Shortly after the Putrajaya 70.3 opened for registration last year, I decided to sign up for the race. It's a Half Ironman triathlon race comprising a 1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21km run to be held on 5 April. I had just embarked on training, when I broke my right arm in a freak accident at the end of December. Consequently, I had to stop swimming and cycling for the months of January and February. However, I continued running and eventually ran the Tokyo Marathon near the end of February.
While I was still nursing my broken arm, I registered for the 113 Triathlon Sabah, which was also a half Ironman distance race. As soon as I came back from Tokyo, I resumed cycling the following weekend with a 90km workout with Mia. It felt horribly exhausting, having been away from cycling for over 2 months. I also resumed swimming, but I was careful not to overdo it, as the muscles in my arm were still recovering.
When I arrived at the start line of the 113 Triathlon at Nexus Karambunai Resort last Sunday, I've had 2 90km rides, and several 30-minute swim in the pool. I was a little doubtful if I could survive the swim, especially after I saw the rough sea condition that morning. However, just as a precautionary measure, I took Celebrex, just in case.
Many of my readers would've known that I'm not a good swimmer. Ordinarily, however, I'm not worried about the waves. But on this particular morning, I was rather concerned that I would injure my arm again. I had planned to take it easy, and then hoped to catch up during the bike and run legs.
There was a bit of a delay for the flag off, and all of us lingered around the start line for some minutes. Now waiting for something that one fears is quite a torment; the longer the wait, the more painful is the punishment. We tried to create small conversations, but I never took my eyes off those forsaken waves.
Photo credit: Shahzan/Najib
I spent quite some anxious moments adjusting and readjusting my swimming cap...
Photo credit: Shahzan/Najib
I suppose you could tell how much I hate water getting into my ears? I was still in a kind of trance staring at the waves, when I was brought back to reality when we were about to be flagged off. I took my time to run to the sea. Actually, the toughest part of the swim was perhaps for a short distance of about 50m or so near to the shore. The swell was huge and the waves came beating angrily. After struggling for a few minutes, the waves were still quite rough, but it was possible to swim much easily. Unfortunately, we had to do 2 loops. So everybody had to go through the huge waves a second time. During the swim, I caught glimpses of my friends, Claire and Dr Shah, several metres ahead of me. I knew of several other local folks, of course, but I couldn't spot them then.
I emerged from the sea shortly after 40mins and was relieved to run up the shore. It was quite a distance running from the sea, up the sandy path, passing a shower area, and eventually to the transition area. By the time I reached my bike, I noticed that Claire was already gone. Dr Shah was already halfway into transition. Another friend, Stephanie Chok was also there. She had finished her swim about 10 minutes earlier (she was racing the relay event with her friends). Stephanie yelled out, "Go Corny, go Corny!"...
But I took my sweet time; I ate some wafer biscuits, chased it down with cola which I had prepared. Then I spent some moments applying sunblock onto my shoulders, arms, neck and legs. Wiping my hands with a towel, I took several more gulps of cola. Stephanie soon lost interest in me.
As I was doing the chore, Dr Shah was polite enough to say that he's going ahead first. I said "Sure, I'll catch up with you later!" Now that I think of it, that didn't sound right somehow! Perhaps it would've been much better to say "I'll see you later", rather than "catch up with you later"!
As I was just about ready to go, Teo Chen Lung arrived into T1 from his swim. He had taken his sweet time too. But when he saw me about to leave on my bike, he shouted out, asking me to wait for him! I was like, yeah right!...off I went in a jiffy!
Then, to my horror, just as I started my bike leg, my Garmin 910XT suddenly went dead. I tried pressing the buttons, but to no avail. I had to continue the rest of the race without a GPS watch. Now the mind plays tricks on one's sense of speed and time. The whole time riding out from the Karambunai Resort, I felt like I was riding too slow. I was alone for a while, until I got to the main road where I overtook another cyclist. I was still unhappy; it seemed like the miles passed too slowly. At the back of my mind, I was thinking of Claire and Dr Shah, perhaps they were several kilometres ahead of me...
