Saturday, April 27, 2013

Back To The Future!

Professional adventure-racing coach, Wilson Low is racing this weekend in a 24-hour team challenge in Queensland, Australia. He is joined by his female partner in a physically-demanding challenge. Wilson, who has a pedigree racing resume, has raced four world championships including the Ironman/70.3 and X-Terra world championships. He, recently, completed the Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge and Cape Epic Challenge.
After he raced in the 2008 edition of the Hawaii Ironman (Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona), he bought me this polo-shirt. It was the 30th Anniversary of the Ironman triathlon, founded by retired SEAL-Commander John Colins, his wife and friends. In the first race (of its kind) in 1978, 15 people participated and 12 completed. Clifford Lee is the 13th Singaporean to complete the 35-year-old race. Predecessors include Choo Ling Er, Alvin, Jin Phang, Shawn Ann, Wilson Low, Adrian Mok, Jeanette Wang, Davy Koh, Robin Ho, Ronnie, Francis and Kenneth Keng. Other finishers include Jeradine Chua, Adam Ng, Daniel (who is a cancer survivor) and Kua Harn Wei (deca-Ironman triathlon finisher, who we interviewed). I will be tracking down these past-finishers for a feature story shortly. The history of Ironman Hawaii in Kona is richly-drenched in stories and memories.

I hope to be the 14th Singaporean to achieve this dream - the holy grail of long-distance triathlon; akin to the Boston Marathon for marathoner. After the tragedy of this year's event, we can pray that the people recover, and come back stronger for next year's edition in Boston (the oldest marathon in the world). We can support Boston Marathon 2014 as a show of unity and common purpose. I will be doing my best to earn a Boston Qualifying time (BQ) in Gold Coast in July.

Five years later, as I wear this gift today, I wonder if it was a gentle omen that would nudge my mild Kona-dream into higher gear. The next five months will be filled with a structured regime, mindful eating, generous doses of sleep, and a clear eye on the goal (of completion). The challenge would be to restore equilibrium and keeping my sense and sanity. Life need not be unduly different and unpleasant to those around me, as I work towards the 35th edition of the Big Dance on the Big Island.
[By the way, Wilson and his racing-buddy won in the Mixed Pair category last weekend. Congratulations, Wilson!]

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Orientation and Induction

New staff will, usually, undergo a period of orientation and induction. Orientation is about knowing one's way around the working facilities. Induction is about imbibing the company's culture, its business, vision, mission and core values.

Since I received great news about my lucky Legacy Lottery slot at the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona (on 12 October), I have re-orientated and induced myself to a new sense of purpose and intention. Essentially, I have to review my training and preparation for three A-races: 21km (PB attempt), Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2013, and the Philippines Ironman 70.3 (in Cebu). To do well in all, and culminate in a best performance in Kona, I will have to evaluate my results closely, and reapply my efforts to each subsequent race carefully and clearly.

I have begun studying DVDs and maps of the race course and conditions in Kona. I am interviewing finishers (Davy Koh, Clifford Lee, Tomoya Tsurata, Tobias Frenz) of the race, gleaning from them their tacit experience and tacit wisdom of having raced on the Big Island. For instance, Clifford Lee (whom we interviewed in February 2013) described extensively to me his preparation and racing experience. Being the 13th Singaporean to complete the Ironman world championships, he has the freshest recollections of his major triathlon achievement. I will be orientating myself to different riding routes (hilly, windy) as well as hotter conditions (midday rides and runs). The Big Island is merciless for surprising competitors with her harsh temperatures and vicious head-winds and side-winds.

I will have to induct myself to training early in the morning, as well as twice a day sessions. I have programmed to spend more time in the pool, as well as on the ride - these are my major areas of improvements. I have begun adding more anaerobic/speed sessions in my running, and it is translating into stronger pacing (like holding 4:10mins/km for 3km instead of 4:30min/km). The mindset for completing the oldest long-distance triathlon in the world is vastly different from other 226km tri-disciplinary events. My Iron-Crew and Iron-Mates have volunteered to train me hard, both physically and mentally. I have much learning to do, and become confident about. For instance, I have just acquired my first aero-helmet (Specialized TT2) and will expose myself to using it (likely in Cebu). High-cadence (100rpm) cycling patterns will be my target to achieve and maintain if I am to embrace and brace myself to the strong winds on the Queen K Highway. Actively training with stronger and faster athletes will also be in my menu, if I am to perform credibly and incredibly. 
Leadership Lessons: What have you re-orientated recently? What have you been induced into/to? How have you helped somebody immerse themselves into a process?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Building The Support Crew

