Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Early Days of IMNZ 2012

Good day to all!
Day 2: Auckland City, en-route to Lake Taupo - home of Ironman New Zealand. It will be just under five hours before we arrive. The main posse has staked their claim there, mainly Matthew, Wilson, Clifford, Chris and Winston.
I bumped into Winston on business class, as I made my dainty way to the rear of the plane. He is recuperating from illness and last weekend's Tokyo Marathon, and he hopes to complete the 226K triathlon. Chris Smith was at the last row with his wife, in positive spirits.
I am fully recovered from Monday's deep-tissue massage, and my calves are released from tension (incurred from Saturday's final spin, and Sunday's tempo run). Coach has prescribed my tapering week's program, more short sessions to tune up my body. Friday is a rehearsal of all three stations, necessary for preparing the body for the assault on Saturday. I have found that a short session prior to the race, enhances my body's readiness to race. Hong Kong Marathon 2011, where I scored a BQ/PB, was made with a treadmill/bike session about 12 hours before the race!
Tomorrow morning, I will do my wet-suit swim with various intensities. It is supposed to my rest day. I will fix up my bike and bring it for a ride later this evening, and do a short run (with some short bursts in-between).
More on the race fair tomorrow.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Empowered & Powered Up To Perform

How many of you actually practise empowerment with your staff? How do you know that your staff feels empowered due to your leadership?

We can empower ourselves with knowledge, skills, experience, exposure, attitude and relationships. Learning from our mistakes can also enhance our ability to feel empowered by the authority bestowed upon us. To empower staff, delegate to the best person for the task, so they may succeed even with stretch goals. Also, be mindful to relinquish part of your authority to your staff (so they may act independently in your relative absence), yet still hold on to the responsibility (when things go on a tangent).
Thank you, sponsors for supporting our charity of choice. We have managed to earn a total of Z$3,258.00 for CF4Kids. I like to thank the following people personally for making this goal of mine happen: Integrative Learning Corporation (Singapore), Lim Fung, Kum Choy Yin, David Chambers, Dennis Yeo, Dennis Quek, Winston Koh, Desmond Chow, Vijay, Sanae; Sivasothi, Susan Ng, Phoon,Sur, Hana & Lina; and Caroline Shum.
My express-ordered, Elite-expedited, unpainted ride for IMNZ 2012 looks like this; I joked that she is made from washing-machine parts (a nod to the Flying Scotsman). My Elite Custom Razor looks raw (I adore the look of the old steel, classic bikes), like Frankenstein’s monster with diversity through grafted parts. I will retro-paint her after the race, where I will decide which colour scheme best describes her. I have retained my original carbon forks, which have my name on them and are painted in the original maroon. At least, a few of my friends have, finally, seen what a custom-crafted bike looks like from the 'inside'. Knowledge empowers us by helping feel confident from the inside. I am ready to powerfully race on Saturday, so my racing attitude and mindset are designed for my 226K worth of triathlon adventure.

Leadership Lessons: Learn to delegate and empower differently. Ask for feedback on your ability to empower. If you are not empowering, stop saying that you are. Stop using buzzwords until they go out of fashion.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

10 Considerations In My Final Tapering Week

Tomorrow, I will fly off to Auckland before heading out to Lake Taupo on Wednesday. Then, final preparations begin for my race-readiness at 7.00am, Saturday, 3 March.

With one week to go, I still have to taper properly. This is a crucial week that can sabotage your efforts, if you are not diligent. This week, I had gradually-reduced mileage, including short runs, rides, and swims. Today, I ran one hour (90-94rpm cadence @ 5:15-5:30K/minute pace) along the beach route, and did a 45-minute pool session (pool-buoy sets and sculling). Yesterday’s 2-hour ride is a weaning off the 4-6 hour sessions that I completed weeks ago. My calves are now sore, as my easy ride included 40 minutes at half-Ironman race pace. Thanks to Nicholas who kept me company over several Saturdays. Hopefully, tomorrow morning’s sports massage session will help release residual muscle tension and knots in my legs.

