Ironman Profile: Richard Tang
I first met him a few months ago in July when I inaugurated my maiden triathlon in PD. Then, he was already a legendary figure in the triathlete circle. This is what happens when you first immerse yourself into something brand new. You naturally look out for someone to emulate. And Richard Tang was that for me.
A quiet man but you can see the strength in his stillness. His gaze focused, like that of an eagle. Not a chunky muscleman by comparison. That’s what they say about William Wallace, kind of expecting a 6 foot 3 figure. But he was compact. Lean and mean. One look and you can sense the aura emanating from that of a very seasoned triathlete. This guy knows exactly what he wants. And he has no trouble getting it.
I bumped into him again in Powerman and PBIM (coincidence?) and knew that he was training towards his IM WA 4th Dec. Caught up with him again recently and decided to do an interview with him. It is a rare opportunity for me as well as all who are aspiring to do IM. So, buckle up and be inspired!
1. Richard, it’s truly an honor to have this opportunity to interview you. Perhaps let’s start off by telling us a bit about your background. How it all started for you... and what you have achieved so far.
I start as a runner in 1996. During that time, I was a computer technician. Lots of working pressure from customer and boss. My only outlet is running after work. I always feel good after an evening run. Eventually I pick-up the stamina and fitness improves. I start to compete in running races. Eventually moved to triathlon race. I did my first triathlon in 1997. Before the race, I can only swim 30 meters non-stop. I took 4 month to push myself to swim 1.5km non-stop. At 1997 Port Dickson Olympic Distance triathlon, I was the second last person out from the sea. The last person was a 50+ years old lady (Patsy Yap, do you know her?). Determination and hard work proof to be working. I can now swim comfortably in an Ironman race, which is 3.8km swim.
My focus now is doing triathlon race, especially Ironman distance. These are my Ironman races achievement so far.
• 2003 & 2010 IM Malaysia
• 2010 & 2011 IM Western Australia
• 2011 IM Korea
2. Future plans or aspirations? You have mentioned in FB that you are giving back to the community by offering your help in training those aspiring to do IM. Can you elaborate and tell us the reason behind this?
My plan is to race at least two Ironman in a year. Since there is no more IM race in Asia, I have to travel overseas to race. I already sign-up for 2012 IM New Zealand and 2012 IM Switzerland.
For the last 5 Ironman races I did, each one was better timing than the one before despite getting older by the year. My fitness improves by the year and I’m wiser on training and racing for an Ironman.
When I did my first Ironman in 2003, I don’t have any guidance on what to buy, importance of nutrition nor training plan. It was tough. I learned many things the hard way. Completed my first Ironman in 14:10. 8 years later, I completed IM Korea in 10:50. I know I still can improve further with possibility to drop to sub 10 hours. Ultimately, I wish to win in my age group and get a slot to Ironman World Championship at Kona,Hawaii.
I want to inspire beginners to train smarter and at the same time balance work and family time. Currently I’m already mentoring half a dozen of beginners and experience triathletes. I want to share my knowledge and experience to everyone.
3. IM is such a daunting event. I run the marathon, and a 42.195 is often enough to drain me entirely. I cannot imagine how you can swim 3.8km, cycle 180km and still be able to do a full 42.195 run?? It baffles the mind. What motivates you to train for this? And more importantly, what keeps you going? What goes through your mind when you are in the heat of this grueling race?
My Ironman’s marathon is only 10 – 15 minutes slower than my standalone marathon race. When you train well and get use with bricks workout, you won’t feel much difference between running for IM marathon or standalone marathon.
Just like any other sports, one need to love the sports very much in order for the athlete to wake-up 4am to start training or cycle 6 hours alone or swimming 80 laps in a pool. Rule no .1, you have to love the sports. Rule no.2, you need to adopt the training as a lifestyle. Once you practice these 2 rules, you will train better and your fitness will improve. Each race becomes a PB. That motivates me to train even harder.
There always up and down on race day. Regardless, you just need to stay focus and remind yourself that harder the race, better the rewards.
4. Now, spill the beans. Just how do you train for IM? Do you follow a certain program or did you develop your own?
I always a self coach athlete. Throughout the years, I fine tune my training plan to improve my weakness (swimming) and extend my strength (running). At minimum, I will train 2 session of each discipline per week.
5. Any tips and advices for the novice? Is there any pre-requisite for someone who is interested to take up IM? What kind of fitness level is required before one embarks on it?
For beginners with a reasonable fitness, 20 weeks of structure training will get you to the Ironman finishing line. Every athlete is difference. I need to evaluate their fitness and race experience before I can advise them on what to train. I always advise beginners to start with Olympic Distance triathlon race and slowly upgrade to Half Ironman Distance race. Once you have at least two Half Ironman distance race on your belt with each one below 7.5 hours, you’re ready to race an Ironman.
6. In your years of experience, what is the single most valuable lesson that you have learned from IM? Please share with us your valuable insights with regards to the dangers and pitfalls of IM.
Pacing is very important in IM race. Example, if you push too hard on the bike, you will not able to run a good marathon. If you run too fast in the first 10km, you will suffer in the last 5km. But if you race too conservative, you will cross the finishing line and feel like you still have plenty in the tank. That will be a waste.
7. You are a family man with kids. You have a full time job and yet, still find time to train for IM. As a marathoner, I am finding it difficult to juggle my time with running alone. How DO you manage your time? Above all, how do you find the balance?
Training for IM is a lifestyle (I always preach this statement to all my protégé). And you must have your family to support you. I try to do all my training by not interrupting my work and family time. Train before they wake-up and after they sleep at night. You also need to be very creative. Example, when I had a family trip to PD, I cycle there early in the morning while my wife drives there together with my kids. We reach the resort almost the same time.
8. You have participated in a number of IM races: local and international. Mainly abroad. Share with us your experience. What is the ONE race that you enjoy the most? If a novice is thinking of doing his maiden IM, which IM should he consider?
Unfortunately IM Malaysia was abandoned. Else this is the cheapest and easiest for Malaysian to race IM. Minus IM Malaysia, my favorite is Ironman Western Australia. The atmosphere is so different. They have 2,000 official volunteer supporting us, 1,800 participants. They are many unofficial volunteer at the run course too. These are the local resident from Busselton. I remember when I went for my recovery run the next morning; I met one of the local. To my surprise, he says “Thank you for coming to Busselton”. How cool is that.
9. Please share with us the websites that you find useful for reference on the topic of IM.
I dig most of the info at www.ironman.com and from Triathlete magazine.
10. For a novice like me, my aim is to complete a Half IM before I would even think about IM. How could someone like me reach you for advice and guidance?
Just like how I start with my other protégé, I start by evaluate their fitness and race history. Then I will chart out a training plan for them. I also invite them to train with me, especially cycling. Interested individual can always reach me at email@example.com
Happy training and good luck with your next triathlon race.
There you have it! Hope you have been inspired! I certainly am pumped! So, for those aspiring Ironman out there, feel free to get in touch with Richard (If you don't know him already!) and let him guide you through the daunting and ardous journey to conquering the 'impossible' and become an IRONMAN! Yes, indeed, it can be done!