Friday, November 21, 2014

Focus: Long & Short of It

Parkour runners claim to 'focus on the present'. Exponents of this dangerous but exciting sport, incorporate techniques of jumping, scaling, leaping, acrobatics, and climbing to achieve their goals of reaching a location in their space. It is as much about the journey, as it is the the destination for these 'free runners'.

Focus is imminent and critical to athletic or business success. By being specific in your goals, you set your goals with clarity, precision and purpose. By being frivolous with your goals and approaches, your results may elude you. By training mostly on trails, you may risk compromising your hard-spent efforts on disappointing results on a road-race. 

Saying 'I want to qualify for the Boston Marathon' and 'I want to run a sub-4 hour marathon' may be far apart, unless both are aligned as similar or exact goals. Intermediate goals, and achievements stoke our motivation and sense of purpose. Certainly, one has to be realistic with one's goals and not set a over-arching goals which may require more time, and dedicated effort. If we set ourselves up for failure, we may be distraught, disappointed, and become doubtful about ourself.

Focus is about keeping your eyes (and sense-ability) on the 'prize'. You can focus on one thing at a time. Multi-tasking create distractions, and may deviate you from your goals. Plan for a few things, set specific goals, and a reasonable timeline and success may be within our distant reach. Never distant yourself too far from your goals and potential achievements.

Well-intentioned people who offer advice may sabotage you on your goals, if they, too, have specific goals themselves. A trail-runner may not be the best source of advice if you intend to run a fast, flat, road race. They are more useful in your goals of running an off-road race, or a trail-based ultra-marathon.

Leadership Lessons: Set long- and short-term goals. Commit to a plan of action. Back these goals up with alternatives, if you miss a few of them. There are no failures, only results and outcomes. Look farther as well as nearer - re-focus and set your sights on your dreams and goals.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

10 Approaches to Smarter Social Media Use

Getting my name on the cover on a monthly magazine on local multisport endurance athletes.
After three years of continuous daily blogging (thanks to Seth Godin for his clever challenge, and his dedicated daily postings), selective use of Facebook and Tweeter, and garnering recognition and treasured relationships in the process, here are my opinions and perspectives.

1) Learn from a variety of online sources. Talk to bloggers, online marketers, Tweeters, and Facebook marketers.
2) Surround yourself with experts in online marketing. Actively interview them.
3) Pay your dues. Study, apply and learn from your successes and mistakes. The wisdom from practice earned is priceless.
4) Build your brand. Build your reputation. They are both, interestingly, interchangeable. Combine it with traditional media like television (interviews, feature stories) and the press (magazine, newspapers). Engage through the mantra 'Express, then Impress'.
5) If you have something good to say, say it. If you nothing good to say, then don't broadcast it. Be an advocate for a brand, cause, challenge or crusade. Recognise others of repute, 'catch them doing it right' and share your passions and discoveries.
6) Social Media is an extension of face-to-face engagements (i.e. interviews, coffee-shop talk, Skype). Extend and expand your reach for Positive Word of Mouth (WOM) marketing.
7) Have productive and useful conversations on mobile applications (apps), Internet Messenging (IM), and the Comments box in Facebook. Expand the realm of consciousness over issues, concerns, challenges and problems. 'Sharing' extends the 'reach' to your audience and beyond.
8) Use Crowd-Sourcing and Crowd-Funding selectively and responsibly. Be, however, aware of how to 'ask' instead of using 'twisting the arm' tactics.
9) Fund-raising should be purposeful, deliberate, sensible and responsible. Avoid the backlash of becoming labelled 'unreliable' and 'desperate'.
10) Enlist assistance from your Tribes. Tribes are communities of like-minded individuals who share a common cause, and by extension willing to help achieve common goals.

Content is still king! Share ideas, perspectives, opinions and recommendations. Add value to each 'share'.
Hopefully, these considerations may help you reconsider and review your overall strategy for building your brand, reputation, garner sponsorship, and monetise your communication platforms.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Re-Booted and Re-Loaded

It has been a while since I updated this blog-site. I have my reasons and excuses, however they are irrelevant and not useful. As we have proposed, time and again, excuses can limit us in many ways especially through our behaviors. Our actions and inactions can lead us to outcomes and results that we vary in their impact on our expectations.

