Thursday, December 26, 2013

Hits & Misses For 2013

I trust that you had a joyous, past few days, celebrating the festivities of the year. Having reviewed my sporting goals, I have done a simple SWOT Analysis that included 'hits' and 'misses', and then translating these into Opportunities and Threats.

My misses for the year included: Sprained hip before and during the Singapore Marathon (December); missing a sub-6 hour at Kona; missed a sub-4 hour marathon in Kona; 

My hits for the year were: Completing the Ironman World Championships in Kona; earning a second Boston Qualifying (BQ) time; earned a new PB (3:16) and second BQ at Gold Coast Airport Marathon (July); qualifying for Boston Marathon 2014 (April); improved the marathon course in Singapore by one minute (over-2012)/missed my PB by one minute;

My goals for next year in triathlons and endurance sports will be: Earn a sub-4 hour marathon in an Ironman; hit sub-5:45 in my Ironman rides; met a sub-1:20 PB in my open-water 2.4-mile swim; complete with PB in Ironman New Zealand (March); complete Ironman Melbourne (March); complete Boston Marathon (April); PB in Ironman 70.23 Cebu; managing and leading as a committee member in Triathlon Family Singapore; earn another lottery slot for Kona.

May you have an eventful 2014, filled with new achievements and accomplishments. Continue to tick off your Bucket List and Big hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG).

Leadership Lessons: Towards your goals - view, re-view, over-view, and pre-view them. Give them new perspectives. Set goals, make them 3-D (dimensional), strategise for them, and work towards them, and keep measuring for progress.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Congratulations, Ironman Finishers!

Congratulations to all finishers of Ironman Western Australia 2013!

You have braved the challenged, braced the unknown, and embraced the day to discover yourself. You have faced your fears, anxieties and physical discomforts to take on an, arguably, tough race. Little is glamorous when your sporting attire is drenched in blood, sweat, tears, and other bodily secretions. You already paid the price many times over in training.

Whether you completed the race or not, top marks for signing up, training hard, and showing up at the start-line. Whatever your reasons for stopping, I trust that you are better now, and healing up. Review your results, appreciate the feedback, and plan a better race. There are few failures, mostly outcomes and results.

There is little doubt that it is a hard race. If it was so easy, many would be doing it. The Ironman triathlon is a rigorous examination of Self, with three disciplines to test you over the 226km of terrain. Like all tests, it tests our mettle and mindset to complete a task, and a colossal task at that. It engages our beliefs, values, fibre, perceptions, instincts, pre-judgements, and behaviors - much goes on in our body and mind.

Some have achieved much more, with parallel accomplishments like fund-raising, balancing recreation with vocation, and spreading good messages. The race is poised on a purpose larger than us. To race with a purpose, whatever it is, gives us focus and a sense of importance and direction.

It is not a race to the end, but rather, a race o the next milestone. May you return stronger should you wish to reply to unfinished business. Many a time, the next attempt is much sweeter in its ending.

Good luck in your next foray into the endurance challenge. Congratulations for a very hard hit out there! You are an Ironman!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Reflections on the SCSM 2013 (Singapore Marathon)

Photo-credit: Triathlon Family Singapore
It has been four days since the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon. In classic style, I ran through my pain barrier, in the last 10km. I was doing so well for the first 32-33km, pacing alongside strong triathletes/marathoners, Ewin Teo and Dr Lim Baoying. The gluteal (buttock) strain I experienced after a tempo run, four days before the marathon, worsened into a hip-joint/right medial gluteal injury. I had to withstand the pain and weakening muscle performance, to a disappointing finishing time.
Photo-credit: Steven Tan Fun Runner
Six weeks after completing the triathlon world championships in Kona, I was able to complete a marathon (with minimal marathon-specific training). I was mainly riding and running (50-60km per week of running, at my maximum). I was on-target for a possible sub-3:30 finish, when I assessed a strong 1:45, turnaround time. However, when my right pinky-toe erupted into a bloody gusher (I felt it when it happen), I suspected something was amidst. Then, my right hip gave me grief with tightening intensity. This progressed, with diminishing results, into a slower run as my right leg could not fired thoroughly. I crossed the line, one minute better than last year, and one second off my course-best timing. Well, it is what it is. 
Photo-credits: Mohd Hafiz
I had a sports-massage after the race, requesting two male masseurs (undergraduates in the Diploma of Sports Science from a polytechnic institution) to work on 'releasing my hip muscles'. It hurt, not helped by skin abrasions I picked up on my run. I had my bloody toe treated at the Medical Tent; thankfully, it stopped bleeding and the nurse was kind enough to keep my foot dry with a large swathe of cotton-gauze. I hobbled out with a discernible limp, on my right side, as was described by my friend, Khina Ong.

