Saturday, April 29, 2006

Recovery Week... AGAIN

First, I have to be a fair Dad again, and since I posted a picture of R1 in full armour in my last post, I'll just have to post a picture of R2 the stick fighter this time. :)

Sigh, last week's accidental recovery week has continued into this week due to travels and a minor cold, which I somehow caught in the dry heat of Delhi. Is that even possible - to catch a cold in 45C(113F) weather?!?!

A few things happened this week that really humbled me:

  • Early in the week, I was heading out the door to the office, stressed out about the lack of training, and pretty much determined to have a rotten day at work, when I ran into my neighbours Mr & Mrs L bringing their 20-something daugther to the hospital again. She had contracted leukemia early last year and was on a wheel chair swaddled in blankets on a hot 86F day. Mr L was wearing a back brace, as he is in his 60s and is probably having backaches from regularly carrying his daugther in the wheelchair up and down the stairs. Mrs L was helping him, and when I said "Good Morning" and offered to help, they both gave me their usual beautiful smile and insisted that they can manage. To say that that was an awakening for me would be an understatement. Here I was, wallowing in self-pity about missing some training sessions, while there they were, exuberating the Lord's joy and peace in the midst of a protracted and terrible test. I drove off with a fresh resolve to not sweat the small stuff and to re-commit to prayer support for this beautiful family.

  • Delhi is well into its hot and dry season. I arrived at night when it was an uncomfortably warm 35C (95F), and woke up to 45C (113F) in the morning. As you can see, it was a beautiful morning and even the pigeons outside my window did not seem to mind the heat that much. But the heat and dust combined gave me a scratchy throat and not the most pleasant of dispositions as I headed out in the car to the office. Right outside the hotel, we passed one of those colourful water trucks (looks similar to the petrol tanker that I took a picture of last time), surrounded by women and children out to get their (daily/weekly?) ration of clean water. I did not manage to take a picture this time, but I found this picture on Google that pretty much represents the chaos around that water truck. Again, it caused me to think about things we have come to take for granted and about the sheer contrast of lifestyles in India. In the hotel, there is a full sized pool, hot/cold running water, a shower and a bath in every room. Right outside the hotel grounds, these families living right in the capital of India (not even in the remote villages) have to depend on the morning water run for clean water. Suffice it to say that I now have a whole new appreciation of the clean, clear water that gushes out when I turn the taps at home.

  • Last but certainly not least, I made fun of Steven when he posted about catching a cold. And of course I now have similar symptoms. :( And then Steven goes and run a scorching 6.2-miles in 38:08 @ 6:09/m pace on his 42nd birthday (while recovering from the cold). I am well and truly humbled. Go on over and wish the ol' fart a Happy Birthday! ;)

To the rest of you out there able to continue training, train safe and God Speed! I'll be out there before you know it. :P

Monday, April 24, 2006

A "Gideon" Moment

Pop quiz: What's the best beer in the world? (Hint: Look at the picture at the right.)

Answer: Well, I do enjoy Singha beer (local Thai beer), but I am not sure if it is the best beer in the world. In my "el cheapo" books, the best beer is always FREE BEER! ;) In this case, free beer at the Bangkok Airport Lounge - one of the few perks of a frequent traveller - enroute home to Singapore before heading to India again tomorrow. Such is the life of the modern day travelling salesman. I hav actually stopped unpacking my bags. :(

Last week was one of those weeks I call an "accidental" recovery week. I am glad that I am not alone - seems Chris just went thru one too. ;) As you can see from the side bar, I finally managed to squeeze in a Swim/Ride brick on Sunday before my flight, so here's to my accidental recovery food of beer and nuts!

On a slightly more serious note... Have you ever had a "Gideon" moment? The account of Gideon is recorded in Judges 6-7. It is a pretty long and detailed account, and it starts with a picture of Gideon quietly (fearfully) trying to thresh grain in the wine press (Judges 6:11). I was told that threshing is usually a noisy affair, done with lot's of noisy activity like beating the grain stocks, tossing the grain/husts into the air (so the wind will blow the husks away), and usually with much celebration as it is done at harvest time. But Gideon was living in a time when the Israelites were hiding in "moutain clefts, caves and strongholds" (Judges 6:2), because the Midianite hordes had descended upon the land "like swarms of locusts", destroying/taking everything (Judges 6:3-6).

