About a year ago, I raced the Putrajaya Ultra Aquathlon, and although I had no problem finishing the race, I didn't do it quickly enough, and eventually finished 13th in my category. Actually, the main reason why I joined this race was because I wanted to conquer my fear of water. Yes, in a strange way, I have a kind of fear when joining any race that involves swimming. It's not really about being afraid of drowning. Somehow, at the back of my mind, there are many things that I can't control in a swimming race, and the fear is about my lack of control rather than about drowning. It's different with cycling and running; a lot more of the factors are within my control.
So anyway, I was again racing the ultra aquathlon last Sunday, by the same organiser, except this time it was held in Pantai Klebang, Melaka. Mia and I flew in through KLIA2 and then took the bus for a little over 2 hours to Melaka last Friday. We put up in Temasek Hotel, which we were told a fairly new hotel within the Portuguese settlement area. It's quite a pleasant hotel, except that I think it desperately needs to improve on its sound insulation systemdoors were banging throughout the night, and it was very annoying for a light sleeper like me. The reception staff were also rather clueless, and the housekeeping folks had no idea what "PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB" means.
Before I forget, let me say that Mia did get her size XS finisher T-shirt for this race. It wasn't an easy thing to arrange, mind you, I had to personally remind Andy, the Race Director, several times through Whatsapp.
We opted for the shuttle van to the race venue since it was too much trouble to arrange for the taxi. The van driver, a man named Mano, arrived on time at 5:30am, and it was interesting to note that he was as clueless as the many volunteers of this event. I texted Mano the day before the race, but of course he did not reply my text. He was unaware of how many passengers he was supposed to pick up from Temasek Hotel. Well, there were four of us; and we made our way to Hotel Mahkota to pick a few other participants. Then we were held up for a bit because Mano wasn't aware of where he was supposed to send us. We told him that we're supposed to go to Pantai Klebang, but that piece of information wasn't really helpful to him. He then went into the hotel to seek help from the reception desk. That done, we embarked on our journey to Pantai Klebang.
It wasn't a very long journeyor at least it wasn't supposed to have been a long oneexcept that we went the wrong way and I was beginning to panic (read that part in the opening paragraph above again, about my fear of unable to control the factors). One of the participants took out his smartphone and used the Google Map. The driver debated on the location for a bit, until Mia told him to just follow the info on Google. Well, we arrived at the race venue safely in the end. It wasn't a very big crowd; in fact less than 100 participants were doing the Ultra category, i.e. 2.25km swim, and 21km run.
The swim was divided into 3 loops of theoretical 750m and after each loop, we were required to exit the water and run a short distance on shore before entering the water again. As for the run, it was mainly flat throughout, but practically no shades whatsoever.
As I had expected, the flag off was late by about 20 minutes. In fact, I've joined a few other races by the same organiser, and this organiser has never been on time as far as the flag off was concerned. The swim was surprisingly pleasant even for a lousy swimmer like me, except that it was chaotic because of the crowd. I'm yet to find a way to get used to swimming in a crowd and ignore all the kickings and elbowings. Although it was a sea swim, the water was just awfulit was murky and visibility was almost zero. I spent a lot of time swimming with my eyes closed, except for the times when I had to lift my head up to sight. In the end, I emerged from the sea after about 55 minutes. I should have been still fresh when exiting the water, but because I'm not a good swimmer, I had to struggle for a bit, and therefore used up quite a bit of energy.
Exiting the water on the second loop of the swim leg, and running a short distance on the beach before re-entering the water for the final loop. To my fans out there, I'm so sorry to disappoint youI'm on the left, NOT the sexy one on the right.
That's the face of a man feeling so relieved for surviving the 2.25km swim, running a short distance to the transition area.
I took my time at the transition, consuming a pack of GU and chasing it down with about 300ml of Carbopro concoction. put on my socks and shoes, sun glasses and cap, grabbed some more GUs, and then I was off for the 21km run. I've never been very efficient in my transition, and this time I took almost 4 minutes for the transition.
As was the case in the Putrajaya Ultra Aquathlon last year, my quads refused to cooperate at the start of the run. I had to control my pace to ensure that I would last the whole distance, but I also needed a bit of time for the GU and Carbopro to flow into my system. But oh boy, it was a big struggle for me during those first few kilometres. I had expected a very hot run, but I was happy to note that it wasn't as hot after all. There were plenty of water stations along the run route, and at the back of my mind, I thought it is a model that other race organisers should copy. For example, during the Challenge Iskandar Puteri last year, the water stations were just too far apart. Running in the hot climate of Malaysia shouldn't be underestimated.
By the second loop of the run, I started to push the pace a bit, since it was quite obvious that I could last the distance. Thus I overtook some other participants along the way. However, when I reached the turning point for the second time, I knew that it wasn't gonna be 21km. I finally crossed the finish line in the official time of 2:58:29, and I got fourth in the "46 years & Above" category.
The joy of arriving at the finish line. I've been crossing so many finish lines before that I've long ago lost count. But the joy of crossing the finish lineone can never get tired of it!
I had to wait well over half an hour for Mia to arrive at the finish line. I collected my own finisher T-shirt, as well as for Mia, and my finisher medal. It's not normal, of course, for Mia's T-shirt to be collected before she even finish. But based on my experience over the last few events, they always ran out of the XS size by the time Mia finished her race, and this time I had to make a special arrangement with the organiser to collect the T-shirt first before it's exchanged by other participants. After I had collected Mia's T-shirt, I stood there watching the volunteers allowing the other participants to exchange their T-shirts. Some things will never change!
While waiting for Miaand it was quite a long waitsuddenly that wickedly sexy creature by the name of Wendy Tan walked by. She was in her awesome outfit, a shouting red-coloured sun hat, and sunglasses. She was just walking around, but in my mind I saw her movements in slow-motion with the music "Beautiful Girl" in the background. After a while, she saw me, and I said "Hi", and we shook hands. We spent some moments talking about the race, while I was thinking if I should buy the lotto jackpotbecause I felt it's my lucky day for having the opportunity to shake hands with Wendy. Y'know, at my age, anything young and in skirt is beautiful, especially this particular one! But I had to shake myself out of the trance, because I was thinking Mia might be approaching the finish line very soon, and she might be tempted to beat me up with a baseball bat?
Well, I stood there for quite a long time and there was still no sign of my wife. After a while I became a little worried. So I decided to walk out to the course to look for her. And then just as I hit the road, I saw that scrawny little creature from afar, running with a steady gait. I jogged with her to the finish line. Mia came in last for her category, i.e. "46 years & Above", but because there were only two participants in her category, she was officially the first runner-up. I felt like I almost died running to the finish line, and I didn't get anything. She took her time and got second! I wasn't sure whether to be happy or sad for her, but in the end I chose to be happy. I'm still afraid of the baseball bat. She collected her finisher medal and then we had to rush to the transition to get our remaining stuff, and then hopefully Mano, the van driver could find his way back to fetch us to the hotel.
On the whole, I would say this was a well-organised event. I felt it deserved a bigger participation. The things that mattered the most, such as safety of swimmers and drink stations etc were well covered, and I must say the organiser did a good job. But on the other hand, there is still room for improvements in terms of the bib collection process which I felt was just too slow and inefficient. I don't mind to join this event again next year, and I would certainly recommend to my friends to join too.
Photo credit: Vy Mussolini Photography