On reflection and reviewing my race-day , I realised that my mental fortitude and tenacity drew me to the finishing-line. Endurance athletes develop a deliberate sense of stubbornness from many hours spent doing their favourite discipline. You engage values like determination, patience and commitment to help you complete the task. Thus, developing mental strength as well as physical fitness are complementary and mutually-dependent.
Photo-credits: Running Shots
This is a great time to briskly evaluate your performance, and translate these into future goals for the next racing season. As you rest your weary body, be wary of what works and what does not. Assess your successes as well as misses. There are few failures in life, merely results. A 'perfect race' may be a surprise, earned when you least expect it. Other times, you will experience it coming and ride on the waves of your confidence.

Above all, consider which factors you can control and which you cannot. Focus on what you can do. Relish in your progress. Little gains add up into value: tacit experience and tacit wisdom. That is the education of an athlete, and the learning of a person.

Enjoy your time with yourself.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

SCSM 2013: Tactical Considerations

'The journey of 42.195km begins with the first step, then second, and another, ad infinitum.' - ECV

About 12 hours out to the marathon, and in case you are now having your dinner (before you sleep) - here are some tips for managing your marathon. As always, to reiterate, never test out new things during your race. Stick to routine, and THE PLAN.

1) Hydrate, albeit in small amounts, with water from now till race morning. Too large a gulp leads to quick emptying (diuresis), and loss of electrolytes. Take 1-2 electrolyte tabs before you sleep, and 1-2 more when you awake. You can take 1 tablet per hour of racing to ward off cramps.
2) Keep dinner adequate, with minimal fibre, and no massive amounts of carbohydrates (especially refined carbs). Carbo-loading is a process, not an event. Loading now is a desperate act, not worth your effort. 
3) Sleep in pockets of 1.5 hours. 3 or 4.5 or 6 or 7.5 hours. Stick to your circadian rhythm.
4 Lay out your race-kit early, so you are ready to dress-and-go. No fumbling or unnecessary stressful decisions. Ensure you have your nutritional support on your race-belt or race-pockets. Charge your GPS-watches. You may appreciate the data later on.
5) Water is your first meal. Then, have breakfast (however structured you would enjoy: meal-repalcement-shake, sandwich, coffee and toast, etc.).
6) Pace smartly. Pacing is key. Go anaerobic too often and too soon, and you will face the 'wall' - a self-fulfilling prophecy. Aerobic pace draws on carbohydrate as a main source of fuel. Stay within your aerobic heart-rate zone before you decide to 'accelerate'.
7) Remind yourself to drink at each aid-station, and fuel up (with calories) every 30 minutes. Bring enough sports-gels for your expenditure (bodyweight and duration).
8) You can walk at aid-stations, so as to get a proper drink. No point racing fancy, and tossing 'empty' cups at yourself. There is NO SHAME IN WALKING.
9) Be aware. Be alert. Be 'in the moment'. If you need medical help, seek it. Play it safe.
10) If you hit a bad patch, 'embrace the suck'. Walk if you have to, slow down, or chat with somebody - ensure you resume your previous rhythm. Never let your body and head get lazy.

May you have your best race tomorrow! Go forth and embrace your potential. Running is not a crime.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

SCSM 2013: Pain-less Is The Priority Before A Marathon

With Ironman Melvin Aw at Gold Coast Marathon 2013. He will be headed to Busselton for next week's Ironman Western Australia.
You cannot race when you are in pain. When you experience pain, your body is giving you feedback - never ignore it.

You are a few days out from the Big Run, be it the full marathon or the half-marathon, so stay focused. It is tempting to squeeze in a bit more training, but what your priority is, is to stay injury-free, recovered and motivated. Fatigue is a sign to back off. Soreness is a signal to rest up. Persistent pain is a cue to STOP!

Injury will sabotage your racing efforts. Review what performance is all about.

Performance = Results + Efforts.

Of the two, effort can be managed and controlled. Results are an outcome, or measure of performance. If your effort is derailed by injury, acute pain or any other physical distraction, then you are likely to fall short of your expectations and goals.

