Monday, December 7, 2009

Bittersweet Singapore Marathon.

"Targetted 4:30. Attempted sub-4. Big mistake. Majorly cramped at km35 and finished with a 4:46. Shouldn't have been so ambitious"

That's what my facebook status and twitter said. And that pretty much sums up my Singapore Marathon.

At 5am Sunday morning, Senn and I found ourselves among the throng of runners out on Esplanade Drive. I was feeling nervous and my breakfast hadn't quite settled in yet. So here I was among the thousands of marathon runners and all I could think about where I was going to puke and will I get fined if I do it here in public.

I was also worried about hydration, as I felt I hadn't quite drank enough water in the week leading up to race day. Will I have hydrated enough to last me the 42.195km? No time to think about that now, the race is about to start.

And off we go. I started well enough, running at just below 6min/km easily. As usual, I started towards the back, so was weaving myself through the traffic. At this point, I still had my 4:30 target in mind.

By the first km, I had caught up with the 5:15 pacer. So I was looking good. 3km later, I caught the 5:00 pacer. I kept on running, trying to look for the 4:30 pacer. I started thinking there was no way I was going to catch him because if he was running towards a 4:30 finish and so was I, we'd be running at the same speed. I must have been about 5 minutes behind him (that's how long it took me to get to the start line) and at the same pace, he'd be impossible to catch. So I eased up, just a bit.

At about the 9km mark, I saw him: the 4:30 pacer. I eased up and ran with them for a while. 4:30 was the target and if I stick with them, I'll surely get it.

Then I got restless. I started thinking, "If I caught up with them this easily, surely, if I put in more effort, I'd be able to reel in the 4:15 guy and even the 4:00 guy."

Marathon tip: this kind of thinking is delusional and dangerous!

So off I went, hunting down the 4:15 guy. I picked up the speed a bit and finished the first 10k in 57 minutes. Hit the East Coast Park. Kept on running. And running. And running. Still no sign of the 4:15 guy.

Got to the turnaround. Still couldn't see him. Downed a PowerGel and kept on going. Hit 20k in about 1:55.

The return trip through the East Coast Park was a bit mind numbing. By this time, I can star feeling the lactic acid build-up in my legs. By km25, I was beginning to think whether the sub-4 was possible. I said to myself, keep going till 30km then decide. At km28, I started feeling the onslaught of cramps. Downed a salt tablet and it went away.

I hit 30k and the time on my Garmin said 2:57. If I put in a bit more effort, the sub-4 was possible. But my legs were already shot. At this point, I gave up on that and just wanted to get back to the finish line, hopefully in under 4:30.

35km. Bang. The cramps hit. It was everywhere. Both calves, the thighs,even the inner thigh on my right leg. I seriously thought my balls were cramping! Had to start walking and downed yet another salt tablet. By now I was stopping at every medic asking for the ointment or spray. 4:30 was gone.

Km36 was the longest kilometre ever. Every time I looked at my watch, it said 36.something km. And I looked at my watch at least 10 times! I also noticed the distance on my watch, and the distance markers were off by about 600m. My watch would read 36km, then 600m later I'd see the distance marker. That was mental torture. At this rate, going under 5 hours seemed impossible.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity, I hit 37km on my watch. By now the legs were feeling better. So I started running again. But every time I get into some kind of rhythm, the cramp would come back. So that's what it was like for the next five kilometres. Run a bit, cramp, walk. Run a bit, cramp, walk.

At 38km, the 4:45 pacer passed me. Now it was just a matter of survival. The 5:00 pacer couldn't have been that far behind.

At 4 hours 30 minutes, my target time, I had just passed the F1 pit buildings and still had 2km to go. Maybe, just maybe, if i suck it up and start running I might just be able to go under my PB of 4:52.

I started running again. It was like a second wind. It was a pedestrian pace but at least I wasn't walking. Crossed the Esplanade bridge. Turned right on to Anderson bridge. Now feeling in awe that I'm running on part of the F1 circuit. Turned the corner and there it was: the long straight leading to the finish line. No way was I stopping now.

The clock at the line read 4:50. My watch said 4:46. A new PB either way. Happy about that but disappointed that I missed my target and that I hadn't managed to run all the way. A bittersweet race.

