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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Kenyir Lake Int’l Triathlon – The Report

FRIDAY – Where The Journey Begins

The Departure
Since I stepped my foot into the office in the morning, I can’t wait for 5pm to arrive. That was how excited I am for this trip to Kenyir. By 9pm, the bus arrived at Dataran Bandaraya, JB and we started loading our bikes and luggage. From JB itself, there were 4 triathletes taking part in individual OD, and one relay team consisting of three super-athletes in their own specialties. Joining us on the same bus were triathletes from Singapore.

Working together to load the bikes into the tummy of the bus.

Some got the 2nd class…

... While the lucky ones got 1st class luxury seat with air-conditioning.

Did I tell you before that those triathletes in JB area friendly and very supportive? We are like one big family. Out of their own sincerities and courtesy, few other triathletes and three Ironman also showed up to bid us good luck and a safe trip.

Strong supporters. Thanks for your help too.

IM Ungku Azhar

IM Ramli a.k.a Tapir (second from left), and IM Mahdhir Dale (middle).

Among their words of wisdom which I can summarize is, “You’re a dead meat man. Those hills are gonna kill you as soon as you come out from the transition”

OK, thank you very much. Gosh! Can’t they choose a different time to say those things?

Slightly out of schedule, by 10.30pm we departed. Everyone was excited and we broke jokes upon jokes, though we know we should try to get some sleep as the journey was going to be very long. It was indeed.

At around 1.15am, we reached Mersing town where we stopped for some supper. I had a burger set with fries which cost me RM5. I think it was overprized, especially after tasting the burger itself. Nothing went to waste though.

With few other toilet stops now and then, the bus made its way in the darkness bringing us safely to our race location.

SATURDAY – Pre-Race Day

The Arrival
After stopping by at Kuala Berang for breakfast, we finally arrived at Lake Kenyir at around 9.20am. There were already few buses, and we saw some triathletes were already hiking up the buggies getting to the lobby.

Downloaded our stuffs, and getting onto the buggies to go to the lobby as the road is too small for normal vehicle to get through.

My bike posing.

My turn to pose.

The warm environment at the lobby where more and more triathletes arriving and checking in.

Beautiful views of the Lake Kenyir, taken from the balcony of the lobby. Wonderful indeed.

From left: Neo the swimmer, ME, Kojak, Firdaus the runner, Hiroko-san and Ali the super-cyclist.

Spending The Morning
We settled with the accommodation at around 10.30am. I was surprised I did not feel that tired due to the travelling. Kash SMS-ed me asking when should we be doing the water testing in the lake (err, I did not mean to drink the lake water, but to swim in it), to which I told her to give me a call 15minutes before leaving.

With nothing much to do, I laid my head on the sofa cushion and slowly I dozed off.

Shortly after, Ali came and told us to go grab our lunch. We then walked under the heat of the 12 noon sun, towards the cafeteria down nearby the starting point. I had the heaviest lunch I’ve ever had since I started training for Kenyir, and fortunately I could still stand up and walk all the way back to the registration counter.

Race Registration
Race registration was very smooth, as I arrived at the counter pretty early. A bit disappointed with the t-shirt and the contents of the goodie bag (plain orange swim cap, t-shirt, bib number, safety pins and… ermm, that’s about it!).

One good thing was that, we get to use the race chip. For RM20 deposit, we have to strap the race chip nearby the ankle while racing. I believe this had brought the Kenyir event one step higher, and really looking forward to using it again for future events.

The Evening Rain
Returning from registration, the clouds started to build up. I thought, it was going to rain soon. Only that I’m not sure for how long and how heavy it’s going to be. I sat at the balcony of the chalet, preparing up my race kits, the bib number, making sure there’s enough pressure inside the tires, water, PowerBar gels, the apparels, shoes, helmet, everything.

Since the balcony is directly facing the lake, I suddenly noticed this creature swimming in the lake.