I am experiencing some tightness of my legs, especially of my calves and ITB (ilio-tibial band), so I am monitoring it. I have done my long runs, and my tempo runs, so will allow my body to heal well, and not defray itself from stress. Mental stress may trigger off muscle cramps, 'knots' in the muscles, and undue discomfort. Get a sports massage, perform self-massage (with a roller, trigger-ball, or hands), consume your electrolytes every evening (such as CrampFix). Hydrate. Drink, regularly, small amounts of water throughout your waking hours. Increase your carbohydrate intake, albeit gradually. 

A pain-free body before the race, led to my second BQ/PB (and my successful bid for a Boston Marathon 2014 slot). Nonetheless, it was still hard-earned for I had DOMS for a few days.
Carbohydrate-loading is NOT bingeing or over-eating. If you are doing it, you should have completed your depletion days (higher protein and fat, low carbs), and are now in the super-compensation (falsely known as 'loading') phase. You training will now be reduced mileage (tapering) with some sprinting integrated into your session. You can choose to completely rest on Saturday (day before race), or do a mild session. I usually cycle for 20 minutes and do a 10-minute jog in the morning, to activate my muscles. I would rest on Friday, having my best sleep that night.

Four days to go - use these days well. Enjoy the taper. Sleep more. Eat 'clean'. Raise your legs. You have done the work. Time to enjoy your performance.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Racing Tips for Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2013

Having raced almost every year in the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon since 2004, save for 2011 and 2006 when I raced Ironman Western Australia, I have found the course challenging in a positive way. My PB was a 3:36 in 2010, and 3:38 last year (after inadequate training and poor pacing). The race-route remains the same as last year's. Here are some considerations if you are racing for your first time, or even aiming for a personal best (PB) timing.

It is less than a week away from the last marathon on the local calendar, so for tapering week your mileage should be minimal focused on maintenance, shorter distances (10km), with occasional faster bursts (sprints). The intention is to keep the muscles active and responsive to your faster, race pace. All the weeks of long runs, tempo-paced runs, hill-work and strength work should have dialed in the race-pace you seek. Keep injury-free, and attempt no unfamiliar workouts. For race-day, use the same nutritional aids you have been accustomed to, during training. Run in your preferred racing-shoes (lighter, race-shoes or heavier, training-shoes), however no new shoes. I would suggest that you resist buying things at the race-exposition/fair that you will not use. I use my On Cloudracers for marathons, and On Cloudrunners for training.

1) Lay out your used race-kit two days before, and check for wear-and-tear (especially of your shoes). Remember: running-shoes, socks, race-bib, timing-chip, watch, racing-top, racing-tights/shorts, spectacles/contact-lenses, sunglasses and cap (optional). I wear my timing-chip on my ankle when I awake. No chip, no timing!
2) If you use a Fuel-Belt, ensure that you bring enough calories in your bottles (2 or 4) and electrolyte (salt) tablets (1-2 per hour). Put salt-tablets into a small plastic bag or film-cannister for easier access during the run. 
3) Fill your sports-gels the night before into the bottles, and load it into your belt when you awake on race morning. I use Hammer Nutrition Perpeteum and fill my bottles with the maltodextrin/protein mixture over night, then add water before I leave the house.
4) Bring money (for cab and a good post-race meal), cash-card (for bus after the race), and two extra packs of gels. I leave my smartphone at home.
5) Have a light breakfast comprising simple carbohydrates (including bread, fruit, or an energy drink). Sip some water as you take your breakfast. Gulping too much water at one go, merely encourages fast release of it. If you cannot eat anything heavy, take a maltodextrin-based energy-drink. I usually drink Perpeteum at breakfast, and a pack of sports-gel (Stingers) 30 minutes before the race. 
6) Clear your bowel as much as you can before sleeping, and at least once before the race. A strong cup of coffee helps me do the deed effectively. Be light, feel lighter.
7) Too much water too soon before the race may encourage peeing, so arrive earlier to dispel excess fluid before heading to the pen. If you have to, relieve yourself at a tree in the early kilometres of the race, as your head out from the city limits. Practise discretion and not flash your badge. It is still a public event.
8) Park yourself to the front of the faster pen. If you want to attempt a PB/PR/BQ timing, you want to have a clear line of passage when the start-gun goes off. Recreational runners and fatigued runner may impede your smoother pacing.
9) Drink at least a cup of fluid (water or isotonic drink) at each aid-station. The humidity in the morning can be horribly high (near 100 percent) and you will be over-heating if dehydrated. I usually skip the isotonic drinks as I rather not risk stomach distress from the usually higher sugar content in these commercial preparations. That is why I bring my own salt-tablets (CrampFix) and consume them at the aid-stations (where i follow it with water only).
10) Pacing is key, as you do not want to head into Zone 3-4 until the later stages of the race. Keep your heart-rate lower (aerobic zone 1-2) so as to utilise more fat as fuel rather than muscle and liver glycogen. If you pace well, you will experience your second wind and third wind (fat metabolism), and more. There is a bridge to climb at the last few kilometres (heading out from the Gardens-By-The-Bay), plus several slopes to pre-exhaust you.