I have registered for the Ironman World Championships, within 24 hours of announcement of the results of the lottery.
Meanwhile, to commit to my new challenge (and dream triathlon event) I have initiated the following task:
1) Signed up and paid for the race.
2) Written and received responses from my friend who completed his Ironman in Kona last year. I have gleaned his insights and hindsights about his race plans and execution.
3) I am designing a 6-month training program that focuses on my weakness, i.e swimming. I will also focus on enhancing my riding, which poses the largest potential for improvement.
4) I have sought the assistance of a strong rider (Craig) and swimmer (Marco) who will train with me and help me get fitter and stronger.
5) I will invest more time on swimming and riding, to ensure a more fresh and sustainable body for the marathon.
6) I have assigned my swimming stroke correction to a swim-coach. He has begun teaching me drills, and providing useful feedback on my swimming ability.
7) I have begun building up my fitness from my post-race hiatus. It has been six weeks since Ironman New Zealand, and that has been a useful gauge of my fitness (and my areas of development).
8) Strengthening my core-fitness and body strength (with weights and resistance training).
9) I have undergoing active rehabilitation of my unstable and sore shoulder-joint (posterior capsule).

Picture: Courtesy of Richard Leong
These interventions and initiatives should provide me with a clear direction and strength of purpose for my quest-for-best in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. I am optimistic about my performance and excited about the race. I am grateful for the opportunity, and mindful of the responsibility I bear. I look forward to being a Kona-finisher, since our first Singaporeans did since 1991. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

I Am Going To Kona!

I have dreamt about taking part in the Ironman World Championships in Kona-Hawaii since 2001. I first saw the event broadcast on television (NBC) around 1982. I began my Ironman journey in 2006, and my first marathon in 2004. Yesterday, I received great news (via e-mail and congratulatory messages on Facebook) that I won a slot to participate in this year's edition on 12 October. I became the second Singaporean in two consecutive years to earn this opportunity to take part as an 'Everyday Man' (amongst 199 others) in this 226km triathlon where the best-of-the-best get to vie for the biggest title in long-distance triathlon.

A bigger challenge will follow when I attempt to complete my 16th (IMNZ) and 17th (IMM) M-Dot Ironman races, three weeks apart of each other in March 2014. In effect, it will mean completing three Ironman races within five months. If all goes well, I hope to follow this up with my Boston Marathon entry (subject to my performance in July, in Gold Coast). I will need to earn and grow a large aerobic base!

Thank you, Kona-Man Clifford Lee (who we interviewed earlier this year) for his huge nudge in December last year to sign up for the Legacy Lottery. It has paid off well in its dividends.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Stay Competitive

Competition can be a useful thing. It can keep us on our toes. It can spur new growth and development. It can even provide us an edge.

What are competencies? Too much confusion abounds, as it means different things to different companies, their management and  staff. Consultancy companies add to the quagmire of ambiguity and confusion.

Simply put, competencies include your knowledge, skills, attitude, mindset, tacit experience and tacit wisdom. Competencies are what keeps us competitively employed. We can compete at the same level, or at a higher level. Here, values like excellence, standards or performance, and quality come into consideration. I propose that our competencies allow us to compete at an unfair level, insofar as value of these competencies are concerned. Our comparative advantage and comparative advantage put us on another platform of measure. Never make it easier for a competing candidate to measure with you; have them measure up to you. Be the standard and benchmark of excellence and relevance.

Competition in sports teaches us to develop and maintain a competitive edge. How good or better you intend to be, will depend on your goals, aspirations and dreams. How far do you want to go? How high do you want to excel and exceed yourself?

Leadership Lessons: How do you stay competitive? What are you actively doing to maintain your competencies? How do you compete at your level? How are you adding value to yourself?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Old School Is The New Way

In the old school way of training, coaches touted 'No pain, no gain'. It was a Spartan way of building fitness, where 'some was good, and more was better'. When injuries arose, their charges were, often, ridiculed for being 'soft'.

Today, we observe commercial gym sessions to include circuit-training, cross-training, kettle-bell workouts, weightlifting, boxing, Latin dancing, yoga, and other varieties penetrate the once, 'smelling-good' grooming-and-toning centres. Yet, these are usually over-subscribed, with fads and fiction leading the mindsets and attitudes of the exercise-conscious mainstream crowd. In 'Rocky 6: Balboa', Sylvester Stallone worked his 'hurting bombs' in an old boxing-gym with kettle-bells and an Olympic lifting set. He was not fast, but he was powerful and strong. Age before beauty, as he told Apollo Creed in Rocky 3.

