Thursday, August 20, 2009

Le Fruit Triathlon

Yeah, I know. I disappeared from the face of the planet. Just too busy doing other things. So I’ve got some catching up to do on my blog. I’m working on it.

Here is my belated race report for Le Fruit Triathlon 2009. As the defending champion, I couldn’t resist being on the race list again this year. To be honest, I absolutely love this competition. Nothing beats X-TERRA or long distance duathlons/triathlons. Le Fruit is an X-TERRA race that consists of a 750 m swim, 40 km on-road/off-road bike, and an 8 km run on the beach.

Le Fruit triathlon took place, as it has since its first race, in Mue Ne. The organizers had decided to change the course from the previous years due to logistical reasons. Some of the off-road sections used in the past were no longer usable because of construction or newly paved roads. The changes meant there was more on-road cycling this year, but on a hillier terrain. Using a road bike would have been ideal for the first part, but the off-road sections made it impossible for the second part. No big deal as I feel incredibly comfortable on my mountain bike, maybe even more so than on my race bike.

The swim was only 750 m long and I was looking forward to see how much I had improved on my swim. My swimming times have never been better thanks to a change of approach in training. I no longer do workouts which include many short sets such as 10 x 100 m, but focus on long sets such as 4-5 X 700+ m. It has had an enormous effect on my speed. The swim was very chaotic. The waves made it virtually impossible to see the buoys so I was constantly looking up trying to spot them. The organizers had not connected them with a rope, which would have made life a lot easier on the athletes. Nonetheless, I came out of the water in third position.

Transition went lightening quick, and I immediately took over first place by jumping on my bike. The first two guys were swimmers, but had no triathlon experience. I had decided before the race that my strategy was to hammer the on-road part of the race. For some reason, I get much faster in my rhythm on my mountain bike than I do on my race bike. For a large part, I was averaging more than 40 kph. Not bad with 26 x 1.95 tires. I thoroughly enjoyed the on-road section of the course because of the nasty hills, but the off-road section consisted of too much downhill. I used these moments to rest the legs and focus on not doing anything risky. I really didn’t feel like crashing. As I got into transition, I knew I had a huge lead. Towards the end, we had to bike a u-turn section and that allowed me to see if anybody was chasing me. Nobody in sight!

That meant I could take it easy on the run and just get it over and done with. I didn’t have to push myself and treated it as a practice run. Running on the beach is an absolute delight. So relaxing! I won the race by 17 minutes in the end. Le Fruit isn’t a competitive race, but great fun because of its location.

After the race, I had to do the obligatory TV interview. Before, during and after the race, I had a camera crew following me. Always funny to get interviewed by a bunch of journalists and then see yourself on TV.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Beetroot juice 'boosts stamina'

Drinking beetroot juice boosts stamina and could help people exercise for up to 16% longer, a UK study suggests.
A University of Exeter team found nitrate contained in the vegetable leads to a reduction in oxygen uptake - making exercise less tiring.
The small Journal of Applied Physiology study suggests the effect is greater than that which can be achieved by regular training.
Beetroot juice has previously been shown to reduce blood pressure.
The researchers believe their findings could help people with cardiovascular, respiratory or metabolic diseases - and endurance athletes.
They focused on eight men aged 19-38, who were given 500ml per day of organic beetroot juice for six consecutive days before completing a series of tests, involving cycling on an exercise bike.
On another occasion, they were given a placebo of blackcurrant cordial for six consecutive days before completing the same cycling tests.
After drinking beetroot juice the group was able to cycle for an average of 11.25 minutes - 92 seconds longer than when they were given the placebo.
This would translate into an approximate 2% reduction in the time taken to cover a set distance.
The group that had consumed the beetroot juice also had lower resting blood pressure.
Mechanism unclear
The researchers are not yet sure of the exact mechanism that causes the nitrate in the beetroot juice to boost stamina.
However, they suspect it could be a result of the nitrate turning into nitric oxide in the body, reducing how much oxygen is burned up by exercise.
Study researcher Professor Andy Jones - an adviser to top UK athlete Paula Radcliffe - said: "We were amazed by the effects of beetroot juice on oxygen uptake because these effects cannot be achieved by any other known means, including training.
"I am sure professional and amateur athletes will be interested in the results of this research.
"I am also keen to explore the relevance of the findings to those people who suffer from poor fitness and may be able to use dietary supplements to help them go about their daily lives."
Professor John Brewer, an expert on sports science at the University of Bedfordshire, said: "These findings are potentially exciting for many people involved in sport and, but will almost certainly require further more extensive studies before the exact benefits and mechanisms are understood.
"We must also remember that exercise and training and a sensible diet will always remain as the essential ingredients for a balanced and healthy lifestyle."
Dr Simon Marshall, of the University of San Diego, has carried out work on exercise and health.
He said much more work was needed involving many more subjects to draw firm conclusions.
"Certainly, a diet high in nitrate-rich fruits and vegetables is good for your heart health and this study provides further evidence of this."

