Four Inspirational Athletes Redefining Success in the Year of the Dragon

2024, Ambassador, racing, trail running, training -

Four Inspirational Athletes Redefining Success in the Year of the Dragon

We’re welcoming in the year of the Dragon with four RDRC born-in-the-year-of-the-Dragon Ambassadors. From trailing the peaks of Mt Fuji to capturing 12 hours of ultra endurance racing, or breaking your bike on race day, these Dragon athletes show us how they've overcome adversity to prove their mettle, and blaze a trail in their chosen sport.

 

Alex Tan Dragon RDRC trailblazer ultra running

 

 “I would love to live near mountains to run or hike every day, but I’ll make do with our highest point of 163M at Bukit Timah Hill, for now.”

 

This hobbyist videographer started ultra running in 2015 as a way to combine his twin passions of fitness and the outdoors. His first 3 overseas 50 KM ultras ended in DNF (Did Not Finish) but that didn’t faze Alex, who focused on elevation training on the Bukit Timah Nature Trails to get stronger. Fast-forward to 2024 and he's scored himself a UTMB OCC finish, placing 2nd Singaporean overall with a timing of 12 hrs 1 min. Check out his youtube channel that provides proven #inspo for outdoor adventurers.

Red Dot Running Company (RDRC): What do you love most about your chosen sport?

Alex Tan (AT): Ultra Trail Running is extremely challenging, that’s why I love it! Not only do you need to have considerable fitness, but you also must adapt to weather elements, nutrition, hydration etc. You need to constantly problem solve along the way. It is more of an adventure to get to the end point by a certain time rather than a race against others, because of that, there is a lot of peer support and encouragement to fellow runners along the way. I also love it that the trail running culture is very chill and friendly – which other sport can you eat a pizza, cheese, cup noodles, even roast goose (in Hong Kong) at checkpoints, in the middle of your race? Recently I’ve joined the Singapore UltraRunning Association where I aim to introduce trail running to the wider community. 

RDRC: What does a typical race training day or race schedule look like for you?

AT: Every week I will have a speed session, tempo session and a long run. Combined with easy runs and strength workouts on other days, I train up to 6 days/week. Every 4th week I will cut down on my mileage to allow myself more time to recover. Each year I plan around 2-3 A-races to build my season upon and do more specific training nearing these races. Recently I rekindled my interest in sport climbing which I do on my rest day as an active recovery.

RDRC: How do you tackle post-race recovery?

AT: Carbo and proteins are important for recovery, best to consume them within 30 minutes of a hard workout. My favourite recovery drink is Bix Recovery from RDRC, it contains minerals and electrolytes that enhance recovery and keep me healthy. Sometimes I get a sport massage session to relax the muscles, but the best recovery for me is – sleep. More sleep. 

 Alex Tan ultra running RDRC Dragon Trailblazer

 

RDRC: What was the worst race you competed in and what did you learn from it?

AT: I’ve had a few DNF races but each one was a good learning experience and spurred me to work on my weaknesses, so I view all of them positively. Some races taught me to work on uphill climbing, others taught me to get better gear, such as the Coros Apex 2 watch and Ledlenser headlamps.

RDRC: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received on your sporting journey?

AT: Training for ultra trail running is a long and sometimes lonely journey. You will need to put in the work consistently, but the rewards take time to materialise. The GOAT of marathon running, Eliud Kipchoge, said “You cannot sit and wait for success. I believe in pure and good preparation; pure and clean planning can lead to success.” Believe in the process and enjoy it! 

Follow Alex's race journeys on Instagram at @theasianshark

 

Bernice Wong RDRC runner and Dragon Trailblazer

 

"I gladly sacrifice social activities because I'd be quite sad if I don't get my seven to eight hours of sleep each day."

 

Photographer Bernice Wong credits running with introducing her to new places and experiences, not to mention the adrenaline rush after each race, and is upping the ante this year with a multi-sports approach. And while training takes up a significant part of her schedule, Bernice also dedicates herself to teaching photography at NUS while mentoring at NAFA. Check out her documentary work, which is both exquisitely shot and heartbreakingly raw.

Red Dot Running Company (RDRC): What do you love most about your chosen sport? 