Gideon was desperately (sheepishly?) trying to save some of the grain by using the wine press to quietly seperate the grain from the husks. Yet, when the angel of the Lord came to Gideon at the winepress, he called Gideon a "mighty warrior" (Judges 6:12)! Gideon certainly did not acknowledge that he was a "mighty warrior" - instead he doubted the message from the angel, claiming to be the least of the least (Judges 6:15), and asking for confirmation upon confirmation - including the famous dry/wet fleece miracles (Judges 6:36-40). The rest of the story should be is familiar - the short of it is that Gideon was brought to greater and greater faith in the Lord (and hence greater confidence in his appointment as a mighty warrior) and in the end, his simple, yet tactically brilliance plan enabled his 300 elite troops (Judges 7:2-7) to route the entire Midianite army of 135,000 (Judges 8:10)! Let's pause for a minute and think about this - this means each one of Gideon's elite troops felled 450 enemy swordsmen! Please step aside "Lord of the Rings", this is REAL stuff!

I confess to having a "Gideon" moment in my last post. The Midianite hordes was the Singapore Triathlon (Olympic Distance) on 1/2 July, and I was anxious about signing up and being so slow that I will come in after the organisers have packed up and left. :D

Believe me when I say that I am telling myself this as much as I am sharing this with the blogsphere: If you (like me) are having a "Gideon" moment, listen to what God is calling you to. Is he calling you to be a warrior athelete/triathlete/(full or half) marathon runner?

"What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31)

That is not to say that I have signed up. ;) But, I am less worried now because I know our Lord is able to give me the strength to complete this. Now if I can only get over the mental block of the sign-up fee. :D

Train safe everyone and God Speed!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Clip-On Aero Bars On Road Bikes... Part II

But first, a quick update: The rains continues in Singapore and I continue to run in the downpour - hoping tomorrow will be a good day for a ride. This week is a bit of a slow week due to work pressures - I will probably end up with a 4-training-session-week. :(

Yikes! I have a week to decide if I wanna do the OSIM International Triathlon (a.k.a. the Singapore Triathlon - Olympic Distance), which is on 1st/2nd July 2006. Those of you following this blog will know that I have been preparing for this since the end of last year, but I am still not sure if I am ready for it... Would you mind taking a quick look at the training log at my side bar and tell me if I should go for it?

And now back to the bike porn I promised - in case anyone is curious this is a 2005 Scott CR1 Team (stock standard) with a Deda Clip One aero bar. :) Following all that theory in my original post on Clip-on Aero Bars on Road Bikes, I thought I will share some pictures of my final set-up as it differs quite a bit from the original pictures posted. Not having the benefit of a professional fitting service (such services are non-existant in Singapore, probably because most bike shop owners are not Triathletes), it took me more than a few test rides to get it dialled in just the way I like it.

What are the changes I made?

  • For one, I have shortened the aero bar by 2 inches (by the simple brutal method of sawing off the end near the stem so that I can retract the entire bar). This is a truly a compromise in ride comfort - the further out the bar extends, the more comfortable my fore-arms, simply because I am resting my weight on my elbows on the aptly named elbow pads. However, it is impossible to have my elbows on the pads on a road bike without either (1) sacrificing my road riding position by moving the saddle forward significantly, or (2) keeping the saddle position and stressing my neck, shoulders and back from over extending my torso forward. This is consistent with all the aero positioning articles I have been reading - sigh, I guess this is why a Tri bike is always preferred if the only use for the bike is for Tris - Tri bikes allow a comfortable aero position simply because the steeper geometry allows you to sit closer to the bars. Having said that, I have found my current aero bar position to be surprisingly comfortable (even though the pads are about midway between my wrists and my elbows), and I can stay on the aero position for at least an hour comfortably (have not been able to stay on the aero bars longer than an hour due to heavy traffic on my cycling routes).

  • Another change is that I have lowered the bar so that it actually angles down rather than up towards the front. I noticed that some of the Oly Tri championship atheletes have their bars angled downwards and decided to try it. It seems to go against common sense, but somehow it works! I find it more comfortable to angle my wrist downwards when I am in aero position and it gives a more aero profile as well.

A few final pictures to better illustrate the final position of the aero bar on my bike then...

