Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lessons Learnt from the Berlin Marathon 2010

What did I learn from Sunday's run?

1) You can never be too prepared.
2) Keep yourself dry (even if it means running with a raincoat).
3) Stick to your nutritional plan (drink and eat as per warmer races).
4) Be a man and suck in it (take the punches of the race).
5) Stay injury-free, or ensure that you are race-ready.
6) Bare-foot running is useful; you can race 'barefoot' if you dare.
7) Run with heart-rate specific pace (my darn monitor did not work).
8) Pick your 'pacers'. Run within your pace.
9) Embrace the experience: not all races are meant to be PBs.
10) Remind yourself of the good things that have happened so far.
Thank you, friends for your generous suggestions, sharing, and encouragement over the last few weeks! I will return!

Post-Marathon Lessons

Hello, readers!

It has been a week since my last post. I ran and completed the Berlin Marathon on Sunday. It was a cold and wet day, and I did not achieved any of my intended PBs.

Having said this, I am grateful for racing successfully and safely on this beautiful and flat course. There is so much richness of history in Berlin's land and air that the mist that enveloped the city that morning at 9.00am concealed the wondrousness of this foreign land.

I raced in Berlin to get a PB and entry to next year's Boston Marathon - the Kona of marathons. Having suffered through a cold and wet day, and racing in wet shoes (dozens of puddles and water-traps) I had to jettison all my plans for a new one - to finish the race in a respectable time. I crossed the line in 3:37:06, half a minute off my best time last year at the Singapore Marathon. Plus, more than 7,000 runners separated me and the finish-line. I emerged only top-20 percent in the 40,000-strong field of enthusiastic runners. In Singapore, I was top-2 percent, so that was humbling. I suspect my preference for warmer climates and mild injuries held me back both physically and psychologically. More on these later.

My friend Charles considers this course to be 'as flat as a pancake, and more so than Singapore's'. I tend to agree with him. The only challenge was the racing conditions; the spectators were great throughout and I enjoyed the recognition from volunteers, supporters, and entertainers. We had percussion bands, jazz bands, blues bands and  even a rock and roll band! Nutritional support was more than adequate to keep you focused on your next step. The views of the city was splendid, with postcard scenery at every turn of the street.

Will I come back to race? Certainly. I may need to work on my insulation strategy, though.

I will post more over the next few days. Thank you for your patience.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Leaving On a Huge Jet Plane

This evening, we will fly off for Berlin. It will be our maiden A380 flight to London, so we are looking forward to the interior of the gigantic plane. I suspect I will take a snooze after the first feature film.

The projected weather for Sunday will be about a high of 16 degrees Celcius with light rain. I have packed for a rainy day, with a light raincoat, and warmer clothing. Let’s see if I will do a burlesque run, and chuck clothing aside during the run. I could be shuffling loudly across the finish line with a beanie, gloves, and raincoat.

I wonder how I will respond to the colder conditions. A few trial runs before the race should provide good indicators of what I need to modify for my race strategy: attire, protection from the rain/wind, nutrition, and shoes. There is always a danger of not drinking enough when the weather is cool. The cold would, probably, decrease my heart rate and I might have an advantage in holding a faster pace. I intend to hold an average of 4:45 minute per kilometre, with a negative split on my second 21K leg. Fingers crossed, with happy thoughts.

Last night’s ride with the Eastern Night Riders (ENR) was useful. I was suffering lack of muscle tone, as it was about 24 hours after my deep-tissue massage. I could tell, as my muscles could not exert maximum power during the sprints, nor hold it long enough. However, the occasional bursts of speed during the two-loop, 30K ride activated my muscles so that they stayed alert. I alternated between aero-position and on the drops, as I did not want to strain my lower back. My comfortable ride affirms my effective bike fit a few months ago. Looking forward to my new carbon tri-bike next month.

Off to my chiropractor for a spinal adjustment now!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

10 Reasons for Being Self-Employed

A taxi-driver asked me yesterday: ‘How many hours a day do you work?’

My reply was calculated yet accurate: ‘I’m self-employed. I work very long hours sometimes.’

He willingly shared that he worked 18 hours a day, which activated my instincts. He looked visibly tired, and I was concerned about his alertness (or lack of it). He walked me (with a voice soaked with frustration, disappointment and a tinge of resentment) through his daily earnings and expenses as if I was his accountant. Perhaps, I had put on my counselor’s face during my eventful ride so he dumped his barrel of emotions on me. He also took me on a scenic route which was unusual, but I deliberately kept mum to passively gather more information.

