Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Novice Master Triathlete...

... that's what I am. And by that, I mean someone who comes to triathlons in their 40s (or late 30s) without prior background in swimming, cycling or running. There seems to be a growing number of us, so I thought I will share some learnings/observations (mainly from Joe Friel’s “The Triathlete’s Training Bible” and some personal observations) and hope to draw your valuable comments:

1. Training Time

The biggest challenge the Novice Masters Triathlete has is probably the difficulty of finding training time while trying to balance work, family and social commitments. This is where motivation comes in – only you can decide what you are willing to give up to fit in Triathlon Training. Usually TV time is the first to go, but unless you have been a TV addict, that may not be enough hours yet, so time discipline is crucial. :)
I have found that a good analogy for time management is the act of filling up a bucket with sand, pebbles and rocks – if you start by putting in the pebbles/sand, it is gonna be tough getting all the rocks in. If instead you start by first putting in the “rocks” of your life (in priority of importance to you), at least they get in the bucket before the smaller stuff. There is no way to fit everything in, the trick is to first put in all the important stuff when we plan the day/week/month. So to me, the first step really is deciding what is more important than Triathlon training – for me, it is Intentional Discipleship time (Quiet Time with the Lord, fellowship/service in Church, etc…), family time, and of course, my job (and the frequent traveling it requires). I make sure that my training fits around these 3 “rocks” and not the other way around. Just about everything else, I try to fit around my 4th “rock” – Triathlon Training – and if there is not enough time for everything, I don’t sweat it.

2. Setting Goals

Related to the above is goal setting. While it is good to set challenging goals, it is also important that they are realistic (achievable) and measureable. Without a frame of reference, it is easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself with the ex-swimmer/cyclist/runner around you. I have often done it and it usually leads to disappointment and demotivation – the killer of the Noice Masters Triathlete. :) I see two ways about it – if you are concerned about whether you are improving in race fitness and want to make sure that you can adapt your training plans to address weakness areas, measure your performance on a on-going basis using objective criteria like time trials or fitness tests (Joe Friel’s book has got a whole chapter on “Accessing Fitness”). On the other hand, most Novice Masters Triathletes will probably be focusing on “going the distance” so the training principles should be rather simple (more on that later). So if you, like me, cannot be bothered to take the time/effort to set up repeatable tests, just don't sweat it! :D
In terms of setting realistic goals, Joe Friel’s book has a useful chart on annual training hours versus target event (e.g. Sprint 300-500hrs, Olympic 400-600hrs, Half Ironman 500-700, Ironman 600-1200), but I suspect these are more for competing in the events rather than for completing the events – two very different goals. To take a more personal example, I have done only Sprints so far, but I am targeting a Olympic Tri in July 2007 with only 6 hours or so a week to train, which works out to be a lot less than the 400-600hrs indicated in the book, however, I have decided not to target a half ironman in 2007, as my available training hours are far short of what is suggested in the book.

3. Training Principles
Joe’s book is all about the “Periodization” of training – i.e. to grow to the full potential of a Multi-Sport athlete, one has to split training into different periods (Prep, Base, Build, Peak, Race, Transition) per year and continue for years for maximal results. If this is all getting too complex, take heart, because he also says that the 1st year of training should be primarily in the Transition and Base periods, with the focus on developing aerobic endurance, force, technique (speed skills), and muscular endurance. There is no reason to build power and anaerobic endurance. So here are some simple training principles as I understand it:
  • Going the distance – The initial focus should be on being able to complete the distance and the estimated event time. I.e. the initial focus should be on being able to complete the individual distances and then working up the total training time to be somewhere near the estimated total event time. There are loads of sample “Couch to Sprint” or “Couch to Olympic” training plans in the ‘Net like the BeginnerTriathlete website which focuses on going the distance.
  • Staying healthy (and able to train) –According to Joe’s book, immunity in older folks is also lower than that of the young ‘uns and thus colds/flus may be more prevalent (and I thought it was just me picking them up from the kids). I have been struggling a bit with colds/sore throats/flus, and if you are like me, here are a few pointers:
    i) Get a Flu Shot – Will not stop you from getting colds/sore throats/infections, but at least saves you from nasty fevers and the like. Flu shots typically last only a year as the flu bug mutates constantly and hence a new “cocktail” is needed periodically.
    ii) Get more protein – Lean meat, egg whites, etc… There is little danger in taking in too much protein – the unused stuff just turns to fat, but a lack of protein is detriment to training and also lowers your immunity system.
    iii) Drink lots of water and take vitamin C regularly – Okay, I know this is common sense but I had to sneak in that one. :)
    iv) Adequate rest – The 24 to 36 hours following a “breakthrough” workout (i.e. a long, hard training session), your immunity drops, so be extra watchful – avoid public places if possible and wash your hands regularly with soap. Develop good habbits like using your right hand to do stuff (open doors, press elevator buttons, etc) and your left hand if you need to touch your face. I often try to get in a breakthrough workout just before leaving on a business trip to try to get as much training time in as possible, only to wonder why I fall sick when traveling. Moving forward, I will wear a doctor’s mask if I have to fly in the 24-36 hours after a breakthrough training – betta safe than sorry! :)
  • Rest Days – Stick to them! Joe suggests 2 or even 3 rest days following a breakthrough workout for us oldies. Don’t be tempted to squeeze too much into the weekend, and risk illness and injury (which may wipe out all training benefits).
  • Strength Training – Especially after 50, we lose muscle mass pretty rapidly. So for the Novice Master Triathlete, strength training is recommended all year.
4. Diet
The Novice Masters Triathlete probably needs to be even more careful about diet than the younger atheletes due to the onset of age-related risk in heart disease. There is much written about diet of the athlete in his/her 40s/50s and beyond, but some quick pointers are:
  • Protein is good – As mentioned above, protein helps build immunity and aids athletic performance. Vegans, don’t hate me, but Joe says animal sources of protein are better than vegetarian sources of protein.
  • Fat is not all bad - Accordinfg to Joe, low-fat, high carbohydrate diets don’t work for atheletes – some fats needs to be introduced. Having fats in our diet help build immunity, and also builds long term recovery and capacity to train at a higher level. But before you all rush off for cheese burgers and ice cream, this means leanest cuts of meats (wild game, if possible, and all visible fats removed), seafood and poultry, and low or non fat dairy (in small quantities).
  • Alkaline foods are good - One of the reasons for losing muscle mass is acidity in our blood, so eating alkaline foods helps. There is a table of acid/alkaline foods in Joe’s book, but the short of it is to eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables – just what Mama said. :) A surprising piece of information is that raisins is the food item with the highest alkaline content in the table – Praise God!
5. Equipment
Triathlon gear, and specifically the budget for it, is generally less of a problem for the Novice Masters triathlete than for the budding Juniors triathlete. In fact, most of us (myself included) seems to over-compensate for poor performance with state-of-the-art gear - afterall, a lot of us are from the "did not have the time & money to do this when I was younger" category. :) Even so, it pays to look at the equipment needed for our specialized and rather expensive sport:
a) Swim – Okay, not quite in the equipment catergory, but if you can find a Master’s swim class, join it. If, like me, you do not attend a Master’s swim class, at least get a friend or a coach to periodically check your stroke.
b) Bike – Comfort is EVERYTHING to us oldies. :) No point having a super aerodynamic position on the bike that requires you to stretch out every 15 mins! :) In general, carbon and titanium frames work best for us as they are more compliant. Yes, they cost a lot more than alloy frames but your back is worth it (plus, it is a great excuse to tell the missus why you need that expensive bike). :) I ride a road bike with clip-on aero bars, but I have been told that a properly fitted Tri bike can be just as comfortable, so if you are using the bike only for Tris, get a Tri bike. At least it will stop you from gazing forlornly at the sexy Tri bikes on the road – okay, maybe I am speaking from personal experience on that one.
c) Shoes – Expensive running shoes do not mean good running shoes, but bargain basement discount running shoes are almost always a bad idea. Proper fit to your running style is key. Pay the premium and get your shoes from a shop that can analyze your gait and recommend shoes that fit.

