Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Time Ironman Putrajaya 70.3

One of the most exciting elements of the triathlon is its unpredictability. Things can go wrong in the swim or bike and even a strong athlete may quickly see everything going south when he gets a cramp in the swim; or a puncture and even a crash during the bike leg. Months of training can go down the drain in a heartbeat.

I used to think that I'd never venture into the sport of triathlon. The thought of travelling abroad tagging a huge bike case didn't seem to be very appealing to me. But then I somehow ended up buying a bike and eventually tried the Sprint event in the Miri International Triathlon. Well, I have since joined several other triathlon races, including the Time Ironman Putrajaya 70.3 on 5 April 2015.

One thing worth mentioning about the Putrajaya 70.3 is that participants were flagged off based on a "rolling start", meaning that the time only starts ticking when he steps onto the start mat, just before jumping into the lake. I think that's a very good idea when compared to the mass start in most triathlon races.

Because I'm not a very good swimmer, I've always been a little concerned about the swim leg of the triathlon, especially in the Putrajaya race because it's a lake swim. Well, it wasn't as bad as I thought, but I still had a few gulps of the lake water anyway; and I hate to think of the amount of microbes that went into my system within that 50 minutes workout. There isn't much to tell about the swim except that it's much easier than the open water swim we had just 3 weeks earlier in the 113 Sabah Triathlon. My only issue was that I really need to learn how to sight during my swim.

As I was running into Transisiton 1, I could already feel that this was going to be a tough day for me; I don't know why, I just knew. I slipped into my cycling shoes, put on my "cool wings", shades and helmet. A quick gulp of cola, and then I was off for the torture on the bike. The process felt like just a minute or two, but actually it was more than 5 minutes!

The bike course in Putrajaya was a good mix of undulating terrain, and some of the climbs, though not very steep, were very long ones. These were energy-sapping, but with proper training, it's quite a fair course. I took my time on the bike, as I was feeling rather lethargic from months of continuous training. I've noticed that I'm taking increasingly longer to recover from my workouts this lately; and I seriously need to take a long break from races.

On the whole, I would say that the bike course was a good one. It comprised 2 loops of about 45km each, thus giving a total distance of 90km. There were several aid stations where participants could choose between isotonic drink or water. These were provided in ordinary sports bottles, which was very good, as it saved the chore of filling bottles on the bike. The only minor thing that I can't understand is why couldn't they close these bottles tightly after they've been filled? I'm one of those people who are easily annoyed by leaky bottles, you see.

Well, I endured the torture of the heat and undulating terrain, and as I was getting closer to Transition 2, I was becoming excited. I've been careful to conserve energy for the run leg of the race. And then you know what? know the unpredictability that I talked about in the first paragraph above?, well it's exciting until it happens to you. Then the excitement can quickly change into frustration

Approximately 3 km before the end of the bike leg, I felt air escaping from my rear wheel. In all fairness, this was the first ever puncture in a race. Of course I've had my fair share of punctures during training, but I've always been lucky during races. Well, not this time! It was so frustrating because I was so close to Transition 2—I could almost smell it from that location.

Time for a big decision; to change or not to change? The most sensible thing to do in such situation is of course to change the tube; no question about it. As I said, I've had a fair share of punctures during training, and I'm not fast in this sort of thing. I don't think I can do it under 5 minutes, but I can certainly do it within 10 minutes. 

Yet it seemed like a better idea to just continue pedalling with the flat tyre. Actually, it was a horrible idea! Not only was the flat tyre heavy to pedal, I was also risking damaging my rim. As I pedalled on, it felt a lot like climbing a perpetual hill measuring 3km long. It was truly a no brainer! Within that 3km "hillclimb", I could feel my quads burn. I arrived at Transition 2 exhausted and feeling dumb!

Then I had another problem—my body refused to take in liquid. Whatever I tried to consume, it would sit in my stomach, and it became increasingly bloated until I felt like it was about to burst any moment. I felt nausea but no matter how hard I tried to induce vomitting, nothing would come out. I braved the run leg though. But it was the worse 21km in my entire life; I walked perhaps 70%-80% of the distance.

I stopped at an aid station just a few kilometres into the run leg, and deliberated if I should surrender. But surrendering seemed like a ridiculous option, since I had so much time to finish the race. I could probably leisurely walked the whole distance and still had enough time buffer for the cutoff. Accordingly, I kept walking in so much discomfort.

Soon enough, one by one my friends came passing by. But there was little that I could do. I reckoned that I'd just try my best to survive the entire distance, or however long my legs can still move. In the end, however, I crossed the finish line and noted that I spent a ridiculous 3 hours for the 21km! What a terrible experience! My total time is 7:14. I must make it a point to come again next year to redeem my pride!

I waited for over an hour for Mia to finish in 8:18, and I waited for my friend Teo, but he never showed. Later, I received a text message from him—that he had DNF at about 75km into the bike leg.

I think the Putrajaya 70.3 is a well-organised event, and worth trying if you haven't tried it yet. The blend of the lake, the undulating terrain, and the beautiful run is just perfect. I would not hesitate to recommend this race.

And for all the torture, this was what I got in the end:

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