Lesson to learn here is to not be greedy. I think I could have gotten the 4:30 had I not spent a whole lot of effort between km9 and 30 chasing the sub-4. But then it was one of those things that you have to try or you'll never know. In the end, I didn't get anything: no sub-4, no 4:30.

I guess I can console myself with the PB.

And the fact that I had run in one of the best organised races ever. Really well organised. From the race pack pick-up, to the expo, to the route markers, the excellent volunteers and marshals, the enthusiastic supporters all around the course, the adequate aid (drinks and medic) stations, the beautiful medal and finisher t-shirt, etc. It was a wonderful experience. Kudos to the organisers and everyone involved. Just to be able to experience such a well organised event was worth all the pain and suffering.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Gone Too Soon

Once in your life, you will meet someone that will have a great impact on your life. I first met Yasmin Ahmad at my job interview for Leo Burnett back in 2000. It was the longest interview I've ever had.

That's the thing about Min. She has such presence and yet she makes you feel comfortable. Unfortunately, I wasn't very comfortable that day. I was nervous as hell. Here was the greatest creative director in the country asking to see my humble work. As my shaky hands and quivering voice took her through my book, she interrupted me, the way only Yasmin could.

"Nervous ah?" she laughed, "No need to be nervous lah. This is good work."

That still didn't comfort me though. I was still nervous, especially so when she brought Ali in to show him my work. "Ali has to see this," she said. "Don't worry, he won't bite. He only looks fierce because of the janggut!"

She kept laughing about how nervous I was. The interview lasted almost three hours.

She called me on the Friday the week after and told me my offer letter was ready. I went over to pick it up and she showed me around the office, pointing out the hottest girls there!

My first day at work, she brought me to an offline session for a MAS commercial. It was the one about the two boys saving up money to watch the Malaysian hockey team play at the Sydney Olympics. The music track was Man Bai's "Kau Ilhamku".

I sat in a corner and watched as she made comments to what I thought was an already perfect spot. Then she turned to me and asked me, "Eh... What do you think?"

What? The great one asking me for my comments? Wow! I was honoured! Unfortuntaly the only thing I could muster up was, "It's nice..." Damn, I must have looked like an idiot! Not a good start to my career at LB!

But that was Min. She was always excited about any new commercial, script, idea. She would get the entire creative department in and eagerly show them and get their feedback. She was like a kid with a new toy. And her work was always brilliant.

My first assignment and I nervously walked in to her office to show her my headline and first draft body copy. She liked the idea and immediately went to my desk to fine-tune the copy. She was always brutally honest with her feedback. If she liked something, she'd get really excited and sit down with you to see how we could take it further. If she didn't like it, she'd say some thing like, "Boring lah... Try this or that." Honest, but always willing to give a guiding hand.

Over the three years I was at LB, as I got to now her, I slowly managed to overcome my nervousness whenever I had to see her. She was larger than life, yet down to earth at the same time. She was charismatic, charming, funny, witty. And this helped me calm my nerves.

She never encouraged late nights at the office. She believed we were all adults and knew what our responsibilities were. She only asked that deadlines were met and the work was decent.

She loved movies. We'd be sitting around the office, brainstorming and she'd just walk up to us and invite us all to go watch a movie. At 3pm on a workday! She believed no good ideas can come from sitting around the office. We have to go out, experience life, then and only then, can we create advertising that people can relate to.

She taught me about advertising. She taught me about life. She taught me how to write. "Write from the heart," she'd say, "not the head." The one piece of advice I thought made me a better writer.

She was my boss, my mentor, my friend.

I left LB in 2002, seeking greener pastures. I rarely saw her after that. But she continued to make an impact on me through her work and her movies. I wish now that I had kept in touch more.

Today, I heard Man Bai's "Kau Ilhamku" on the radio, played in tribute to her. And I found myself crying. It reminded me of that first day at LB, the day I started to get to know this truly wonderful person.

Good-bye, Min. You will be missed.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Who's the DRAMAthlete now?

A couple of weeks ago, Senn labeled herself DRAMAthlete in her blog. At the PD tri yesterday, I proudly took that title off of her.

PD has always been my drama stage. I've raced there four times and only once did i have a drama-free race.

My first year, I got completely disoriented on the swim course (the swim course that year was complicated, zig-zagging through the pier). I was so winded after the swim that my bike and run suffered. Finish time 3:26.

My second year was drama-free. And I went on to record my personal best Olympic distance tri. Finish time 2:48 (a PB that still stands today).

