Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bucket List 2014

Racing season begins for me this week.

It will be a year of firsts for me: Two Ironman triathlons three weeks apart in March; and Boston Marathon a month after. It will be my fifth trip down to Lake Taupo, Auckland as it is its 30th anniversary - the oldest Ironman race outside of the USA. Ironman Melbourne will be my first championships in the Asia-Pacific. My last Ironman championships was in October 2013 (Kona), and the Ironman 70.3 World's in 2008 and 2009. A special lottery for participants will be the icing on the cake, and I would love another serious shot at the World's in Kona. I read that David Beckham might be racing as the next celebrity.

The Boston Marathon - 118th edition - will be my first, having qualified on my second BQ submission. I had to erase 13 minutes off my last BQ/PB to ensure a better chance this year. Having never been to Boston - an expensive city - I am excited about my itinerary and the race. My race goal is to complete comfortably on the hilly course, and a 3:50 finish would be rewarding (30 minutes off my best timing from a flat course last July). I have exactly one month to get into marathon shape, after having done two marathons before that. I will focus on recovery and speed word instead of mileage and endurance.

Two more days before I fly off to Taupo. I am excited about earning a better performance. Digits crossed!

Meeting Up With Inspirational Friends

I met up with the Koeppens at the Changi International Airport, hours before their departure back home to Germany. My busy teaching schedule forbade me from meeting them earlier. I have kept in touch Grace and Hannes annually, and I have been inspired by their enduringly strong relationship and shared sense of athleticism.
Months before my personal assault on the Ironman World Championships in Kona last year, I spoke extensively to both of them, garnering useful pre-race and racing advice. Hannes Koeppen competed on the Big Island four times and was world champion twice in the wheelchair/PC category. With a PhD in biology, he now shares his knowledge of nutrition with physically-challenged (PC) athletes. With our brief time together on this trip, I regaled them with my amusing stories at my 15th Ironman finish. We had a most enjoyable time.
Here is a photograph with my regular swim buddies (on Saturdays) - from the Tanjung Beach Swim. Davy Koh went to Kona in the early-1990's. We shared a swim and run 'brick' last week.
I am blessed with friends like them.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Six Days To the Dance (IMNZ 2014)

It is six days out to Ironman New Zealand, my first Ironman-distance triathlon for this year. My bike was just ridden, checked and packed into its hard-case. I have taken a conservative approach to this race, as I was occupied with a challenging but rewarding two months of work assignments. I weigh heavier now, with more upper-body strength, stronger core, and better rotation of my trunk. Hopefully, this will translate to a better 3.8km wetsuit-swim in the perennially cold Lake Taupo, and a stronger and improved two-loop ride. I have reduced my running mileage, focusing on speed and technique (mid-sole landing).

My second Ironman follows three weeks after, at the Asia-Pacific Championships in Melbourne. I will assess my fitness and recovery abilities between the two 226km, multi-sport, races. In effect, these will be Ironman races #17 and #18. My diet has been primed with more vegetable, fruit, good fats and antioxidants. I have expanded on more quality sleep and rest, too.

My first Boston Marathon (my second of the Big Six World Series) will be a moth after, in April, right after the Easter weekend. I look forward to Boston Strong, and a hopeful sub-4 hours finish. The weeks after Melbourne will be spend, exclusively, with running short sessions (10-15km) 4-5 days per week.  

Monday, February 3, 2014

Does Cheating Occur At Races?

They say cheaters never prosper. That is an assuring thought, if it does happen. Unfortunately, many cheaters go undetected and unsuspected, escaping the radar of doping authorities. 

This article reveals shocking data: One in 7 Ironman participants, apparently, cheat in long-distance races such as Ironman triathlons.

This is certainly not assuring news, yet it may just be the tip of the proverbial ice-berg. Unlike professional cyclists, where cheating is rampant (read Tyler Hamilton's 'The Secret Race') - bread and water (aqua-pita) won't cut it - and anti-doping proponents only reveal their ugly, conscionable sides, the amateur arena is already loaded with suspicion. Why? Perhaps, a significant number of gifted age-groupers are annoyed at missing their podium placings, and their potential slots in the world championships. 

In the past decade, only a handful of professionals have been caught for doping. If a current champion is caught for deliberate cheating, it may diminish the stature of the sport but not its allure. Competitive bodybuilding is rift with doping, i.e. through the use of anabolic steroids, dehydrating and fat-reducing pharmaceutical aids. In spite of the open-use of such hormone-based, muscle-enhancing medication, bodybuilding has a large niche following and a prevailing mindset that bypasses logic and reasoning, and blind-sighted by aesthetic beauty. Grotesque muscles are considered sexy on the bodies of both genders.

Why cheat? The reasons are aplenty. Because it can be an advantage, unfair or not. Because more and more serious athletes are resorting to such (mal)practices. Because, it enhances the body's potential to do more and exceed its perceived limits. Because, some need to go to Kona and feel complete with that experience and hyperbole. Because the financial rewards diminish significantly when you place off the podium. Because...and the list of qualifications and reasoning continues, ad infinitum. It is, what it is.

The cheating will continue, and we need to adapt to the situations and conditions. We have choices, but cheating need not be the only one. Several roads lead to Kona, and you need to live with your own conscience and integrity. Perhaps, it is time to not get angry but to get even. Do your best, and live with your best. You can still earn a chance to Kona through sheer luck of the draw(s), charity slots, entry by exception, or through the tradition of placing. After all, isn't the journey as relevant as the destination?