I did the Ironman Malaysia (IMMY) last year, and it was something of a disaster for me. And shortly after that race, I decided to come back for a second attempt this year. I had originally wanted to focus fully on this race. But for a long time it seemed like there would be no more Ironman Malaysia. I therefore started scouting around for other Ironman races in the region, and my friend Anslem told me about Ironman Gurye in South Korea. I didn't think very long; I registered for that race and embarked on serious training for it.
However, very shortly after I registered for Gurye, IMMY opened for registration, to be held on 11 November 2017. So I registered for it too. I achieved a personal best (PB) in Gurye as reported here. And then I became lazy to continue the hard training for IMMY. I finally arrived in Langkawi at my heaviest in recent years; just a little shy of 75kg during the weigh-in at racepack collection the day before the race. Thinking of the hills, I knew that I would be in trouble.
Mia came along for this trip as she had registered for the 70.3 event which was to run simultaneously with the Ironman race. We were having lunch at the Happy Happy Cenang Seafood Restaurant the day before the race, and as I was chewing my seafood fried rice, I was suddenly attracted to a significant figure walking at the adjacent Mali Mali Resort. It was none other than Wendy Tan; she was obviously prepared for the race. There she walked with that trademark huge hair and dark sunglasses, shoulders held high up like The Rock, and a painfully straight back. She reminded me of someone at the back of my mind, but I couldn't for the moment tell who that someone was. It wasn't until much later that I thought she reminded me of C3PO of the Star Wars saga; very, very straight back and walking very stiff, full of muscles. For a brief moment, I had the crazy idea of calling out to her, but I checked myself. After all, the prospect of Mia stabbing me in my sleep with a huge Rambo knife wasn't very amusing, you see.
After lunch, we walked the street of Cenang and I bumped into Dr Yap Eng Hui. What a small world! Or maybe it's just Langkawi that's small. But anyway, he took the opportunity to take this photo of us.
Now where was I? Oh yes, about the Ironman race. We found ourselves at the swim start at about 6am the next morning. And after making final checks on our bikes, there was a slow procession of a bunch of fools to the beach. The 70.3 event was to be flagged off first, but I lost sight of Mia in the huge crowd.
Although there was a significant gap between the 70.3 and the Ironman flag offs, it felt like time was ticking extremely fast. Very soon, I found myself queuing for the start of the swim. My friend Quintin was there too, and we started the race at more or less the same time.
Now the swim is my weakest discipline, and I have always had a kind of fear of it. This race was no exception. However, as soon as I got into the water, I felt surprisingly calm. I've never been any good at swimming, and throughout the months leading up to the race, my longest session at the pool was just 1.5km, and that was with many stops too. When I got to shore and about the make a second entry into the water for the second loop, suddenly Dr Yap came alongside me. But he left me behind in no time at all. I eventually emerged from the sea in about 1:36 for a distance of just under 4km.
I took my time rinsing off the salt water, and then made my way to the changing tent. My heart was still racing like crazy, and by the time that I got to my bike, I noticed that Quintin and another friend, Felix, had already left T1. My heart sank, but there was no time to think about all those.
I started pedalling slow as I tried to catch my breath. But very soon after the bike start, I entered to Jalan Datai where the nightmare began. Hills, hills and more hills. At 75kg, I felt like I was hauling a ton of bricks. It was just ridiculous. I merely shifted to the lightest gear and took my sweet time going uphill. When I finally emerged back from Jln Datai, I felt a little relieved. For about an hour or so, it was a pleasant workout. And then came the nightmare of the 3 famous hills, apparently known as Bukit Hantu. In my mind, I was like, "Memangpun sial macam hantu ni bukit semua!", and I calmly pedalled uphill with my lightest gear. There, I saw Tey Eng Tiong, waiting with his camera, and he took this photo of me (Thanks bro).
It was at the second big climb that I saw Wendy Tan coming through; out of her saddle and literally dancing on her pedals going uphill. I could only look in awe. But I didn't look for too long, mind you; or I would be in danger of falling off my bike because of too engrossed looking at her! Then came the third hill. Again a very slow climb. Several people were pushing their bikes uphill, but I refused to give in to the temptation of doing the same.
The most painful part of it all was that we had to repeat the whole thing again during the second loop, and during the second visit to Bukit Hantu, I felt like kerasukan hantu to be able to climb those hills. But thankfully, I survived all the hills without pushing my bike on foot.
I finally finished the bike torture in about 7:10. Again my heart sank when it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn't seen Quintin since the start of the race that morning. I have of course run many marathons before, but running 42km with an empty tank is quite a different story altogether. Coming out of T2, my legs felt like jelly, and I dreaded the thought of the miles upon miles of torture for me to reach the finish line. The mind was willing, the legs weren't cooperating.
One step at a time; a slow jog, a brisk walk, counting in my head. I tried everything, but it was no good. Fatigue was setting in. It was perhaps 8km into the run leg when I finally caught up with my friend Sandi. She, too, was lack of training and was obvious struggling. I merely jogged slow and steady. And then to my surprise, I caught sight of Quintin not very far ahead. I eventually overtook him too, perhaps a little over 10km into the run. But by then I wasn't really running; more like a fast walk, and a very slow jog.
I caught sight of Quintin again at the U-turn at MIEC. He was all smiles, and I reminded him not to be too happy, as we had to repeat the whole loop again for the second time. That went on for a while; I would jog slowly and Quintin would be hot on my heels. When I finally reached the MIEC again for the final U-turn (roughly about 7km to the finish line), Quintin was still tagging along very close behind. He shouted out, asking me why was I going very slow. I responded by reminding him that I was still ahead of him! It was already nightfall, and as I was approaching the finish line, my whole body was aching. I crossed the finish line in about 15:10, not very impressive, but more than half an hour faster than my finishing time last year. Quintin arrived at the finish line shortly after. I'm getting too old for this shit, but then again if I can still finish within 17 hours, why not, right?
All the pain, and in the end, this was what I got for spending a lot of my hard-earned money and torturing myself:
It's supposed to be fun, but I don't know how to explain it. While I was doing it, I must have done it wrongly, as I didn't feel like it was fun at all. The fun was only when I had already crossed the finish line, showered and admiring my medal on the bed in the hotel room.
Mia said she enjoyed herself. She had quite a race; although she did just half the distance that I did, she struggled up the hills, and failed at the final hill of Bukit Hantu. She fell to the ground, but was lucky that she wasn't seriously injured. She went on to finish the race and got the finisher medal and finisher T-shirt. And now she says she wants to do it again next year!
Dumb, really dumb! See you again next year, Ironman Malaysia!