Psalm 22:10

"From birth I was cast on you; from my mother's womb you have been my God."

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Eons since the last post - welcoming a new member to the FOO Family

It's been such a long time since we've posted anything here on the blog.  Facebook has pretty much become the mainstay social media platform for sharing our thoughts and life-experiences.

Emma just turned 8 two weeks ago. Can't believe how much she had grown until I went through her birth story that we recorded in this blog.

And, we now too celebrate the birth of Emma's cousin, Audrey Foo, who's also an August baby! :)  Her SG50-baby cousin joined our family on 31 Aug 2015.  Congratulations to Ray and Yifen!  May God grant you both wisdom and strength as you embark into the parenthood journey.

Looking through some of Emma's birth photos, and was pleasantly amazed at how similar Emma and Audrey looked at birth. ;)

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Capping off the sporting year of 2013... IMWA 2013

(post updated 7 Jan 2014)

Ironman Western Australia 2013 (8 Dec 2013), Busselton, Western Australia

How is it even possible?

4 Dec 2011 would probably be the significant day that plunged me towards multi-disciplinary sports.  Up till that point, long distance running was pretty much what I enjoyed, and 2011 was a good running year with personal bests in various distances since my mid-life crisis plunge into endurance running. 4 Dec 2011 was Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore, which was supposed to end off that year on a high.  But it was not meant to be.  That day registered my first DNF, thanks to a stress injury to my lower right tibia.  But never did I expect the journey that this DNF was leading me to.

I’ve always not been keen on swimming in the open sea, no thanks to the murky Singapore waters. With the stress injury, I had to lay off running for at least 3 months.  I had to do something, and reluctantly, I began swimming from the start of 2012.  Lo and behold, I slowly enjoyed the different experience that swimming offered, especially open water swimming.  Crazily, I joined a crazy bunch from TriFam to participate in the Kapas Marang 6.5km open water swim in Apr 2012.

 (photo courtesy of Dennis Quek)
(Kapas Marang 6.5km swim, 29 Apr 2012)

That one long swim pretty much did it for me.  I’ve always been awed by those who took part in Ironman races, and 3.8km swim seemed like eternity to me.   How is it humanly possible to swim that far, and still bike 180km and run a marathon thereafter. When I finished Kapas Marang, I had newfound confidence. It is possible afterall. I can possibly swim that distance afterall.


With newfound confidence in swimming, and with the recovery of my right tibia, thoughts of doing triathlon slowly eased into my mind.  I got back my running fitness rather easily shortly after Kapas Marang.  Giving slightly more than 3 months for my stress injury to recover definitely did me good in many aspects.  I learnt much about being patient and disciplined when it comes to recovery, especially from sports injuries.  Never rush the body. Give the body time.

The next thing that got into my head, was the idea of biking.  Bikes and bike gear can be rather expensive, and it took me a few months to be convinced that I will be making full use of the bike if I ever were to get one.  I had to be sure that there would be a decent return of investment in the bike.  4-5 months after Kapas Marang, I got my first roadie, a BMC Race Machine 2012.  Yes, I was finally “poisoned”.

So began my biking routine.  Given the limitations of work and family schedule, I had to do bulk of the rides during weekday predawn hours.  Safety was also of key concern to me, and the insomniacs who also rode at predawn hours from Longhouse (Upp Thomson) were just the right type of safe ride company I needed.  With the beginning of this new predawn routine, it was like I stepped into a new world.  Bike confidence increased.  My circle of friends also expanded through the addition of this 3rd sport that I embraced.

Taking the plunge …

Soon came Dec 2012, when Ironman Western Australia 2013 was opened for general registration.  By then, I was thoroughly enjoying biking, and somehow felt that doing the Ironman distance was indeed possible.  So I did what I had never thought I would do – sign up for an Ironman-distance triathlon.  At that time, I also decided to race for a cause – raise funds for Children’s Cancer Foundation Singapore.

So it was sealed. The journey that I once thought unthinkable had begun with that click of the mouse in Dec 2012.  My maiden Ironman triathlon (which would also be my 3rd triathlon at that point in time).  It would be a long journey through 2013 till the race proper in Dec 2013.  But it was a journey that I actually enjoyed.  Through the year, I learnt a lot about the various disciplines.  Proper technique for swim efficiency, physics of biking and efficient bike technique and handling, physiological science of endurance racing.  I adopted heart-rate based training, focusing primarily on building the aerobic strength and endurance.