Some cumulative, positive signs in my third attempt at this series include:

1)    I completed about 75 percent of Coach’s weekly training prescription. And, he is happy about that.
2)    I finally completed a few 13-15 hour training weeks, which are achievements for me. I am, naturally, averse to physical activity - but I enjoy racing.
3)    Swimming much more regularly, with strength-specific, sessions. Thanks to support from triathletes (buddies of Ironman 70.3 World Championships in 2008/2009), Marco and Kenneth!
4)    I feel more confident of my swim fitness and technique in my open-water, wetsuit swim last Saturday. I progressed to the middle of the pack with more upper-body control.
5)    I am more patient and mindful of my marathon pace, opting to use both intuition AND my Garmin 310XT  monitor and stick to my race pace of 5:15-5:30K/min at a cadence of 90-92rpm. I take more, smaller, steps now, without being winded and still maintaining my race-pace.
6)    My switch to Hammer Nutrition (Coach’s suggestion) after weeks of experimentation led me to my confidence in its products. I will use mostly Perpeteum endurance drink, gels and Endurolytes (salt replacement) as my main source of nutrition. I will carry less nutritional load, but nutrition-loaded supplements.
7)    My ride sessions (with strength-based training, short time trials, and race-pace sets) have given me more confidence on my bike. I can take hilly routes better now.
8)    Unlike 2010, where I lost swim and ride fitness due to a car accident (I was hit from behind by a taxi), I am more race-fit and determined to do my best. Third time lucky?
9)    The fact that I got my replacement Elite Custom Razor frame in (I thrashed mine when I hit a stationary truck) four weeks ago means that I have a custom-crafted and custom-fitted bike to allow me to ride comfortably and accentuates my fitness. Only concern is that I rode roadie style for four weeks and did not do much by way of the aero-position.
10) I am almost race-packed, so none of the troublesome worries that comes about from poor travel planning and preparation.

I will post more upon my arrival. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Photo-Log: The Singapore Duathlon 2012

This morning, after my 2-hour tapering ride (on my new bike setup) with Nicholas Khaw, we attended the Singapore Duathlon. Due to the long duration of the race, with sprint and full-distance (10K run/40K ride/5K run) formats, I managed to capture only a cursory glance of the 30-39 and 40-49 age-groupers. It was a hot and humid morning, eventually hitting 33 degrees Celcius, with a fair number of dropouts (and for sensible reason). Enjoy the photographs and videos. Congratulations to Tomoya Tsuarata and Ewin Teo for placing 5th and 2nd respectively in their age-group! 60-year-old, male veteran Victor Chan scored another podium finish with third - good job, Victor! , Nicholas Fang, Vice-President of Triathlon Family Singapore was also a participant, showing panache within a tensed ambience. Results of the race are found on the race-organisers' Triathlon Association of Singapore (TAS) website.
The calm before the storm...
Friends from Team Crazy2Tri being spotted at the rear of the 40-49 age-group pack.
Flag-off for the 40-49's!
The ever-present and effervescent emcee, Ross Sarpani!
Elite-runner, Dr Bao Ying makes her way through the Ride transition.
Elite age-groupers, Tomoya Tsuruta (5th, 30-34 years) and C K Poon (winner of 35-39, Mens).
OD sprint specialist and 70.3 world championships finisher, Brian Tan.
30-39-year-olds ready to go!
Dr Derek Li (in grey,4th, 25-29 years) focused on the start.
Dex Tai smiles...taking it easy before the horn.
Results for a few categories, including Tomoya's and Ewin's placings (photo courtesy of Ewin Teo).

Friday, February 24, 2012

Splitting The Difference

Today, I did a double session: a strength ride session, and a swim session. Both emphasised strength even though I am on my final tapering days towards the next 226K-triathlon challenge. I had to postpone my session on Wednesday due to work, and Tuesday was a rest day after last weekend’s inception of tapering. Last Saturday, I completed three hours with seven (K) loops of Selarang (a popular route with cyclists). This evening’s swim with two Ironman 70.3 finishers and one Kona age-group world champion was a motivating one. I will receive personal instruction for my swim when I prepare for Ironman Switzerland on 15 July.

Some of my team-mates for Ironman New Zealand have been keeping active, too, although with a less structured routine. The simple approach is to reduce mileage (distance) and maintain intensity (if not increase it slightly). Coach has me doing short intervals as my main sets, using half-Ironman pace. The purpose is to challenge the body to accustom itself to varying bouts of intensities during race conditions. Also, I need to fully rest and recover before the big dance at Lake Taupo.

