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The Ironman Dad Life – there’s no other way

Previously, my entries on the journey of “The Ironman Dad Life” have been about the joy and wonder of discovering how to balance my work, my passion for the triathlon life and and my ever growing love for our young family. This time around, it’s about the disappointments that can come with it.

I’ve pulled out of Vietnam 70.3 because the ‘simple’ family vacation that I had in mind, in reality, was not going to be simple to pull off at all. Going alone was never an option because I’m not going to leave Mel on her own to care for Emma (2.5) and Jonah (1) for the better part of 4 days. This was a bitter pill to swallow as race fees had been paid and I am in OK shape and hungry to give it everything on the day.

But I take comfort knowing that this decision is line with the promise that I had set for myself from the very start; That Triathlon should always enrich my life, and shape me to be better husband and now father, and never take away from it.

So the video is of me thrashing out 100 metres and leaving my frustrations in the Endless Pool, while working on my ‘head down’ position so that I can smash the next time I get to race.
The Ironman Dad Life – there’s no other way.

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Long Course Newbie Places 2nd AG at Putrajaya 70.3

Athlete Focus: Sridhar Venkataraman

Sridhar came to me as a brand newbie to Triathlon under a year ago. His faultless work ethic saw him absorbing the training well and picking up new skills quickly.His 2nd place finish in his Age Group at his 70.3 debut in Putrajaya, is a great testament, not only the hard work that he has put in, but also to his youthful curiosity and willingness to explore new challenges both in training and racing.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your journey so far, obstacles overcome and breakthrough performances.

I was a nerd in school with very protective parents who were quite clear that academics was the preferred path – not that I was any good at that either – poor them! But have always been an outdoorsy kind of guy. Mountaineering, rock-climbing, high altitude trekking – I have some awesome mates who have been cheering me from the start. Some of them got into endurance sports and they encouraged me to do the same.

I have been an avid runner for the last four years. A couple of years ago, I had a disastrous start to my tri career when I panicked in my first sprint attempt during the swim and got myself hauled back by boat.

I joined some open water sessions and did my first Olympic Distance swim a few months later. I discovered that my swim technique was all awful and I worked on it with a specialist swim coach for over a year using the TI technique.

SridharQ: What has your experience been of following a written programme- and share with us more specifically about how The Method works. 

Since, I started working with Shem, I have realised what a difference a coach can make; especially if I want to get serious about the sport and more importantly if I want to enjoy my training. The Method basically achieves this goal by easing your body and mind gently yet firmly into the groove of training every day. The sessions are calibrated and tailor made for me with just the right bit of challenge. The workouts are never boring and they teach you to stay focused throughout instead of coasting along aimlessly.  Congratulations Sridhar! And thank you for taking the time to share your journey with us.


Q: What role did your squad sessions play a part in your race prep?   

The sessions are just awesome. The atmosphere is electrifying and the camaraderie is uplifting and fun. You need a group to push you and make the training fun. I travel one hour out and one hour back just to attend their sessions. It made a huge difference with Coach Shem giving the right nudges at the right times.

Q: How have you improved & what have you learnt about endurance racing and training under my coaching. 

Shem is a no – nonsense and inspiring coach. Tells you when you are doing well and when you need to buck up and more importantly how to buck up. The core sessions were invaluable. The nutrition and race tips made all the difference. He also has the right touch to motivate and inspire me.

Q: How did you feel crossing the line of your 1st Half Ironman with such an impressive result? 

Honestly, I just wanted to finish.  Impressive result?If you say so, I will take it. But I have larger promises to keep and many miles to go before I sleep!

Q: Briefly talk us through the race.High/ low points during the race.  Standout thoughts at certain points in the race.

I used to be intimidated by the swim. Not anymore. But the run which is my strongest point was what was scary considering the conditions. But I felt good throughout and never had any low points. It was just ‘flow’ all along for six hours plus.

  • Waiting for swim start –

No butterflies, just impatience. I couldn’t wait for it to start!

  • Mid way though the bike-

The push did not come and that was a bit disappointing for me.

