Friday, November 21, 2014

Interview - Hello on Two

How did you feel when you crossed the finish line? 

Unlike Uncle Yee, IM Langkawi recently was my first Ironman race. So, when I finished the feeling was a mixture of disbelief, relief and an overwhelming sense of achievement. I was so excited about finishing that I couldn’t sleep for the next two days!!! It was truly a dream come true for me! 

How long did it take for you to train for this event? 

I have been doing triathlon actively since 2012, starting with Olympic distance. So, that is 1.6km swim, 40km bike and 10km run. In 2013 and early 2014, I challenged myself to the 70.3 distance, which is half of the Ironman race distance. It was only after Putrajaya 70.3 in April this year that I decided to take the leap and compete for the IM Langkawi. But to say that the training was just for 5 months would be an inaccurate statement because I believe the foundation was built from the time I started running in 2010. So, it was a 4 year journey to get to the starting line. 

What is your training like? 

I have a coach who prepared the training program and train me for my swimming. In a week, I swim twice, bike for about 7-10 hours and run 30-40km. The training goes in a cycle of 3 week period whereby in the first week, I do about 10 hours in total, second will be about 12-13 hours, third week is the peak week of about 15 hours and the fourth week is a recovery week for your body to replenish and reconstruct all the damage that is done over the 3 weeks. That just repeats itself until 3 weeks before the race where the training starts to taper.

Do you watch what you eat? 

I am not so obsessive about it because generally I do eat clean food and I always believe that whatever that we do must be in moderation. Then only it is easier for us to continue doing it on a long term basis and make it part of your lifestyle. 

What other memorable moments did you have throughout the journey on the track? 

I had a lot of fun training for the IM Langkawi event. We went on the bike to places I have not even been to in my car! My cycling buddies took me all the way to Frasers, Genting, Bukit Tinggi, Melaka, Lukut, Tanjung Karang, you name it….we probably have done it! We truly had lots and lots of fun! 

To be able to ride that far and that long every Saturday, I not only need a great deal of support and understanding from my family, but I also need to put a lot of trust in people I am training with. And that made the journey even more special because I then know my family loves me no matter what and people whom I have just known have now become my trusted friends. I think those are my most valuable prizes in the journey to this race.  

What advice do you have for all women out there aspiring to be like you? 

After IM Langkawi, I had a lot of enquiries from men and women who aspire to do the race. My advice to all of them are the pretty much the same. Start small, with a shorter distance, be good at it and then only progress to the next level. 

Whether you are doing it to tick a box on the bucket list or as part of your lifestyle, there is no shortcut to it, and what is most important is to enjoy the journey and smell the roses along the way. 

I also cannot emphasise enough about having a good training program prepared by qualified coaches. In training for such an arduous event, there is chance of you sustaining injury, or over train that causes muscle fatigue, or under train that may not give you confidence to complete the distance. Once you have the training program, trust it and work it. The result will show on the race day.  

What is your future plan in terms of triathlons and competitions? 

Well for 2015, I have signed up for Ironman 70.3 in Putrajaya and Cebu, Philippines. I will definitely support the local triathlon races because those were the platform that started me off in this sport, and of course an IronMan race at the end of the year. 

Apart from triathlons I also do compete in running and cycling races. I intend to run a full marathon in Melbourne and a Century Ride in a few states in Malaysia including Kelantan where I come from!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What's Next?

During my schooling years, I had no worries in life except to do well in school, to please my parents (well…it was to avoid from being beaten up for bad grades actually), to fight for the scarce scholarship and to obtain a university placement abroad because coming from a middle income family, that was the only way I could travel overseas!

In my 20s, my only responsibility was to my employer, so, I worked hard, moved from one position to another to gain as much experience as possible with the hope that one day soon I would be at the top of the corporate ladder.  

And then I got married and had my daughter, Tasha. I was in my early 30s and the minute she came out wailing, all my other priorities seemed miniscule. But commitments had been made, so, I juggled between my family, my studies for a Masters degree and work. It was the most stressful period of my life but one that I would not trade for any others. 

It was a joy to see Tasha grow, I received my Masters degree eventually after 7 years of burning midnight oil and my career boomed.  Having been brought up to always have a goal in life, the question I asked myself then was “WHAT’S NEXT?”