Updates on IMNZ preparation: I had my custom-made Elite Custom Razor bike built up. It does not look spiffy (yet), and looks like a prop from the Rock Horror Show. Yet, it retains most of the parts of the last bike, save for the damaged frame and aero-bars. You could say that it looks constructed from washing-machine parts (with a respectful nod to the ‘Flying Scotsman’). I hope that tomorrow’s two-hour ride will have me settle quickly into the seemingly, aggressive aero-position. I was riding roadie-style on my back-up Orbea Vitesse since my bike crashed, and road mostly upright on the bullhorns.

I will follow up with a brief report on the Duathlon race happening tomorrow on the East Coast. I am giving it a miss, although I would love to race. A dropped bottle-cage cost me a podium finish, and I was left with a sixth position in my highly competitive age-group last year. Stay focused on IMNZ, I will.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Short Bursts, Hard Hits

I was reading Macca’s book 'I'm Here to Win', where he relates his experience of a quick burst of energy after drinking a soft drink, during a low period of his marathon (a geographical location known as ‘Bonksville’). He learnt from a fellow competitor how he could defuse the ‘bonk’ (race-stopping fatigue) with a quick hit of plain sugar. Mind you, simple sugar in a soda is not the best choice of nutrition for your body, but it does just fine in delivering the punch when experiencing malaise and lethargy. When you subsist on the same nutritional product, like energy gels and the like, it can wreak gastric havoc because of tainted taste-buds and an exhausted body. The last thing during an intense session is for your body to shunt blood to your guts, to digest complex carbohydrates.

In my penultimate week to Ironman New Zealand, I am experiencing the symptoms of ‘exercise withdrawal. Not in the addictive sense, mind you, however it is a mixed bag of emotions and physical frustration from reduced mileage, high intensity, and anxiety born of the mindset ‘it may not be enough’. This sensations and feelings are natural, during the rest and recuperation stages prior to a race. A missed workout or two, due to work and a scattered schedule can further tease one’s temperament and temperature to its tether's end. This is a valid time to take stock and strategise one’s plans with a heightened sense of clarity and renewed commitment.

I am eating smaller but frequent, nutrient-dense meals. I am resting more to allow my body to recuperate from the weeks of demanding physical work, injury and illness. I am not fussed if my bodyweight and body-fat climbs as I would need all resources to fuel me through the 226K of challenges at lake Taupo. Hopefully, I can draw upon moments of short burst and harder hits to climb over mental and physical fatigue.

Leadership Lessons: How do you increase your effectiveness in the shortest time? What are the down sides when you accelerate your process of learning? How do you cope with changes, both physically and mentally?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Bike Frame In Time

My new frame arrived today!

Thanks to my crash warranty from Elite Custom Singapore (and master-bike fitter, David Greenfield), I had my order of my customized Elite Razor triathlon frame expedited – in time for Ironman New Zealand. It is unpainted, as I will have to race on it on 3 March, then retro-paint it. This will give me time to ponder on my colour choice and design.
Old versus new bike-frame: painted versus untainted surface. 
A careless moment while riding caused me to crash into the back of a stationary truck. Although I escaped relatively uninjured, my bike suffered severe physical impact. I am nursing a suspected hairline fracture on one or two ribs, and my chest has eased in its pain.

On Friday, I will get refitted on my new bike (save for salvaged parts like my Edge carbon wheels, crank-set, Profile aero-bars, and cockpit). I am thankful and hopeful about my performance on this new iron horse. I feel more reassured instead of anxious without my trusty tri-bike and reliable measurements. A trial ride on Saturday, and then I will pack my bike for Monday’s trip to Middle Earth.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ripped To The Bone

Well not exactly. Almost there, though!

Ripped to the bone is a bodybuilder’s term for extremely low body-fat on a muscular body. The human body needs to survive with a minimum of 3 percent body-fat to nourish mainly our brain and hormonal system. 3-5 percent body-fat reveals the deep fibrous structure of muscles. Sharp abdominal muscles show once you hit single-digit body-fat. Hit the lower-end of the fat level and you are talking about muscles in your buttocks and thigh screaming prime cuts!