I have been self-employed and in business for over a decade. I have learnt much about business acumen, independence, courage and confidence in those ten years. I have read extensively a plethora of books on small business, leadership, marketing and finance. I even sourced out the rare copy of Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth. I made myriad mistakes in personal marketing, negotiations and sales presentations in my formative years. However, I learnt much from my journey of staying in business, collaboration, partnership and alliances, and leadership.

Here are 10 reasons for being self-employed:

1)    You decide on your lifestyle: work-life balance, life-work balance, or work-life choice.
2)    You determine which are your needs, charities and luxuries (Yardley and Kelly).
3)    You learn to appreciate relationships in all facets of your life.
4)    You create your working schedule, so there is some flexibility (for more breaks and vacation).
5)    You get versatile with digital technology and Social Media tools.
6)    You learn to be decisive, both individually and in a team.
7)    You can be clearly focused on your priorities in your life.
8)    There is no excuse to be lazy for too long: you work, you earn.
9)    You appreciate your time, and other people’s time.
10)   You will appreciate the notion of profession, expertise and discipline.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cleaning House: A Metaphor for Deeper Issues?

It’s two days before I depart for Berlin, and I was tasked to clean the library room. This room houses my precious hoard of my books, magazines and digital resources. It is my fortress of solitude where I explore other worlds within my head. The question for me was: Am I a hoarder?

How often do we clean out the clutter? Oprah Winfrey once featured the issue of clutter and hoarders in an episode of her popular talk show. Clutter is stuff we accumulate through time? Hoarding is a mental disease that reflects our dependency to things that we have difficulty letting go of. On an emotional level, this can refer to bearing grudges, being resentful, vindictive and vengeful. This can manifest latter as abnormal reactions.

I still have my mangled triathlon bike in a box. It is a grim reminder of my accident in February this year. Should I throw it away? Should I salvage the parts that can be re-used? Did it serve its purpose as evidence?

I have been mindful and fascinated by Pareto’s Law (20:80), and how leverages work. If 80 percent of our staff merely contributes 20 percent of our results and productivity, why not de-hire some of them. Instead hire new staff that can deliver on the 80 percent of the results, and more. Why do we unconsciously promote mediocrity?

In the early stages of building fitness, whatever we do translates massively to improvements. Our bodies adapt and cope cleverly, by becoming stronger and less sore. Then, as we near the elite level of competition, more training intensity and volume does not covert into large improvements. We hit training plateaus often, and our incremental gains are less frequent. We appear to be doing more for less.

What I learnt from my back-stiffening and laborious task was:

1)    I have a lot of stuff! (Where did it all come from?)
2)    Get rid of things we (really) don’t need.
3)    Destroy traces of your documents (bills, receipts, notes, pamphlets and letters) as you do not want to risk identity theft.
4)    You will need to sort out what you have left (separate, categorise and organize).
5)    What you have left after the filtration process may be the essence.
6)    How do you feel when you throw stuff away: painful or pleasurable?
7)    Review your team profile and composition: who is worth keeping (employing). Who do we need to let go in challenging times?
8)    Keep a check when your collector’s urge returns.
9)    There is a distinction between being a collector and a hoarder.

I am a hoarder of information and knowledge; perhaps, I need the assurance of physical evidence to feel assured of my cognitive abilities. Mind you, few guests visit my library, as it is my mind-bank, so to speak. Yet, things do have a mysterious way of accumulating – and it would, eventually, reach a tipping point.

So, what do you clean out recently? What did you keep? What did you throw out? How did you feel after you throw out stuff you decided was not important?

We come with nothing, and we leave with nothing.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Tapering: Slowing Down or Speeding Up?

During the tapering week, marathoners are advised to focus on the following:

1)    Consume more carbohydrates
2)    Decrease overall mileage, but increase the intensity
3)    Rest more and arise near the race-hour

In effect, this is sound advice from many experienced runners. Tapering does not mean complete rest, although restful sleep is essential. This is a time to replenish depleted resources in our body. The idea of carbo-loading was to enhance the body’s store of muscle glycogen. Glycogen is the storage form of glucose (sugar) in our muscles and liver. Carbo-loading was a method to deplete the body prematurely of glycogen, then encouraging it to super-compensate by storing more glycogen.

In principle, it worked, however it was specific process that included at least three days of depletion through more mileage and a low-carbohydrate diet. Three days after, the exercise duration was markedly reduced and more carbohydrate introduced into the diet. When on a low-carbohydrate phase, the body dipped into muscle protein as a source of energy, and produce toxic ketones in the process. You can tell by the sweetish, almost-pineapple breath of the fasting athlete. Thus, carbohydrates are important to our daily nutrition, as it is ‘protein-sparing’. This means, adequate carbohydrates prevent the body from cannibalising on our muscles and lean tissues. Lose too much muscle and you lose muscle strength, power and speed.

