Never a dull moment

So, I hardly write anything for a while, then, I start waffling on and writing like I actually have something to say!! Well, I guess that’s me all over, I can remain quiet for immeasurable amounts of time, then, I am as garrulous as the morning birds in song.

So the previous “war and peace” length posting was about Port Dickson Sprint triathlon, which I competed in alongside my wife, Poova, who was doing her first triathlon, on the 9th of August 2014 and which for me was a warm up for the Port Dickson International Olympic Distance Triathlon on the 10th of August 2014 and was part of my training for the Langkawi Ironman 2014, a possible bout of stupidity or even insanity had led me to think that I might somehow actually enjoy something like that. Remind me next time to stick to TV and eating out, the odd Hash run here and there or a game of chess every now and again.

Anyway, the training was done, I had competed in the sprint triathlon and come 46th overall and 8th in my age group.

Not bad, I was hoping for top 50 and I got it. I wanted a top 10 position in my agegroup and I got it. All is good, bring on the Olympic Distance…..

My aims for the OD were top 100 overall, top 100 swim and to move into the top 50 to 30 in my age group, well, here’s how the day panned out.

I relaxed after the sprint triathlon, happy in my efforts, Lee Kok Kee Whatsapped (it’s a verb… really) me the reults, I was 8 in my age group… wow, I wanted it and I got it.. I was pretty elated, but still not over confident or cocky for my chances at the OD, there would be all the serious chaps and chapesses there, plenty of very fit, very strong and very experienced athletes. I could only go through my regimen, eat as I was supposed to, keep the water going through to stay hydrated, sleep again early and stick to the plan I had made, with a minor adjustment to my swim, which would be far more aggressive at the start, based on the mornings sprint triathlon result and my experience in the water with other swimmers, I only hoped that they would send the women last, sure there are plenty of weaker male swimmers and the women are tough cookies, however, it’s not a great feeling pounding over 50kg women swimmers when you are nearly 90kgs like me and it would force me to be cautious and slow down. Well, we would find out in the morning.

Already buzzing from the morning, we had arranged to attend the carb loading dinner and meet up with our dear friends Leon and Gina. Leon would be racing in the OD too and is a long distance triathlon and Ironman 70.3 finisher, a good friend and a lively spirit to have around. We had the dinner at the Avilion Admiral cove, a reasonable mix of pasta, salads, rice etc, normal stuff, cakes and fruit and we all four of us had our fill, the chicken tasted off unfortunately and I stopped eating it immediately, I didn’t need a dose of the toilet olympics in the morning or during the night, I have experienced a bad belly the morning of the Angkor Wat half marathon and believe me, it doesn’t help one little bit.

Anyway, we discussed our battle tactics, chewed the fat and eventually after as much pasta and potatoes as any mere mortal could stand, we parted to get an early night.

We were staying at the Klana Beach Resort Hotel, pretty nice place, I was happy with it, sure it’s not the Shangrila or the Hilton, but I’d recommend it for a weekend stay in Port Dickson any time, in fact we are booked to stay there for the Port Dickson duathlon 2014, so that says a lot, as I would never stay in some of the places we inadvertently booked, like PD Marina World something or other… oh boy… never again…

Anyway, we got to bed early, but unfortunately, it seems there was an elephant in the room above us and a banshee down the hall, the next room to us was also inhabited by a very, very…… very… sad child, so all night till the early hours we could hear people running around, wailing and crying. Not good, really… sleep is training too and from my current experiences, it is key to a good race, or one of several keys to a good race, but anyway, we went to bed at 9pm to 10pm with the intention of waking up at 5.30 to 6am, so I would get enough sleep somehow.

Since I started training for Ironman, I sleep like I did in my teens and early 20s, like a log and for a long time, I can sleep 8 to 10 hours daily, it just happens and I am subject it, no need to fuss or fight, no need for warm milk or sedatives, the sandman cometh and I go out like a light.

We woke as per plan, I did my breakfast and coffee routine and waited for the usual morning digestive action to take place… if coffee and oats don’t do it, nothing will, however, there is one more thing that can help your bowel movements too, get your tri suit on and zipped up, when you have spent that time squeezing into it, then nature says..”haha… guess what? yeah.. it’s time” and you struggle to get out of it and to the toilet quickly enough.

