Thursday, April 28, 2016

SO MUCH happening that has brought back the SEW MUCH

Three years ago, I wrote a few blogs titled "My Greatest Project Since Graduation" talking about my humble journey of setting up a social enterprise. Since then, a few years have passed. I have gone through some fun pilot runs, lots of learning and personal reflection. Early last year, I finally came to a moment of realization when I said to myself, "I have given my all and this social enterprise is going no where. I am at peace and it is time to let go."
And it was not meant to be. I was standing in the office pantry having my sip of morning tea. I was having a casual chat with a colleague, a young passionate designer, who not only bought into my social enterprise dream, but also contributed his design talent and his dream to become an entrepreneur. A few months passed and ideas became products ready to be launched.

The world has become a very different place by now. A few years ago, I had no budget for design services, product development and marketing. This time, I had expertise for free, e-commerce and online marketing tools have become cheap and extremely user-friendly. This chain of events and tools have brought back the whole project. But it is on longer a project now. It is a real business within the social innovation space.

I look forward to seeing everything going live in the next few weeks.

#sew much talent #so much support #so much passion #so much hope # Vu Descent

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 - Chasing your dreams, living your dreams and wonderful discoveries

I have had the luck of meeting with many inspirational people and in 2015, and my luck arrived on the first day of the year.

I only met Jag briefly for less than 72 hours. I have read about the 4 Trails on Facebook, and heard from a friend who was supporting one of the runners. I decided to check it out for fun. It turned out that the person I was intended to support was not quite in the mood for support, so I ended up spending almost two days getting to know a new friend. Jag is a humble gentle guy who lives a modest life with his wife in Bangkok. Working at a hospital, he can only afford training at the staircases of the hospital building. The work environment and hard life have not worn his dreams out, and he would not only talk about dreams, but actually go after them. Every day.

Most people cannot even imagine what a 200 miler is. But during the 2 days I spent hiking with him, I had not seen any moment of hesitation or doubt in his eyes. Yes, he was tired and cold, but all I could see was his faith in his dreams and the body's absolute surrender to that faith.

Finishing my first 100k
Two years ago when I DNF at Gilwell, I was trying to comfort myself that I had finished almost 2/3 of the race. But now I totally agree why people say this race really starts at 50k. For a long time, I have had this dream what I would be back to finish it, and I had prepared for it. I was glad that the plan went well. However, there was a 10-15% margin for improvement, and so I would like to be back again to do that.

Sharing love on Valentine's Day
On V-day, I showed up on Lantau at the start line. The race has all the gimmicks of romance: pinkish macaroons, cakes and balloons, except that I wasn't there for a romantic reason. It was great fun sponsoring a team of girls to run a fun 14k race. It's a great way to share love on this day.

Gratitude to my work
I never complained about my business role, although part of me always felt that it would have been nice to combine reality with a social purpose. This year has been great bonus since I have been transferred to a role which is 90% social purpose and 10% business.

Meeting inspirational people
Since last year, I have discovered a pet project of helping one person or a small group of people with their causes. During the past year, it has been a great privilege to help Christian Zheng Sheng Association. I have learnt so much through my two new friends Macy and Edwin, and I am glad that our team work was fantastic, the race helped them tremendously with their personal development, as well as helping the school with some fundraising.

The start of many challenges to come
Of all the races in 2015, the most memorable has to be CCC. The whole week of experience, sharing a chalet and making new friends, finding HK friends and going hiking together and going through the race itself. I can only say it was the start of my many summer vacations in Chamonix to come...

New goals
Doing something different: reusable batteries for headlights and no more plastic bottles for running
Form good habits/routine: form good sleeping habits and wake up early, yoga, reading
New ventures: the online shop
New race targets: HK100, Translantau, CCC, TNF (hopefully 3 of the 4)

A wonderful gift
I am so grateful to have found a wonderful friend, a wonderful training buddie, a wonderful foodie and wine buff!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Reflections - Unexpected Discoveries

Summarizing 2014 in one sentence - the greatest rewards in life came in the most unexpected ways.

Discovery 1 - Jordan

Meeting Vladmi. Anybody who has met Vladmi cannot not be touched by his energy. He is visually impaired but has a marathon record of 2 hours 50 mins and has completed several 250 km desert races. Beyond his achievements in running, he is simply a positive, loving, charismatic and inspirational person. I hope to see you at 2015 Gobi again!

