TBTM #33: Blood Donation and Endurance Training

This video on endurance training (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQ7alNd1oRo) explains the logic behind my endurance training methodology. And why my pre-season training appears to take only two months to prepare for a 4000-8000km tour season.

I’m also going to explain why blood donation is good for super endurance athletes like expedition class racers that do typically 300-800km per race.

Your body naturally creates new red blood cells during a regeneration period after donating blood.

Because the body treats the regeneration of lost blood as a recovery from injury, it accelerates production of tissue and cells as compensation to make up for for any potential diminished function during recovery.

Your body generates these new tissue cells in response to the functional expectations of your conditions of athletic performance you train it for.

So when you engage in endurance training like my ritual long slow distance (LSD) training it compensates during the regenration of blood volume with more red blood cells, and accelerated musculoskeletal and cardiovascular infrastructure (blood vessel) growth to adapt to the conditions it is required to function in.

So when you engage in training during the regeneration window (of two months for me personally) after blood donation, your body is naturally conditioning itself for the specific operational functions you are training for with the required blood composition, musculoskeletal and cardiovascular infrastructure to support oxygenation and energy transmission expected of it to function in such race conditions.

The physiological infrastructure developed stays with you as long as you continue to train. However the body is still an organic machine that has it’s natural biological and mechanical limits, it needs to rest eventually, which is why you see me totally stop training for a total rest and recovery break every post season. At the end of every post season break I assess what my current baseline is at that time and plan my pre-season accordingly.

Nature has it’s way of handling everything, you have to understand it and work with it. Don’t fight it or abuse it. Keep building on it.

It took me years to develop the physiological infrastructure to compete at expedition class. That base line means I have a specific physiological starting point that is unique to my body. That’s why my pre-season is two months.

You have your own unique base line, you have to train according to what level your body is functioning at and train for the specific functions you want your body to perform. Take the time to understand your own body and how it responds to training and development. Own your training and make it yours. Do what works for you!

It is better to train alone at your level and push for a higher level than it is to train down with training partners that function below your performance level and compromise on development. That’s why you see elite athletes train individually if they are not training with others of the same standard. 

It is ok to be peerless in training if you want to be peerless in competition.

When I’m back home in the off season, I train alone, and I love it. No distractions. Just pure focus on developing for my specific goals.

When I link up with my team in pre-race we train together because we are peers in standard and cause.

There is less difference between training individually at home and as a team with other expedition class racers of our level, than there is training down with a group of amateurs.

That’s why you might see me train groups of amateurs but I don’t actually train with them. It is a totally different standard and cause than when I train myself for competition. I train them to achieve their goals at their own pace of development and make them set their own standards and goals, I never impose my own standards on them because it is and must be about all them not about me. When I train myself it is and must be all about me and my team’s goals.


TBTM #32: I Don’t Have To Say What Can Be Surfed

I do get told quite often by my friends that they don’t really know what I do or that it’s kind of vague or mysterious.

Well that’s exactly how it should be, because I never tell anyone outside my inner circle what I really do when I go on assignment.

It’s already difficult enough for most people to understand the System Architect job description, which also happens to be a high security vocation because of the confidential nature of the work of designing and setting up Building Intelligence Systems, which also involves integrated security and surveillance systems.

So when it comes to work directly involving secure access and asset management, I obviously would talk even less about it. For that matter usually say nothing about the specifics of the jobs and assignments. Which usually becomes an issue for some people that can’t understand why I don’t talk about it.

Which is why when I chanced upon the Mozayix website (https://mozayix.com/security/) earlier today when researching new assignment offers, I immediately realised that this would take one huge ass monkey off my back.

The Mozayix does almost the same stuff and the site explains plainly enough what my old SBU, the “International” unit, did “in-house” for the energy company that I use to work for.

I can’t believe they put that much info on the site but I think it’s great. It’s more than we ever talk about off the clock, and to be honest a little uncomfortable to read, but the great thing is now I can continue to not say anything to explain what I did. So now, anytime anyone of my friends wants to know what those pages of my life were about, I can just tell them to go to the site and read about what I don’t talk about.

TBTM #31: Safety First Always Because We Are Pro Adventure Racers Not Amateur Thrill Seekers

Reviewing the equipment list for XPD and the other world series races. Without a doubt the most expensive piece of equipment are the fully fitted MTBs at approximately ($16k-22k each). 