I am concerned that I may lose too much fat, and muscle during my taper. In 2009 at Clearwater, Florida I had a bad ride at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships. I attributed it to jet-lag, a loss of 2.5kg of bodyweight (muscle and fluid) and a measured body-fat level of 7.8 percent. I prefer my body-fat to hover around 10-12 percent year-round as endurance athletes benefit from a bank of available calories from stored fat. The intramuscular fat is more useful than the pudgy, subcutaneous, adipose fat. Eating badly and excessive fatty foods is not useful, and only adds useless weight outside of muscles instead of inside it.
Bodyfat levels two weeks ago.
As this is tapering week, I hope to build a storehouse of reserves that will see me through my intended race-pace without meeting premature fatigue.
Bodyfat level now.
Fat is not the enemy, although aesthetically it has been associated with blurring the definition. Decide on how much fat you choose to carry on-season and off-season, and work with it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Monday’s Musings

I was watching an episode of the original 1970’s (actually 1968-1980) series of ‘Hawaii Five-O’ where Steve McGarett utters, ‘Every man’s death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind.’ The late-Jack Lord was the leader of the police squad on the Big Island, home of the Ironman World Championships for the last 30 years. The Kona Lottery closes on 28 February.
Onboard the Airport Express service en-route to my hotel: Wearing my Ironman NZ team t-shirt, I am reminded of a need to taper correctly. Coach sent me my second-last weekly program which involves less mileage, however with just as much intensity to keep my system alert for next weekend’s race.
David Chambers rode 200K a few ago, and faced one of the many unpredictable and prevalent sandstorms. Even Tom Cruise had to endure this as part of his filming challenges on Mission Impossible.

All the best to Team IM Melbourne in the inaugural race in late-March! It will be a busy month of the new year with the 226K triathlon challenge. Have a great week, all!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Procrastinating Procrastination

This morning, the sky looked sad and gloomy. It has rained overnight. My riding partner text me early to decide on our plan to ride at 7.00am. I suggested that he go back to sleep since it was drizzling in the east. The fact that it was the last day of the Singapore Air Show meant traffic congestion, and bad news for cyclists.

I sat it out, monitoring the weather. It was so easy to find an excuse to skip a three-hour ride. Instead, I decided to brave the weather and last as long as I could before I had to cease all activity. One hour after riding a risky, traffic-enhanced road, I decided to climb the 4K-loop of Selarang Hill. There is an initial, gradual 1K climb and ends with a steeper but shorter climb, punctuated with a few rolls. Not that demanding however good stimulation of the fast-twitch muscles. A small dose of the hurt locker would be a useful prescription for an Ironman taper. I completed seven consecutive loops before heading back. I also took on the ‘beast’ – Hendon Hill that is a short but steep climb just to extend my legs a tad more. I was pleasantly rewarded with the strength in my legs, earned through once-a-week, double, strength-ride sessions.

I was pleased to bump into Germany-based triathlon friends, Grace and Hans; we had a brief chat before I bade them adieu. I also bumped into 'Otterman' Siva (and introduced to his wife), my ex-junior college friend and now biologist/zoologist lecturer/researcher at the National University Of Singapore. I considered it a productive morning, achieving my easy ride with pockets of Ironman-paced efforts.

Instead of holding back, hold up. Crash through the wall of indecisiveness! For once, just suspend your procrastination and begin the task. Warm up, and then extend the work for as long as you can. You will be better off for doing so.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Raising Funds & Raising Hope

My friend, Vijay wrote a comment on Facebook to me:
In lieu of your worthy cause:
"Your now a Purpose Driven Knife."
Excel You shall, Go forth you Will.

This poem is an encouraging reminder of my tasks at hand on 3 March. Already, we have raised a total amount of NZ$3,158 for our charity through Ironman Team-Varella, Cystic Fibrosis for Kids (CF4Kids). We are actually number 5 on the top-fundraisers list. I am very grateful to my partners-in-charity who will help fulfill expectations and, perhaps, dreams. Also, I am on-track and hopeful to complete my 16-week preparation for Ironman New Zealand. It is my final two weeks of tapering: less mileage, sustained intensity and stimulation, and more recovery.
It warms my cockles to know that so many friends are behind my charity of choice, as well as supporting me. After last night’s 17K run in 90 minutes (meeting my goal pace: 11kph, cadence 90-92, RPE: 6-7.5), and this morning’s lagoon swim (3.2K) with 29 other swimmers, I feel confident of my recovery and race targets. With this morning’s wetsuit swim, I managed to stroke my way near the leading pack and enjoying my invested motions. Those twice-weekly pool-buoy sessions (using arms only) are translating into more efficient movements; this means I am wasting less effort, yet still putting myself into the grind, and finding my groove.