The training plan was a simple one for me.  Get the swim basics and decent swim fitness.  Build strength on the bike.  Maintain run fitness (since run had been my forte till now).  So weekly plan was 3xweekday predawn rides of 60km with occasional brick-run set if time permits.  Long rides or runs on the weekend.  Weekly 2hr swim drill session.  Lunchtime 1hr swim if time permits.  Flexible. No fuss. Train by feel.

A few races in the year peppered throughout the lead-up to IMWA 2013.  2XU MegaTri (O2 distance) in Jan 2013, 2XU Compression Run in Mar 2013, Sundown Marathon in Jun 2013, IM70.3 Philippines in Aug 2013, Newton 32km Challenge and Powerman Duathlon in Oct 2013.  Training through these races gave me a good sense of the progress of my training journey, and what I needed to tweak as the months went by.

I had planned for weekly running interval sessions in the month before race day, but I've not been disciplined enough to do them.  If there's anything else I'd do differently, it'd be to be more regular and diligent on my running training sessions.  The training over the year had been largely on the bike, and very little on the run. My marathon timings in hot climate had never gone below 4hr 22min, and I was a little apprehensive of how the run leg in IMWA would turn out for me given my less-than-desired training run mileage over the months.  I figured I could perhaps manage a 5hour marathon for IMWA. Hopefully so.

(Ironman 70.3 Philippines @ Cebu, 4 Aug 2013)

 (Powerman Duathlon @ Putrajaya, KL, 27 Oct 2013)
(photo courtesy of Joyce Chang)

Dec 2013….

The year of 2013 zoomed by quickly and Dec 2013 arrived soon enough.  Before I knew it, I was at Busselton, looking at Busselton Jetty and the beach that I previously visited during the Jul 2012 road trip in Western Australia.

Adeline and Emma came along on this trip with me, along with my tri-buddy Winston and his wife May.  We reached Busso 4 days before race day.  That gave us 3 days to acclimatize to the weather in Busso, and particularly the sea water temperature and current condition.  
(IMWA 2013 - 4 Dec - Departing from Singapore. Many thanks to Jerry and Teryn for coming by at the early hours to send us off)

[KIA Carnival - Nice size for all our luggage and bike boxes and ample space for passengers]

[happy passengers ready for the 2hr drive from Perth to Busselton]
[Heading into Bussell Highway]

[Turning into Tuart Drive into Busselton]
(4 Dec 2013 - Driving from Perth to Busselton)

(IMWA 2013 - 4 Dec 2013 - First dinner @ Busselton, at the Goose Cafe)

  (IMWA 2013 – Welcome board at race expo site)

First sea swim practice on 5 Dec 2013 morning was rather nerve wrecking.  Temperature was cold, and current was rather strong, with swells bigger than what I’ve been used to.  It took a 20min breather out of the water to recompose myself and get a better feel of the water and establish a better swim rhythm.  Subsequent swim practices over the next 2 days were much better as we got used to the cold water temperature.  The weather seemed to get better with each passing day too, with the current getting less strong as we near race day.  On land, the famous winds along the bike route were indeed strong at most parts. Bike route is indeed flat, but the winds would be our nemesis come race day.  Ambient temperature also seemed to get better, and it got cooler each day as race day approached.

(IMWA 2013 – 5 Dec 2013 first bike ride in Busso)

(IMWA 2013 – 6 Dec 2013 morning swim practice with FOTR chaps)
(photo courtesy of Garry)

(IMWA 2013 – 6 Dec 2013 morning swim practice)
(photo courtesy of Vincent Yang)

(IMWA 2013 – 6 Dec 2013, 2nd bike ride)

  (IMWA 2013 – 6 Dec 2013, Bike ride with FOTR chaps along race bike route)

Race administration by the IMWA organisers was superb.  I think it’s the event volunteers who made the difference.  Their warmth, and their dedication to help us all really took a huge load off our mind where logistics preparation was concerned, leaving us to focus on our mental and physical preparation for the race proper.
(IMWA 2013 - Signal Park at Busselton, transformed into IMWA's race transition area)

(IMWA 2013 – Registration together with Winston)

(IMWA 2013 – Bike racked and bags hung)

In between the flurry of race preparation, we took time to chill and visited Margaret River region.  Of course, visit to the race expo was not left out. We sure contributed a fair bit to the Australian economy. Ha! We basically stayed away from the crowds, and took it easy with the pre-race formula of eating, shopping and sleeping. 