The most important however are the relatively cheapest equipment of the racer’s pack: THE SAFETY EQUIPMENT! The Helmets (Bike & Water) ($70-200), the PFDs ($80-200 each), 2G Mobile Phones (Trusty Nokia) ($25 each) for emergency casevac, the Waterproof Bags to keep the phones dry at all times (Good ol’ Ziploc 1 Ga Freezer Bags) ($5-6 a box), and Mylar Space Blankets ($1-3 each) to fight Hypothermia.

Call AR crazy but we are sensible, the most important gear, SAFETY gear, is the most affordable. AR is a sport where the most important thing is safety. And this is always emphasized in every aspect. Competitors are not allowed to enter professional races if they cannot demonstrate requisite competence in all race discipline skills, water survival skills and adequate fitness levels. It is the culture and the mindset of AR Professionals. 

If you think you want to do it for thrills and adrenaline you are not the right person for AR. AR is for people with drive, determination and discipline that can handle sleep deprivation, and physical and mental stress without losing composure and control. 

AR Competitors must also be skilled in rescue (deep water and wilderness) and lifesaving, because as a team sport you not only work together to keep your team mates safe but also look after fellow racers in other teams. We are a community. 

No racer has died in the tour. Given that racers compete across distances from 300 km to 1000+ km in forests, mountains, deserts, rivers, lakes and oceans. The culture of safety in the AR community is the reason why. 

TBTM #30: “Branding And Your Psychometric Profile”

What is your personal or professional branding?

Creating your brand identity. To find your place in the market and be known for something without being pegion- holed.

If there is one thing I can teach you in 5 minutes about branding. It is the most important lesson you will ever learn in Branding.


Sounds simple but it’s not easy. Most people never achieve the success the seek because the do not know who they are.

To “Be Yourself Deliberately” you must first understand:
1) Who you are
2) What you are doing with your life.

By “Who you are”, I am not just talking about your name and biodata. I am talking about your psychometric profile. Who you are as a desicion maker and participant of life in your natural state.

Who you are is influenced by the life you have lived and how you have responded to that life. And how your life experiences have influenced the Culture, Values and Principles and Attitudes that influences the way you live your life.

And “what you are doing” with your life is your decision. It is who you want to become as a person and a professional.

Being pigeon holed means that your brand identity limits what people think of you to less than what you can do. Don’t pigeon hole yourself.

However if you are awesome, you will have alot worth saying. The key is not to overwhelm your audience with your awesomenss. The secret is to CONTEXTUALISE!

Okay personal story time, because everyone has a story to tell.

How do I personally practice what I just preached to you in every day life and my career?

Firstly, to know who I am, I actively seek to learn about myself and not live in my own head. I invest in Psychometric Assessment tools like MBTI and C-VAT to give me a proper objective assessment of my personality and personal traits. To learn what I am naturally or programmatically inclined to and why I tend to function the way that I do, And how my belief system affects the decisions I make.

My MBTI profile is an ENTJ, the same profile as that of Bill Gates, Margeret Thatcher. The natural leader / CEO profile. The big picture visionary macro manager that has an organised eye for micro details. The ability to comfortably delegate comes naturally to this profile from a natural ability for knowing where everything fits and what roles they play, and what to prioritise and when.

MBTI indicates Intrinsic Traits. Traits that we are born with and do not usually change.

C-VAT indicates inclinations based on our Culture, Values, Principles and Attitudes.

My C-VAT profile shows that I have the following inclinations: low for hard work, high for planning and organisation, high finish work, high quality of work, low for time and high on loyalty, medium high affection and empathy, with a low on status.

What this says of me is that I try to minimise unnecessary work, work smart and plan things to save time, I am very flexible with deadlines and patient with people, so I push for the most important tasks to be completed first and allow non-critical tasks to the put aside until the relevant important tasks are completed. In short I am an effecient and effective multi-tasker.

In reality I work hard and because I am a smart worker, get more done in the same time that a person that focuses priority on the time pressure rather than the heirarchy of importance and quality of work.

I am in control of my work load, my work load does not control me. That is the desired trait that companies look for when hiring leaders for high pressure jobs with heavy responsibility in making executive decisions.

And because of my medium high affection and empathy levels, I am usually a more likeable leader because of my style of communication and focus on relationship building within my team, but I am also selective in how invlolved I am with different relationships. The latter is very important for professional life, knowing how to be a good colleague without being a nosy busybody.

A high loyalty score means that I am more inclined to be loyal and form long term bonds with those I have personal and professional relationships with.

My low status inclination means that I don’t usually care what other people think of me and rank and popularity are not important to me.

Knowing that about myself helps me understand why I usually find myself in the professional appointments I am given and why I am able to sustain my volunteerism long term without the need for recognition for my efforts.