The first three years, I blogged almost daily. When Seth Godin suggested this challenge, I was intrigued and curious. Would it be possible? How would I begin? How would I sustain it? What if I missed a day or more, due to other commitments and priorities? These questions were answered in due course as I initiated the process of blogging, content development, content management, learning to use Social Media 2.0, and more.

Having accomplished this major challenge, I embarked on a journey of physical challenges that rode parallel with my writing and reporting. The purpose of this blog was to be a frontispiece for leadership through sport - endurance sports, in particular. Most of these challenges were accomplished, save for several others that I would have to reconsider and decide on. In the process, I met more amazing athletes, innovators and people who live a life of excellence.

We will continue to operate as a platform for sharing, but extended actively and deliberately into teaching and coaching. You can pose your questions, concerns and feedback and we will respond accordingly. Remember our mantra: Pay it forward. More to follow. Cheers. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Race-Travel Considerations (Interview on SBR Singapore)

This was the latest interview I had with a magazine. Swim Bike Run Singapore is a local magazine that focuses on Singaporean endurance athletes. I trust that you will find this piece of sharing useful.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Be The Best YOU You Can Be

I was having a conversation today with good friend, Alan and we discussed the books we were reading. As I recently introduced to him the writings by Seth Godin, and Alan is a businessperson, I mentioned 'Purple Cows'. Purple Cows was a term coined by marketing-guru, Godin and he referred to uniqueness and outliers in business and industry. 

In other words, how do you stand out in your business or profession?

One national-leader once spoke of this approach: 'We must continue to reinvent ourselves in order to stay relevant.' I took these words seriously and have applied it to my vocation, advocation and recreation. Traditional thinking promotes traditional businesses. Contemporary thinking promotes current and future businesses. How do you run your business differently? How are you managing your career differently?

Pop-icon Madonna had a future-orientated mindset when she kept her brand simple, with her first (singular) name, plus an avalanche of revamps of her vampish looks. She adopted diverse roles including (the profitable) songwriter, choreographer (step up from a dancer), singer (a major shift), actress (a natural however challenging career shift), fashionista (read: fashionable, fashion-expert, fashion-authority), videographer, and much more. Lots of study, thinking, creative thinking, and reinvention took place. Thus, her wealth and fame still trails her trailblazer career even in her fourth decade of entertainment career.  

Purple cows are blended solutions. Purple is born of the colours blue and red. Which blends are you? How versatile are you? What else can you do? How do you stand out from the maddening crowd? Being different means having choices. Move from a follower to a leader. Break the rules. Make the rules. Define yourself. Refine yourself. Avoid grazing too long at a spot, for the grass must re-grow as the soil must regenerate. Have you explored 'the grass is greener on the other side'?

Leadership Lessons: How do you establish your own 'purple cow'? What are you doing to reinvent yourself? How do you stay relevant? How are you progressing from good to great? Deep questions with deeper answers. May you discover your 'uncommon sense'. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Measurements & Measuring Up To Your Excellence

Excellence. That is a word that tends to be used carelessly and callously. The word denotes an ability to 'excel', to do better, and progress.

To be excellent, you have to identify with something that you excel in. It may be a field of discipline where you demonstrate an aptitude for, or a natural ability in. It could also be an area of deep interest, study, research, and practice.

With the pursuit of excellence (pursuit seems to be a word that suggests a motivation towards), comes a need for measurement. How do you know that you making progress? How do you know that you are exceeding yourself in that field? How do you know that you are excelling? Being at the top of your game is merely a measure of results. After that, how do you stay at the top of your game? How do you maintain your position or ranking?

Annual ranking is one way, be it in sports or in employment. Ranking determines (from a panel of judges, or from relative measure as in benchmarking) your relative place in the universe. Based on the Olympic ideals of altius, fortius and citius - athletes are ranked according to their performance. They may have excelled to get into the finals of the Olympic Games, yet another measure of their actual performance is their placings on the podium, or near the three prestigious spots.

