I’m writing this as I on a flight to Shanghai, CES Asia. This is a story about my friend Zen who puts his focus into doing one thing and win. He is now according to me a great athlete in the field endurance running and recently just came into top 8 for a 100km race in Philippines and No.1 spot for a Singaporean. I’m proud to have friend like him.
How we lost to the mountain
Just two years ago, Zen and I took part in the TMBT aka the most beautiful trail. It is a 100km race in Sabah. While preparing for the race, (not sure about Zen) I certainly wasn’t prepare for the race especially I know that I did not have enough training. I can come with lots of reasons why I did not have the time but those are just bullshit reasons to make me feel better. I believe the key is that I was not focus and trying to do too many things at the same time. The worst was that I have the belief that if I’m able to do an ironman triathlon I can certainly do a ultra trail run.
From what I know and can recall Zen did prepare relatively well for his race. During the start of the races we ran together. Unfortunately about 5-6km into the race, I got stunk by a hornet (can certainly find the post somewhere in this blog) but I push on. Zen was kind enough to wait for me and run along with me for the next 5km or so till we reach a checkpoint with medical aid. Unlike triathlon, the mountain is brutal and I was having rashes so instead of wasting Zen’s time I told him to move ahead.
I fall out at 25km mark. Zen was doing well, the last I heard from the race officials that he was going strong. He reached the 50Km mark in 10 hours or so. However to my surprise, he feels that he was not in a good condition to go on and he drop off from the race. Both of us were defeated (green horns in ling distance runs) and we have now an unfinished business in our bag.
Back to Singapore, I continued on my startup life, random shit and still not being focus on the things I’m doing. I started running less because I felt defeated. I tried other activities like tennis and swimming. (But nothing beats the joy of running). Zen on the other hand outs his focus on running. He dedicated himself to conquering the trail and in a certain sense becoming obsessed with running. Mind you, that he still works like everyone else because it is very hard to be a professional athlete in Singapore.
Instead of the random training we did in the past, he puts in strict timetable and also put an effort into his diet. He also started to learn from the stronger runners, the training they go though and the food they eat and the preparation they do. He makes an effort to understand the course (which I alway never do) where is the highest ground?, when is the best time to eat? What could the weather be like? He started putting a lot more hours into his training too. Mostly long runs and doing it before the start of his work, sometimes even a run in the morning and another in the evening
Furthermore, he also signed up more ultra trail 50/100km races. Initially, I thought that he was mad, why does he keep going for the 100km races? Does he not need to rest? But I slowly start to understand that as each race he goes, he grows in experience. This is how someone learn, this was how I learn programming too. The more I do the more in understand the concepts and problems.
Most importantly, he is focus, very focus. Not like last time, where sometimes we will sign up for shorts races. He only did those long races. This is because the training for short distance races is vastly different from the long ones. He focus on doing one thing and with one objective, to excel in trail runs.
During the start, he failed to finish some of the races he signed up or he will complete after his targeted timing. This was two years ago. Recently he excelled in the Hong Kong 100km and came in around 15hours earning him the gold medal (under 24 hours) and Singapore top male runner. He is now winning.
Like all success story, there is always a women behind. Her name is Junie, Zen’s wife. Always there for Zen and always there to support him in every run. She is also a champion.
Zen’s story thought me the most importance of focus. If you put your mind to it, you can win. For me, I always talk about focus but I fucking never do it. I have no actions and this have to stop.
My interest towards calisthenics has grown a lot recently and I have told myself to stop all random activities if I want to do well. You will also see me less on running tracks. The same is true for my startup life, it’s about time to get my shit together. Focus and win.