Wednesday, April 6, 2016

TIME Ironman Putrajaya 70.3 (Half Ironman) 2016

It's been a year since I raced the Putrajaya 70.3, of which I had a lousy experience as reported here. 3 weeks before that event, I raced the 113 Triathlon Sabah, and I somehow did not taper enough within that 3 weeks for the Putrajaya 70.3. I arrived at the start line still feeling tired. But I also suffered a puncture during the bike leg. It was such a nightmare; in the end, I finished in about 7:14. It was just an awful experience. Shortly after that race, I told myself that I'd be back again this year to redeem my pride.

I saw myself at the start line again last Sunday, 3rd April 2016, this time properly rested after the 113 Triathlon Sabah 3 weeks ago. There were also some other things which were different from last year. I have upgraded my bike wheels to Zipp, with a combination of 404/303. But as any cyclist would tell you, equipment alone won't do much for the overall performance. It all boils down to the training, and since a year ago, I've been improving gradually in the bike discipline. But I'll share my thoughts about bike training next time. For now, suffice to say that I've been adopting the opposite approach of most cyclists—the standard approach of spinning just doesn't work for me; I've wasted way too much time trying to improve my bike by spinning. But more on that next time.

I'd also like to say that 2 days before the race, I bumped into Rupert Chen and Nik Raiha at the expo; and the former duly reminded me to mention his name when I report on the race! Unfortunately, I didn't  have a chance to take a photo with Rupert. What a waste, because he has had a nice haircut, and was all primed for an awesome finish picture in the race. But at least I managed to take a photo with Nik.

Photo credit: Nik Raiha

I thought I'd be able to achieve a faster swim time this year. Unfortunately, there were way too many slow swimmers blocking the way. Maybe I would have been able to break through if they were all swimming freestyle, but many of them were swimming breaststrokes, and after a few kicks to my body, I decided to play safe. I finished the swim in a little over 49 minutes—not the kind of time I had been aiming for—but unlike last year, I felt very good coming out of the lake. Obviously the extra time I've been spending in the pool has helped a lot.

Photo credit: Jack Ah Beh

Earlier that morning, I met comrades from KK, i.e. Dr Shah, Ahmad Marzuki and Rayner. I'm a little sad to say that my friend, Teo Chen Lung, has decided to opt out of this race. I was hoping against hope that's he'd show up on the race day somehow, and we would be racing against each other again, but that was just wishful thinking. 

Loyal readers of this blog would know, of course, that Teo is famous for his so-called killer face when he races, especially if he's winning or doing well in a race. The famous killer face would however fade away if he's not doing so well. Just to give you an idea of his trademark killer face, check out this photo of him when he emerged from the swim during the 113 Triathlon Sabah about 3 weeks ago.

Anyway, to continue with Putrajaya 70.3, I was expecting my Sabahan friends to be ahead of me after the swim, especially Rayner. I'm not known for a fast transition, and I'd usually take a bit of time to fire up my legs after the swim. The Putrajaya bike course is interesting in that almost immediately after the bike start, there's a gradual climb; it's such a shock for the legs! But after a few minutes working on the pedals, I got into my rhythm, and I was actually feeling very comfortable.

Apart from the Zipp wheels, I also adopted a slightly different approach on my hydration strategy. Having experienced the same bike course last year, I started the race this year with only one 750ml bottle containing my Carbopro concoction; and I left the other bottle cage on my aerobar empty. I did that to spare my legs the approximate half kilogram of weight during the first few kilometres of the bike course. I grabbed a bottle of water at the aid station a few kilometres into the bike leg, and then I continued alternating the Carbopro and plain water for the rest of the way. I was still feeling quite fresh after the first loop, but by the second loop, the sun was already up, and I could feel my back getting roasted. My breathing become a little hard. I overtook Rayner shortly after starting the second loop. When I finally rode into transition, I was pleasantly surprised to see 2:49 on my Garmin (bike split). That was an improvement of almost half an hour when compared to last year! Having had a puncture last year, I had a phobia of a dejavu, but the puncture god was kind to me this year.

Photo credit: Chen Hong Bing

As I was pushing my bike into transition, I was conscious of Rayner's presence behind me; and when I was running out of transition, I saw him just about to finish putting on his shoes. At that point, I had no idea of Dr Shah's and Marzuki's positions.

