Thursday, May 30, 2013

So You Want To Be Your Own Boss?

Being self-employed, and running your own business seems and sounds like a glamorous thing. Yet, there is more than meets the romantic perception that 'being your own boss' accentuates your sense of freedom and releases your creativity. The regular reality checks must be there, alongside the dream/vision of enhanced remuneration and reward. Expect longer hours, confusion, frustration at a lack of results, unusual demands from customers and partners (if you elect this pathway), financial losses and slipping optimism. There is no surefire, paint-by-numbers, microwave-ready, formula for instant success. Yet, if you persist, persevere, stay resolutely true to your dream, and transform (change,develop and grow), then you can assure yourself of enhanced confidence, clarity, and courage. Create something of value and the rewards will come.

Before you take that big plunge into self-sustaining and self-directing, education in life - consider the following questions:

1) What is it of value that you can offer your future customers?
2) Which are your core competencies, and expertise?
3) What are your entry and exit strategies?
4) How long can you sustain before you will consider alternative plans?
5) How confident are you in your delivering your core competency, selling and marketing?
6) How open are you in partnering, strategic partnerships, and synergistic collaborations?
7) How passionate are you about this new career direction?

If you are motivated by what you have to do, despite what others say, what are your reality checks? How open are you to receiving feedback? How well do you integrate the feedback and directing it back towards building a better product line and service delivery? What is of real value that you offer to your clientele?

Consider these questions as they are pertinent and relevant ones. There is no escaping the fact that being careless and callous can cost you indelibly. I wish you good fortune on your road to self-realisation and self-discovery! 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

My Second Group Ride

My return to group rides began on 1 May, and continued this morning. 

I have been riding, frequently, indoors on my trainer for many months. I was dong my rehabilitation in August-October with it. Plus, riding outside was, indeed, more risky and dangerous as there was a spate of road accidents involving cyclists; some were fatalities. I was also developing my aerobic system, as prescribed by Dr Phil Maffetone in his book 'The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing'. It was low heart-rate training on 60-180-minute sessions.

Swimmers disguised as riders (photo-credit: Desmond Chow).
This morning's ride followed up on yesterday's swim and run at the Tanjung Beach Lagoon. This group of about a dozen avid riders, was out-chicked by Ironman-incumbent, Jessica who led portions of our 4-hour ride from the eastern part of Singapore, to the west, and back. I enjoyed my ride as I met old friends, recent Ironman finishers, and new friend Kent Wong (from Hong Kong); the latter completed Kona in 2010, and he shared his notes with me. We took on a hill at the Bird Park, and a break at Tuas West (and breakfast for some). Otherwise, we enjoyed several moments of speedier sections, where the delivery-trucks and lorries were not a major threat to us. It was, unusually, busy on the roads for a Sunday. I am pleased for this joyful ride, and I have a good assessment of my current ride fitness before The Big Dance. Just need to activate some latent Fast-Twitch (FT) fibres.
Yesterday's swimmers. (photo-credit: Le Giang)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Consistency Breeds Results

This morning, I did a 4-lap short swim at the lagoon with the Tanjong Beach Swim group. As the tide was receding (like Nicholas Cage's hairline), I hit sand at certain points of the swim. With three swim sessions a week, I am more controlled in the water. Every Monday, at Coach Wilson Ang's swim session, I receive stroke corrections as well as specific drills to enhance my swim efficiency. These sessions are tough, as I tend to dip into the anaerobic zone due to my wasted efforts of inefficient strokes.
Sculling after my sets with Robert Chan (photo-credit: Le Giang).
The 5km run that followed was interesting as I did a similar trial about three weeks ago. Then, I was holding 4:10min/km on my last 2.4km; today, I went 3:56min/km with an average pace of 4:10min/km. My strides are slightly longer, with more core activation and a more assured gait. My run sessions have been reduced in overall mileage, and limited to three sessions per week. My focus has been on swimming and riding to boost my running fitness - the cross-over/cross-training effect. I will be increasing my mileage over the next seven weeks before the Gold Coast Airport Marathon (first weekend of July).
Visualising my finish on Ali'i Drive (photo-credit: Le Giang)
My workouts are orientated to strength and speed; with twice-daily sessions on selected days. Kona is five months away, however I will need to develop my weaker areas - mainly ride and swim - and ensure illness-free and injury-free bodily conditions. Two major races (Sundown 21km and Mount Faber 10km runs) await me as specific evaluations of my fitness.
Surrounded by a coterie of inspiring Ironman and endurance athletes. (photo-credit: Le Giang)
Meanwhile, my body-fat is lower as is my bodyweight. I aim to muscle up and gain more muscular weight, so as to improve my riding proficiency and confidence. 