Well, that’s it from me then. A long post but hopefully one that helps some to avoid the trials and errors that I have been through. Until next time, train safe and God Speed!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Reason to Live (Part II) - Triathlon Training

First and foremost, my sincere apologies to RobTheRunner and other friends out there tracking me through bloglines. I was silly enough to switch to blogger beta and apparently there is some issue updating bloglines. Was searching the 'Net for some answers, but there does not seem to be a clear fix, just a lot of unhappy beta bloggers airing their grievances. :(

Also, sorry that Part II to my previous post took so long in the making. It is partly due to an extended break in Triathlon Training (I have run out of excuses - sickness, bad weather, you name it...), and a short get-away with the family in Sentosa (an island resort connected to Singapore by a land-bridge). It didn't occur to me to take a picture of the chairlift (yes, that's how irregular I have become in blogging), so I stole one from the 'Net for ya. Chairlifts in Singapore? What will they think of next? A ski resort?!?! :D

So back to the subject of training plans for 2007. I am the sort of person who reads the ending of novels before I start, so here's the conclusion: there will NOT be a Ironman 70.3 for me in 2007, just Sprint and Olympic Distance Triathlons.

I've been thinking a lot lately about why I am continuing Triathlon Training - so much so that I have had to read my own post on this subject back in January. Reading the Triathlete's Training Bible also helped put things into perspective - there was a quiz in the early part of the book that measures mental attitude, and my score quite literally said that I should seriously think about why I am in Triathlons! :)

So the short of it is that I am still committed to Triathlon Training because my reasons for doing so has not changed, but instead of setting impossible goals and then getting depressed about not being able to meet them, I've decided to set realistic goals based on the amount fo time I have to train. There is a very interesting table in the Triathele's Training Bible that lists the estimated training hours annually for a Sprint, Olympic, Half Ironman, Ironman, etc... I estimate that I would have a maximum of 6 hours a week for training and 4 weeks off a year - that's a total of 288 hours, which according to the table, puts me at only Sprint Distance Triathlons. :) In fact, given that the Olympic Triathlon in Singapore is in July, that translates to less than 150 training hours! Of course, we have to temper what we read with what we know about ourselves, so I sticking to my original target of doing my first Olympic Distance Triathlon in July 2007. Given my current lack of training time, and additional distractions to come in 2007 from R1 going to Primary School (i.e. Elementary School) and the huge merger happening at work, I think I will have to take up qcmier's offer to do the Singapore 70.3 Ironman in a couple of years. :)

So here's my draft race calendar for 2007. Given the difficulty in getting some sort of race calendar for Singapore, this is highly subject to change and probably a little too agressive (it would take a lot to be able to join the overseas events).
  • Mar '07 - 11 Mar '07 Singapore Duathlon or 17 Mar '07 Singapore Biathlon (1.5km swim, 10km run). Don't think I can do both and the Duathlon details are not out yet.
  • 26/27 May '07 - Aviva Bintan Triathlon (Indonesia) (Olympic - 1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run)
  • *"A" Race* 7/8th July '07 - Singapore Triathlon (Olympic - 1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run)
  • *"Stretch" Race* Oct '07 - Pulai Triathlon (Desaru, Malaysia) (Long - 2km swim, 60km ride, 15km run)
  • 3 Nov '07 - Corporate Triathlon (Sprint)
  • Dec '07 - Half Marathon
So much for planning, now it's time to get off my ass and start training again. ;) Until next time, train safe and God Speed!

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Reason to Live (Part I) - Intentional Discipleships

Sorry for the ambitious title. It's that time of the year for reflections and direction setting/renewal, and I was very much encouraged by a song we sang in church on Sunday, reminding us that Jesus came to show us the reason to live. Well, 2 of the main reasons Christ has given me to live are are Intentional Discipleship (intentionally being a disciple of Christ) and Triathlon Training. The other being the family of course, but that's not the topic of this blog. ;) As such, I thought I will split this year's reflection and direction into two posts, this one focusing on Intentional Discipleship and Part II focusing more on training plans for 2007.

1st, a confession: 2006 has been a lax year for me in the area of Intentional Discipleship. In 2005, I was leading my Care Group (fellowship/bible study group) in a focused study on the Masterlife series, serving in the Toddlers' Ministry at church, and at the same time reading through the Bible using the Cover to Cover reading plan. It was a busy time, but also a time of growth in the Lord; growth that I missed in 2006 because I quit the Toddlers' Ministry and also had the luxury of having rotating Care Group leadership (thus effectively leading only one month in the entire year). I have also been inconsistent in keeping to my Quiet Time with the Lord. :(

Three significant things happened to me in the last few weeks that is bringing me back on track:

  • Firstly, I have come to learn that I need to serve not because the Church needs me, but simply because I need to serve. Without an active ministry/service, I cannot be a part of God's blessing for the Church. In His infinite wisdom, God has chosen to use us as the primary channel of blessings to the world, and He has given us gifts to equip us for the work that He calls us to do. However, when we refuse to serve, He respects our decision and uses someone else. The problem is that when He does that, I miss out on the growth and intimacy of relationship with Him. In the end, the one who loses out is not the Church, nor God, but myself.
    Action: I will actively look for and pray for areas of service in Church. Rather than wait for some sort of "divine wisdom/inspiration" to descend on me, I will put my hands to the work at hand, and take a more active role in leading my Care Group and in the Toddlers' Ministry.

  • Secondly, Church Camp last week away in Malaysia has been a wonderful time of spiritual blessing/rejuvenation. To cut a long story short, I have had a few prayer requests/concerns confirmed. Praise God! On the last night of the church camp, the speaker invited us to come forward for a specific prophetic word from the Lord, and I did. When it was finally my turn, I was told to look into the Song of Solomon to find intimacy with the Lord, so that others may look at me and see the presence of the Lord upon me. I must confess that I was initially puzzled by the prophesy and even doubted if the speaker "knew his stuff". :) But as I reflected on it that night, I remembered to humble myself to receive God's word with faith and not to focus on the instrument used (i.e. the speaker) - who am I to judge the instrument that our Lord chooses to use? When I swallowed my pride, the prophesy began to make a lot of sense to me, and in fact agrees with my constant prayers to be "like Daniel/David" - to have the presence of the Lord wherever I go and whatever I do - that my daily life would indeed point others to the goodness of our Lord. It occured to me that this prohecy is indeed a direct reply to my prayers, that God is telling me that the key to have more of His presence in my life is intimacy, and the book of the Song of Solomon will show me show to grow in intimacy with the Lord.
    Action: I will receive this prophecy in faith and study the Song of Solomon. I will get back to being consistent with my Quiet Time (QT) with the Lord daily.

  • Thirdly, prayer has been an area that I have been lacking in 2006 - I am comfortable reading the Bible during QT, but somehow I could not pray consistently. Well, the Lord has confirmed that He has placed a love for children in my heart, and I have somehow been "picking up" prayer items for little children over the last few weeks. But instead of praying for the children, I have been asking God for a "enlightenment" as to what ministry He wants to call me to. I have been thinking in my pride "surely He wants me to do more than just pray queitly in the background". I have been listening to my pride and not to the "still small voice".
    Action: I praise the Lord that He has called me to prayer for these children. I commit to spending at least 15mins a day in prayer as part of my daily QT. I will stop asking for "divine revelation" and start being a prayer intercessor in the background.

That's all folks! Sorry for the rather lengthy post, but this is a subject that is very close to my heart. Next post, Triathlon Training plan and a draft race schedule for 2007! Until then, train safe and God Speed!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Triathlete's Training Bible

Thanks to Mr Sanguine, I finally have my hands on this book. And hopefully just in time to do some serious mugging in the next couple of weeks and work out some sort of training plan for 2007. I have yet to set goals for 2007 - was waiting to read the book first - but I definitely want to do at least one one Olympic Triathlon in 2007, and, if I am feeling ambitious (which I must say currently I am not), maybe even a half ironman.

N, my "speedy Gonzales" buddy who ran the New Balance 10km run with me in August, has kindly volunteered to join me in the Oly Tri in July, and we agreed to decide on Ironman 70.3 Singapore "depending on how we feel after the Oly Tri". While that might be pushing the decision a little too far away, registration is not open yet for Ironman Singapore 70.3 so I think I will take at least a couple of months before I make that decision...

