the 1500m – first of many

This ASEAN Para Games (APG) has been a huge roller coaster ride for me. Lots and lots went on behind the scene.
After training hard well for my 1500m, I was informed 2 weeks prior to the games that it was cancelled and I would be competing only in the 400m. I think by now, everyone could have a glimpse of how frustrated I was back then, losing my pet event and having to compete in an event in which I know (almost certainly) that I would be last. I could not understand why it happened this way and I was extremely disappointed with the situation. All I could do was to pray in hopes that I will be given back my pet event.
I prayed for a miracle, to have 1 more competitor in this event so that it will be pushed on but as the days go by, I started to resign to that fact that the 1500m is all but lost.
On the eve of the opening ceremony, I was told that the 1500m was put back on! This totally fired me up and suddenly I was all excited about racing. Thank God for putting the event back.
However, the roller coaster ride continued. 2 days before my event, my grandmother was admitted into the emergency ward and was told by doctors that she had less than 48 hours to live. After getting special permission, I rushed over to the hospital. What made it worse was that my parents flew out of the country that very morning and they had to rush back into the country. Everyone was praying hard for my father to be back to see his mother once more before she passed on. Thankfully, my parents made it back to Singapore the next evening and my grandmother was holding up. Knowing that my parents are emotionally stable and handling themselves well, I decided it was time for me to check back into the games village and prepare myself for the race. This was how I spent my days leading up to my 1500m event. Emotionally drained and probably a little physically drained from the lack of rest. Not the ideal lead-up but I have got to be responsible and do what is right: to race my hearts out.
After 3 days of athletics competition, there had been talks that I was Singapore’s best medal hopeful for athletics and deep down the pressure was building. I tried not to be sucked into the pressure and reminded myself that it is all about the clock and myself.
Since my marathon days, it has always been me and the clock, this is not going to change.” I kept reminding myself and focused on what I needed to do. I have always thought of racing as “collecting my report card”. All the hard work has be laid and done during training. All the throwing up, falling down, crawling to get back on my feet, heat chamber training etc had all be done. It is time to enjoy the run and reap what I had sowed.
I was definitely nervous going into the race. But the moment I went to do my warm up, listening to my music and my body just went into auto-pilot mode and soon, I was in race mode. 
As I was walking out into the stadium, I could hear cheers from friends and that really gave a little more pressure! Then again, it was good pressure. These were the people whom I had spent half my life-time with, there will be no holding back. Even if I had to tear my hamstrings, I was determined to try to go for Gold.
The race unfolded according to my “research”. I knew the Indonesian would take the lead right from the start because he was the previous gold medalist and he has a good quick 400m. I also knew the Vietnamese would try to edge me during our next 800m. So I made sure I protected the inner lane and made him take the outer lane (so he will always run a little more than me). I tried to close the gap during the 3rd lap but I eventually lost the race to the better runner. Kudos to Timin for the brilliant race.

A huge thank you to those who believed that I will one day run again. Because you didn’t give up on me, I had that extra assurance. I know I have lots of support from down under too! And I love you guys! More work will be done in Perth that’s for sure. I know this is my first step out as a 1500m runner and I am still learning the ropes.  Rest assure, I will continue to push on for the coming years and God willing if I will bag a few more medals.

The bros. It meant alot to me.
Talk about leaving everything on the track.

The smile says it all.

Thank you to all volunteers, especially to those at the stadium! Love you guys to bits! Thanks for making everything so awesome, without which this would not be such a wonderful experience.

Nil Sine Labore
prepared and written by Zac Leow

Happy 2nd Anniversary

Its 6 November again.
So fast and its been 2 years since my accident.
so much has changed. So much more improvements.

For my 1st anniversary, I ran 21 km around Matilda Bay.
Some how, God has brought me back to Perth to celebrate my 2nd Anniversary. Which I have absolutely no objection to =p

Initially, I had no intention of running another 1500m till the ASEAN Para Games in December 2015. However, my coach told me to do a 1500m race to get myself race ready. So I had no choice but to sign up for one. (Yeah, never argue with your coach). The race was supposedly on 30 October but was pushed back a week due to some another event and so it happens that I will be racing on my 2nd accident anniversary! What a way to celebrate it. Seems to me that everything was “planned”.