Understanding my psychometric profile ultimately influences how I create my Personal Brand based on who I am.

Both profiles are consistent for the desired traits of top management and strategic networkers. And that is the basis of how I developed my brand as a professional and as a friend or family member.

And on understanding what you are doing with your life. You must know what the heck you are doing lah!

I am deliberate in everything I do. Every decision I make and action I take has a specific purpose to achieve an intended outcome and output that I want it to.

I do many things as a businessman, educator and philanthropist. I develop real estate, buy and sell energy companies and mines, design and build solar powered robot buildins, I do counselling for young people and families, I run a sports school as a social enterprise to keep youths on the path to being professionals not prisoners, I give lectures on social enterprise, corporate social responsibility, communications and behavioural science at universities whenever time permits.

How do I create a Brand that helps people think what they need to about me to appreciate me as the “go to guy” for them?

I do it by clearly identifying the relationships that I want to build with each specific party I am associating myself with for a specific function.

So my “Brand” is specific to the target audience.

To the kids at MClub’s Young Minds’ Club I am Abang Eman the Faci/Mentor that “keeps it real” and they can talk to about almost everything and get counselling about stuff that they don’t feel comfortable talking to their parents and teachers. To them I am just Abang Eman. This brand fits the purpose of the Mentor/Mentee Relationship.

To my Institutional Investors, my brand is that of the project development and due dilligence guy that they can send anywhere in the developing world to network and acquire primary intelligence and establish connections for resources and resolve potential conflict before it happens so deals can be made and projects realised.

As a System Architect, my brand is easier to develop because my specialisation is a niche. I design and implement Building Intelligence Systems for the Millitary and Green Technology Projects. There are only a few people in the world with that specialisation and the niche client base makes it easy to establish brand equity. The psychometric trait on high loyalty also means that I am naturally very patriotic and I am contrary to what some people might think extremely good at keeping secrets and upholding confidentiality, this was actually one of the reasons I passed the psychometric testing required to enter this line of work.

As a property developer, I specialise in commissions for high end residential real estate. For this my clients build the brand for me. To them engaging me as Principal to design and build their homes, is like getting Steve Jobs to customise their DIY home PC. Again it is niche by virtue of the target market. Because of the nature of the service, it is a premium service and exclusivity is the actual selling point. Every new client must be recommended by an existing client. I do not advertise this service because it cheapens the value proposition. Again the Brand is about quality and quantum value not quantity. For this part of my career, it’s actually a creative hobby for me and the clients know that it is a privillege to engage me. Apart from due dilligence to confirm that their funds are legal, I actually have to like them before I do business with them. It is a relationship business and every person has to become a friend before I take them on as a client.

I could go on to talk about my brand as a professional adventure racer, philanthropist and social entrepreneur but being highly empathetic I know that would piss off the people that are highly time sensitive and competitively status conscious.

By managing my brand according to the specific target audiences it is easier to be myself because of the clearly defined relationship I build with that audience.

Yes, obviously when people learn that I am doing several highly specialised careers simultaneously they always ask me how I do so much. And because I can use my psychometric profile to explain why I work smart and prioritise how I spend my time, it improves my brand.

Knowing that the common thread for all those career specialisations namely creative problem solving, planning and relationship management, both of which are all stronger natural inclinations for me, means I truly get to be myself all the time.

Rounding up, remember the core message, “Be Yourself!”

And to be yourself, you must know
1) Who you are,
2) What you are doing.

In closing, “Be Yourself Deliberately!”.

TBTM #29: Why Adventure Racing?

I realized upon reflection why Adventure/Expedition Racing (AR) was a natural progression for me and why I loved it enough to make a second career of it.

1) I have an inherently high tolerance for pain that I am not usually aware of until I am comparing sports injuries and the physiological & pain responses to those injuries with fellow athletes. This is a requirement for AR.

2) I had long term mental conditioning preparation for coping with clinical physiological fatigue. This was from silently accepting Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Excessive Water Retention and Weight Gain as part of my life as a result of side effects of the medication I was on for Tourette’s Syndrome (TS) from age 14 to 23. I always pushed through National Cadet Corps, Sports and Army training with everyone else without complaining. So when I decided to stop taking medication after NS, racing 200+km on foot, boating, cycling, climbing and roping, became much easier.

3) I have a physiology seemingly built for balanced strength, speed, endurance, agility and stamina. I am not particularly outstanding in any particular department but am naturally an average all rounder.