  • Starting out on the run –

Thanks to Shem I was used to listening to my body complaining and as advised by him, just kept going and it just fell together. I did not try any theatrics. Just kept going and kept getting hydrated both within and without.

  •  Finishing up on the run-

A great feeling knowing that I had finally done it!

Q: How did your training prepare you to stay strong mentally throughout the race?

If not for the training I would not have completed it for sure. A 70.3 is not to be taken lightly. A mentally and physically strong person without training might still complete it but may not have enjoyed it during and after.

Q: Let’s talk about your training. Can you briefly describe your weekly training schedule? How and why that’s working for you. 

 Two hours a day [one hour in the morning and one in the evening]. I used to do slightly more than my coach asked me to – not necessarily a wise thing. It works for me because I have great support from my family, and not much distractions from them either since both my kids are grown up and away, I have flexible work days as I am an entrepreneur and I set my own pace at work. I am very conscious and concerned about keeping work-life balance and staying disentangled from social encumbrances. Yeah… that’s the mix that has worked for me.

Q: Please share with us the 2 most important ‘take home’ messages that you have learnt about endurance training that everyone needs to hear.

Keep the dialog going between mind and body and be an honest moderator between the two. Let each have its say and get them to get into a working relationship. If you make the mistake of putting any one of them down, you are going to suffer!

Consistency is king.

Q: I always stress the importance of communication in the coach -athlete relationship; your thoughts on this please. 

I could have done better here. The coach’s responses were timelier than mine. But still he knew my body better than me.

Q: Any life lessons have you learnt on this journey so far? 

Comfort zones are traps. You will keep getting ensnared in them and you have to fight yourself out.

Q: What are the benefits of having a coach? What are the characteristics for a good coach to look out for? 

 The view from inside looking out is different from someone from the outside looking in – that’s the coach.  In the Indian Hindu tradition the hierarchy is as follows: the coach(guru), parents and only then, God. The coach has been there before you and can help you get there quicker, faster and safer. A good coach is one who listens, empathises and knows what the pupil is looking for. And above all he is honest.

Q: Think you can go faster?

 I don’t know, you should tell me. As of now I am doing my best, but I need to get stronger!!


ironguides is the leading Lifestyle Facilitation company for athletes of all abilities. We provide coaching and training services, plans and programs, as well training education, health and fitness products to help you learn and live a healthy lifestyle. Come get fit with one of our monthly training subscriptions, event-specific training plans, coaching services, or a triathlon training camp in an exotic location! ironguides also provides Corporate Health services including Corporate Triathlons, Healthy Living retreats and speaking engagements. At ironguides, your best is our business!

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image-2132.jpgShem Leong is our ironguides coach in Singapore. He has been hooked on triathlon ever since winning his age group in his first Olympic-distance race. Many top performances later, Shem still enjoys the challenges of training and racing at a high level, while balancing this with work and family. He is a firm believer in the benefits of an active lifestyle and loves being able to positively affect his athletes’ lives in this way. In the four years that Shem has worked as an ironguides coach so far, he has helped more than 60 athletes achieve their goals. They range from newbies hoping to complete their first sprint race, to 70.3 podium contenders, to seasoned Sub 10-hour Ironman athletes. Shem’s care for his athletes and his attention to detail set him apart. He completely understands the varied pull factors of life’s demands as well as the fiery motivations that drive everyday age groupers and is able to craft sustainable, effective training plans for their time-crunched schedules. An Honour’s Degree in Health Science has given Shem the knowledge to explain and expertly administer The Method. This, in turn, helps his athletes understand how each session contributes towards their ultimate goal; as a result, countless personal bests have been improved upon as his athletes continually get fitter and faster.

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Athlete Profile : Megan Grey

Megan has just completed her 1st 70.3 in an excellent time of 5:48 at Port Macquarie. Congratulations on a hard-earned and well-deserved result! Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with us.

Megs Finish

1. How did you feel crossing the line of your 1st Half Ironman with such an impressive result?

Pure relief! Not so much because I was hurting, I was just super happy that everything came together so well on the day and I performed to the best of my potential which did the 12 weeks of training justice.

2.Briefly talk us through the race.

