I’m feeling a bit nervous now. I spent 5 hours plus to write up my first marathon story, the same duration of time I spent running the marathon itself. And I spent longer hours to write up the recent PD triathlon race report than the time I took to cover the race. And now, I’m about to start the looooooong hours or writing up Desaru Looooooong Distance triathlon race report.
OK, I’m starting my stopwatch now. Hahahaha. Poyo!
Desaru long distance triathlon is the main event that I targeted or planned to do for 2009. I started to have the ambition to do it since I first started doing triathlon back in July 2008, when I just finished with PD triathlon. But due to super-lack of training, I did not even register for last year’s Desaru event. It was not the right time to commit suicide yet.
So, when I resumed training consistently and seriously from December 2008 (after Ramadhan and Syawal, and where my weight started to consistently drop from 73kg to 65kg), I had one main goal in mind which was to train for Desaru. I know the distance and challenges one needs to cover for the long distance triathlon race is very demanding, so does for the training. Hence, I started early.
Following through the training journey, I participated in Kenyir Lake triathlon in April, followed by the KL Marathon in June and lastly PD triathlon in July. August came by very quickly and it was already time to be there at the starting line for Desaru triathlon.
If there is one thing that I regretted not doing well is, the training plan. Nope, I did not create a proper and solid training plan from the start till the end. I would only train whenever the weather, or time, or my health conditions permit. That’s why I was a little bit shaky few weeks ago when I had a feeling that I might be under trained. I didn’t know where I stand with respect to my preparedness for Desaru.
One lesson learnt there.
FRIDAY – PRE-RACE DAY
I took the Friday off from work so that I have enough time to calmly and peacefully pack my stuffs, and go buy some race necessities items. I spent the morning cleaning my bike, and lube the chains, test the gear shifting (oh yeah, you’ll be changing gears many times during a race), tightened up whatever can be tightened, and prep up the race apparels.
A friend of mine calls this Bento Box. A good device that you can use to carry small items during your rides. Tools, handphone, camera, Powerbar gels, MP3 player, roti canai, nasi lemak… woops. Hehehe
Completed with the packing, I then went out to buy some more ORS (oral rehydration salt). After that, a quick visit to a mamak restaurant for lunch before going for Friday prayer.
I still remember one of the thing that I was unsure of doing when I first bought a road bike was how to dismantle the rear tire. To put it back was even trickier. So, in the early days, I used to fold down the rear seat of the car, and put my bike from the boot with the rear tire attached.
After a while, I saw some people just put their bikes at the rear seat. I never thought a road bike could fit nicely there. So, here is how I would carry my bike in the car. The tires had the best seats. Ahahaha.
Desaru is only about 1.5 hours drive away from JB. I departed from JB at around 3:30pm after a short visit to the office to read some blogs for final inspiration (ahahaha, yes, I’m an avid blog reader).
Oh ya, who knows who are the mommy and daddy for Transformers?
The answer is – Transparents! Hahahaha…
I arrived Desaru at around 5pm. There were not so many people at that time. The registration went pretty smoothly. I did not hear of any hick ups during the registration. But I felt a bit disappointed when they said we won’t be using the ChampionChip this time. Well, small issue anyway.
Shopping time!!! I bought 6 Powerbar gels, and get one for free. I wanted to buy endurance drink too, but it was already out of stock. A friend suggested me to get Gatorade or 100Plus as a replacement
After registration, I went to the apartment to store my bike and other staffs before headed back to the Desaru Golden Beach Resort for race briefing.
The race briefing started at 6pm. The briefing area was already full with triathletes, though some friends who took part in last year’s event testified that there were more participations last year compared to this year.
Mr. Chan conducted the race briefing, and as always, it was fun and funny. The swim course would be two loops of 1km swim, where everybody has to exit the water after the first loop, and then get into the water again for the second loop to finish up the total of 2km swim.
The safety aspects during a race can never be taken for granted. Though there will be no water station in the ocean during the swim leg, Mr. Chan suggested anyone who has the difficulties during the swim to raise up their hands if they require any help. There will be kayaks and jet skis rescue team around. He even showed us a special technique during the swim that is best to be used to symbolize the word “HELP!”
After the briefing, we were free to do whatever we wish. There was no carboloading dinner organized like other events I participated. So, a self service carboloading needed to be sought after later on. I took the opportunity to make and meet new friends, especially those who I get to know from their wonderful blogs.