The answer came without me having to look hard for it. I was 40 years young then but my bodily functions started to slow down! So, I started running because people were saying that it was the best way to burn fat but the competitive side of me took over and before I knew it, I signed up for my first race of 7.8km in Putrajaya. There was no turning back after that. I couldn’t get enough of running. They called it the Runner’s High. I was so consumed by it and started to increase my mileage progressively to 10km, 15km, 21km and 30km. Through it all, I always had my husband to accompany me on the runs and Tasha was always there as my number one support crew – she would rocktape my old joints to prevent any kind of injuries, prepared cold shower, massage and nutrition after the race, took photographs as a reminder of the suffering I went through during the race! But that was not enough to stop me. The year I turned 42, I decided to celebrate it by running a full marathon, to commemorate a km for every year I have lived. I experienced such sense of accomplishment like never before when I crossed the finishing line that it kept me running a dozen more full marathons around the world before I asked that same question again, “WHAT’S NEXT?”

The natural progression would have been ultra running of 100km and more but I felt that I needed to do something different than just running. And that was how I stumbled into triathlon. My biggest challenge was swimming because I never knew how to swim freestyle. So I took lessons and when Tasha was home on weekends, she would videotape my strokes and when asked for comments, she didn’t spare me any details. Such tough love! Just like running, I approached the sport progressively. I did a few Olympic distance races in Port Dickson, Singapore and Miri, then 70.3 (half Iron Man distance) races in Taiwan, Bintan, Phuket and Putrajaya before I decided to step up and take the ultimate challenge!

Iron Man is the ultimate distance for triathlon as is the full marathon for running. It comprises 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42km run. It is a race of a different breed because it requires discipline in every aspect of your life – from nutrition to sleeping hours. For six months I breathe, eat and sleep triathlon. I swam 192km, ran 1301km and bike 7129km before the BIG day arrived. Tasha did her usual support crew duty the night before the race, Franco drove me to the race and stuck around until I was able to calm my nerve and went into the swim start. Everything went as planned from the swim to the bike to the run. 14 hours and 25 minutes later, I was on the red carpet heading to the finishing line. I saw Franco with tears welling in his eyes and heard Tasha shouting “I am so proud of you, mom!’ I was beaming with joy and as I stepped on the finishing line, the much-awaited announcement echoed in the air…

LINI KAZIM, you are an Iron Man.

That was just over a week ago, and now as I am writing this summary of my life, I shall let you guess what is the most frequently asked question that’s playing in my head?

You are an Iron Man

In early 2012, my timing for the full marathon races started to hit a plateau and I took that as a cue for me to do something different. Ultra or trail running was the obvious progression but I couldn’t stand the dirt and the mud that come with the sport. At the same time my husband found out that two of our neighbours, Carmen and Sam were multiple Iron Man finishers and urged me to talk to them. I didn’t because at that time, a sport that requires me to swim did not really tick my interest. Weeks went by and then one fine day, by chance, I stumbled upon them by the pool. They were swimming freestyle endlessly and I was just amazed at their fitness level as I could not even muster a lap of freestyle despite being a marathoner. So, I sat by the poolside watching them in wonderment while waiting for them to finish. We had a chat and that was how triathlon was introduced into my life.

They recommended to me Coach Steve Lumley, who earned his first Ironman title in 1991 and has been a coach since 1994. With such experience under his belt, I was comforted that all effort would eventually pay off, so I persevered through the drills and the bilateral breathing exercise that I so loathe then but now found that it was the best thing that I had done for swimming!

I did a few Olympic distance races in that same year in Port Dickson, Singapore and Miri. With every race, my confidence in the water and on the saddle grew and by the end of 2012, without a doubt, I knew that triathlon would be a sport that I would continue to pursue, so I started paying a bit more attention to my training as I now have to juggle three sports seriously instead of one. Being a novice, I decided to get Steve to prepare my training program to ensure that I have sufficient training for the 70.3 races which I signed up for in Taiwan, Bintan and Phuket.

The benefits of the training program spilled over onto the shorter distances where I managed to finish strong in all the local Olympic distance and duathlon races. It also helped me achieve my personal time of 1:54 for half marathon and 4:09 for full marathon in that year. It was definitely a year full of achievements that I never dreamt of. 

Whilst 2012 was all about swimming, in 2013, I started to focus on my cycling and hooked up with Bukit Jelutong Cycling Club (BJCC) boys who are notorious for being fast and furious. They are always pushing me beyond my limits, have little time for my whining and have no mercy for my sad stories. I knew with them I was in good hands as far as cycling was concerned, and just like I persevered through my swimming training, I decided to put up a tough fight for each and every ride.

The fruit of labour was reaped in 2014 when I came in first at Shah Alam Enduride and third at Kuantan Century Ride races in Women Open Category. That gave me the much-needed confidence to sign up for the Iron Man race in Langkawi. 