Bernice Wong (BW): I started running sometime in early 2022, just for fun. It was a big struggle at first - the thought of running 5 KM was beyond me. After some consistent effort, I eventually improved. I think the best thing about running are the endorphins and adrenaline after a tough workout. It is a mood-changer. I've struggled with this black hole of negative energy for a long time, but running saw this energy being channeled differently, and I'm grateful. 

It has also given me a new way to explore places and landscapes. In the last 2 years, whenever I travel, running is an alternative lens to viewing new spaces that is fun and refreshing.

RDRC:⁠ ⁠Could you share some recovery tips that have helped you after a race? 

BW: Learning about nutrition has definitely helped me up my game during and after workouts. Tailwind is my go-to workout fuel. I also like to take Bix after my runs to replace all the electrolytes and minerals I've sweated out. At home, I have my Naboso ball laid out on my yoga mat and I'd walk on it regularly to release the tension in my arch. Two other tools which have been extremely useful would be the good ol' foam roller, and a Theragun to help release tight spots. However, the lowest-hanging fruit would be good food and good sleep.

 

Bernice Wong Ultra runner Singapore RDRC Dragon Trailblazer

RDRC: What was the worst race you competed in, and what did you learn from it? 

BW: That has got to be Cultra 14 KM trail race in 2022. I had accumulated a decent mileage in the first half of 2022 and thought a 14km trail race shouldn't be too much to handle. Boy, was I wrong. I did not expect running on terrain and elevation to be so different. The technicality of the climbs and downhills killed my quads, and I was left for dead the last couple of kilometers. I immediately swore off trail races but somehow found myself signing up for the same race (I know, right?) in 2023 as revenge. Of course, I was much better prepared for it and even came in 13th for my age group. Phew! 

RDRC: What’s your goal for this year?

BW: I’m a bit shy to be making this public but i'll be trying out multi-sport races this year, probably with an aquathlon first and then a triathlon. I'm determined to make this happen. I'm not a swimmer - but I've started swimming lessons to refine my technique, and joined a swimming group to train with. As for biking, I'm thankful to have the support of Performance Bikefitter and their wonderful facilities to train at. Small, consistent steps, and, God willing, I'll do a good triathlon this year.

Check out Bernice's races and photography on Instagram at @berizified

 

Philippe Daniel RDRC Ultra running dragon trailblazer 

“Ultra trail running has so much to offer, but the community is what makes it truly special. Everyone is so supportive and humble. Of course, it's competitive during the race, but afterward, it's like we are all one big family.”

 

This Nice-native is an Advertising Solutions Architect at Google by day but come weekends, you can catch him hitting the trails on MT Faber in preparation for his next Ultra.

Red Dot Running Company (RDRC): When did you first get into ultra-running and how did it start?

Philippe Daniel (PD): It's a rather long story! As a Divemaster, I was out diving most weekends. But then everything changed when I had a serious accident on a very easy, calm dive in the Philippines. A week in the hospital, lots of tests, and some hyperbaric chamber sessions later, they figured out I had a hole in my heart called a PFO (Patent Foramen Ovale). It's a flap between the upper chambers of the heart that is open when we are born and is supposed to close, but in about 25% of people, it remains open. A PFO usually doesn't cause issues, but for divers, it can make decompression sickness more likely. To dive again, I would need it closed. 

I had surgery to insert a titanium-nickel mesh implant in my heart (and no, airport metal detectors don't go off!). The surgery meant a year's break from diving, so to fill my time, I got more into running. I began with a 10 KM race that I upgraded to a half marathon last minute (the Sundown), and then on impulse, I signed up for a 23 KM trail race (the Force of Nature 2018). I even talked them into letting me upgrade it to a 64 KM ultramarathon! Turns out, I was doing quite well for a first ultra - I was 8th until a wrong turn near the end in MacRitchie that added about an hour to my time. A direction sign got turned by someone, pointing to Venus car park instead of Mushroom Cafe. And that's how my diving accident led to ultra running!

RDRC: ⁠What do you love most about your chosen sport?

PD: I love the personal challenge, constantly pushing my limits. And being out in nature, surrounded by those incredible mountain landscapes, is simply amazing. As the famous French trail meme page says, trail running is 'le sport le plus stylé de l'univers' - the most stylish sport in the universe!"

 Philippe Daniel Dragon Trailblazer RDRC Ultra running

 

RDRC: ⁠What does a typical race training day or race schedule look like for you?