4) I have a Mesomorph musculoskeletal structure, with high bone density and red fibre muscle composition which is built for decent strength and speed, but very importantly for durability which is extremely important in endurance competitions because of the type of, volume, frequency and intensity of impact during race activity. And being naturally prone to lean muscularity on a medium frame rather than large frame less inclined to heavy bulking, the body type is designed for all rounded versatility as opposed to specialisation like either a more strength inclined hulking Endomorph or distance inclined lighter Ectomorph body types. Of course body types are only plausible indicators or inclinations, and are not the sole determinants of physical ability to compete.

5) Variety is important to me. Though I am capable of long term concentrated focus which comes with the territory of having TS, I desire variety in my life and activities. AR being a multi-disciplinary sport that allows me to compete globally in different environments gives me the opportunity to have that variety within and between races. It keeps things fresh and exciting. Every race is a new experience, even when it’s in the same place as the previous edition the routes and setups are always updated and refreshed to make each edition more challenging and exciting than the last.

6) It is a technically a dream job. Being a touring professional and contracted equipment tester means getting paid to travel around the world to compete while I test and develop sporting equipment during training and races. It’s not my day job but it’s probably the only moonlighting opportunity that allows me to use my engineering education, field experience in sports science, love of sports and express my creativity for a functional purpose all at the same time. To be honest comparing to what a professional soccer player makes in my country’s domestic league, the income level, schedule flexibility, travel opportunities and richer life experience to be gained competing in what is roundly considered the toughest sport in the world with some of the world’s toughest all round athletes made it a no brainer. To find a job that marries your skills, knowledge and passion with a comfortable pay check is rare in the world job market today.

7) Privacy is important to me. The fact that next to no one back home follows the sport makes it easy to live a normal private life away from the industry.

8) Quality connections from passionate people that help me do my job better. In the event when the occasional fan does approach me on the street or at the airport, it’s usually easier to connect with them because they actually know my work as opposed to random people approaching me for autographs and pictures just for the sake of it because of marketing hype induced fame. I find deep value in having proper conversations with supporters and learning more about the people that love the sport and how I can help make their own sporting life better when I work on developing the shoes that eventually become part of their lives.

9) There is an unmatched sense of fulfilment from completing expedition class adventure races (above 240km) that I have not found in any other sport I’ve tried. The feeling of knowing that you’ve tested every fibre of your being, and pushed every muscle and sinew to the limit of physical and mental endurance. To complete between six to nine marathons (1 marathon is about 42km) across the wilderness usually over mountainous terrain and wild rivers within three to four days on less than a night’s sleep in total. You know that nothing else in life can stop you from achieving your goals if you commit to finishing them with your spirit. Obstacles can take your life but Adventure Racers never let challenges take away their spirit.

10) Of course I’d have to end the list with why I was hooked on AR to begin with. I love being in nature. I started as a cross country runner. The fresh forest air and the variety of beauty that surrounds me every moment of a race recharging my soul, I always return from races with renewed love for life. It’s the best way I know how to get away from the city life and corporate world that pollutes my soul, mind and body. AR is therapeutic for me because it allows me to be alone with my thoughts in a zone where my body is pushing itself to the limits of its design while my mind is clear and uncluttered. My senses are allowed to wake up and express themselves fully in the appreciation of nature and fulfil their natural purpose in optimising my survival in an uncensored world. It is a spiritual experience that allows me to connect with nature and feel closer in my relationship with God. I feel blessed for having these opportunities for spiritual communion and peace of mind.

TBTM #28: 36 Hour Work Days

I first posted about my 36 hour work day cycle on FB in 2011. I developed this system early in my career as a Project Developer because I had to function effectively across 3 time zones at a time monitoring markets (i.e. HK, London, NY) and site progress during international projects.

Oddly I function better on the 36 hour work cycle consisting consecutive work and waking active rest periods where I am awake before taking an 8 hour sleep cycle in between work days. The typical 36 hour work cycle is usually scheduled:
8 hours work -> 4 hours waking active rest -> 8 hours work -> 4 hours waking active rest -> 8 hours work -> 4 hours waking active rest, followed by 8 hours sleep cycle.

This allows me to stay fresh working 3 time zones in the same 24 hour day covering every 5 day trading week from start to finish because the markets’ trading hours overlap. Probably the only way to work with the natural rhythm of my body clock.

In layperson terms, technically this means in 48 hours I work for 24 hours and rest/play for 20 hours and have a 4 hour window to use as head start over the competition the next day or leisure time. That’s what it means in theory on paper.

In real life practice what actually happens is that I only really have to work effectively 4 days a week across two cycles to cover the 5 day trading week.

To be honest, I don’t expect most people to understand the mechanics of this arrangement, however the honest truth is that most people can’t do what I do anyway so it doesn’t really matter whether they get it or not.

