Saturday, October 25, 2014

Team Flexifitness, in Osaka for Osaka Marathon 2014

Osaka Marathon - United as a team

Left to Right - Lim Thow Wee, Dr Benny Goh, Coach Rameshon, Desmond Soh, Kenneth Lai, Jennifer Quek, Eliz 
I flew here on 24th of Oct 2014 and reached Osaka/Hansai Airport at 9 10pm. Lim Thow Wee helped me in getting the airline tickets. He was supposed to meet at 9 30pm, as his flight was a different one on Friday itself. Somehow, we met at a meeting point, at McDonalds at about 10 pm, which was at second floor, after our customs clearance. Lim Thow Wee was accompanied by his wife, Eliz, who came here to support him and Team Flexfitness athletes in the marathon race.

Lim Thow Wee had dinner yesterday

Today, we had our breakfast at one of the restaurant near our hotel, Hotel Hearton, which is nearly 3km away from the start point of the Osaka Marathon 2014. We met Dr Benny Goh, Kenneth Lai, Jennifer Quek and Desmond Soh. We were, however, not able to meet Mabel Low, during the meeting, as it was a bit late to meet her in Japan. Yesterday, we reached the hotel at nearly 11pm, in fact. There was not much time to communicate and we were feeling sleepy also. Thow Wee was hungry and I told him to eat as carboloading is very important for his race.  He was told not to miss food, even though it was late at night. He did not get enough food. We took our breakfast in a Japanese restaurant and discussed on hydration strategies, the route, the problems, the goals etc.

Banner to state that we will be CHEERING ALL THE WAY!

Basically, the runners told me that they just want to improve their time, just like how Ashley Liew did in Chicago Marathon 2014, 2hr 35min 39sec> Hence the aim was to at least do a personal best time. Kenneth Lai, as he just came out of injury, has planned to do a 6min per km run for the whole marathon here. He is doing this as a training run, I guess, more to condition himself for his future race.

Photo taken to show that road signs on Osaka Marathon are up

As Dr Benny Goh, Kenneth Lai, Jennifer Quek and Desmond Soh have collected, Lim Thow Wee and his wife decided to go to the fair to collect the number tag for Thow Wee.

Osaka Marathon - After running Paris Marathon, Thow Wee has chosen this marathon carefully.

We collected our number tag of Thow Wee and bought some running products as well. After that we proceeded for lunch. After lunch, we proceeded to our hotel to take a nap.

Photo taken near our hotel

We are taking our dinner and we are about to sleep at about 10pm, I guess. Tomorrow, we will be writing a blog post on the race.

We wish all the runners running tomorrow and to our Flexifitness runners all the best in this race. Let us hope that they do their personal best times tomorrow.

30000 runners will be running in this race. The weather is expected to be 12 to 20 degrees centigrade. The course is generally flat as seen in the video during the fair.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Flexifitness Wishes Osaka Marathon Athletes All The Best

Osaka Marathon  2014 - Five Flexifitness Athletes Participating in the event

There are five runners from Flexifitness who will be taking part in the Osaka Marathon 2014, on 26th of October. I have heard that the 42.195km marathon road running event will be held in the city of Japan. The first edition took place on October 30, 2011.
The men's best time is still 2hr 11min 54sec (2012) and the athlete who did it was Ser-Od Bad-Ochir from Mongolia,  while the women best time was 2hr 32min 48sec (2011) Lidia Simon from Romania.

Last year's winners, in the men's and women's race were both Kenyans by the name of Jackson Limo and Monica Jepkoech who won the race in 2hr 12min 06sec and 2hr 39min 33sec, respectively.

The weather, according to Lim Thow Wee, is predicted to be between 9 degrees and 18 degrees centigrade, with an average temperature of 15 degrees.

Meeting Pramod Kukanur - Passion from IT is moving to Sports.

Pramod Kukanur - 11kg down through an exercise programme and hoping to head Flexifitness in India in future

Pramod Kukanur - Suggesting me to bring Flexifitness to India, run by dedicated coaches there
My wife and I invited Pramod to our house today to commemorate Deepavali, celebration of good over evil.  We took some photos and decided to work on some projects.