During my warm-up, it started raining and the wind was so strong. I was wet and cold, and I wasn’t sure if my legs could move well. I was a little worried. Then it struck me. The harder the challenge, the better I strive. This is the typical “Have you met Zac?” moment.

It was the PERFECT way to celebrate my 2nd anniversary. Shitty conditions, missed meal times, slippery track, wet spikes… THIS IS SO PERFECT. How else will it be “defying all odds” right?

Got myself focused, raced and got myself a new Personal Best for the 1500m.

Thinking back, just 2 years ago, there I was lying in bed, unable to move my fingers, unable to pee or shit and was told I will not run again. Good thing that I am one stubborn person who doesn’t believe in what others think.

Was recently told that any accident-related recovery usually stops after 2 years and there will be almost no improvement after that.  and.. the same thought goes through my head: I don’t care about your “experiences”. Everything is possible for he who believes. So lets just move on, rock and roll, and prove the critics wrong (again).

I wonder what the 3rd year might bring. I am really looking forward to it.

Before the rain comes, everything looks perfect. 

my drills are seriously looking so much better than before! *proud moment*

My infamous pre-race stress face. Puffer Fish Face. 

This time, I managed to pin my own tag. Im getting better =)

At the 1500m starting line with some the young pups. Let not the age fool you. Sub 4:45 runners.

Thank you for being in my life. Thank you for being so brave to walk this journey with me. Thank you for being there just to witness me run another PB. I promise, more good things will come. The best is yet to be.

Nil Sine Labore

prepared and written by Zac Leow

Beijing Open 2015

Para athletes are classified into different categories to ensure that the individuals in the categories have the same functionality with others he/she is competing against. It is sorta like a “license” to race, in particular, international races. Although being in the same category, there are always those who are at the top of the category and those who are at the bottom. This meant that although para-athletes are in the same class, they vary in functionality, strength, speed and perform. Given that, a race within a class is as open as it is for an abled body individual. That being said, shifting from one class to the next class is somewhat equivalent to changing the weight class in a boxing match. Imagine a feather weight going up against a middle weight. Gosh. But that’s how it feels like when a T36 meets a T37 in the para-world. Previously I was classified by the Australian “local” body that I am a T37 and without hesitation, I went online to have a look at the timings of some races.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. 
400m WR 50.91.
100m 11.65 Commonwealth games 2014.
1500m 4:08.11 London paralympics.
“Well, maybe I’m just put in a wrong class. It’s really impossible to be running at that pace…”
So here I am in Beijing, not just to represent Singapore in the 400m and 800m, more importantly, to get my official classification from the International Paralympic Community. 
So now, after review and testing from the International Paralympic Community, my official class is indeed still T37. 
“Wow. Is that even possible. How in the world will I run at that pace? Are these timing real?”
Athletics team manager (Loh) and myself after the classification.
So race day came as I continue to ponder. Maybe because this is my first international duty, I was seriously nervous. I even went for a solo 45min walk, 3 hours prior to my race. As I walked, I couldn’t shake off the pressure and tension that was slowly building up. How am I gonna win this race? .. 
Then I remembered, all I have to do is to do my absolute best. If I’m gonna get dropped, kudos to the other runners. It’s time to simply race against the clock, just like how I have always been doing. Time to better my best. Immediately, I started visualize how the 800m merging would be done later. Mental practicing the situation over and over again. And I also prepared myself to be dropped by the field. It was a very sad feeling. To go for a race only to be dropped. Then again, I thought of how I first started out with my Tri mates. I remembered being whooped by a talented 15 year old girl during my 400m repeats and vaporized by the rest of the boys in the 800m run. I smiled. I knew I was ready to run. I had raced with the best before. This is no different. It is my pleasure to race along side such talents. 
My cool Asics Top Impact Line + CyberJapan spikes.
The winner of my T37 class came in at an astonishing 2:10 for 800m and 53s for 400m. And I found out later that he broke the the Asia record in the 1500m. Now, I do believe the WR, Its simply amazing. Talk about being thrown into the deep end of the pool and competing against the best. 
Although I lost both the 400m and 800m, I was pleased that I have my all. My absolute.. And it showed. I broke both my personal best in the 400m and 800m. My coach once said this to me “it is about taking one step forward every single training, every race.” And true enough, as long as I work on myself, focus on doing the right things, I will be able to take more steps towards my goal. Every single step counts. Tokyo 2020.
With this 400m timing, I have unofficially qualified for the ASEAN Para Games. Will have to work on my 1500m because 800m event is unavailable during this meet. Let’s hope something’s left over from my marathon days. :)
Beijing Open has been a real eye-opener for me. Gonna work harder and to stop limiting myself.
Nil Sine Labore.
nervously waiting for the 400m
visualising just moments before the start of the race.