The idea of a Carbo-Party (popular and prior to a race) can be counterproductive as it encourages over-eating, and taxes the digestive system at one sitting. You would not want to have an overactive digestive system when you race, for it slows you down. I tend to avoid it. That is why we keep fibre intake low at least two days before the race. Smaller meals throughout the day can be more useful than fewer, large meals.

It is common to hear of injuries and illness before the race. The body needs to prepare itself for the race, so we need to taper to reduce the catabolic (destructive) processes, and increase anabolism (constructive) process.

’ll report more on my findings from my offshore running laboratory next weekend.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Being on Your Toes

Vibram Five Fingers running shoes get the Big Word! The star of the television series, Hung star talks about his very first movie (a Bollywood musical!) and explains why shoes are like ‘tiny prisons for your feet’.

Last night, I went for an hour of barefoot running. I did not run for four days after the Singapore Bay Run/Army Half Marathon as I was nursing a persistent but mild cough. Although I did not get a lifetime PB for my 21K, I was pleased with my race pace especially my negative split timing for my second 10K. I could have smiled more during the race, and with my emaciated, lower-bodyfat runner’s face, I looked miserable.
My legs felt strong and stable, with immediate feedback from my running surface. With barefoot running, you can rapidly shift your next running step for a more comfortable one. In running terms - if you over-pronate - you can then supinate your feet. If you wear overly supported running shoes, your feet muscles learn to be lazy. Test this out for yourself when barefoot at the swimming pool: take a short run of about 10-15 metres. Notice how you land, and push off: are you on your heels when you land? Where exactly is it most comfortable, stable and safe?

The ball of our toes is the most powerful point of our feet. Have your cleats adjusted near that point n your cycling shoes and you will earn more speed. As David Greenfield of Elite Bicycles suggested, when we go on the alert position, our bodyweight is shifted to our balls of toes. To have our cleats positioned near the toes may prematurely fatigue our calves while cycling – you don’t want to do that! Ride in neutral position, not on your toes. Speak to master-fitter about this if you are not generating enough power and efficiency on your ride. It is worth it!

I merely use Vibram FF shoes (twice a week) to strengthen my leg and educate it to run more naturally. I am now running with smaller strides and higher cadence (more leg turnover). This is aligned with the Chi Running philosophy: I attended such a workshop about three years ago. Running barefoot feels like doing multiples sets of deep calf raises, for you do experience a deep, throbbing soreness and stiffness after you stop. So, it is useful to walk it out as a cool-down, and stretch your calves and hamstrings.
I will share about huaraches (featured on McDougall’s Born to Run), or the running sandal (used by the elite Tarahumara ultra-runners of the Copper Canyon of Mexico) shortly.

Countdown: One week to Berlin Marathon.
Photo credits: Army Half Marathon/SBR (top photo); Team FatBird (lower photo) 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Apply Fully What You Learn Or Intend to Use

Our muscles lose their tone through time. Unless regularly stimulated, our sinews lose strength, power and flexibility. To reduce the degenerative process, we need to constantly exercise them by making the muscles work harder. This applies to gross (large) muscles as well as fine muscles in our body. Having practised sleight of hand magic for almost 20 years, I think my hands are as delicate and strong as a guitarist or pianist.

Tonight, I enjoyed a 2-hour magic lecture by Japanese, Shoot Ogawa. He is a very talented, skillful and international creative performer. In the international community, his reputation for performing illusions with knuckle-busting, hardcore, sleight of hand is almost unparalleled. His specialty is with cards, coins and the Chinese Linking Rings (where metallic rings link and unlink at will). He continues to improve on existing ideas and raise the bar of difficulty and amazement.

After the lecture, I spoke with fellow magicians – mostly amateurs – and discussed some of Shoot's signature difficult moves. One of them said that using the move was challenging. My response was, if he had a use for it, keep practising that move until he attained mastery over it. Otherwise, it was a pointless move to pursue. You can keep fit running on a treadmill, but the view outdoors would be vastly spectacular. Or else, you can get fit swimming, cycling, trekking and paddling.

Too often we are caught in a relentless pursuit of our dreams – and that is fine. However, if you do not achieve some of these, eventually, you will invariably be disappointed. Why learn something unless you have a real use for it? Apply it, and discover more uses for it. If there is an easier, more effective method, consider learning and using it. If you attend swim correction classes, you will still need to practise the new strokes to reinforce the new patterns. Likewise, if you not apply any new technique for running your posture tends to adopt positions that are comfortable - sticking to what it already knows and recognizes.

