It's been about a year since I first attempted the sprint event in the Miri International Triathlon in October last year. It was a short race of an approximate 750m swim, 20km bike, and 5km run. I wasn't really seriously keen on doing a triathlon then, but I did it mainly for a friend.
I meant to attempt an Olympic Distance (OD) triathlon earlier this year, but I somehow couldn't find the right time to do it. I had quite a packed sports calendar this yearduring the first half of this year, I have done a 100km ultra trail marathon, a half marathon in Brunei, a full marathon in Singapore, and a full marathon in KL. I was tempted to join some friends at the Port Dickson Triathlon, at least just to finish the distance, but in the end I decided against it because, firstly, I hardly ever joined an event merely just to "finish the race"; and secondly, I had to start training for another 100km ultra trail marathon (TMBT) of which I was aiming for a faster finish this year.
Although I haven't done an OD triathlon, I told some friends that I reckoned that to finish an OD shouldn't be harder than, say, running a full marathon. But I was ridiculed by my friends; and I was duly reminded that I haven't even conquered the OD yet! A friend, Teo, regularly reminded me that I wasn't even entitled to call myself a triathlete yet, as a sprint event is not quite up to the mark. In fact, he instructed me to remove my profile photo on facebook, because according to him, people (especially women) might just mistake me for a triathlete! That photo seemed to annoy him immensely somehow. By the way, that photo wasn't a fakeit was really taken during the sprint event in Miri last year, and I made no claim that I have done an OD triathlon before.
Anyway, sooner or later it was time to walk the talk; I had to prove that I could do an OD. And the closest event after TMBT was the Miri International Triathlon. Unfortunately, this year somehow the organiser decided to modify the distance a little longer than an OD2km swim, 60km bike, and 15km run. But I have made up my mind to attempt a triathlon this year, so I registered for Miri.
I wasn't really worried about the bike and run, but I was rather concerned about the swim. You see, I'm not a good swimmer. 2km seemed to me like an extremely long distance in the water. I was training for TMBT, but I was able to throw in 2 swimming sessions per week as recovery between my runs. Each session was about 500m average. I had never swam anywhere near 2km in the open water.
The night before the race last Sunday, I had trouble sleeping. I kept waking up thinking about all the things that could go wrong while swimming; hell, even drowning!
Well, I woke up early and ate some egg sandwich which I packed the night before. Then I got into my triathlon outfit and went down to the transition area and secured a nice spot for my bike. Soon, the rest of my friends appeared one by one. After setting up our bikes and other stuff, we made our way to the beach where the swim was to start. There, we took some photos to pass the time.
From left: Paul, me, Ahmadul, Teo
Paul was all pumped up for the race. But Teo opted not to do the individual event because of an injury. Instead he decided to do a mixed relayJanna would swim, Doug would cycle, and Teo would run. Ahmadul, of course is not new to this sport; he has been doing it for many, many years.
There were a few of us from Sabah. And the main attraction were of course Amelia and her daughter, Janna, in the foreground for obvious reason.
I was lucky that it was low tide that morning, and we could wade a little further into the sea, resulting in a shorter swim distance. I had estimated that I'd finish swimming 2km in about an hour, but I came out of the water after 2 loops in about 32mins. The moment I was out of the water, I felt a big relief. My biggest phobia was over, and I could focus fully on the bike and run.
The first thing I did when I arrived at my bike was to eat an energy gel and chased it down with a gulp of water. This was in anticipation of an impending climb shortly after the start of the bike leg. Then a quick mechanical procedure of putting on my helmet, my sunglasses, my bib around my waist, grabbing 2 packets of energy gels, I took my bike off the rack and started pushing it up a short wooden ramp. Anslem and Doug were already there. As soon as I passed the white line, I mounted my bike and started pedalling. Only when I was already on my bike, according to my plan, I started to relax and catch my breath. While moving slowly I put my feet into my shoes. Doug came passing by a few seconds later, and I told him to go ahead while I spend a few minutes to relax.
About 3 minutes later, it was time to work hard again. As I made the loop after the traffic lights, I started to build up speed. I had by now gotten used to the aerobar on my bike. I maintained an approximate 32km/h until I got to the hill. There I pushed a little; even out of my saddle to gain a bit of lost time. It wasn't a particularly tough climb. And once I reached the top, it was a pleasant downhill ride on the other side, even reaching almost 60km/h down that stretch. After that it was mainly flat for many km and I maintained between 33-35km/h. There were several riders tailing me from behind, but I did not mind the work. All the while I felt strong and perhaps I could go a little faster, but I kept reminding myself that there's still the run to reckon with after this!
Well, I was wrong; it was perhaps 25km into the ride, I started feeling a little tired. I ate an energy gel and the rest started to overtake one by one. I tailed them for a while until I realised that they were only doing 30km/h. So I overtook again and went into the leading position for that pack.
As we approached the turning point, the power couple, Anslem and Amelia, caught up from behind. I had expected that they would catch up around midway during the bike leg. I was kinda a little tired then, but although I could go faster, I decided to follow from behind. Anslem tried to do the work for Amelia, but he was too far in front for the most part. There was a good dose of undulating hills, but it was OK for my legs. A little tired but bearable.
Looking at my speedometer, I took another gel at about 50km, as I was expecting another hardwork to climb the hill as we approach the end of the bike leg. When we finally arrived at that hill, Anslem suddenly increased his speed. Getting out of my saddle, I increased my speed too, thus leaving Amelia and the rest behind. But halfway up the hill, I could feel my quads beginning to complain. I decided not to push too hard, but I maintained my pace to the top of the hill. Then the long way down the hill, passing the roundabout, and as I was approaching the final stretch before the junction to the transition again, I unstrapped my shoesfeet out and ready for the transition.
A few minutes earlier, Doug had arrived at the end of the bike legI fancy his aero helmet must have caused something of a stir.
I arrived at the transition again just a few seconds after Anslem. There wasn't much time to waste. First, the helmet came off, thus correcting my mistake a year ago, when I started running with my helmet on! Then I grabbed my last energy gel. Gulped a bit of water, and started running.
Paul was already some minutes ahead of me.
And so was Teo in his trademark full-accessories outfit.
I had trouble moving my feet, and I had to focus really hard. It was like trying to learn how to run! The sun was already high up in the sky, and I could feel my skin slowly roasting.
The power couple were not very far behind me, Anslem was still escorting Amelia.
It was probably a good idea to run together with Amelia, as I might have been able to forget about my exhaustion just seeing her outfitor the lack of itbut I was also a bit concerned about getting last in my category!
This is kinda embarrassing, but I was so tired that I was only able to run a 6mins/km pace under the hot sun. The last few km was a struggle. I was reduced to a walk several times, but as I approached the final stretch along the beach, I knew that I had my first triathlon in the bag.
My homestretch run wasn't a sprint as I would have liked it to be...
But I was happy to cross the finish line in 3:44. And now I wonderit might be possible to shave a few minutes off that time. Now I need to come back next year to improve a little bit.