The super fast Malaysian triathlete working in Perth. He flew back home just to participate in this race. It was an honor to meet you Kevin! (I secretly transferred his shoulder energy into mine so that I can swim as fast as him. But unfortunately I did not have the chance to steal or kidnap his strong legs. Well, maybe next time)
I went for carboloading dinner at a restaurant somewhere nearby Bandar Penawar with a JB triathlete friend and his family. I had two full plates of white rice (crazy!!) that night. I had not felt that full for long long time. Yes, triathletes can eat a lot, sometimes.
Before going to sleep, it was time to do the final check on what to bring to the race course, to make sure the tires are adequately inflated, the water bottles being filled with ORS and water and also 100Plus, race numbers in place, shoes, helmet, goggles, swimming cap, apparels.
I saw the pro’s, some elite triathletes and some friends do it like this. Using a tape to secure the Powerbar gels on the top tube of the bike. I put 5 gels on the bikes, and only consumed two throughout the bike leg
With all items in their proper places, I felt calm and quite relaxed. By 11:30pm I tried to have some dreams but failed miserably. I was not nervous, but somehow I couldn’t manage to get a good quality sleep. I hope that won’t cause me any trouble the next day.
SATURDAY – RACE DAY
I woke up at around 6:30am with plenty of times to calmly take shower, do the necessities and prepare a pretty decent breakfast. I bought some eggs the night before, and I prepared some half-boiled eggs. I also had some bread for breakfast.
Done with the breakfast, I cycled to the event location which is about 1.5km away. I saw some triathletes were warming up along the route, either cycling or running.
Prepped up my stuffs at the transition area, properly arranging the shoes, helmet, race number, water bottles and small towel. I then went to the lobby to get my self bodymarked.
Oh ya, do you notice the black wrist watch I wore in above photo? Keep that image in mind and look again at my left arm in the ‘after race’ photos.
The 2km Swim
At around 8:40am, we were all being asked to make our way to the beach, where the swim start will be taking place. I was not surprised by the choppy water there, as many people have told me that one of the famous challenges about Desaru triathlon is the choppy water. And one can easily justify that the choppy water at Desaru is still more challenging than the one we just had during PD triathlon few weeks ago, especially after getting into the water itself.
I tested the water a bit, swam for about 100m or so into the sea, and turned back to the shore. OK, not so bad. At least, the experience dealing with the choppy water at PD recently helped a bit in the confidence department.
Shortly after that, Mr. Chan called everybody out from the water so that the race can start on time. Everybody gathered on the beach, behind the starting line. It was a mass start, with about 430 people altogether.
I remember the lesson I learnt during Kenyir triathlon’s swim mass start where I got panicked for starting the swim in the middle of the pack of 300 triathletes. So this time, I opted to start the swim at the front, on the outside (respective to the swim course). I stood just besides Stupe, and also had the chance to say hi to Emma Bishop, and some other friends. We wished good luck to each other.
At 9 o’clock sharp, the horn was blewed and we all dashed to the water.
Teeeeettttt!!!. It was a false start. The VIP mistakenly blew the horn.
OK. Take two. Everyone get back at the starting line.
I reset my stop watch, and as the horn blew for the second time, that was when we officially begin the race and together with the crowds, I made myself into the choppy water.
I would say that the start of the swim for this time, for me, was in better control. I could maneuver myself properly while trying my best to swim straight ahead and not hitting anybody. I did not push too hard, as always the main thing in focus was to keep the breathing steady, especially knowing that the swim distance is 2km. Some said that the actual swimming course that day was a little bit shorter. How much shorter? I don’t know.
I felt pretty good during the swim, especially knowing that there’s no jelly fish in the water (but I saw one jelly fish on the second loop and that really freaked me out!!!). I did my first loop in 17 minutes and I was shocked. Getting out of the choppy water and to run on the beach was in fact quite a hard task to be done. I only walked on the beach. The supporters and spectators were wonderful. They cheered and shouted for us. They were standing so close to where we were running on the beach that we would have no problem at all to throw them some hi-5 if we wanted to.
I re-entered the water for the second loop of the swim. A short calculation in the mind would say that if I can manage the same pace, it might be possible for me to clock sub 40 minutes for the whole swim.
As soon as I finished with the calculation of time on the top of my head, one swimmer swam across me and accidentally kicked my left arm. In a blink of an eye, I could feel my wrist watch’s band broke and there goes my beloved 5 years old (I think) Casio watch into the sea of Desaru.
”What the… Arrrggghhhhh!!!!!!
And there goes my race time recording. I was racing the race blindly, once again. Just like at PD. So, let’s just wait for the official result.
Somehow, I am still feeling sad with the incident. I love all the watches that I have. Well, nevermind.
Needless to say, I survived the whole swim course feeling a bit exhausted but still energetic enough for the other two legs of the triathlon.