”Hello triathletes. My name is biawak (lizard), and you can say I’m a biathlete. Unlike my close friend the Toman, I can swim and I can run, just like you. But I cannot ride a bike or my long tail will get stuck inside the cassette. I’m sure I can make you swim much faster just by swimming behind you. You wanna try?”

Then rain then started to pour and with that, all the plan to test the lake or to ride the bike gone to the bin. I then did what was best to do – sleep. It continued raining throughout the evening.

The Carbo-loading Fiesta
Carboloading started at 8pm. Like always, everybody gushed for the food, not even being bothered whether the VIPs have arrived or not. This is something so much different from any other “formal” dinner where we have to wait for the emcee to announce and invite the VIP to touch the food first before other attendees were allowed to do the same thing. During carboloading, it’s like “only for triathletes” kind of thing.

There were some local dances and a singer performing, and there was also a minute of Earth Hour darkness which we should call it as, Earth Minute?

It went from bright…

… to dark, for one minute. And everybody appreciated this effort by the organizer for the support of the Earth Hour campaign. Well done!

What came next at 9pm was the race briefing by the race director, Mr. Chan. Funny as always, which makes first timers like me feel much better prepared, mentally.

The night ended with a good sleep at around 10.30pm.

SUNDAY – Race Day

The Setup
Woke up at 6am, had shower, took some breakfast of bread and peanut butter, and cycled to the transition area with Hiroko-san and Wan (another first timer triathlete from JB). There were already lots of people warming up and setting up their bikes. I spent a little time to snap pictures of those I know (but some does not know me). This was the last moment I hold my camera, before keeping everything safe inside the bag (and I forgot to ask people to snap myself, duh!)

I then did some stretching and warming up. I ran from the transition area to the finishing area where a sudden turbulence in the tummy forced me to visit the toilet for the second time since morning. Settled with that, I ran back to the transition area and it was already time to hit the water. Did some little swim just to get the water-feeling, and that was it.

The Swim
The mass start for the swim was something which I thought would be normal, but it turned out to be totally abnormal, for me. I did not really know where to place myself when entering the water and I ended up in the middle of the crowd. A big mistake that was, really big!

I got kicked, slapped, kicked again, pushed, pulled, grabbed, and kicked again. I can’t move much further forward and I can’t even slow down. I have to keep on moving, trying to stay away from those kicks and slaps from the people at the four corners of my body, and seconds later I lost my breath. My heart was pumping like mad. I was panic, and I was panic in the condition that my feet are not touching anything solid underneath other than water, and there’s nothing solid either on the water surface for me to grab on.

I even tried switching to breast stroke in the effort to calm and control my breathing but it didn’t really work. The thoughts of giving up sky-rocketed and I was already looking for the nearest kayak for me to grab on and stop the swim.

I swam towards the small buoys and grabbed it. Trying to stabilize my breathing. I then swam a little bit more, and grabbed the small buoys again. Upon reaching the first turning buoy on the very first loop, I stopped again. Almost for half a minute I guess. I was the only one person stopping at the buoy. I told myself to keep on moving and finish the race.

The whole first loop of the swim was done in the swim-stop-swim-stop mode. The only thing that pushed me to continue swimming was that I do not want to be the last person exiting the water. I turned my head backward only to see that the number of people swimming behind me was getting smaller.

I swam so slow that by the time I finished my first loop, the swim leaders have completed their two loops and have exited the water. Fortunately, I could swim much properly on the second loop. Gosh, I felt so relieved to land my feet back on the tarmac after 43 minutes in the water (my unofficial time from my stopwatch).

T1
T1 was pretty smooth. Quickly put on my helmet and shoes, and downed a pack of PowerBar gel and a little bit of water, I began the journey cycling up those hills.

The Cycling
As soon as exiting T1, there’s a short-super-steep hill awaiting us. Two of them in front of me were pushing their bikes up. I shifted to the smallest gear I have on my machine, and paddled my way up.

The rest of the climbs were pretty bearable. Well, I say bearable in my standard when I can go about 13~18km/hr going up the hills. I have to keep on changing gears when going up and down the hills, to gain as much advantage on the gravity at the same time not to burden my thigh muscles so much as they need to support my 10km running afterwards.