After nature was satisfied I had done my bit, I got my liquids ready and prepared my stick on number tatoo, yes, 2014 is the year Triathlon Malaysia got all smart and snazzy and introduced stick on numbers like at the Ironman 70.3 I had done a few months back…

I had bought a racebelt for RM20 (about 4 pounds stirling at this time), this was also a first for me and I was feeling pretty happy that I had. I decided that I wasn’t taking liquids on the run as it was extra weight to carry, so I didn’t need the usual water belt. I had also decided from the previous days experience that 1 bottle on the bike for 40kms is enough, provided after the swim, I gulped some of my Horleys Replace, which would be in the gear basket and would be to get some electrolytes in at transition, this way I am not lugging two bottles around the 40km cycle course. In the end, it’s all weight, it’s all wind resistance and it’s all energy burnt on the wrong things, so you have to figure out your own plan and needs, for me it worked well.

I got my gear as normal, OCD, swim, cycle and run. Everything as previously with the exception of the race belt for the cycle and run and .. tah dahhhhh…. drum roll…. Leon had sold me an aero helmet, he had only used once before and this was to be my secret weapon, a long super sleek, white aero helmet, Imperial Storm Troopers eat yer hearts out… this is a cool helmet daddio!!

Oh yes, I almost forgot… there was one vital piece of equipment missing, if you read my previous story about the sprint the day before, you will recall my bike pump was a popular item amongst my fellow competitors, hmmm, a little too poular it seems, as the last chap to borrow it never returned it, I can understand, it’s RM150 (30 pounds sterling), and brand new, so amybe it was well worth keeping, or maybe he just got confused as to who I was, it’s a very stereotype thing to say and we joke about this often but still people in Asia tell me we white guys all look the same, so perhaps it just went to the wrong guy, anyway, farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish maidens… and bike pumps…

Same routine, by discipline, make sure you have the gear, do it in order, pack it in a big bag, put drinks in last, make sure got bib, get wife motoring and get to the venue. Unlike the gear which needs no awakening, my wife will stir from unconsciousness at the smell of fresh coffee and no matter how busy I am, I will make it my job to make sure she has her “cup of Joe” in the morning.

We travelled once again in the dark to the venue and as per the previous year it was already getting very busy, very fast, the road was full of cars trying to park outside the venue and attendents were trying to prevent traffic parking and blocking the road. We got ourselves at the far end of the parking field and quickly unpacked and headed down the dirt lane to the Avilion Hotel and the transition area.

No number means no entry into the transition, so you need to get the race number on your arm before you get to the site, trying to do it there is a messy affair. I took my bike over the the old mens rack, with number 4154, in Cantonese you can translate that as 41 dont die.. kind of, which is interesting, because I was 41 at the time of the race and was only a few days from my 42nd birthday. Anyway, I get my bike to the rack, and there are some familiar faces, Robert Carfagno and Paul Macalman, a couple of fit, strong guys in my age group and Jason Winter whom I was familiar with from Hash and Xterra Malaysia 2013, Jason wasn’t racing, if he was, we would all be racked up in the same area, it had been like that several times, on one side of me, Robert on the other Richard Tang, they have very nice carbon fiber aero bikes, I am riding my 2010 Trek 1.5, it’s not quite as fancy but I like it, it will be my trusty friend for 7 hours cycling at Ironman Langkawi. I prepared my gear, put my helmet and shoes out as I wanted them, usually the helmet is upside down facing you, so you can flip it onto your head quickly, I cant do the fany flying bike mount so my shoes were just on the carpet in front of my basket, there was very little to do after the swim, just shoes, helmet, belt and gulp the Replace. So the gear was set. I had prepared my sun visor for the run and had my bright orange Zoots Ultra TT 6.0 running shoes, which are the best running shoes I ever owned, not just that particular model, but Zoots in general.. I have 3 pairs at the moment and I love them, they fit great, feel great and I have had no issues with them whatsoever, I bought one pair and did a race the next day with them, I was so confident with them.

So, at transition, we exchanged hellos and some banter, you can’t let the Aussies go without giving them some stick and vice versa and after a sufficient amount of bad jokes and minor insults, I headed off to find Leon and Poova and have a brief dip in the sea, get the feel of the water as it were.

I bumped into Lee Kok Kee again and Chris Krang on the beach, a very strong female competitor, again, said our hellos and I got myself into the sea. Everything felt pretty good, I left Poova to join the throng of people that had now engulfed the starting area.

There is the usual looking around, weighing up who, how, what, trying to get a good place to see the start, but it all fades away as you begin to contemplate yourself, your task ahead and what is going to happen.

Uncle Chan went through his routine of getting the crowd ready and organised, we waved to some flying cameras and the decision to send the ladies last was announced, much to my relief, now I could be a lot more aggressive in the water, though there would still be two waves of male swimmers infront of me, some of whom would be very weak swimmers, so I still would be merciful and respectful, but I definitely wouldn’t be decelerating for them.