This final picture below shows my saddle height versus the height of the handle bars. This is where ol nitrox's age shows - the older one gets, the higher the handle bars. ;)

Hope this helps those of us still racing with aero bars on roadies. Train safe and God Speed!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Accidental Brick

Remember my posts about being rained out in Singapore lately? The rainy season is supposed to have ended months ago, not sure if it is the effects of global warming, but we have been getting A LOT of rain in Singapore lately. Specifically, the kind of DOWNPOUR that causes flash floods, reduces visibility to less than 10m (yards) and makes it hard to breathe. :(

Well, I decided to stop being a whimp and head out on Sunday for my usual 50km ride despite a hint of storm clouds. Less than 10km later, I rode into the full fury of the storm and things started getting hairy when visibility was reduced and I had to ride through more than one flash flood. Finally decided to turn around. When I got home, the rain lightened, and I decided to sort out the soaking wet bike stuff, grab my running gear and head out for a run. Of course, I ran right into the storm again after less than 2km, but this time I decided to stick it out. So as you can see from my training log in the side bar, I am proud to report that I managed a 30km/9km Bike/Run Brick with a "longish" transition time of 17 minutes (took longer than I thought to sort out the wet bike stuff)! I even have a picture of my sopping wet bike and run gear stuff to show for it! Call me a cheat, but a brick is a brick in my books. ;P

Thinking back, it was probably a stupid idea to be out riding/running in the rain and thunder/lightning. Thank you Lord, for keeping me safe despite my foolishness!

On a totally unrelated note, The Message sent me this beautiful verse about what it means to be a free spirit that I just HAVE to share:

"My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness." (Galatians5:16-17, The Message)

Heads up: My next post will be a bit of bike porn. :) I will be sharing pictures of the final position of the aero bar on my roadie - I figure it may serve as a reference for those of us using aero bars on road bikes. Meanwhile, train safe and God Speed!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Life is a Race... Part III

I know I promised to stop after Part I and Part II, but somehow I still feel that something is missing from the analogy of life being a race, and it dawned on me what I missed a few days ago. It is like running in a marathon or a triathlon where the organiser/judge is our own Father. A Father who has the strength of character not to compromise His own principles and our well-being by giving us short-cuts to finish the race. A Father who loves us enough to demand that we do not compromise His rules for the race. In His love, He has not made the race any shorter or easier for us, knowing that the training/race in itself is a important and enjoyable process for us. Instead as we stay in the race, He Himself runs the race WITH us (not FOR us).

On a related topic, when I was out cycling with R1 & R2 a couple of weeks ago, we came across this mother cycling with her children and it brought to mind Jesus' sacrifice for us - She put up with the humiliation of riding on a bicycle with training wheels, and carried the weight of her children's bags, just so that her children may have the freedom to enjoy the ride.

But if Jesus' sacrifice ends here it would be nothing more than a touching story. The highlight of Easter is that Jesus is ALIVE! And because He is alive, we do not need to be weighed down by the world at all! To borrow the words of one of my favourite songs:

"Oh I feel like dancing,
It's foolishness I know,
But when the world has seen the light,
They will dance with joy
Like we're dancing now!"

So as you "dance" in the water, on the bike or on the run this week, remember that our training is like a "dance" for our risen Lord - it is a physical expression of our adoration for Him. You will be amazed at the energy level He gives you. :)

Train safe and God Speed, everyone!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Update from India

1st and foremost, kudos to Iron Benny for his amazing result in IMAZ! Hurry over to his blog to see his incredible transformation from couch potato to HUNK. :)

This is the view I had for 20mins yesterday while I was stuck in the car. Peak hour traffic in Delhi has not changed, and I was sitting in the car looking at all the dodging and weaving, thinking "man... this is like space invaders" when "BUMP" - the driver had a minor accident. The accident seemed to be the highlight of everyone's day so a small crowd quickly gathered. Meanwhile, I was observing this enterprising young man run his lemonade stall - 1/2 Rupee (USD 0.01) for a glass of cold water, mixed with fresh lemon juice and some sugar. Such stalls are very common in Delhi and I must say they make a lot of sense in a hot and dry city (40 degrees C, 104 derees F) where there are no water coolers. The guy had about 10 customers in the 20 mins, so that literally adds up to a pretty penny indeed! :)

Noticed this in the cafe this morning at breakfast. Anyone wanna guess what this is?

Give up?

This is a mosquitoe coil. We use this in Singapore sometimes too, but this is the 1st time I have ever seen one in a restaurant. :) Basically, you light the end and it slowly burns down (like an incense) and releases some pleasant smelling smoke that drives the mossies away. A cost effective and environmentally friendly alternative to insecticide! :)

Today's trivia about India is KingFisher beer. ;) It tastes good and it is the only beer that has spawned an airline! How's that for audacity? Step aside Mr Branson. :P Another bit of totally useless trivia about KingFisher - they seem to be arbituarily bottled in a clear bottle (like this one I had 2 nights ago) or a dark bottle. Absolutlely no difference except for the bottles. Go figure!