Lets go to… Beijing Open!

Today marks another milestone in my life. 
Today, I am on my first international duty. I am on my way to represent Singapore in the Beijing Open. Although this is not a big athletic meet, I hope this marks the start of more international duties and more importantly, me getting better and faster.
My favorite event till today is no doubt the marathon. I’m sure all my team mates know this. The longer the distance, the better I am. The fact that I hate sprint distance courses is no surprise. Well, for now, I have traded my marathon flats for track spikes. I will be competing in the 400m and 800m during the Beijing Para Open! Surprise surprise!! Even I am surprised.. 

I remembered how unsettled I was the day before my 400m time trial in February. I was so nervous that I had to message my coach and confess about my nervousness. And his reply was so simple, so absolute: 

Well, you have done lots of 400m repeats in your life. This is no different. It’s just another 400m. 

With this reply, I got my head screwed back on and I actually did really alright for my first ever sprint! 
And just 3 weeks back, we met up in Perth and he asked if I was ready for the Beijing Open. Being sick and all, I wasn’t confident at all. He then offered yet another priceless encouragement:
Well. It’s just 1% of the marathon distance isn’t it?
Thanks Grant. What would I do without you!! <3 div="">
I think what makes me really proud of this event is the fact that just over a year ago, I was still learning how to run. I remember the day when I was down at Busselton with James An, watching the rest of the of my awesome UWA Tri mates smashing themselves out in the Busselton half. I was so envious of everyone. Swimming, cycling and running their hearts out. Smashing their body minute after minute, hour after hour. As I watch them cross the finishing line one after the other, I had nothing but respect for them. I admired their courage, I felt their passion and happiness but I couldn’t feel the “pain” they were feeling. And that’s something I missed so much. To run my hearts out. Deep down I asked myself if I will ever do something so amazing again. 
Ever since my injury, there has been people who have (unintentional) put me down. They told me I’m not good enough. They told me I was too being greedy for wanting to be normal again. They told me to be realistic and face the fact I wouldn’t be normal again. I am thankfully for their harsh words, for it made me stronger. Im glad I saw every physiotherapy session as a training. And honestly, I am really glad I wasnt too concern about what was said. I just did what my coach alway tells me: there is no point in training if it aint challenging you.
For those who have encouraged me, who had the faith and courage to believe in a paralyzed man that he will indeed one day stand, walk and run again, I thank you. 
To those who had shed your tears for and with me, I’m sorry to have put you through such pain. I thank you for your love. 
To my friends from around the world: Rocktape Australia (Tony), Evolved physiotherapy (Neil & Evana), Acupoint Singapore (Diana) and Asics japan (Tadashi san), thank you for believing and assisting a broken man like me. This friendship will last a life time. 
To my family and fiancee, I love you!
You guys have no idea how much all these meant to me. This run is gonna be for all of you. Every single one of you. For believing in the impossible. 
As I approach the starting line this weekend. I will hold my head up. Because not only do I represent my country and friends from Singapore, but also my beloved friends from down-under and from the rising sun.
I might not be fast enough (yet), I will most likely be one of the slowest in the race. But Rest assured that I will do what I always have been doing: to give my absolute best, to better my best.
Nil Sine Labore. 
Indeed, at my own pace, I will better my best and I will reach the top!
Thanks buddy for this. Love it!! =)
Super cool color isnt it? Love Asics Japan.

My Family in Perth: UWATRI

Just took the hardest walk to Uni.
I went to see the team one last time before leaving and I was overwhelmed with emotions on the way there.

When I first came to Perth, I knew that the transition wouldnt have been easy, especially for the fact that I didnt have any friends who were living in Perth then. I remember searching the internet for a running club that I could join so that I could join in, meet some mates and improve running. Well, probably the focus was really be on running. Eventually, I chose to join the UWATRI team.