My first transition was done quite smoothly. Wiped out the sand from my feet before putting on the socks and the cycling shoes. Then, put on the race belt number, shades, and helmet. Pushed out the bike and started the pedaling at the exit of T1 area.
The 90km Cycling
The cycling consisted of three 30km loops route. This was my real test for the lack of riding mileage in the few months prior to the race. If I can remember clearly, I have not been doing any long distance (of something more than 80km) since four months ago, partly because of focusing the training for marathon.
Putting the most positive thoughts in the brain, I continued pedaling. At least, if I were to fail during the cycling leg, let it be the failure of the bike, or punctured tires, or anything else, but not to lose it mentally.
Despite of having a clip-on aerobar, I did not use it as much as I wanted to. Whenever I get into an aero position, I felt the uneasiness of pedaling, and in the breathing itself. So, I settled with normal hand position, holding the handlebars, most of the times. I did switch to using the aerobar once in a while and when going down the hills, where in the first loop I recorded a maximum speed of 56km/hr going downhill.
One portion of the loop was rolling, with quite strong head wind gushing through your face. The other portion of the loop consisted of a very long climb where going downhill was heaven and going up on it was hell (of course lah kan?).
For a long distance triathlon, unlike Olympic distance triathlon, drafting is not allowed during cycling. Which means, one cannot closely follow another cyclist from behind to get the advantage of ‘wind breaking’ (sorry, I don’t know the right term). It was tough to be cycling by yourself and the strong head wind at some portion of the route really helped to slow me down.
On my first 30km loop, I could still hammer the pedal. Going with the speed of more than 30 or 35km/hr on the flat road was not that tough, yet.
Getting into the second 30km loop, it felt hard to keep up with 30km/hr speed on the flat road.
In the last 30km route, it was all about mental and legs torture, where 30km/hr on the flat road had turned from possible, to impossible.
Not really knowing what the time was, I tried to eat a dates for some solid food supply to the body. Now I know it was terribly difficult to swallow a dates while cycling. I kept on chewing and chewing on that one dates, but still failed to swallow it. At last, I had to down it with a gulp of water. That’s why I only ate one dates during the cycling leg. Fortunately the tummy was not screaming for food. Or perhaps, I drank a lot during cycling as I was afraid of getting a cramp if I do not rehydrate myself properly.
However, a banana was successfully swallowed on the last loop. So, sorry. No more dates. Hello banana!!!
Halfway in the third loop (somewhere at 78km distance or so), I started to feel the fatigues in the thighs. I slowed down my average speed a little bit, trying to save the legs for the 21km run afterwards. And I noticed some of the cyclists were also slowing down during the last loop. Yeah, 90km non-stop cycling was not easy I can tell you.
But it was a fortunate that I didn’t get any punctured tires, or a pair of bonked legs. I finished the cycling just above three hours (actual distance recorded from my speedometer was 87km, and no I didn’t take any shortcut ok).
To my shock, as soon as I unclipped the shoes and get down from my bike, both of my thighs jammed up. It was so painful. Very painful. I tried my best to maintain in my standing position with both legs locked straight. I almost fell down actually. I pushed my bike into transition, walking like the yellow robot in the Star Wars movies. What’s its name again? No, not the R2D2, the other one. So, that was how I walked while pushing the bike into transition.
Oh yeah, the robot’s name is C-3PO. Thanks Google.
Once I put the bike back on the rack, I sat down and bent my legs to stretch out the stiffened and locked thigh muscles. No doubt I was screaming in pain. The picture below can give you some idea of how I stretched out my thighs. Again, thanks Google.
I spent quite some time in T2, mainly to stretch my legs. I also drank as much water as I could in that very little time. Once I felt better with the legs, I started my 21km run journey after changing to running shoes and putting on my cap.
The 21km Run
I put the target to run as much as I could, even if all I could do was to run slowly. In the first few km’s of the run, the cramp in the thighs kept on coming. So, I stopped two or three times and with one hand holding on to the trees, or lamp posts, to help me balance, I stretched my legs and thighs. Then, I tried running again.
Arriving at the first water station, I showered!!! Ahahaha. I didn’t care to keep my shoes dry this time. What mattered to me the most was to let the legs survive for the remaining 19 or 20km’s. So, I cooled my body and legs down by showering with the icy cold water. I did just this at every water stations throughout the 21km run course. Never missed any.
Just after the first u-turn point nearby the next water station, I was joined by a newly made friend on the run. A Navy from Lumut. Pak Ya, I called him. He’s a funny guy, and very sporting too. It seemed that we’ve been taking over each other during the first few km’s of the run where at the end we arrived at the water station together. I asked him whether he had any target time to finish the race, and he said no.