I am looking forward to tomorrow’s 3-hour ride and 30-minute run. Then, I will head off for a 3-day working trip before I pack for the Big Dance in Taupo, Auckland.
These valued words of encouragement and support empowers me, and directs me to my goals with purpose.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Working With Whatever Washes Your Way

Swimming in open-water (river, sea or lake) has its moments of danger and excitement. For one, there are no guides except the persons north, south, east and west of you. For another, you may not get the best visibility of what is below you. The sense of danger lurks at any moment from a swift, deft kick to the face or torso from an oblivious swimmer to strong waves that threaten to toss you over like a capsized boat.

Nevertheless, swimming in natural elements can be an achievement. Malaysia hosts the Kapas-Marang point-to-point, island-land 6.5K Swim. It is a relatively safe warm-water swim, where you need to be self-sufficient and hydrated. Survival skills for open-water is a must, and a competency that may just save your Speedo-ed behind when waters around you turn temperamental. The ability to stay calm and composed is a requirement in case the conditions for swimming change. With experience and time, and swimming with reliable swimmers you may just accomplish a deeply satisfying goal.

Leadership Lessons: How often do you switch you resilience on? How much of your values of tenacity, adaptive, choice, composure and decisiveness do you activate? Swimming through tough times may just strengthen our resolve to build the capabilities and potential of our team. Wade through shallow waters, then test the deeper waters and stroke through with smooth and fluid strokes. Stay alert to danger, and enjoy gliding through the environment for it may be supportive. Swim through the floatsam and jetsam of confusion, and make sense of it. You don’t have to understand everything, all the time.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

If Only…

My swim was as fast as my running.
My legs were as fresh for a 42K run after an 180K ride, as it is before a marathon.
There were more hills to train on, where I live.
An iPhone would meet my needs for minimal applications.
People would communicate and connect more with high-technology equipment than less.
I could qualify for a Kona slot sooner than later.
There was an Ironman race in Asia that met WTC’s confabulating standards.
Cycling on the roads could be safe and foolproof.
People can think deeper before they talk shallow.
Wishful thinking could replace fantasizing.

Leadership Lessons: If only leaders would quit talking and start doing something useful for others. If only we can spend more time thinking and doing both inside and outside the ‘box’.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

In Appreciation of Volunteers & Officials

Thank you, Dr Leow Jo Lene for this uniquely attractive piece of recognition!

Updates on IMNZ 2012

I am doing much better: My injuries, sustained during a freak accident, seem to be healing. I can swim, ride and run with less discomfort. Overall, my fitness is enhanced; I have achieved some of my goals like hitting an average running cadence of 90-92 footfalls per minute, holding the pace during my time trials (with heavy gears), managing the short intervals during swim-sets, and adjusting to my renewed nutrition plan.

Last week, I missed my last long ride and still have a 90K, tapering ride to do this weekend. On Monday, I swam 3.1K (main sets being 20X100m with pull-buoy) followed with an hour running at 11kph pace (my desired Ironman marathon pace). On Sunday, I rode 100 minutes on the stationary-bike, followed immediately with 20 minutes on the treadmill at race-pace. So far, all systems go! With two and half weeks left, my taper has to be precise and safe until I reach Lake Taupo.

Coach Craig ‘Fox’ Holland has been encouraging and directive with my weekly training program, culminating this week as the beginning of the tapering weeks. Dhubai-based David Chambers has been supportive from afar, with his constant e-mails and status of his quest for endurance glory. My donors to my charity, CF4Kids have also been my motivator, placing their faith in my personal challenge and cause.

It has been said ‘Third’s time a charm!’ I truly hope so, as this has been my toughest preparation for the 226K-triathlon format since IMWA 2006. I look forward to my 4K swim this evening before my club’s AGM. I have still more to do, before I sculpt the great statue from the block of stone! I just need to remove the unwanted bits and pieces before revealing the wonderful statue from within.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Results or Efforts Matter More?

Which are you focused on for performance measurement? Results or efforts?

In profit-driven companies, results matter more as part of your performance. Your performance centres round your KPIs, Key Results Areas (KRAs) and goals. Salespeople have to sell as much as they can. Marketers have to deliver on brand communication and brand development. Leaders have to lead the company to higher returns-on-investment (ROI) for their stockholders.