I remembered the very first running session I had with Dracup, James An, Vanessa and Damian at Mt Bay. It was the Friday afternoon 5km Time Trial run. I remembered how everyone was blazing the run then and I just had to go in so hard just to keep up with Dracup until the turn around (that sly asswipe). I remembered the following session at McGillivary and that was the day I met Grant Landers, the best coach I have ever met in my life. I remembered how painful and torturous the workouts were and how I consistently was unable to finish the workout. Despite saying all these, Tuesday and Friday soon became my favourite days of the week and my week was generally built around this two days.

Getting my first ever group ride out. Unfortunately the first and last (hopefully I get back into this).

Muffins never tasted so good.

Little did I know, instead of finding myself a club/team, I found myself a family here in Perth. A family that made Perth “home” and unfortunately had to witness my accident; a family who constantly supported me through this period.

The hardest goodbyes are those that you dont want to make. For the past 2 days, I have been making those.

Getting as much rest before Grant arrives is part of our training. #truestory

The excited and worried feeling while waiting for the workout.

Intervals have never been as fun. Thanks to you guys.

As Josh calls us. “GLDT”

Thanks Grant.
Thanks Charles.
Thanks UWATri.

Love you guys so much. Take care, train well and ride safe.

Till we meet again. And hopefully by then, I will continue to recover and get in some decent workout with you guys then.

1st Anniversary

366 days ago on the 6 Nov 2013 my accident occurred.
A life changing event indeed.

Somehow, even till today, I dont really want to talk about how it happened. Because deep down, I still feel frustrated about the situation and it is something that I would have rather not happened to me, or anyone.

6 Nov is now another date that I choose to celebrate.
Its a day where I survived.
It was a matter of split seconds, ~ 2 mm that could have changed everything.

So on my special day, I celebrated it by going for a 21 km time trial. Well, its only a time trial because im giving it my all. It has nothing to do with speed, unfortunately.

As I running, thoughts came flooding through my mind.
364 days ago I was indirectly told I would never walk again.
I chose not to give up.
I chose to believe in miracles.
I chose to believe in my determination.
I chose to believe in God.

I could remember the moments when breathing was so painful because my lunges were collapsing.
I could remember the hyper sensitivity in my arms that made every light touch felt like knife slitting me, skinning me alive. Even till today, I still get these sensitivity at times.
I could remember how desperate I was to move my body but yet they didnt feel like they belonged to me.
I pray I will never experience this ever again.

I thought of how this has affected my family and I am really apologetic to put them through all these sufferings.
I remembered every one who visited me, people who sent me encouraging messages. Thank you.

I remembered my first run in January 2014. Although it was 5 simple steps, there were tears of joy.

I remembered the days were I would walk for an hour just to reach the lecture theaters and me taking a day just to type my assignments. There were even talks of UWA providing me a buggy so I could drive it on campus.

I thought of the days prior to the accident, days whereby running along Mat Bay was an easy task, some what of a relaxing jog. Today, every step is tough. The moment I relaxed, I would trip or my feet drags. I have to been on constant alert to ensure I do not fall and that I can keep going. Being able to run is such a privilege. I just didnt know it.

Then I remembered how 321 days ago on the 20 Nov 2013 I was told I will never complete a marathon again, let alone run it.
I smiled.
I grinned.
I remember how I told her: “You havent come across Zac. I am an outlyer”. and what was her reply? “You can try, it is good to have a goal. But be realistic”
In another month, I will take part in the Singapore Marathon and that would be my 2nd in 2014. Out of the sudden, I felt happy jogging at 7min/km. ha.

Over the weekend, I got my classification license for Para-athletics.
The assessors were particularly impressed with my movements despite the high spasms, increased tone and reduced range of motions. We did a couple of run throughs and sprints. Following that, the assessors encouraged me to participant in the coming state meets that could result in me representing Australia in the near future. Funny thing was, I was advised to do 100m sprints. Without a doubt, I rejected it.

I love endurance events.
I love the feeling of having to battle the inner demons while Im on the run.
I love to overcome all the negative thoughts that tell me to “stop” or to “go slower”.
I love the feeling of running till my lunges are gonna explode but yet I manage to find another gear to push on.
Even when I do not get on the podium, winning against myself is enough.

In this regard, obviously, I chose the longest event on the list: 1500m. And still, I think its a little too short for me. 100% certain that I do not have enough speed for the run but its gonna be fun building speed into my runs I reckon. Just hope my shoulders can hold up.

