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The Purpose Ironman Malaysia, Langkawi Report

So finally I have the chance to sit down and write something up about Ironman Malaysia, Langkawi that took place last weekend. Be prepared that this isn’t so much a race report but instead, more of an update on Purpose.

Last year, I wrote Post Race Reflections on Purpose, and Ironman 70.3 Langkawi. Followed by Committed, 2018 a couple of weeks later. Think of this article as the follow-up.

So what transpired in a year? A lot, actually. In many ways, the size of the events of 2017 and 2018 were representative of how much Purpose has grown since.

Last year we hosted 40 people at a small dinner gathering. This year the attendees more than tripled. Last year, there was a small handful of Purpose-wearers in the 70.3 and full Ironman categories. This year I’m glad that I lost count of the number of people with the word Purpose displayed proudly across their thighs.

In a year, the Purpose event became from just a dinner of owners and supporters, into an event for a community of triathletes and athletes. This to me is a good sign of our growth. While many have yet to convert to Purpose (it’s a matter of time, I hope), many do know and believe in the brand. This only means that we’ve been doing things right in the past year; with our products, our stories, and our athletes performing proudly in the races many can see Purpose in.

I decided last year that Langkawi will be Purpose’s base – where we will host a key event every year as long as the Ironman is held there. With the contrasting size between last year’s and this year’s event being representative of Purpose’s growth, I’m truly and sincerely aware that this would not happen if not for the support of the triathlon community. I’m also aware that if not for the backing from several seed investors, Purpose would have sputtered and our growth would not have been on such a trajectory where the brand is now.

The faith put on the brand and the products by you the community, and on me by the investors are not things that I take lightly. I’m happy to see that in the one year since; we have come from nowhere, we are now going somewhere. From barely anyone knowing the name to having a stage at the 70.3 and Ironman World Championships with the fastest age-grouper and new course records being set with Purpose as the brand.

I am indeed thankful to you; the community, the investors, sponsored Purpose athletes, and everyone who has spread the good word about Purpose. Let’s keep the union in this passion.

The Preparation

The weeks before Langkawi were the most hectic I have ever experienced. I had to make sure the Made for Muslimah products were going to be ready. (Barely). Current stocks were running low and these had to be reproduced which impacted the production line for the Muslimahs. The factory in China closed for a week due to a national holiday. Custom orders needed to be completed. There were 70.3 and Kona World Championship coverage that had to be done. (The news delightful as you may know now).

I was also in the process of moving house, which meant packing things and planning for the relocation. At the same time, the renovation of the new house was on-going and I had to monitor the progress as well as moving about sourcing for items I am particular about.

Two weeks before Langkawi, I moved in into an incompletely renovated house. Had to since my lease to the previous unit had run out.

As Langkawi got closer, I had to add in the planning for the Purpose event – the invites, resources, things, people and finalizing all that was needed.

All these while training for the 70.3 – most times 2 sessions a day, sometimes three. Did I also tell you that all these were done while I was working a full-time job?

There have been many times that I questioned if I had stretched myself too much. But these lessons, are lessons one learn only when one goes through it. During, not before. If you’re always thinking of all the things that might happen and not do, then you’re procrastinating. If you’re always yet not learn anything, you’re not doing it properly.

As the race came nearer, it became itself as the marker where everything that was happening and all that has happened, came together. Everything connected there; at Ironman Malaysia, Langkawi. One year on, one year’s effort.

Oh, how far we’ve come.

The Event

I don’t think I can fully convey the warmth in my heart when I reviewed, many times over, photos from the Purpose run event. Admittedly the actual turn up for the run was less than those who had RSVP’ed. However, more turned up for breakfast, so the numbers balanced itself out eventually.

As I was there speaking in person to individuals or in small groups, I could not visualise the size of the attendees until I saw them in photographs. I’m extremely happy the run went well and I do indeed hope to that everyone had an enjoyable time.

So, when I compared this event to last year’s, I became truly grateful for how much Purpose has grown. This success has driven me to continue planning towards a path of growth going into next year. What will this community be like next year? How big will it be? What can we do to serve this?

At the finishing chute on race night, while seeing athletes run to cross the finishing line, I set myself a target for Purpose to achieve one year from now.