I met Pramod Kukanur, 31, from Bangalore, about 4 years back. He was all along looking for a weight management programme. When he asked me, "Is there a swimming pool nearby?'. I told him that there was. That only told me that this guy is looking for a way to exercise. 

Within some months of training, Pramod finally lost about 11kg of weight. He was very happy about that. With enthusiasm, he told me to write my ideas on a blog. I told him that I do not know how to go about in setting up. Since, he was an IT expert, he started a blog for me, almost immediately, and told me to keep writing. Hence,  the advent of this blog became a reality. You can read this story of Pramod in this blog post.

After so long, Pramod finally met me in Singapore, today. One of his topic was to bring Flexifitness to India. As I have seen the success, he is now inviting me to go to India and start there and set the programme there, but run by other people. I was excited to hear this. I am confident on this as he is an IT expert and he has been on very high profile projects in the IT service. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Meeting Dr Charles Kenya and Dr Amillia Kenya of Sherman College of Chiropractic

Dr Kenya -  A lecturer in Sherman College

I invited Dr Kenya for a stretching session during my last year's

Dr Charles Kenya (the real name, not the country Kenya) and his wife, Dr Amillia Kenya invited Ashley and I for dinner, a day before my departure, from USA to Singapore, which was on 14th of Oct, 2014, Tuesday. 

Last year, I was able to attend his lessons on application of x-ray to chiropractic and the lessons were very interesting to hear. I learnt a lot from his lessons.

Coming back to our dinner, we discussed a number of things plus running. He enquired about my marathon run time etc. He also told me how he has been running recently. As for me, I shared my thoughts that if a person cannot compete or run for time, it is good for one to at least do 5km runs three times per week to stay healthy. Dr Kenya was slim and trim to look at, and he told me that he trains 3 times per week and like to run on grass, as the impact is less as compared to tarmac track or pavement. I totally agreed with him on this. 

We discussed on Kenyan runners in Kenya, on why they are still the top in the world. Both of us agreed that may be the Kenyan runners do well because of the believe that they have that they can win. Even when other countries' world top runners win, the Kenyan has the believe that they can still win. This is something that the world athletes could learn from them. They do not cave in to any form of weakness and they transcend thoughts, I guess. 

We discussed on skeletal muscles of the Kenyan and compared with the world athletes as a whole. We realised that physique is a reason for the Kenyan runners to do well. Furthermore, Kenyans have 3% fats in the body as compared to the counterparts elite runners who have 4 to 5% body fats. It is extremely hard to have 3% fat in the body. Very high discipline is needed. Nourishment from food allows a person to recover from training and at the same time it prevents one to not fall sick, so that the training goes on smoothly. During injury, one gets healed faster. 

We also discussed on altitude training. I was discussing that it was not only the altitude that makes them number 1, but it is the attitude as well. Dr Kenya was inquisitive on Ashley's ability to balance in studies and training. Ashley mentioned that he was only an average student in secondary school in terms of obtaining academic scores. By training very hard in SMU and at Sherman College, he says that he stays focused by running. 

Many lecturers that I have met personally have told me that in their subjects they are impressed with his ability to score the highest for the subject. I was also very impressed to hear this. Dr Jennifer in actual fact told me that she marvels Ashley's humility to remain simple although he has a lot of talents in him. 

I have seen Ashley spending bulk of his time in charitable work as well, trying to raise funds in his specific project. Even near exam, Ashley trained for Chicago Marathon and kept doing his volunteer service in charity, ceaselessly. Perhaps, our young fellow Singaporeans and myself could learn from Ashley's discipline to balance a number of things. 

Later on, while consuming our food, I shared with Dr Kenya that it was only by running that I was consuming nutritious food. Earlier on in Secondary school, I used to fail many subjects. Over time, I started doing well and running helped me a lot. especially in finishing my Masters In Education from University of Western Australia, while teaching in Hwa Chong Institution (college section).