As my run continues, the inner demons came and I had to fight my way through that and of course the infamous head wind. It was a struggle. I lost count of the number of times I wanted to stop running and head home. #1 trouble of running in loops. What made things worse was that my drink bottle got smashed by a cyclist. No idea why and how he/she did it but im sure all cyclists avoid red drink bottles on grass patches. So I was without a water point for the remainder 10 km. Must have been a test to see I would have given up. Well, I stuck through and finished my 21km, 20 minutes faster than my half marathon on 31 May. So good job. Im satisfied for now.

There really isnt much reason for me to train now. But I still do it because I love it.
And im sure running helps me in some ways. and hey, who knows? Maybe a miracle might appear (again).

-side track-
there has been jokes about me do going to get any more miracles in this life time because I have conjured everything to survive and to run again. Its actually pretty funny but at the same time, makes me realised how miraculous it is for me to typing this entry now.
-side track over- 

More running to come, more marathons to complete and hopefully one day, I will get my confidence back and start riding on the road again then I can do the longest single day event on planet Earth.
Dying to hear that 5 sweet words “You are a Iron man“.

6 November. I choose to embrace and celebrate this date.
Because. I am still alive.
Lets see how things will go on our 2nd anniversary. <3 p="">Im excited.

Its all in the mind (brain) or maybe spinal chord

Since Shenton park rehabilitation center was closing down, I had one last round of consultations with all the doctors to make sure we tie down all loose ends. Had a chat with my botox consultant not too long ago and the conversations was really a “weird” one.
Doc: So how have you been? Is the botox working for you?

Me: Well. Generally they are.. Im able to open my hand now and it doesn’t hurt as much as before 
due to the spasm.

Doc: That’s great news! And so I heard you have completed a marathon recently. Its amazing!

Me: ermm.. yeah. Its just another long run I guess. It wasn’t fast. I had to stop along the way many times too.

Doc: Hey look mate. What do you expect? U really expect to get out of the accident and to be back to where you were before?

Me: yeah… that’s what I am aiming for…


Doc: no seriously. For you to get up and walk, it’s extreme hard work and its almost impossible. For you to run now and to be able to finish a marathon now, I think you should learn to be content. DONT BE GREEDY.
This is seriously weird. Throughout my whole life, I have been taught to aim for the stars, never to be content and to work my ass off. Now, I am told to be happy with whatever I have. Am I wrong to try to be back at where I was? Should I give up on that? Should I just take the easy way out and be happy with what I have? I am being greedy? These questions bombarded my head for a few days.
Following that, I had a chat with my doctor friend and he took told me this:
Bro, you know, you should really be content. I mean, even if you dont run as fast as before, you really should be happy. Let me remind you, you were like a couple of mm away for dying. And I literally meant dying. Die. Dead. Death. So to live is a blessing. 
So I came to this conclusion. I will give up.
Give up.
Give up chasing who I was.
But focus on better myself every single day.
Simply put, I was always unhappy with my run times because I was looking back at that 75s 400m. I was chasing that me when I did the sub 3 hour marathon. I was constantly frustrated with playing the guitar, as I could hardly open my left hand wide enough just to squeeze the fret board through, not mentioning it was impossible to get my fingers to make a chord. I was chasing me, when I was at my peak. I have decide to give up on that.
I have decided to be contented with what I have now. So, I start to acknowledge where I am at now. If it’s a 7 min km, it is 7 min. I will use that as a bench mark and improve from there. Whether I will ever reach sub 4 mins, however, remains to be determined. If I don’t try, I wont know. So, its time to get the work down and only time will tell.
Most interestingly, I took some time and changed my guitar (standard right handed) to a left handed guitar. I had to learn how to wrap my right hand around the fret board to form a C chord, then a G chord, then a Em, Am, F.. Just like the old days when I first hand my hands on a guitar. Teaching  my left hand to do some simple finger strumming and only last week, I held a pick for the first time with my left hand. It is a really weird feeling because my natural playing instincts are still there and everything is inverted now. Kinda reminded me of the time when I broke my right hand and had to learn to write with my left. All the throbbing pain in the head and the amount of focus just to do something “simple”. But I have taken my first step out. To stop living in my past.
Only after I had done all these, had I realised how badly I was haunted by my past. Although I seemed to be doing well, challenging myself and defy medical diagnosis, I hadn’t been happy for the longest time ever. Every single day was a constant need to prove to myself that I will be back to where I was. And when I plateau, I had to battle and slay the inner demons just for them to come back and haunt me a while later. It was a vicious cycle.
One of my happiest days post accident was the day I discovered I could “run”. I remembered the smile on my face, the way I hugged my physio, how it made me felt like I was a world champion.
One of the promise I made to myself was to continue running for the rest of my life, to enjoy it and not take this ability for granted.
Running is not about hating your opponent or trying to beat someone else or proving to your sponsors. 
I have gotten all these wrong in the past.
No one puts a gun to my head and tells me to do a sub 3 hour marathon. (ermmm well… they sorta did with their words but… *ahem*) I chose to do it. And subconsciously, it is because I love running.
I haven’t given up hope of doing another sub 3 hour marathon.
But now, I really need to focus on improving from my 7 min/km rather than bridging the gap to a 4min/km. Ironically, my coach has been telling me this for the longest time ever and I just didn’t seem to understand it. Now I do. Now I really do. Thanks for the wise words Grant.
Just this week, I changed physio and we had to go through this whole assessment and introduction.
Physio: So Zac. Do you have a support group?