Managed to squeeze in a 5km run in the gym last night despite the long working days/nights, so I am feeling a bit less guilty about that ONE beer I had. :) Take care everyone - train safe and God Speed!

Monday, April 10, 2006

House Keeping

Nothing makes kids happier than Easter goodies - R2 is thrilled with his Easter chocolates, but R1 looks a bit miffed that all he got were dried apricots! A cruel trick that was soon reversed. (The sunglasses are also new from Aunt Chee - thank you dear Tai Yee Ma!)

Managed to squeeze in some housekeeping and updated my sidebar before I fly off to India:
  • Updated my training log - YES, I am finally up to 5 training sessions this week! :D

  • Also updated the "kewl blogs" section of the side bar. These are the blogs that help me get past the week. Will admit that I am not able to read them daily, but I make it a point to check all of them at least once a week. If you feel I have missed your blog or provided a wrong link/title, please let me know.

Well, I'm off for a swim before catching the flight to India. Train safe and God Speed, everyone!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

What A Week!

NancyToby said in her post that it is hard to post about life and training without seeming like we are either bragging or complaining, and I tend to agree. So, I am hoping that my dear blogging buddies will take this post as sharing about a tough week and not bragging!

To start with, you know that I am having a tough week at work when lunch is fast food consumed over emails more than once... Yet, because I am heading to Incredible India (Delhi) again, there is so much to be done before I am out for a week again. Praise God that I am well on the way to getting all of it done:

  • Managed to meet all work expectations this week. Will finish my last action point (clearing my email inbox) on the 5.5hr night flight to Delhi. Yay!

  • My gear must be getting old (like their owner). Had to send a lot of stuff for servicing this week
    - Aqua Sphere Seal Swim Mask: Somehow I managed to dislodge the lens from the silicon skirt. I am guessing that letting R1 use it in the bath for rough play may not be part of the product design specifications. ;) (Sorry I know this picture has been posted before, but I can't resist - he is too cute!)
    - Digital camera: Blasted thing broke in the midst of our Christmas holiday - reason #326 for getting a camera phone. ;) Just haven't been able to send it for servicing since, and Mrs Nitrox is not impressed with my procrastination.
    - Heart Rate Monitor: I was having some problems with my Polar 625X - somehow the watch cannot detect my heart rate from the chest strap. I must report that the guys at Polar Singapore have fantastic customer service - from the phone call to getting it there and having it serviced, they made me feel so welcome that I was telling myself that I am glad I chose a Polar. Turns out the problem was just dirty contacts on the chest strap buckle which they cleaned, and on top of that they opened up & serviced the watch (the "beep" was getting soft) and waterproof tested the watch!

  • Still on track for a 5-training-session week (as you can see from my training log in the side bar, somehow I just can't seem to get past 4 training sessions a week):
    - Mon: Ran 5km in the office gym
    - Tues: Rest (Worked late) :(
    - Wed: Swim (Kick Drills) 10x25m warm up, 200m kicking. Had to stop due to lack of time
    - Thurs: Ran 10.9km outdoors
    - Fri: Rest (Care Group gathering. Check out my desert - extra THICK and fluffy toast with peanut butter and sweetened condensed milk! A "special" at the Tong Shui Cafe we went to. As Sean said, this must surely be the ultimate recovery food!)
    - Sat (today): Praying that the weather will permit me to do my 50km Bike
    - Sun: Plan to swim 1.5km
    Also plan to sneak in a run or bike somehow on Monday before flying off to Delhi.

  • Amidst all that, still managed to sneak in some fun with R1 and R2!

So that's my week folks. God willing, I will get my 5-training-session week breakthough this week! Will update my training log early next week from India so do check back to see if I made it.