The sea was calm and inviting, I was eager to go, I enjoy swimming and though I’m no expert. It’s a lovely feeling to pump and glide through the water, to feel yourself accelerating through the sea and the sense of speed as you pass slower swimmers is as much a buzz as it is on dry land in a race.

As my thoughts once more came around to reality, Uncle Chan was starting the countdown of the first wave and in no time at all the horn was blaring again and a mass of bodies were fighting their way into the sea, this time there would be a lot more competitors splashing and thrashing in the grey blue waters of Port Dickson, the sprint traithlon the day before had attracted around 400 athletes, today was close to 900 so I was told.

The first wave went off, the young chaps, the fast and the furious, the thin and impetuous… the brave and the foolhardy.. seeing the pace of the front swimmers is a wonderful thing, that 3 minutes between waves probably seems eternal on the beach but probably passes in a moment for the slow swimmers at the back as the horn goes again for the second wave, we line up and I find a spot near the front of my group, I am looking for a top 100 swim time overall, I have only been swimming about 18months with the intention of completing an Ironman, but I found I liked swimming and my times were constantly improving, so, today, though slightly novice, I wanted to get my name up there with the better swimmers, but I could only acheive that by sticking with my technique, staying focused and being aggressive in the start to get my position asserted.

Once again, “pheeeeeeaaawwwwww” the airhorn blares and I am running down the sloping sand to the water, trying to find a space, trying to get an “empty” spot of water, of which there is as much chance of findind as there is ice on the sun… the previous day my gps efforts were awry, today I was sure I wouldn’t make the mistake again, I hit the button and I was off amongst the throng of traithletes.

I very quickly became horizontal and was trying the get my pace, rhythm and position, without getting kicked in the head or getting my fingers kicked which potentially could break or dislocate a finger, I had a bit of difficulty for the first few minutes to get myself in the groove, because at this point you are always fighting to get around someone, there are always those people who think that being in the front of a crowd at the start, means you will get a head start… in my experience, it means you risk getting trampled to death by the stampeding hordes if you don’t know your place, It’s always funny at road races to see people who are obviously not athletic, trying to get shoulder to shoulder with the Kenyan runners in the front area… 5 minutes after the starters gun, they are walking, chatting being passed hundreds of runners. This applies to every kind of race, triathlon is no exception and so, I am once again, stroking legs, patting butts and getting up close and personal with the 20 guys who thought they could swim fast, but are now perhaps wishing they hadn’t over estimated themselves, as for the 25th time, my huge hand pummels their delicate buttocks. They will have some explaining to do to the wife later with those kind of handmarks I’m sure.

It took till the first bouy to get into a good reach, catch and relax rhythm, whilst breathing consistently both sides, I specifically remember, turning the first counter clockwise bend and smiling in the water, a feeling of calm excitement had come over me and I was starting my “zen” swim, long catches, calm breaths, less effort, more glide, I was 100% aware of the others in my age group around me, denoted by the orange swim cap, I felt as though I was in the lead group of my age group but as long as I didn’t get outside that top 30 to 50 that I wanted, I would be happy, however, I was spurred on by the poition of those orange hats around me, I wanted to pass them and I even managed to draft one or two swimmers for some of the way, until I realised I was just following them and probably capable of taking them on and as I made the turn back to head down the L shaped home stretch, I took off a couple of other orange hats from the list and fought onward towards the beach, that large inflatable red arch, breathing both side to maintain a straight line, I edged closer and closer to the beach, passing one more orange hat in the final 200mts.

It felt around 30 minutes, that’s approximately what I did in the pool, but last year the swim, plus an 800mts run along the beach, plus transition, took just over 40 minutes, I knew I was a little faster, but by how much? Last year I wasn’t the proud owner of  Suunto gps watch, so I had no record of the broken down segments of the race.

As I staggered out of the water, trying to get myself going, I saw Poova there at the arch and I looked at my watch…. 26 minutes and a few seconds… holy guacamole!!!!  I am way ahead of myself.. Poova is clapping and tells me “You are doing really well.. there’s only a few of the guys ahead of you” and I sprint off down the sand as fast as my wobbly body would allow and sure enough there’s Paul and Terry, slightly ahead of me on the other side heading towards me. That’s a great feeling, when you know you have not only cut off a few seconds, but literally smashed off several minutes, what a buzz, I mean I was literally running on air, passing person after person on the beach as I headed in to get ready for the bike.