PD: I aim for about four major races each year. In the past couple of years, UTMB Chamonix (TDS and CCC) and Doi Inthanon in Chiang Mai have been on my list. I'm tentatively planning to do the Rinjani 100, Val D'Aran by UTMB, Doi Inthanon by UTMB, and maybe a few other races on the Asia Trail Masters circuit.

RDRC: ⁠Could you share some recovery tips that have helped you get back on track after each race?

PD: When it comes to recovery, I have a routine that I try to stick to. Right after my runs, I'll have a Tailwind Recovery shake - the vanilla flavor is my favorite, and I usually mix in some frozen berries and bananas. For daily support, I also take a Bix Recovery tablet. Beyond nutrition, I know stretching is important (it's easy to forget sometimes!). This year, I'm making a real effort to be more consistent with my stretching routine.  And after those longer runs, I find using a Theragun for a leg massage works wonders.

RDRC:⁠ ⁠What was the worst race you competed in and what did you learn from it?

PD: I've been pretty fortunate to have positive experiences in most of my races.  While none of them were easy, every one was a valuable learning experience. For instance, when I did my first 100 KM race at the BUTM in Borneo, I made the mistake of wearing running shorts with built-in briefs. The constant friction gave me terrible chafing on my inner thighs - a lesson I learned the hard way! Since that race, I've switched to T8 Commandos and a generous helping of Squirrel Nut Butter to prevent chafing. It's made all the difference!

RDRC: Who takes your pictures? Your IG is terrific!

PD: Thanks! Myself most of the time, with the help of a tree branch or some rocks and my phone! But my wife does help me when we run together in a cool place.

Get inspired by Philippe's great pictures on Instagram at @fildnl 

 

Jinella Chua RDRC Dragon Trailblazer triathlon

 

“Everything that could go wrong, did, including the destruction of my precious bike. I finally managed to race on a bike not fitted to me and I had to suck it up and made sure I completed it.” 

 

The operations manager for Yi Ho Pte Ltd - a fishball and food supplies manufacturing company, as well as a certified sports massage therapist, Jinella started road biking seriously in 2018 as a way to spend quality time with her husband, himself an avid cyclist. The purchase of a new bike spurred her to make good use of it and between training for triathlons and international cycling “tours”, she hasn’t looked back since.

Red Dot Running Company (RDRC): Which is your proudest placing and race?

Jinella Chua (JC): Taking the Yellow Jersey at my inaugural cycling "Tour" at the Tour de Batam in 2023. Wasn't sure what to expect but it turned out better than expected. The victory was hard-earned and definitely memorable.

RDRC: ⁠What do you love most about your chosen sport?

JC: Triathlons - the training (building towards a goal). The travel comes as a close second. So to travel for a race that you've worked hard for, is like the most wonderful thing to do.

Cycling - the freedom, the wind on your face and the thrill of being able to power a machine to go fast.

Jinella Chua Racing on a road bike against a blue sky as an RDRC dragon trailblazer


RDRC: What does a typical race training day or race schedule look like for you?

JC: Either one or two disciplines in one day. So perhaps a swim followed by a run or a bike followed by a run. As for the race schedule - this really depends on time and who else is racing. We've done crazy things like 2 races almost back to back just for the fun of it!

RDRC: Could you share some recovery pro tips? 

JC: PR Lotion!!! Absolutely the best! Slather on the legs pre-race, and the muscles recover faster and more efficiently. I also use Bix Hydration post ride or race to aid recovery especially since it contains magnesium. And rest! Lots of it. 

RDRC: What was the last race you did? 

JC: This one I will always remember! Ended the year with another bike race. DRCC Cameron KOM in Dec 2023. Rode a borrowed bike after Air Asia destroyed my race bike in transit at a previous race. Cycling up the mountain on a heavy titanium bike was no fun at all and I did terribly, way off my target. There were moments I really wanted to give up but I slogged on and finished. Not at the top but not at the bottom either. During that race I really learned about perseverance and grit.

RDRC: What’s your goal for this year?

JC: To earn an entry into the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Taupo 2024.

Follow Jinella's journey on Instagram at @jinellachua

Inspired by these Dragon athletes? Pop by RDRC at 108 Sims Ave for expert guidance on the gear you need to be your best. Our friendly staff will be happy to offer you the help you need to reach your sporting goals this year. Huat ah!

 

 


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