A Discourse On Personal Discipline

Discipline is a necessity when rules are to be adhered to. Rules convey a sense of control and predictability. Yet, rules have been broken because discipline to follow them becomes compromised or exhausted. When we become defensive, defiant and disagreeing we express our dismay with rules (which pose a large degree of rigidity, structure and order). Rules are expressed through tradition, custom and convention.

Endurance athletes, particularly, triathletes are creatures of habit. We tend to veer from the unfamiliar. The discipline is rigorous insofar as the early-morning wake-ups, to exercise on a discipline, be it swim, ride or run. It is so enticing to sleep in, as this sport/recreation is a choice. Yet, if we are to excel in any of the disciplines or to enhance overall fitness (for competition), then we are to decide if we are to train, or not. When a recreation becomes  a lifestyle, it is more than a chore. It should evolve into a necessity rather than nicety, choice instead of chore.

Being disciplined is hard, at times. However, when we commit to a purpose we can stay true to our compass of planning, focus and excellence. Rules are hard to comply with, because they challenge our sense of self and freedom. Yet, there we are free to exercise our freedom of choice in our actions and behaviors. Discipline is about doing things that we may loathe, yet help build our ability to be better. The road to personal mastery is paved with discipline. Listen to your coach, mentor and teacher - and lead with your ability to be tough, resilient, determined and diligent.

Re-Tooling Your Toolkit

Having tools in a toolkit; using them is another.

Tools are useful when you need them. When a problem is to be fixed, you locate your toolbox, and select your tool of choice. You then use the tool as prescribed on the problem you've identified.

Some of us have incomplete toolkits. Thus, when we need a certain tool it is not available. If we are knowledgeable, we might improvise yet these may not exactly attend to our specific problem. It may be a stop-gap measure; meaning, the problem may return at a latter date. A loose nut is a potential threat. Tighten it, or it slip loose one day - at a most unfortunate time.

Learning how to use tools are important if we are to solve our problem, and not damage the tool. Poor workmanship may arise from poor technical or handiwork skills. You can over-tighten a screw, wear out threads, bend a nail, scrap a slot, and much more. Knowledge and skill on how to operate a tool is critical if we are to become masters over our tools.

When assessing your value as a professional, list these down: knowledge, skills, experience, expertise, exposure, and relationships. These are part of your toolkit of talent, abilities and capabilities. Use your tools wisely and usefully.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Subtle and Obvious Shifts

I have made several adjustments to my lifestyle recently. Some of these initiatives were salient and significant; others were subtle and unnoticeable. Little changes and shifts in daily habits, tend to add up and become habitual and routine. Keep working at it, and the body and mind adapts and copes with the differences in activity.

On Training: I have begun sleeping earlier, and at least seven hours a night. I have also introduced twice-a-day training sessions: 45-60 minutes of cycling before work, and a 10km run or 60-minute pool session. Monday has become squad night, as my coach puts me through my drills and ensures I am fit for my upcoming races. I am including more core stability/balance work, and intend to include two strength training sessions (with isotonic movements with weights). I have started a few ride-run 'brick' sessions to accustom myself to running on 'tired' legs.

On Racing: I have signed up for 21km and 10k run races before the Gold Coast Airport Marathon (my BQ opportunity). With Ironman 70.3 Philippines (Cebu) as my precursor triathlon before Kona, I will have a fair assessment of my fitness and health before heading to the Big Island for a shot at my dream triathlon. These races are for evaluating my fitness (mainly my speediness and ability to handle hilly terrain). I have also been watching the previous years races online, so as to get a better appreciation of the race-course and condition. It is expected to be hot, windy and humid - conditions that my home-ground has some similarity to.

On Nutrition: I have integrated the use of useful oils in my diet: coconut oil (1-2 teaspoons per day), 2-3 fish oil capsules (deep-sea fish with Omega-3 fatty acids), tart cherry juice (for reducing muscle soreness), pomegranate juice (antioxidants), whey protein and more raw vegetables. I am reducing my overall coffee intake, so as to respond better to caffeine and its usefulness as an ergogenic aid during racing.