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

My Experience Running in Chicago Marathon 2014

2014 Chicago Marathon - Here I come (Part 2) 

Target set out for Ashley Liew and I for the trip
3hr 10min to 3hr 32min - For me (mission accomplished) 3hr 30min 33sec
2hr 30min to 3hr 35min 39sec - For Ashley Liew (mission accomplished) 2hr 35min 39sec

Photos by Samuel Tan

My Marathon running experience on World Best Marathons
In year 1992 and 1994, although I ran in the London Marathon 1993 and Berlin Marathon 1993, one of the marathon race that I was eyeing to do was actually the Chicago Marathon, after doing some research by myself. As I was studying at Loughborough University of Technology, for my undergraduate programme, Bsc (Hons) degree in Physical Education and Sports Science, I decided to go to London and Berlin Marathon races, instead. There is no regret for running these two world top marathons. In actual fact, there is no argument on the whether London and Berlin as being one of the best marathon in the world. Sometimes I felt that it could be London, and sometimes I felt that it could be Berlin.

It was only after running in the Chicago Marathon, I have other thoughts. My perception is that this is the best marathon in the world. It is anyway my subjective judgement, so I hope that people do not argue with me when I come back to Singapore. I have been to Berlin and London Marathon and ran three time.

However, at the same time, the recent Berlin Marathon 2014, I realise that I did not run in it. So there is some reservation on which is the best. The world marathon record was broken in Berlin and it could be because of the way the organisers must have organised. 

It is good that the organisers take a lot of considerations to enable many to do their personal best time so that people running are getting their personal best times, in the end.

I will discuss on my current training to do a sub - 3hrs for a marathon in 4/5months time. I use this Chicago as a conditioning period. I will explain this below. 

Chicago Marathon was planned way ahead by Ashley and I, about 6/7months back. 

Jan to March 2014
My training was going very well and I was going for some speed rather than mileage as I found even 5km and 10km as too long for me. While bring my time down my timing for the time trials, Lim Thow Wee also brought his time down for 2.4km distance. I was stagnating at 8min flat around for some time, until one day I brought my time down to 7min 56sec. My age, as at on that day was 49 and I was happy about this. I decided to register myself in Chicago Marathon, hoping to do a sub-2hr 50min/3hours there.

Lim Thow Wee did a 7min 44sec after sometime for the 2.4km time trial which showed to me that he was about to do a sub 2hr 50min in 2014 Paris Marathon. He did a 2hr 48min finally.  My mileage was not too high and I wanted to do improve my stamina as I was not doing much trainng.

However, around April, I incurred a back pain. I decided to rest and get better. It took me some time and I lost some time in training.

April to July
I was recovering from the back pain. The pain was excruciating at times and it came and went off. I got to be very careful with a lot of movements. It came back again and I had to stop everything for nearly three weeks, not even doing stretching exercises or walking for about 3 weeks, before I started back slowly into doing some very light form of training.

August- Sept
I realise that while I had to push my group of runners from 3 athletes doing a sub-19min to 8 runners doing sub-19min for this year, 2014. It was a big achievement for me. It was challenging though. Ashley, in the mean time was doing a 10min 44sec for 2mile (3.2km) race, which was last year. This time, he brought the time down to 10min 08sec. I felt that he was ready for a 2hr 30min for the Chicago marathon. In order not to put too much stress, I told him that he should at least get a 1sec improvement if he can't get the 2hr 30min.

I decided to plan and train to just go for a 3hr 32min for Chicago Marathon and not to go for a fast time, as I did not train much and felt not really prepared for a sub-3hrs run. I started to tell myself to go for a long run instead on the day itself. I also wanted to see how the race was organised and get a first hand knowledge of the race while Ashley run had to run in the race. Before Sept 28th onwards, I was able to train about 1 to 2 times per week.At times, I was doing personal training with my clients, but I was clocking them most of the time, not doing much of running. For some clients, I did very slow runs with them and gave close attention to them as their expectation was too high and to just to run a 10km race and lose weight at the same time. .

From 28 Sept, I decided to train by doing very long slow walk/jogs. I did not want to put a lot of pressure for the race and I told myself that may be I should at least aim for a 3hr 32min, a 5min per km, training run during the marathon, something like a long run.

10th and 11th of Oct 2014 Marathon Day Preparation
From Spartanburg, Ashley and I reached Chicago at night. We took our dinner in our room and went to bed at around 10 30pm. The next day, Ashley was excited and enthusiastic to show me some parts of the course.The hotel we stayed was called Wyndham Grand Hotel, which was about 800m from the start of the Chicago Marathon race. We stayed two nights in total there. On Saturday, we woke up a bit late at around 9 30am and decided to go to the Fair to collect our number tag.