My third year (last year), I crashed on the bike with about 2km to go to transition. Adrenaline got me going, pushing the bike back to transition and continuing on to the run. With blood dripping down my legs and arms, I managed to finish it. Finish time 3:02.

This year, everything was running smoothly pre-race. Got to PD early, had lunch, went jalan-jalan (not that there's much to see in PD), picked up race kits, caught up with old friends, went for carbo-load dinner, laughed at Uncle Chan's race briefing, etc.

Then the drama started.

I was setting my stuff up when I took out my bike shoes. It didn't have cleats on it. I had accidentally packed my old shoes.

Panic stations.

Thought about what to do:
1) I could do the bike in run shoes. But the Newtons and its lugs at the forefoot don't quite gel with the KEO clipless pedals.

2) Call around to see if anybody has spare cleats. But it was already 11-something at night and I seriously doubted anybody would have spare cleats lying around in PD.

3) Race back to KL, pick up the correct shoes, and drive back down to PD. But would take at least two hours and I'd only be back in PD at 1:30am. I'd have not enough rest for the race the next day.

At this point, the most viable option was option 3. Senn, bless her soul, was sweet enough to accompany me on the drive. We made it to KL in an hour flat. The drive back to PD was a little slower as I was getting a little sleepy. Kudos to Senn for not dozing off during the trip. Must have been a first for her!

Got back to PD close to 2am. Prepped my stuff, took a shower and went to sleep. Only, I couldn't sleep. Adrenaline from from the drive, mixed with pre-race jitters plus a very violent sleeper (no, not Senn) on the bed next to me made for a sleepless night. Next thing I knew, the alarm went off and it was time to get up. Damn, no sleep at all.

Patrick went out to the balcony and said it was raining. At this point, I really didn't want to race at all. I was sleepy, It was raining, and I still didn't know how well my knee would hold out.

But then I thought about the drive to KL and back. It would have been such a waste of a drive if I didn't race. And Senn would have killed me for dragging her all the way for nothing!

So we got ready, had our breakfast and moved on to the race site. Set up transition, got body-marked, wished friends good luck and off we went to the swim start. Drama's over, let's just get this over and done with.

But then oops, during Uncle Chan's last minute briefing, I realised I could hear him. I normally can't because I have my earplugs on. So, how is it that I'm hearing him now?


Left my earplugs in transition. Ran back to get and the earlier question about the knee holding up was answered: it wouldn't.

Got back to the start line and I was winded, completely winded. Looked at the sea and it was a lot rougher than in previous years. Oh well, let's get it on.

Off we went. I made it a point to swim on the outside, away from the line, to avoid the mass of arms and legs. After a few strokes, I was back on the inside, swimming over people, people swimming over me, getting my feet, calves and ass touched. It was a mess. It didn't help that the sea was rough, bouncing us up and down like rag dolls. Kept telling myslef that this was only till the first bouy, after that it gets a bit more strung out and there'll be space. Water will be calmer in the marina

Rounded the first bouy and found some space. Thought I was swimming quite well. Got around the turnaround, then back to rough seas, and onto the beach. Looked at my watch: 44 minutes! 11 minutes slower than my average time here. My slowest time in an OD swim. There goes my sub-3 race!

The only consolation was that Stupe was right behind me. Year in, year out, Stupe and I have always exited the swim at the same time. So maybe it wasn't that bad a swim, just that the conditions slowed us down a bit.

By the time I go on the bike I was winded. Just didn't have the legs. Struggled for about 10km or so then, as if right on schedule like in previous years, Azmar shows up with a long train behind him. I catch on, hoping to ride the train all the way home like in previous years. But, unlike previous years, I couldn't hold on. They accelerated up a hill and I suddenly puked, right there onto my top tube! I had to let them go and stop at the side of the road for a while.

That was the story of the bike. Trying to catch on to other people's wheels but failing to hang on. Stupe tried to drag me along, Dicky tried to drag me along, Patrick tried to drag me along. I just couldn't hang. After a while I gave up and just coasted home to a 1:28 bike time.

In T2, I sat there contemplating whether to continue or not. It was already going badly and I knew my knee couldn't handle it. But I learnt my lesson about quitting during Ironman 2007, so I continued. I decided to walk the 10k.