60km/hr was the maximum speed I recorded during the whole course, and 7km/hr was the slowest. But, one thing for sure, I did not push my bike at all. And I feel proud of it.

T2
T2 was even quicker than T1. Thanks to the gadget (I forgot its name) which I bought a day earlier which helped to secure my shoe laces in mere seconds.

The Run
This was the hardest thing to do. Comparing to where I normally train for my running here at the Garden with some very little climbs, what we had to face at Kenyir would be double or triple the gradient.

With so many people walking up those hills, I did not feel shy or regret at all to join them. Both my thighs were already burning and tightening, all I hope was that they won’t get cramped. At each water stations, I poured the icy cold water on them and on my body, and drank a little bit. That kept me going, slowly, but surely I will reach the finishing line.

For me, the run was fun as if it was not a race. Whenever I came across fellow triathletes on the opposite site, we would be making jokes and giving each other hi-5, just like when we are training.

On the final long steep hill before reaching the finishing line, I was walking together with Hamid. We chit chat as if we were walking in the mall. Reaching the peak, Hamid said he wanted to try sub 3.5hrs. A glance at my stopwatch and it was showing 3hr21min. 9 minutes to go? Hmm, I think I can do sub 3.5hrs too, I told myself.

I followed Hamid running down towards the finishing line. The crowd was awesome, lots of people cheering up at the finishing line as the triathletes doing their best to smile for the camera while crossing the line.

And I did mine at an unofficial time of 3hr26 minutes, smiling in pain.

Prize Giving Ceremony
Upon completing the race, I rested a bit while drinking few cups of cold Milo and watermelon. Seeing the happy faces of fellow triathletes crossing the finishing line was a good thing to watch. Soon later, I picked up my bike and other stuffs, and cycled back to the chalet for shower and a change.

I then cycled back to the finishing area for the prize giving ceremony. No, no, I did not get any placing. I just wanted to snap more photos of friends and the winners.

Later on, we had our lunch and get on the bus for another long trip back to JB.

The Journey Home
We departed from Kenyir at 3pm. The excitement of the race was very well shared among each other inside the bus. Laugh, laugh and laugh. At one point, everybody get so tired and we all settled down with our dreams.

We finally arrived at JB safely at 1.30am. And I reached my home at about 2.30am, and without any delay, I switched off my self into a deep sleep.

The Conclusion
So, was it the toughest triathlon event in Malaysia? ”Oh yeah.”

Did I have fun? ”Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Will I come again? ”Hmm…. Errmm… hang on, let me think first, OK?”

Two thumbs up!

- THE END -

Monday, March 30, 2009

Thank Goodness

Thank goodness.

That's all I wanted to say.

Thank goodness for the safety arrival from JB to Kenyir, though my bums almost went numb for sitting in the bus for about 10 hours.

Thank goodness for the smooth registration and final preparation, the carboloading, and the good sleep I managed to get the night before race day.

Thank goodness for the fresh wake up in the morning with not so much of biological disturbance, though a second visit to the toilet during warming up was necessary.

Thank goodness that I survived the 1.5km swim, though I almost gave up (again) as I got attacked with panic during the first loop of the swim. God, I really thought I would need people to rescue me out of the water. I was totally out of breath. Never felt that panicked before in my life. And thank goodness I managed to calm down and move my way out of the water during the second loop to finish it.

Thank goodness for the absence of cramp in my legs when cycling up those long and super-steep killing hills, though at times I was only able to do 7km/hr. And thank goodness I did not fell down or get myself injured while speeding down the hills at 60km/hr.

Thank goodness for the plentiful of water stations alongside the very tough running route that was much needed to cool down my cramped thighs. And thank goodness that I still managed to walk up all the hills and run a little bit on the way down, just to collect the two ribbons at the u-turn point and prove that I've covered the whole 10km distance.

Thank goodness I was able to cross the finishing line, injury free.