Learn, unlearn, and relearn. Use it, or lose it.
I encouraged two magicians to participate in a 10K race in October, and they signed up. They include the magician I challenged to increase his 8K-limit to 10K. I suggested that once they earned their first race t-shirt and medal, they might be keen to improve their timing. One of them was wearing Nike FREE shoes and he said that they felt like running relatively unsupported (barefoot?). He believed that he is benefitting from running in these shoes.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Getting Ahead In Life

These are ways to advance in your career and profession:

1)    What you know [Competencies].
2)    Who you know [Relationships].
3)    Who knows you? [Reputation]

I recall years ago a successful businessperson proposed that know-who is as important as know-how. Competency and credibility are as critical as the relationships you build and sustain. Your tribes of supporters help to build your recognition.

I appreciate that many readers who read this blog are PMETs who also pursue an amateur athletic lifestyle. What do they do sports seriously? Does their achievements outside of their profession complement and enhance their reputation as industry leaders? Or is sport a healthy way to vent off your frustration, as in racing. Being an ace swimmer, fast rider, and strong runner can help build your off-duty reputation as somebody who lives with excellence.

Your reputation matters! Build your personal branding. Live by a set of values that is honorable. Like others, and be liked.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Help Regulate Applied Healthcare Professionals!

Do you seek the consultation of a physiotherapist, chiropractor, sports massage therapist, nutritionist, dietitian and podiatrist? Have you enjoyed the services provided by them? What do you think of their expertise and results? Can you do without such alternative medicine and interventions? Can you vouch for their validity and reliability from your personal experience?

Here is where tribes are built. If you think and feel that these professionals are worth your while, perhaps you can assist in their continued existence.

Help allied health practitioners with a new Bill. Involve yourself in the governance process. Your opinion matters in creating and regulating professional services we care about. In this case, we urge leaders to lead with their keyboards and write their opinions and reasons for supporting the allied healthcare.

Please support Chiropractic Regulation.  The Singapore Government has requested feedback on the regulation of Allied Health Professions from now until 7 October 2010. Your feedback to include Chiropractic in this legislation is important.  

The Ministry of Health would like to invite public feedback on the Allied Health Professions Bill (“AHP Bill”). The purpose of the proposed Bill is to protect the health and safety of the public through the registration and regulation of allied health professionals, and prohibiting misrepresentations of these professions.

Voice your part in enhancing our lives! Be the change you want to see.

Final reminder: The Asia OD Summit 2010 will be held on 27-29 October. Our wonderful and gracious hosts in the Philippines are ready to put on a fabulous conference.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bounce Back with a Smack!

Jugglers don’t normally make mistakes in performance; they do make an abundance of them during practice and training. It is almost deplorable if a professional juggler drops a ball during the complex, dynamic actions. I observed that the judges were quick to pick on the ‘failures’ of contestants on one Moment of Glory (OMG) – a weekly talent show, modeled after America’s Got Talent and Britain’s Got Talent.

Bouncing back from failure is part of one’s resilience. Professional jugglers know that it is a surefire device to deliberately drop a ball, and then successfully juggle with an additional ball. Successful entrepreneurs learn very well that being resilient allowed them to recover from costly and painful mistakes. Live and learn! Avoid the same mistake in future. Effective leaders learn to bounce from one crisis to another by asking the right questions, balancing asking with telling, and being flexible. Flexibility allows elasticity of nature. Help your team create choices for themselves, instead of dishing out answers. You are not a solutions-vending machine!

I know of enough athlete-executives who get frustrated over their injuries, missed opportunities to gain better timings, and training plateaus. The idea is to not wallow in self-pity and regret for long, and to refocus your energies to another purposeful outcome. If you are injured, heal your body; seek treatment, recover and recuperate. If you hit the hilt of your training, review your program: seek a coach, periodise your training, and pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses. The results you seek will emerge in time. Like a silicon ball, create potential energy before you can unleash its kinetic energy. The height of the falls equals the bounce.

On another note, the results are out for my run yesterday. Despite not earning my best PB, I improved (over last year) by two minutes, and moved my rankings (in a larger field) to top-4 percent overall, and top-6 percent (in my age group). I am in awe of the Masters-level runners - many of them continue to post brilliant timings still! I overtook about 166 runners in my last 10K. My last 10K was done at a 4:30min/km pace while my first-10K was a leisurely and meandering 5:20min/km. I can live with 5-minute pace for the half-marathon. Main take-away from the run: patience, posture and pace. I feel I am recovering from my injuries and beginning to peak for next weekend’s marathon.

Boing! Boing!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Competition Isn’t So Bad A Thing!

With an almost-filled, weekend, sporting schedule athletes have so many choices these days to race and compete with like-minded individuals. Yesterday morning, 70,000 runners ran 5K, 10K or 21.1K at the Army Half Marathon. Already in its 19th edition, this national-level run takes runners through an lovely and lively excursion of the CBD area, and four, mild bridges. By mild, I mean if you trained on hills and slopes; otherwise, it does the take the wind and potential PB out of you.