In cost-centres, efforts matter more. How you manage funds and budgets become your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). The time your staff spends on keeping the house in order validates their performance and, thus, employability. Values like accountability, integrity, transparency, and due diligence are the expectations of a highly-critical public which is trigger-happy on criticism, blame, and hullabaloo.

In triathlons, the journey is as demanding as reaching the destination. How you achieve your athletic goals is contingent to your efforts during training. Certainly, the more scientific the process the more likely you may attain your results. However, you still have to do then time if you are to be faster, stronger and higher. Your results are very much dependent on your fitness, lowered risk of injury, and how well you feed your body on race-day.

Leadership Lessons: Which matters more to you: results or efforts of your staff? Why? What are you doing to bring either up to speed?

Playing Catch-Up

I have missed a few triathlon-training sessions over the last two months. These were due to injury, clash of work schedule, and fatigue. Coach ‘Fox’ reminds me, now and again, that a missed workout is irretrievable, and to let it go. There is always the next session to look ahead to. Some of my friends in endurance sports believe that a missed workout promises a day of rest, for recovery, and preventing boredom and fatigue. There is a greater likelihood of meeting with an injury from meeting over-arching goals.

The same goes for my daily blog postings. On most days, I would be able to submit a new post. It may take me a day to think through a salient point, or some gleaned insight I experienced yet I will post it up. Last weekend’s travel and lack of Internet access held me back from committing to my long-term plan of ‘one daily post, everyday, for three years’. So I miss a day or two (longer if the host country blocks access to social media platforms), so what? I can still reinstate myself with subsequent, multiple postings.

In school, playing catch-up may not be useful as you end up cramming information with little comprehension, let alone understanding the material. You may suffer a cramped mind during the examination. It is consistent practice and rehearsal (training) that leads to the possibility of better grades.

Leadership Lessons: How often do you have to play catch-up? When do you know when to let it slide? What do you do when you miss an appointment, meeting or coaching session?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Magical Musings

I was away over the weekend. I attended a magic lecture by magician, Allen Okawa. Allen is a friend of my late-friend Roger Klause who was a major influence on many magicians worldwide through his ideas and tutelage. My friend, Sid introduced me to Roger in 1998 on my first trip to the USA as well as my first magic convention.
Thai organiser Sid and Hong Kong-based professional magician, Sean McFarlane chat about magic
I enjoyed Allen’s variations on some of the classic plots in magic, mainly on cards, coins and novelty magic (for instance with cowry shells). He was entertaining, too, and that is as important in performance as in lecturing. The younger audience in attendance also left with a shift in their perception about magic. Magic is more than showing tricks to each other; it is about experiencing the human condition through each illusion. Art evokes emotions, deeper thought, and feelings.
Allen Okawa strikes a pose with lecture-attendee
What came across as important, too, was the naturalness in the way he handled an object or tool. Anything arousing suspicion destroys the illusion, and the art is in creating the illusion. A magical presentation is about theatre, and how the actor plays the part of the magician convincingly. David Copperfield, Lu Chien and David Blaine are actors on television and/or stage who display their art, as artists, through their playlets. Each act is a recreation and dramatisation of humankind’s ability to defy the laws of nature: produce, vanish, destroy and restore, and transport (across time and space) objects, livestock and people.

How much magic do you enjoy in your life?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Have I Told You Lately That I…

Athletes enjoy earning their badges of honour after each race. The finisher t-shirt and medal are evidence of their achievement. It recognizes the runner, swimmer, cyclist or triathlete of what they have accomplished. Thus, you may see a new wave of fashion comprising finisher-tees flooding the malls on weekends. Few people would dare ask you if you ran the marathon, or walked part of it when you wear a t-shirt that boldly states: ‘Finisher of 42.195km’. It’s your shirt, and you earned it!

Employee recognition is a crucial aspect of managing and leading teams. It is a simple way of building rapport with people in your organization. It connects you with the staff who deliver behaviors that those around them appreciate, however may be passive to acknowledge. Recognition is also a universal value that many of us can live with. It is the precursor to reward and, sometimes, its substitute.

Some suggested ways of bringing out the ‘glow’ of your staff and colleagues are:

1)    Catch them doing right (instead of looking for blame). Do it as on the spot. It reinforces useful behavior.
2)    Describe these behaviors of worth to your staff during their one-on-one, quarterly interviews/reviews with you.
3)    Selectively send out personal memos of praise to staff.
4)    Share stories of their successes to staff at meetings. Identify behaviors of worth.
5)    Post case studies of performers on your corporate Intranet.
6)    Openly celebrate team successes. Make an announcement, ring a bell, or blow a whistle.