(6 Dec 2013 – Lunch at Voyager Estate)

(7 Dec 2013 – pre-race dinner at The Deck)


Race day morning arrived, and everything seemed to happen in a flash. Woke up at 315am. Had my morning wash up, put on the race attire, final equipment check, put on the race number tattoo, put on sun screen, ate breakfast.  Ran through the race plan mentally as I did so.  Timing wasn’t of key concern. Key objective was to complete the race and enjoy it.
> Swim – breath easy, swim efficient.
> Bike – hold back the horses and keep the spin cadence at no lower than 90rpm and don’t mash gear.  Ride safe.
> Run – keep the running form and gait. Run tall. Land right. Breathe easy.
> Keep heart rate within Zone 3.

May drove Winston and I to the race site.  It was a cold breezy predawn.  We were quite certain that temperature was a tad lower than the previous days’.  Went about doing the final hydration and nutrition bags setup on the bike, and checked in the street bag.  That was it. Nothing else left other than counting down to the age-groupers race start at 5:45am.

Winston, Desmond and I went into the water for a little warm up and get used to the water temperature.  It felt ok. Best part was the water that morning was nice and calm! Thank God!

(IMWA 2013 – Race Day – Desmond, Winston and I prior to race start)
(photo courtesy of Desmond)

Time zipped by. Soon the male pros started off. Next went the female pros. Next up, us! Quickly made our way to the beach start area, and waited with bated breath for the swim start to begin.  That was it. No turning back.  Winston and I stood in the midst of the mass of people cladded in black wetsuits. We exchanged a buddy handshake and patted each other’s back.  Next thing we know, it's 5:45am and the officials sounded off the swim start.  In domino fashion, rows and rows of “black penguins” dived into the water and started swimming. 

(IMWA 2013 – Race Day – Swim start)

(2013 SunSmart IRONMAN Western Australia Swim Highlights - courtesy of Ironman Asia Pacific)

It didn’t take long for me to find my space to get into my swim rhythm.  Somehow, everyone seemed to be rather civilized and keep to their own swim space.  I didn’t experience any punch, kick, elbow, or push throughout the swim, even though I was in the midst of the mass.  It was a long swim, but I was glad that the water was clear enough that day for us to see the fishes swimming about below us.  Swam out to the end of the jetty. Swam around the jetty end, and swam back towards shore.  I made it a point to not look at the watch. Kept the swim rhythm  and breathing consistent, focusing on the arm-pull and body roll.  Soon enough, I finally touched the sand, and stood up and jogged towards the transition area.

 (IMWA 2013 – Race Day – Out from swim)
(photo courtesy of Desmond Cheong)
(IMWA 2013 – Race Day – Out from swim)

Time check upon exit from the water was 1hr 17min, which was way beyond what I expected.  Jogged into T1, grabbed the bike bag, took off the wetsuit, put on my bike shorts and tri top.  I didn’t wear them under the wetsuit, as I would prefer a dry set of attire on my body when I set off on the bike leg.  With the volunteers’ cheery spirit and help, I got everything done in T1 in a zippy.  Poured water into my multi-hour bottle containing Perpeteum (6.5hour worth) and mixed it as I ran to get my bike. Everything felt ok. I felt good.

(IMWA 2013 – Race Day – Out from T1)

Started the bike leg soon enough, meandering through the supporters crowd that fuelled all of us as we pedaled to get the bike up to speed.   Weather was nice and cool. Not the blazing hot weather we had in the past few days.  But I was mindful to stick to the hydration and nutrition plan, drinking Gatorade every other 15min block, and taking Endurolyte and Perpeteum every 50-60min.

(IMWA 2013 – Race Day – Bike Leg)

I might have drank too much too soon though.  I felt the urge to pee at the 40km mark.  Pedaled on and focused on other things, and managed to go on without need to stop.  Then at the 50km mark, my right contact lens flew out! Think the headwind slipped in under my shades and caused my right eye to be rather dry.  Great. Now I'm semi blurred vision.  Thank God my shortsightedness and astig degree isn't very high, and after a while, I got used to the semi blurred vision, relying on my left eye to provide the clear view of things for the rest of the race. Haha.

Completed the 1st loop, and saw Andreas Raelert near the race expo area with his helmet off, standing next to his bike.  He had stopped.  I guess he was still suffering from the injury that caused him to DNF in Oct's Ironman World Championship in Kona. Ah well. I was really rooting for him to win IMWA 2013. Team BMC! Haha.

