Tuesday, 18 September 2018

ITU Age Group World Championships - Standard Distance

Which also coincided with the World Triathlon Series Grand Final for the elite races. I am truly humbled and honoured to be given the opportunity to race and represent my home country, Malaysia at this event. Sure I could have done the Robina triathlon a week after, which probably sits better at the end of my training block for Ironman. And I could have saved myself $750 in entry fees, ITU trisuit and accommodation but it’s not often that the world championships are held in your own backyard (well not quite, but 45 minutes drive away is as close as it gets) in the Gold Coast. Thank you Triathlon Association of Malaysia (TRIAM) for giving me this opportunity.


Race pack pick up was on Friday and I’m thankful that I have an understanding workplace that allowed me some time off without having to apply for leave. Multiple events had been going on since Wednesday and I appreciate the local residents having to put up with the road closures that took place pretty much from early morning until 6pm each day. I drove down with my wife and son just after lunch on Saturday (so that Sebastian can have his nap first) and made it just in time for the bike racking. I found it a bit amusing that each bike was scanned for motors, the official said to me in jest “Sorry mate, no motor, you have to pedal tomorrow!” Remainder of the evening was fairly relaxed, with dinner at a nearby Italian cafĂ© and then it was time to call it an early night.


Then… the drama started to unfold. At about 8.30pm, my phone buzzed with a notification from the event app. “Due to high winds, no disc wheels allowed for the age group standard distance event.” WTF! I was stunned for a moment and started losing it. Well, nothing else I could do. Luckily I live fairly close by, so a quick drive home to pick up my alloy wheels and back. Had to set the alarm earlier too by about an hour so to allow time to swap the wheels over and change brake pads. As well as to bring the carbon wheels back to the motel. Fortunately, the motel was near to the swim start but transition is about a 20 minute walk away being a point-to-point swim.

So at 3.30am the alarm went off. I don’t generally sleep well in a different bed and on the night before the race. So I didn’t fancy having my sleep time cut any shorter from the debacle. My arms felt sore from carrying the wheels while walking to transition – such a first world problem, not wanting to expend any more energy just before a race! The good thing was transition was well lit while I changed the wheels and brake pads so no need to worry about losing any small parts. Got it all done without any issues and back to the motel. One last toilet visit in my own comfort (rather than at a portaloo), kissed my wife goodbye and then a brief trot the swim start just around the corner.

Swim 1.5km
We were released in waves and my Male 35-39 age group was split into two waves, about 45 in each, so it didn’t feel too crowded. It was a deepwater start and very straightforward swim, just keep going south and then a short right turn at the final buoy. Apparently tide assisted but I didn’t feel the effect much. I was pleasantly surprised as I thought I would have been left behind with this event being the World Championships, but I was actually swimming through the field for most of the way until I got to a couple of swimmers who were just a bit faster and just stuck to their feet. Water visibility was decent, not super clear and we were swimming away from the sun rise so that helped too. I got out of the water in 24:20 with recorded distance of 1,615m on the Garmin. Average pace of 1:32 per 100m, so a bit faster than my usual swims so I guess there was a tide after all.


Transition 1
It was a pretty sandy run to the bike racks. I didn’t spend too much time wiping the sand off before I put my socks on. Yes, being used to longer distances I’ve always put my socks on and I wasn’t going to do anything different for this race. My left shoe came off as I pulled my bike off the racks. Took me a while to clip it back on. The mount line was pretty busy and I patiently let a few others head off first before I got on my bike, instead of risking knocking someone over. Time taken 2:40

Bike 40km
Two lap bike course with mostly flat and straight sections but a few twists and turns at the beginning of each lap and just before the turnaround. I have to admit that the alloy wheels do feel slower and the numbers backed that up. It was windy but nothing too extreme. Pretty busy course and there was constant overtaking and being overtaken. I was asked to drop back a couple of times by the technical official as I was getting too close to the front cyclists. I averaged about 32kph at first and slowly climbed towards 34kph when I got to the straight sections. And then the next lot of drama unfolded. Halfway between the turnaround and towards the end of the first lap, my ride was starting to feel a bit wobbly. So I decided to stop and check. True enough, my front tire went flat!


