At the beginning of this year, I was waiting for the announcement of the Ironman Malaysia (IMMY) in Langkawi. I joined the race in November last year, and although I finished the race, I wasn't happy with my performance, and I was hoping to be able to have another chance to redeem myself. Unfortunately, many people said that there will be no more IMMY. I therefore started looking for other Ironman races in the region. For a while I was seriously contemplating doing the Ironman Western Australia again. But then I received a Whatsapp message from my friend, Anslem, about the Ironman Gurye, and before long I found myself in a Whatsapp chat group for the event. The funny thing was that just shortly after I registered for Ironman Gurye, it was announced that IMMY is on again this November, and so I registered for that race too.
Anyway, I found myself at Lake Jirisan in Gurye last Sunday morning. Of all my Malaysian friends, I could only remember Quintine's race number, and I could remember the location of his bike because it was in the same row as mine. I had no idea where the rest of my friends were. Later, however, I saw Anslem when I was queuing for the toilet; and let me tell you that too few toilets were provided!
It was just about 10 minutes before the flag off when I was done with the toilet visit, and I took my time getting into my wetsuit. And then I bumped into Amy, and she took this shot.
I've never really felt comfortable in a wetsuit as it's very tight; and I'm not such a big fan of wearing the swimming cap as the top of my head looks quite a lot like the tip of a condom! Yes, I know what you must be thinking, but I can't change the fact that I'm born with a very creative imagination!
Anyway, participants were flagged off in waves, and I watched from afar as the first few jumped into the water at 6:40am. I was still a little nervous of the swim leg. It didn't help that it was a misty morning, and standing there in the crowd, I couldn't even see the far end of the swim course. I felt like I was up for a huge challenge to even finish the 3.8km swim. It must have been close to 7am when I finally entered the water, and as I had expected it was so chaotic. Too many people were blocking me; and I dare say I was blocking other people behind me too. As always in the swim leg of the triathlon, I received a few blows to my body from unruly hands and ridiculous kicks of breaststrokes swimmers. I tried to remain calm as best as I could, but it's not so easy to remain focused for over 1.5 hours!
One would imagine that in such a chaotic situation, I would be occupied in solely focusing on survivaland only survival. But then some of my loyal readers are aware of the disease commonly known as KIASUNISIS which I'm suffering from. In between the slapping and kicking and swallowing a few gulps of the murky lake water, I still had the time to worry about the rest of my friends being ahead of me! I remember telling myself that whatever happens the rest of the day, I must make sure that I won't be the last guy to cross the finish line. Kiasunisis, as you can see, is a terrible disease! Well, eventually I emerged from the lake after 1 hour 41 minutes of nightmare, and once I was up on the pontoon, running towards transition, I felt a huge relief. Thank god I survived the swim leg.
As I was running towards Transition 1, I spent the time to wriggle myself out of my wetsuit, and when I reached my T1 bag, I only had the lower half of the wetsuit to deal with. Then I put on the socks, my cycling shoes, wetsuit into the bag, and I was ready for the bike leg. But first I made a quick visit to the toilet. In the end, I spent roughly 10 minutes for T1. As I was pushing my bike from the transition area to the mount line, I noticed that Quintine's bike was no longer there, and just for a brief moment, I felt a bit of adrenaline surge in my system! Amy was there to take this shot.
In the months leading up to this race, I had come up with a game plan. I would spend a bit more time working on my bike strength and speed in the hope of leaving a bit extra for the final 42km run at the end. The plan was to ride a steady 33kph-35kph on flat roads, and take my time climbing up the slopes as slow as I can on very light gears to conserve energy. According to my plan, I would target an overall 6:30 to 6:45 for the bike leg, having taken into consideration that the total elevation for the entire course was over 1200m.
Now the hardest thing about having a game plan in any race is of course to stick to that game plan. Most people would abandon their game plan as soon as they are flagged off. On many occasions during the bike leg, I was so very tempted to go all out. When going down the slopes, it was possible to reach 50kph fairly easily, and it was so tempting to keep going at 40 kph thereafter. But no, I kept reminding myself of my plan.
The final 20km or so of the bike leg was through a highway, and I felt like I had the energy to ride at least 35kph on that stretch, but I kept at about 32kph. I eventually finished the bike leg (180km) in about 6:37. As I was crossing the bridge across the lake, leading to the end of the bike leg, I saw Dr Yap running across the bridge. So that would mean he's about 15 mins ahead of me at that point.
I spent another 10 mins in transition as I made another visit to the toilet. I felt a bit of pain on my right foot, but it soon went away, and I was able to run quite comfortably. In fact so comfortable to the extent that after all the hard work of sticking to my plan, I finally lost it at that critical moment. I had planned to keep a steady 6.5 min/km pace, but instead I ran a 6 min/km, and that soon became 5:45 min/km. I felt like I was dreaming to be able to run that fast after the 3.8km swim and 180 km bike. Then about 7km into the run leg, I finally caught up with Quintine. A short while after I overtook him, I saw Anslem on the return leg of the loop, and I estimated that he must have been about 10km ahead of me at that point. After running about 10km or so, the exhaustion finally began to set in, and I realised there and then that I should have remained true to my game plan. But alas, it was too late. I could feel the fatigue quickly building up in my legs, and I could foresee the rest of the run leg will be a run-walk-run-walk affair.
After I made the U-turn of the first loop, I caught up with Dr Yap. By then I was down to about 6.5 min/km. And a few km later, I had to slow down to a walk. Coincidentally, Amy was waiting at the roadside and took this pathetic shot.
I caught another glimpse of Anslem on the second loop, and I also saw Nick on the other side of the road. But for the most part, I had no idea where the rest of my friends were. Soon it was nightfall and although the run course was mostly lighted, there was no hope of finding my friends in the crowd. By then I was walking much more than running, but I tried to at least jog slowly as much as I could. About 1km to the finish line I started a steady jog again, and the pace kept building up until I crossed the finish line.
This was how I performed in the race.
Obviously it's not anything to shout about, but I'm still happy to have achieved a personal best anyway.
In the end I received this finisher medal.
I'm also glad that I wasn't the last to finish in my group. But actually, just finishing an Ironman race, time regardless, is a big achievement in itself. Been a lot of fun. I mean the race, not the Korean food and the diarrhoea that followed. If ever I'd join this Gurye race again, I think it won't be so soon. I will allow a few years for the organizer to fine-tune on some of the minor points on how they're organizing the race before I even consider if I'd want to make a second visit.
I'd like to mention here a few factors which I think have had some positive effects that had helped me in achieving a better performance in Gurye. First and foremost, I think the slight tweaking in my training programme which shifted the focus from run to bike, as well as sticking to the game plan on race day. As far as the training goes, I must say thanks to a friend, Dennis Tan, who's residing in Perth, Australia, as he was kind enough to share his training programme with me. Although I was unable to follow his programme to the T, I was at least able to mimic some of the schedule. I've also dealt with replenishment of electrolytes, thus correcting my mistake in Langkawi last November. And finally, I must thank my new friend Felix Tan who introduced me to Fitnessdrink of the Fitline brand, which I consumed during the bike leg of the race.
I'm also grateful for making new friends from West Malaysia. It's been fun chatting through Whatsapp, and I couldn't help providing the entertainment to the group. Now a short rest, and then will be back in action again next Saturday in the Challenge Iskandar Puteri. I'll be seeing some of you there!