On the 2nd loop, as I hit the 80km mark, I couldn’t hold the pee much further.  Thank God I was nearing the aid station soon, and decided to stop and get into the portaloo.  It sure felt a lot better after the visit to the portaloo. Haha.  Got on the bike and got on with the ride.  Then another unexpected thing happened.  I was attempting to take my bottle of Perpeteum for a sip, and it slipped out of my hands and dropped onto the ground as I rode! Argh! Stopped the bike. Backtracked and picked up the bottle.  That was the only bottle of Perpeteum I had with me.  The cap had come off and some of the liquid Perpeteum had spilled out. ARGH! Somehow, I didn’t shake it well enough, so there was a good half of the powder still unmixed within.  I quickly filled it with water to mix whatever’s left in the bottle.  I was glad I took spare satchets of GU gel with me.  So with this little spill, the GU gel sure came in handy to complement the balance of Perpeteum in the bottle.  A little boo-boo, but definitely not a show-stopper.  Pressed on with the 2nd loop. 

The winds picked up at the 110km mark, and forced me to dig deep and watch my effort.  I wanted to make sure I was spinning at 90-100rpm without having to kill my legs.  The winds were relentless.  Coming in from the front and left and right almost throughout the last 70km.  Speed was dropping, but heck – save the legs for the run!  It was a long 70km. I really couldn’t wait to get off the saddle!! To make things worse, my bowels started to churn at the 160km mark.  ARGH! What a feeling. Crouching down on the aero bars, fighting the winds, and at the same time focusing on the muscles at the pelvic area to make sure I don’t poo!!

Finally completed the 3rd loop and I was so glad to get off the saddle. Looked at my watch – 5hr 57min.  Within my planned bike time, and no cramps! Thank God!  I had enough of the winds! I’d rather climb slopes anytime, because at least I’ll know when the slopes will end.  The winds on the other hand don’t give any warning at all.  Anyway, I got off the bike, and first thing I did was NOT to get the run bag.  I ran straight to the portaloo!! Haha.. Needless to say, I spent quite a fair bit of time there, and I came out rather relieved.  As a result, my T2 time was long! But I didn’t care.  Getting myself relieved and comfortable was of priority at that point.  I didn’t want to start the marathon with the pelvic area wanting to let out something. Haha.

(2013 SunSmart IRONMAN Western Australia Bike Leg Highlights - courtesy of Ironman Asia Pacific) 

(IMWA 2013 – Race Day – Running out from T2)

Did a quick change out from my bike shorts and put on a dry pair of Orca tri-shorts. Put on my running gear, mixed my bottles of Perpeteum, and started the marathon. It was sunny and a little hot under the sun.  But the breeze and winds helped to make it cooler somewhat.  It was a surprising pleasant weather on a supposed Aussie Summer afternoon.

So off I went on the first loop.  Gave my legs some time to shrug off the heavy feeling, and managed to get into a comfortable running rhythm after 1km.  Glanced at my watch - HR 140, ave pace going at 5min 45sec.  Too fast. I was concerned about cramps and Mr Wall coming in to disrupt the run leg. Pulled back the cadence and stride to slow the pace to 6min 10sec, and made sure I wasn't panting at any point in time. The cheers and cow-bells' rings by the spectators and volunteers helped to break the monotony, and took my mind off from getting to engrossed with running statistics.  Enjoy the scenery. Enjoy the run. Final leg. Run for the kids under care of Children's Cancer Foundation. Slowly and steadily.

As I neared the 5km mark, my bowels started to churn again. *facepalm*   AAAARGHH!! I got worried why that was happening.  I began to suspect the Gatorade that’s causing the discomfort.  I’ve never trained using Gatorade, and if anything at all, Gatorade was the only “new” thing that was different from my training sessions’ nutrition.  Perhaps my stomach isn’t used to the Gatorade-Perpeteum mix.  Anyway, this time, I couldn’t hold back. Ran hard to the nearest aid station, and ran to the portaloo.  I think I spent a good 4-5min in there.  I wanted to make sure I relieved myself properly this time. I didn’t want portaloo visits to disrupt the rest of the run.

Thank God that was the 3rd and last portaloo visit during the race.  Whew. I think my strategy to take more water and less Gatorade during the run leg might have worked out well.   Other than the portaloo visit, the run was nice, and I was pleasantly surprised to be able to run at an average 6min 15sec/km pace consistently.  I walked through at every aid station to take in liquids, and very often a couple of slices of watermelon.  Watermelon was God-sent, and I think my stomach was well-acclimatised to watermelon intake, thanks to the watermelon juice intake “training” during many of the predawn training rides. =)  Thank God I didn’t have cramps and Mr Wall didn’t manage to disturb me.  The spectator crowds along the run route, and the volunteers at the aid stations, were simply awesome! Without them, the run leg would be mentally boring and monotonous.   Seeing familiar faces and tags with Singapore flag also gave me much cheer as we shouted and cheered each other on.  This was our very own IMWA version of Team Singapore!