Thank goodness we safely arrived JB at 2am this morning with slightly longer travelling time as we had longer recovery-carboloading stops here and there. And thank goodness I could still wake up to come to work this morning.

Finally, thank goodness for the opportunity to meet old friends and make new friends at the race event. Without them all, triathlon race would never be as fun!

Race report coming up later (errr, or tomorrow), hopefully.

With my bodyguards? How I wish.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Best Wishes

To all triathletes taking part in Kenyir Lake International Triathlon this weekend;

G O O D L U C K
&
A L L T H E B E S T

See you all there! And please don't hesitate to say "Hi" if you happen to overtake me throughout the course.

Don't worry, I won't bite.

Note to self:
"Nik, just go and have fun! Kalau kena potong sayur dengan diorang yang laju-laju tu, jangan risau. Ambil sayur yang telah dipotong tu, lepas tu boleh masak sup sayur. Errm, goreng pun sodappp!!"

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The End Of A Beginning

Last week I was kind of nervous with the race I’m getting into come this Sunday for one main reason – the feeling of insufficient training. In fact, it was true that I did not get enough time or chance to peak my training last week. With zero long rides for the whole month, and the pouring from the skies most of the days, it was not easy to bluff my brain in saying that I’ll be doing just fine on the race day. Many things felt wrong. Gabra beb!

Fortunately and surprisingly, I’m feeling a bit calmer this week. Did not really feel the tense though I know I did not clock enough training hours as much as I anticipated at first. I am not really sure why, but with the start of tapering, and preparation for the travelling to Kenyir, it feels like, “Heck with the training. Enough or not, I want to go to Kenyir and have fun racing with friends.”

To be frank, I’m not really sure whether I’m doing a proper tapering or not. I did a combo bike + swim on Monday, and a combo run + swim yesterday. Tonight, with God’s willing I plan to do another combo of ride + run, which will conclude my tapering process. So I hope. Well, I’m only experiencing with myself. Not sure what would be the outcome.

Not really sure of what to do on Thursday. I have been thinking of doing some water splashing activities in the pool. Friday night, we’ll begin the long journey by bus from JB to Kenyir, where all the fun begins!!!

I’m getting towards the end of a beginning.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Candle Light Carboloading?

VOTE EARTH
YOUR LIGHT SWITCH IS YOUR VOTE

This year, Earth Hour has been transformed into the world’s first global election, between Earth and global warming.

For the first time in history, people of all ages, nationalities, race and background have the opportunity to use their light switch as their vote – Switching off your lights is a vote for Earth, or leaving them on is a vote for global warming. WWF are urging the world to VOTE EARTH and reach the target of 1 billion votes, which will be presented to world leaders at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009.

This meeting will determine official government policies to take action against global warming, which will replace the Kyoto Protocol. It is the chance for the people of the world to make their voice heard.

Earth Hour began in Sydney in 2007, when 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for one hour. In 2008 the message had grown into a global sustainability movement, with 50 million people switching off their lights. Global landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Rome’s Colosseum, the Sydney Opera House and the Coca Cola billboard in Times Square all stood in darkness.

In 2009, Earth Hour is being taken to the next level, with the goal of 1 billion people switching off their lights as part of a global vote. Unlike any election in history, it is not about what country you’re from, but instead, what planet you’re from. VOTE EARTH is a global call to action for every individual, every business, and every community. A call to stand up and take control over the future of our planet. Over 74 countries and territories have pledged their support to VOTE EARTH during Earth Hour 2009, and this number is growing everyday.

We all have a vote, and every single vote counts. Together we can take control of the future of our planet, for future generations.

VOTE EARTH by simply switching off your lights for one hour, and join the world for Earth Hour.

Saturday, March 28, 8:30-9:30pm.
www.earthhour.org.my

P/s: Ermm, is it going to be a 'candle-light-carboloading' session at Kenyir this Saturday night? Alamaaakkkk, kebulur laa...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Weather check

It's now 5 days prior to race day, and out of nowhere I have the thought to check the weather forecast (because it just rained superbly heavily in JB today evening) for what are we going to have in a week time, especially how it is going to be this coming Saturday at Kenyir.