I've run marathons, 30Ks, half marathons, etc, but to walk 10 is damn far. Not to mention damn long. It took me 52 minutes, just to get to the turnaround. I tried running for a bit, because I was getting impatient with the slow pace. I saw some of my first-timer friends passing. I cheered them on, tried running with them, but the pain got too much so I went back to walking.

Senn passed and gave me words of encouragement. When I ran to keep up with her she scolded me, telling me not to be stupid and risk permanent injury. So I walked some more.

Finally, got back to finish line. Bandit was catching up so I tried to put in a final burst to stay ahead. Couldn't do it. We crossed the line side by side. After almost four hours on the go.

I honestly don't think I deserve the medal, not after a performance like that. Sure, I had the injury, but that's no excuse. It didn't affect my swim or bike, and those two legs were just plain slow. And don't tell me about off days. I know all about them and I know that this was just one of them. Just allow me to wallow for a while, ok?

A big thank you to friends who offered words of encouragement along the way. It really helped. Also a big thank you to Big Mac, who accompanied me on his bike during my long, slow walk. Thank you for your support. Stupe, too, who came out on his bike after his race was done.

And of course to sweet, sweet Senn, who waited for me at the finish line after her race was done and walked with me the final few metres. Seeing her there was a sight for sore eyes after a long, painful walk.

So there. I've always said my races were always low-key and drama-free. Just put the head down and get on with it, just like a triathlete would. On Sunday, I got to see what it's like to be a DRAMAthlete.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I'm back!

It's been a while. Lots have happened since the last post. The latest is the fiasco that was the Standard Chartered KL Marathon.

I have mixed feelings about this race. Happy because I finally broke 5 hours in a marathon (although this was only my second standalone marathon, the first being a 5:50 at Penang Bridge Marathon in 2007). But also disappointed because the race organisation left much to be desired.

The Standard Chartered Marathon series is a world renowned event. The best organised event ever. Sadly, when it arrived at our shores, the standards dropped. Should have been called the Standard Tarak KL Marathon instead.

From the shambolic race kit collection, to the waterless water stations, to the long queues for the medals and t-shirts, to the oversized finisher t-shirts, to the lack of drinks and support at the finish line, the whole thing smelled of bolehland's inability to stage a world-class event.

They even ran out of medals for the late finishers! And they promised anyone who came in under 9 hours would get one. After 6 and a half, the medals were all gone!

Luckily for me I got mine. And a hard-earned medal it was too. I woke up that morning still unsure I would make it through the marathon. My knee still had some pain and as of Friday, I was still limping.

The race started and i could just feel the pain behind my left knee. Never mind, once properly warmed up, it will go away, I thought to myself. I had packed along some anti-inflammatory pills, just in case.

Surprisingly, the knee held out. The pain never came back and I managed to run the entire distance, walking only at the water stations to drink. Apart from a toilet break somewhere in Cheras, which cost me about 5 minutes, and the water stations at 27.5km and 32.5km running out of water, my race was pretty much incident free.

In the end, I crossed the line in 4:52 which I thought was quite good, considering the knee issues I had over the week. I really enjoyed the race.

My enjoyment didn't last. There was no drinks for the finishers at the finish line. Luckily Ishsal was hanging around the finish line and gave me a bottle of 100Plus, which I shared with Abu.

Ok, thirst quenched a bit, where's my medal? Patrick told me I had to go all the way to other end of the field to collect it. What? I've just come in from a punishing 42k run and I have to walk all the way there? So walk I did, only to find a looooong queue of people waiting to collect their medals. Surely, there's got to be an easier way. Organisers must be thinking, "Well, they've done 42k what's another few hundred metres and a long queue?"

Anyway, I got to the front of the line and the volunteer looked at me with a look that said, "what do you want?" D'uh my medal, you idiot! Then I found out that they only had L and XL sized finisher t-shirts. Apparently, when asked how come they ran out of the smaller sized t-shirts, a runner was told, "Nasib awak lah! Apasal lari perlahan sangat?" (Too bad for you, why did you run so slow?)! How rude!

By the time Senn came back, around 7 hours, two hours before their promised cutoff for finisher medals, they had run out of medals. There were about 20 of them at that time that didn't get their medals. Apparently, some of the earlier finishers had helped themselves to 2-3 medals since they weren't verifying the finishers at all. Very poor form. And the organisers tried to excuse themselves by saying this is their first time! That is no excuse!

