I’ll be right back….

Thinking only of myself, I have left you alone to your own devices, or vices, or whatever it is you do when I’m not around, it’s been about a month since I last made any noise and with good reason, I am just about 3 weeks from my first full Ironman race, in Langkawi Malaysia on 26th September 2014.

Earlier last month I competed in the Port Dickson triathlon, both the sprint and the Olympic distance races over the two days. My wife competed in her first sprint and it all went pretty well, I figured I would do both races as I need to just build up hours in each discipline and the sprint would be a great “warm up” for the OD race.

Of course there’s always that dream that you might somehow come in in the first 3, played up against the idea that you might pass out and wake up to cross the line dead last, or get a puncture on the bike or a cramp on the swim.. well, it’s all possible, so there has to be a contingency plan, usually training will avoid the chance of cramps, puking in the water, getting kicked in the head on the swim, crashing on the bike or heaven forbid, twisting an ankle, pulling a muscle or cramping or even passing out on the run.

Then, gear is very important, puncture repair kit, inner tubes, good goggles, tri suit, cycle shoes, sun glasses, helmet, used and familiar running shoes, petroleum jelly, race belt, sun visor, sun cream, there’s a lot of stuff to think about.

Of course last and definitely not least, nutrition… I mean it’s great having a steam train and a skilled driver, but unless you have water and coal… well you ain’t going nowhere…!!

I have not been specifically training for the Port Dickson triathlon, I have been training for Ironman Langkawi, so I have been focused more like a marathon runner, as opposed to a sprinter. Everything has been about distance and hours, trying to get the gruelling hours under my belt to prepare me for a huge day at Ironman Langkawi 2014, so I wasn’t expecting much from the Port Dickson International Triathlon, but I did want to finish running without walking and I wanted to finish top 100 and have a top 100 swim, that was it, there would be 700 to 1000 athletes, so I thought my goal was realistic but still would require me to put in some serious effort and a little bit of brain power, as strategy is important in triathlon.

We booked ourselves in at the Klana Beach Resort Hotel, I wasn’t expecting a great deal, as Agoda has lots of hotels in Port Dickson that have nice pictures but are not the same when you arrive, however, this was new, clean and looked pretty good for the money we paid, the beach is close by and…. there is an astronomical observatory in a small building inside the hotel grounds, pretty awesome, though we had no time to experience it unfortunately, as the big baby i.e. me.. needed to be in bed early, to be fresh for the race.

Sleep is as important as showing up with a bike, so don’t think a few beers and 5 hours will get you where you wanna go… it won’t, building up to Ironman, I am sleeping up to 10 hours per day, yup… 10…

Now, lets just step back a little bit here, I had booked the Saturday off work, so I could race in the sprint triathlon, my wife, Poova, would be doing her first sprint triathlon, to see if she liked it, so we would race together on the Saturday, so, I finished work early about 7pm (as I am working late hours) and Poova came to meet me at the factory, to go directly to Port Dickson, so we could have a early nights sleep, capitalising on time.

We set off and within a short distance I made a wrong turn on the highway and was thrown a little off course, it was then, whilst grumbling to myself, that Pova commented that she may have forgotten something.

There are a few things you really must have for a triathlon… a swimsuit, or trisuit, goggles, a bike and helmet, cycle shoes if your bike has cleats and some running shoes.

Hmmm, guess what? One of us may have forgotten our running shoes, so as well as being off course on the driving, I would now have to go all the way back home and get the virgin triathletes running shoes.

This we did, obviously with much cursing from me and I explained to Poova that she had better just get in the apartment, grab the shoes and get back down to the car fast, as it was getting late.  As we live on the first floor I can see the entrance to our apartment from the car park and saw Poova running along the floor to the apartment… cool, this would be a quick job and we could get underway.

After what seemed like an eternity waiting, I assumed she had made a toilet stop, however as I was about to hit the car horn, I see her dash out of the apartment towards the lifts….. minus the shoes…..

When she eventually got to the car, she looked at me sheepishly and said…”I think they are in the other bag in the car”….  ……   …….   so basically, I had driven all the way home to get shoes that were already in the car… well, that was a waste of a couple of hours of my life… anyway, at least we could eventually get going.

So we arrived quite late, around 11.00pm, quickly dumped all the gear, tried to get it arranged for the morning, so that everything went as planned, we did a simple run through of what would happen and then we hit the sack for a 5 hour sleep, this isn’t the best situation, but hey, you do the best you can, with what you have.

A wise friend (a podium finishing triathlete) told me recently, “sleep is training too you know”, I believe he is very, very right on that point, the more I sleep, the better I feel, perform and the more I can do.