Meanwhile, take care, train hard and God Speed!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Rained Out

This is my excuse for not being able to complete my 5-training-session-week. Not the usual shower or drizzle but the type of tropical downpour that creates flash floods! :(

A quick run-down of the week then (more details in side bar):
  • Mon - Ran 5km in the office gym during lunch
  • Tues - Swam 1.4km before leg cramps made me stop
  • Wed - Ran 10.3km in light rain out at the park
  • Sat - Swam 1.5km in record time (wanted to do kick drills, but forgot to bring my kickboard)

Wait a minute, did I say "record time"? :) Yup, I sure did. For some weird reason, I was 4-5mins faster over 1.5km when I used the 50m pool at my friend's club. Can't think why - I have been focusing less on SPEED and more on ENJOYING the swim lately (finally figured life on earth is too short to waste on doing stuff I don't enjoy), but surely that can't make a 10% difference in speed? Only plausible explaination I can think of is that the pool where I live is a bit longer than the 25m that I had assumed - would probably explain why I was actually faster swimming in open water than in the pool. Will have to try another 50m pool somewhere else before I can be sure, but this is one mistake that I am very excited about. ;) Now if only I had the same mistake with my run and bike distances... :P

Those of you who read my last posts would remember that I intended to get R2 a proper bike so he doesn't have to be a passenger on my bike in our weekly races. Well, R1 got tired on Sat on the ride home, so I put R1 on my bike and let R2 try his brother's bike. He went fantastically (see picture on right)... Then we came to a slight slope with a sharp curve and poor R2 fell face first into a (very) shallow ditch! The poor boy came up with a mouthful of dirt, scratches on his face, and a cut upper lip (both inside and out). Boy, he was not amused that his Dad forgot that 3 year olds can't really pull back hard enough on the brake levers - that's why they make kid's bikes with castor brakes! I was tempted to show you a pic of the damage, but that would be too cruel, so take my word that he is not a happy camper.

Next week I head to India (again), so I plan to cramp in as many training sessions as I can this week before India. Until next time, train safe and God Speed!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Life is a Race... Part II

First and foremost, apologies to the non-tri bloggers here, when I said "tri-bloggers" in Part I of this post, I really meant "all my blogging buddies out there". :) (Thanks dgc for the reminder!)
Once again, thanks for your patience for sitting through yet another of ol nitrox's rumblings. I promise I will get back to Training blogs after this.

In the interest of being a fair Dad, I am posting a picture of R2 in our weekly race to the club. Notice how disengaged he looks - he is a "passenger" on the child seat of my bike (yes, about time I got him a proper bike too).

Thanks for the very encouraging and insightful comments to Part I. To keep things short, I will single out only two:

  1. Cliff spoke about the complacency that may come with thinking that we are ALREADY saved, so I've been thinking that maybe my dear R2 is showing the complacency that comes from thinking that he will finish/win the race by doing nothing. (Or maybe he is unhappy about being so near my ass.) ;)
  2. NancyToby quoted James 2:17 (way to go, girl!), which if I may repeat in New International Version (NIV) says:
    " by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."
    Which gives me the perfect lead to Part II. ;)

So, if life is a race, isn't there a danger of "DNF"?

I have always felt that to DNF in life would take a lot and it does not apply to me. I guess I felt that it requires a conscious decision to turn away from God and is much more than just an ambivalent feeling of not really caring either way. However, while looking this subject, I also came across this rather chilling verse:

"Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received a full knowledge of the truth, there is no other sacrifice that will cover these sins. There will be nothing to look forward to but the terrible expectation of God's judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies." (Hebrews 10:26-27, NLT)

If we read this verse in context, the words "no other sacrifice" refers to what the verses before these said - that Jesus is our High Priest who has cleansed us with His blood. In other words, if we know the full measure of the grace of God and yet keep on sinning, there comes a point when even Jesus' blood will not cleanse us - the point of no return!

I guess just like any sort of training or race, sometimes we fail to complete the race not so much by conscious decision to give up but by allowing ourselves to make small compromises along the way. E.g. in my case, each time I allow myself to over-eat or skip training "just this once" makes it all the more easier to make the next concession and so on...

But it is impossible not to compromise (sin), so what am I missing? My pastor taught today that the key is God's grace. It is God's love that compel's us to stay in the race (2 Corinthians 5:14). And I guess it is His continual grace that enables us to get pass the times when we do compromise, and to get back on track.

Sounds like a good training/race plan to me! :) God enabled us to participate in the race through His death on the cross, He is enabling us daily to continue the race thru the leadership/coaching from His Spirit (Galatians 5:17-18), and He has promised that His continuing grace is sufficient to bring us across the finish line (Philippians 1:6). Our part is to lean on His grace to avoid compromises, so as we do not "frustrate" His grace (Galatians 2:21).

Again, sorry for such a solemn post. On a brighter note, I am on track for a 5-training-session-week this week. That would be a training PR for me - plus some good news (finally) on my swim. ;) More on that next time. Meanwhile, train safe and God Speed!