Stay tuned for more tactical suggestions. See you on Sunday!

Photo-credit: Mel C. (Complete race-kit described in photograph - same set-up for Sunday)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Digging Deep

'Digging deep' is a term used by endurance athletes to signify a time to tap on one's potential, resources and character. Twice-Ironman world champion, Chris 'Macca' McCormack calls it 'embrace the suck'. When it sucks the most, you keep going. You grind your teeth, stick to your guns, suffer, and as multiple-Ironman winner, Belinda Granger said: 'Be prepared to suffer, and suffer even more!'

You dig deep when you want something badly enough. Artists believe that suffering for your art is part of the journey towards personal excellence. The Masters in art, music and acting suffered and tapped on their deepest emotions and resources to achieve their art. To achieve mastery, you must be willing to make sacrifices, explore your fear, overcome your anxieties, and stretch yourself. Digging deep involves a certain degree of discomfort and pain, yet it is essential to discovery more of your potential, capability and capacity. In wanting to achieve your physical best, you must be prepared to train longer and harder, and race even harder. Surely, there is a risk of failure from fatigue or injury, yet these are the odds we deal with constantly. The benefit-to-risk ratio is a mathematical measure of our decisions. Kurt Lewin explained that in his Force Field Analysis approach to making decisions. We have to weigh the pros and cons, advantages with disadvantages.

Leadership Lessons: When was the last time you dug deep? What is one of your most important things in your life you would like to achieve, and how much will you put in to accomplish it? How much are you willing to suffer for your profession, passion or vocation?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

How To Qualify For Boston Marathon 2015

This is the first of a series of online workshops, for those keen to challenge yourself to a Boston Qualifier (BQ) or Boston Qualifying time. The Boston Marathon, often touted as the Holy Grail of marathons, is  one of the Big Six of the Marathon World Series (including London, Tokyo, Chicago, New York City, and Berlin), that attracts numerous marathoners to apply for registrations as well as the lottery. Having just qualified for next year's event, and at my second attempt, I will share with you my lessons in, successfully, making it so far into the process.

1) Be mostly healthy (free from injury).
2) Set realistic goals and expectations.
3) Plan for, and stick to the plans.
4) Train consistently (and smartly).
5) Race regularly and apply tactics and strategies.
6) Take measurements and use assessments.
7) Recovery and recuperation from workouts is key to your continued progress.
8) You must deliberately eat (and fuel yourself) very well.
9) Stay sharply focused, and have an acute sense of purpose.
10) Your Journey will be fraught with failure, and filled with success (learn from your lessons).
Homework: Check out your BQ timings. What is your current best timing? How fast were your 21km and 42km timings? How often do you train? What do your workouts involve? If you are injured now, which is the area? Which are your recurring injuries?

Stay tuned for the next workshop.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

RACE REPORT: Ironman World Championships 2013 (Part 2)