I have been on a training "slump" due to a cold and then a nasty infection in my gums. Next week is church camp away in Malaysia (probably no Internet access), so it looks like it is "maintenance and self-study" mode until week after for me. Until then, train safe my friends and God Speed!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Ironman 70.3 Singapore

Ironman 70.3 comes to Singapore on 2 Sep 2007! That would explain the rising number of beautiful Tri bikes I see in Singapore lately. :)

Given my DNR (Did Not Register) for the Olympic Tri this year and my off-again-on-again training, it would take tremendous motivation to even consider signing up for a half Ironman.

According to this article on IronMan.com, "The Singapore Ironman 70.3 will consist of a 1.9 km swim, a 90 km bike and a 21 km run." This seems to be yet unconfirmed as the Ironman703Singapore.com site still calls the course "under construction", with only some vague hints like
"1. The Swim will be flat, except there may be some chop on the day.
2. The ride is fast; VERY VERY fast, and very accurate... and it's looking more and more likely that we'll be able to launch with our preferred course...so believe me, that's worth waiting for!

3. The run is superb! It has a little of every thing. It's fast, it's smooth and it has a lot of shade!!!"

Which comes to my current muse of "Do I really want to do this?", "Can I get in shape in time?", and "If not now, when?!?!" Hmmmm.......

On the home front, I still cannot get over how well R1 is doing on his bike without training wheels. Biked 4-5km with the little fella to the club for a swim and then we biked back afterwards. Perhaps he will yet be the Ironman that I never will be. :) Funny how as parents, we tend to project our deepest unfulfilled ambitions onto our kids. I gotta be careful to avoid that. :D

Train safe and God Speed.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Lessons from Parenthood Part II

That's right, NO TRAINING WHEELS! :D Been trying to teach R1 to ride his bike without training wheels and as you can see, he's finally in the weird, wonderful world of cyclists! :D

More than a year ago, I wrote a post on Lessons from Parenthood. Our kids teach us so much - while teaching R1 to ride without training wheels, it occured to me that there is much in common between teaching him to ride a bike and my bumbling attempts at evangelism. I am sharing this parallelism in the hope that it will help pre-believers better understand our sometimes bumbling attempts at spreading the Good News.
  1. Why do I care whether R1 can ride his bike without his training wheels? I mean he gets on fine with his training wheels and is happy enough. Why do I want to stress him out by encouraging/cajoling him to ride without training wheels? Why do I want to risk his falling and hurting himself?
    Well, because I want him to experience the freedom and joy that comes from riding without training wheels. I am hoping that he will discover the same joy that I found in the wierd and wonderful world of cyclists and, God Willing, this would be the first step towards discovering a healthy lifestyle.
    In the same way, we evangelise out of our eagerness to share the joy and peace that we have discovered in our Lord. You know that feeling when you find a good restaurant and can't wait to tell others about it? It's pretty much the same deal, except maybe 10 times stronger. :) I know that sometimes out of our over-enthusiasm, we offend the pre-believers and in doing so, perhaps make it even harder to accept Christ. For that, I sincerely apologise.
  2. Did I really "teach" R1 anything? I mean all I did was help him find the God-given ability to ride a bike. If he did not have that in him, there is probably no way I can "teach" him to ride his bike.
    In the same way, evangelism is really only helping the pre-believers find what God has already planted in their hearts (Romans 1:19-20). It is probably more like helping someone "connect the dots" than "teaching"...
  3. There is a time and place for everything. I tried teaching R1 to ride without his training wheels months ago, multiple times, but he just wasn't ready. I could tell he has terrified of the idea of riding on two wheels, I can see him thinking "that's impossible". No matter how much I encouraged/cajoled him, there was just no way he was gonna do it. When he did try it (months back), his fear made him fall (repeatedly). It is only with time, when he saw his friends doing it that he made up his own mind that he wants to do it. Once his mind was made, all it took was a few practice runs (and I mean me running behind him, hunched over holding his saddle - Ouch!) for him to get it.
    God's timing is always perfect - sometimes He calls us to sow, and other times He calls us to reap where we may not even have sown. If we are not in tune with the Holy Spirit's working/timing, it can get frustrating. When the time is right, all it takes is the courage to try. Praise God!
  4. While running, hunched over, holding R1 up by the saddle, I was trying realy hard to make sure he "got it" before I let go. My aching back soon had other thoughts and I had to let go. But guess what, that's just what it took for R1 to learn to ride.
    Sometimes, we just gotta let go and let GOD.
  5. Finally, a quote from R1 when I asked him to describe to R2 how it felt the first time he rode his bike without training wheels. I was expecting him to rave about the sense of freedom/speed, etc, so that R2 will also get enthused about giving up his training wheels, but this is what he said instead:
    "It feels like you are going to fall, but if you don't let go of the bike, and just PEDDLE, it's easy peasy, lemon squeezy."
    At some point, it takes a leap of faith to discover God. Rationalisation can only take us so far. God cannot be "taught", but He certainly can be "experienced".
Praise God for He shows His wisdom in the innocence of daily life with children. :)

Quick update on the training side:
Thanks for all the encouragement/advice about breaking up the cycle of training/sickness I seem to get myself into - your comments made a lot of sense and I am going to focus a bit more on eating/resting right, and take baby steps back into training (and a little less on how much I weigh). I'm finally getting my hands on The Triathlete's Training Bible end of this month (I hope) which will help tremendously towards figuring out my training and nutrition plan. This week my baby step back into training is a 50km bike - I usually follow up my ride with a short (3km) run, but this time, I could feel cramps setting into my legs at the end of the ride so I skipped the run. Hurray for baby steps! :)

Train safe and God Speed!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Down for the Count

Sorry I have been missing from the blogsphere - both from posting and from visiting my favourite bloggers. I have caught a cold and have been feeling pretty miserable about not being able to continue training.

What is worrying is that I definitely see a trend developing here over the last year:
  1. Not training enough, gain weight, feel guilty about not training more.
  2. Rack up training volume, reach something like 2 x run, 2 x swim, 1 x bike and some strength training a week, lose weight, fall sick.
  3. Back-off training while recovering, go back to step 1.

What's this about getting healthy and fit? The cycle above seems to be repeating itself every few months. Is the weight gain/loss a sign that I am not eating right? I am 1.85m and my weight fluctuates from 78 to 80kg between steps 1 and 3, so I am not over-weight, but getting worried about being under-weight. (What a amazing turn-around, I was quite a bit over-weight a year ago.) Any tips guys/gals? Just what am I doing wrong?

Until next time, enjoy your training (I am green with envy) and God Speed!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A Long Weekend...

... in every sense of the word, so be warned that this may be a longish post. ;)

This weekend started on Thurs with R1's kindergarden graduation concert - he goes to primary (i.e. elementary) school year. His class put up a great traditional Chinese dance about humble beginnings as labourers, fishermen and boatmen - he is the second labourer from the left carrying a sack of rice. :)

Following that, we decided to take the boys to the zoo on Friday before the usual rush once school holidays start. For a change, it was just us this time, no other friends, and it gave us ample time to linger over the animal feedings...

Then came Saturday, and time for R1 to go to his new primary school for orientation - he gets introduced to the new school, and we get to buy his new uniform, school books, etc... Uniforms are a big thing in schools here in Singapore, very much in grained into our culture. The orientation turned out to be pretty nostelgic for me, as I put R1 in my old school where I spent a good ten years - 10 years of primary (i.e. elementary) school and 4 years of secondary (i.e. high) school. I even met a couple of schoolmates that I have not met in YEARS. Praise God!

On the training side, I have to first say a big "THANK YOU" for all of you who shared your encouragements and/or advice either thru the comments or via email. I really appreciate the support, and quite frankly, it is what keeps me going sometimes. I have been thinking a lot about training plans - more specifically putting some sort of structure around my training so I am not just doing junk miles. Let's just say it is "work in progress" at this time, as I am still trying to figure out the right balance between structure and flexibility given my unpredictable travel schedule.