How else do you brighten up your staff’s day? How do you activate their inner glow?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Peaking, Puking & Poking Holes

With 3 more weeks to go to my 12th Ironman, I feel I am beginning to gain momentum in my progress. The grind through the long sessions was particularly hard on both my body and mind. My upper body strength during my swim sessions is improving. My riding speed is holding steady, especially with a road-bike and narrow-rimmed wheels. My run off the ride is more certain, sure and studied. My running cadence is nearing 90rpm consistently, with the heightened possibility of a negative split (I hope). These remaining weeks will be crucial, for I have a disruptive professional work schedule.

Holding back at times can be hard, especially when you are in the ‘zone’. Once warmed up, or when you experience your ‘second wind’ it can be tempting to push harder. Experiencing nausea, gastrointestinal (GI) distress and vomiting means the body is not coping with the pace and intensity of effort. To use a superhero analogy, one would do better to not express one’s powers fully until the right time. It is okay to experience fear, if fear keeps you alert to danger.

With my track record with pre-race injury, I need to be mindful and not just cautious. Any residual injury can usurp my position for optimal performance. If I have to dig deep with sub-optimal conditions, it may be pushing myself too hard. This may have implications on my 13th race in Switzerland in July. My strategy is to recover completely and plunge into more race-specific fitness focused on key areas where I can gain more speed and sustainability. I seem to be healing from my recent injuries and this evening's 2-hour strength ride with two sets of 30-minute time trials was promising. I held a 30kph pace, against persistent headwinds whilst on my road-bike setup. I am optimistic about my performance once I switch to aero-wheels.

Leadership Lessons: How often do you poke holes in your plan? How critical are you about inefficiency (including wastage)? How hard do you push yourself without devouring your reserves? How well do you monitor your performance? When do you know to throttle down your ambition?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Branding & Your Personal Positioning

I just returned from an overseas trip. I conducted two sessions of branding workshops, focused on demonstrating brand values and delivering on the brand promise.

What is your brand promise? That is your mission statement to yourself, your customers and business partners. By boldly stating my cause, I have positioned my interests and intentions to others.

My brand promise to my sponsors and donors of my charity, Cystic Fibrosis for Kids (of New Zealand) is threefold:
1)    Commit to training for Ironman New Zealand
2)    Complete the 226K-triathlon race on 3 March
3)    Meet the family with cystic fibrosis kids, and the association that supports physical interventions for these kids.
IMNZ 2010: With 11:30 Ironman finisher, David Chambers at the CF4Kids fund-raisers celebratory-tent.
It has been a challenging journey so far. I have had my fair share of accidents, fatigue and tough days. However, I have benefitted from my commitment to a purposeful cause, and emerged stronger. I am more disciplined, determined and directed. Many lessons on leadership can be gleaned from sticking to a strategic plan. By thinking and acting long-term, I have learnt how to be more decisive, diligent and discerning. I am optimistic I can direct these lessons to larger goals and creating value for the strategic partnerships and alliances I will build.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Another Heavy Week Completed

Last week, I completed almost 15 hours of training for Ironman: a rare and unprecedented achievement. In the past, I found it hard to complete most of Fox’s recommended program. I was glad to get back to swimming, opting to do multiple sets with the pool-buoy. I avoided swim-paddles as I got injured years ago from the strenuous impact afforded by my right shoulder joint.

My left chest is still sore when I breathe deeply, however the discomfort s subsiding. I still suspect either a strain or a hairline fracture, yet this has not impeded my progress in training two weeks after my unfortunate bike crash into a stationary vehicle. Matt wrote on how, yesterday, when he rode solo in the heat how easily one could easily zone out. He was in charge of the transition area at our annual TriFam Sprint, that saw 130 participants complete all three disciplines.

I have been enjoying my swim sessions at the Geylang East pool, where I have been swimming with my tri-buddies Marco and Kenneth – we were on the 2009 team to Clearwater, Florida for the 70.3 Ironman World Championships. I have been learning much about swimming techniques and training from the two, with them coaxing me to complete my sets diligently. I get by with a little help from my friends.