How many of these runners were actually competing? I observed some runners blast off immediately into the impending horizon. Some could not resist over-taking, while others did not like being overtaken. What is this thing about competition? Haven’t we heard that a little competition won’t hurt anyone? Even at the last few hundred metres, runners sprinted with each other to gain a few seconds advantage. The victory may not spell in absolute value, but in ego terms, it could buoy our self-esteem.

So often, we hear clichés like ‘winning isn’t everything’, ‘you compete against yourself’, ‘completing is more important than competing’ or ‘nobody really wins the race.’ How can competition be useful?

1)    Being competitive and competing are distinct things.
2)    The competitive spirit can bring out the potential in us.
3)    It may encourage you to jump out of complacency, and into a more capable state.
4)    Competition pits those who want to be the best, with the best.
5)    Competition can be from within; you attain your personal best without undue influence from outside.
6)    It provides an avenue and venue for expressing your skill, talent and ability.

How do you compete? How do you respond to competition? As a team-leader, how do you engage competitiveness in your team’s performance? How do you activate intra-team competition? How do you bring out the best of each member?

Inject a little competition into your life!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

It Doesn’t Happen On Every Sunday!

This morning, at 5.10am, thousands of runners were flagged off for the Army Half Marathon/Singapore bay Run. I was among the front of the pack, as I did not want to be bogged down by playful runners and stragglers. Last year, having parked myself far behind, it took me a long time to get my rhythm and space. Eventually, the pack disintegrates into sub-units where you can latch on to, when you find a pace that suits you best. I overtook more people than I got overtaken, so that was a good sign. Running through the finisher’s chute with a strong kick meant I had some left in my tank. I was pleased for holding up to the challenge.

Learning points: Patience is a virtue, even when racing. Dr Ben Tan told me this morning that he takes many kilometres later before he finds his running rhythm. Go too hard too soon (usually if you do not monitor your heart-rate/pace) and you may pay for it down the road. I held a 5-minute-per-kilometre pace for most of the race, and I am glad I focused on the moment.

Enjoy the day. I met so many ex-students, friends and training buddies after the race. One awesome triathlete had to go back immediately as he just became a father two days ago. We will race at Ironman Western Australia in December.

The race is just an outcome. If you enjoyed a PB – great! If not, there will be other opportunities. I saw several disappointed faces. Heck – I could have been one of them, however I chose to accept my result. I improved two minutes over last year, and I felt good that I did not suffer the symptoms of recovering from this week’s flu. My big picture is the marathon in a fortnight’s time and an Ironman in December.

Manage my discomfort. I am watching over my injuries. The human body, being a systemic thing, responds with the implication of physical training. I have realized that cross training is important, and training exclusively as a runner did not do my body any good. I respond better with a menu of swims, rides and runs. Also, get massages done on a weekly basis if you tend to get tight muscles. Tight calves can activate discomfort, pain and unpleasant sounds on your knees, ITB, ankles, soles and heels. I had a relatively pain-free run, running light and free.

By the way, I saw more barefoot runners. A few of my friends wore Vibram Five Fingers, and the rarely seen huaraches (as featured in Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run). The latter is a sandal of sorts. Technically, you can run barefoot or in slippers without injuring yourself. My friend, Eng Boon scores a PB in this race. Congratulations, buddy!

Have a good weekend!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Quest to Be Best

I remember that ‘Quest to be Best’ was one of my previous company’s core values. I have given this approach/philosophy deep thought over the years. The Quest was a film starring the Muscles from Brussels, Jean-Claude van Demme. An anecdote shared by a hotel executive (I know) who served him years ago during the filming in Thailand, was that JC was fussy about the way his glass noodles was prepared. The supporting martial artists on the set of the film, ate up to one kilogramme of pasta per meal as they were continual rehearsing and training between take.

My friend, Knowledge Management expert Keith De Larue tweeted today ‘A glass of muddy water eventually becomes clear’. Given time, clarity will replace confusion. It is so easy to allow people around us to cloud our judgement, blur our vision and intrude our thoughts. Keeping our personal vision in sharp focus and contrast is a challenging job, yet we need to be mindful and alert most times. So when somebody urges to ‘settle down’, they are reminding us to give it time for us to find our centre, our focus. Sometimes, we have to settle our differences through productive conversations and appreciative inquiry.

Our congratulation goes to Lim Leong for being awarded Community Leader for Southeast CDC by the Mayor last week! He earns the privilege to propose projects for the district. Lim has been leading the innovation in branding movement for a few years – he walks his talk. Read his insightful proposals on his blog.