Following Tri-Daddy's advice, I have been spending a bit more time at www.beginnertriathele.com, trying to read up more on swim techniques/drills, where I found this article from Terry Laughlin which actually says it all. And I quote:
"A world-class runner is about 90% mechanically efficient, meaning that 90 of every 100 calories expended produce forward motion, while approximately 10 are lost to muscle heat, ground friction, wind resistance, etc.. Because water is 900 times thicker than air and highly unstable as a medium for applying power, a world-class swimmer is only 9% mechanically efficient -- which means the typical Beginner Triathlete probably has energy efficiency of about 3 percent. Thus, the path to swimming-improvement is not to make more energy available through training, it’s to waste less energy by improving your stroke. If you can increase your mechanical efficiency even modestly -- from, say, 3% to 4% -- that will translate into a 33% improvement in your swimming capacity."

Terry Laughlin's experience in college of swimming harder but not faster speaks volumes to me, and reminds me very much of my current state of the swim. :) Inspired, I went to the apartment pool (approx 27.5m - yes, I was "anal" enough to measure it), and started counting my strokes per length (spl). To my dismay, it takes me 25 strokes or more to finish a single length. What's interesting is that without exception, each length when I try to limit my spl to 25 or less, I invariably end up swimming FASTER. When I try forgetting about spl and try to swim fast, I ended up being SLOWER. This man knows what he is talking about! ;) All this while I have been expending needless energy, and not even working out the proper muscles for the swim! Will also check out the Masters Swim class recommended by a very kind Debbie who stumbled onto my blog, but was still kind enough to leave a tip. :)

Given that I have been steadily working on the Olympic Tri distances for the swim, bike and run, I think it's time to start introducing speed work for the run and the swim (I can't fit in more than one ride a week, so I will have to settle for only one longish ride per week with some small hills). For the swim, this means DRILLS, DRILLS, DRILLS, and focusing on spl and swimming silently.

Until next time, train safe and God Speed!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Video Proof...

... that bad swim strokes are hereditary. :)

Here is R1 doing the front crawl...

And this is me doing it...

Sorry for the poor video quality - these were taken on my phone - but I would very much appreciate some swim stroke advice please. It still takes me 40mins to swim 1.5km in the pool, so I am not getting much faster, although I am less exhuasted at the end of the swim. When this video was taken, I could still have a conversation after I finished the 1.5km - maybe I am just not swimming hard enough? There doesn't seem to be any Masters swim classes in Singapore, so any advice that you can give will be much appreciated. E.g. Do you use hand paddles? Do they really help build speed? What sort of swim drills do you do?

Have a great week ahead, train safe and God Speed!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bring on the Pain!

I am so stoked by Steven's post that "The Truth Hurts". In this day and age of over-whelming advice against the dangers of over-training, over-stretching, etc..., there is a place for good clean PAIN. As Steven aptly puts it "The truth is...anyone can run faster. But sometimes, the truth hurts."

As you know, my training volume had been dropping, and last week I started cranking up the training volume again (from 1 run the entire week before to 1 swim, 1 run and 1 bike/run brick). On Monday, I did my 1st swim drills in weeks and it hurt. Just last night, I was thinking, "Just what am I doing? I was never an athelete, and here I am almost 40, my body is going South, and I am trying to swim/bike/run faster? Am I deluding myself?!?!" This morning, I went for my 1st 11km run in weeks, and it was slow and painful. But the truth is, coming back from a hiatus will always be painful. While it is wise to train safe and avoid injury, there is also definitely a place for pushing it despite the pain sometimes. Afterall, training is all about over-stressing the body, and then resting to build strength and fitness. There is still some truth left in the old adage "No pain, no gain" - if we are not over-stressing our bodies to begin with, what's there to rest from? :)

On a seperate note, I read on Ironman Live that Team Hoyt did not make the swim cut off in Kona last weekend. It's kinda sad that it was probably their last ironman attempt - at 66, Dick feels it’s time to change his focus to the shorter Ironman 70.3 series. That has got to be painful - swimming 3.8km (2.4 miles) towing his son on a dingy only to miss the swim time cut off - but it does NOT subtract from the awe and inspiration Team Hoyt brings each time we read or watch a video about their indominable spirit. Go Team Hoyt! Way to show us how to live life to the fullest!

So train hard, but train safe, and may the Lord speed your efforts as you push yourselves to the next level!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Many of you already know that Singapore has been affected by a haze from the peat forrest burning in Indonesia. This following is the PSI reading (Pollution Standard Index, anything below 50 is good) from the East of Singapore over the last 10 days (you can find the detailed version here):

  • Sunday (15th Oct '06): 93
  • Monday (16th Oct '06): 91
  • Tuesday (17th Oct '06): 86
  • Wednesday (18th Oct '06): 75
  • Thursday (19th Oct '06): 73
  • Friday (20th Oct '06): 96
  • Saturday (21st Oct '06): 75
  • Sunday (22nd Oct '06): 67
  • Monday (23rd Oct '06): 78
  • Tuesday (24th Oct '06): 45!!!!
Yup, the PSI dropped off a cliff to 45 today! According to this news report today, it is due to "a turnaround in wind directions". Was it a coincedance that today is R1 & R2's outdoors birthday party by the beach and we have been praying against all odds (and weatherman forecasts - this report from Monday 23rd Oct was still calling for haze till the end of the week) that it would be a clear day this morning so the kids can have a safe and fun time outdoors today? You decide.

All I can say is that we did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to deserve this, but God is just THAT GOOD!

I know that a lot of you have races coming and are already into your taper periods. I praise God that He is helping me to build the faith to know that He has kept you safe in training and will continue to speed your efforts!


Sunday, October 22, 2006

60,000 Angels

For some reason, the number 60,000 sticks in my head...

"Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?" Matthew 26:53 (NIV)

That's what Jesus said when the mob came for him, and Peter rashly drew his sword and cut off the ear of one them (Matthew 26:47-56). I believe a Roman legion in Jesus' time had about 4,000 to 6,000 fighting men (later reduced to 1,000 men in the late part of the Roman empire), let's call it 5,000 - so 12 legions wuold be 60,000! When I read this passage, I imagine that when Jesus was humiliated, tortured and finally crucified, there was 60,000 angels ready to come and rescue Him, and probably lay waste to this world that has done everything to reject its Maker. To me, that's power - Having the ability to stop the torture and punish the world, but having the strength to hold back and take the torture/death because it was the only way to reconcile us to Him. I am ashamed to think of all the times I retaliated at someone else, for no better reason than because I can - that's not power, not strength, in fact, in my case, a lot of times it's just pettiness. Don't get me wrong, Jesus does not expect us to be push-overs. In fact, He taught the apostles to be "as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16), but too often have I fallen into the trap of reacting/retaliating first, and then trying to rationalize what I did. I don't think that makes God happy. Mental Note to Self: Real power sometimes comes from exercising graceful restraint, not from retaliating just because I am "clever" or "powerful" enough.

OK, on to the review of my new headphones as promised - the Sennheiser OMX 70 - I brought them to the gym for a 7.5km run (intended to do 10km). As with all headphones, sound quality varies very much with positioning of the "speakers" in your ears and thanks to the bridge behind the ears and small rubber rings on the "speakers", they stayed pretty much in the same place. The headphones came with seperate sponge covers and larger size rubber "rings" for a better fit, but I found that I really didn't need them - the standard stuff that it came with worked great. The first time you use these, some positioning/adjustments is needed in front of a mirror (the "behind the ear" bridges are adjustable), but once that is done, it is pretty easy to get them to seat right (I still check myself in the mirror just to be doubly sure the "speakers" are sitting nicely in my ear). Oh, and the bridge behind the ears are made of soft rubber, so they are pretty comfortable. Folks, let me tell you that ol' nitrox sweats buckets - especially in the hot & humit weather in Singapore. I am one of those folks you don't wanna run too close to, because I literally drip from my head, shorts and hands, so if these work for me, chances are they will work for you too. :)

Despite what the weatherman said, it seems to be getting a little less hazy, and I was able to get in a ride/run on Saturday. Praise God! I was starting to feel kinda guilty that the only action my bike saw in the last couple of weeks was as a over-priced catapult - that's R2 in the picture, using my aero bar and a rubber band to shoot folded paper pellets at his brother. I was trying hard not to see the indignant look the bike was giving me! :)

On the training front, I must confess that my training volume has been dropping consistenly for about a month now, culminating in only one 5km run all of last week. No excuses this time, just plain lazy. Of course work and family continue to press for time, but I am just not managing my time dilligently, and giving in far too often to the desire to sleep in or take a nap. :( It's too easy to keep using my travels as an excuse for not having any sort of training schedule. I think I really gotta go get myself a copy of The Triathlete's Training Bible - I've seen it heavily recommended by you guys/gals, more importantly I gotta come up with some sort of training schedule and KEEP IT SIMPLE AND FLEXIBLE. Will start training more in the mornings, and maybe just call my travel weeks speed/interval weeks in the hotel gyms. A plan is hatching... I am just too tired of my "stop and go" attempts in triathlon training! :(

Thanks for all the advice, encouraging comments, and being a sanity check for me. Train safe and God Speed!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

New Toy!