12 October: I was up at 3.30am with about six hours of darting sleep. First thing I did, was attach my timing-chip onto my right-ankle. I did the needful, clearing my system after a mug of strong coffee chased down with a mug of Perpeteum. Then, we walked down the slope to the Pier, to have my body marking done, as well as set up my bike.
Check-In Area: Thankfully, my front tyre was firm, and I needed to inflate it slightly to 100PSI. An elderly female volunteer passed me a pump, which I used. I did my drill of fixing my spare-tyre, screwing in my two CO2 cannisters and inflator-valve onto my X-Lab, and racking my bidons of water and Perpeteum mixture. After that, I wore my AquaSphere speed-suit over my two-piece BlueSeventy tri-suit.
SWIM: The professionals were flagged off from Kailua Bay at 6.30am and 6.35am, for Men and Women respectively. For us age-groupers, it was a deep-water start (also) at 7.00am. True to tradition, the small canon pronounced assertively the flag-off. I elected to swim at the farthest left end, to avoid the ‘washing machine’, frothy, and dangerous swim-start. As I boasted no speed or aggressiveness on my weakest discipline, my strategy was conservative and safe – avoid physical contact, sight regularly, breathe deep (my cough was intermittent, triggered by the cold and a persistent, wet-throat), and go with the flow.
 I emerged from the water about 1:47, feeling relieved and fresh. My shoulder was sore from my tendinitis, but it did not matter. I was running sad images of previous races where swimmers, painfully and traumatically, missed the 2:20 cutoff by seconds. The sea current that met us upon my return did consume additional time (and calories); I was 45 minutes at the U-turn point (marked by a prominent boat). I was still stoked from swimming with the school of dolphins after the halfway mark. I recall sitting at the feet of a Physically-Challenged (PC) athlete for some time. I respect PC-athletes for one of my major inspirations is PC world-champion, Dr Hannes Koeppen. We spent time (with he and his wife, Grace) earlier this year, where he shared wonderful stories of his Kona experiences over two years. When I swam, I focused on the economy of my strokes, and an acute awareness of my surroundings. I did not want to be kicked or swam over, without my permission. I was stoked that I was actually swimming in the Kailua Bay.
Transition 1: As I arrived near the carpeted steps, I was running my drills for T1. I removed my goggles as I ascended from the steps, and unzipped my speed-suit. I spent a few necessary seconds, rinsing my body down with fresh water from the suspended hoses. I entered the change-tent, then got into my riding-shoes, helmet, shades, and stuck all else into the bag. A volunteer assured me he would handle it. I thanked him, and jogged out to my racked bike.
RIDE: The ride was everything and nothing I expected. It is a personal voyage of self-discovery, as hours of solo rides dials in the physical and mental discomfort. Yet, as the day unfurled and unfolded, challenges sneak in. I started conservatively on the relatively flat Kuakini Highway. I took the first climb (on Palani Road) in low gear, and aimed to work out the discomfort of a wet tri-suit. I looked at my watch so I could feed myself regularly, knowing that, however long it would take me, I would ensure adequate calories. It was exciting to finally see the lava fields of Kona, en-route to the Keahole-Kona Airport.
The ride is unpredictable when it comes to the winds (front, side and back). I was apprehensive of the infamous winds of Kona. It can rip your senses and sensibility apart if it is a bad year. Thankfully, the winds were mild (according to most commentaries, including a volunteer who completed Kona four times). Once, I hit Hawi (on Highway 250), I was relieved as I was on-target for a 5:45 ride. However, on my return from that halfway point, the winds started to pick up slightly, albeit erratically. I noticed that the view of the sea (on my right) showed white caps on the water. I gritted my teeth and plowed on, hoping to ride it out and aim for a reasonable completion time. It was, essentially, keep pedaling and keep feeding my body, and overtake as many as I could (of those left on the highway).
With two pee-stops at a portable-toilet (I did not fulfill Chrissy's 6-on-the-ride), I was pleased to complete the ride in about 6:30, as 112 miles seated, pushing pedals, against the face-ward wind was energy-sapping, and I may have expended one, too-many, matches in my box (in the stretch from Kawaihae to Waikoloa Road.).  
Transition 2: I was glad to know I made a reasonable cut into T2. I was disappointed to miss a sub-6 hour ride, and I was delighted I survived the headwind on my return leg. Thankfully, this year’s wind was mild compared to previous years. On some years, the ferocious side-winds were known to fling riders off the road, or even unhinge tyres from their rims. My bike was valet-parked by a volunteer, who I thanked. I had much to be grateful for, and I used this energy and emotion to drive me through to the race-bag racks, where a volunteer handed me my Run-Bag.

In the Changing-Tent, an elderly volunteer encouraged me on with small talk. He reminded me to take my time, and ensure I had everything I needed.  I loaded my helmet and riding-shoes, and put on my running shoes (On Cloudracer), Ironman 70.3 World’s Championships cap (so I could load ice under it), strapped on my Fuel-Belt (with Perpeteum powder in the two front gel-bottles), and rotated my race-bib around (don't want to be penalised for the smallest error).