Before/After photographs are the pride and joy of clients who have reshaped their physical structures. Aesthetic improvements as well as athletic performance are dramatic shifts in one's persona, mindset and paradigms. Wanting to look their best, feel their best, perform at their best are strong motivators to continue in their pursuits. As long as their approach is sensible, reasonable and legal then excellence is never far from the grips and grasps of the eager, desiring and hungry.
In endurance, multi-sport, excellence may translate to working on one's weakness. Training to perform at a heightened state of physical and mental expression is measured through one's final timing, pacing (at regular intervals), split-times (at specific intervals), efficiencies (less wastage, delays, or hesitation), mindfulness, situational awareness, and more. Comparative measures on a monthly or annual basis, reveal data and information that can be applied to future performance, and thus, excellence. Pure timing might be reconsidered when the route/course changes, or weather becomes inclement, or when overall ranking shows progress, or when you beat certain competitors that you look to/look up to. [My results for the AHM/SBR shows a markedly slower 21km timing, yet my ranking improved. I must admit that this was my off-season, and my performance was not as strong as I was when I earned my second BQ timing in the Gold Coast Marathon in July 2013.]

Leadership Lessons: What does excellence mean to you? How do you activate your value of excellence? How do you demonstrate your sense of excellence in your profession and your pastimes? What drives you to excel? 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Update on Endurance Challenges

To wit, since early-August I completed Ironman 70.3 Philippines on Cebu Island. I scrapped through just under six hours with a nutritional malfunction. My lost bottle of fuel led me to digging deep, and learning abject lessons in the process.
I did reasonably well for the Army Half-Marathon/Singapore Bay Run. I was off my personal best by four minutes, yet considering my off-season/running-averse program I arrived within the top-1 percent. I learnt that to do a better BQ timing (for Boston Marathon 2016), and be near the 3-hour mark, I would need to consider an intensive (but still mileage-light) approach, with more strength and speed work.

Having skipped last weekend's Olympic Distance triathlon, due to illness, I may do the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run 10km (Competitive). I am curious to see what is left in my tank after a period of forced rest.
Good news is that my major sponsor came through for me, and I have received generous support for Ironman Lanzarote 2015. I have also signed up for my first triathlon in Phuket, Thailand. I look forward to this race, and my new race attire. I wear my sponsors colours with pride and purpose. I am grateful for synergistic collaborations and partnerships.

The 5-Minute Challenge or the 30-Day Challenge

When was the last time you challenged yourself? It does not matter if it was big or small, gargantuan or miniscule.

I read with great delight, 30-day challenges for physical fitness. For instance, doing one push-up on Day 1, and adding one more for subsequent days. By Day 30, you would be doing 30 pushups; cumulatively, that is a great number of pushups altogether. You can substitute the exercise for another of choice or circumstance.

Or, you give yourself five (5) minutes, and challenge yourself to write as much as you (as I am doing now). You tease your brain to make mental connections, will your fingers to type as rapidly as your thoughts form, and edit at the same time. It is a good exercise that can urge you out of your 'box', whatever your 'box' is. It compels you to do something different; or at the least, something. Procrastination can be the thief of your time. Better to do something (even annoying or unattractive) than not to. 

Once, I wrote one blog a day for three continuous years. Thanks to marketing guru (of 'Purple Cows' and 'Tribes' fame) SETH GODIN, I am still on this blog. Many good and great things have emerge from this personal challenge and indirect challenge, and I intend to keep at it for as long as I am ready, able and willing.

Make New Excuses

It has been weeks since I posted on this platform*. I regret my tardiness and procrastination. No excuse on my part, however I felt I did not have much to share by way of usefulness. However, some thoughts crossed my mind. These are:

1) If you have to make excuses, make them count. Use them, and commit to them.
2) If you want to make excuses, make new ones. Make up new excuses nobody has thought of before. Be bold, be brave, be unique and conjure new excuses that astound others into a state of awestruck. [I learnt this from a quotation by author Neil Gaman.]
3) If you have no excuses, then stand up, take a walk, and do something useful.

If you are an overweight motivational speaker, you may want to consider point 3). As my close friend remarked: 'Walk the talk. Lead by example.' I am reminded by it, and I am motivated to do so. I am going for a walk now...

Movement is life. Live. Move. Move on...