As I had expected, the run leg proved to be the toughest part of the race even though the course was mainly flat. The sun had by then risen to be right on top of the head, and there was hardly any shade throughout the course. Ironically, however, the toughest and painful part of the race is also the most exciting of the 3 disciplines. The first few hundred metres of the run was perhaps the most challenging because it would usually take a bit of time for the body to adjust to the task at hand.

At first I had planned to keep my shoes dry throughout the run. But I eventually gave in to the temptation of the inviting cold water in huge tanks at the aid stations. Accordingly, I started dousing myself at each stop. That helped to cool me down, but the effect was just for a mere few minutes.

As I was trotting along at a pathetic pace, Rayner eventually caught up with me. I tried to rise to the occasion by running abreast with him for a few kilometres.

Unfortunately, my legs were just too tired to continue for very long. I slowed down to a walk, and I saw Rayner gradually drifting farther and farther away in the yonder. Before he left me, however, he said Dr Shah and Marzuki were behind us. As I was walking in pain and epic exhaustion, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the dreadful thought of getting overtaken by Shah and Marzuki as well! Accordingly, I mustered the energy somehow to resume running again. Some minutes later, I arrived at the end of the first loop, and shortly after that, Vachel took this photo of me.

But photos can be misleading sometimes. Behind that brilliant smile, I was aching all over. As you can probably tell from the shadow under me, it was around mid day and I still had slightly over 10km to go! Shortly after passing Vachel, I slowed down to a walk again. And then while I was dousing myself with cold water at an aid station, a young sexy girl came running by. She was also obviously tired, but was able to keep a steady pace.

Now there's something about marveling on a woman's sexy figure, especially when that figure is in a wet tight outfit. It's almost magnetic, if you know what I mean. Accordingly, I decided to let nature do the work—I merely focused on her hip from behind and started following her rhythm, and then imagined the song in my mind...

She was afraid to come out of the locker
She was as nervous as she could be
She was afraid to come out of the locker
She was afraid that somebody would see

Two three four
Tell the people what she wore

It was an itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini
That she wore for the first time today...

But alas, my joy of pacing with a girl was short-lived as I was once again running out of steam. Perhaps I could have latched on a little longer if I had started fantasizing something about that sexy body. Yes, that might have worked, but the trouble about fantasizing is that it may backfire, because you can just imagine what would happen to men in skin-tight shorts when they get too excited, hmm?

Well, I continued the torture for the rest of the journey to the finish line, all the time thinking of the inevitable conclusion that Shah and Marzuki would be catching up sooner or later. But it wasn't as bad as I had thought; I crossed the finish line in a total time of 6:21:38 with time to spare before Shah finally arrived at the finish line. It's my personal best time at this distance. Marzuki finished about half an hour after me, but it was still a respectable time for a first-timer.

I finally found my way to the recovery tent where participants were chatting and eating. I rehydrated my body with some water and isotonic drinks. And Rupert was also there. When asked, he said he finished with "crappy time". But his definition of "crappy time", actually means the kind of timing that people like me can only dream of! Made me feel like giving him a good kick in his butt. Sadly, my legs were too tired to kick. I must remind myself to kick his butt the next time we meet again!

Then I saw that sexy creature named Wendy Tan in the crowd. She must have finished some 20 or 30 minutes after me. She has a body that's so wickedly sexy that I could just put her on a display cabinet at home to admire the whole day long while drooling. For a while I considered introducing myself, but I was able to shake myself out of the trance and thought better of it. Maybe I should start doing weights at the gym to build some muscles first. Then next time I would have the confidence to introduce myself!

I also met Nik in the crowd, and she was as jolly as ever, and was kind enough to introduce me to her friends, although this old man is not exactly great in remembering names!

Well, there isn't much more to tell. It was a well-organised event except that somebody forgot to switch on the air-conditioner. I'm running a full marathon in the Borneo International Marathon, and the Gold Coast Airport Marathon first before attempting a half iron distance again in the Challenge Nusajaya in mid August. After Nusajaya, I shall embark on serious training for Langkawi in November. Hmmm....very exhausting months ahead...

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