On11th Oct, at 12noon, we collected our number tag and were looking around during the Fair. We decided to take our lunch and proceed to our hotel. As I was suffering still from jet lag, the whole week, I was sleeping at mid-day most of the time since my arrival to Greenville Airport, USA, on 7th Oct. Ashley took an hour nap. At night, we went out to get our dinner. Ashley showed me some places and we were back after that and slept early.

12th October
We went towards the start of the race, after doing stretching and partner stretch as well. We were on time. I told Ashley on how Alan Guilder, my former coach, brought me to the start line in England, for race. I told Ashley that we should not go to the start too early and suffer cold and at the same time, we should not go too late and be panicky. The officials were very helpful. However, we did not need much of the officials help as Ashley was very familiar with place and the surroundings. It was surprising that he was confident of every area at the place here. We put our belongings at the baggage area and proceeded to go to the toilet. There were many toilets, so we did not panick at all. However, we ensured that we reached our corral before 7 20am. At 7 17am, we entered the corral and had to walk up to the start and it took us a some time. We heard the official asserting and affirming to the crowd that the corral will close at 7 20am sharp and that they will not let anyone in from then onwards. We had to keep walking.

Finally, we allowed to enter into the 3hr 10min and below marathoners' pen. Sharp, at 7 30am, the race started and we were off. Ashley ran off just in front of me following the planned pace. I was just hoping that he will be able to according to our plan. As for me, I decided let many to overtake me. At the 10km mark, I did a 44min 52sec. Something told me to push a bit more till the half-way and cruise from then onwards to the finish and do a minimum time of 3hr 32min, at least. It was a race against time. Great satisfaction came when I hit the half-way mark at 1hr 37min 46sec. From then onwards, my aim was to just complete the race in sub- 3hr 32min.

During the race, I did not encounter any kind of pushing from the runners in the race. I remember sometimes being pushed in other races, but not this. It was from the start till the end. That is why I rank this marathon as the best in the world. Another thing I saw in the race was that the officials were there at many points to help and they were very clear in giving instruction to help people. The officials were in fact well informed officials. They did not say a 'I don't know' to the questions that I was posing.

During the race, I did not see the drinks on the table for us to pick it up. We were given in a skillful way by the officials at the drink points. They also went extra mile by holding the drink at shoulder height. At all points I got my drinks easily. I thankful to these volunteers for their fantastic job done on the day of the race.

That allowed me to run all the way, even with pain at the last 8km. I was all sore. My body told me to stop but my mind was ignoring it. I also know that I just had 2 weeks of training and I have never tried this kind of stunt. (Please take note that it is not proper to try this unless you have a very guidance in doing this. I myself was looking for any tell-tale sign of symptoms of not feeling well, on myself. At any point, if ever I had the feeling of fainting, I told myself that I will stop immediately, and I will not listen to the mind's prompting of 'go for it' etc). The last 8km was a killer and I was just bearing the pain till the end. I was telling myself to allow people to overtake me, as my aim was to complete the race and come back to Singapore in one piece. After the race, my main intention was to meet Ashley and to ask about his time.

At the last 5km of the marathon race, the pain was getting a little more unbearable but I kept moving, thanks to the good work done by the cheering party and the officials, wanting to do their best so that we perform to our best. Finally, I reached the promised land, the last 2km, I was just cruising and then saw the last 200m mark. I went for it. I knew that I may hit 3hr 32min. All I was hoping for was to do faster than 3hr 32min. I sprinted and saw the time running and was about to miss the 3hr 30min mark, the time was getting near 3hr 31min. I gave my best at that point and did about 3hr 30min 46sec, which was the gun time. I met Ashley after my walk from the finish of the marathon to the meeting place for families and friends. He told me that he did 2hr 35min 39sec. I told him that at least he has finally got a personal best time.

We were very happy that our targets were met and decided to take some photograph shots of the meeting area. After hearing the split time, I realised that 99% Ashley  would have got the 2hr 30min as he was running a 2hr 28min pace till the 25km mark. His first 10km and the next 10km were run in a steady manner. It was only after the 25th km where he started to run with the blister which was getting worse. It slowed him down a lot. As for me, I now know that he has done three sub-2hr 36min already. Once you do more of this, there will be a day where the time will dip to sub-2hr 30min. It can happen anytime. Things look bright for Ashley in the future, looking at his split timing. 