*I have been overwhelmed by Internet marketers who have attempted to hijack various threads. I take that as a compliment. It is alright to ask me. Cheers.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

KM Duathlon

The KM Duathlon was held on 20 July, 7.00am, at the Changi Exhibition Centre. It attracted a few hundred endurance athletes to this boutique-race comprising a run-ride-run. We had not enjoyed a Duathlon for a few years, so this was a surprising treat. The format included a relay event, 5km-20km-5km (30km), or 10km-40km-10km formats. I elected to completed the 10-40-10 (60km) category, as a prelude to Ironman 70.3 Cebu (on 3 August). 

Sante sets off - fast! (I was just behind - see my finger?)
The calm before the storm...(I am wearing the official Compressport tri-top).
The 60km race was flagged off at 7.02am, and the 30km field of athletes followed up five minutes after. It was already daylight, so visibility was assured and the fast runners tore off hurriedly. The first 10km was dominated by the strong runners, as the fastest registered a 34-minute performance. I paced myself near the front, focused on my friend, Sante Scartozzi - a recent Ironman New Zealand finisher, and respectable age-grouper. With his strong run, I knew if I stuck close to him, I would be close to my race-goal of a sub-3 hour finish. My expected timing splits would have been around 48minutes, 1:15, and 52 minutes respectively, excluding transition.
 With the cheeky Peter Yap.
 With swim Coach David 'Yellowfish' Lim
With Cebu-bound buddy, Winston Wong.
On the run: Too fast, you Wally! I followed Sante and the faster runners ahead of me, and braced for a pace that would be both comfortable and still not lose my ground. Coming into the Transition Area, I was mildly laboured however pleased that I almost did a PB in my 10km. Seriously, it was equal to my best time for a 10km, in both training or racing. I briefly basked in the moment of my achievement, and took 1:11 minutes for a quick-change. The only challenges for me were my new Shimano riding shoes/cleats, new fork (ENVE), new seat (ISM), and new bar-tape. As expected, my ride as stable and smooth and I could focus on the relevant factors. 'Focus on what you can manage' has always been my mantra. Note to self: Do more intervals for the run. Run like Sante.
Out of Transition Area in a minute: Sloppily slow, though.
A new ISM Adamo Racing seat, sits well.
On the ride: I took the first lap easy as I needed to find my pacing and familiarise myself with the course. Once I locked that in, I was able to focus on my pace, cadence and breathing. I did not check my timing, and chose to go by my 'mental-ticks' of over-taking fellow participants on the flat course (that ran parallel to the airport runway). I was pleased with the way my bike performed, and I think I kept to my planned timing of 1:15 closely. I believe I lost some time when I spun in (more relaxed) into Transition. From experience, I wanted to run on less-depleted legs. Thus, I drank my bidon of Hammer Nutrition 'Perpeteum' which fueled me for both then ride and subsequent run. Another two bottles of water accompanied me, as you were expected to be self-sufficient on the ride leg (in this race). Nutrition is, invariably, the Fourth Discipline in triathlons and the vital link to success or disappointment in a race.
With the imitable, Funny-Man, Marathon Mohan (with more than 250 marathons under his belt)
A cruel second, 10km run placated by the rising heat and fatigue.
On the second run: After a 2-minute transition, which included the consumption of two salt-capsules (CrampFix) and water, and a mild interaction (with David, Ser Luck and Jeffrey) I trundled off. The first kilometre was hard to run. In retrospect (wisdom of hindsight), I think I hit the gas too hard on the first 10km (44:04) which may have burnt up one extra match. You have a finite number of matches in your 'box' (body), and if these are consumed too soon, the remainder of the race becomes harsh. Pacing is a critical part of racing, so training your body to consume both fat and sugar is a key goal of training. I managed a slower (by exactly eight minutes) second lap with 52:04, which was still within my goal. It was a struggle for the first 5km, I assure you.
The winners in my category did very well with timings of 2:28, 2:30, and 2:36. I dragged my sorry behind just behind the top women (60km) who did 2:50, and I assured myself with a 2:53 finish. I was happily switching places with her for most of the 4-lap ride. She was a strong and competent competitor! Race emcee 'Voice of Triathlon' Ross Sarpani enthusiastically called me, and I acknowledge gratefully my sub-3 hour entry into the finisher-chute. He kept the energy positive and high from start to end.