Meeting Chris and Headmaster Chan from Zheng Sheng Christian College at the Sahara Jordan race was a humbling experience. Through them, I have learnt more about this school, which is the only rehabilitation school in Hong Kong. Since then, it has been the most inspirational and rewarding experience visiting their school, getting to know each of the students, mentoring and running with them, listening to the stories of their lives, understanding their personal challenges, understanding the challenges that the school faces.

Discovery 2 - A New Career Direction

I work in a good company with lots of dedicated and kind people. But not only that, our top management often has innovative and surprising plans for people development, including myself. I got another surprise gift towards the end of 2014. From a business role to a full-time charity role, this is something which I never thought would happen, but turns out to be the most exciting career opportunity I have had in years.

Discovery 3 - Inspirations through Illness

Mom had an epileptic seizure in June. At 70 years old with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, she had completely lost her mobility and ability to communicate. This had a big impact on the routine of everyone in the family. We have also spent a good few months learning about the Hong Kong elderly and disabled health care and social welfare system, physiotherapy, linguistics therapy and patient care. It was a lot of hard work but I am glad to have matured through all these, and become more supporting and caring for my parents.

Mom's changing health condition somehow led me to think a lot deeper about the gap for elderly care in Hong Kong. The local population is aging rapidly but the current system is no where near meeting even a minute fraction of the needs. I would like to do something to help enhance the quality of elderly care in Hong Kong in some way. I don't exactly have the whole plan yet, but hopefully the plan will materialize in 2015.

Discovery 4 - Inspirations through a rocky relationship

I always believe in putting in the effort to make a relationship work. However, I must admit that I still haven't got a clue and still haven't established any successful track record of making a long term relationship work. That said, my will is not dampened. I have learnt something new about myself, how I was or was not able to cope in a relationship with a complicated setting. I have a deeper understanding of the reality of modern relationships and the need for respecting boundaries. Apparently God had a plan for me and the learning and insight was quickly channeled into another relationship just around the corner...


In the past few weeks I have found my passion back with things that I have put down for a while, including cooking, yoga and photography. I am glad that I have starting getting back to some of the routine even before the start of next year, so I don't have to deal with the pressure of not keeping to new year's resolutions. Next year, I want to try more new and fun things. A lot of ideas have come to mind, such as running the CCC, STY second attempt, doing Gobi March again for charity etc.. I am also interested in training for things I am not good at i.e. swimming.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Experiencing the joy of running through not running

Pheidippides is said to have been the person who ran from Marathon to Athens in under 36 hours. In September of 490 B.C., he brought news that the Persians had been defeated. Athens was saved and so was civilization. "Joy to you, we've won" he said, and there and then he died, breathing his last breath with the words "Joy to you".

This summer has been a very special summer. I had been on the trails a lot less compared with the past two years. I have been put on a different but much harder training programme called "LIFE".

Module 1 - Endurance
It was supposed to be an ordinary Sunday family dinner. Just about the time when we were all seated around the dinner table, Mom had an epileptic seizure and for the next 2 months, everyone in our family including myself were in and out of the hospital everyday taking care of her.With a combination of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, she could not tell us about her condition or any discomfort, nor could she walk or stand. It was a tough challenge learning to feed, do rehab exercises with her, and most importantly, to read and understand her signals. Glad we all met the challenge, physically and mentally.The major takeaway from this training is - never stop moving for as long as I can because muscles and strength go away really fast when you don't use your body.
Module 2 - Weight training
My pack at Gobi or Jordan was about 8kg ish. It was heavy for a staged race but the emotional baggage of taking care of mom, disappointment with work and relationship added together felt like I was carrying 20kg all the time. During several training sessions when I was carrying nothing on the trails, I actually felt so heavy that I just gave up. At least for a short while. Lucky friends all helped to kick my butt and kept me moving.

Module 3 - Visualization
At the hospital, there was another patient, an old lady who was in the same ward. After a while, I got to know her children who came to visit and took care of her every day.  Both her son and myself would be dressed in running shirts and trail shoes during weekends, and it took me no time to figure out that we probably come from the same planet speaking the same language - i.e. trail running. There were days when  we would be doing all the patient caring chores on one hand, and on the other, day dreaming and talking about being races and experience on the trails. I guessed that helped to keep our motivation going.