Check out these cool sports (sweat proof) headphones! Just when I had given up on finding water proof headphones, my office had the "one day only" 10% discount off Sennheiser stuff. Praise God! There were a couple of designs, but after trying them on, I decided on these (OMX 70) as they feel the most comfortable and secure (you should have seen me shamelessly running and jumping in the showroom just to make sure they won't pop out). :D I am hoping to bring it for a run today before I post a more detailed review.

The haze has receded somewhat over the last two days. Praise God! The weatherman calls it a freak, but I am calling it God's grace and praying that the clear skies will hold. As you can see, my bike has been sulking in the living room and if I don't take it for a ride this weekend, our relationship could be somewhat strained...

On the Intentional Discipleship side, I was reading Acts 18:24-28, when it occured to that I could very well be like Apollos - someone who seems to know the Scripture, but yet does not know the Holy Spirit. Acts 18:25 describes him this way: "He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about John’s baptism." (New Living Translation). John's baptism was a baptism of repentance from sin, but Jesus' baptism is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, where life is found in faith in Jesus Christ. While I have encountered the Holy Spirit before, and I do feel His presence (sometimes) when I worship, I have not spoken in tongues, and sometimes I wonder if I have actually already received the baptism of the Holy Spirit... I know that some people teach that speaking in tongues may not be an indication of having been baptised in the Holy Spirit, but why do I still try so hard to do things my way, instead of being led by the Spirit (Romans 8:5-8)? And is this why my ministry feels so "stop and go" and not fully "empowered"? Sorry if I have lost the pre-believers reading this, but this is a bit of a tough one for me to get over right now, and I just gotta be the dreamer that I am... ;)

Until next time, train safe one and all, and may God Speed your endeavors!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Polar Opposites... Part III

Plenty of great comments again. :) In particular, Ellie reminded us that when Jesus said "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?", He was praying Psalms 22 - which begins in a desperate cry out to God but ends in Praise. At the risk of exposing myself as someone who re-cycles the stuff in my posts, I will stop going off topic and just point you to a longer version here. ;)

Actually, what got me started on this topic was a personal observation that I made 2 weeks ago in Tokyo. I wasn't having a good week and the funny thing is that often when life presses in, the quality of my worship actually improves. Well, I made a rather simple but yet profound (to me) discovery - when I am immersed in the depths of worship, I become incapable of sinful thoughts/temptations!

Perhaps this is what Paul referred to when he said:
"Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God." Romans 8:5-8 (NIV)

So it seems to me that worship and sin/temptation are polar opposites. Somehow, I cannot praise God and yet habour sinful thoughts. It certainly took no effort on my part to work out that I was not being fair on my senior managers & colleagues who were travelling with me - I simply cannot praise God for His love with a hard heart! Now if only I can be CONSISTENT in worshipping the Lord... ;)

On the training front, today's headlines says it all - "Singapore maintains health advisory over haze". It has been incredibly frustrating that when I am finally back in town and can be away from the kids for a few hours, the haze prevents me from heading out for a swim, bike or run. While it's summer in Singapore all year round, this period of haze effectively brings on a "off-season" for any sort of outdoors training. :(

Thanks for the well-wishes and prayers. R2 is much betta this morning, Praise God, but we kept him from school as he still has a fever.

To you guys/gals that are still able to train, do it safely and God Speed!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Polar Opposites... Part II

Papa Louie left a very pertinent comment about 2 Corinthians 5:21 - "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (NIV) - which really brings to bear the extent of the sacrifice that Jesus made.

I am guessing that what hurt Jesus the most is probably not the pierced wrists, the thorn of crowns, the whipping/punches/kicks, not even the insults and humiliation, but the fact that as He hung on the cross, He became sin, and felt the full scorn/wrath of God. Perhaps this is why He cried out "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46). I can imagine that as God looked down at Jesus on the cross (His very own incarnation and Son) , for a brief moment, He saw the sin that Jesus represented on the cross, and withdrew His love even from Himself. God is spirit, which is why I guess that is probably the greatest hurt that Jesus felt on that cross.

Another pertinent comment from Papa Louie is how do we share about Christ to those who feel that they are living a good life and don't need God? This is a tough and very worrying one. Even Jesus said "I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent." (Luke 5:32, New Living Translation). I am the most worried about those around me who feel they don't need God. So many people find God in a crisis that sometimes it seems that our God has to bring a crisis into our lives just to bring us back to Him. But, if that's what it takes for my loved ones to be saved, so be it. Better a crisis in this life than to forfeit eternal life in God's kingdom.

R2 is sick with stomach flu - high fever and throwing up just about any food we put in him - so he is quite a miserable lil' camper. Thank God that he is at least able to retain some fluids and is still peeing (a good sign that he is NOT dehydrated). Gave him some good old Staminade so we can get some carbohydrates and salts in him. Hope there's no side effects in kids! Maybe it will make him the Iron Man that I never will be. :)

Oops, got carried away as usual, looks like what I had intended for Part II will now become Part III once I have some time to post. Train safe and God Speed!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Polar Opposites

What are polar opposites? In my book, it means things that are the anti-thesis of each other. Things that cannot exist together by definition of what they are. A good example is light and darkness. By definition, there is no light in darkness and vice versa. Another example is God and sin. The definition of sin is everything which detracts from God's perfect love and will for us, so there is no sin in God, and there cannot be anything Godly in sin.

This actually helps me understand why God is so hard on sin, and why there is a hell. By definition God abhores sin, just as nature abhores a vacuum (where there is a vacuum, there is no air, and vice versa). Because of that, sin seperates us from God. In spite of His awesome power, God cannot help that, because that is the very definition of sin - the decision to exercise the free will God has given us to choose to not to respond to His perfect love and will for us. Just like I could not help the fact that some of the gals I fancied in my younger life did not quite accept my affections. :) So sin seperates us from God, and each sin we commit pulls us further away from Him. He cannot say "never mind, all is forgiven" without giving up who He is. And frankly, I would not be impressed with a God who is not consistent with who He is - can you imagine the chaos with an unpredictable God who changes His mind? The only way God can get rid of sin and bring us back to Him is to pay the price for sin, all sin. The rest is, literally, history (get it? His Story). :) He stepped out of eternity and into time, suffered physical, mental and spiritual abuse, and He died to pay the full price for sin. I could even say that He did that just for you, because He has no control over who will accept His sacrifice (grace) and come back to him. So technically, He would have done the same if the only person in the world who accepts His grace is you. WOW! Praise God!

So why is there hell? My theory is that hell is simply "where God isn't". At some point (let's call it judgement day), God will have to seperate those who accept Him from those who don't. He will respect the decision of those who choose not to be with Him. I'm not sure if there will be eternally burning fires and other horrors in hell, but I'm willing to bet that life without God for eternity is pretty "hellish". It scares me to think that my parents still do not accept His grace. It REALLY scares me. :(

On a lighter note, I ran naked in Tokyo today. ;) Did not to bring my HRM, not even a digital watch (stopwatch). The weather was great - 72 °F / 22 °C - what a difference from the hot humid weather in Singapore! :) Ran for 30mins and thanks to the weather I did not even feel tired for more than half the way. Praise God!

Until next time, train safe and God Speed!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

I'm a Babe

Sorry, but seriously, I am a spiritual baby, and I am ashamed about it.

