Athlete Feature – Moses Phua

Triathlete running in an Ironman
March 25, 2024

Brad Seng



One of things I enjoy most about coaching is gleaning insights into each athlete’s story – how they got involved in our sport and their “why”.  All of us have taken a unique path to where we are in triathlon.  Whether it is the weekly Saturday group ride, local sprint race or age group world championship, there are thousands of individual stories within these events.  I continue to be inspired by the athletes I coach and I am grateful for them allowing me to be part of their journey. This month I would like to feature Moses Philip Phua.  He is one of my international D3 athletes living in Singapore and we have been working together since the fall of 2022.  From a career as an elite badminton player to overcoming a drug addiction, his journey into triathlon is quite remarkable.  He recently kicked off his race season with a breakthrough performance at Challenge Malaysia.  Please enjoy learning more about Moses.

1. Tell us about your athletic background in badminton as an elite player and now as a coach.

I represented the Singapore National Badminton Team from 2002-2005. I won a bronze medal for the team in the 2003 Vietnam SEA (South East Asia) Games. My training regimen was quite intensive at six days a week with two sessions a day.

Now I am enjoying coaching students from beginners all the way to junior competitive players who play for their respective universities.

2. Your journey into triathlon while overcoming some personal challenges is inspiring.  Please share with us how you first got involved in the sport.

I first got involved in triathlon when I was going through treatment for issues related to drug addiction. Due to the issues with addiction, I experienced mental health symptoms such as anxiety and depression. As I was on medication, I felt weak and sleepy throughout the day, thus after some discussion with my doctor, he advised that I could start doing some exercises like hiking and running even while on medication.  After watching some videos about people training for triathlons I felt that I wanted to sign up for a race and start training.  At that point in time, my overall fitness was very bad and in the pool I could only do some breaststroke and no freestyle.  So, I signed up for a sprint event and at the start of my training I focused a lot on the swim learning how to swim freestyle.  I joined a training squad where they have group rides and group runs.  Getting tips from a professional and following a proper race training plan is essential and will make things a lot easier.

3. You had a breakthrough performance at Challenge Malaysia going sub 5:45.  Describe how you felt during the race and the overall experience compared to prior races.

Swim: The sea conditions were very different from when we did the trial swim the day before with much calmer water. On the race day at the start of the swim portion, the waves were rather choppy and the tide was strong, thus I started off slow and steady trying to find some space to get into the rhythm. I also used the chanting technique taught by Coach Brad to help calm myself down and focus on counting the swim trokes. After the first 300m I was able to set into my rhythm and I focused on drafting on to the faster swimmers ahead of me. I am very happy to be able to complete the 1.9km swim in 42 minutes despite the rain and choppy waters. Prior to this in July of 2023 I DNFd in a race as I panicked in the rough water conditions and had to be fished out by the safety boat as waters were too choppy.

Bike: In the bike portion, I felt my pacing improved from prior races. Previously I would start the bike portion too fast and get tired out very quickly. This time around I managed to start in the lower ranges of my target watts for the first 45km and pushed the watts in the second 45km. My nutrition plan recommended by Coach Brad was also perfectly executed - 2 gels along with 2 x 750ml bottles with two scoops of tailwind and a salt stick pill every 30 minutes. That made a difference as I felt I had enough energy throughout the bike and was also feeling fresh for the run off the bike.

Run: In previous races after transiting onto the run, at the start I would always have bad cramps in my legs. This time around I think with the brick training and proper hydration plan, the legs recovered from the transition cramps quickly and I was able to focus on pacing the run at 5:45/k.

4. You recently commented on the benefits you have seen from keeping your long and easy runs z1-2.  How have you seen improvement by being disciplined with these runs?  

I feel that the z1-2 runs over time gradually improved my speed over months of training while my heart rate is maintained in the lower range.  I think it’s important to be disciplined and keep to z1-2 and just don’t get distracted when others are training at a much faster pace and be patient.  I feel now my endurance in running has improved and I can run much longer distances without getting overly tired.

5. Being more comfortable, physically & mentally in the open water is something you have been working on this past year.  What have you done to help with this and what advice do you have for other athletes who may be having similar experiences in the open water?

First, after discussing with Coach Brad, I increased my swim sessions to three times a week.  One of the sessions makes me get used to swimming and getting familiar with pacing and the drills helped me to improve my stroke.  I also joined open water group swim training once a month.  Another thing that helped me was the counting strokes in the water combined with a chant that helps me to stay calm.  I also learned from Coach Brad that at any point when I feel panicky, I can just stop for a while to regulate my breathing then continue swimming again. I also focused on drafting the person in front of me and sight more frequently.

6. You live in the hot & humid climate of Singapore.  Describe what that is like for daily training and any specific challenges related to the weather, traffic, etc.?  Do you have training partners or training groups and how much of your cycling is done indoors?

In Singapore it can get very hot and humid so I would start the ride earlier in the morning when it is not so hot.  I will only start cycling in the heat about two months before a race starts so I can acclimatise to the heat.  During the November to March period is the rainy season so I have an indoor trainer to use if it rains outside.  The cycling terrain here is generally quite flat and cycling one time around Singapore can clock you 140km.  There are a lot of traffic lights when riding the route around the island.  There are two places in Singapore I can cycle safely - Seletar Airspace and Tanah Merah Coastal.  They have 30-40km flat loops with a cycling lane where I can cycle with less traffic and traffic lights.  There is a hill called Mount Faber where people do their hill climbs.  I train with a triathlon group called Elevate where we do group swims, runs and rides together.  I do two sessions on my indoor trainer each week as it helps me save time and I feel it is safer for me during the weekdays where traffic is heavy.

7. What is one of your favorite workouts?

My favourite workout is the Z1-2 long run as I usually do it by the beach where I get to see the sunrise and a nice cup of ice latte and strawberry donut after.

Coach Brad Seng enjoys working with athletes of all abilities who set a variety of personal goals. He understands difficult training days. Challenging days and subpar workouts are inevitably part of the triathlon landscape, as are the times when you’re feeling great and everything clicks. He believes there are lessons to be learned from experiencing both. Sometimes having to fight for a workout is just what’s needed to achieve an important breakthrough in mental conditioning.  

Coach Brad is a USA Triathlon Certified Level II, USA Triathlon Certified Youth & Junior, Training Peaks Level 2 Certified Coach and NESTA Certified Sports Nutritionist (National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association).

schedule a call