RUN: This was the final piece in my Kona puzzle that I had to endure and expand on. I learnt from countless views of the Kona Ironman DVDs that the make-or-break section tended to be the marathon. After the 3.8km swim and 180km of riding beside the lava fields, the 42.195km of running was guaranteed to drain my reserves. Psychologically, it plays on you when you see the elite age-groupers (plentiful) coming in, many destined for the 9-hour mark. These competitive athletes inspired me, as they looked so determined and graceful in their run. I could only imagine the hundreds of hours spent by them to prepare for this prestigious race. It was like watching a running clinic, in full motion and momentum. Despite my fatigue, I was still lucid and aware of my surroundings.
Once I hit my first slope, I walked. I was annoyed for doing it as I had a good 10km run, with confident posture and carriage. My first 21km was achieved in 1:54, so I was on-target. But my split-time was horrendous for the second-half, as I succumbed to more walking and enjoying my conversations at aid-stations. I decided that since I fulfilled my own prophecy of having a hard run (and in the twilight) that I might as well enjoy my moments of serendipity and serenity (incidentally, these were the names of two Ballantine whiskies I used to promote in the year 2000 in a worldwide marketing promotion (beginning from Hawaii through to S.E. Asia).

At the 17-mile mark, the volunteers at the aid-station asked me if I knew Gordon Ramsey. I replied that I did, but the chef did not know me. We laughed. They told me that Ramsey was not far ahead, and I took heed in pursuit. Before I departed thankfully, I suggested saying ‘Donkey!’ which they cheekily echoed loudly into the distant. I took chase. I made the U-turn at the Natural Energy Lab Hawaii Authority, but there was no dread, as it was dark. Many have ben sapped by the heat off the lava-field and the searing sunshine (I suffered sunburn without feeling it), but it was not to be for me, for I had my own share of ‘tests by the Island Gods’. I took a luminous loop and hung it around my need, for I almost collided into a runner in the dark. Better to be safe than sorry, than with a pronounced bump on the ribs or face. I deliberately kept to the right side of the run route to avoid any 'spanners'.

Not too far off, I passed him. I did not stare at him, but looked forward, focused on my goal to complete my Big Dance. My peripheral vision indicated to me that he was tired and looked gnarled and sinewy (he lost 28 pounds since training in August 2012). Once I passed him – he walked! I took this as a positive sign. I used a strategy of run and walk to ward off any potential cramps that may slow me down. I did not catch sight of Hines Ward, who was obviously having a splendid day as the Ambassador of Kona-Inspired and Chocolate Milk.
Crossing the finisher-chute was a magical experience. It certainly felt different than my perception formed from watching the DVDs on Kona. I was giving the spectators – on my right and left – high-fives, and I missed many extended arms. I knew I was smiling from ear-to-ear, and I had some more in my tank to run another kilometer fast. I felt the power of my idols who crossed before me: Dave Scott, Mark Allen, Paula-Newby, Natasha Badmann, Peter Reid, Macca, Crowie, Chrissy, and many more. My Welchie at the end was my icing on the cake, as I must have jumped at least two feet off the ground after all that pounding on the asphalt.
Upon crossing the end-point, I was ushered and accompanied by two volunteers who placed a lei around my neck (my first garland ever), my Finisher’s Medal (it was as large as Sheila Taormina’s Olympic Medal) and a Finisher’s towel around me. They led me to the photographer’s billboard, where I posed for my remembrance. 
Thereafter, after ensuring I was all ready and steady, they excused themselves to entertain another finisher. I helped myself to the post-race nourishment where I enjoyed a Meadow Gold Chocolate Milk drink (for recovery), and regaled the marketing team that handed out these tasty drinks with my stories with the Chef. I could not take much solid food other than a slice of Hawaiian pizza (as in ham and pineapple). Before I left, I introduced myself to Ironman Hall-of-Famer, Bob Babbitt, who interviewed me briefly. I believed he was compiling Kona-Inspired stories to share at the Awards Dinner the next evening.
As I emerged from the Transition zone (after collecting my bike and race-bags) to meet Mel (who was snapping pictures of me the entire day as well as trip), a family enquired me about the cost of our bikes. I found it amusing as I was tripping on cloud nine (for having Kona-ed, finally) and feeling like a celebrity – not that I know how it feels like. Arnaud (who did a 9:42!) said I looked stoked, and that was how I felt for achieving my dream event.

After a few more photos at the entrance of the hotel (for my sponsors, and my journal), I returned to my room for a well-deserved shower, massive wash-up, and then rolled onto bed for a much-need nap. My body was tightening up – signs of the fading effects of adrenaline and cortisol – but all was well. I could take any spanner or surprises at this point, for all was well.
Epilogue: The next day, I attended the Awards Dinner that I had to attend with Mel. It was an amazing experience to enjoy the Hawaiian cultural show, as it was symbolic in all sense of the word. I enjoyed the presentations by the organisers, emcees and (fast!) winners of this year’s race. I was stoked that 2-time Ironman Champion, Rinnie Carfrae won in record time. I was touched that, despite a tough day, 2012 World Champion, Pete ‘PJ’ Jacobs walked part of the marathon to finish in 77th place. He did not quit, smiled on, and he inspired me with his positive attitude (hallmarks of a true champion). There’s always another race, next year to achieve another milestone.