By then the triathletes in Malaysia were already in a training frenzy and therefore made it easy for me to find a training companion in Rupert Chen who had been pivotal in my early days of cycling. He started a triathlon group and between this group and BJCC, we traversed the roads to Fraser’s, Malacca and Port Dickson to name a few.

As the training increased in length and intensity, I came to a realization that the battle for the Iron Man title is probably not in the race itself but in completing the training program in its entirety. It took a lot of commitment, effort and understanding from my family members and friends. Somehow, even with support all around there were still days that I just turned off the alarm when it rang and woke up hours later consumed with guilt for sleeping in and not working my plan. 

Time flew by, mileage clocked and my body was in a constant fatigue state that REST was the only four-letter word that I looked for in my training program. Mentally I felt defeated as I continuously looked for excuses to back out from the race. It would be too hot, the cycling route is deadly, I would die of boredom on the running route and the list went on. Despite the play of emotions, I still continued to pedal, run and do my swim sets diligently.

A week before the race, Steve prepped me up with all the information that could only come from someone who had done the race dozens of time, and with that I packed my gear and set to fly to Langkawi.

Although I was quite confident that I was ready for the biggest race of my life, I still prayed hard that my race would be free from the unexpected as what had happened to me early in the year, at the 70.3 race in Putrajaya. The event was full of drama, from me losing my handphone during the bike check-in to getting two punctures during the race.

My prayer was answered on the race day. Despite the baby jellyfish bites that sent me jolting during the swim, I managed to compose myself soon after and completed the course in 1:33. I went through the transition for a complete change of attire as advised by my coach to ensure comfort on the saddle. 8 power gels, 8 bananas and 6 hours and 39 minutes later, I got off my bike and again went into the transition area to change attire.  Running was supposed to be my forte but after 180km of hard cycling up and down the treacherous hills of Langkawi Highway and rolling Datai, I was depleted of energy, so, I trod along the 10km running loop thankful for the supporters that lined up the street and the words of encouragement from fellow participants. Those were the forces that made me continue to run and finish it in 5:54.

By the time I reached Dataran Lang for the final lap, my Garmin showed an elapsed time of 14:25. I ran on the red carpet, gave high fives to those along the railing and blew a kiss to the loves of my life who had been with me through thick and thin. Soon after that I crossed the finishing line and the much-awaited announcement echoed in the air.

Lini Kazim…you are an Iron Man!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Birth of the Palestinian Tragedy

A French army Captain Alfred Deyfrus, an Alsatian Jew origin, was accused of handing secret documents to the German military, was sentenced to prison for life for treason by a secret and closed trial. It was only in 1906 that his innocence was officially recognized through a decision without recourse by the Supreme Court. He was then rehabilitated and reinstated as a Major in the army.

The implications of this Dreyfus Affair were numerous and affected all aspects of French public life. The affair engendered numerous antisemitic demonstrations, which in turn affected the emotions within the Jewish communities of Central and Western Europe. These led to an international movement of Zionism that supports the need for the Jews must find their own state.

British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour issued a letter to a prominent British Jew, Lord Rothschild, promising Britain’s support for a Jewish home in Palestine in return for the Jewish support against the Central Powers (Germany, Austria, Hungary and Ottoman Empires). 

Known as the Balfour Declaration, the letter calls for the "establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people . . . it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine...”

1920 - 1939
While Jewish immigration to Palestine in the 1920’s caused little alarm, the situation escalated markedly with the rise of Nazi persecution in Europe. Large numbers of European Jews flocked to Palestine, inflaming nationalist passions among all Arabs, who feared the creation of a Jewish state in which they would be the losers. Palestinian resistance erupted into a full-scale revolt which lasted from 1936-39.

The crisis of Palestine reached a boiling point in the years immediately after the war. With international sympathy firmly behind the Jews in the wake of the Holocaust, Zionist leaders pressured the British to admit thousands of displaced Jews.

At the same time, underground Jewish groups initiated a campaign of terrorism against the British. Washing its hands of the whole imbroglio, Britain declared in February 1947 that its mandate over Palestine would end on May 14, 1948. The matter was then addressed by the United Nations, which, after rejecting various plans, voted for the partition of Palestine in November 1947. The plan called for the partition of Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state, with al-Quds (Jerusalem) to be placed under UN trusteeship. More than half the territory, including the valuable coastal strip, had been allotted to the Jews, who only owned about 6% of the land. The Arabs were shocked, and conflict was inevitable.