I didn’t bother taking the cups of water at the table after the shower, I moved on, slightly breathless, knowing I could take my electrolytes as I sat getting my cycle shoes on. This time I found my bike immediately, unlike the previous day and I was soon getting my race belt on, helmet, shoes, at this point a cameraman came over and videod my transition and asked a few questions about where I was from etc, I was a very blurry in that respect and very focused on getting out on the bike, which I did, I looked around at the other bikes too, Robert had gone, Richards bike was still there and as I exited transition Lee Kok Kee, was there and away in a flash, still need to get that transition improved….!!!

My friend and mentor Dave had told me to try to get out fast and join a draft group, as this is a draft legal race, it will save a lot of energy and I had this in mind, but I still wanted to ride it as if I was training for Ironman which is not draft legal, so I made a mix of half half, drafting a little then hopping onto the next group when I felt my energy pick up, the cycle went great, no major accidents on the outward ride, though I did have to shout at slower riders that I was passing, as some of them seemed to be drifting all over the road and I was laying down an average of around 35kmph, so a bump would be catastrophic at that speed. I eventually joined a large peloton and stuck with them, I in turn had some followers as for the previous day, some of whom I burned and some who I couldn’t shake, after making the Uturn, which mentally came quite quickly, I was on the homeward stretch at about 27kms when I saw Leon on the other side, then, a large bunch of cars came on the other side, one of whom was trying to overtake the cyclists and pulled out, a lady driver, who I really think must be the days prize winning idiot, she came very close to me and I shouted some foul expletives at her and carried on back down towards the Sime Darby entrance which is the marker for the sprint u turn and onward towards the lfet turn to the highway to take me back to town, at this point I was alone, no longer part of a peloton, just me and intermittent cyclists, some of whom seemed to desperately try and catch my back and draft me home, but each of whom I managed to shake, probably much to their dismay.

I was soon at the roundabout and a boyish urge to show off a bit took over me as there were people and cars all around and I sprinted furiously towards the next cyclist ahead before we reached the turn back to the hotel where hundreds of people were around, cheering and shouting, my friends and Poova included, I pulled into the dismount area and got off the bike. Legs felt a bit sticky, which is to be expected, but I still had the wind to run through to rack my bike and then I was frantically throwing my gear in the box, trying to gulp a banana down and gulp the Replace, whilst getting on my Zoots, I was up on my feet and running in no time, leaving transition and heading out, at which point I was accosted by Baby Monkey, my hash buddy, who wanted a picture, so I virtually stopped to let him get the shot, before carrying onto the road out of the hotel.

Poova was waiting on the bend to cheer me on and it felt good having some support, I checked my watch to see if everything was good, and I was going a little fast as is usual after the bike, I tried to get the speed right and get into a steady rythm again and then, began step by step to make my way along the beach road, trying to hunt down some of the runners ahead, then as I passed the hotels once again onto the tree lined dirt track, lo and behold, there is Rupert Chen again, in exactly the same place I had seen him the day day before on the sprint… must be a good omen I thought and it brought a smile to my face, as usual, I joked with the volounteers and just kept my jogging pace, step after step after step. I passed several runners, then several more, this was good and it spurred me on, I soon came to the wooded beach area, which signifies the sort of half way mark and I like this stretch as although it’s sandy and a little tough underfoot, it is pretty and reminds me of Hashing.

It was along this beach stretch, that the only person to pass me came up and gently passed me, not at much velocity, just a gradual, slow steady move away, which diminished with time as we came back to the main road and the home stretch. I was aware Poova would be there and wanted a shot of me running without anyone in the way, the guy that had passed me , I was now catching again and I decided to drop him so I could get a good picture, I had plenty left in the tank so I gave a bit more gas and accelerated, so does the guy infront and again I go, I can hear he is really getting the air into his lungs and I move again, still with plenty of gas in the tank and I leave him behind as we get round the last bend and there is Poova to take the nice clear picture and I then slacken back off on the speed, happy that I had finished the race running non stop and slowly the guy catches me and I look over at him and apologize “Sorry mate, I just wanted my wife to get a picture of me without anyone else” which I think perhaps confused him and I relaxed and let him take the lead into the finishing chute, I was hardly going to get a podium position so I didn’t really need to worry about one or two places, here or there..

I ran through the finish and there was the chap, bent double gasping for air and he offered me a handshake.. I was feeling great, no overstress, muscles worked ok and I finished running without having to walk, perfect result, as the finishers clock time is off from the actual time, I didn’t pay much attention to it and I was so preoccupied with finding Poova that I didn’t reset my watch, so I didn’t accurately time myself, it would be several days before I would find out how well (or badly) I had done….

Last years time was 2.49 and some spare change… 51 in my age group and 188 overall

this years time was….. well 2.29, top 20 in my age group, top 100 in the swim, 81 overall


Rule 6……

be committed but have fun



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