Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Stop & Smell The Roses

An article copied from which make sense to a breed called "Age Groupers"
"The other day I was on a 'short' 40-mile bike ride with a friend when we hit the turnaround point. Just before the short climb up Rabbit Mountain I decided to stop on a small bridge and stretch to try to help the PF in my right foot. I told my friend to keep going and that I would wait there and meet him on the way back.
The sun was out and it was quickly chasing away the chill of the morning. I took off my jacket and began stretching. For the first time that day I noticed the spectacular snow-capped Rockies. There was a gentle breeze caressing my cheeks. In the surrounding fields some hardy mountain flowers were yawning and spreading their purple petals. I sat down, leaned back on the railing of the bridge and closed my eyes, feeling the warmth of the sun.
Just a few short minutes before I had been flying down the road, working hard and thinking of nothing but my cadence. Trying to concentrate on keeping the same cadence up hill, whilst spinning my feet downhill. In the back of my mind was that ever-present fear of cars and crashing. I was intent on the cadence of the moment and keeping up with my friend. The world around me meant nothing more than the pavement flying past my wheels.
As I now sat on the bridge perfectly still and happy, I was reminded that the sport of triathlon can be a jealous mistress. It can easily become all consuming. As age-groupers we often strive to do longer races at faster times. One way to achieve this is to train like a pro.
In a nutshell, the issue is that many pros are young, single and childless and actually get paid to train and race. We everyman athletes tend to be older, married with a family and when it comes to racing, we are doing the paying. Nobody is opening their wallets for us. All this means that in order for us to train like pros we have to give up a lot … sometimes too much.
A friend of mine recently got divorced. He and his wife started out the way most age-groupers do in the sport, that is by making their goal to finish a sprint triathlon, which they did. But they caught the bug. Next came an Olympic distance race, which took more training. Over the years the half-hour jog turned into the daily one-hour run. Their two kids began to see much less of their parents, especially the mom for she had some natural talent and success.
In her middle thirties she decided that she had the potential to turn pro or so she believed. She threw herself into the sport with reckless abandon. Perhaps it was for the love of the sport or perhaps it was to make up for something she was missing in her life. Like many women she had spent much of her life caring for the family. It was now her time to spend on triathlon.
In all divorces there are two sides to the story, but triathlon was certainly a central character in this sad drama of a broken family. I suspect that triathlon has played a similar role many times for triathlon is a most jealous mistress. Have you ever been to an all-triathlete party? I have and the conversation can be pretty dull. It tends to go something like this:
Triathlete 1: So how are you doing?
Triathlete 2: I'm pretty tired. I just swam after my recovery run.
Triathlete1: How far did you run?
Triathlete 2: I ran an easy 5 miles today, but I ran 17 yesterday.
Triathlete1: Yeah, I know what you mean, I just biked 70 miles and I'm a bit tired.
Triathlete 2: Yup.
Triathlete1: Yup. I think I'll go home and take a nap.
Not only is the conversation tedious, but only a triathlete would consider recovering from a 17-mile run with another run. Many people would consider a 17-mile run a great accomplishment, but for a triathlete it is just another day training.
And when you're training so hard, there's no way you can get up at 4:00 in the morning, go for a swim, go to work, come home, cook dinner, do the homework with the kids, go for run on the treadmill, and do it all again the next day…at least I can't. To start with anytime I run or ride over a certain threshold distance I need a good nap to recover.
The pros I know nap all the time. In fact they get paid to nap. They'll get up in the morning and go for 3500m swim followed by an easy six-mile run. They eat and take a long nap to give their body time to recover before they go for a longer afternoon run or ride. More importantly they can do this not only because they get paid to do it, but also because they have the support of their families. Triathlon is their full-time day job.
Most of us don't have this arrangement. We have to punch the clock and put bread on the table before we can train. But the truth is that since triathlon is not our day job, we don't have to train so hard. We don't have to sacrifice our domestic and social lives in the name of a faster time, a few minutes off our PB in our next race. Nobody is sponsoring us, so nobody is calling wondering how come we didn't do so well and asking us about that money they are paying us to win.
So while triathlon may be a jealous mistress, we don't have to pick up the phone every time she calls. We have the luxury to sleep in on the weekends and have a beer or two with our friends. We can use triathlon to complete our lives, not to rule our lives.
We can stop, stretch and smell the roses."

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Day After

Monday, 26 February 2006 - Walked like a crippled for the whole day (in fact, for the next few days as well). Went around the island with my Baby and we had a great time. I am glad we went out - we did not do that in the 2004 race and I have been regreting for the past 2 years for not showing TT how beautiful Langkawi is.