Me: Yeah. Besides my family and girlfriend, I have my team.

Physio: Sorry. What team is this?

Me: My UWATRI team. I have a great coach, a bunch of excellent athletes to train with and they always keep me positive. Not forgetting to always drop me off even at warm up runs =)

Couldnt help but smile at the thought of the team.

Physio: Looks like you are well taken care of.

Me: you betcha.
After every single running session, my girlfriend would mention “someone seems happy today”. Damn right I am happy. So glad I have this team to be with. So glad I still run with the elite squad even thought I don’t have the ability to keep up at all. But seeing these people run each week, just makes me so happy. Never knew peer support was so damn important in recovery.
I know I often set big goals for myself. And I will continue to.
Very often what is deemed “impossible” just means no one has done it YET.
So, it just takes one person, the first person, to achieve it and it would be deemed “possible”.

The white dot is the permanent damage in my spinal chord. This is gonna be with me for the rest of my life. Not gonna let this white dot/”hole” stop me.

extreme low morale

currently feeling really low morale.

Haven’t been running for the past 2 weeks and was hoping for the physios to clear me to run today or maybe by next weekend and the answer is still no. This is so irritating, this is so demoralizing, and this is so depressing. Looks like whatever training I had done in the past 1 month plus is going back down the drain. Again.

So when you think enough bad news is here, it just ain’t. Discovered lots of new issues with the shoulder this morning and apparently it’s really bad. At this point of time, no one has any real idea how to treat my shoulder and everyone is just waiting for that injection to happen, pray that it works. if it doesn’t, then I will have to move on to see some specialized shoulder dude and doctors and blah blah blah.

I can handle tough workouts
I love the pain that comes with a good workout
I love challenging stuff
I just love it when I am pushed to my physical limits.

But this. Is a new limit.
Not-to-exercise-my-shoulder limit.
No running
No cycling
No swimming
No pushing through pain
Pain is bad.

What nonsense is this?!?!

Just not too long ago, I had this conversation with my friend.

Friend: bro, you’ve got to learn to take it slow.

Me: patience really ain’t my thing. That’s why I run a marathon fast.

-true story-

Hell yeah. Patience ain’t my thing. Especially when I can’t do anything. let’s just Sit down eat relax and get fat. be a useless bum that sits down and watch Korean shows? Thanks but no thanks. I rather be out pounding myself, smashing it, giving my body a hard time. I had enough for one lifetime for being unfit and obese.

So many people have been doing this YOLO (you only live once) stuff online. How about try being fit and healthy  and enjoy the beautiful world because YOLO?! Instead of going out partying till wasted YOLO? Or Korean drama YOLO?
Some people need to get their heads checked.

This mental battle.. is taking it’s toll. It’s not just a physical challenge, it’s a mental challenge as well.
How I wish, I could be pain free for a day. Just a day.
how I wish I could walk without limping, even if it is for just one day.
How I wish I could use my left hand to use the fork for just one meal.
Not easy at all. not easy.
All these wishes, I know certainly is not going to happen ever again in this life time.