My friend, Martin Parnell keeps running, five times a week, until he reaches his target of 250 marathons in one year. Yes, he runs a marathon a day on weekdays; he rests only on weekends. He does this purposefully for raising funds for charity. Go on – help him.

Today is Remembrance Day for events leading up from 11 September. Do you recall what you were doing on that eventful and sad day? Perhaps it is opportune to give thanks and appreciation for those around us. Tell somebody close that you love him/her. Recognise them for their performance and efforts.

Tomorrow, at 5.15am I run a 21K with thousands of runners. It is a marquee event that is not to be missed! Two days of rest from the flu I picked up, is frustrating but I believe that the sleep and self-massage and stretching has done me good. Like my client used to say ‘It is what it is!’ I’ll just go forth and run. The results are only part of the outcome. I’m sure I will enjoy the new route and swell company after the sweaty, tough event.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Honour Code

Professionals abide by a body of ethics that allows them to practise their disciplines and craft. There is even an honour code among thieves (that is, thieves do not steal from thieves). Our behaviors need to be appropriate in our families, in public, with colleagues, with business associates, and with travellers. The common denominator for all these relationships is values.

Some of the core values that comprise ethics and other moral codes include integrity, honesty and trust.

Values should be kept inviolate. When somebody trespasses your values, you will detect it. Values and beliefs are to be respected, not openly challenged, as there is no clear right or wrong.

Never sell somebody stuff they don’t need. Up-selling is fine, but not over-selling. Turning a profit regardless of observing ethics in business puts you at a disadvantage through time. Your reputation will exceed itself and customers will avoid you like the plague. Bombarding your e-mail list with letters to purchase can be deemed as excessive and inappropriate. Asking for permission to mail, and giving the option to ‘opt out’ are expected these days, as people have choices and their values need to be respected.
I am recovering from a mild bout of cough and fever. I have deliberately avoided exercise for a few days, as I believe that my body needs to heal from this shock to my system. Surprises and shocks pop up; usually at the wrong time. However, we need to learn to cope and respond to these exigencies and disappointments. My last A-race before the Berlin Marathon will be this Sunday, so I will just run – that’s all I know – my best race on that day. I hear that the weather in Europe is nice and cool – am looking forward to a scenic and historical race.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Working with the Wisdom of Others

Wisdom has been described as ‘learning from one’s mistakes’. So, by extension you can benefit from somebody’s wisdom by not repeating his errors.

Last night, I enjoyed my time learning from a panel of experts at Elite Bicycles Asia (3 Duxton Hill). It was standing room event that read like a Who’s Who in the local endurance sport community. In summary, I learnt from Wilson Low  (adventure and triathlon coach), David Greenfield (founder of Elite Bicycles and master bike-fitter), Dr Kelvin Ng (chiropractor) and Ben Pulham (former-triathlon professional and triathlon coach):

1)    Get your spine examined for misalignment (subluxation) as we may be merely attending to symptoms and not the root causes. Get an adjustment if it is part of your prescription. Misalignment on the spine can cause pressure on nerves which, in turn, can cause dis-ease, discomfort and pain.

2)    A professional bike-fit ensures comfortable rides, and optimal use of our natural musculature and default posture. You can crank out 20-30 watts more power with a proper bike fit.

3)    Training periodisation* is crucial if you want to make continual progress in your endurance sport. There are three critical phases: endurance, strength/endurance, and speed. Each phase is specific and getting it right may be the shorter pathway to your goals.

4)    Training is to accustom our bodies for what will happen on race day. You cannot force your body to do what is beyond what it is familiar with.

5)    Get measured and tested. There is a battery of tests that can detect and assure you of your abilities. You can do testing on your fitness, blood, muscular abilities, strength/power, nutrition, and proprioceptive abilities.

I hope that this gives you a better sense of what is involved if you intend to finish your first triathlon, marathon or century ride. In my experience, seek the counsel of professionals – training coach, chiropractor, massage therapist, bike-fitter, and nutritionist. You will certainly gain from the education and experience. No one is truly an expert. We gain from the wisdom of others.

Good luck and better education in your sporting adventures!

* Periodisation is a dynamic process of consistently and slowly increasing training load and volume with periodic recovery days or weeks. It allows athletes the best way to produce long-term, sustainable fitness gains while avoiding injury and burnout. Often, participating at too high a level of physical training and competing, too soon, may result in injury.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

More Soup For Spurring You On

Leaders come in all forms. They do not remain static, enjoying the status quo, but instead progress forwards. The concept of successful transcends conventional wisdom, clichés and paradigms. Success integrates achievements, courageous attempts, decisiveness, having a sense of adventure, defying comfort, being innovative, denying mediocrity, and engaging a sense of involvement.