Very badly organised. Don't think I want to do it next year. Funny how the t-shirt says "I'll be back in 2010." No, I won't.

Instead, I'll go do the Singapore Marathon. Just to see how a world-class event is really supposed to be like. I've heard so many great things about it and was hoping to experience the same here but alas, that was not to be. Such high hopes dashed.

My target in Singapore? Sub 4:30. There, I've declared it. Now let's get on with it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Best Birthday Ever!

I turned 37 on Satuday in what was the best birthday anyone could have.

It started with my sons' sportsday where I was invited to run in a 4 x 100 parent vs teacher race. Being used to longer distances, doing a flat-out 100m sprint wearing tennis shoes and cargo shorts is pretty painful. I can still feel the pain today. With the help of fellow LeTuanger Yusran, we won the race.

Then my kids took me for a birthday surprise. Half an hour in a fish spa. We spent the first five minutes daring each other to put their feet into a tank filled with lots of hungry little fishies. Once we put our feet in, the next 10 minutes were spent giggling away as the tiny fish started nibbling on our feet. It was very ticklish, especially when the fish got between our toes and under the soles. When we finally got used to it, we only had about 10 minutes to enjoy it before our time was up. It may seem disgusting to have little fish nibbling at your feet but once you get over that and get used to it, it's actually quite therapeutic. It felt a little electrifying, like those vibrating massage chairs.

The day got even better after that. My beloved Senn took me out for high tea at the Saujana where we "bumped" into AJ and Julie. They were apparently on the way to go flying but decided to stop at the Saujana to wait the rain out. While having tea, AJ invited us to join them and me, who has dreamed of being a pilot ever since I was 9, couldn't refuse.

We drove out to the hangar at the old Subang Airport and there it was: a Cessna with a big Happy Birthday banner strung across its wings! AJ, Julie and Senn had been planning this all along! I suspected that it was more than coincidence for us to bump into them at Saujana!

The deal was I was to fly the Cessna with an instructor and Senn, while AJ and Julie would tail us in another aircraft behind. I was actually going to pilot an aircraft! A lifelong dream come true!

We took off and took a hard right towards Kapar, where the instructor showed me how to do some maneuvers. We did a long left turn, then we pitched up, then did a stomach-lurching pitch down, which almost threw my lunch out! Then the instructor showed us a couple of stalls before we headed back to Subang. Then the instructor said, "I assisted you on the take-off, and those other maneuvers, now you're going to assist me on the landing." What?! He wanted me to help land the plane? The last time I tried that in a simulator, it wasn't very pretty.

Anyway, I lined the aircraft up to the runway using the instruments and pretty soon we were on the approach. We got lower and lower and then he eased off the power and asked me to pull back on the yoke. And before we knew it, we were back on terra firma.

Man, what a rush! I finally flew a plane, an actual plane! I was just speechless throughout the flight and after I was grinning ear to ear like a Cheshire cat on the way back in the car!

But the day hadn't ended yet. There was still the satay feast with the LeTuangers at Restoran Malaysia in Kajang. It was a long drive but the food was worth it. And the company was priceless.

So a big thank you to all LeTuangers. You guys have made my special day even more special. Especially AJ and Julie who made a lifelong dream come true. And a big, huge thank you to my darling Senn, who painstakingly made this all happen.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! You've all made me enjoy birthdays again.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Why I Love Ironman Langkawi

For three years now, I've been making a trip, a pilgrimage so to speak, to the mystical island of Langkawi at the end of February for what is billed as the toughest show on Earth.

The Ironman Langkawi.

The reason I make this trip every year is not for the race. Yes, the race is an integral part of the trip but it's not the most important.

The most important part of the trip is the trip itself.

Going to Langkawi, to me, is akin to going on a company trip. Except the company is called triathlon.

From the moment you arrive in Langkawi, you meet up with like-minded people. When you land, when you check-in to your hotel, when you register and pick up your race kit, when you attend the briefing, when you check your bike in, when you check-in for the swim, you are reacquainted with your mates from the local triathlon scene.

It's like a big party. A party that goes on for a week.

And it's not just participants. It's also the supporters. The first time I went, we had a handful of friends who were there to support us. The numbers grew the second year and this year, with the formation of the LeTuang group, the numbers grew even more.