Here's what technology had forecasted for JB's weather from today through Friday.

Scattered Thunder Storms the whole week. Hmm... camane nak training petang-petang nih?

What about the forecasted weather at Kenyir come this Saturday?

Looks like it's going to be thunder storms on the race day in Kuala Terengganu. Just hoping it won't "scatter" from KT to Kenyir Lake.

Well, these are only forecasts. Come rain or shine, who are we to complain, right? Just throw in a big smile, do whatever we can and pray for the best outcome.

My Race Check List

Let see what I have prepared and what I have to prepare for this weekend’s Kenyir tri.

For the swim leg
• 2 pairs of goggles – One for race and one for spare. I’m still thinking should I be bringing the spare while swimming. And if I am to bring them, how? By the way, I just bought a new pair of goggles yesterday which I hope will give me a good return of investment. Need to start using the new one this week to get used to them before using them in the lake.
• Anti-fog – Ermm, not yet bought. Maybe just mintak simpati from those friends who have it.
• Tri-top and tri-shorts – Going to use the tri-top for the first time. Excited-nya!
• Swim cap – Normally this will be provided by the race organizer. Hopefully this time around we’ll get a bling-bling better swim cap rather than like the plain-red color one we get for last year’s PD tri.

For the bike leg
• Bike – Just serviced and should be good to go. But I need to borrow a pair of tires to replace my over-used tires. Thanks to a good friend who’s willing to lend me his spare tires.
• Helmet – I only have one helmet which I used since the first time I touched a road bike. The hard plastic layer protecting the polystyrene has gone crippled for the mistake of leaving it inside the car under a very hot sunny day. Menyesal tak sudah.
• Bike shoes and socks – Already washed last two weeks. I'm sure the shoes will still remain clean with the reduced riding mileage I’m having nowadays.
• Cycling jersey and shorts – Will be using the tri-top and tri-shorts throughout the entire race.
• Sun glasses – Ermm, as one of the effect of not doing any long ride for the past one month is that, I lost track of where did I last placed the sunnies. Hope to find them lying anywhere in the house before leaving to Kenyir(or in one of the bags, gosh).
• Water bottles – checked. One to be put on the bike, one to be left at the transition area.
• Spare tubes – checked.
• Mini hand pump – Gonna pinjam from a friend.
• Standard size pump – checked.
• Masking tape to secure the PowerBar gels and spare tubes and hand pump and segala mak nenek onto the bike frame – checked.
• Bike computer (to check how slow I’ll be climbing those hills at Kenyir) – checked.

For the run leg
• Running shoes – I hope it won’t rain this week or else I would opt to keep the shoes dry in the house until race day, rather than going for a run training on the wet road.
• Race belt – It’s nice to use a race belt rather than pinning the race number on the tri-top or race short.

Miscellaneous
• PowerBar gels – I hope what I have is going to be sufficient.
• Sports watch – Timex Ironman babeh. Hehe, kuat berangan betul.
• Sunblock SPF30 – Just bought new one last weekend.
• ORS (Oral Rehydration Salt) – Need to buy some more.
• Small towel for transition area – PowerBar brand la, apa lagi? Barang sponsor free maa…
• Pre-race meal – not sure what to eat yet, either Maggi in cup or just bread and peanut butter jam.
• Digital camera – This is a must! Must put a note to bring along the spare batteries and charger too.

I can’t think of anything else at this moment. I just hope the final list I have will not look similar to a two weeks travelling backpack.

Dup dap, dup dap, dup dap, dup dap…..

Friday, March 20, 2009

Triathlon Training Mentality

Here are some good tips I came across while surfing the internet today:

Eliminate self-limiting thoughts.
More often than not, people have preconceived notions about what is possible for them to achieve. They sell themselves short. Abolish thoughts that hold you back from achieving your true potential.