Underwater World

Cable Car

Tanjung Rhu

Cable Car

All Set To Go Home

Bye Bye Langkawi

My toes, post Ironman

My Favourite Medals

Thursday, March 02, 2006

IM Langkawi 2006 - Race Day


Sunday, 26 February 2006 - Race Day has finally arrived. Was glad I made it to the starting line feeling fresh and had no injury. Slept soundly that night and woke up at 5.00 a.m. for the long day ahead. Had a tuna sandwich, a Powerbar, a PowerGel and Nescafe for breakfast. Left the apartment at about 6.20 a.m. and arrived at the starting line at 6.30 a.m.

Race was to start at 7.30 a.m. Hence, I had one full hour to get my body markings, set up the bike, take photos with TT & the rest of the gang and warm-up.

Swim - 3.8 km (2-laps)
It was a deep water start. The professionals got to line up 10 meters ahead of the age groupers (so that we won't get in their way). Being a slow swimmer, I hang on to the platform and pushed off only after the start gun had gone off.
Right from the start, I could not see the u-turn buoy. All I knew was I had to swim 950 meters before I turn back and it would probably take 20 - 25 minutes for me to get there. My strategy was to focus on my strokes and concentrate on going from one flag to another. This time around, they alternated red flags with pink flags which made navigating easier (as compared to all red flags in 2004). But the gaps between the flags were a little too far apart and I lost track of my position momentarily on several occassions.
The mass start provided an opportunity to draft in the 1st segment of the swim. I drafted from one swimmer to another. In the process, I kept touching the feet of the swimmer ahead. I must have annoyed one particular swimmer - he kicked real hard several times & I was forced to back off (he would probably had turned back and punched me if I did not). Half way out, I saw the red caps (the pros) already swimming in the opposite side. I did not check my watch but it did not feel like forever for me to reach the u-turn buoy.
Most swimmers had spread out after the u-turn and I found myself swimming mostly all alone most of the time for the rest of the swim leg. The 2-lapper was more manageable. Before I knew it, I was on my way out on the second loop. Not too far out in the 2nd loop, I heard the MC announcing the arrival of some pros coming out of water and headed towards T1.
A check in the results after the race indicated that pro-Glen Gore (see pic above) finished his swim first in 49:50 followed by pro-Bryan Rhodes in 49:52 and pro-Chris Lieto in 49:56. Hence, my split time at the half way mark for the swim was probably around 50 minutes (and by that time most of the pros were already heading for their bikes in T1).
When I got to the u-turn buoy again for the last time, I hang on to the buoy for a few seconds & took a short break. Another competitor was there and he offerred me a sip of water from the flask he carried with him (don't know how he carried it). The swim back to T1 felt longer than the first lap and I clocked 1:37:55 in the Swim Leg.
Was glad I finished the swim without much problem. I took my time at the showers and inside the changing tent (you don't need to rush in an Ironman race). The volunteers in the tent were great. They offerred a chair, water and sunblock lotion to me. They even helped me apply the sunblock lotion. Ah Swee and Simon Lau were at the tent with me - we finished the swim not too far apart. Time spent at T1 was 0:06:20.
Bike 180.2km (3-laps)
The bike leg this time around was more manageable than the 2-lapper in 2004. This time, we did 3 "out and back" laps of 60km each. The course was mainly flat - going out was easier but we had a headwind coming back. There was a water station every 10km and I enjoyed iced water and electrolytes thru' out the ride.
I had a good ride in the 1st 90km. Chris Lieto lapped me when I was at about 55km into the bike leg - he just ZOOMED passed. Simon Lau caught up with me at the end of the 1st lap and we rode almost together (and not drafting) going out into the 2nd loop. It was good to have a company but I had to let him go after the u-turn at 90km - I stopped to pee. My bladder was full and I could not take in liquid properly by then.
Byran Rhodes
The headwind was quite strong coming in and I had cramps in my thighs during the 2nd half of the 2nd loop. Miraculously, the cramps went away towards the end of the 2nd loop and I felt ok going out on the 3rd loop. But the cramps recurred in the last 15km of the bike leg and I was forced to spin easy to recover until I reached T2. My bike splits for the 3 laps were 2:03:27, 2:07:22 and 2:17:50 respectively.
Had a smooth transition at T2. Glad I did not cramp when I dismounted from the bike. In fact, my legs felt fine throughout T2. Again, the volunteers were great - they really treated me like a king. I was again offered a chair, cold water, sun block, vaseline and even a towel. Time spent at T2 was 0:07:41.
Run 42 km (4 laps)
I felt great at the start of the run. No cramps at all in the 1st lap. I even fooled around by running backwards as TT chased after me to take a photo. I caught up with Simon Lau at the end of the 1st lap and we started running together (my split for the 1st lap was 1:14:14).
Jason Shortis won the race (8:36:33) shortly after I started my 1st lap on the run. I was surprised that he caught Chris Lieto. It took quite a long time for Jason to lap me on the bike after Chris Lieto zoomed passed me when I was at the 55km mark on the bike leg. Chris finished 2nd in 8:50:51 and Byran Rhodes 3rd in 8:52:59.

