. I managed to regain my composure and pride by earning about 300 spots ahead of the field.
Making the rush-hour traffic, to finish in day-light. My third lap was as fast my first; marred by a poor second lap where I hit a bad patch.
My private moment of glory.
My grateful, twilight, return. Just 200 metres from the end-point, and Mike Riley's proclamation. 
All Video and Photo-Credits: MEL C, Singapore

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ironman New Zealand 2013 Race Report (Part 3)


Day 3, Thursday
Tapering workout: I did a 30-minute run before dinner, just to activate my legs. I did a few wind sprints and run up gentle slopes as part of my session.
Carbo-Party at theSports Centre: Same kind of carbohydrate-laden foods (high and low glycemic index). I was kind of disappointed I could not eat the fresh meat that New Zealand is known for.
Welcome: By Maori Cultural Group (song, dance, and hakka – cheer) and ‘Voice of Ironman’ Mike Riley. This was followed by the race-briefing by the Race Directors and Officials (various).
Swim: One loop (3.8km)
Ride: 2 loops (90km each)
Run: 3 loops (14km each)

Day 4, Friday: Check-in of bike and Transition-Bags 1 and 2.
In the early morning, John and I did a short swim in Lake Taupo (at the swim start area); he went into the cold lake sans wetsuit (and with swimming trunks). We then adjourned to breakfast of coffee and simple carbohydrates. Then, it was back home for to do my final bag check.
I decided to check in my bike around 1.30pm. There was no bike or helmet inspection, unlike other races. You had to be self-sufficient, ensuring that your bike is serviced beforehand, and you assembled the bike properly. It was a straightforward affair, with my labeled bike being photographed for security reason. 
Then, after racking my bike I walked around to orientate myself about my surrounding. I walked from the Swim Exit point, then mapped my way mentally to my bike-rack.
I then traced my way from my bike to the Bike Out/Exit. I also checked where the Run Exit was, after I dropped my two race-bags (T1 & T2) to the officials. 
I also collected two disposable bags (marked with my race number) as potential ‘Special Needs’ bags. I also attended the tail-end of Coach Jon Ackland’s lecture on pre-race preparations. I attend Coach Ackland’s session in 2006, bought his lecture CD and book; I found his material to be sensible and relevant. He said: ‘Swim is the warm-up. Ride is the warm-up. What you are preparing for is the marathon!’
We met up with John for a coffee before we departed. The rest of the evening was spent, with one afternoon nap, a final check of items to bring (race nutrition, gas cylinders, gas-applicator, goggles, timing-chip, swim-cap, wetsuit, body lubricant), and turning in at 9pm. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What Am I Grateful For?

I have been thinking a lot about many things, and one of these has been - what am I grateful about? On hindsight and insight, I have many. I am grateful...
1) For having the energy to do more things in a day than I used to.
2) For having the ability to complete athletic adventures after eight years.
3) For being self-employed.
4) For having the good fortune of enjoying a lifestyle that I designed.
5) For my many friends, relationships and connections.
6) For having many smarter people surround me, and from whom I can access their wisdom and knowledge from.
7) For my sense of freedom, adventure and security.
8) For having one more choice than I used to.
9) For caring people who care to share and correct my faults and mistakes.
10) For having a strong sense of purpose to keep doing what I am passionate about.
What about you? What are you grateful for? What else can you be grateful for?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Ironman New Zealand 2013: Race Report (Part 2)


