FRIDAY – Where The Journey Begins
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.
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.
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.
SATURDAY – Pre-Race Day
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.
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 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.
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.
SUNDAY – Race Day
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 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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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?”
- THE END -