My official time was posted on the website. The time is 3hr 30min 33sec, and it was my net time.Although, overall, some of the Chicago Marathon runners have done their best. I hope that many out there are not disappointed with a slower time. I heard one man telling, " Hey, I did 2hr 46min, this year I did slightly slower for this one, but the race was a perfect race. The weather was good". I hope they garner some courage to train harder to get their personal best time in the future.

An Interview With Ashley Liew on Chicago Marathon Personal Best of 2hr 35min 39sec

An Interview With Ashley on his Personal Best Time attained in The Bank of America Chicago Marathon 2014

Next Issue - My experience running in Chicago Marathon 2014

Ashley Liew, running with the elite pack in Chicago Marathon 2014

An Interview With Ashley Liew

How did you feel when you woke up a few hours before the Chicago Marathon 2014?
When I woke up, I told myself it was going to be my day. Coach also told me he had a feeling there were possibly going to be many personal bests run today. I wanted in. I said a prayer and kept doing internal positive self-talk before leaving the hotel.

What were you expecting in the race? Any specific time or range you were aiming for?
Coach and I were confident of me achieving around a 2h30m marathon time, based on my training and workout progress. When he arrived in USA earlier in the week, he kept reminding me that the physical preparation for a 2h30m had all been done; all there was left was there the mental preparation.

Were you feeling any kind of pressure before the race?
I would call it a sense of quiet confidence rather than pressure. The last few years I had raced up to 3 marathons per year but there was only to be one in 2014: the Chicago Marathon. I knew I would do everything I could to make this one shot count.

Can you share with us the splits of the marathon?
(Printscreen of 5k splits courtesy of Dr Kelvin Ng)

Can you share about the difficulties you had to overcome?
The night before the race, coach once again reminded me I had to be prepared to go through hell. I did not expect “hell” to manifest in the form of a painful 4x3 cm blister on my left foot which I first started noticing at the 23km mark. I knew it would only get worse. For the last 10km, it went from bothersome to excruciating. Each push-off with my left foot was agonizing. The lactic acid started building and my legs slightly heavier, but the main problem was the pain and pressure from the blister. With each mile split on my watch, the extra seconds started accumulating. A mini inner dialogue was unfolding: be content with letting a personal best slip given the scenario (bear in mind I had missed my personal best by only 3s last year), or fight on with my heart while mentally blocking out the pain signals. I thank God and my mom looking down from above for granting me the resilience and courage to press on. Only with that was I able to finally hit my personal best of 2h35m39s: a 1s improvement.

From 23km, the blister was getting worse for Ashley Liew at Chicago Marathon 2014

How do you rate the Chicago Marathon on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the best)?
I would give it a 9. I was very impressed that the organizers were able to efficiently handle 45,000 runners, as well as make it spectator friendly for the 1+ million supporters over the whole course. The course is mostly flat, the weather conditions happened to be decent on race morning (8 to 11 degrees Celsius), starting corrals were controlled well, drink stations were manned by the most professional and enthusiastic volunteers I had ever seen, and the crowd of supporters buoyed us along. The crowd may not have been as intense as at Boston, but it definitely kept our spirits high for most of the course. Tucked within the crowd at the 8 mile mark was my cousin Suren’s family cheering us with “It’s Ash in a Flash” and “Run on Rameshon” signs. I couldn’t ask for more!

Are you happy with the whole experience, your race timing, and the sacrifices you had to go through going into the race?
I’ve always believed that life is about the journey, not the destination. I am so grateful that I finally hit a personal best timing despite the blister. The marathon is a long race and you just have to deal with the challenges along the way. Doing a 1h14m43s half-marathon at the halfway mark and still feeling comfortable gives me confidence I am truly capable of breaking 2h30m in the near future. As for all the sacrifices months before the race, very few people will truly come to understand. I don’t expect people to. All the daily training sessions in the midst of a Doctor of Chiropractic degree, rigorous examinations and Boards testing, lack of sleep on weekdays, consecutive 105+ mile training weeks, having to run 14 laps (2km each) around my apartment complex for one particular long run due to a lack of lighting outside, not being able to really relax, and so on. I know it was all worth it.