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Lei Clijsters

An iconic Belgian sports figure has passed away today. Perhaps known better as the father of Kim Clijsters (the famous tennis star and former number one), Lei Clijsters lost the battle with lung cancer early this morning.

Before he managed his daughter’s tennis career, he was a top class football player who captained the last Belgian team to win a European Cup. He represented the national team in two world cups, including our fourth place finish in Mexico 1986.

My deepest sympathies go to the family Clijsters.

The ailing machine

We’re down and out again. I pulled some ligaments in the big toe of my right foot. Currently, I’m receiving ultrasound and laser treatment for the injury. As that wasn’t enough, an MRI has shown degeneration of the meniscus in my left knee. Result, I’ll be out for 6-8 weeks. Since I will begin my course in about two weeks, perhaps it’s a bit of a blessing. Just focusing on studies and rehab will keep me busy enough.

I don’t expect that it will have too much of an impact on my racing season. I don’t have to peak until August and November anyways, so I should have plenty of time to recover and get ready. The prospect of having Powerman Singapore and Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya added to the racing calendar is incredibly exciting.

Goat penis

Just to put you at ease: no, this is not a twisted pornographic blog post. Last night, I had dinner with some friends at a goat restaurant. I knew that one of the culinary delights on the menu was goat penis. When it comes to food, I have no limitations. To put it simple, they wouldn’t allow me to compete in fear factor.

It was a pure coincidence that I ran into some of my ex-students. I immediately asked them if they could order the goats family jewels for me. Out of pure excitement, I asked them how big it was. Obviously, the others at the table started laughing. Sometimes I can be endearingly naïve.

I expected the chefs to cook or grill it, but it turned out they had only cut it up in smaller pieces and we had to cook it ourselves in a pot of soup. Practically everybody at the table thought I was off my rockers for having ordered this dish. Still, I couldn’t resist my curiosity. The penis had been sliced into small pieces, as were the balls.
Overall, I have to say it was in interesting experience. It was tasty, but not to say a culinary mind blowing highlight. Another box in my to-eat-list has been checked.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holiday Greetings

With a few colleagues/friends, we went to Ho Chi Minh City to celebrate Christmas. I had experienced one Christmas before in this motorbike mad city and remembered it to be insane. The crowds would not disappoint me and in combination with Vietnam’s first leg victory over Thailand in the ASEAN Cup, everybody more or less went berserk.

We had German cuisine for a change and I thoroughly enjoyed the bratwurst with red cabbage. As a starter, I had Hungarian goulash soup and it was really to die for. It brought back some memories of my mother’s home cooked meals.

I’d like to wish everyone a belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I hope all your wishes and dreams will come true.

Vietnam stage late rally to clinch Southeast Asian title

HANOI, Dec 28 (Reuters) - Vietnam scored a last gasp second-leg equaliser to finish 1-1 with Thailand and clinch the Southeast Asian championship for the first time on Sunday.

With the match tied 2-2 on aggregate and seconds away from extra time, the dangerous Le Cong Vinh leapt high above the Thai defence to head home Nguyen Minh Phuong's free kick and spark wild celebrations at the My Dinh stadium.
Three-times champions Thailand, upset 2-1 in the first leg, had most of the chances and went ahead after 21 minutes when Teerasil Dangda beat the goalkeeper to head Sutee Suksomkit's free kick into the net.
Thailand paid dearly for their misfiring and conceded a disputed free kick deep into stoppage time, which Vinh flicked into the net to earn Vietnam their first international title.

Here are some pictures I took in Vung Tau. Everybody came out onto the streets with their motorbikes and lots of people were waiving the Vietnamese flag. They were certainly enjoying the moment.