True blue Penang “kia” Bernard Hor completed his first triathlon event before the pandemic started. The 38-year old father of two boys, who runs a technology company, is grateful that his wife went out of her way to understand and support his passion for triathlon.
As Bernard puts it “I realised that it is extremely important to not make this as “my journey” but something that we journey on together as a family”.
ToughASIA: What inspired you to take up triathlon?
Bernard: I volunteered to help a friend out in the IRONMAN Malaysia race in Langkawi a couple of years ago. I guess standing there ‘welcoming’ every single athlete back at the finishing line somewhat got me thinking, “What would it feel like dashing through this finishing line? What does it take for these guys to even sign up for a race that starts at 7am and ends just slightly past midnight?”.
What really caught my attention was how the athletes were greeted by family and friends at the end of the race. It did not matter which positions they came in – all that mattered was they finished the race, and finished strong.
I guess all these observations and questions inspired me and I told myself, “In the next IRONMAN race, I am going to be dashing through that finishing line”.
ToughASIA: When and how did you start dabbling in triathlon?
Bernard: Having participated in most of the major running races in the country, I began asking myself “What’s next?”.
I would not call myself a marathoner, but just a casual runner. So, it was about seeking the next breakthrough. Lim Yong, (yes, Lim Yong is really the main culprit) messaged me one day and suggested I should register for the Port Dickson Triathlon race.
I signed up without thinking much – only to realise thereafter that I did not even have a road bike yet then, and I had never once swam in the open water. But yea, the rest is history.
ToughASIA: What is your proudest moment in triathlon?
Bernard: It definitely has to be having my family at the finishing line as I finish the race.
PD Tri in 2020 was really my very first triathlon race. Truth be told, I only got my first road bike 24 days before the race, and I wore sports shoes to cycle during the race! I guess, having my family at the ‘finishing’ of every transition was really awesome.
Open water swimming was not my ‘comfort zone’ to begin with. I remember intentionally starting at the very back of the group (last man into the water). 500 metres into the lap, I started to have a panic attack; I happened to swim too close to another swimmer who was doing a breaststroke, and I got kicked pretty hard in the face!
That totally switched me out of the panic mode and I started focusing on avoiding swimmers nearby. I just kept going and before I knew it, I was already at the end of the swim leg and clocked a swim time of 34 minutes! I think the ‘bangga-ness’ (pride) really did set in and gave me that boost for the bike leg.
ToughASIA: What keeps you motivated to train now, even when there are no races?
Bernard: I have to admit it is tough to define ‘training’ after more than a year going by without a single race in sight. The idea of ‘training for the coming race’ is fading away.
These days, heading out for a run or bike ride – and swim sometimes – has become a means of maintaining fitness and staying sane in the new normal.
Over the last one year, I found a new motivation that kept me going in training – my business. We set out to achieve a 10 times growth in the business this year which requires a lot of commitment, focus and consistency.
Hence, I committed myself to a 10km run 3 times a week that becomes a ‘training’ in helping me to stay focused and rejuvenates me every time to keep going amidst these tough times. It has since become a key motivation in setting myself up for small daily wins.
ToughASIA: What is the most memorable race you have competed in?
Bernard: The most memorable race is the Kuala Lumpur Standard Chartered Marathon (KLSCM) in 2019 where I did a full distance race with Lim Yong who was then preparing for his first full distance IRONMAN triathlon race.
Firstly, it happened to be my first full marathon distance, after a year of monthly half-marathons. It also happened to be the year when the haze hit us badly and there were very limited training hours. So, I was at a 50-50 mentality of giving up on the race (actually, I was quite damn sure of not running).
One day, Lim Yong called and said “let’s go full distance at KLSCM”.
Even on race day morning at 2am, as I arrived at Dataran Merdeka, I was still trying to convince myself it was a bad idea to be running a Full Marathon. But I guess the crowd’s energy and adrenaline got into me – the moment I saw the crowd and the excitement, it became “Let’s do this”.
Yong piled on the pressure by telling me that very morning that he was preparing for his first full IRONMAN distance race in a month’s time and he definitely needed to complete that 42km run. Many crazy “giving up” moments, cramps and sorts – but it was good to know we actually finished the race.
ToughASIA: How do you manage between races and family?
Bernard: Get them involved too!
ToughASIA: We got to know that your children participate in triathlon too. Were they inspired by you?
Bernard: Our eldest boy, Zachary (7 years) started joining the RC Coaching Youth training since last year and did his first duathlon in Putrajaya. Recently, Thaddeus (5 years) caught the bug and has also since started joining us for bike-run drills.
I would not say for sure if they are inspired by me, but it is definitely a blessing and a privilege to be able to do it together with the boys. I am taking this opportunity while they are at it to guide and show them that there is not a limit for the things they can achieve in life. I hope this will be something they will continue to enjoy and excel in as they grow up.
We have a goal to cross an IRONMAN finishing line together in the year 2039 – when they will be 25 and 23 while I will be 57 by then!
ToughASIA: What keeps you going into 2021 and beyond as a triathlete? Are you looking forward to any race in particular?
Bernard: On a personal note, I hope to be able to continue to challenge my own limits and to achieve more personal breakthrough.
Before the pandemic, my goal was to complete a full distance IRONMAN race on my 40th birthday. It still is!