What is your next race you have in mind?
I hope to run in the Southeast Asian Games Marathon held in Singapore next year.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge and Rita Jeptoo win the 2014 Chicago Men's and Women's Marathon, respectively

Eliud Kipchoge and Rita Jeptoo - Kenyan Double in The Bank of America Chicago Marathon 2014

Next Issue - Ashley Liew's Interview on his success in doing a personal best time in the Chicago Marathon 2014

By Rameshon
Photo : By Samuel Tan

Kenensia Bekele (front, centre) , winner of Paris Marathon 2014, leading the pack at the 8th mile in Chicago Marathon 2014

2014 Paris Marathon winner Ethiopian Kenensia Bekele, was fourth in 2:05:51 in his second marathon in The Bank of America Chicago Marathon race while Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, a two-time Olympic 5000m medalist, won the men's marathon by clocking 2 hours, 4 minutes, 11 seconds for the course. Experience of running marathons must have given Kipchoge the advantage of winning Bekele in the race.

Kenensia Bekele (front, centre) , winner of Paris Marathon 2014, leading the pack at the 8th mile in Chicago Marathon 2014 (another angle shot by Samuel Tan)

Kipchoge missed the course record by 26 sec, set by non other than the current world record holder by Kenyan Dennis Kimetto, who set the time in 2014 Berlin Marathon two weeks ago. It was a 1-2-3 finish for his fellow countrymen Kipchoge as Sammy Kitwara and Dickson Chumba as they did 2hr 04min 28sec and 2hr 04min 32sec to win second and third, respectively. Kipchoge pulled away over the last two miles for his first major marathon victory, finishing strongly in the race.

In the womens race, Kenyan Rita Jeptoo, won her second straight Chicago Marathon in an unofficial 2:24:35. She has won the  2006, 2013 and 2014 Boston Marathon titles, in the past. Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia (2:25:37) was second and Florence Kiplagat of Kenya (2:25:57) was third.

The temperature was great today, between 9 to 13 degrees centigrade, as I myself ran during the race. The climate did not change except for some parts of the race where it was a little windy. I experienced the weather becoming slightly warmer at times. It was fluctuating slightly up and down for some parts of the run. However, the fluctuation was not too great. I call it a perfect weather. 

In the past, some of ours Flexifitness runners have run here and have seen extreme weather betwwen 0 and 4 degrees centigrade. We were blessed to run the weather yesterday. The crowd was great. I will share this experience in another blog about this race in detail, as I like the race a lot. I like the Chicago people as well. They are very friendly people as well.

The men's race was competitive and fast times were seen. However, the winning time for the men open and women open was slightly slower as compared to many Major marathons.

Samuel Tan taking photos of the marathon while his wife Suren Wong (Ashley's cousin) supporting us in the Chicago marathon. So sweet of them to support

Ashley Liew, one of our national top marathon (Singapore), and I were happy as we had only two targets. I told Ashley that I came to Chicago to ensure that he gets his personal best time. He was very confident of 2hr 30min. However, we felt getting a personal best time was more imperative than anything. Ashley was running a 1hr 14min 43sec. It was at the 23km mark that he started incurring a blister. It was getting worse and he had to slow down. Fortunately, he gave off his best to do what he can to get at least a personal best. He finally got it  - the 2hr 35min 39sec time.

Ashley Liew - a photograph shot of running with the elite pack

As for me, the race was like a training run for me for my future marathon. It was more of conditioning to run in the future races. At the same time, I knew that it will be hard to see Ashley's race in series. As such, I told myself to run in the race itself. I was very happy with my 1hr 37min 46sec half-way time on my way to the finish of the marathon. I ran all the way and did not stop, although I was slowing down a lot. The only thing that I was looking for was to complete the marathon safely in the race, without any problem. Nothing happened but it was race of joy. Nobody blocked me during the race and the race was a perfect race, throughout.I finally, using this as a conditioning race did 3hr 30min 33sec. This marathon has given me the confidence to to a sub- 3hrs for my next marathon.

Ashley Liew - running with good technique

Ashley and I were just lucky that everything turned out well. The race organisation was one of the best of the world, if not the best! A salute to Chicago Marathon organisers!