Module 4 - Natural weight loss programme
Stress can totally upset mind body balance. Some people would gain weight when under stress, mine was the other way round. I loss a lot of weight, 5 kilos in less than 3 months. Tried other weight loss programmes that didn't work? Try this one. Very high success rate.

Joy to me

Despite the frustration, I am still enjoying every training session whenever I can make time. I have been training and coaching with several young students at the Zheng Sheng Christian College (a rehab school for juvenile delinquents) and will be doing a 57k race with them on the Maclehose. Since this year, I have been their fresh source of moral support, so will have to work my butt off and hike with them to the finish line. F or DNF to me doesn't matter personally, but running has changed their lives and finishing means a lifetime sense of achievement.

If I can do 57k on Maclehose, the natural extension of course would be the Oxfam Trailwalker. Topping up the distance, and putting in a great mental and emotional challenge called team work. I am sure it's going to be biggest nightmare struggling, fighting and arguing with my best friends on the trail for 20+ hours and I so look forward to it.

Past two years I haven't had much desire for speed. But recently I have finally found sufficient reasons and I now want a little speed too. I want to be just a bit faster so that I can make that cut-off coming down the Tenshi mountains at STY and I want to be just a bit faster so that I don't have to be out there for more than 24 hours in the Long March in any of RTP's desert events. I also want to be faster so that I can attempt the CCC and Lavaredo.

I have trained much less this summer, but I felt I have built up a lot of grit and endurance, and have become more mature as a person. I don't know how this is going to shape my attitude as a runner, will see what happens after the running season starts in two weeks' time.

"Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body."
Seneca, Roman dramatist, philosopher, & politician (5 BC - 65 AD)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

What if I don't have a career objective?

Recently, I have been updating my CV. The format of my CV has been pretty much the same for the past 15 years and so I have been toying with the idea of slightly changing the format, while updating the content at the same time. Some people have an introductory section where they set out their career objective. I decided that this is an interesting self reflection exercise anyway and worth giving it a try. First step was to go online for some quick tutorials.


A career objective is a statement of your career direction or a specific career goal that you would like to achieve. It should link your goals to the key attributes sought by an employer or those necessary to perform well in an occupation or industry sector. They should be personal, and should articulate the nature of work you want to do, or the industries you are interested at, set out what you have to offer...

The past 20 years was a journey through law, business, developing country issues and charity. It is hard for me to say that I am interested in a particular sector or a particular industry. What life has taught me so far is the complimentary of all of these aspects. Perhaps what I am looking for is not just a  job, but a life that combines all of these, a life that serves my purpose.

Ideally, I hope to do something special and meaningful. Working with international organizations and NGOs on capacity building 10 years ago was almost like a wish granted. I also want to be different, special, to be remembered for making a little difference to society, to make my humble and short existence meaningful.

But perhaps landing on a job has never been a straight forward equation for me. I have stumbled onto most jobs through making friends. On many occasions, it was really that the jobs have found me rather than I have found them. Especially for the past three jobs, the circumstances which they appeared were most miraculous. Maybe this is my path. The right opportunity would come at the right moment, as long as I am prepared for the opportunity. I look forward to seeing what the next opportunity is.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What DNFs mean to me

The things I remember most about the Sahara Jordan 2014 were (in descending order of importance):-
1. The pain, the injuries and the management of them
2. The beautiful spectrum of colours in the deserts
3. The massive beautiful rock canyons and formations
4. The so many inspirational conversations I had with participants and the love

From observing myself and others on the trail, seems people including myself drop out of a race for a variety of reasons including just bad days, illness, injuries or perhaps reasons we don't even understand. I was reading from and found quite a good comment,

"in ultrarunning the DNF is a much more typical part of the sport than in shorter distances. Doing any one thing (save sleeping) for six-plus hours is generally quite difficult and unusual. When that thing is something as strenuous as running as fast as you can for that time, it only makes sense that so many of the more strenuous ultras have finishing rates in the 50-80% range."

Given the long hours of ultras, seems only naturally to have different learning every time and things never go as planned. The only thing you can do is to adapt and accept.

For Sahara Jordan, I went into the race with the usual mindset that however it played out, I would be happy. And my wish was granted. I didn't get a medal. But I had done 220k and had 7 really happy days.

I would remember Stage 5 for a long long time. I had never struggled with injuries so badly in my life. It never occurred to me in the morning that I should consider withdrawing. After limping down steep loose rocks for an hour, I realized I would not be able to go back up again. But the canyon seemed never ending and every step I was in excruciating pain. Six hours later I came out of the canyon and managed to push for another 6 hours miraculously.  