"You have been Christians a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things a beginner must learn about the Scriptures. You are like babies who drink only milk and cannot eat solid food."
Hebrews 5:12 (New Living Translation)

For too long now, I have been a spiritual babe. I have not yet truly learnt that life/work is not about fame and riches, but rather it is about love, peace and joy - unspeakable and unshakable joy. Just this week, I have been feeling like I am an order of fries short of a Happy Meal. I have been looking at the senior people I work with, their expensive suits, business class travel, lavish lifestyles, all the "clever" comments and thinking to myself just what is keeping me from reaching that level (it is certainly not ol' nitrox's age - 'em senior management types are getting younger by the day). To make things worse, just when I was consoling myself that at least I have a life outside work, I found out one of them runs 10 km under 45mins DAILY. ;) In short, I have been allowing the riches and the worries of the world (Luke 8:14) to poison my heart against the unspeakable joy of the Lord.

This is where Christian Music Radio comes in. Thanks to my iPOD and a MP3 recording software, I am finally able to listen to recorded segments of Christian Music Radio on the long flights and train/bus rides, and I can tell you it is simply WONDERFUL to be able to blast the music, close my eyes, and let my heart and soul sing/shout to the Lord inside. While God enjoys our worship, I don't think He needs it, but we sure do. Personally, being able to worship Him in song (even though it is listening and silent singing inside) has helped me to stay centred in Him. He has reminded me to think about what Jesus would do in my circumstances - He would not really care that much about the outcome, rather He cares much more about the people we encounter and what we go through. Keeping that in mind, helped me to see the senior managers for who they really are - senior individuals with passion to help us close the deal. It also opened my eyes to the value of the high level relationships and wisdom that they bring. PRAISE GOD!

I got back to Singapore yesterday (Sat) evening to a CHOKING haze. Visibility was about 100m and being outdoors felt like being trapped in a room of smokers. So we prayed, the family and I, so did many other families, I reckon. And Praise God, He swept the haze away - this morning (Sunday) the skys were clear. I cannot call it anything else but a miracle - the PSI (Pollution Standard Index) was 150 (anything above 100 is "unhealthy") and I was choking, this morning it was below 50, and now under 30 - I can't even smell the smoke anymore, so I'll be heading out for my weekly ride/run brick. :) Like what my dear wife said, "God ain't gonna let the haze keep His people away from church". AMEN!

I simply cannot say it enough - GOD IS GOOD! Train safe everyone and God Speed!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

God is Good...

Come on, say it with me, "ALL THE TIME!" :)

Okay this has been a TOUGH week. I am travelling with two senior managers this week, trying to close a deal, and if you have been there, you will know the pressure, follow-up work, "servanthood" that I have to put up with. Worst of all, I will only get back to Singapore Saturday evening, effectively cutting my precious weekend in half. :(


God is good! I managed to squeeze in 2km of swim drills before I flew off to Hong Kong:
  • 10 X 27.5m = 275m front crawl warm up
  • 4 X 27.5m X4 = 440m kicking drills (with kick board)
  • 4 X 27.5m X4 = 440m chicken wing (single arm pull/recovery)
  • 4 X 27.5m X4 = 440m catch up (with hand paddles)
  • 20 X 275m = 550m front crawl tempo

God is good! I got my paws on the beautiful black iPOD nano in Hong Kong. I got the exchange rate wrong - it ended up costing about the same as in Singapore. ;) But I am so stoked that I managed to rip a few long segments of my favourite Christian Music Internet Radio segments and they sound fine on the iPOD! Now to get it "water-proofed" so I don't kill it with my sweat.

God is good! I even managed to squeeze in a run this morning at the gym.

God is good! Turned on the TV in the hotel room and managed to catch the 2006 St Croix 70.3 - how cool is that? Ol' Nitox is too cheap to have cable at home so it is indeed a treat to catch some Tri action on TV. :)

Another testimony of God's grace enabling me to get through a trying time. PRAISE GOD!

Until next time, keep those podcast, Internet Radio, streaming/download music tips coming, train safe and God Speed!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Hazy Days are Here Again

Sigh... it seems the haze is back. Over in Indonesia, forest fires are raging (mostly man-made - to clear the forrest for industrial or agricultural use) and this time of the year, the wind changes and it blows the haze into our sunny island Singapore. Besides the obvious inconvenience and discomfort to any sort of outdoors activity, it is rather sad to know that somewhere in Indonesia, another forrest is dying... :(

On a more positive note, I managed to find a freeware that "rips" Internet Radio into MP3 files. If you would like the link, email me (sorry can't remember it off hand and I probably shouldn't be promoting a software that I have only just tried myself). I hope to get my paws on the iPOD later when I get to Hong Kong, so I can try the sound quality of the ripped Internet Radio segments. The word "rip" actually made me wonder if I am doing the right thing - am I depriving the artists of the royalties that should be going to them? On the other hand, I am not ripping out the songs individually, I am recording the entire Internet Radio broadcast over a couple of hours so I can listen to it again. Is that unethical? I think what I will do is that as I listen to the ripped Internet Radio segments, I will take note of my favourite songs and purchase them on iTunes, so the artists get their royalty and I get my proper CD quality songs. :)

Meanwhile, any "tips"/links to kewl Christian and/or Training podcasts, Internet Radio, sermons, streaming music, etc... that I can download for the iPOD would be very much appreciated. Any kewl Christian contemporary music sites - pop, rock, worship, etc... - is especially appreciated. Thanks in advance!

This week I go to Hong Kong and Japan. Will try to squeeze in a run at the hotel gym. Meanwhile, train safe and God Speed!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

iPOD Newbie

Been thinking of getting this beauty for some time now, and I think I just might do it next week when I am in Hong Kong (seems it is cheaper there than even in Singapore). The plan is to "record" my favourite Christian Music Internet Radio so I have something uplifting to listen to in my flights and runs - hopefully it will help me worship more.

But here's where I need help - how do I record Internet Radio into a MP3 file that the iPOD can play? Do I need special software to do that, and if so are there freeware or shareware that I can use? I am thinking worse case I write down the titles of the songs on the Christian Music Internet Radio that I like and try to buy them off iTunes, but it would be great if I could record and playback the entire radio program since they already have a great mix of songs.

What exactly is a podcast? All I know is that they can be saved as MP3 files and I have tried a few but are they all talk shows? Where can I find music podcasts? More specifically, are there Christian music podcasts?

Thanks all, train safe and God Speed!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

17 Minutes..

That's how long it took me to change my very 1st flat last Sunday, but in mitigation it wasn't my bike. Was out biking along my usual route when I noticed a fellow cyclist "stranded" on the opposite side of the road. I've been in that position before with my old bike, and was amazed at how all the other cyclists seem to just turn a blind eye. Maybe they don't wanna interrupt their training session, or maybe they don't know how to change a flat, who knows? But not a single rider stopped when I last had a flat (and I was too "green" to carry a spare tube then).

I was in a hurry to finish my ride, as the wife and kids were waiting for me to get home so we could send my sis-in-law & family to the airport after the ride (they were visiting from Australia), but I figured no excuses this time, just stop and help. I knew this would delay me, but was thinking that I will skip the run and still be able to make it to the airport. There's a price to pay to being a Samaritan, and Jesus' loving grace frees us to do just that - I ain't gonna sweat about missing the run, He's big enough to "make it up" for me. As I got nearer, I saw that it was a beautiful Orbea tri bike, and the rider sheepishly asked me if I knew how to change a flat - he was trying to change the flat while the wheel was still on the bike, so I figured I knew a little bit more than he did. :D

Turns out he was fully equiped with a spare tube, tyre irons (plastics?) and a mini pump, just never had to change a flat before. Thank God he had one of them Kevlar beaded tyres so it didn't take too much effort to get that tyre off and on again - mental note to self: maybe I should consider tyres with Kevlar beads.

I got home just in time to see my dear wife drive off to send her sister & family to the airport sans the kids and myself, and she didn't look too impressed with ol' Nitrox for arriving late. Yikes, the price for being a Samaritan just went up! Can't do much about it now, so I sent a quick text message begging for forgiveness and went for my run to complete the brick. :D

Happy ending: Got the run in to complete the brick, and my dear wife wasn't too upset with me. Best of all, I had the opportunity to be a blessing to someone else. Praise God!

