Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Ironman 70.3 Bintan 2018

I can't remember how I got to know about the Ironman 70.3 Bintan race. Perhaps some of my Whatsapp friends mentioned it, and I ended up visiting the organiser's website. It must have been about half a year ago when I decided to register for the race. Mia decided to join too, but of course because of habit, she almost never do things early. No, she would wait till the very last minute to register, and even that was because I was nagging and reminding her to do it on a daily basis.

As soon as she registered, I embarked on making all the arrangements, i.e. flights, hotel reservation, ferry tickets etc. I had to be the one to make all those arrangements, because if I leave it to Mia, she won't do it till the day before we fly, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, it was then that I found out that practically everything about Bintan is expensive—astronomically expensive. There were some other friends from KK who've registered for the race, i.e. Ahmad Syuaib a.k.a. Peechee, John Kok, Anslem and Amy. Some west Malaysian friends were also going, i.e. Quentin and Felix.

In the months prior to Bintan, I bought a new trisuit, i.e. a single piece which I wore without any underwear (please remain calm, ladies). I also shed about 2kg as I heard that the bike course elevation was 700m. I used to believe that losing weight is very easy, but actually it's extremely tough if you eat like me; and have an obsession for ais kacang.

The journey to Bintan was quite something, to put it mildly; from KK, we took an approximate 2-hour flight to Singapore last Thursday. It was an afternoon flight, and it was about 6pm when we emerged from the arrival hall of Terminal 4 of Changi Airport. We then took a taxivan to the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. After checking in our bike boxes and luggage, we had dinner at the terminal while we waited for the departure. The ferry ride was just about an hour, but although I thought the ride was very smooth, Mia was at the verge of getting sea sickness when we disembarked on the other side.

The next morning we headed down to breakfast at about 7am; and oh boy, we ate like there's no tomorrow! It's so easy to get carried away with the concept of carboloading. The athlete check in wasn't till Saturday though. Having set up our bikes, we took the shuttle bus to the race venue. We checked in and got our ID tag. We spent perhaps 5 minutes to ride our bikes to make sure that all's in order.

The race day was on Sunday. We took the 4:45am bus from the Bintan Lagoon Hotel and arrived at the Lagoi Plaza at about 5am. Then we went into the transition area to set up our stuff at the bikes. Soon, it was the flag off for the pros—first the males, and then followed by the females. After that, the so-called age groupers were flagged off in waves, and I was among the last to be flagged off.

The Swim

It was low tide that morning, and we probably had to wade in the water for about 70 metres or so before we started to swim. And the swim was as always very chaotic despite the calm water. The kicks and elbows are something that I can never get used to, and for the life of me, I can't quite understand why some people would grab my feet from behind; I had the right mind to just give him a good kick. But I remained calm. It must have been about halfway through the swim when Quentin came from behind, and we swam abreast for a couple of minutes before I lost sight of him. I was tempted to swim faster, but I'm not a fast swimmer, and I knew that trying to swim faster would mean a higher energy cost for me. Accordingly, I decided to just swim my own pace. The tail end of the swim was again an approximate 70 metre's worth of wading, and I was pleased to see that I did the swim in about 45 minutes. I took my time to make my way to the transition, stopping by at the shower for a moment to rinse my body.

The Bike

What can I say, the bike leg was akin to a nightmare to me—hills, hills and more hills; and then winds, winds and more winds. Some portions of the bikes course were also quite technical as we had to make sharp turns and make our way into some villages where young kids would rush out to the road to ask for sports bottles from the cyclists.

I had recently bought the Garmin Forerunner 935 which is equipped with a heart rate sensor. I tried to keep my heart rate within 140 bpm, but I went beyond that whenever I was climbing hills. The head winds were something to be reckoned with. The rest after each climb was hardly any rest, because just a few seconds later, it's another climb! I caught up with Quentin again about halfway through the bike course, and swiftly overtook him. I caught up with Mia too, as she was flagged off about 20 minutes before me.

As I was climbing a big hill just a few kilometres before the end of the bike course, I caught up with Amy. She was also struggling up the hill. So far there was no sign of Anslem, John and Peechee. But I wasn't even expecting to be able to catch up with them, as they are strong cyclists.

The Run

When I arrived at the transition for the second time, I felt like my quads were just at the verge of seizing up. I briskwalked for a good 50m to test my legs, and after a while I started jogging. Soon enough, I arrived at the aid station where I grabbed iced sponges to cool myself down. As I had expected, it was an extremely hot day, and there was no shade at all.