The Recovery Tent proved to be more fun and cooling, and finishers were pampered with a plethora of cooling delights such as cold Heineken and Asahi beer, fruity slurpee from two dispensing-machines, cold Gatorade, cold wet-towels, fruit, and a buffet-spread. There were cold-shower units to partake in, if one wished. I talked to a few finishers, including two who fell off their bikes earlier, and yet completed their respective races. Such true grit is admirable as the pain and discomfort is factored into an already grueling race.

Other highlights for me included seeing my triathlon and marathon friends, such as Marathon Mohan on his first duathlon (still motivating runners on with his whistle, verbal encouragement, and ever-ready camera); Adrian Mok, Teo Ser Luck (Guest-of-Honour and participant), Jeffrey Foo (organiser), Winston Wong, and David 'Yellowfish' Lim. I stayed on until the prize-giving ceremony was over. It was also satisfying to see a cheque of $6,200.00 presented to the charity known as CARE. I appreciate it when charity and sports mix, and both sides benefit as synergistic collaborators.

In summary, the race was well-organised by Infinitus Productions, with a clear route, adequate feed-stations, friendly volunteers, and a desirable recovery-tent. The participants' positive attitude added to the air of friendly (but intense) competition. I look forward to next year's edition. Such races, when timed properly provide useful evaluations that can be used to chart one's progress. I am glad my CrossFit/strength sessions have translated into actual muscular power and speed. Final assessment: On-track and on-target for a (hopeful) PB in Cebu.
Photo-credits: Mohan Marathon; Running Shots;

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Benefits of Training Solo (Part 1)

I have been training, predominantly, alone for the last two years. My race performance has been mixed, yet I have ticked off a few boxes on my Bucket List. Here are some salient advantages of training solo:

1) You respect other people's time, by not wasting their time waiting for you to arrive.
2) You save time, as you can start/stop at your own will and decision.
3) You enjoy greater flexibility of activities and duration.
4) You can integrate a workout at any time of your waking hours.
5) You decide on your routes, pathways and course of action.
6) You determine your own pace and speed.
7) You are not pressured or influenced by another person.
8) You will not be 'dropped' for your slowness.
9) You simulate race-day conditions, which is to race at a non-draft distance.
10) You can sleep in, if the weather is inclement and you need more rest.
Photo-credit: Paul

A First Time For New Experiences

I tested my first aero-helmet this morning: the Rudy Project Wing 57, complete with snap-on visor. Perhaps, due to poor mounting on my part, my visor popped out halfway during my ride.

I have not used an aero-helmet as I never thought I was fast enough to use it. In recent weeks, while preparing for my A-races, I decided to use this 'advantage'. I felt that my head was tighter, warmer, and I could hear the wind whistling in my ear (against the head-winds). I am reminded of the cliche of 'There's a first time for everything'. I must admit that I perceived i had a raised self-esteem. This was evident by my enthusiasm to lead my small squad of riders, Kenneth and Paul on the flat sections and on the slopes.
After my short ride (about 45km comprising some sustained velocities), I did a 10km run. This was my second 'ride-run brick' in a week. Last Sunday, I ran until the 8km mark when I started to fade, and walked/jogged the remainder. Today, I completed the full 10km in about 48:50, which was a sub-4:55min/km pace. I was pleased with myself as it was a hot morning, and I managed to hold my tempo pace.

I look forward to the next few workouts before next Sunday's KM Duathlon, which comprises a format of 10km run-40km ride-10km run. My new helmet will accompany me on this race, as well as in the Ironman 70.3 Cebu.

Leadership Lessons: When was your last 'new experience'? How was that like for you? What did you enjoy about it?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Racing Season Has Begun

Racing has begun!

In recent weeks, I have resumed racing with a 60km riding race and 21km run.
With a schedule of races in July through September, I will be participating in a duathlon, Olympic Distance triathlon, half-Ironman, 10km and 21km races.
It is assessment time, and I will be building up to Ironman 70.3 Cebu; I hope to earn a PB. My main goal in 2015 is to earn a sub-3-hour marathon, or somewhere near that time. A Boston Marathon slot in 2016 will be my main goal. Next year, I may attempt my third Ironman Lanzarote and aim for my best time there.