I once thought I had great determination and my determination has no equal. Having to fight the inner demons and to keep pushing it through training and especially during the marathon at 31-35km. I have experienced real lows in life. Having my dreams shattered. Having lost a business. Losing everything you had. These got me through the marathon. Now, I am using the marathon to get me through my rehab and daily living. Having lost running And the ability to play musical instruments is a whole nice world of challenge. And this time, I have no escape route.

Never had a mental breakdown during my hospital/rehabilitation phase till recently. Never too late to have one they say. At least this shows I am human.

Just before I left hospital, one of the patients came to have a chat with me and he told me how he uses me as his strength and hope to be able to get back on his feet. He is now able to stand with some assistance. I was totally unaware of this “mentor” role but I am very happy for him and I must admit, I wasnt being the best motivator I could have been this morning. When he was told that I was an athlete, he said he would love to see me run a marathon soon. Looks like its true. When I run, I carry the hopes of others. But first.. I will need to be able to run again. and I have to learn to work on my emotions as well.

Maybe God just wants to put me in such a spot. To test me and to see if I can survive this. I don’t know. I don’t blame God. Although I don’t understand any thing. I am still extremely fortunate to be alive (although it was really freakish how this all happened. Stupid drain. I hate drains.) and I am definitely thankful to be able to be back on my feet. I still consistently think of my friends in the spinal ward and will continue to pray for everyone’s recovery.

Looks like.. the only thing for me to do now, is to treat this situation like it’s just another tough stretch in a marathon. Gotta keep my head down, concentrate on moving one leg after the other, keeping it consistent, not losing speed, endure and.. pray for the best.

Not by might, nor by power, but by the spirit.

Low morale or not, the race isn’t over yet. YOLO.

“Go hard or Go home” they say.
I say: Go hard till I go “home”.

Bad news has arrived

Had a real hard time getting myself to sit down to get this blog entry in. I just didn’t want myself to look back at this and get reminded of how negative I felt during this period but yet, I wanted something for me to look back years later. A real story of myself, going through part and parcel of life experiencing what life should be: filled with ups and downs. So, as negative as this may be, I have decided that this entry can wait no longer.

I had been having left shoulder issues since March and it has been getting from bad to worse. First, it stopped me from swimming. Then I couldn’t sleep at night due to the pain it gives. A while later, I was not able to put my body weight through my shoulders while riding. My shoulders hurt so much that I couldn’t even lift my elbow above my shoulder level and I just can’t seem to get my range of motion (not that I had much left after the accident) due to the pain, the stiffness of the deltoids and impingement. Funny how such a small muscle group actually stopped me from doing ALL 3 components of triathlon. Shit just continues to happen doesn’t it. An ultrasound was done on the shoulder a few back, checking for tendinitis (which was what the medical team thought was the issue), only to find out that my tendons are PERFECT. However, they did find my barsa damaged and I am currently still waiting for my injection at the end of this month. All in all, this shoulder pain took 5 months just to get treated, giving me 3 months of sleepless nights and taking me off swimming and running cycling. Shit.
So I went into the doctor’s room 2 weeks back and we had a little chat. He seemed so happy about how far I have progressed since the early paralysis days and was really amazed and proud that I actually completed a marathon within 7 months of my accident. I just couldn’t resist but ask:
Me: So, what is your take on my spasms and stuff? Likely to improve any time soon?
Doctor took his glasses off. There was silence for a couple of seconds as he looked me in the eyes.
Doctor: Let’s revisit your initial CT and MRI scans shall we?
He took out the pictures and we had a look at them again.
Doctor: Look, this your spinal cord. Look at these white patches, they represent the damaged portion of your spinal cord. Blah blah blah..
Whatever he said, didn’t really matter to me. I was just waiting for that one conclusive sentence which I would so love to hear. “Yes, you will get better” “yes you will be better” “hell yeah it will be alright”.

Doctor: *blah blah blah* .. So in conclusion, No.
My heart sank.
Doctor: It has been 8 months going 9 and the spasm hasn’t really improved has it? This is going to be with you for the rest of your life.
Time froze. My heart went cold and .. I just felt like crying. For life. He said it will be for life. And it wont improve. Man.. I just wonder… if I could have done anything differently to have avoided this accident. And the answer was no. shit happens. And it really did happen, for no apparent reason.
Doctor: Lets go for another round of scans just to be sure. I would love to be proven wrong but don’t get your hopes high. If the scans showed that it has improved but your spasms haven’t been then its not exactly meaningful either.
Ok. So in conclusion, whether I do the scans or not, I am stuck for life with this spasm that will restrict my movement as a normal human being and I will be highly unlikely to run normally again. Period.