Optimize your skills.
Everyone begins at a different place and each of us are dealt a different set of genetic cards. Use that to your advantage and optimize your assets.

Be willing to spend the effort and energy to be successful.
Anyone can succeed if they are willing to work at it. Too many people want to reap rewards without the sacrifice that is necessary to achieve any goal.

Enjoy the journey.
If you can enjoy the pursuit of excellence, you've got it made. Aiming to enjoy only the end result makes it impossible to endure the necessary sacrifices to achieve any goal really worth having.

Be a student.
The more you understand about what it is you're trying to do and how to do it, the easier it is to be successful. Be a student of your passion.

Persevere.
There are many things that can get in the way of successfully achieving any goal. You have to be willing to figure out how to get over, under, around or through those obstacles. Keep trying.

Develop mental toughness.
It is not the physical challenges that keep men from successfully surviving the triathlon training, it is mentally giving up. You need to start believing that you can do it, you can be successful. Others have been successful before you, you can do it too.

Be prepared to suffer.
When you are training for an event as large as a 140.6-mile triathlon, it is a long haul. There is going to be bad weather, aching body parts and times when you are just plain tired. Know that some stress, followed by rest, will make you stronger physically and mentally.

Take strength from others.
This tip is particularly valuable for race day. Right when you are thinking things are really bad for you, look around. You'll see that others are suffering too. Knowing you're not the only one and that other people will suffer generates energy, if you're willing to accept it.

You must want success.
Doing something that is difficult requires that you want to be successful with every fiber of your core. The intense desire to succeed helps you overcome obstacles that crush other people.

Avoid over-training.
It is easy for highly motivated people to over-train. Achievers are often rewarded for doing more and working harder. While you must work hard and do the prescribed work, you must also rest in order to reap the benefits.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Up, up, up, and… down?

From previous blog posts over the net for the stories of Kenyir triathlon, I found out that none of them skipped the issue about the hard and long climbing they had to do on the bike leg. Is it the number one factor on why Kenyir Lake triathlon is named as the toughest?

With already four consecutive weekends spent in KL, I couldn’t clock any weekend long ride with the tri gang here in JB to get a good bike workout. I leave my road bike in JB whenever going back to KL (malas nak angkut basikal naik bas daa). Not that I’m blaming on anything or anybody, but I like to think of it as a good opportunity for me to try breaking down the long mileage weekend rides into something smaller, and doing it more repetitively.

Having had loads of rains for the past few weeks, I was also forced by nature to skip the Wednesday weekly night rides. There gone another chance of doing the breakdowns of the weekend long rides I’ve already missed.

Truth be told, I kind of having a slight doubt whether have I trained enough for Kenyir or not. And knowing that most of the cycling leg in Kenyir would be climbing up those hills, my legs started to shake.

Fortunate enough, yesterday’s weather was superb with sunshine all over the place. Good chance for some riding, I told my self. Quickly after getting out from the workplace, I went to do some hill work with my trusted just-came-out-of-service road bike. Azhar told me to try one route nearby Hyatt JB hotel where there’s a nice long climb for me to burn my thighs. And so I did.

The workout did really burn my thighs out. First, I tried climbing with small crank. Next, switched to big crank, sitting down. On the third loop, I mixed some sitting and standing climbs. On the fourth and last loop of the 7km route, I just mixed rojak-campur-apakebenda-semua-ada just to complete it. Huffing and puffing all the way up, almost bursting my heart out. If I'm wearing HRM, it would already been beeping crazily. Kaki tak kuat untuk panjat bukit, gitulah jadinya bila cuba nak push.

With practically only 5 days left for me to put on some more training before starting the tapering (minus the weekend and the travelling back to KL, and hopefully no more evening rains here in JB), I’ll try to squeeze in as much training as I could possibly do. After that, I will bring whatever there is in my body and just enjoy the race. All I want is to cross the finish line, injury-free.

P/s: Nowadays I kind of fancy putting photos I could find on the internet to accompany my entry, trying to add a little bit of color to my dull write-ups.