Purpose Ironman Langkawi 2019 Report

It doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger.

Dr. Steve Maraboli

And in a blink, we’ve come to the third chapter of what is now the annual Purpose Ironman Langkawi report. One part race report, another part business update, and a third more important part – what’s next.

Summary

It was just two years ago; November 2017, that I first hosted a small convocation of people for a Purpose Appreciation Dinner. Not many knew of Purpose then apart from those that have got to know of the brand through the cycling kits which came out earlier.

In 2017 the choice for Purpose tri suits was extremely limited. Understandably, because the brand had just launched. More tri suits were being developed at that time. Hence I took the chance to take two prototypes to be race-tested in the 70.3 race. I wore one and another tester wore the second, three-quarter length version, developed for the Muslim audience. These prototypes went on to be produced into the ELITE Racing series from January 2018 onwards.

The tri suit prototype that went on to be produced into the ELITE Racing series.

It is better to fail in originality, than to succeed in imitation

Herman Melville

Shocking as it was at the beginning, I’ve learnt to accept that there are now similar tri suits – cheaper and of lower quality materials, that copied ours in this space. Such is business after all. as much as ther are leaders, there are more followers.

Although there could be money spent in IP protecting the original designs, it is money not well spent if it’s just going to be pattern constructions that will be replaced within a year. Which usually is the case when it comes to any form of apparel wear.

In 2018, Purpose got more serious in tri suits. We are now producing technical kits using advanced fabrics; using a different construction with every new line introduced. I adopted the same attitude to innovation and kept adding new, sometimes micro-adjustments over the previous versions.

These micro-adjustments are apparent among those who have worn our kits previously. For those who haven’t, having had no chance to compare, the kits are just the best and most comfortable they have ever worn.

Purpose hosted the first Purpose Breakfast Run at Ironman Langkawi 2018. A tremendous success given our small and growing status. That year the number of Purpose wearers had multiplied from less than 10 in 2017 to nearly a hundred in 2018, maybe even more. This was 2018, a year ago and a year’s growth.

1st Annual Purpose Breakfast Run, Langkawi

The moments when I looked around and saw athletes in Purpose running down the finishing chute, at all times of the day and night was extremely heart-warming. That feeling didn’t change this year. I now see more of you in Purpose in the race. Thank you.

Now in October 2019, with two months left of the year, I’m just starting to appreciate the things that have happened in just 2 quick years. So many things done and big strides achieved. Things which to me felt like it took a few lifetimes.

This is not a complaint of course, but rather, a self-realisation. That with the many things done in only 2 years, the tasks for 2020 are only going to get bigger, harder and tougher.

Nevertheless, if these are done right, will make the accomplishments sweeter.

The Event

Just like last year had a few firsts, this year had many other firsts too. Some misses as well. But we take the good with the not-so-good. Because such is how things are.

This year was the first time we had a booth at the expo. This didn’t happen the last two years because I felt that we – Purpose, the products and myself, weren’t ready. I know what having a presence meant and unless Purpose can put up a good display, there was no point in having one.

An impressive Purpose display it indeed was!

I sincerely believe we created an impact at the expo. I also sincerely hope that those who came to visit the booth learnt a lot about our products and design philosophy. The learnings I take from this first expo outing will be the template used for future events which have been lined up for 2020.

Another first is in the Purpose team.

Last year, even up until December I was running the business alone, apart from the occasional help some times. This year, we are a team of 6. All present. So to see every team member, coming together on the ground, everyone picking up every task – and having fun while doing so, was extremely gratifying for me.

It meant I had picked the right team, assigned each and every one the things they love to do, and they understood what needed to be accomplished. From brand to products, to sales.

There were some setbacks of course. But these are attributed more to external factors, such as items not arriving on time. (On that note, these items hadn’t even arrived even after the event!).

As good things are, there is always room for improvement. Most notable is the venue and timing of the Breakfast Run. Perhaps we may have overestimated the brand love we think people may have of Purpose. Ultimately the timing of the event conflicted with the swim test sessions so that may have impacted attendance.

The location was also different this year. Again that could have affected attendance as well. Knowing these now, we will make it a point to make location and timing of next year’s Breakfast Run next and adjacent to the swim test site.