The day before I was feeling very nervous…the anticipation is always the hardest.  As the day progressed I had major tightness in my ITB which was putting a lot of strain on my knee so I spent an hour at a friend’s place on the roller trying to ease the tension. On race day I woke early after a restless night. I felt strangely calm where normally I would be very nervous. I kept telling myself that I had done all the hard work and today was my chance to put it all into action. I was excited just to get going and looking forward to testing myself. My ITB issued had miraculously disappeared overnight so I was feeling good.

The swim start was very calm. For the first time ever I managed to find feet straight off and felt like I was flying in my first open water wetsuit swim. I glanced at my watch as I ran into T1 and couldn’t believe my time – very happy to be off to an awesome start.

It took a while to warm up on the bike as the course heads straight into hills and it was hard to get the legs moving when they were still feeling numb from the icy water. Conflicting advice on how to handle the course was going through my head but Shem’s advice eventually won out and I settled somewhere between 80% & hard and felt comfortable that I could maintain the pace for the second lap. Indeed, I felt even stronger on the second loop.

Megs bike

I was very excited to enter T2 and have the bike leg behind me and felt great heading into the run. I had in my mind that I wanted to run 5min30s kilometres so was amazed that I was blitzing this and feeling so good. Turns out my watch wasn’t calibrated accurately and I was averaging 5mins 40s. At the 15k mark I knew it was time to dig deeper and was wondering how much it was supposed to hurt. My quads were starting to burn and we were running into the wind by this stage and facing one last climb so I just didn’t trust in myself to push too much harder, especially when I thought I was running so well anyway. At about the 19k mark I had a surge of courage, grabbed a cup of cola and started sprinting towards the chute. I couldn’t believe it was almost over. I felt really strong for the last 2kms and at this stage realized I had plenty left in the tank – or was it just adrenaline that the race was over?

3, How did your training prepare you to stay strong mentally throughout the race?

I remained mentally strong throughout the race as I knew I had done the hard yards in my training and was more than capable of doing the distances. I knew I could comfortably swim 1.9k, ride 90k and run 21k so it was just a matter of pulling it all together on the day. I broke the race down into smaller components, I didn’t think about the bike until I had finished the swim, I broke the ride down into hills & highway and approached it loop by loop, and then just settled into the run feeling great that I had made it that far! My toughest challenge was coming from a Sprint tri background as my race pace has always been all out 100%. In hindsight I didn’t hurt like this at all during the 70.3 Did I take it too easy… or is this how I’m supposed to race a 70.3? Either way I really wanted to enjoy the experience and I did.

4. Let’s talk about your training. Can you briefly describe your weekly training schedule? How and why that’s working for you.

I had a 12 week training programme, 3 x 4 week blocks consisting of 12-14 hours per week. Most sessions lasted around 1-1.5 hours except for the weekly long run & bike ride. I loved the variation – between strength, tolerance, speed, endurance and also appreciated that it incorporated my favourite Metasport group sessions.

The sessions never  felt too long or too challenging and if I felt tired I would just start the session anyway and let the endorphins kick in. I had some fantastic races during the training programme without tapering so the results were evident that the training was paying off which spurred me on to work even harder.

At times it felt overwhelming and like it was never going to end but before I knew it I was tapering. I loved having a structured programme to follow, not having to think about what I needed to do each day and knowing that each session had been tailored specifically to my needs. In 12 weeks I only missed 3 sessions when life or injury got in the way.

5. Please share with us the  2 most important ‘take home’ messages that you have learnt about endurance training that everyone needs to hear.

1. Consistency is key – repeating the same sessions over 4 week periods allowed me the chance to perfect the session and measure my progress week on week. What felt hard in week 1 didn’t feel so hard in week 4 so I knew I was getting stronger.

2. Gauge your effort by how your body feels rather than by pace/power output. I won’t rely on my watch next time!

Megs run

6. I always stress the importance of communication in the coach -athlete relationship. Your thoughts on this please… 

Communication is very important but you only get out of it what you put into it… If I had any questions or concerns I wouldn’t hesitate to address them with Shem and his advice was invaluable. It’s often hard to get face time with Shem at group training sessions so I found email to be far easier and then I always had his advice in writing to refer back to.