I was debating whether or not to carry a spare tube for this race as it was only a 40km ride and foolishly I didn’t. Then I remembered, I still had my other wheel in the motel and coincidentally I stopped right next to it! So I climbed over the fence (as roads were closed) and quickly asked Li-Ann to open the door. It did past my mind briefly that I could be disqualified for doing this but I just wanted to finish. But alas, when I picked up my carbon wheel, I remembered now that I’ve let the air out and I foolishly left the pump at home too! Almost wanting to throw the towel in, I decided I’ll run to transition with the bike to get it pumped. But first, to swap the brake pads – again!


So off I went pushing my bike for the remaining 1.5 to 2kms to transition, my feet were hurting from pounding the ground just with socks on. People were cheering so for that moment I did feel a bit like a hero. Got to the intersection where we were meant to head off for the second lap and asked where were the mechanics, the officials there seemed to have no idea. Stuff this, I was going to push my bike the second lap if I had to! Luckily I found a supporter carrying a bike pump and he willingly lent it to me. Again, risking a DQ for outside assistance but that ship has sailed long time ago.


Second bike lap didn’t feel too much of a rush for me as the momentum was gone but I reminded myself that I was still in a race so I better get going. There were still many people on the course from the later waves. Many 40+ females (I could tell from their age group stickers on their calves) were overtaking me. I finally finished the bike in 1:25:47. Garmin recorded 39.5km and just over 20 minutes from when I stopped to when I started pedaling again.

Transition 2
No dramas here. Bike on rack, helmet off, shoes on, sunglasses and race bib on the go. There was a little bridge that we had to cross coming out of transition but luckily no stairs. Time taken 2:26.

Run 10km
Two lap run course with a short detour before the turnaround. About 3kms out and 2kms back, repeat. Pretty much flat all the way. I was still trying to salvage my race as much as I could, though I was pretty certain I was going to be dead last in my age group. Hovered around the 4:05 per km pace with a couple closer to 4:10 and a few just under 4 minutes. It was getting windier and it felt like mostly tailwind on the way out and headwind on the way back. I have lost track of time after the puncture and it wasn’t until the end of the first run lap when I realized if I maintained my pace, I would finish just over 2.5 hours. I thought I was getting close to the 3 hour mark!


Had to dig deep on the second lap and it was great to see Li-Ann and Seb cheering me from the esplanade. I waved and gave them my best effort of a smile at that time through my gritted teeth. Finally got to the finish line in 2:34:32, my second slowest time for the standard distance. But with a run split of 39:21, my Garmin recorded 9.9km so even adding another 30 seconds for the 100m would still be a run PB for me. And only a few seconds slower than my standalone 10km PB. And I didn’t come in last in my age group!


Finish
The finish atmosphere was very different from any Ironman event. People were hugging each other, carrying their national flags, taking group pictures in front of the ITU signage. It was fantastic and heartwarming at the same time. It took me a while to get back to the motel with all the road closures. Even leaving the motel after check out was a bit of a challenge as we were still fenced in and had to get clearance from traffic management as the elite events were about to start that afternoon.


So that wraps up probably my only ITU World Championship event. Coincidentally, on Malaysia Day! Sure I would have liked to finish with a better time and placing but I’m pretty proud with how I turned things around after the little mishap. It’s a good feeling with the final build heading into Ironman Malaysia, Langkawi in 2 months’ time.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast 2018

Coming into this race, I've had somewhat mixed feelings. On one hand, I was treating it as a lead up race to Ironman Malaysia, Langkawi in November and hence just had a pretty big training weekend just prior (135km bike and 24km run). Also, I continued commuting to work on two wheels 20+km each way during race week because I was too tight arsed to pay for bus fares, except for Friday as I had a massage appointment after work. On the other hand, with the revised bike course - two laps of the motorway as opposed to the previous year where we went into the valley for some hill work, it was a great opportunity to score a PB (I haven't had one for a few years now). Plus, I have been training well so I might as well give it a shot and see how far my legs can take me.