Is old school the way to go in today's time-crunched, fast-paced, dual-income, world? Ever since the film '300' was released, audiences were intrigued by the way the athletic bodies were toned Hollywood-styled. The Hollywood celebrity exercise-gurus were also spewing new concepts and approaches towards enhanced muscle tone and good looks. Narcissism remains the order of the day, motivating the masses to work harder, and even longer in the gym. The triathlon and extreme endurance movement had yielded serious 'weekend-warriors' who seek heightened self-esteem and confidence with the latest 'finisher tee' and 'shoebox-graced medals'. It is cool to sweat, and sweat profusely and purposefully. The doyens of marathons and urban physical challenges wear their finisher tee-shirts like badges of honour, with boy-scout pride and bragging rights.

New-school style is stylised with fashionable gear, attire and holistic approaches. Yoga classes are both cool and 'hot'. Sweat is the chic. Co-ed is the way to participation. 

Is 'old school' better? 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Crossing Over To The Other Side

Lest you think, otherwise, which I don't think you would - this piece is about training in diverse ways. Cross-training is not a buzzword these days; it is the WAY to go for enhancing your personal physical fitness (and hopefully, health). All the gamut of exercises, equipment and approaches point to one significant direction - be holistic.

If you are seriously training for a marathon, you would benefit from including a mixture of aerobic, strength, stability training and rest. Vary your speed, surface and surroundings. If you are running, mix in a medley of surfaces like road, path, grass and trail. For strength training, you should include strength work(weight-bearing exercises, hill-work) for your major muscles, core-stability and core-strength work (balancing work, pilates, yoga, circuit-training), and muscle-balancing workouts (stretching, massages, and manual adjustments).

Photo-credit: Running Shots
Nutrition-wise, this also extends to consumption of the six major nutrients and herbs. This means consuming more good fats, like cold-water sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. More daily protein intake to compensate for a larger exercise diet, as well as before sleep (stimulate Growth Hormone secretion) can reap benefits. Avoiding food allergies are also critical to better gut health. As we age, food allergies become more pronounced and can prove to be debilitating to our health if we succumb to our palettes than our priorities. Sleep becomes a significant factor to our success or failure of our fitness and health interventions.

You can approach all these changes and interventions in manageable portions. Split a long workout into two: morning and evening. You can do a core/strength training session in the morning (before work), and an aerobic/anaerobic fitness session (after work). Mixing different disciplines into your weekly menu, has shown to be useful for those who experience injury and fatigue. Muscle imbalances caused by prolonged use of the same muscles can lead to injury. Relaxation should follow tension, or your efforts can be compromised. Remember the equation: work + rest = training.

Variety may be the spice of life, provided it is purposeful and useful. Tie these approaches in a systematic way, so that you can measure your progress on a regular basis. Marry the scientific with your intuitive side, and you will enjoy continued progress and improvements. 
Photo-credit: Running Shots

Tie-Ins and Tie-Ups

Undeniably, the future of business and relationships are with tie-ups and tie-ins.

Movie tie-ins are such where product placement are integral to the success of both film production and product promotion. Sponsors pay a fee to have a director and cast, cleverly, represent their brands and products in a positive light. This fee helps in managing the cost of production, which is a major escalating costs when production values are high. Films and advertisers/sponsors seek collaboration and synergy for their mutual benefit. Authors and publishing houses also do tie-ups and tie-ins with merchandising and publicity events. Launching a book about cooking at a restaurant, or a sporting biography at a sports retail chain are examples of mutual relating and relationships. 

The Law of Reciprocity (as expounded by Robert B. Cialdini., Ph.D.) applies in most facets of our lives. Do somebody a favour, and hopefully, they may reciprocate in the future. It does not have to be financially-motivated. A recommendation or testimonial can help in heaps. As long as the brands and businesses are complementary, then such collaborative synergies and partnerships can be valuable.

How do you apply that to your personal and professional life?

1) Joint promotion of Facebook pages.
2) Sharing a friend's/company's FB page.
3) Raising funds for a charity or Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) through your network of connections and relationships.
4) Actively promoting businesses and services that you believe in.
5) Encouraging and securing partners to participate in a cause or larger purpose.
6) Cross-selling and cross-promotion of other brands, businesses and expertise.

Consider how you can apply tie-ups and tie-ins to your business, and personal branding.