It was very hot and humid out there. My left calf and hamstrings started to twitch in the 2nd lap. Then, my left calf pulled (big time) towards the end of the 2nd lap. Luckily, it happened when I was at a water station and the volunteers gave me a chair and rubbed my calf with ice. Simon Lau was sporting enough to wait for me but I told him to carry on without me. I rested for about 4 minutes and pushed on after the cramp subsided. By then, I was reduced to walking and running for the next 7km.
I caught up with Simon again at km26. By then, both my legs felt like they could pull any moment. Simon and I walked the next 5km. I tried to jog but my pace was the same as Simon's walking pace - so I thot I might as well walk and hope to recover later (my split for the 2nd and 3rd lap was about 3:00:00 and about 4:14:00 at 31km mark). I was glad to have Simon's company. We chatted thru'out and before we knew it, we finished 3 laps.
It started to get dark in the 4th and final lap. I felt much better after walking for 5km. With 11km to go, my stopwatch read 12:35:00. I told Simon I was going to try to dip below 14 hours and I had 1:25:00 to run my last 11km. After another short pee stop, I pushed off. My legs were ok again and I ran the entire last 11km. I just kept going as fast as I could. I was very tired at that stage and I could not wait to finish the race. I did not look at the watch until I reached the last 1km mark.
By then, my stopwatch read 13:59:00. I was not dissappointed that I was going to miss my target time. Instead, I took things easy and enjoyed the final moments of the race. I finished my 2nd Ironman in 14:07:56.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

IM Langkawi 2006 - Race Weekend

Friday, 24 February 2006 - Left for Langkawi with TT in the afternoon. Had so many things to worry about (on hindsight - were quite unnecessary) e.g. Will the bike case fit into the KLIA Limo? Will the wheel set fit into the overhead compartment in the plane? Will Trek arrive in Langkawi in one piece? Will I be late for the registration at Langkawi?

I booked a Daewoo mini MPV. Luckily the driver called up 2 hours before he came over and found out that there is a gas tank in the trunk and the bike case might not fit in. Called KLIA Limo and changed my reservation to a bigger vehicle - the Enviro MPV and it only cost a few ringgit extra (RM59 from Bdr Bkt Puchong).
It was good to see Jordan, Simon Lau & Geoffery Kronenburg in the same flight as us. I hand carried the wheel set and it fitted perfectly into the overhead compartment of the plane. Arrived at Langkawi at around 5.10 p.m. and found out from the IM reception desk at the airport that I could still register the next day.
Ah Kun fetched me from the airport (he arrived a day earlier) and we were united with the rest of the Chin Woo gang later for dinner. TT and I stayed at the Lagenda Apartments together with Swee and family. The Lagenda is less than 1km from the Seaview Hotel (Official Hotel). Unpacked & re-assembled the bike and was glad that Trek arrived safely too.
Saturday, 25 February 2006 - Woke up at 7.00 a.m. and went out for a short spin with Trek. Needed to make sure that the bike is in tip top condition. Saw some other competitors doing the same too and amongst them was Jason Shortis (the one I hope would win tomorrow's race). Rode about 10km along the run course and then slipped on my New Balance for a short 10 minutes run.
Went to Seaview Hotel at around 9.30 a.m. for medical and registration. At the medical, they checked my HR, blood pressure and measured my height and weight. Attended the race briefing at 10.30 a.m. The course would comprise of a 2-loop swim, 3-loop bike & 4-loop run. The briefing lasted an hour and the race referee sounded very very serious.
Had lunch with TT, Don and Swee while the rest of the Chin Woo gang went sightseeing around the island (and this was one of the many things they saw --->>>)
Went back to the apartment after lunch and packed the transition bags for check-in later in the afternoon.
Checked-in Trek and the transition bags at around 4.30 p.m. Spent some time looking at other bikes at the transition area. There were two P3 Carbon amongst the bikes ridden by the pros. Met Moh and Simon X at the transition area and we chatted for a little while. Both of them arrived at Langkawi earlier in the day. Trek is seen above - all tucked in for the night at the transition area. Love your bike and it will love you back (especially during the race - trust me).
Went for a short swim in the pool at the apartment in the evening. Had dinner with the gang and retired to bed early. Did not have any problem sleeping that night - was really tired just by getting ready for the race.

IM Langkawi 2006 - Mission Accomplished

Sunday, 26 February 2006 - I could hear the sound of the crowd & loud music as I approached the junction turning into the finishing chute. It was not your regular kind of finishing line - it was like a Big Party with loud music, colourful lights and a huge crowd cheering & clapping for the finisher.
Half an hour ago, I was dying to finish the race. It has been a long day and I could not wait to get it over with. But as I approached the finish line, I did not want it to end. I punched my fists in the air repeatedly and screamed out loud. The crowd responded and cheered even louder when the MC announced that I am a Malaysian. It was absolutely unbelievable - I felt like I was given a standing ovation. My official finishing time was 14:07:56.
More stories and photos to come.....