15 April 2014

Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya 2014

I would probably have never done this if I didn't buy my mountain bike in 2012, and didn't text my friends to let them know I bought one. It was that rainy night back in August 2012 when I was invited for a 34km ride in Putrajaya, that got me hooked to the idea of cycling long distances. While I didn't start running immediately, I started casually in December that same year, but only started pushing my limits in July 2013. I started my intensive and goal-oriented fitness journey with Rebel Bootcamp, and almost immediately started Crossfit and running. That gave me the idea of doing dualthons, but deep inside, I was itching for more.

I wanted to be a triathlete, I wanted to be an Ironman.

Rebel Bootcamp, giving me a plug on something I said about them.

So when Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya was announced, making the decision was almost too easy. It seemed too easy in fact, that I had to ask around to see if I should or shouldn't sign up. My friends pushed me for it but it is worthy to note that none of them actually signed up for it.

Fast forward five and a half months of countless sessions of sweat, tears, and the occasional bit of blood, here I was queuing up for my race pack, as well as dropping my bike off at transition.

Athlete #1048

Race Day
My friends were kind enough to pick me up and send me home for the day, so all was good knowing that I had a bit of metime in the car. Spent that precious hour just having some off-topic conversations just to get my mind off the race.

I had a whole laundry list of things, as I believe in being over-, rather than being under-prepared; and my friends being my friends, they were kind enough to carry it for me while I walked about with my hands flapping in the wind. Awesome friends.

Ken Seong and Soo Guan, whom I've known and hung out with since my SAM days in 2005, and trained with since 2012; and Lydia whom I was colleagues with back in 2012.

Saw this lady with a Garmin shirt that says "If you see me collapse, hit 'pause' on my Garmin", and me showing Ken Seong's Garmin my ultimate biceps.

Swim leg
As I predicted, I was standing by the lake amongst my m24-29 group when I gave myself that "why did I even do this to myself?" thought. 2 waves to start...1 wave to start...and I'm in the water for a deep water start. Klaxon sounds, and we're off. Ken Seong's constant reminder of 'keep calm, be consistent with your breathing' kept ringing in my head. Rhythm was all good, speed was decent with me catching up with a few of the slower ones from 1 or even 2 waves before me. Really great motivation.

The only issue I met here was a slightly overtightened goggle strap that gave me a headache about 2/3s of the way in. That made me long to get out of the water quickly.

I also kicked someone in the face wherever, sorry mate.

I got out of the water when the clock was at 0:53:21.

Coming out of the water into T1 (transition 1), I did not experience the nausea that I did when I did PGiTD, my very first triathlon 3 weeks back. Perhaps it was the freshwater that kept me fresh, but I came out from the water running with no issue at all.

"YEE HOU! GO YEE HOU!" came from that black-blue-white combo on my right. I flashed them a quick wave and my widest smile, and ran on ahead to my bike.

Sunnies on first, helmet on, number belt on, gel flask in pocket, dry feet, socks on, SPIbelt on, bike off rack...and hey I have some peanuts from MAS I think I'll have that too, before finally getting on my way I my bare-socked feet. By now, I've done enough multisports events that I was a pro at doing flying mounts.

As I started running out of transition, another competitor cuts me off from the left to reach his bike on the right ala-Malaysian taxi driver, making me drop my bike while trying to avoid him. That, unfortunately knocked my cadence sensor out of position and I didn't have access to cadence data for the entire ride. I hope he fell down on his bike, seriously that was really inconsiderate.

Bike leg
After a good swim leg and transition, I half expected to have a good bike leg which was my strongest discipline amongst the three, but unfortunately I didn't feel comfortable on the bike. Power delivery and rhythm was off and my shoulder muscles felt sore, making staying in aero a difficult affair. Perhaps it was the long swim leg that kicked me in; and to top that off, I felt a bit of bowel discomfort, which I failed to take care of in the morning pre-race.

The route was changed, and I did not manage to try it before the change. However, I would say I prefer it over the earlier route which was a lot more monotonous. Also, the climbs seemed less brutal. Speaking of climbs, I was outclimbing everyone, while they caught up on the downhills and flats. Odd, considering that I was in a tri/aero combo which favours flatline speed at the cost of climbing power. Perhaps it happened because I was going at constant power, monitored via heartrate; while the majority of them went easy on the climbs and spiked on the flats and downhills.

The course went along fine, with a small portion of it taking place in a motorcycle lane. Whoever who rides in Malaysia should know how badly maintained our bike lanes are. I hated that part of the ride and felt it was unnecessarily dangerous. Signages were bad, with a 'no overtaking' sign where it should say 'slow, tight corner ahead' or something. With much luck and a small dose of excellent bike handling skillz, I avoided an already-down competitor and a bunch of medics wheeling in a stretcher, guess they could look into better signages next year and perhaps someone to stand ahead to alert oncoming participants? I also lost a bottle, having just dropped another bottle earlier due to my careless bottle return procedure, at the bumpiest parts of the motorcycle lane.

KM 42, my bowels were screaming for attention and I found an aid station...with toilets! I screamed for tissue and one of the girls threw me a packet, what a sweet lovely girl, I hope you marry well. Unfortunately, that stop came to nothing, but it did give me time to rest in the toilet and discover my forgotten Julia, the Sausage McMuffin (no egg because it would have been messy) I had earlier bought, tucked under my shirt. Seriously tastiest McD breakfast ever. Unfortunately I dropped the last bit of Julia, my muffin, when I went over a speed bump close to the end of lap 1. Poor Julia, I miss her.