Much to do, but happy work, nonetheless.
*Photo-credit (TRI-Factor Ride): Richard Leong*

From Less Functional To More Functional

During the years 1990-1993, I was national-level bodybuilder (also known as a 'muscle-head') on its B-team. In my first competition, I spent eight weeks to prepare and packed on 7kg of lean muscle. I won third placing in the Middleweight division, and that was the start of a frustrating and tumultuous relationship with barbells, dumb-bells and weight-satck machines. I experienced strength, fatigue, stretch-marks, stinky gym-clothes, hyper-nutrition (over-nutrition by pissing out expensive urine) and revelations.

Having won three 3rd placings, and one runner-up award I retired completely from the quaint sport with unnaturally-developed behemoths. I thought I was fit, but I was not. Even though I was flexible and strong, I lacked balance, core strength (I hated doing abdominal exercises) and functionality.

Muscular functionality is about how our skeletal-muscular (skeleton and muscles) system work effectively and efficiently. I could not apply myself fully in sports like racket-games and swimming. Even though I used to teach-exercise ('aerobic classes'), I lost a fair amount of muscular coordination. I was fit enough to pass my IPPT (annual physical fitness assessment) in my annual reserves military service, but I was not testing myself in enough ways.

Photo-credit & design: Richard Leong
Circa 2014, after a decade of training and racing in multi-sport endurance races I have redefined my muscle functionality. My core strength is much developed. I have better coordination of my body especially in then swim. I am a much stronger runner with far-developed endurance for the 10km, 21km and marathon. I can ride long, often in excess of 100km.

How are you developing your functionality? How comprehensive is your training process? How much do you factor in the testing and evaluation of your fitness?  
Take then time to measure these, and convert this into actual racing performance.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Recent Race Roundup & Reality Checks

It has been a while since I have posted. I have resumed preparation for my next A-races, with a few B-races under my belt. I enjoyed two recent assessments on my ride and run, and I have a stronger sense of direction on how to enhance my fitness, focus and decisiveness-in-action.

After completing my Big-3 Races (Boston Marathon, AP Ironman Championships, Ironman NZ) in March and April, I have recovered from my fatigue and mild injuries. No major injuries, I assure you, but signs and indicators of athlete's wear-and-tear. I suspect muscle imbalance, and I will be testing this; and joint issues, mainly in my knees (sounds, and mild soreness after long training or racing sessions). Testing and assessment will be my priority these coming weeks, with rehabilitation (strengthening and correct muscle activation/firing sequence) the order of the day.
I completed the 21km section of the Sundown Marathon. It was a new route, with a challenging climb up the famous Benjamin Sheares Bridge (named after our second President of Singapore) in the latter part of the race. I arrived in 1:45 (a far cry from my 1:33 best), and in 44th place in the Male category, and about 51st overall (including the Female category). I was pleased with it as I still kept an consistent moving-average pace. I had mild preparation with about three, 10km-runs, weekly. So, with more endurance-based runs I hope to lock in  a good timing in the Ironman 70.3 triathlon in Cebu in early-August.  Also, on the cards, is a major goal of cracking the my 21km PB, and a bonus of a sub-1:30 at the AHM 21km Run in September.
I also completed the TRI-Factor 60km ride, part of the complete series I have been sponsored for. In my current shape, I cracked my personal time on this fairly hairy 6-loop course. I placed in the top-33 percent, which means I have to continue focusing on speed work, and achieve a consistent pace for the full 90km in Cebu. I am taking a big crack on my half-Ironman PB with my renewed fitness, so this achievement was satisfying.

I am exploring a few more, short-course races - my main goal for the rest of this year will be racing and assessment. I am curious about what kind of speed I am capable of doing in the Olympic Distance triathlon, the half-Ironman, and the half-marathon. My A-goals for next year are to meet a career-best timing of near-3-hours for a marathon, and qualify for Boston Marathon in 2016. And, perhaps another two Ironman across two continents.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Resuscitate Yourself From Your 'Dead Years'

Have you experienced 'The Dead Years'?