What was happening in my mind at the 220k mark still seems to me to be quite puzzling. It was 10 pm, Stage 5. I was unusually calm and decided to throw in the towel. I was not exactly sure what questions were going on in my head - was it love? Was it self-preservation? Was I doing more damage than good if I continue on? Should I continue to push ahead?

But very soon, the very calm self in me took over. I felt very contented to stop. It was good enough...

Some people choose to push through virtually anything and finish every race they start, no matter how ugly it gets, while others tend to drop more often than not when things start to go really bad. Maybe there is no such thing as one choice wiser than the other. They simply are different perspectives and different thought processes.

I never seem to understand why on certain days I could keep going consciously or sometimes unconsciously. Other days it just makes sense to stop. I guess this unpredictability is also one of the most fascinating things I like about ultras. Without the mystery and confusion it would all be quite boring.

 "We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire...Give us the tools and we will finish the job."
Sir Winston Churchill, BBC radio broadcast, Feb 9, 1941

 Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in, forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day, you shall begin it well and serenely...
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Fellowship of Monkeys and Cows and the Twin Transmission Towers

Yesterday, Dan suggested doing Mac 6 to 8 and I totally supported the idea. Unfortunately, he wasn't feeling well in the morning, so it was just Lucille and myself hiking. I thought I should do some more training before leaving for Jordan, so loaded my pack with two tubs of rice and drinks.

While people were busy faffing around during Chinese New Year, the monkeys were peaceful and relaxed. They just sat on the side of the road, not paying any attention to us and not expecting food. It was a peaceful and quiet morning, great for having deep conversations.

The Shadow of the Past and the Houses of Healing

Should a mom work on self-healing first before having her own children? I didn't have much ideas other than listening to Lucille sharing other people's ideas as I was hiking. But now that I come to think about it, maybe this doesn't have to happen in chronological sequence. Maybe it's not about clearing all issues before having children. None of us are perfect. We are just humans and it is perfectly acceptable that we will have issues from the past or present that set the scene for us to grow, learn and mature. It is unrealistic if we think we can clear all issues before moving into parenthood. Having said that, I think it's a good idea to make an effort to reflect on what issues we have, why they are there, what are we passing to our children, or what ultimately do we want to give to our children. Some parents think that having children give them a sense of purpose, and some confuse their sense of purpose with that of their children's by consciously or unconsciously projecting their hopes and aspirations to their children in the name of "best interests". If I can ever become a parent, I think ultimately it is love that matters most, and I want to become a better person so that I can give my best to my children.

The Twin (Transmission) Towers

Carrying a heavy pack for 5 hours on Mac 6-8 was a new challenge. As we were admiring and negotiating among the strange rock formations at the top of Tai Mo Shan, the heavy pack made me feel shorter and smaller than usual. I felt like a hobbit in the shire.

The transmission towers seemed especially daunting when we saw them from Needle Hill.With a heavy pack, it was  impossible to run any faster to get there. As we were puffing up the highest peak in Hong Kong, I decided that focusing or looking at them was not helpful. I kept my head down and continued with our interesting conversations.

Galadriel, Lady of Lorien

It was touching listening to Lucille talking about how she wanted to do things that could be a source of motivation and inspiration to her family. Reminds me of Galadriel. Circumstances in life has put her in a position which she has to live with dignity and a strong will. Deep inside, there is a noble and generous spirit, the gift of insight into the minds of others, but she judges them with mercy and understanding. 

With my mom's condition, both my mom and dad can't do much or can't go far now. But that doesn't stop my dad from looking at me as his source of joy, inspiration and pride. I never really described to my dad how I felt at the Gobi March. I just told him that I walked and finished the race. Seeing me coming back almost untouched, he had assumed the RacingThePlanet races are safe, doable and fun. Guess that's still his  perception when I told him I would be doing Sahara/Jordan. He said he knew where the Petra was and remembered the set in Indiana Jones. Good. I know he wouldn't be worried about my safety and injuries. 

Taming of Smeagol

To Lucille and Dan, I have always been Smeagol, trying to lure them into signing up for desert races. Today, Lucille saw me dragging a 4-5 kg pack up and down S6-8 and she had second thoughts about doing these races. We ran out of water for the last 10k and were roasted after the hike. Smeagol had failed utterly and was tamed for now.