Anyway, we were late to arrive and late to sleep so, that’s as much sleep as we could get, though I squeezed it so Poova got a little over 6 hours.

First item of importance was a coffee, I had the presence of mind to bring the perculator and some lovely Dalat coffee, the smell of which alone was enough to wake up the wife quite quickly. We did our normal stuff, shower, brush teeth, make another coffee, whilst sleepily getting nutrition and gear ready.

Firstly nutrition, which was a very standard bowl of quick oats, milk, organic virgin coconut oil (VCO) and organic rainforest honey, softened up with a little hot water, that’s the first stage, breakfast, getting in the coal to drive the steam engine and making sure it’s before one hour to go to the race, as eating after that, i.e. inside the last pre race hour, can mean puking on the swim or having the fibrous effects of the cereal start “working” during the race.

We got the oat mixture down with some fresh Dalat coffee and mixed up our preferences of electrolytes for the race, Poova was on 1 bottle of electrolytes with water and one just pure water, I was on the same. We use Horleys Replace, it seems to work well, if I need more power, I would take bananas, as I am not a fan of the gels, especially if they contain caffeine, as enough of that stuff and I light up like a Christmas tree.. like… bzzzzzzzzz

I planned to have one bottle in the transition box, to gulp at the two transitions and one for the bike leg, carrying two is just extra weight I don’t need. I have found this out from trial and error.. mainly error, a lot of riders repeatedly take out two large full bottles and come back with one empty, that means they carried 1kg or so extra all the way round the bike course.

You cannot however, compromise the importance of hydration, so you have to work out that balance, I’m 87 kgs or there abouts, I’m big heavy and need my engine fuelling properly, so I found that a good carb up the night before, a bloody good breakfast of the right stuff and plenty of liquids to keep you pumped up are my perfect mix (so far).

With the bottles ready, breakfast down our necks and the time fast approaching, we got our tri suits on, Poova uses a pretty aquamarine Zoot and I am on a black 2XU tri suit, this is great because it’s one set of clothes all the way round, no changing and is a triathletes best friend as it saves a heap of time.

So, having been referred to as “OCD”, I got the gear ready in order, I am sure everyone does the same thing, but I dont know, it makes sense to me to do that, just as if I were going through the race.

Swim,….. goggles, tri suit, swim hat (usually provided by organiser), Vaseline for protection against jelly fish.

Cycle,…..bike (duh!!), helmet (never forget this.. they won’t let you race without it), tri suit, cycle shoes, race belt with number pinned on (we were picking up the number at the race),gloves (I don’t because it wastes time), bike repair kits, liquids… and pump..sun block (dont take chances with cancer, it’s not fussy who it makes friends with) oh and sunglasses if you like to wear them,  it’s a good idea to, as giant Malaysian bugs… or any bugs for that matter, hitting your eyes at 40kmph on the bike, is very… very… very… unpleasant, especially if they survive the impact and start wriggling around in your eye….. trial and error… mainly error!!

Run,….. shoes, tri suit, run belt, liquids if you carry it (there’s usually water stations, so you can save weight by not carrying it), sunglasses, sun visor and again.. suncream(again just in case you sweated most of it off).

I didn’t include socks, as on an olympic distance (OD) triathlon, I dont wear them.

So, OK, gear checks out, tyres pumped on the bike in the hotel room, big red waterproof bag filled with the gear, we left the Klana hotel in darkness and packed the gear in the car and stowed the bikes on the Saris bikerack and headed off along the main Port Dickson road the 5kms to Avilion Admiral Cove, where lots of triathletes had already parked up and were getting ready. As I turned into the car park, I saw a familiar lady standing by the side of the road, but at 6am it’s kinda hard to get the brain working and I was struggling to remember how I know her, at first I thought it was Tri Stupes wife, whom I have seen once or twice, but I wasn’t convinced, so I kept on moving .. and found a good parking spot, right in the middle of an ants nest, luckily I must have a natural charm that wards of evil biting ants and I wasn’t bothered by them, though after a few minutes unloading gear, Poova started doing what looked like a mix up of a war dance with some Micheal Jackson moves, punctuated with “ahh, oh, ah, something, ah, ah, oh, biting, ah eh, me” so we quickly moved on, me trying to ignore the fuss though having a quiet chuckle to myself at the same time.

We walked the dark dirt track to the road and guardhouse at Avilion, where there was that familiar face again.. and another… my mate Baby Monkey (that’s his Hash name by the way), it was his wife, after a quick greeting, we learned she will be doing the sprint tri for the first time too, awesome, we have some friends to share the morning with, I know Poova would be nervous at her first triathlon, particularly for the swim as this was her first competetive swim ever, in the sea, after learning to swim only about a year before.