I describe this period, lasting from months to years, as time away from your passions and interests. For instance, you may experience dead years from your pursuits like exercise or novel writing due to a busy work schedule, family obligations, or prolonged study. I learnt of this term from talented and clever magician, Allan Ackerman in his book 'Las Vegas Kardma'.

I experienced my dead years in magic - electing not to perform for three years, and occasionally in public (to my students). However, I did continue to practise my Art from time to time. Having said that, when I practised, I fully committed myself to my task of learning or revising my material.

We do experience 'down time' in our lives, and when cleverly planned and integrated, we recover  from fatigue and potential burnout. If unplanned and unaware about it, it can rob us of precious time, resources and connectivity with others.

It is fine to take the occasional break (away from the mundane and predictable), however be mindful of the imminent and immediate future. How can we turn our restful period into the next restless period? This is merely a 'punctuated moment' in our schedule (called 'life'), and we need to string the 'words into a sentence', or we will be sentenced into stasis and inertia. Explore new ways to do the same thing. Find new joy or discipline in our habits. Or, better still, create new patterns of behavior and live life in fruitful ways. Creativity can be described as new perspectives or new ways of looking at the same thing.

Leadership Lessons: Recall your dead years. How long did it last? How did move past them, and moved forwards? When do you decide to slow things down and re-prioritise? What did you learn from periods of forced rest or hiatus?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Boston Marathon 2014: Boston Strong Race Report

Boston, Massachusetts, 21 April 2014: Today, I achieved a new milestone in my athletic career having completed the prestigious Boston Marathon. It was a culmination of 10 years of training, and three years of visioning. I crossed the line, in high spirits, fatigued legs, and diminished speed in 3:48. For three hours and over-48 minutes, I ran past one million spectators, more than a dozen towns and locales, and major landmarks.
In 2011, I missed earning an entry in the 2012 edition (116th year) because I had a fallow margin of one minute. I earned my first Boston Qualifying (BQ) time of 3:29:59 in the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon in February. Interestingly, many well-intentioned friends suggested that the hilly course in Hong Kong would forbid me from earning a Personal Best (PB) easily. I prevailed, and it was not easy but I gratefully received my BQ timing (less than 3:30) in July 2013. This time, I ran it at 3:16 (how apt for a biblical passage), which was far better than what I fared in 2011, with 3:32. In 2012, I raced the Berlin Marathon in September in a dismal 4:00, after recuperating from a hairline toe fracture incurred before Ironman Switzerland (which I hobbled painfully to completion). I learnt abject lessons from my two months of a forced diet of no-running, and only riding and swimming. 