Next Day: Slept in; my vital signs proved positive. I was sickness-free. My immune system was holding well, with no sign of over-training, and an absence of muscle soreness from the sports massage two days ago. I observed a few participants who were coughing, and I elected to avoid them for fear of, unnecessarily, catching a bug.
Thursday: Registration (with photo-identification required). There was no fuss about buying a day-pass (as you would with European races). The volunteers were in full force, ensuring we had a smooth and pleasant registration experience.
Arrival at race-fair: It was not easy to find a parking space at the Taupo Event Centre. I headed straight to the Registration-Tent, and was invited to sign the race-flag for charity auction (Cystic Fibrosis Association). The flag was, subsequently, auctioned off at the Awards Banquet.
Weigh-in: There was the prerequisite, pre-race, weighing-in (unofficially, with shoes and clothes on, at 76.6kg – just off Macca’s race-weight). I would be weighed again upon my descent from the finisher’s chute and into the Recovery Tent on Saturday evening.
Race-Kit: There was a goodie-bag included three (3) bags for Swim, Ride and Run; race-tag/sensor, race-bib (2), temporary tattoos (race numbers were pre-marked by participants on race-morning), box of Kellogg’s wheat-snack, kiwi-fruit, banana, and official race program.
Merchandise of the event: Director’s Chair (foldable); previously, it was a helmet-protector bag and slippers in 2012 and 2010, respectively.
I was mentioned in the official race-program as a fund-raiser. The highest amount raised by an Ironman participant was $17,000!
Overview: I met my friend 9-time Ironman finisher, John Cooke, Perth-based Singaporean lawyer at the fair; we had coffee at their world-famous McCafe/McDonald’s restaurant (it won the world’s coolest cafĂ© with its real DC10 plane). He travelled from Perth via Auckland to Taupo (small plane of 20 passengers). We scoured the race-fair, where I discovered all Pit-Stop (quick inflation systems for punctures) were sold out not only at the fair, in Lake Taupo, but also in entire NZ! Instead, I bought two carbon-dioxide canisters (NZ$7) that I could use with my adaptor (bought at Ironman Korea in 2006). We did not choose to buy any race-merchandise. Our highlight was meeting Kiwi, Terenzo Bozzone at the Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain booth. We had an autographed postcard each, and a photograph taken with the former-Ironman 70.3, world champion.
Pre-race preparation: The three transition bags were loaded, so I could check them in on Friday afternoon. These included my sports-gel for the bike and run. I opted to use another race-bib/tag, loaded with six packets of sports-gels (Hammer Nutrition).
Turning In: I slept earlier to reset my body-clock – a tough lesson I learnt at Vineman (non-M-Dot) Ironman-distance triathlon in 2007, where I veered off-course slightly when I fell asleep during the marathon leg. Can you imagine that!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Ironman New Zealand 2013: Race Report (Part 1)


Farewell/Welcome message?
Tapering workout: 1-hour indoor ride, and a short run. I had a sports massage the day before, so I was recovering from that session. A few weekly, deep-tissue, sports massages four weeks out from race-day, has served me well over the years.
IMNZ2012 race-towel below me.
Departure: I flew from Singapore via Singapore Airlines (big-case checked in as over-sized baggage). My SQ Elite Gold/Star Alliance allowed me an additional 20kg, so I am more than good to go. The external of my Sci-Con bike-case was marked with at least four, bold ‘FRAGILE” stickers, courtesy of check-in counter. I had a check-in luggage, and a hand-carry backpack that contained my helmet, pullover (stay warm in the plane), MacBook, and Garmin 310XT watch/charger/heart-rate monitor. Remember: Deflate all tires and tubes before checking your bike in.  
Declaration Form: New Zealand is strict about any form of wildlife, or remnants of soil entering the country. You are forbidden to introduce any plant and animal products. Declare sports items; ensure no soil on shoes, cleats, pedals, tyres, and wetsuit. If in doubt (however mild), openly declare on both entry-card and verbally. Better to play it honest and innocent, than to test your luck. Processed foods like sports gels, whey-protein, and other food supplements are best declared.
Before boarding: I took my dinner at the SQ/Kris Flyer Lounge, as I could hydrate myself fully, and control my flying-time (for rest, entertainment or sleep). I watched ‘Skyfall’ (which I enjoyed), and slept most of the way as we had a five-hour drive southwards to Lake Taupo, the following day.
Arrival: Auckland, New Zealand. Immigration was friendly, and custom clearance was smooth as ceramic bearings.
Transportation: Rental car from NZ RENTALS; pickup by company at airport. We paid for minimal insurance for 11 days. Do grab the AA map (to guide us down the major highway) and book of motels/hotels (heavy but useful for subsequent walk-in accommodations).
Total drive time: 270km or about five hours of driving at between 50-100kph; do not exceed speed limits or suffer the penalty of a speeding fine). You can overtake at an ‘Overtaking Lane’ only. It is interesting to observe the types of road-kill (carcasses of animals). If you have two drivers, it helps to switch; baring which, take at least two breaks (for a meal, and pee-stops).
Accommodation: All Seasons Motels Park Taupo ($110 per night, booked online). Got a cottage unit, with kitchen facilities. There is a queen-sized bed in the main hall, and a single bed in the other room. If you travel by JUCY (another car-rental company), you can hire the camper-van which is self-contained, and sleeps two) and park at the camper-van section for a nominal cost.
First priority: Shop for groceries (race-day breakfast/supper, comfort food, and water).
Priority before sleeping: A cup of coffee, and set up my bike. Hand-inflated my tyres with a small hand-pump (90-100psi for my Continental Competition tyres were adequate for racing). I also laid out my race-kit for all three disciplines, excluding liquids – attire, shoes, sports-nutrition, HRM, goggles, wetsuit, etc.
Overview: I slept early as my body-clock was five hours ahead of Singapore.
After-Thoughts: I would arrive one day earlier (i.e. Tuesday) the next time, to give myself more time for adjusting to the time, and having a more exact taper.