7. What are the benefits of having a coach? What are the characteristics for a good coach to look out for? 

The benefits include a structured programme tailored to your specific requirements and availability, the sense of accountability at the weekly check-in and having someone who takes an interest in you personally and can adapt your training schedule to your life situation. A good coach needs to be knowledgeable, approachable, responsive, and someone who doesn’t just talk the talk but walks the walk alongside you.

8. Any life lessons have you learnt on this journey so far? 

Anything is possible if you set your mind to achieving it and we are all capable of so much more than we think we are.

9. Think you can go faster?


Megs nat


When we 1st started working together we identified 2 key areas that need work to successfully make the transition from her Sprint Triathlon background to the Half Ironman distance; Bike Strength and Run efficiency. Having coached her at the swim and track squad sessions, I knew that she was a committed, compliant and driven athlete so I was glad that we could spend our energy simply focused on the Art of Tri.

We spent the 1st block of her training developing running strength and dynamics for a more open and loose stride. At the same time Megan busied herself on the bike trainer getting acquainted with cadence and perceived effort level parameters. She got the hang of things quickly and I knew she was on the right track most of the time from her feedback and the questions she was asking.

Given the tight 12 week time frame we were working with, we only had a relatively short period of strength work, before focus shifted to building a solid aerobic fitness through tolerance and endurance sets.  Thankfully, Megan’s single minded work-ethic paid off and it was a joy to watch her bike and run come together.

In the final block leading up to the big day, we also worked on her race day nutrition plan which Megan practiced in her race specific weekend sessions. The attention to detailed paid off and she executed perfectly on the day, resulting in a very solid 1st 70.3 performance @ 5: 48.

Going forward, I would like to see Megan rely less on training data and learn to trust the real time feedback that she is getting from her body during training and racing. The more ‘tuned in’ she is, the more confident she will be taking the right risks on race day as she starts to race more with her heart and less with her head!


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Athlete Profile: Lucky – Sri Lanka’s top athlete

Through my work with Metasport, I have had the pleasure with meeting and working with a young man from the rural Sri Lankan village of Hikkadia, His name is Lakruwan Wijesiri or ‘Lucky’ for short.

He has been able to come to Singapore on several training and racing stints  through an NGO called the Foundation of Goodness. They reach out to aspiring athletes in rural communities in Sri Lanka in need of a helping hand. Lucky came to their attention after his home was washed away in the 2004 Tsunami. He was 13 at the time. Largely through his own effort working with random groups in Sri Lanka, Lucky has won the Sri Lanka Triathlon Nationals 4 years in a row. He’s now also employed full time by the Navy and they give him an allowance to train.

 He used to train a lot on his own but without any real guidance. When I met him, he was keen to raise his game and start racing at regional ITU cup level. I was utterly inspired by his journey of belief, perseverance and single mindedness and was very happy to start working with him. His simple and humble approach to life has reminded me to get back to basics, especially when challenged with ‘keeping it all together’ in busy Singapore.

When I think of Lucky chasing his dreams it  inspires me to stay hungry and do the same. Thank you for your friendship Lucky! 

Won his 1st race on this bike:

Check out the Aerobars!

New tools from MetaSport Members : )



Working hard at home:


1st ITU Race – Singapore Triathlon 2014


Here is an article the SwimBikeRun did on him a few months ago. Click to enlarge.

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Athlete Interview: Roberto Carfagno

Roberto – Congratulations!  It’s a rare occurrence that an athlete finishes their maiden Ironman so close to 11 hours.  I’d like to get into your head a little and draw out inspiration for the rest of us age- groupers out here. 
Man... That hurt!!!

Man… That hurt!!!

 1. First up – How did you feel crossing the line of your 1st IM in such an impressive time? 

Strangely enough, I had my strongest emotions at the start of my second loop (out of three) on the run.

To understand the full picture we need to take into accounts a few details:

a)   I had never ran a marathon before and I didn’t know what to expect (a wall? Walk-run? Just walk?)

b)   Even though I had a goal to finish my 1st ironman in 12 hours I didn’t know if I was going to be able to achieve it.

