Thursday, October 29, 2015

Road To Busselton

A little over one-and-a-half years ago, I was out cycling with my friend, Teo Chen Lung, on a weekend as part of my training for the Ironman New Zealand (IMNZ). We were supposed to race the IMNZ together, but on that fateful day, we had a nasty bike crash as reported here. Although I sustained some bruises, I nevertheless escaped serious injuries. However, Teo broke his collar bone. He had to undergo an operation to install a titanium brace to realign his bone into place. In the end he had to withdraw from the race, and I eventually went ahead for the challenge alone.

It was a sad and lonely trip, and even during the race, I kept thinking about Teo whom I knew was tracking me online from the start to the end. Being my first ever Ironman, I was determined to finish the race, not taking any chances of getting cramps etc. Accordingly, I stopped at every water station during the bike leg (15km apart) to grab drinks, bananas as well as make visits to the toilet. But although I took my time, when I finally got to the run leg of the race, I was exhausted anyway. I can still remember the epic exhaustion towards the end of the race. This was how I finished the final few metres towards the finish arch. 

It's amazing how the body can suddenly spring into action after it ran out of energy hours before that, just because of the cheers from the crowd as well as hearing the announcement through the loudspeaker: "CORNELIUS, YOU - ARE - AN - IRONMAN!"

I was exchanging private messages with a facebook friend just a few days ago, and I said to her that even if I've conquered an Ironman before, I would still have that fear when attempting another Ironman. It seems like no amount of training can guarantee that one will definitely finish the race.

Teo had of course recovered from his broken collar bone and had since registered for the Ironman Western Australia (IMWA). Although I said IMNZ was to be my first and last Ironman, I decided to register for IMWA too, not just because I felt I owe it to Teo for a chance to race together with me, but also because I wanted to achieve better than what I did in New Zealand. 

Registering for the race is the easiest part of the game. Then came the painful part, which was the training for the challenge. In the last couple of months, I've been gradually building up mileage in my training, and right now I'm feeling very tired. I haven't reached the peak of my training yet, and already I'm feeling like my body can't handle very much more. I wake up on Monday mornings feeling like wanting to stay in bed for the rest of the day. This old body of mine can't handle a full Ironman training programme, so I guess I will just do what I can. While Teo is training two sessions per day, I'm limiting my workouts to just once a day, and if I'm feeling tired on some days, I'd give it a miss altogether. I try very hard not to cheat on the long workouts over the weekends, because I feel that the long workouts are the key elements to the whole challenge.

The swim is still my biggest weakness up to now. On an average session at the pool, I'd probably swim a total of 1km. Sometimes I would swim a bit more than that, but always with lots of breaks in between. I'm not overly worried about drowning, as I have the breast strokes to fall back to if emergency arises. But although I'm still not very good in swimming, I feel like I've improved quite a lot since IMNZ.

I swam so slow during IMNZ, I think I did it in 1:43, and it felt like forever! But I'm not too worried about my swim as far as IMWA is concerned, at least not as worried about the great white sharks which Australia is famous for. I'm not even sure if I could swim the whole course with the freestyle. If not, then I will pretend to have misunderstood the term "freestyle"; I can always say that I thought "freestyle" means free to use any style to swim, including the breast strokes.

As for my bike, I've upgraded my wheels from the no-brand China-made 60mm carbon aero wheels to Zipp 404/303 combination. I have worked on my strength and endurance, but perhaps still lacking midweek bike workouts. It would be ideal, I think, if I could have at least 3 bike sessions per week like Teo, but I just don't have the time to do it. In the end, I can only afford a midweek "spinning" session of about 45mins-60mins, plus a long bike ride of over 100km each on Saturdays. On a flat surface, I can maintain 33-35kph fairly easily without burning my quads these days, but when including slopes and slowing down (or even stopping) at junctions, it usually goes down to about 30-31kph average. I reckon that my average would be around 28kph at IMWA this December, because I was told that they'd be strong head winds at some sections, especially when taking into account the total bike distance of 180km.

As for the run, I only have 2 sessions per week; once usually on Tuesdays at approximately 10km each, and on Sunday morning a minimum of 21km each. Because there is not enough time for full training, my focus is on endurance, and not so much on speed.

In the next couple of weeks, the weekend workouts will be increased rather substantially, although this coming weekend is my "stepback" week. But even on a stepback week, I will need to bike at least 120km and run 21km. Teo is also planning an open water swim on Saturday afternoon. As I said, my training is hardly enough for the preparation of the Ironman, but this is all that I can do. The madness continues...

So roughly another month to go before the ultimate challenge of 2015. I'm sure the Ironman this time will be much more fun because Teo will be there with me. I know he can't wait to finally give this old man a good kick in the butt, and looking at the way he trains, I think he will certainly achieve it in this race. But of course I will try my best to prevent it!

Both Teo and I are getting increasingly paranoid as we get closer to the date. Although we use the same training ground for cycling, we make sure that we don't get within 50 metres of each other, just in case we would provoke the collarbone-breaking jinx. So we would occasionally see each other cycling from a distance, acknowledge each other by waving of hands, but we always make sure that we keep our distance! Let me tell you that paranoia is a terrible disease!

A few more weeks to go of self-imposed tortures before finally tapering for the race. Excitement is mounting, as is the fear of the race! Keeping my fingers crossed...

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