(IMWA 2013 – Race Day – Run final loop)

(2013 SunSmart IRONMAN Western Australia Run Leg Highlights - courtesy of Ironman Asia Pacific)

(IMWA 2013 – Race Day – Running through the finishing chute)

Collecting the final rubber band was a moment to savour! The finish was near! Picked up the pace from there on. It was probably about another 400-500m to the finish line.  The feeling of running down the finishing chute was indescribable. A mix of laughter, cries, tears. It was weird, yet something that anyone would cherish and remember.  And so it was done.  Done with the run in 4hr 23min, and surprisingly within HR zone 2-3.  The cool weather really helped.

My maiden Ironman race was done.

The final completion time surprised me too.  Sub-12 was never in my plan nor my expectations.  There’s only one reason why this was even possible, and I look to the heavens and I know that’s where my Help comes from. Thank God for strength, endurance, and patience to run this race in the manner that I did.  Ironman mantra says “Anything is Possible”.  I’ll add on to quote what the Bible also says - that “With God, nothing will be impossible!”

 (IMWA 2013 – Race Day – Finally it is done!)

(IMWA 2013 – Race Day – W+F! (Wong + Foo))
(IMWA 2013 - Race Day - With Winston and "Fastly" Fazlee)

Looking back…

This journey through the past 2 years (2012-2013) had been a very interesting one to me.  It’s a journey of experiencing God’s grace.  Every day that I’m alive, every session that I go out training on the roads or in the water and return home safe, every friend made and every sharing by good-hearted friends (especially those in the cycling and triathlon community in Singapore), are all a testimony of God’s grace to me.  I’m thankful beyond words.  The race itself seemed long, but the training journey was even longer, and Isaiah 40:31 meant a lot to me and carried me through it all.  Thank God for strength, good health, and an understanding wife.  Ade had been quietly bearing with my long training sessions, especially the Sat/Sun sessions that often ate into the mid-mornings even though I tried to front-load them as much as possible by starting earlier in the predawn hours.

(A million thanks to Adeline and Emma for their support through this journey!)

(IMWA 2013 - 9 Dec 2013 - IMWA post-race awards dinner - With FOTR chaps (Ek Guan, David, Patrick) and Winston)

Thank God also to all friends who had contributed to the Children’s Cancer Foundation!! Seeing the selfless contributions to CCF had also encouraged me a great deal, and spurred me to keep going, especially during the race.  Slightly over S$5000 was raised through this little humble effort. I pray that the kids under CCF will be blessed.

I also have my insomniac friends to thank for the ride company at Longhouse on weekdays 5am.  Lots of sweat, pain, and watermelon juices. Many miles rode, many hours clocked, many friends made.  Thank God for that.  Many thanks too to Timothy (Loue Bicycle Lab) for the bike-fit and patiently addressing my queries on bike positioning.  Oh, and Gabriel "The Bike Smith". Best bike servicing and maintenance ever.  Thanks for making my little white rabbit (BMC Time Machine TM02) nice and smooth.

The past 2 years was also a journey of experiencing God’s creation – me and the physical body that He had blessed me with.  I’ve been amazed at what our physical bodies that God created, are capable of achieving.  If anything, the limits to what we can achieve or do, are not imposed by God or others, but by our own minds.  So there, I stand amazed. Simply amazed!  As part of the song “God is Able” goes, “In His Name we overcome, for the Lord our God is able”

==== Statistics =============
IMWA 2013
Bib 547
Division: 35-39
Gender rank: 608
Division rank: 123
Overall rank: 720

Overall: 11hr 55min 24s

Swim: 1hr 17min 56s
Bike: 5hr 57min 40s
Run: 4hr 23min 48s
T1: Swim-to-bike - 6min 56s
T2: Bike-to-run - 9min 4s

> popped by the portaloo thrice. Peed, Pooed. You name it, I did it.
> Ate probably the equivalent of 1 huge watermelon during the race.
> drank the most Gatorade in a single day in my life.
 > Annual Training Mileage summary for 2013:
      - Swim  74.19 km (36hrs 42min 09sec)
      - Bike 10,073.44 km (334hrs 25min 13sec)
      - Run  596.79 km  (59hrs 43min 20sec)

[IMWA 2013 - Race Day Commentary]


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