Last week will be the second-last week of going long, with two specific key workouts. On Saturday, I rode for 6 hours (on my road-bike) then ran off the bike for 45 minutes. On Sunday, I ran for two hours at Ironman pace (and faster) after I completed marshaling riders for the sprint event. The last two weekends were designed specifically to simulate fatigued legs after the ride. When all goes well, I should be able to hold my pace for a sub-4 hour marathon after a moderated pace for the ride. Currently, I believe I can hold a 3:55-3:50 marathon – a personal PB dream of mine. I am responding well to my race nutrition plan with Hammer Nutrition’s Perpeteum; I am carrying less weight, and rely on less gel packets on the ride, plus no GI issues. If the ‘add 20-30 minutes to your standalone marathon time’ is an accurate guide, then I should be able to hit my expected run time in the Ironman. It will be all about how well I respond to my swim and ride.

This week will be somewhat disruptive with travel. I will have to modify my preparation through different locations (like the gym), timing (split the workouts) and enjoying more sleep.

Monday, February 6, 2012

It’s Easier To Work With Professionals

What is the difference between a world-class photographer and an amateur photographer? Answer: Both know how to take good photographs, but the professional knows when.

I have often heard colleagues and clients mutter: ‘I rather work with professionals!’ What do they mean?

Professionals are people in occupations (professions) who profess to do something, or one thing very well. They may not be the ‘jack of all trades’ yet they may be a master of one skill or expertise. With a strong experiential background, they take pride in having ‘been there, done that, and goofed up’. They tend to have experienced similar situations, processes, and problems that accompany them – that is the value they offer to each business relationship.

Professionals cost more, and you are investing in their time, expertise and value. Would you short-change a valuable staff? I hope not, for they are worth more than their salaries. You may pay peanuts, however if they suffer from a peanut allergy than nothing else matters than their well-being. You have heard the saying ‘Penny-wise, and pound-foolish’? Being cheap has it consequences in business as well as in recreation. Hire a professional emcee, and reduce the risk of inappropriate behaviors and unprofessionalism.
Those dressed in red: Officials and volunteers.
Stick to your purpose and passion: mark of a professional.
Even if the professionals are volunteers on your committee, they should be treated as professionals. Each of these generous ones brings more than charity to the table. They extend a helping hand that is filled with resourcefulness, resilience, and relevance. Ask, and seek help. By engaging them, you engage their skills, experience and expertise.
Race briefing by seasoned endurance athletes.
Yesterday morning, Triathlon Family organised its annual triathlon sprint. With the integrated and concerted efforts of its volunteers and committee, the show went on safely, with purpose and poise. We had professional life-guards, event-organisers, seasoned race competitors, medical specialists, safety-crew, and more. The organizers and volunteers deserved their kudos. Certainly, consultants were behind the design and delivery of the event that saw 130 paying participants (who competed and completed, and made the event successful). Once paid, you will have to deliver.
All TriFam committee members were there including President, Vice-President and advisors.
Spare a thought instead of thinking of spare change.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

TriFam Sprint 2012: A Pictorial Review

Under the leadership of our new president, Andy Ng we successfully delivered this year’s edition of the Triathlon Family Singapore (TriFam) short-course triathlon. With the use of social media (mainly Facebook) and the $30 registration fee, about 130 enthusiastic participants showed up for the short-hand triathlon comprising 750m swim, 18K ride and 5K run. This multi-sport race is suitable for triathletes of all levels – whether you are a beginner or seasoned triathlete.
Organisers ensured that all swimmers were out of the swim with no cut-off time. We were not able to ask for road-closure with our limited fund, so cyclists were urged to observe traffic rules at all time. ‘A good race is when everyone comes home SAFE!’ quoted President, Andy Ng – no less a competitor himself.
Minister of State for Trade & Industry and Mayor, Teo Ser Luck found us sponsorship for  100+ & Tiger Beer for participants and volunteers (the latter, after the race, of course). He is a co-founder of TriFam, and a multiple-Ironman triathlon finisher.
Appreciation goes to YellowFish, Jeffrey, Adrian & Ben from Hivelocity to make this race possible; the capable people on the organizing committee; the wonderful helpers who came forward willingly & unselfishly; and top-national marathoner, and medical undergraduate Mok Ying Ren wrote a recent piece about the club on RedSports.Sg
Photo-credits: Enrico Varella & Leadership Lessons From Triathlons