Even now when I’m not monitoring markets, I find the 36 hour work day extremely helpful in my time management. I get more done in a shorter time and it’s allowed me to diversify my portfolio more effectively than most people.

That’s pretty much why I always seem to have time for recreational activities, training and charity/volunteer work. By keeping a simple disciplined schedule with technically longer work days, I can afford to be more flexible with my time.

There is no magic bullet one size fits all solution to balance work and personal time. The 36 hour work cycle just happens to work for me. And it does because I customized it according to my physiological and psychological capabilities and preferences.

Everyone can do the same and develop their own personalized optimal work cycle if they truly wanted to, all they have to do is take the time to truly understand their wants, needs, abilities and limitations, and actually commit to the decisions they make.

In truth the only ability they need to achieve balance in their lives is the ability to be honest with themselves.

TBTM #27: Introduction to Adventure Racing and Career Prospects

[This post has actually been sitting in my iPhone’s notes since January, just before the Singa-sports Academy Launch. Since then it’s been nutters on my schedule. I finally had the time to revisit the original draft and finish it on the train ride home today. Yay!]

Here’s a glimpse into the sport I love, that’s been an integral part of my life for the better part of the last decade.It’s taken me places I would probably otherwise only see on television or youtube, met people I would otherwise only read about in sports magazines, and given me the means, opportunity and network to venture into business and explore less conventional parallel career paths.

An Adventure Race is a multidisciplinary / multi-sport race covering typically 250km to 320km, usually about 40-60% of which is on foot, up to 20-30% water borne disciplines (if there are natural water bodies in the course terrain) and usually the rest is land based equipment aided disciplines like mountain biking, rock scaling and/or abseiling. These are usually 2-3 day races. Races are continuous, and racers usually only take breaks at checkpoints with mandatory minimum rest periods imposed.

Elite Expedition Class races are at least 420km. Typically these distances are covered in 4-5days.

For amateurs and beginners there are smaller race events called “Mudders”. These can range anything from 20km to 120 km. And they are structured differently due to the need to safely accommodate varying fitness and competency levels of participants, so they may be single or multi-day events depending on how stages are planned.

If you fancy running and hiking 2-3 marathons a day with up to 40 lbs of gear on your back at some stages, can function with 1-2 hours of sleep a night, before doing it again the next day and repeating the cycle over again a couple more times, then AR is the sport for you.

Haha! Just kidding. We don’t sleep.

If you want to think about making a career out of it, the closest thing to it is joining the Special Forces, the difference is with AR you don’t carry a gun and the only person trying to kill you is you.

Most professional racers have day jobs. Don’t be surprised if you find college professors with PhDs and computer engineers kicking your ass on the course. ;)

If you’re good enough, you could get paid a retainer to test equipment, and professional fees for every technical consultancy. That covers your training and living expenses with a pretty comfortable margin for savings. Then of course there are appearance fees for participating in races, all expenses paid, full insurance coverage and all equipment sponsored, so all you have to do is turn up and have fun with your team mates.

In my last year on contract, I took home about $100 for every km I ran in training and about $400 for every km I covered racing. It’s definitely not about the money, there are much easier ways to earn six to seven figures a year.

It’s a modest career compared to Premiership Footballers or NBA Players. Almost nobody knows what you do and so you get to lead pretty normal lives when you’re not on tour.

There will be no one telling you what to do when you’re “off the (race) clock”. So you have to discipline and motivate yourself. When you are young and have access to money, sexuality active sports fans, free entertainment, food and alcohol at venues courtesy of local and international sponsors, you will need that discipline to avoid running your career into the ground.

The best way I found to stay disciplined is by staying self motivated to achieve a goal. You can’t really have one without it being sustained by the other.

AR is one of the few sports where you actually have to use every muscle in your body. Obviously it is physically demanding but the actual sport is in the mental endurance. AR is a Psychological Sport.

The challenge and satisfaction of completing a physically exhausting race is addictive. Probably partly due to the endorphin that kicks in to keep you going.

For amateurs, completing the course might be their goal and considered a personal achievement.

For professionals, completing the race is a given. You expect to complete the race. That is not the challenge.

The difference is ‘tenacity’. Finishing a course is not enough, the challenge is to murder it. Deliberately execute the race plan with technical and physical precision.

Professional AR is what I consider a Soldier Sport, multi-disciplined expeditionary competition that tests the limits of your ability Technically, Physically and Mentally. Mind on the Mission, Body on the Line and Spirit in the Fight, Confidence to Complete! Ultimate! Ooh Ha!