The atmosphere is always festive. Local eateries, who have gotten to know us over the years, are always looking forward to our arrival. They know we can really eat. Yusran has taken the extra effort to do some major PR with the owners of these establishments to ensure the we enjoy only the best culinary delights in Langkawi. One restaurant even makes us autograph the Ironman poster every year which he will then display proudly in his restaurant!

Of course there's the small matter of the race. But like I told Stupe, we're going for a holiday but, since we're there, we might as well swim 3.8km, bike 180km and run 42km!

Speaking of the race, mine was not as heroic and inspirational as Senn's or Stupe's. Nor was it as dramatic as Ishsal's or Barath's or Bean's.

The day started slow. The swim was slow, not because I was struggling, in fact I thought I had a good swim, but I was just slow.

My bike leg was painful. For the first 50km, I couldn't hold any liquids down. I basically redecorated the Langkawi landscape with my puke! I had puke on my arms, my legs and down my chest. At 35k, I stopped by where Mac was parked to puke my guts out.

At 50k, I had to stop to pee. After that, I started feeling a bit better but still didn't have the legs. I was secretly wishing for a flat, or a broken chain, or a snapped cable so I could pull out.

But I had to beat Bukit Hantu, my nemesis from two years ago. I was not going to quit until I had conquered it all three times. Then something happened after the third time I climbed it, my legs suddenly realised they were in a race! After that, I was flying.

After going all out in the last 40k, I thought I'd be walking the marathon. And the first 1k was difficult. 3k in I caught up with Senn who'd been racing with a one-inch gash in her right foot, and did a run/walk with her. At 8k, she told me to go ahead. She would continue to set her personal best by 48 minutes! That is an Ironman!

Because of the run/walk at the start of the marathon, I was able to save my legs for the end. And that saved me a good 13 minutes from last year's marathon.

In the end, I crossed the line 8 minutes faster than last year. It was a tough race, and one I thought I didn't deserve to finish, what more set a personal best, but I'll take it anyway.

In truth, all that didn't really matter. What really mattered was the spirit of camaraderie and friendship that prevailed throughout the race week. It was this spirit that kept me going, even though my race was not as inspiring as the others. And it is for this reason, that I'll be back in Langkawi next year. And while I'm there, I may as well swim 3.8km, bike 180km and run 42km.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Oops.. They Did it Again

Three different bike courses in as many years.

I've been to Ironman Langkawi three times and this will be the third bike course. In fact, in 2006 it was a different bike course too as well as 2005, so make that 5 different bike courses in five years.

Anyway, this one looks to be the mother of all bike courses. It looks like it combines elements from all the previous years' courses. It's got the Bukit Malut climbs from 2005 (albeit in reverse), the flat out blast along Air Hangat Road from 2006, the steep, short climb along Padang Gaong Road from 2007 (the one that killed me back then), and the airport roundabouts from 2008.

One thing it doesn't have (and I'm quite thankful for that) is the LISRAM Highway climbs.

Here's what it looks like:

And the route profile:

Looks tougher than previous years' but at the end of the day, we still need to cycle the 180km anyway, so no point worrying about it now. Just need to remember to take it easy, don't push too hard, especially on the flats, and spin up slowly up the hills.

And be glad that I have a 27t cog on the back :p

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Weekend Report


I can still feel the lactic acid in my legs and the saddle sores on my crotch! This being the result of a pretty heavy weekend with long rides on Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday took us around the Fraser Loop: HOA - Genting Sempah - Bentong - Tranum - Gap - KKB - Batang Kali - Ulu Yam - Batu Dam - Batu Caves - HOA.

The morning didn't start out too good. As I left the house, it started drizzling and by the time we got to batu caves, it was a downpour. Called everyone up and we met for breakfast at McDonald's.

Soon the skies started to clear and at 8:09am, Senn, Adeline, Azmar, Kam, Mo and I started riding.

Overall, the ride wasn't as tough as it was the first time I did it. I think the weather, which went between overcast and light rain, certainly helped. If we had done this ride a couple of days earlier, I think we would have all suffered in the heat. As it was, the climb to the Gap was pleasant with a light drizzle and by the time we got to Batu Dam, we weren't as beat up as we expected to be.

Mac and Jim joined us at the Gap. They were there to drive support and take pictures for SK's photo album project. They also provide some much needed sustenance in the form of ikan bilis and kacang goreng!