Let’s do a review of the interviews we did over the past year. I feel nostalgic about it. Recent is new. To revive is to refresh. That is why reading the classics and bestsellers can be useful, if only to mine for overlooked nuggets of wisdom and strategies. The Great Books (including scripture) enjoy the well-deserved superlative as they warrant being read over and over again.

As the interviews are comprehensive, do scroll to new posts and you will get additional chapters. Pardon me for some misalignment as the new template had a mind of its own. The content and stories are immensely powerful, and I am glad I was part of the amazing experience of capturing it. I hope you enjoy them.

Tobias Frenz: Back-to-Back Ultra-Ironman Wins

Mitch Thrower: Serial Entrepreneur, Serial Ironman and Philanthropist 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Stories to Warm Your Cockles or Seriously Spur You On

Over the past year, since the inception of this blog, I had the privilege to interview about a dozen luminaries in the corporate world. They also happen to have made great achievements and excellence in their respective fields of endeavour. For those preparing for the Singapore Marathon, Army Half Marathon and Ironman Western Australia, perhaps reading these stories will give you added mental arsenal that you can train harder, and accomplish more. All the best!

Dr Ben Tan: From World-Class Sailor to Top-Marathoner

Alan Geraldi: San Francisco Triathlon Guy & Ultra-Marathoner

Steven Novick: Cancer Survivor and Mt Everest Climber

International Award-Winner, Jeremy Pei: For excellence in the performing arts, here is my recent interview with one of Singapore’s top professional illusionists.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Leaders and Storytelling

‘Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a…and they lived happily ever after!’ The end.

That opening statement and closing statement of a fairy-tale is the formula for a trance-like journey into the child’s imagination. The world of myth, fantasy or make-believe is critical to our human thinking and its faculties. To be creative, we need to imagine possibilities and make connections to what is with what could be.

The diversity of blogs featured on this site reflects on the relevance of their stories. Without stories, our lives would be different and, perhaps, hollow. Stories give us an opportunity to shift mental and emotional gears. When we hear a story, we respond to it in ways that are certainly not ingrained in routine, the mundane, and mental tunnel vision. Consider the popularity of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.

Even lunch-hour chatter can be healthy. Having lunch and tea are rituals; we have to eat and drink. Having your nutrition on the ride and run is crucial to your success in completing the endurance race or training session. Post-training session with runners, cyclists and swimmers include food, and stories about races and racing experiences. Everybody has a story to tell. Listen to them. It warrants your attention and may yield insights. It also melds minds with its subtle influence. Think of how you help convert novice runners into more serious, and even elite runners; short-distance triathletes into long-distance triathletes.

Build a library of war stories. As a coach, compile stories of what went well, and went things went wrong. Collect stories about the history of your company. Recognise the founders and the pioneers. Nike was built about the stories about Coach Bill Bowerman and Steve Prefontaine. Sir Richard Branson’s exploits with BA paved the way for Virgin Airlines.

If you are keen to explore corporate stories, you can read more about Anecdote.
These guys [L-R: Aristol, me, Mervyn, Reeves & Roger] have - between them - numerous war stories on being corporate leaders, and participants in international long-distance races. You are welcome to shoot the breeze with us and find out how to embark on YOUR JOURNEY!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Wearing Yellow For A Wet Day

This morning, despite a persistent rain, I joined about 7,600 runners in a run-for-a-cause: Yellow Ribbon Run. For a $2 donation, I wore yellow show-laces with the words ‘Yellow Ribbon Project’.
I did not register a PB this morning, but I was pleased that my legs held and I could take the slopes with more ferocity than last year. I was glad to bump into old friends and fellow Ironman finishers, Johnson Jacob and Adrian Wong; Adrian posted a 43-minute run with minimal training. He has youth and talent on his side, which I am envious of (mainly, his talent). Johnson transitioned from Ironman triathlons into ultra-running and has run several ultra-marathons including two grueling desert runs; he is setting a tough pace for aging gracefully into one’s 40’s. He looked happy running with his wife, son, daughter and brother.

The challenging part of the run was mainly the rolling profile, and running in wet shoes. I was somewhat embarrassed to bare my feet for the masseur at the athlete’s massage tent.
Upon recovering from a demanding pace (for me, at least) at the end-point, I joined fellow magicians of the International Brotherhood of Magicians (IBM) Ring 115, Singapore. Led by a public officer, Jimmy Lee the band of 11 magicians entertained the recovering runners with close-up magical illusions and balloon sculpting. As my civilian clothes arrived later, and with a long queue for collection I did not perform. Instead, I kept fellow members company by being part of the audience and giving positive feedback to their presentations. Both audience and magicians kept me suitably entertained. A large group of giggling teenagers were so captivated by the magic that our magicians took turns to impress them – and they did.
The sun made an appearance when we departed. It was a warm start to a wet but good day. Next week: Army Half-Marathon. Let’s see how that pans out in terms of race preparation.