 My plan was as follows- Swim plus transition time – 1:30/ Bike: 5:30/ Run 5:00

The swim part went well time-wise and I had gained a few minutes on my time table, but the strong wind, the rough tarmac and the hills took their toll on my bike leg: 5:41. So I went into the run with a lot of respect and just replayed the same mantra. in my head: “smooth and easy”.

 My coach had also told me to “Treat it like a long jog”. This piece of advice proved to be the real key for my run.

 When I started the second loop with 28km to go, I checked my watch and realized that not only would I make it within 12 hours but rather in a low 11h if not better. Somehow, knowing that everything depended on my run skills, whether I could keep this speed, whether I hit that famous wall on the marathon, and the fact that I really really wanted to make it, brought me so close to an outburst and cry. Don’t ask me why! In my mind all the run-related exercises and sweat went through like a movie and I told myself that nothing would stop me now to reach those low 11 hours. Guess I am an emotional person..! ;)

 On the last 3km I even found the strength to finish strong with a long sprint as I knew I had made it and by the time I crossed that line my emotions were already under control. Pity, actually…I even stopped a few steps before the ramp, took off my hat, “combed” my hair, zipped up my suit and bowed: we sure want to look good on the finisher pictures! ;)

2. Briefly talk us through the race. High/ low points during the race.  Standout thoughts at certain points in the race. 

  • Waiting for swim start – 

The walk from home to the race location was freezing cold. I felt excited and a bit anxious: I had never started a swim with so many people around me. And although I am a very confident swimmer, I had the worst of the starts one can imagine.

After 40-50m into the swim I simply felt I couldn’t breath. That “anxiety” was so strong that I stopped swimming with one hand and started to pull at my wet suit around my chest. This obviously made it worse as people behind me simply swam over me which made me swallow a lot of water. I was indeed SOOO close to withdraw from the race. And I presume I would have if not for the fact that if I had indeed stopped, I would have been overrun by at least 1’000 people behind me.

So I gathered myself and swam to the side of the bunch and that’s when it started to go well again. I guess that was my first panic-attack in my whole life and I still need to analyse it.

I followed my coach’s advice and kept drafting behind swimmers. As I found my confidence and rhythm in the open water, I found it quite fun to keep changing up to a quicker draft. In the end, it worked well and I arrived 15min ahead of schedule. This was a huge boost.

  • Mid way though the bike-

 Based on my coach’s strategy to stay patient and conservative on the first 2/3’s of the bike I kept the whole first full loop “easy” and let people overtake me. The plan was to see how much I could push in the last 1.3 of the bike.

I started the second and last loop more aggressive. I knew that was when I had to attack as the wind was in favour and kept pushing it all the way through to the turnaround at km135. The last 45km, uphill and against the wind, were simply torture. With 25km to go, I knew that I wouldn’t manage to stay within schedule. This frustrated me and as a reaction I started to push harder. Man, that hurt!!!

  • Starting out on the run –

I started the run again very conservatively. Most of the athletes I had left behind on the swim and bike started to catch up and overtake me but that didn’t bother me. I was focused on being ready for the wall hence kept it at a steady pace. As described above, on the start of my second loop I had an emotional outbreak and that gave me the energy to keep going. I guess people are right when they say that nutrition is the 4th leg in an Ironman. Once I reached km32 I simply started counting down the km and went up with my speed. No wall ever hit me! : )

  • Finishing up on the run-

 I think that was the most fun part of the whole race: I started to run as fast as I possibly could at that moment and I think I overtook about 50 people on my last 2km of the race. Awesome!

 3. How did your physical training prepare you to stay strong mentally throughout the race?

The last 2 months of the training depicted very well the mental conditions of the race. Although I had never rode 180km (160km was my max), and despite the fact that 180km ARE veeeery long, those long and lonely bike rides prepared me perfectly for race conditions.

Moreover, all the tough sessions I had leading to the race during the past 6 months helped me being confident that I can make it. If I had survived running up that hill for weeks and weeks and swim those laps till I was out of breath for months then I surely could do an Ironman!