In addition to Baby Monkey and wifester, a couple of other Hashers were there, Ivan, Bonsai and Venkata, all doing their first sprint, so it was a friendly little gathering of familiar faces. As we got to the transition area and collected our kits and got our numbers, a few other familiar faces appeared, Rupert Chen amongst them, a very nice guy who is a great triathlete and some of the more seasoned, older triathletes, who would be using this as a warm up for tomorrows OD and as training for Ironman, so I knew I wasn’t in a weak field, there were plenty of  strong athletes to race against…. or follow…

We racked our bikes, got our gear ready, I helped Poova organise her stuff and a few people came and borrowed my pump, lucky I brought it really, I was a popular guy (if only for a short time). We exchanged the usual hellos and small talk with familiar faces and strangers alike, and eventually, after everything was done and ready, we made our way to the beach. The sea was calm, the sky a little grey at that time and I explained to Poova about the swim course and tried to calm her nerves, Baby Monkeys wife was doing ok so it seemed, but everyone is a little hyper, there’s electricity in the air, that pre race buzz.

The race crowd wasn’t so big, so they spilt us up in 2 waves, women first with a 3 minute gap for the guys, this was to prove a big mistake, but we’ll get to that later. Uncle Chan came and gave his speech and comedy, he is a funny chap, who gets the crowd going with his energy and as we all thought about the race ahead, he called for the women to get ready at the start, I was at that point probably more nervous for Poova than Poova was herself, but she is a tough resilient cookie, so I just hoped she stuck to her contingency plan for the swim, which was to stick to the wire if tired, to float on her back and just remember to “breeeeeaaaathe” and swim… that’s it, nothing complicated and so with these thoughts in my head I took a good position to see the girls start swimming.

The horn sounded and the girls hit the water, Poova went in at the back of the group and waded about 20mts, the better swimmers were already pounding away and the sea was like an open top washing machine, with white foaming water splashing everywhere, Poova stuck to the line and to the back, to avoid getting kicked in the mad frenzy.

I was a little perplexed after the first two minutes to see how slowly the girls were swimming and was getting worried for Poova at the back, knowing that guys my size would be coming through, quite mercilessly, arms and legs pounding. I was almost not paying attention to Uncle Chan as I drifted away to thinking about how I would handle myself.

The countdown started and I had to “switch on”, I had decided to go in the middle of the swimmers, as I didn’t want to get pounded at the front, nor did I want to swim through the slower guys, I have been training consistently on my swimming, so I was confident but not overly so.

When the horn blew.. Pheeeeaaaawwwww… I started my Suunto gps watch and I tentatively made my way through the crowd and lunged forward into the water, I forgot for a few moments to stick to my style and form, and was thrashing like everyone else, then I remembered how to glide and breathe and pull…  however, with 300 other bodies in the water, it’s hard to not get kicked, to keep the rhythm or to stayed aggressive but focused. I had someone infront of me, a guy with a partially red tri suit, who was unfortunately, directly in the path of my strokes, I hit his butt, very hard, once… he went down, twice, again sinking, three times, four, five, at which point he peeled away to my right, sorry whoever you are, you must have had a red butt like a babboon after all that, I can assure you it wasn’t on purpose, I was just trying to get where I was going.

I was slow, because I wasn’t directly aggressive enough, but… I was also looking for her royal wifeness, to see if she was ok, I don’t mean I was paddling around, I was swimming and at a pace, but I was sighting a lot for her, but I couldn’t see her, I resigned myself to the idea that she would be fine whatever happened and I focused on trying to be a torpedo, not a row boat.  It’s not a long time you are in the water on a sprint, the distance is 750mts, I was just getting my rhythm when I turned the final bend to head back to the shore, I tried to remain “zen” in the water, pull, turn, glide, breathe, see the others and move accordingly, hold your line, breathe, reach, catch…. in a short time I was out of the water and running along the beach back to transition. I had practised this, so I was good with it, just need to get out quickly, whack the bike race and get running.

I ran through transition to the end of the racks…. Oh shit… where’s my bike? I ran into the wrong section and was completely thrown off balance mentally… I saw some of the strong triathletes in my age group coming in, “Damn, I said..” Half happy because I beat them on the swim and half angry because I couldn’t find my bike, I looked at my arm for my number “bloody idiot” I said to myself,  575… and got myself geared up… in the meanwhile, Lee Kok Kee and Richard Tang, whom I’d beaten by a few seconds on the swim, were already on the bikes and out of there, they are really good cyclists and runners so I was happy to have been ahead even on one section of the race.

Ok, … gulp drink, helmet, number on, cycle shoes.. grab bike and get bike to mounting area.