Bearing in mind that there's a 21km run after the 90km bike ride, I carefully refrained from overdoing it. Accordingly, I controlled my speed, but always feeling that I was too slow. There were several hills to climb along the way to Serusop, and each time I was climbing, I was worried about the drop in speed.
Imagine my relief when at about 28km into the bike leg, I saw Dr Shah several hundred metres in front of me. I took my time to catch up though. I duly made the U-turn, and finally overtook Shah shortly after. Keeping my speed, I calmly continued on that return journey. A few minutes later, I caught up with Claire and finally overtook her too. But there was still a lot of work to be done, as we were not even halfway through the bike leg. Emerging from Jalan Serusop and going back to the Kelapa Bakar, I saw Teo on the other side of the road. He was probably almost 10km lagging by then. I also saw Mia a little later down that road.
On the second loop leading to Serusop, I saw Dr Shah again, and he had by then overtaken Claire too. I'm not sure if it was because of the excitement, but I felt very strong on my bike. It was very tempting to surge ahead, but instead I maintained my speed. At the back of my mind I wasn't very tired because I was going slow.
Photo credit: Shahzan/Najib
It felt like almost 3.5hrs later when I was finally approaching Karambunai again for the transition, all the time convinced that I was far behind most of the participants. Arriving at T2, again I took my time. several gulps of cola, my secret weapon. Then a pack of gels. Calmly, I changed into my running shoes, and just as I was about to start my run, Shah arrived at T2.
Then came the most embarrassing moment of the race. For a runner capable of running 10km-11km per hour fairly easily, it was quite a torture to find that both legs were somewhat "frozen". Never mind about running technique or pace. By then, the challenge was to focus on throwing one foot to the front of the other, and keep repeating the process! With so much pain, I embarked on the 21km run.
Photo credit: Jannette Hiu & team
The run started along the pleasant shaded stretch, but it soon became a frightfully long exposed road in the scorching afternoon sun. There was no cloud in the sky. At the back of my mind, I was thinking of Shah. He made sure that he dressed for the occasion, and I was conscious of Darth Vader hot on my heels...in fact, I could almost feel his breath on my neck!
Photo credit: Jannette Hiu & team
There isn't much to tell about the run leg, except that it seemed like a never-ending workout in hell. I made it a point to stop at every water station to douse myself in cold water, a process that can very easily become addictive. I was humbled by the harsh weather; I slowed down to a walk several times, and in my mind I felt like I must have taken more than 3 hours to finish the 21km!
Imagine my surprise when I saw 6hours 27minutes when I crossed the finish line. I received the finisher T and medal. I sat on a chair for a long time and felt relieved. I watched the other participants arriving one by one at the finish line. Not long later, Shah crossed the finish line. We congratulated each other. I continued waiting, until I decided perhaps I should go take a shower and change into fresh clothes.
It was rather amusing that I actually rode for about 3hrs and not 3.5hrs. But I took almost 2.5hours to run the 21km. Claire eventually finished in about 7:20, and Teo in about 7:30.
Then the final surprise of the day. At the prize presentation, I was announced as the runner up in the veteran category. The funny thing was that the main reason was because there were just 8 competitors in my category, and if not mistaken 3 of them did not even start!
I have to admit that I didn't expect this to be a well-organised event. But after I have experienced it, I think it was a good job, considering the shoestring budget. Perhaps there is still room for improvements in terms of the number of volunteers at the water stations; and marshals to enforce the non-drafting rule etc. But on the whole, I would say the organiser passed with a flying colour. The size of participation really did not do justice to the 113 Triathlon Sabah. But perhaps it had something to do with wrong timing. On the same day, some of our local triathletes were racing the Penang Triathlon. Others were at the Viper Challenge.
Unfortunately, it's unlikely that I'm able to join the Desaru race by the same organiser, but I'm seriously considering the Bukit Merah event in September. I look forward to the 113 Triathlon Sabah 2016. I'm sure it will be even better!