We finally rolled in to HOA at about 7:15pm, the last 10 kilometres or so in total silence. It had been a long day for everyone and I don't think anyone was in the mood for conversation during the closing stages of the ride. Most likely everyone was thinking about food!

That all changed when we got to HOA, however. Suddenly everyone was alive, most likely elated that the ride was over!

Well done to everyone, especially Kam (he had a minor spill coming down from Gap, but soldiered on like the brave Ironman that he is), and Mo (he thought the ride would be over by lunch, he had no idea what was in store for him when he mounted his bike!) for finishing what is probably one of the toughest rides around.

Senn and I, along with Mac and Adeline, went straight to Tony Roma's after the ride to fill up our empty stomachs. We would be needing it for Sunday's ride.

Sunday, we did the all-time favourite Broga Classic Loop: Batu 18 - Tekala - Semenyih - Broga - Lenggeng - Bukit Tangga - Klawang - Perez - Batu 18.

From yesterday's group, only 3 of us, Senn, Adeline and me, were crazy enough to do this ride. Everyone else opted for the Malakoff ride, a run or rest. We were joined by Mac, Elaine, Adli, Don Haider and Kannan.

The ride started off slow enough. From Batu 18 to the T-junction, we just cruised along. Once we got to Tekala, we let Don, Kannan, Elaine and Adli go. We were on recovery pace and just didn't have the speed to keep up with them.

SK was around this time, taking pictures with his crew. He took some lovely shots which I hope to post up when I get them.

Anyway, the ride was fairly easy, my heart rate not going up to Zone 5 at all. There were a few hairy moments, like going down one of the hills after Lenggeng at 72km/h with the crosswinds throwing me about as well as descending Bukit Tangga with very strong winds.

Of course, we had the mandatory stop at the Peres Waterfall Spa and Resort. Although, again, the weather was kind to us, a dip in that waterfall is always welcomed.

We finally got back to Batu 18 around 4.30pm. I still had enough in my legs to do a nice 10km time trial from the T-junction back to the car. I had a blast blasting down that road.

Kudos to Mac for finishing this ride when he didn't have the confidence to. It took some coaxing but he did it. Well done!

That's it for long rides. This weekend is all about the run, and then it's time to taper. These back-to-back long rides are just what I need to boost my confidence for Ironman. Finishing it suddenly seems possible now.

Now, let's not do these back-to-back rides ever again.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

First Race Report of 2009


The organisers were a little sadistic this year. There were hills, hills and more hills. According to Mac, there were 34 hills in that 30k stretch. More than one hill per km.

Anyway, it was a good race for me. Going in with a 4-hour target, I was pleasantly surprised when i crossed the line in 3h13m. Surprised, but in a lot of pain.

It seems everyone bettered their personal bests on Sunday. Senn improved her time by almost an hour while most others improved by about 15 - 30 minutes. Congratulations and well done to all the finishers, both 20 and 30k.

Friday, January 16, 2009

How to Survive Ironman Langkawi 2009

No, this is not a post dispensing tips on how to get through an Ironman. This is an actual question I'm asking myself.

Come February 28, I will be attempting my third Ironman Langkawi. The first one, I DNF'ed because I just plain gave up, using cramps as an excuse. I came back the next year with a vengeance, finishing with a decent 15h33m.

Overcome with joy of having finally crossed the finish line, I decided to come back this year, with a goal of going sub-15.


There's just no way. The 2008 season started promising enough, with personal bests at A Famosa and Kenyir. Then came PD. And the crash. And the wrist injury. That put me off the bike and out of the water for six weeks.

Then, just prior to Powerman, I had to deal with knee issues, my ITB reminding me that I'm not all that young anymore. That made running impossible.

After Powerman, I took a two month sabbatical, to rest the knee and also to go to the Holy Land to perform my Hajj.

I just started training again. Slowly trying to build up some mileage on the bike and the run. And I do mean slowly. Swimming? Not even close.

But really, it's much too late. There's just not enough mileage and not enough time to achieve the volume required to do an Ironman.

So what to do?

Guess I'll just plod along on race day and see what happens. One thing for sure, bettering last year's time ain't going to happen. Finishing within the 17-hour cutoff also looks unlikely. Maybe I'll DNF again. Or maybe even DNS. Or maybe I'll go sub-13! Yeah... right!

Whatever it is, I'll be there in Langkawi come February 28. And come what may, it's going to be all fun in the sun!