Rushing out of transition, I was just thinking about pounding pedals and getting to the Sime Darby turn around point out on the race course, which entails a small steady uphill journey, at that point, I would be half done and could focus on the warm up for the run with the downhill cycle back to Admiral Cove. The weather was quite kind, the skies not too hot as compared with the previous years OD, where it felt like racing in an oven. I tried to avoid drafting, though there’s usually a mass off people drafting me, because I’m quite large and stop a lot of air. As per usual in cycle events, I could see shadows on the road behind me as we left the town and headed up on the highway to the country road turning. I could drop some of them, but some were very persistent, I could see Arifin ahead, he is a one armed triathlete and very strong, I knew today was going well if I was so close to him at this point, as we made our way up to the turning point, I was determined to break away and perhaps even catch Arifin ahead of me, though I didn’t want to over expend my energy and I knew he was very strong, so chasing him might mean I mess everything up, I caught him on the hill after the turning from the highway and as the road levelled out, I tried to spin into a position of high revs, so I could drop gears and excellerate towards the cyclists ahead, it worked well and I continued to try to catch those ahead of me, using each cyclist as a target to reach, it wasn’t long though before I saw the front cyclists and a small peloton on the other side of the road, it’s at that point, you realise how close or far behind you are. I heard a bike behind me again and was expecting to find Arifin, as I would have been a perfect person to draft, but he rides a road bike and this sounded like an earo bike, sure enough it was, I looked back to see a familiar face, but not a person I had been acquainted with yet, Terry, whom I had seen cycling many times but never spoken to. He offered to take the lead, so I could draft, but dropped back very quickly behind me, must have been the oats I had for breakfast, like spinach for Popeye..!!

At the turn around point, I saw Terry had dropped back a bit and Arifin was still close by, I gave a big smile to the marshalls and started the 10kms home to start the run. That 10kms was a flash, I passed some of the girls and gave big smiles to those on the opposite side of the road, coming towards the tirn around and was soon at the turn for the highway, where I saw a very angry looking Poova, with a large group of cyclists, I shouted “Go Poova!!!” but she didn’t look, I though she didn’t hear me……..

As I got in to transition, there was Baby Monkey taking pictures and I hurriedly tried to get my bike racked and get myself run ready, in this (what seemed brief) time, Terry came in transitioned and went out at a hell of a pace running, whilst I was still getting my shoes on… must learn how to transition better… that was twice in one race where I was slow..

I got on my feet and started moving, the body was pretty good, the legs not too bad and I started the 5km run out of Avilion Cove, I have to say, I barely remember the run, it wasn’t tough, it was hot, but a lot cooler than the year before, I don’t think many people passed me, there was a woman, a tiny blond haired lady who was motoring like a jet engine, boy, could she run, I remember her specifically, but nor did I really pass anyone either, it was a straight up run, I saw Rupert Chen on the way in as I was on the way out after the hotels as we hit a small dirt trail shaded by trees, he gave me some encouragement and I knew I was a long way off the front!!!

It wasn’t long before I was back at that same point, heading home, joking with the volounteers along the way to call me a taxi and generally just enjoying the beach and the fact that I felt so much better than last years PD tri and Morib too, where I couldn’t finish the run without walking, whereas this time I was fine all the way round, I came through the finish chute happy and with a feeling that tomorrows tri would be much better compared to last years, I said hi to some of the other athletes, Terry being one and got some pics with Baby Monkey, whilst waiting for my wife to come back.

It did seem like a very long time before I eventually saw her, in fact I was confused why I hadn’t seen her passing on the road, there are some points where you run back against other runners and some places where you are totally apart, but I thought there was a good chance of seeing her, but alas, I wasn’t to see her till I was standing at the barriers of the finishers chute, when she arrived, she looked like she had swallowed a bee, we cheered her on, but with no response, she looked very determined but equally angry…

After eventually catching her, she said she had done so badly on the swim that she was really upset and it had battered her spirit, which I can understand, as I had believed she would get a top ten position amongst the girls, because she had got her swim down by several minutes in the pool at home, but she had done well in the cycle and the run, coming 8th in her category for the run.

I was glad I had decided to do the sprint, it would help me see and hopefully overcome my weaknesses for the OD and hopefully for the Ironman.

I was fully aware that if I was to acheive my goals, I needed to do a few simple things, be aggressive on the swim, and stick to the style, no pussy footing around, just get in, get through the crowd and swim, the bike, I may need to draft, it’s a draft legal race, so why not make use of that fact and then, I would need to hold my run together and not walk, hopefully the hamstring tighness and the pulling calf would be kind to me and give me a break…

Think that was some reading?… next up… Port Dickson Olympic distance triathlon…

 

Rule 5………

Consistency in all things

 

 

 

 

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