As with the introduction of change, I monitor my responses to these changes: my sleeping patterns, restfulness, athletic ability, and recovery. These are important feedback for measuring and monitoring progress.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Put A Smile On

This afternoon, I had lunch with deca-Ironman triathlon finisher, Kua Harn Wei at the NUS Business School. My order of a coffee-mocha came with a smile. The coffee barista put effort and excellence into his work. I did not expect the smile from service staff to be expressed in two ways. The foam on my coffee had a splendid work of art, a design that left a great taste in my mouth before I tasted it. Foam formulated as art - what a clever idea!
Smile - it is a beautiful facial expression. A smile is one of the most beautiful curves on a person's body. A smile can disarm most tensions. It is attractive. It attracts attention. It can soften the hardest of emotions and characters.

Smiling during a physical activity can reduce our perception of the severity of our effort and discomfort. It does not look silly or absurd. The most memorable  and lovable of Ironman triathletes include Chrissy Wellington and Natasha Badmann. They smile when they are hurting, and when they are doing their best. Smile on!

Premium Priorities

Assuming your day was an amorphous blob of possibility, how would  you carve a structure and sculpture out of it?

24 hours: sleep, recreation, and vocation. We have choices on how we can prioritise our waking hours. Make important things important. Put less important aside, to be attended to later. Leave unimportant things out.

If you pretend that you need to accomplish much more, than you normally do, you just might. Activate your sense of urgency. Just tell yourself to get it done. Commit to completion. It could be meals, exercise, chores, assignments or homework.

Make a list. You need not make it too comprehensive or that, in itself, will distract you from accomplishing the numerous tasks on your list. Tick off each task done. Doing is done. Get started!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Finally Featured!

I love the film about the youngest journalist for Rolling Stones magazine, 'Almost Famous'; thus my alliterative headline for this post. Today, I was featured a headliner for an intensive story on extreme, endurance, athletes (Life!, The Straits Times, 3 May 2013). I was interviewed last Friday over the telephone by Ms Lydia Vasko. Thanks to Coach Wilson Low for the lead-in, and congratulations for his win in the Mixed Team in Queensland last weekend. He was interviewed soon after I met him up for a chat about his race in Kona in 2005. Wilson has completed four world championships for Ironman, half-Ironman, and adventure-racing.
Here's a reflective piece by Perth-based Singaporean, and multiple-Ironman finisher (almost-10) John Cooke.
The online version of the newspaper.
My friend, surgeon Dr Foo Chek Siang was also featured.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Training Tour Has Begun!

I have exactly five months and 11 days to the Big Dance in Kona, Hawaii. After three days of rest, due to a mild sore throat, I resumed easy riding and running. A cough has followed through and I am monitoring it. Upper-respiratory tract infections are common with endurance athletes, who test their cardiovascular system regularly.

This morning, I rode about 45km, with 30km on threshold mode (about 34kph) with the Brat Pack comprising the new Eastern Night Riders (ENR). In the past, ENR rides were on Tuesday evenings from 8-9.30pm. In recent years, it has been disbanded since the founding-members quit long-distance triathlons to focus on off-road, ultra-marathons - a natural transition from Ironman-triathlons. This morning's pack included Matthew, Sin Guan, Hui Koon and Chris (Smith, who I raced with in the Ironman Zurich 2012). This fitter and younger pack rode hard and fast, and dropped me like a hot potato this morning. At least, I know where I stand (ride) and will focus on aspects on my rides that will help me go faster at the Cebu Ironman 70.3, and at the Ironman World Championships on 12 October.

I followed my short ride with a 10km run (at 5:15 min/km pace), and my legs felt the brunt of the ride-run brick, by threatening to cramp up (due to the heat). Fortunately, these eased up and I recovered adequately. More such sessions will be integrated in my overall plan, as I enlarge my workout sessions and extend my training hours. Consistency will be key, as would be a focused discipline on training specificity, sleep, and proper nutrition. I have included specific foods like coconut oil, fish oil, antioxidant-laden foods, water, and less processed food (and refined sugar). I am seeking the counsel and expertise of past-finishers of Kona, and these perspectives are serving to be useful and clarifying in my preparation.