I didn't see them at the end of Lap 1 because they were out having breakfast and doing nice things for me.

Lap 2 of the bike leg was largely the same, except that it was slightly slower and I had a lot more conversations with people on the bike so nothing much to report here. I was glad I was running my tyres at 110psi (my Kenda Kriteriums are rated to 125psi), as I noticed quite a number of people suffered from punctures, with one happening right in front of me at the start of Lap 2. Fortunately and unfortunately, Boneshaker's rear tyre also blew out when I was out during the run leg. That will set me back RM15.

Finished the bike leg with a 3:35:59

Flying dismount into T2, done by removing my feet from my shoes, and pedaling the last 2-300metres while stepping on my shoes. Closer to the dismount line, I stand on the left pedal and hop over with my right foot, braking and hopping off right before the dismount line and running into T2.


T2, see how chilled and happy I looked! This wasn't even a race!

T2 was way easier compared to T1, as whatever I was using earlier like my sunnies, gel flask and number belt were retained, and I decided on the fly to change into a fresh pair of socks as my earlier pair of socks were already wet from the numerous impromptu showers I gave myself.

Doing my flying dismount, I got off the bike and ran into T2, dropping my bike off back at it's rightful place. Helmet off, mat on the ground and I take my time changing my shoes and socks. Unfortunately, I forgot to flip my socks and unlace my shoes before that, and wasted about a minute doing both. Locklaces the next time around.

Felt good having black-blue-white combo standing there entertaining me while I was pulling my shoes on. Was running towards run-out when I realised I needed a pee and turned back. T2-run wasn't properly marked and it was only several hundred metres on when I realised that I've passed the timing marker before lapping the borrowed 910xt.

Run leg

T2 out, fresh off the bike and feeling great. No brick issues largely thanks to the tri-bike position.

First 4km was great, legs were feeling good and I was keeping a constant 6:15/km pace. Up till the end of lap 1 of my run, I was completely reliant on energy gels for energy, and had completely forgotten about the tube of Hammer Perpetuem, being my first time carrying them.

With that, I was losing steam, doing a run/walk combination, running in the sun while walking in the shade; gaining a bit of precious energy about a quarter way through Lap 2, as Perpetuem is a slow absorb, slow release energy source.

Also encountered many people suffering from cramps, with one guy's being particularly excruciating, so much so that I felt like a medic dispensing Hammer Electrolyte. Feels good helping people man.

Close to an aide station, I saw two guys who appeared to play hide-and-seek with each other around the manicured shrubbery of Putrajaya, chasing each other around. As I run closer, turns out it was Ken Seong and Soo Guan, with Soo Guan hiding behind a bush because the signs were not properly hung up yet.

A lack of experience and proper planning led to me missing my target during the run leg, managing a rather poor 3:13:27, almost as bad as my first untrained half-marathon effort back in March 2013. However, I was happy that I did not cramp once, taking in 2 capsules of Hammer Electrolytes every hour.

Lap 2 was taken a bit easy, with a longer run/walk combo (running further, and walking further as well) together with a guy I met on the run. Had some good conversations with him too!

Faizol and myself entering the finishing chute together. 

At first he said "After you." No way mate, that's impossible. We cross this together. Thanks for being with me for the last lap. Sadly I couldn't find him for an after photo.

So I finished the race in 7:51:19, missing my realistic target of a 7:30:00 largely due to a poor run leg. While I would have been slightly happier if I met the target, I'm not one bit harsh on myself as this was a key learning point.

No no my eyes were puffy because of the wind from the serious speed I was carrying through the run.

Me pulling this off would be highly unlikely without the support of these friends, out on the long cold nights where they will take turns accompanying me as I fly by non-stop, or giving me that extra push when I feel like saying "this is stupid, why did I even do this?", out on the course where I felt that another 10k was too long to run, having Soo Guan and Ken Seong run beside me for that few moments, and having Lydia yell "don't stop now!", or just seeing them at the transition were wonderful and uplifting moments and worked as well as NOS.

They went all out and did really nice things for me!

A big round of thank-yous
Naturally, for a journey as big as this could never be undertaken alone, a big round of thanks goes out to everyone who has been supportive of me.

To start off with the black-blue-white for being there with me on that day, pushing me and giving me that mental boost, I would have been a lot slower without you there.

Ken Seong, for his Garmin 910xt which I've been using for the past 4 months; Soo Guan for the pouches, carbon cages and generously offered many other things.

Lydia, for constantly reminding me that the event is near and I should train more often; and contradictorily would make me miss my training sometimes.

Karen with your awesome run clinics, where even the smallest tips make the biggest difference on a long run like this.

The guys who helped me swim a lot better, Boon Wei and Kin Mun, for without you I would have not finished the swim leg.

Daniel for lending me your tri-bars and Celine for your bike trainer. Intensive training 3 weeks prior to start for aero position, awesome.

Another round to Celine for the Perpetuem and Electrolyte. I owe you a very big one for that.

The Vélo vite gang for taking turns accompanying me on the long lonely nights out.

The people who have donated generously to my race, aunty Sabrina and Shirley, 6 kau kung and kam po, 4 yee and Lance, all of you helped me acquire things that, without them, this race would have been a lot more painful or downright impossible. As promised, your knives would stay sharp for a long time to come.

And lastly, Faizol, who we kept each other company when morale (at least on my side) was low, and offered to let me go first. I will see you at many more races, I will work hard to kick your ass, but I will gladly have mine kicked.

To anyone whom I may have unintentionally omitted, I fault my memory and seek your forgiveness.

If you would pardon my French, this was a fucking wonderful experience.