On May 14, the British terminated their mandate over Palestine, and the Jews immediately proclaimed the independence of the state of Israel. The tragedy of Palestine was born.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

GOD? ALLAH? What's The Difference?

In Malaysia right now there has been a lot of controversies on the issue of the translated bible using the word Allah to mean God. 

In my recent meeting with a non-Muslim friend, I was asked of my opinion on this issue. I can only speak based on the little knowledge of Islam that I have and what it means to me and this is no way an attack to those who think or know otherwise. So, of course any intellectual discussion or correction from those in the know are most welcome. 

We all know that the word Allah comes from the Arabic word 'Ilah" (means deity, god, divine being) combines with the definite article "al" (means the). This make al-illah which was then brought together as "Allah", The God. Loosely, it is probably safe to say that the word Allah and God can be used interchangeably because of what it means. 

However in my opinion, language is really a side issue to this question. What is far more important is actually the concept of God which in my opinion differ significantly for the Muslims and the Christians. What I mean by this is that in Islam, we believe in the Unity of God, the monotheism and that there is no other God but Allah, which befits the definition of Allah, THE God, the one and only. 

In the case of the Christians whereby the word "God" insinuates belief in the Trinity, the word Allah may be improperly defined and create confusion. We therefore should defend the use of the word Allah unless it carries the same meaning conceptually, in order to avoid misconception of Islam. 

And Allah knows best. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

When I Grow Up - by Tasha

Tasha wrote this on her blog some years ago:

When I grow up I wanna be a hairstylist,
But I can't even do my own hair, How can I be one?
When I grow up I wanna be a doctor,
But I'm scared of my own blood, How can I be one?
When I grow up I wanna be a veterinarian,
But I'm scared of even tiny little hamsters, How can I be one?
I like singing and dancing
But I can't reach those high notes and I am so not flexible
So, you know what I am going to do?
I'm going to wait until I grow up to figure out what I wanna be.

5 years later, she finally may have figured out what she wanna be....
 — withNatasha Franco.

Physics Tuition

Tasha: I didn't do so well in my Physics, mom.

Me: well, since you are going to be homeschooling for the next 7 weeks, I can teach you. 

Tasha: ...but you always raise your voice when you teach me! 

Me: (in a slightly raised voice) well, maybe your teacher's too soft and that's why you didn't do well! 

Tasha: haven't even started teaching me and you already raised your voice.

Me: (in super soft voice while blinking my eyes furiously and planting a BIG smile) sweetie, I can really help you if you want me to.

Tasha: that's so fake, mom!


I am really bad with dates, so, when we decided to get married we chose an easy date to remember that fell on a Friday. 16 years ago that date was 4/4. 

This morning while making breakfast, Franco came to the kitchen and gave me a loving kiss with eyes that looked like they belonged to a missing dog who wanted to be adopted. So of course, I looked back at him with suspicion. 

Franco: we might as well just got married on any date, babe!

Ooopsss...even with such meticulous date selection process, I still forget!


Franco Rende knew I did the best I can to finish the race yesterday despite having two punctures and he also knew that although I would never blame life for treating me unfairly, I would be thinking of improving the odds for the next race. 

So, this morning, while I was busy preparing breakfast, he came to the kitchen and instead of the customary good morning, he uttered the word I have been wanting to hear. 

"Tubular, babe?"

That word was like music to my ears..........

Teary Moment

If I had to pick one photo that I would cherish forever from the race yesterday, this would have to be the one. Phuitin was my saviour when she sacrificed her only spare tube and Co2 after my second puncture. I could never repay her help except with prayers that she will one day become the IronMan that she dreams to be! 

Thanks Aileen for capturing what I treasure the most in every race - the spirit of true friendship.

2014 Putrajaya IM70.3

Astro Kampus

Vodafone 2012 - Part 3

Vodafone 2012 - Part 2

Vodafone 2012 - Part 1

Sharizan's Fly Me To The Moon (featuring Tasha Rende)

My Pride and Joy went Tagalog

Friday, March 21, 2014


Arriving glamorously late, it took me 19 minutes to get to the actual starting line. It was a very long and cold wait in 7 degrees with serious wind chill factor. Luckily I had the wind breaker on and ran with it on until km 38 where I removed it not because I was warm but because I knew there were going to be a lot of photographers on the last stretch of the run! A woman must always look good for the camera! 

With 36,000 people running, it was a constant weaving resulting in me running an extra km, giving a total of 43.2km (as if 42.195km was not long enough), with a finishing time of 4:09 (4:28-0:19) that I am very proud of. 

My first major marathon and hopefully it shall not be the last. Amin.