 4. At which point did you realize you could break your goal of 12h and where/ what did you draw your strength/ resolve/ focus from to dig deep and go for it.

That was my most emotional moment of the race. When I left T2, I was 5 mins behind my schedule with my ‘weakest’ discipline to go. Somehow I thought I wouldn’t make it within my goal of 12 hours. What I didn’t realize is that the clock showed the professional’s race  time. They started 15min earlier than us and I actually 10 mins ahead of my race plan!

When I started my second loop and I realized I was much faster than I had anticipated all emotions broke loose. And this somehow gave me the kick to keep running at my pace when about midway I felt my legs becoming heavier. A big help came also from the most powerful legalized doping drink: coke!!! Amazing how it can push you!

5. Let’s talk about your training. Can you briefly describe your weekly training schedule. How and why that’s working for you.

My coach and I had first a thorough discussion on my life style. Each aspect was taken into account and based on those inputs he prepared a training schedule that perfectly fit my needs.

Being single obviously helps a lot in my training as I can be more flexible on my training hours, but then, my job requires me to travel quite often which makes it a challenge to fulfill all exercises. I have learnt, though, that it CAN be done.

Every single day a little session will bring you through an Ironman!

In the 180 days that I have been with Ironguides, I have only missed 17 days of training- despite Christmas (on my bike!) and New Year (long run!).

6. Please share with us the 2 most important ‘take home’ messages that you have learnt about endurance training that everyone needs to hear.

No doubt about the first one which is also rightly highlighted by Ironguides: Consistency is key! Do a little bit every day and you will be ready at the start of your Ironman!

The second lesson that I learnt is the incredible power of the human spirit to overcome adversity.

For example – the number of times I wanted to skip training with teasers from my friends to join them for drinks or movies. Or when I had the panic attack, at the swim start and I almost withdrew from the race or when I almost got off the bike as my legs burnt so badly uphill against the wind.

 But “nothing is impossible to a willing mind!”

7. I always stress the importance of communication in the coach -athlete relationship. Your thoughts on this please. 

With Shem I picked a winning lottery ticket.

We had an ongoing communication both with mails and face-to-face discussions. When going into your first Ironman there are many doubts, many anxieties, when starting for such a monumental endeavor there are various questions on the training and its effects, on how to pace yourself and what to take in as nutrition.

Communication and understanding from your coach is the second most important thing after…his training schedule!

8. What life lessons have you learnt on this journey to Ironman? 

I learnt that with discipline and putting in the correct effort, I can achieve anything. I might not be the fastest and quickest, but I’ll be there at the end line, no matter what challenge I face.

 9. What are the benefits of having a coach? What are the characteristics for a good coach to look out for? 

A coach brings in all the essential missing parts an athlete needs: experience, motivation, control.

A good coach should explain how he works, what the benefit is behind each training session. He/ She should also be receptive to the athlete’s needs and be open to adapt to it when necessary. He or She should also be able to push the athlete to get over his “comfort zone” both physically and mentally.

It is also important that a coach check in on the athlete, to regularly access their level of motivation and fatigue.

Indeed, there are just 2 options when you choose to work with a coach: either you trust him completely or you don’t.

10. Think you can go faster?

At 1.93m and 88kg I have all but a perfect triathlete “frame”. With such height/mass I suffer the heat more than a skinnier and smaller person hence IM races like Cebu and Langkawi I registered for will see me most likely go slower. Moreover, the swim leg in NZ was with a wetsuit which gained me at least 10min.

On the other hand, I have gained experience, especially on the run part, and I will keep on training consistently.

I am thoroughly confident that in a race that suits me in terms of temperature and route I will get in under 11 hours. Who knows, I might even take it down to 10:30!

Roberto finished in 11:08′. This was an awesome result for his 1st attempt at the Ironman distance. The major improvement for Roberto came from the work that we did to improve his running gait and efficiency.  While others may have questioned the rationale behind doing 15 x 100m running sprints for 12 weeks building up to an Ironman,  Roberto didn’t bat an eyelid. He simply got his head down and did the work and came out a much improved runner after that block. His admirable work ethic and his ability to stay open and receptive to The Method were the perfect combination to achieving this goal!


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