And then to my surprise, about 3km into the run, I caught up with Anslem. In my mind, he must be running his second loop. But making some calculation in my head, if it was his second loop, then that would mean he's extremely fast! Shortly later, I saw Felix coming from the other direction. Felix is perhaps about 2 years younger than me, but his body is as strong as a teenager. I'm not sure if he's got the genes of either Edward Cullen or Jacob Black of the Twilight Saga.

A little further down the road, just shortly after the turning point, I overtook John who was obviously melting in the hot sun. But little did I know, Amy had caught up with me by then. From that point onwards, Amy and I took turns taking the lead, but my main focus was on keeping it steady till the end of the race. Sadly, by the second loop, I started to run less and walk more! If only my legs could speak, I can imagine what they'd say to me! The sun was brutal, but thankfully there were aid stations approximately 1.5km apart.

Just as I was approaching the finish line, I saw Mia running very slowly, and she hadn't even finished her first loop. I can never get used to seeing my wife suffer. Just a brief advice to say "take it easy" as I was overtaking her, but I knew it won't be easy in that ridiculous heat.

Soon, I was already running the homestretch on the red carpet towards the finish line.

And I finished the torture in about 6.5 hours. It was a big relief...

After I had crossed the finish line, I went to the tent for participants. There I sat down on a plastic chair. Oh it was such a joy giving the rest that my legs deserved. After about 10 minutes, I collected my street bag, the finisher T-shirt. I had coconut water. I had Indomie and some chicken. I had some ice cream too. I walked around a bit. I sat down. I walked around some more...

A little over 2 hours later, Mia arrived at the finish line, and I became a little emotional seeing her making the finish line but beyond the cut off time. She did get the finisher T-shirt though. Well, she has a few more months till November before attempting to conquer the same distance again in Langkawi; whereas I only have approximately 5 weeks' worth of training before I attempt the full Ironman distance in Penghu, Taiwan, in October.

In the end Peechee finished a few minutes faster than I did. Amy finished in about 6:49. Anslem, due to lack of training suffered cramps during the bike leg and eventually finished in about 7.5 hours. John did a 7:18. Decidedly, it was a tough, tough course.

So the diet continues for me. Have to maintain an optimal weight for racing in Taiwan, which I heard is a tough race. Bring it on!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Measure of Success

I recently made a comment on a facebook post, and I used the word "success" in it. Without touching on the rest of my comment—which is characteristically long-winded—I concluded my comment like this:

"Just remember that if you want success, not just in this profession, then you must make an effort to achieve it. Don't just complain all the time, because you just have to trust me—complaining very rarely can guarantee success!"

However, the trouble with that word "success" is that it is a relative term. Success to one person may not be success to another. Someone from a very humble beginning, say from having nothing to his name and living life with very little luxury such as having to travel by the public bus, going to school with no pocket money, frequently having to skip a meal or two because he can't afford it; when he ends up having his own house, his own Kancil to drive around, and enough means to support a family of his own, he might consider himself as having achieved success.

But on the other hand, for someone born into a rich family, having the above may not fall within the definition of "success" at all. I dare say perhaps to him that is not even an average achievement in life. He may even become disappointed if he can't achieve more than that.

A lady friend has been under medication for a long time for depression. I once had the opportunity to have a long conversation with her. Basically, I was curious to know what was it that she's so depressed about to the extent of needing medication. There were many, many reasons which to me were petty, but to her they were obviously major issues in her life. She was depressed about her job, because she felt like she's trapped in her job; she felt like it was a struggle to get out of bed each day to go to work. She was depressed that at her age (about 40 then) she hadn't a house of her own; she hadn't a lot of savings in the bank. She was also depressed that she was still single at her age. She was depressed that she's been driving the same car since 10 years ago. 

The funny thing was that I was then in my twenties, and I practically had nothing to my name too. No house, no car. I had a motorbike, but even that was stolen in the end. I had a lot of disappointments in my life, but I wasn't depressed; certainly no need for medications to treat depression. The one thing that I was determined to do was to find ways to improve my life and be proactive about it. I knew even then that complaining and grumbling about my situation would do very little to help me achieve anything better. Today I'm not anything like Bill Gates or Michael Jordan—far from it. I'm not a multi-millionaire, unless of course if you're calculating based on the Philippines Peso, or the Indonesian Ruppiah. I just have enough with not much more to spare. But that, to me, is at least a partial success.

I've noticed that too many of the young people these days are spending too much time complaining and grumbling about their lives, but the irony is that they're unwilling to put in the efforts and sacrifice to improve their lives. They spend their days blaming their luck; blaming the many obstacles that they're facing; blaming the competitiveness of the job market. The list goes on and on. They forget that they have the power to make a difference; yet they're not using that power!