I experienced Kupau: I arrived and ended in a full circle. The Big Island and the Big Dance weaved its magic on me, and I am forever grateful to have completed this race.

Appreciation and Acknowledgements: Thank you my sponsors: Jabra, On shoes, CrampFix and Swim Bike Run Singapore. I also thank my friends in the triathlon community and Triathlon Family Singapore. Most of all, I am grateful and in gratitude to my family and Iron-Mate!

Photo-Credits: Mel. C. & FinisherPix.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

RACE REPORT: Ironman World Championships 2013 (Part 1)

Rehearsal for my Welchie at the end-point.
My journey to the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona began in the early-1980’s when I watched an episode of ABC Wide World of Sports. The scene of struggling athletes during the marathon leg, at night, was exciting and intriguing. My actual foray into endurance sports (mainly, the marathon began in 2004), and my first of a dozen of Ironman finishes was in 2006. To cut a long story shorter, I had a dismal 2012 racing Ironman Switzerland racing on a suspected hairline-fractured, left toe. I completed a challenging race, made more uncomfortable with an unstable foot. Two months of no-running activities (after a clear diagnosis through my first MRI scan) led to me to completing a disappointing 4:00 Berlin Marathon (my second attempt there since 2010).
Through the egging of Clifford Lee (now, 'Kona-Clifford'), a slot winner in the newly-incepted Legacy Lottery I applied for my slot. Legacy Lottery applicants need to complete 12 M-Dot Ironman races to qualify for the lottery. Six hours before the sad event at this year’s Boston Marathon, I received an e-mail announcing my successful bid for a Kona slot. Six months of rigorous conditioning prepared me for my dream race of doing the Big Dance on the Big Island. Along the way, I earned my second Boston Qualifier (BQ) timing at the Gold Coast Airport Marathon (July), and earned a Boston Marathon slot in late-September. Two successful lotteries gave me closure for a dismal and disappointing racing year in 2012. With renewed sense of purpose and pure focus, I worked around a busy business year of teaching and consulting work.

