This month we have with us Minh Quang, a full-time M&A advisor and also... a full-time triathlete. Read on to find out more about his journey from being a late-bloomer sport enthusiast to being the first in his country (Vietnam) to qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in 2017.
To call myself a sports enthusiast and triathlete today is something no one would have expected, much less myself. Back then in France, our high school Physical Education tests were graded based on our timings and how close we were to our estimated finish time for a 3x500m run. I scored 5/20. Evidently, sports were never a part of my life then. Growing up, most of my free time was spent entertaining myself with electronic gadgets, satisfying my voracious appetite for video games or simply browsing the Internet. The fact that I did not have any competitive advantage in a physical sense did not help.
So how did I end up doing triathlons, you may ask? And to go further and be qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship?
The triathlons that I take part in include a 1.9km swim in the open water, biking for 90km and finishing off with a 21km run. I looked back and realised how far of a journey it has been. After graduating from college four years ago, I picked up running again as a leisure activity while in an attempt to keep fit. The turning point came when I saw a video of the 2008 Ironman World Championship in 2014. A lady was pounding through 140.6 miles of intense activity; swimming, biking and running, overtaking all her competitors with a wide grin of confidence and eventually winning the competition. She is no other than Chrissie Wellington, four-time Ironman Triathlon World Champion.
Amazed and intrigued, I started exploring the possibilities of myself as one of the competitors. Running was not new to me, and I had already completed a 180km charity bike ride between Beijing and the Great Wall of China a few years back. Inspired by Chrissie, I went on to pick up swimming proper and that was the start of my triathlon journey two and a half years ago. Although I still consider myself a novice, the takeaways from all these experiences have been immensely valuable.
It is never too late to start something, no matter your age or fitness level. Sister Madonna Buder (or also referred to as the “Iron Nun”), the oldest person to finish a full distance Ironman triathlon at the age of 82, started training only when she was 48. Johnny Agar, who suffers from cerebral palsy, was pulled through the competition on a chariot and a boat by his father Jeff (55 years old) and completed the race together. As for myself, I learnt to swim only three months before participating in my very first race, Ironman 70.3 Vietnam in 2015. I was struggling to swim further than 20 meters underwater before getting water into my nose and mouth. Determined to overcome this, I sought advice from fellow sportsmen and trained with different groups for at least five days a week. I was willing to devote myself to the hard work and dedication that was required to turn that dream into a conceivable reality. A breakthrough finally happened just a month before the race, and it was worth it. I still get the nerves at times when it comes to the swimming portions, but time has gifted me with experience, allowing me to feel comfortable enough to focus on the next level – chasing for speed. Not wanting to rest on my laurels, I devise a more comprehensive training plan from time to time with a goal to constantly surpass my personal bests.
This journey has also taught me about perseverance. Cliché as it is, failure is part of the process and learning to deal with setbacks is important. In my last race, my race plan fell apart quickly when my leg started to cramp at the start of it and my biggest competitor overtook me. I later found out that he too, was suffering from a cramp in the middle of the race. How I wish I had pushed myself further! For me, Ironman is not only a sport, but also a way of life. All the training for it requires me to change my habits, lifestyle and general approach to life. As Rich Roll, author of Finding Ultra, put it “The prize never goes to the fastest guy, it goes to the guy who slows down the least.” True in endurance sport and more so in life. More than ten years ago, I was graded worst in class for Physical Education. Today at the age of 30, I am competing alongside the best athletes in the world, in the championship of one of the most demanding sports. While it is never too late to start, I believe that I would have had better chances of building a stronger foundation had I started training much earlier. With that said, success does not need to come early in life. The passing of time is an irrefutable fact and what is important is to make the best out of your own individual journeys and never to let complacency get the better of you.
“Live more than your neighbours. Unleash yourself upon the world and go places, go now Understand that this is not a dress rehearsal, This is it. Your life. Face your fears and live your dreams. Take it all in.” - Jon Blais
This is only the beginning of my long (and sometimes daunting) adventure. I look forward to the many more lessons, successes, and challenges to overcome as I focus on improving myself. What better way to summarize this journey than by quoting Jon Blais, a triathlete who passed away from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and inspired many generations of athletes through his “Anything is Possible” spirit in the Ironman Championship. He rolled the last few meters to the finish line with the knowledge from the doctor that he would soon be unable to walk. His poem encourages and inspires optimism in us in spite of the overcoming challenges we may face, because life will always offer that cherished glimmer of hope.
Quang is a late-bloomer sport enthusiast. In fact, he is a late-bloomer in everything (he got his first iPhone in 2013). But he brings his other traits into his training – determination, hard-work and perseverance – to compensate for the lack of experience. He was the first in his country (Vietnam) to be qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in 2017. He is currently working full-time as an M&A advisor in Singapore and trains whenever he can to become the best triathlete he can be. He also manage a platform (https://boidapchay.com/) that aims to share all triathlon tips and advice for both beginner and veteran athlete