The Race

Last year’s Langkawi was my second 70.3. However, it was the first one that I managed to complete. I had botched my first attempt at 70.3 Cebu due to a very hard swim leg and got cut off at the bike leg. The two following ones after Langkawi were around the same timing. So three 70.3 with three similar timing. They were not something I am proud of. Good to finish but not good when I analyze all the things and data. I can do better.

What I want to achieve for Purpose, should be as much as I what want to achieve for myself.

Three months ago, I decided to get a coach which paid off when I managed to improve my finishing time by 40 mins. Still, I do think I can get better. I only had 3 months of structured training with a coach; on top of all the other things that took a lot of my time, especially in the weeks gearing up to the race.

Apologies if this section is somewhat shorter than the others. It is because to me, the race is one component of a bigger picture. It started weeks before, ramped up the moment I landed and only ended weeks after. If it ends at all.

Any lessons that I picked up during this time (which I do get lots of), I put into the next cycle. So the actual race is like a spoke in a wheel. The wheel continues to roll on.

Along the bike and the run route, I passed people in Purpose and people in Purpose passed me. The thing about the run, because of the u-turn we get to see each other in Purpose. Many times we smiled and high-fived each other. I don’t know most of them. I know we’re united in purpose.

This was the highlight of the race for me.

The Wrap

The race never ends. There are the follow-throughs, the calls and the post-race updates – the real work that many don’t see.

One good note though, next weekend I am finally able to take some time off for a vacation with my two daughters. The last time I had this time with them was 4 years ago, with just myself 3 years ago.

The past 2 years since Purpose was hatched has been on overdrive. In fact, as I’m writing this update, my body is fighting a viral infection that has been plaguing me since coming back from Langkawi.

As the Langkawi marker passed, so too did many milestones. Some were clearly set goals – especially those related to Purpose, others are personal lists that get checked off. The launch of Made for Muslimah series, the Purpose Langkawi Event, getting the brand noticed positively at Ironman Malaysia, making new retail partner contacts, ending old ones (sadly), meeting own personal race targets, and so on.

On the flight home, I even completed Shoe Dog, a memoir by Nike founder Phil Knight. From start to three-quarter in, many of his early experiences in the business mirror what I’m experiencing now. Did you know that for many years, the business started off selling Onitsuka Tiger shoes? Phil was also working full-time as an accountant for several years while he rallied to get the business off the ground. Nike started because he felt that he was going to lose the Onitsuka business and he needed a backup plan to keep selling shoes.

I’m going to enjoy being away for a while yet at the same time I won’t be totally gone. There are still things to do – sales to make, products to design, strategy to map, teams to build and further investments to raise to sustain the growth planned for 2019.

In a way, this is also a chance for me to stress-test the small core set of team members I have installed in place to take away much of the operations of Purpose. If this works, then it will allow me to focus on steering the business forward faster, stronger. Because next year we have Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines (and maybe Thailand) to get to.

There’s only so much that dreams can do. Ultimately actions must happen. While it may be off-season to many, it’s still very much high season for me.

And as I end this note, the question I ask myself is; what update will I have about Langkawi come this time next year?

More of the same insanity. Only bigger.

It’s insane to work two jobs and have full-time training. You’re an inspiration.

When I had set out to launch Purpose, being an inspiration was the last on my mind. Instead what occupied it was the desire to create cycling jerseys that were great to wear, yet does not cost a bomb on the pocket. “These are cycling jerseys, why would I pay 300 dollars to wear something I’d sweat in” I remember often saying.

Did I take on too much? Did I have too lofty of a goal? What’s there to lose, right?

Actually. Quite a lot. For most of the time since Purpose started, I had pumped my own money into Purpose. Developing the original kits. These got copied. And I had to spend months spend after that looking for better, more reputable manufacturer.

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Committed. 2018

2018 is going to be a big season. Not just for myself but also for Purpose.

Beyond just taking part in races for personal goals (I’ve signed up for 3 major ones so far), these are also the platforms for Purpose–regionally, and beyond. To me, events like these are the best times to know and get closest to actual users. Better than startup conferences or trend reports ever will be.

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