Until next time, train safe boys and gals, and God Speed!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Has it been a MONTH already since I last posted?!?! Sorry guys/gals, I resolve to post more regularly henceforth (and perhaps slightly shorter posts). :o)

Well, I actually haven't been up to much - just work, family time and trying to find time to train. I think I have finally come to accept that I am truly an accidental triathlete now - it is really tough trying to keep to some sort of training schedule when I have to prioritize training after work and family, so I have learnt to accept my small goals (just one Sprint Tri this year and a Olympic Distance Tri next year) and to enjoy whatever training time I have.

In the spirit of keeping my posts short and hopefully more regular, I will just jump straight into telling you about my latest bike upgrade - the Fizik Arione Triathlon saddle and a Thompson Elite (zero offset) seat post to replace my Scott CR1 Team stock saddle and seatpost (a rather hard Selle San Marco saddle and the Ritchey Comp seat post). Here's a picture of the new saddle/seat post on my bike. :)

Took it for my usual weekend 60km ride and I must say that compared to the stock saddle, the Arione Tri feels like a sofa. :) I like to scoot to the nose of the saddle when in aero position on the flats and move back a bit to sit on the "bum" of the saddle when climbing (yes, there are the rare few hills in Singapore), and the Arione Tri is very comfortable in both positions.

The Thompson seat post has zero offset so I now sit closer to the handle bars which seems to help me spin easier (been trying to ride in the 90-95 rpm cadence instead of my usual 85-90 rpm). Most importantly, sitting closer to the handle bars seem to help on the run as well. I have been getting a disturbing "popping" sound coming from my right knee when I start running after the bike. No pain or anything, but I found the "popping" sound to be rather alarming all the same. :) Well, I am glad to report that with this new set up, there is no more weird popping noise. Here's hoping it stays that way!

Until next time, take care, train safe and God Speed!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Stuck in a Rut

Thanks again to PT for inviting me to a run last night! PT is the lightning fast gal who ran the New Balance Real Run (and kicked my ass) on Sunday. I have been a bit of a rut when it comes to training and Intentional Discipleships - getting lazy, missing training sessions and QT - and the run with PT was probably just what the doctor Lord ordered. :)

We ran a brisk 6km or so, but what's great about it was PT's running commentary (literally) on breathing and running techniques. I felt a bit like the young David Carradine in the 1970s TV series "Kung Fu" getting a lesson from his wise old master... "Grasshopper, you have much to learn...". It was great being able to practice breath control and uphill/downhill running techniques. I had a great time, Praise God for bringing me a running guru, perhaps I can do this running thing afterall! :D

While we are on the subject of being in a rut, this is what happened to me yesterday...The fan belt on my trusty ol' Subaru Forrester broke and I had to be towed to the workshop. A few hours and $150 later, I finally got home, feeling thankful that
  1. This happened in Singapore and not 2 weeks later when I intend to drive to Malaysia for a holiday.
  2. This happened while I was driving and not Mrs Nitrox (a fantastic driver but she probably would have been a bit nervous - 1st sign of fan belt failure is power steering failure)
  3. Somehow when I rolled gently to a stop, I was right below the shade of a nice tree. The shade kept me nice and cool while I waited for the tow truck.
PRAISE GOD! Train safe and God Speed everyone. This weekend, I get out of the rut and start getting serious about training and Intentional Discipleship (again).

Monday, August 21, 2006

Race Report: New Balance Real Run 2006

Despite the rather "agressive" graphics used in by the event organisers, the run (in Sentosa - an island linked by a road bridge to Singapore) was really mainly paved roads. The website says ROAD 6KM, SAND 1.6KM, TRAIL 2.5KM, but the TRAIL is really just a tree covered concrete pavement. So don't worry, nature lovers, I am pretty sure no butterfles were trampled in the race. :)

I might as well start by telling you that I took 68+mins to finish the 10km. :( This is 3 mins SLOWER than the practice run 3 weeks ago on the exact same route. More on the reasons why later, but just about every one I spoke to had a worse timing than the practice run. The only exceptions seem to be my two buddies - PT and N - who actually finished even FASTER than the practice run. Sigh... Is there any reason why slow runners seem to always have fast runner friends?!?!

The night before the race, the usual pre-race tension set in and I did not sleep well despite good intentions to go to bed a little earlier. Wonder if it was the nap I took in the afternoon that made it harder to fall asleep at night? Finally feel asleep when I forced myself to mentally sing some worship songs to calm my nerves and remind myself Who's really in charge here.
  • 5:45am - Got up before the alarm went off, and I am not even a morning person. Praise God! Drank 1L of water, followed by breakfast - PBJ and warm milk. Drank more water, forgot to eat the two beautiful bananas that Mrs Nitrox hung out for me, and bolted out of the door to meet my chauffer buddy N, a.k.a "Greased Lightning".

  • 7:00am - Turned off the exit on the highway, right smack into a traffic jam on a Sunday morning! Took a close look around and just about every car had at least one very nervous looking guy/gal in running gear. Seems every man and his dog has decided to join this race and everyone's driving. :( We are still about 2kms from the bridge to Sentosa. Looks bad...

  • 7:30am - Still in the middle of the huge jam - made about 100m in the last 30 mins. N starts putting on his race bib and asks me to help lace in his race chip to his (thankfully) rather clean shoe. PT calls, sounds worried, she is a few cars behind us. Given that the race starts in 15 minutes, everyone is getting nervous. I call another two friends, all are stuck in traffic. Taxis are pulling out of the queues as the runners bolt out and start running towards the island.

  • 7:45am (official race start time) - Finally, we are on the bridge linking to Sentosa and making some headway. N and I are amused to find that the two lane bridge has been reduced to one on the Sentosa end due to some road works. Not exactly brilliant planning by the Sentosa chaps then.

  • 7:55am - Marshalls direct us to a parking spot 3km from the start line. Seems the race start has been delayed. The huge car park that was used in the practice run has been converted to a huge event area. Can't understand the logic of removing the largest carpark near the race start when thousands of cars are expected... Having sat in traffic for such a long time, I desperately need to go, so I bid adieu to N, who starts jogging optimistically towards the race start. I managed to locate a toilet just as I see runners filing past - seems the 10km race has just started. :( Fighting the urge to join the race halfway, I quickly off-loaded the excess fluids and start a slow jog to the start line.

  • The Race
    When I finally get to the race start line, it's almost empty. Late-comers like myself are still trickling in. Dutifully chipped in at the start line and off I went...
    • ROAD 6km - Not sure if it was the nerves, or the 3km jog to the start line, or the heat :o) but the hills seemed a little more steep than the practice run. Not a good start then... Tried to settle into some sort of rhythm, but it quickly got frustrating trying to weave my way between the back-markers. Can't believe how many people are walking the 10km RUN - some couples really looked like they were out for their usual Sunday stroll! The worst of the lot is probably those who decide to walk side by side and take up the entire lane. Felt like I has stopping and starting half the time. Mental note to self: Come earlier next year!
    • SAND 1.6km - Somewhere in the middle of the 10km, I hit the beach. Given that the bulk of the participants had already run through it meant that it has been churned into soft powdery stuff that would have been perfect for a building sand castles but terrible to run on. I think this is one of them artificially created beaches, which means that it is a rather narrow and hence steep incline to the sea, which kinda makes things worse. It seemed just about anyone who was not already walking decided to walk at this stage, so weaving became even more of a challenge. Let's just say that at some point, I actually ran right into the water - someone had told me that the sand near the water's edge is firmer, and being the novice beach runner that I am, I couldn't stop my side ways momentum down slope and ended up IN the water. Must be pretty amusing to the other participants, but it meant running with wet shoes/socks for the next 5km. :( Oh, and to add insult to injury, PT, who started after me, overtook me in the middle of the beach run - so it seems NOT EVERYONE was walking afterall. She was nice enough not to let me know that she was blowing by me (or was she too embarassed to acknowledge that she knows this slow runner), so at least it did not let the air out of my sails until I met her after the run. :o)
    • TRAIL 2.4km - As mentioned earlier, this was actually a concrete "trail" under the shady canopy of trees. I knew I should be pushing it once I hit the trail as it is the final 2.4km, but this is a real case of "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak". After the sand, me legs felt like jelly, and it was all I could do to keep running and not walk. The trail is mostly uphill, and at this stage I was pretty much oblivious to what/who is around, gaze fixed on the ground and just wanting to get it over with. A few climbs later, I see the 1km mark and I tell myself to PUSH. I seem to have forgotten that the last 1km is all uphill and after what felt like 1km of pushing, I see a marshall telling us encouragingly "last 500m!". Thankfully it was all downhill and I struggled across the line about 68 minutes after I chipped in at the start line.