This is not to take away that the 2nd Annual Purpose Breakfast Run was a success – because it still is. More than 70 people turned up. The entire event was organised, hosted and ran by the Purpose team. The run led by our ambassadors, and the food, awesome. This last note is merely hindsight on what are the things we can improve and do better.

2nd Purpose Breakfast Run, Langkawi 2019

The Race

This section is probably the shortest section of the entire report. I came, I raced I finished. Hah. I had set a target to improve by 30 minutes but that didn’t happen. So on to the next race, it is. Train harder.

Bike leg

Coming into the race, I knew I had improved on some parts. But I wasn’t entirely sure by how much. In January, I resolved that Langkawi will be the only race of the year for me.

Three jobs, one goal

Back then I was working two jobs – PayPal and Purpose. Including training, I would count those as three jobs. So I knew it would be hard for me to commit to the training volume of having to race every few months.

So, three jobs was a commitment I was struggling to keep up with.

In July I left PayPal. My contract had ended so I was able to at least commit more time to train. Yet, it was just as tough too. Being full-time on Purpose also meant that growth accelerated. Hard work brings reward so it meant lots of travel to new markets – Indonesia, Vietnam and India. Great for the brand but less so for training.

So this affected my race. Whilst swim and run was great. My bike suffered. I could not sustain enough power through the last third of the leg.

The more you do, the more you learn

My glycogen stores depleted plus I didn’t take enough sodium to refuel the lost salt as a result from excessive sweating. I find myself just spinning down most of the time from the 60 to 90 km mark to keep the muscles from cramping up. I knew if I don’t my legs will be like chopsticks during the run.

At T2, there was a moment as I got off the bike that I saw the amount of salt that had crusted up around my thighs.

In the five years, I’ve taken part in triathlons plus the many years in long-distance running prior, I’ve never had so much crusted salt on my body. I literally can scrape these off my thighs.

Funnily, I wasn’t thinking about the lost salt then. Instead, I thought “wow, that’s a lot of salt!”.

So, yeah. This inability to learn to take on more sodium, I attribute simply to the lack of long saddle time in the sun. Not having learnt what the threshold are and when and what dosage to increase is what caused my muscles to cramp up at the late stage of the bike leg. Not enough time equals not able to tweak my nutrition and electrolyte strategy. This much I now know.

Anyway, did I already say that swim and run was great? Yes, they were.

Closing 2019

Overall 2019, is turning out to be another great year for myself and Purpose. When I launched Purpose 2 years ago, I had set a goal that we will be present in Southeast Asia within 3 years.

In May this year, Purpose seeded into Vietnam. Soon, in two weeks we are officially launching into Indonesia. I have also somewhat started the ball rolling for India much sooner than planned.

I would like to see how to tackle the Philippines next. Please reach out to me with ideas if you know of ways that we can do this.

Right now, Purpose is at the second stage of testing the Purpose Running prototypes – running tops, and tights. From where we are at the development stage, it is very likely we will be launching the running series around December. So far, the running products are looking and feeling great. I believe the running community will love them as well.

Also in December 2019, you will see Purpose take centre stage at the elite levels through our sponsorships of Triathlon Singapore and Malaysia Triathlon national athletes at the SEA Games.

Vietnam will be wearing Purpose too, no doubt a positive response from the seeding that we have done thus far. Keep a lookout for the kits this December as you’re watching the Games. I know I will.

Starting 2020

At the turn of 2020, I will be announcing a couple of big plays that will take us globally. This includes a partnership and collaboration with bigger races in mind for the brand, working with world-class athletes and hopefully, opening up to even bigger stages.

Things are still early for this right now, so I will share more as things begin to take place.

Conclusion

Far above and beyond my role as a founder, I am a designer.

As a designer, it is my desire to create great products that people love. Whilst it would have been easier to take from a list of ready-made products from a manufacturer and slap on the Purpose logo, that somehow goes against my own personal purpose.

Creating things is what I love to do and it is fantastic that I get to do this through Purpose. Only next to this, comes the business desire to build a brand synonymous with Singapore and Southeast Asia.

Thank you and keep supporting Purpose!

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