He said, ”If we feel strong, we run. We can walk when tired. And we can take shower at the water stations”.
The journey from then on was very relaxing. We chat all the way, made jokes, and would surely made the volunteers at the water station laughing their hearts out. Pak Ya was indeed a funny guy, who has done Ironman Langkawi once, at least.
I told him that I wanted to run as much as I could, and only wanted to stop at every water stations to cool myself down, and to rehydrate. He had no problem with that at all, kept on encouraging me to finish my run strong. I gulped two Powerbar gels while running, and two bananas.
Few times I told him that if I were running alone, I would already be walking since the third water station. I was running with the cramp onset at my thighs all the time, all the way through. At some points, I also got cramps at the calves that forced me to stop and stretch.
I was impressed at how un-selfish triathletes could be. During the run, where I stopped at one place to stretch my thighs, one triathlete passed by and upon seeing me in trouble, he offered me a deep heat cream that he was carrying. I didn’t carry any, and I should be doing the same as he did in my next event. I thanked him a lot as the deep heat cream did help to reduce the pain I was having and thus, allowing me to run much further without stopping more frequently.
I would say that during the run is where you can see who are strong, and who aren’t. It might be the main determining factor for clocking a personal best timing. Because it is during the run that you might face the hottest of sun, the driest of throat and body, the most fatigued legs, all working together to slow you down. With a slight mental drop, you’ll end up walking all the way without even realizing it.
Even for myself, there were few times that I wanted to walk. But, I kept on running, slowly. Together with Pak Ya, we endured the pain we both had and tried our best to finish the run and the race strong.
Luckily, the weather too was not that scorching hot. At times the clouds would appear, giving the much needed shades to us while on the run.
I totally lost the sense of timing. Didn’t know how long I’ve ran, and how long it has been since I first plunged myself into the ocean for the swim. Nonetheless, I kept on moving with every painful steps. I owed it to Pak Ya who kept on running with me, and had been a good running buddy. When I got cramp attack, he waited for me to stretch, and I did the same thing when he had to stop to attend to his cramped calves.
Nearing the finishing line, we agreed to finish the race together, hand in hand. Pak Ya refused my offer to let him finish ahead of me. It was a truly sporting spirit indeed.
So, after running for 21km and with a self promise I made earlier, I crossed the finishing line with both arms in the air – SMILING!!!
One thing remain unanswered though – my finishing time.
With a very high urge to know how good/bad was my performance, I asked one guy at the finishing line of the current time, a few minutes after I crossed the chute.
His watch was showing 3:20pm.
Hang on. That’s impossible.
We started the swim at 9:00am. And finishing the race at 3:20pm, that would mean that I’ve crossed the finishing line in 6 hours and 20minutes.
What? What? What?
Was it true? It can’t be true that I clocked sub 6.5hrs for my first long distance triathlon attempt, can it?
Whatever it was, I am still eager to know my official timing.
I spent some times after the race at the finishing area, waiting for more friends to arrive. I made use of the opportunity to snap more photos.
The organizer also prepared a traditional massage tent and with a little fee, you can go there and loosen up your muscles. I caught one triathlete ‘enjoying’ his massage.
Note: Sir, if you happen to read this blog, I’m so sorry and I didn’t mean to make fun of you. I did feel pity for you when I saw you get the massage. Hope you really enjoyed it though.
After a while, I packed my stuffs from the transition area and headed back to the apartment. At that time I did not feel any sun burnt on any part of my body, though my legs were already showing three or four tone difference. But at night, I felt some burning sensation on my shoulders.
Continued some stretching at the apartment, while cooling myself further inside the swimming pool. After taking shower, we chat among some friends staying together by the pool side until one moment where I can’t afford to open my eyes anymore.
SUNDAY – POST RACE DAY
I woke up slightly late to watch the start of the sprint triathlon held on Sunday. When I arrived at the race area, most of them were already in the middle of their cycling leg. This time, I was the spectator.
Spending the time nearby the transition area, I could witness how fast some of the pro athletes did the transitions – in a split second!
Price Giving Ceremony & Lunch
It appeared in the news the night before that one police traffic guy passed away during the long distance race, claimed to be due to heart attack. The organizer held up a donation and within few minutes, about RM1300 ++ was voluntarily collected from the triathletes, to be given to the family of the late Koperal Ibrahim Jalaludin.
Ok, time to stop my stopwatch now.
Wowww…. What a new record!
All in all, it was a good weeekend. I'm happy that I've done it. It was tough, no doubt about it. And, provided if we have enough time to train properly, I believe many other people can also do it.