As I felt the hospital, I felt lost. I thought to myself, this must have been what the other patients felt when they were told they would never walk/stand/move for the rest of their life. This… despair.. this cruel truth.. this sadness from deep within.. is something I have never felt before in my life. I tried to pick myself up, I tried to be cheerful, I tried to hit the gym, I tried to run a little.. But nothing works. I was in a slump. A deep dark dirty slump. I need to climb out of this shit hole as soon as possible before I become more of a negative ball of energy. But. I just couldn’t.

I went for training the next day, running as hard as I can. And That’s how I usually do it.
Go as hard as I can, till my lunges can no longer take it.
Go as hard as I can till my legs is filled with lactic and it goes numb.
Go as hard as I can, hoping all my troubles will be blown away, just like the wind on my face.
Go as hard as I can, to feel that I am alive.

I did feel better briefly after training but as soon as I started breaking down my splits, I heard this dark voice coming from within “You will never be the same again. Spasms FOR LIFE. Bad gait FOR LIFE”. And I crashed again. I just couldn’t stand the thought of fully abled body people who do not strive to better themselves, but “choose” to allow themselves to deteriorate slowly, rotting their lives away. Here I am, working my ass off every single day, just in hopes that I will get back near to where I once was. This is seriously screwed up.
Went to Evolved the next day, wanting to “spin” my legs a little, to work on my mechanics and to get rid of the lactic from the hard training the day before. Its not to my surprise that I did not follow through on that, instead going in as hard as I ever hard and smashing my body yet again. This time, it felt better. Way better. Seeing that magical 16km/h on the treadmill just feels so awesome. Yes, I was only running on 40% of my body weight (25kg) but still, at least my legs spun that fast to keep up with the treadmill. Gotta start somewhere and from what I feel, this is a good start.
Bumped into one of my spinal mates the following day and we had a little chat.
Friend: Everything good?
Me: not really. The doctors told me I will no longer improve.
Friend: hey look mate. You did a marathon.
Me: yeah. But.. I walked for majority of it. And I literally came in 3rd last.
Friend: Yeah, but none of the runners who completed ahead of you had a serious injury and I am pretty sure none of them had a spinal cord injury and that none of them was paralysed. And lets not forget the people who dropped out of the race mate. In my heart, you came in 1st. 1stspinal patient.

I have never thought about things this way. I never wanted to use my “disability” card because I want to aim for the sky and to be the best I ever can be. But what he said really made sense.

Friend: Zac, one day, I want to be where you are now. To complete a marathon even if it means for me to walk 10 hours just to complete it.
Here I am bitching and feeling sad for myself when I am the fortunate one. Whatever happened to “count my blessings”?
The conversation left me thinking. It got me sorted out and I am ready for my next challenge.
So just when things seemed to be better, my shoulder got worse and I can no longer run due to the pain during the arm swing. To be honest, swimming and cycling really aint my thing (yet) but running is. Being taken out of running is a big blow to me (AGAIN). Just makes me wonder how many times I will be stopped from running. When will this retarded cycle ever end?! Its like.. Here I am training hard and BAM! I have to stop running again. And there goes my plan of doing the Fremantle 10k run. How on Earth am I supposed to do a sub 50min 10km run without training for it. So now, it is official, my shoulder has officially taken me out of swimming, cycling and running. Shit happens.
Know what. I am not giving up yet. I shall not give up on myself.
I did a 6:30 marathon this June. I will cut it to sub 5 next year. Then sub 4 then I will work my way back to sub 3. I don’t really care what the hell diagnosis it was. I am gonna grab life and make every day count. I will treasure every single session I have in the gym, in the physio, on the road with my teammates and get myself back on track, even if it means I have a much lousier gait than before. I am no longer racing to break the Singapore national record. I am racing against myself. And should have been the way right from the start. Running is about doing my best, out-doing myself and conquering my inner demons. To tell these dark voices to SHUT UP when I feel smashed.
I might have been stopped from running for now.
It will not stop me from training hard.
I will continue to work hard and one day.
One fine day. I will be back running, feeling the freedom and smashing it.
Hard work pays off.
Nil Sine Labore.


prepared and written by Zac Leow