Photo-credits: Jimmy Lee 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Declaration of the Double Deca-Ironman

The following announcement comes from world-ranked Deca-Ironman finisher Kua Harn Wei (who we interviewed some time ago):

After years of speculation, it is finally here. The International Ultra Triathlon Association (IUTA) brings back the Double Deca Ultra Triathlon. Yupe, you heard it right - 76km pool swim, 3600km bike ride and then 844km run.

Not a walk in the park, but well, it will be held in a park in Monterrey, Mexico, as usual. Biking and running will all be done on a 1.9km loop. I know many of you think that it is boring but, hey, this multi-looped challenge is PART of the game. It works your mental. Make or break, it always begins up there.

Nope, I won't be racing the double deca this year; maybe years later. But I am coaching an American ultra triathlete - Peter Lefferts - for the Double Deca this year. Pete finished the Deca in 2008.

This year's race will see great competition with reigning deca- (one-ironman-per-day format) world record holder cum 2009 World Cup champion Ferenc Szonyi in the lineup. There will also be a 'shorter' race going on at the same time - the deca. The deca world record (continuous format, in which one has to finish all the swim before the bike, etc.) may fall this year, as the lineup comprises of some of the very best ultra talents we have assembled in years for a single event. These guys have been training for months setting their sight on the most coveted ultra tri honor of all times - the deca world record (slightly over 8 days).

Stay tuned.
The phrase extreme sports conjures the perception and impression that it is highly dangerous. Yet, the risks involved may be no different than running after a bus or manipulating a shopping-cart. Extreme may mean highly challenging and physically demanding. Changing diapers for the untrained new father can be considered extreme.

As you can see, there is no limit to human imagination and the human will. If ultra-marathons are the test of running endurance, then consider the deca-Ironman it as part of the extreme triathlon menu. The world of ultra-distance endurance sports knows no bounds. Today, amateur athletes attempt long distance swims in the open sea, ultra-marathons, cycling tours and ultra-Ironman triathlons. Our predecessors (those privileged to go before us) pave the mental pathway for us to participate and partake in the seemingly impossible.

When does the madness end? I don’t think it will – not at least for the moment. As Albert Einstein said, ‘Great minds have always received violent opposition from mediocre ones.’ And, as a corollary, there may be no madness after all. Our body can quit on us but our will and spirit may resist.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Are You A Leader Who Is A Know-It-All?

I often hear the remark ‘I know’ or ‘I know it already’; ‘I’ve attended workshops on it before.’ Variations include: ‘I’ve done it before – I know.’ ‘I have worked here for ten years – I know.’ ‘Work here long enough and you will know!’

The question is ‘how much do you really know?’ Can you do it? Really? If you know it, why aren’t you doing it? Don’t tell me – you’re not paid to do it. So much for being resourceful and pro-active!

Do you know that you stop learning once you made that simple but sweeping statement? Like the Zen parable, your cup of tea is already filled. You can only accommodate knowledge if/when you empty your mind. Beginner’s Mind is what we need if we are to really learn.

Knowing something is different from a sense of knowing (as in intuition). Knowledge is something else. Having knowledge does not really make you all knowing. Skills are about applying your knowledge. How does knowing and not applying make you increase your skillfulness and competence?

Experience is part of the process of knowing. If you had a similar experience, you may be able to relate to somebody else’s by saying ‘I think I know.’ Crossing the finishing line in an Ironman race or marathon or a 10km race – it can be part of your knowing. Having experienced success, failure, achievement, disappointment, fulfillment and realisation – these are moments that build upon our knowledge and knowing. Reading the blogs recommended here may give you an insight into how other leaders think. And, no, leaders need not be CEOs or C-level managers!

It may be painful and embarrassing to admit that you don’t know something. But, hey, welcome to the real world! That is why we have experts. You are an expert in some areas of your life, while others have their own expertise. At the Youth Olympic Games, we engaged international referees, jury-members and technical controllers with vast experience and exposure. This collaboration with our national technical officials and team of volunteers, made the five days of weightlifting competition safe, fair, efficient, and exciting. 
So, are you a know-it-all? Time to face reality, and get real. The next time somebody challenges you with ‘What do you know?’ be ready for a retort that is deep and penetrating. Or, you can wade in the shallow end and wonder if you can swim…
Photo-credit: International Weightlifting Federation (IWF). Our YOG national volunteers and officials with International President, Dr Tamas Arjan.