    N made it in a blistering 56 minutes! PT is not sure of her time, but given that she started after me and passed me mid-point, I would say that she probably did in below 60 minutes. I was so knackered after the run that enroute walking back to the car I managed to trip and sprain my right ankle somehow. :(
    I am more than a lil disappointed at my results but more post race reflections next time...

    Train Safe boys and gals, and God Speed!

    Tuesday, August 15, 2006

    Adventures of the Intrepid Economy Class Traveller...

    [Sorry, have to make a post-publish edit as I forgot to update on the Intentional Discipleship front.]

    Some of you may remember that I sometimes joking call myself the travelling salesman. Well the truth of the matter is that it's much worse than that. I am actually the travelling sales SUPPORT man (a.k.a. egghead) so aptly represented by Dilbert in the cartoon above. :D

    Sorry for being away from the blogsphere for so long - both posting and reading/commenting. I have been on the road again the last 3 weeks in Indonesia and Japan, where I found this curious contraption in the hotel bathroom. Sorry that the picture is not very clear, but the item I circled is actually a REMOTE CONTROL for the toilet! The Japanese sure take their toilets very seriously, and I seem to have the "deluxe" model which comes with a heated seat and the remote control - makes my home toilet seem rudimentary by comparision! :D

    Just in case you are curious about the functions of the toilet, here is a close up of the remote. Can't vouch for all the functions, except that the heated seat is fabulous early in the morning in an air-conditioned hotel room. :)

    On the training front, I am getting very nervous that the New Balance Real Run is this coming Sunday. Have not trained much at all in the last 3 weeks thanks to my cattle class travels and a sniffling cold/cough thingy - just one of those things that parents pick up from their kids from time to time. When I did the practice run 3 weeks ago, I found the 1.6km beach run smack in the middle of the 10km run to be a real energy sapper. The usual hot and humid conditions in Singapore did not help either. Here's hoping that I will improve on my practice run time of 65mins.

    Until the race report, take care, train safe, and God Bless!

    P.S. (Sorry about the post-publish edit!)
    On the Intentional Discipleship front, I have a confession to make. I have been meaning to put onto the blog my QT Scripture Readings and prayer items alongside my training log (side bar), but I have been so inconsistent lately with QT that I am now too embarassed to do that. Please pray for me - that I will be dilligent in my daily QT because I really cannot afford to continue missing them!
    This month, I am taking on the lively topic of "Pre-Tribulation Rapture - What does the Bible say?" in my Care Group meetings. Pre-Tribulation Rapture is the belief that Jesus will take the Church up to heaven with Him before all the bad stuff starts in the 7 year Tribulation period (described in the book of Revelations). I must admit that I am still sitting on the fence on this one, but if anyone is interested in a set of SIMPLE (and I stress SIMPLE) notes on the subject, please email me and I will be more than happy to share our findings.

    Monday, July 31, 2006

    Day by Day

    I was reading the Lord's Prayer (Luke 11:1-4) again the other day . This is a familiar prayer to many, and so is the verse "Give us each day our daily bread" (Luke 11:3, NIV). This time I was using the New Living Translation (NLT), which translates this verse as "Give us our food day by day", which I thought gave a better perspective to the term "daily bread". Then later in Luke 12:22-34, I read that when Jesus was teaching about the futility of being anxious about our daily needs/wants, He assured us that He will give us all we need "from day to day" (Luke 12:31, NLT).

    There may be an important clue here to help us to better understand our Father and His will for us. I remember reading that when Jesus sent out the twelve Apostles, He gave pretty specific instructions to "Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town." (Luke 9:3-4, NIV) Later, when He sent out the 72 disciples, again He said "Do not take a purse or bag or sandals" (Luke 10:4, NIV), he again told them not to "move around from house to house" (Luke 10:7, NIV). Why travel and minister under such "deprived" conditions? I believe it is God's will that we are given what we need day by day, so that we will continue to lean on Him day by day.

    Perhaps this is also why in Luke 11:9 (NLT), Jesus instructed us to "keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened." This is the essence of Intentional Discipleship - that Christianity is a intentional process where we grow day by day by praying and seeking Him day by day. It is not about a sudden enlightenment or enpowerment that comes from above, neither is it about a single act of salvation/redemption, but a day by day process of learning, growing, and even receiving His loving grace day by day to cleanse us from our sinful nature.

    Guess what? This is such a strong parallel to training for a Triathlon/Marathon/Half-Marathon /Century ride, etc... It is an intentional process of training and growing stronger and faster day by day. It is also a day by day dependence on the Lord to heal our aches and pains, injuries, colds/flus, whatever gets between us and training. There are simply no short-cuts! :) So now, I am somewhat content to grow a little faster and stronger day by day. It is the process that matters, perhaps even more than the end result!

    On the training end, my ego took a big beating in the New Balance practice run last Sunday. I did 10km in 65mins despite running my guts out (I felt like puking when I finished). :( It was rather hilly and the beach run in the middle was pure torture. To add insult to injury, my two buddies (let's call them NL and PT), who both claim to be not quite up to their usual racing form, totally kicked my butt without really trying. Sigh... Looks like it will be plenty of running day by day before I can get any where near being a credible runner. ;) Been feeling a bit "off" after the run - the usual runny nose, itchy throat feeling - so I guess this will continue to be a rest week. :(

    Before I sign off, I was pleasantly surprised by the interest in the Black Chicken Soup in my last post so I scrounged around in the Internet and found this recipe for the adventurous. :) The noodles I used were just rice noodles which I guess can be substituted for any noodles. They are cooked seperately and added only after the soup is done to avoid clouding the soup. I have been told that if you cannot find black chicken, you can substitue with free ranging chicken and it would taste just as good. But really, Cliff got it spot on when he said "What does it taste like? It tastes like chicken." :D

    Train safe brothers & sisters, and God Bless!

    Saturday, July 29, 2006

    Black Chicken Noodle Soup

    Yup, my friends, this is one of the best kept secrets in Oriental recovery food - the double boiled black chicken soup (noodles optional). :) The infamous black chicken is double boiled with a whole black chicken (more on that later) and other goodies like wolfberries and ginseng, and it is reknown among the Chinese and Korean for its "healing" properties. In fact, it is common for ladies to consume a lot of this in the 3 months after delivering a baby as part of the recovery process. Personally, I can't confirm either way about the "healing" properties, but it sure is a tasty and healthy way to get a whole lot of good carbohydrates and protein. :)

    So what is a black chicken anyway? If you have not seen one, they usually come with white feathers, but the skin, fleah and bones look like they have been dyed black. When cooked, it looks like boiled chicken that has been dyed black - not the most apetizing of sights. :) But I find black chicken to be usually more lean and thus has better texture and taste than the normal variety. Oh, and they usually cost quite a bit more too.

    The funny thing about them is that they seem to all have white feathers. Go figure!

    On the training side, I have been taking it easy this week for three reasons:
    1. Work has been very stressful and as such training time is scarse.
    2. I am doing the practice run for the New Balance Real Run tomorrow (Sunday, 10km) so I did not want to push too hard in the week. The organisers of the run (i.e., New Balance) are nice enough to conduct practice runs in the actual route every Sunday for a few weeks prior to the actual run on 20 Aug. To further sweeten the deal, we get to try out their latest models on the practice runs, so my buddies and I are going to check it out tomorrow.
    3. I managed to pick up an ear infection somehow, so no swimming for me for a few days. :( Been feeling a bit tired after the increasing training volume for the last 3 weeks so I guess I will call this week an inpromptu recovery week. :)
    On the Intentional Discipleship side, no earthshaking revelations (although I did experience a small earthquake while in Jakarta - but that's another story), just quiet reassurance that if I focus on doing the right thing, I will emerge victorious from the tricky situation at work. PRAISE GOD!

    Until next time, train safe and God Speed!