I arrived on Thursday in Boston, after passing through Frankfurt and New York City. I had taught two workshops over-3 days before so I was pleased to travel the extended distance on Singapore Airlines. My lounge privileges allowed me to shower, and enjoy warm food and beverages (and a wine/beer) during transit. During that time, I was contemplating whether to race as a celebration, or to run a hard race. My friend, Celene Loo suggested that I enjoy the race thoroughly since I had suitably qualified, and to immerse myself in the Boston Experience. I laid that plan latently, electing to 'go with the flow' of my intuition, and pace of fellow runners around me.
The race-fair was three-days long, highlighted by my early-arrival in an already long, snake-like queue for race-kit collection. I treasured my Runner's Passport, which included race-information, entry coupons for Pre-Race Dinner and Post-Race Party. There was much to see, and collect (insoles, organic muesli, the special race-only Samuel Adams Boston Lager '26.2', energy drinks, and much more) from the exhibitor booths - and I returned on Day 2 to attend the touching talk by The Hoyts. Never have I seen so many standing ovations and enthusiastic applause for two of endurance sports most-enduring father-son teams. This was their swan-song for the Boston Marathon, as it is taking its toll and toil on the senior of the pair. 
Race Morning: I was up at 4.30pm and out the door by 6.00pm. We took the crowded (but orderly) train to Cropley Square, whereby (after a comfort-stop) we were ushered up into buses to be ferried to the start-point at Hopkinton. The emotion in the bus was mainly apprehension, excitement and a sense of pride. We had arrived, and time to complete the race, collect our medals, and bask in the afterglow of accomplishment.
It took an hour, and we arrived at the car-park whereby we were led by the friendly volunteers into the gathering-area. Runners were assigned specific pen-numbers and wave-numbers (based on our qualification times). The elite runners were flagged off first, followed by the fastest qualifiers.
I must say that the race was a bit of a blur, after the usual pre-race preamble and scramble. There was no rush to jockey for a good start position. The race-bib with the integrated-chip determined our final time. When I was flagged off, it was boisterous and rowdy in a good way, ushered by residents of Hopkinton. It was cheerful, happy and hopeful. Along the way, I smiled (abundantly), gave high-five slaps to children (I felt bad I missed a few of them), got kissed (and kissed - on the cheek, of course) the Wellesley College Girls (an all-girl, liberal arts, college) who were a pleasant distraction and utter attraction at Mile 13 (before Heartbreak Hill met us), Heartbreak Hill (more a series of undulating roads stretching for five miles until Boston College), and the spectator-lined streets for all of 42 kilometres. Between these scenic and jubilant accounts, were the well-manned aid-stations that were highly considerate and caring to all (including I, who tended to stand beside them to consume my water, CrampFix salt-tablets and Hammer Nutrition Perpeteum/gels) runners. We were well taken care of, and I would not fault anyone. The residents in the towns were also extensions of the volunteers, offering wet-sponges, refreshments, and encouragement. 
To summarise my experience: Boston was strong, and its spirit was Stronger! 
I raced, I suffered, as I approached the finish-line. The last one kilometre was tough as 'my mind was willing, but my legs were weak'. However, my meek jog strengthened to a plausible gallop as I increased my stride-length. For one fleeting moment, I was reminded of the vicious act of violence last year, as I approached the grandstand, packed readily with officials, first-responders, spectators, families and VIPs. 
It was merely a shadow of past that would not be repeated today, or on any other day. This was a day that runners united, a city braved its grief and losses, and emerged victorious. The most poignant line I recall somebody tell me was: 'Thank you for saving our city!' I was dumbfounded to hear that, as I stifled my emotions, but honoured for playing a small part in a bigger piece of the cosmic equation. I was compelled to thank everyone I met (who seem to revel in congratulating us finishers) and reciprocate their hospitality. I felt like a celebrity racing the half-Ironman in Cebu!
I crossed the line at Boylston Street in about 3:48. As I crossed the line, it felt like my first marathon and Ironman triathlon completions. One's sense of fatigue was erased by the sense of euphoria, achievement and accomplishment. A heady concoction of emotions mixed with realisation that I had achieved large and empowering, alongside 32,000 of my fellow brothers/sisters in marathon.
I was led in, by enthusiastic and congratulating volunteers to receive my thermal sheet, race-medal, and post-race refreshments. My face felt flushed with excitement, although technically, my race was over. I walked besides many participants (now christened by the Boston Strong Experience) who, now, were my friends-for-life, united by one unique experience cherished only by this peculiar fondness for this distance and activity.
I connected with two journalists from Channel NewsAsia; Dr Derek Li (who did 2:42 at this race) arranged for this opportunity, which I coordinated with editor in Singapore, and ended up doing the interview alone. Although I enjoyed the post-race recognition, I felt my experience would have been enhanced with the presence of team-mates, Derek, Jenny Huang (who did 3:30) and Blade Runner Shariff. Nevertheless, it was what it was and I ddi my best - in one, take - to capture the essence of the Boston Strong Experience. I received much positive response from this piece when it was broadcasted a day after. I cringed at my post-race attire, as I felt chilly in the windy 16 degrees Celcius conditions. It was my virgin foray into compression-socks, encouraged by the cold.
Overall, I enjoyed my first Boston Marathon/Boston Strong tremendously. I was pleased with my approach, enjoyed most aspects of my experience and promised to return in 2016. I hope to earn it through a more-challenging PB of 3 hours, and less. I have a grand plan ahead of me, and I hope to achieve it within a year, so as to attend the 120th edition of this historical race.
*Photo-credits: Melina Chan & Marathon Photos*
*Sponsors: CrampFix, On Shoes, Jabra*