Saturday, October 5, 2013

Enrico Varella The Ironman Magician



Enrico AVIVA SINGAPORE 70.3 Pic By Richard Leong



I first met Enrico in 2007 when I raced my second half Ironman and the inagural Singapore 70.3. Since those early days we have caught up at many races. He is without doubt , driven and yet anchored to the core of the enjoyment in participating and enjoying all things Triathlon and Ironman but not at the expense of his many other interest. A person of many talents including being a magician , he has since this interview qualified for the Boston Marathon next year and heads to Kona for the Ironman World championships , a deserved recipient of the Ironman legacy programe.

  1. Full name: Enrico Varella
  2. Age Group: 45-49
  3. Profession: Management Consultant
  4. Years in profession: Brief outline of what you do

I conduct training workshops and consulting sessions for executives and supervisors.
My focus is on    developing leadership at the workplace.

  1. Brief backgound: Where you grew up and were you into sports when you were younger?
I was born and raised in Singapore. I was a middle-distance runner 
(1,500m &   3,000m Steeplechase)in my secondary school, and took up bodybuilding
 when I was 16. I competed on the national level in 1990-1993 and won one
 runnner-up and three third placings.

  1. How many years have you been participating in Triathlons?
I started in 2004, beginning with a 10k, 21k and then a marathon.

  1. When did you realize you’d been bitten by the triathlon bug?
When I completed my first biathlon (swim and run), did not dehydrate, and suffered heat exhaustion. I cam back much prepared at the next race, and completed my first Olympic Distance triathlon.
  1. Triathlon experience: As long or as brief as you like
Started in 2004, and it continues today. I do at least two international marathons a year, and two Ironman triathlons annually. I, once, completed 5 Ironmans within 17 months. I did one 84km ultra-marathon and three ultra-marathons (52.5km each) – these format is not my preference. I have done the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in 2008 and 2009, and I will do the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon World Championships in October. I do several 10km and 21km runs each year, between my Ironman races.
  1. Walk us through your active lifestyle.  What is an average day when you are training for an ironman?

With one or two rest days integrated per week into my Ironman training schedule, I make time to train before or after work. I either do one long, single discipline or two shorter sessions (with two disciplines). For instance, I may have a masters swim session on Monday, followed by a 60-90 minute indoor-ride session (befor work), and a fast 10km run in the evening. On Saturdays, I either have an open-water swim followed with a fast 5km time trial. On Sundays, I do my long rides of 3-6 hours duration. I do each discipline at least thrice a week.
  1. When taking on such an event, how do you maintain your balance of work, life and family?
I manage this aspect well, as my Iron-mate is my important pivot point in my life. She accompanies me, and ensures my success in these adventures. We are both small business owners, so are either on the road or at meetings. Our lifestyle revolves around our projects or our vacation. Most of my races are part of our vacation.
  1. How does an active physical lifestyle tie in to your work ?( if at all)
I am fitter to face my work day. I stand on my feet most of the time as a classroom trainer, or teambuilding facilitator so my energy feeds me for long sessions. Plus, I have the advantage of having time to train when I am not teaching or facilitating a group conversation.
  1. Is there any synergy between triathlon (and being a triathlete) and running a business. If so please explain?
As you would know, John, I often draw the parallels between doing endurance, multi-sports, events and leadership. And, this leadership can be ‘rolled over’ (to use a Kona term) to business and one’s profession. The personal values of endurance sport that are synergistic to one’s vocation and recreation are: tenacity, determination, respect, patience, performance, excellence, optimism and perseverence. Given time, and we continue to learn and develop, we can build any business or career.
  1. What are your plans in respect to training for Kona.
Already, I began my training in earnest. (16-20 week plan) My latest discipline is waking up as early as 5.00am to do my indoor-rides, outdoor-rides, and long runs. I have also begun training twice a day, especially on a full working day. My focus will be to be stronger in my open-water swim, and be quicker and tougher on the ride. For my swim, I am swimming regularly focused on efficient technique, core strength and a comfortable race-pace. My rides will include more spin efficiency, riding with strong riders, and taking on more hilly conditions.This will allow me a better shot at a sub-4 hour marathon (one of my dreams). I have been speaking to Kona finishers and gleaning their wisdom. This include my coach Craig Holland (2005), and my tri-buddy Clifford Lee (2010, Legacy Lottery winner).
  1. What next after Kona and will you still do Ironman races or take up a new challenge?
I have IMNZ 2013 and IM Melbourne 2013, three weeks of each other. That will be my biggest challenge so far, to assess if my body can withstand the assault and onslaught within  a shorter time-frame. I believe I will still do Ironman triathlons for a few more years, opting new locations for vacation.
  1. Tell us about the one or a few inspirational moments of your Triathlon career. Are there any standout moments  or memories or accomplishments you are most proud of?
Earning a PB/BQ in the Hong Kong Marathon, finishing the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in 2008/2009, and winning the Kona Legacy Lottery. Racing funds for IMNZ charity (since 2010), Cystic Fibrosis For Kids really motivates me, and I am inspired by both adults and children with this condition. Getting additional donation this year, up to two weeks after completion was a pleasant surprise, as we exceeded our initial target.
  1. What do you enjoy the most about our sport?
The friendships, extended friendships, the sense of family, sense of shared achievement, and sense of adventure. There is mutual respect for participating and finishing.
  1. What is your favourite race and why?
Based on my pattern of finishers, IMNZ is one of them because I love the relatively untouched nature of the country. Based on toughness, it has to be Ironman Lanzarote’s hilly but picturesque bike-course.
  1. Who or what in Triathlon inspires you?
Many things inspire me: mainly the participants and their stories. The segment on the Everyday Person in the Ironman DVDs brings my emotiions out. I still choke back when I watch Blazeman, The Hoyts, and the physcially-challenged athletes (including my firend and world champion, Dr Hannes).  
  1. Do you have a favourite workout and if you do what is it?
Riding indoors has been, strangely, my preferred challenge. I have done 3.5 hours, and I aim to do 6-7 hours (before Kona) like my friend Dr Kua Harn Wei, a deca-Ironman finisher/former-world champion has done (regularly).
  1. What’s one unique thing we might see if we peeked inside your training bag?
I have no training-bag. I travel light when I train. I suppose it has to be power-gels, my Garmin 310XT/910XT watch, and my shades. I take a minimalist approach to training, and my shower at home.
  1. What’s your favorite pre-race or mid-race fuel?
My Coach, Craig Holland had me convert to Hammer Nutrition’s Perpeteum. I have found it causes no GI-distress for me. Pre-race, I like to consume a packet of gel.
  1. Do you have any rituals or good luck routines you do before a race?
I don’t shave before the race, and am scruffy-looking. It is a Samson thing.
  1. What’s your favorite triathlon discipline to compete at?
I suppose it is the run leg, however I don’t enjoy running very much. I enjoy the racing though.
  1. What’s something people might be surprised to find out about you?
As Mike Riley announced at the finishing-chute at IMNZ 2013, that I speak 
six languages.
I am also a semi-professional magician.
  1. When you are not training or competing, people can find you: 
Volunteering at charity events, practising magic, performing magic, writing, 
and watching films.
  1. What’s the one race you haven’t done yet that you like to do someday.  (and why)
On my bucket list are Norseman Extreme Triathlon, Challenge Wanaka, 
and perhaps,an X-Terra  race.