I spent many hours building my aerobic base, focused on low heart-rate training on all three disciplines. I also shifted my nutritional needs to more unprocessed food and essential dietary fats (mainly organic virgin coconut oil and olive oil). I slept more, and rested whenever I could. I also adjust my body clock to awake early for a 1-2 hour ride (plus core stability work) before work. Three weeks before the race, I caught an infection and began to lose my voice after each day of teaching. I developed a cough and sniffles; symptoms of flu, so I decided to hold off swimming sessions and intense, speed, sessions. I would, otherwise, have been on tapering track were it not for this major distraction and surprise: dodged the first spanner in the gears. I had no excuse but managed this bodily inconvenience. I recall Dave Scott's words: 'Make no excuses!'
9 October: We arrived on Wednesday, three days before the race (hopefully enough to shake off jet-lag). It was a long flight on United Airlines, from Singapore to Narita (Japan) to Honolulu, and then to the Big Island. My first hairy moment was, on arriving in Narita, at the airport lounge we found out that we needed a piece of documentation for entry into the USA (despite the fact that we did not require travel visas) called ESTA by the US Customs authority. We were fortunate that we could apply for and pay US$14.00 for this document online, which we did. It was stressful, to say the least: Second spanner thrown at us, and dodged. (Note to self: check the requirements for travel documents for countries we have not visited for at least a year).
We checked into the Kona Seaside Hotel, which is adjacent to the official Ironman accommodation of the King Kamehameha Hotel. The perimeter-wall was made with lava-rocks, a natural resource from the island. My abode was less than 200 metres from the Kailua-Kona Pier, so it was convenient for the hefty price I paid. I planned for a fuss-free race check-in and check-out. Immediately, we had lunch at a nearby restaurant and then headed for the Registration site. A Japanese contingent, organised by a triathlon-travel group set up a tent outside the hotel, with a bike-mechanic to assemble and service all bikes. Tri-Travel is the main Ironman agent that arranges all your triathlon racing needs. It costs a premium, but I hear from friends that Tri-Travel removes the hassles for overseas participants.
The race-registration was smooth and brisk. I basked in the glory of being there. I did not mind the mild queue; each of us had our chance and purpose. The race-pack was an attractive luminous-green, and I relished using it. In it, there was a set of colourful TYR goggles, a distinct luggage-tag (with the schedule of race-week), and race-bib, race-stickers and the precious silver-foil sticker for my bike.
 Meeting the Legends in Ironman.
 The Great Paula-Newby! She gave us a useful pep-talk.
 Voice-of-Ironman, Mike Riley. Waited for him to call me in, in Kona.
 He put Ironman on TV and the world map: New Hall-of-Famer.
A robe fit for a king: This finisher has woven a bathrobe from all his Ironman finishes.
On the afternoon, I attended a must-go event: The Legacy Reception. I met the CEO (Messinck) and Vice-President of WTC, and met the legends of Ironman: Paula-Newby Fraser, Dave Scott, Heather Fuhr, Greg 'Welchie' Welch, Michellie-Jones, and Bob Babbit. It was a powerful experience which I will treasure. Welchie and I rehearsed the 'Welchie' (pose) which I delivered - hopefully - with justice: leap of joy, plus the tongue sticking out!
Bansai: Japanese Underpants Contingent.
The next day, I fixed up my bike and did an easy swim along part of the swim course. Before my swim, I watched the Underpants Run. I found out, later, that James ran with is Dad. It was an amazing array of undergarments worn by Ironman competitors, friends and family. I gave the run a pass as I would have been alone. The water was warm enough with clarity that enhanced the abundant marine life, teeming with coral, fish, turtles, and competitors. Most were age-groupers who look every inch of the Adonis and Amazonians who were race-ready and had the ‘Eye of the Tiger’. The three expatriates – Arnaud, James and Assad (who, eventually, won fifth in the 35-39 age group) – told me one common thing: Enjoy the race. It made perfect sense, since my goal was to qualify for Kona, and be race-ready to complete in reasonable time. Plus, I was on to this notion of finishing ahead of the celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsey, and former-football professional/Hall-of-Famer, Hines Ward. Both Ramsey and Ward lost a tremendous amount of weight in their year of intense and systematic preparation for the 226km triathlon.
I joined the Parade of the Nations, which was slated for 5.00pm. Singapore-based expatriates, and second-time Kona qualifiers, Arnaud Selukov and James Middleditch accompanied me. I carried the placard for Singapore, while James carried our flag. Arnaud walked with us carrying his son, Mika. We were, probably, the smallest contingent there. We ended up at the race-exposition, which opened upon our arrival at the Expo venue.
10 October: I had an easy day, since it was the Carbo-Party/Briefing night. The day’s drama of locating a substitute top-tube cap and M4 bolt (lost during TSA inspection) burnt up some of my focus. I was grateful to the mechanic at the Cervelo Booth for giving me these two key items, to secure my Elite Razor tri-bike into competition readiness.
 Faris Al-Sultan: interviewed before dinner.
Carbo-Party/Race-Briefing was straight forward with nice preambles by co-emcees Mike Riley and Bob Babbitt. I, incidentally, queued behind one of the original racers from the 1980's during dinner. There was a welcome entertainment, and I sat next to James Middleditch (who is a vegetarian, who clocked 9:32 this year!) for dinner. 
Chrissy Wellington enthusiastically signed autographs and took photos with fans: a class act!
11 October: Bike Check-In. I was dismayed to find my front tyre deflated. Suspecting a snake-bite on my tyre, I brought it to the local bike-store and sought the expertise of the resident bike-mechanic. Upon his thorough inspection, he assured me that he could not locate any discernible leak or gash. He proposed that I buy a canister of Pit-Stop, pump it into the tyre, spin it around, and inflate it further. I was, again, grateful to the bike mechanic who made my experience a positive one. I dodged another bullet, before it could graze me into submission. 
I checked in my bike, not before having photographed for documentation. The ENVE staff gave me a limited-edition Kona t-shirt and socks, for owning and using EDGE wheels (precursor to ENVE). A volunteer walked me through the Transition Area (for both 1 & 2), racked my bike, and escorted me to the Transition Tents and bag-claim area. It was a patient, purposeful, familiarization walk that gave me visual reference-points.
This photograph made it to the website: only Elite Bicycle racing.
It was an early night for me, with dinner at our favourite Chinese restaurant. I ate a hot meal of wanton-noodles. I had already laid out my Swim bag (with my Jabra two-piece racing attire, Aqua-sphere speed-suit, CO2 adaptor, CO2 cannisters) and necessary nutrition: CrampFix electrolytes and Hammer Nutrition Perpeteum.  It was fitful night of interrupted sleep as my dry cough persisted…