Mooloolaba is an easy 90 minute drive from home, which makes signing up for this race an easy decision (so much so that I've signed up for 2019 already)! The initial plan was to take Sebastian to SEA Life Underwater World but it was his nap time when we got there and by the time he woke up, there wasn't much time left. Still, he had fun playing at the beach and playground and I managed to get registration done while he was napping. AWA athletes had their bike racked closer to transition exit with AWA Gold being next to the Pros. My bike was a corner spot next to the mechanic tent so I had a bit more room. Dinner was a simple takeaway Domino's pizza for myself, sushi for Li-Ann and Macca's happy meal for Seb as we all had too much ice cream in the afternoon. We stayed at Twin Pines Motel, a convenient 400m walk from the esplanade where transition is. Basic but clean and spacious.


I've always been a light sleeper but I slept alright. It didn't help that it was pouring outside in the early hours of the morning. Transition area had big puddles everywhere when we got there in the morning. I had never biked without socks and I wasn't going to try it in a race, so I'll have to wear soaked socks throughout the race. Thankfully, my feet were okay and blister free - here's a plug for Steigen socks, they're awesome! Staying close by meant I was able to get most prepping done before leaving the motel - including multiple toilet visits! So after leaving my gear in transition, all I had to do was put on the wetsuit and head to the start line, no need for portaloo queues!

Swim 1.9km

Unlike last year's wave starts according to age groups, it was a rolling start this year. I was able to get pretty close to the front swimmers, only 2-3 minutes from the first release. The swim course is rectangular shaped - swim out, turn right towards north, short left turn, swim back towards south and then turn left back to shore. Water was pretty choppy, I actually had time before the race to do a warm up swim but the waves kept on crashing into the beach that I decided against it. I had to modify my breathing a bit by looking backwards as I breathed to avoid drinking water when the waves were coming in. Didn't dare to look up much to sight but the water was clear enough to see other swimmers under water, so just follow along. But once we got past the first turn buoy, we were swimming along the beach which was a bit better.

The surf lifesavers had different coloured vests from the turn buoys this time which helped, so I wasn't swimming towards them rather than the turn buoys. Because of the choppy conditions, I struggled to stick to anyone's feet for long periods but still I kept pretty much on course and was very close to touching each buoy. The final turn back to the beach was pretty fun riding the surf. I came out of the water in 32:07, not great but okay. About 50 seconds slower than last year. My Garmin recorded 1,869m which was pretty close. Average pace of 1:43 per 100m which is pretty much my pool swim times but should be better with a wetsuit on.


Transition 1

Somehow this year's transition did not feel as tight as last year. I wasn't trying to squeeze through anyone as I was running to my bike. Wetsuit took a while to remove especially over the ankle with the timing chip. But everything else went on pretty smooth... until I got to the mount line. It was pretty busy and with the wet road surface I decided not to do a fly mount just to be safe. Unclip one shoe, foot in, other foot in then clip back on. Time taken 2:57.

Bike 90km

Bike course is two laps, mostly on the motorway with some small inclines when going up and down bridges and then some twist and turns at the beginning of each lap when we're back in town. Some short but steep climbs in town as well but overall, a fast and flat course with good road surfaces and overall elevation of about 300m to 400m. With a course like that, there are likely to be large packs. A group of 3-4 cyclists passed me and soon after the TO came and handed the back cyclist a penalty. They were arguing and obviously slowed down and I had to inch my way between them to get through. The guy clearly wasn't happy but he did't need to be a prick about it. In fact, shortly after he zoomed past me and overtaking me from the left, nearly taking me out! Apart from that, it was pretty uneventful.


Throughout the bike course we had intermittent showers and at some stages it did get pretty heavy. Even when it wasn't raining, I got splattered on from the bikes in front as they cycle past. It was during this time I was glad to have a helmet with a visor on. Also, thankful that I reduced my tire pressure by about 10-15 psi than what I usually do. My average speed climbed up to about 37kph but it dropped towards 36kph when we got back into town. Second lap was no different and I am pleased to keep it fairly consistent. The winds played nice this year and each direction didn't feel too different. Historically it has always been a headwind on the way back. I was chasing a sub 2:30 bike split as I had never done one before, I thought I had it in the bag but the final few turns back into transition almost got me. Managed to scrape in 2:29:48! Average power was 187 watts and normalized power 205 watts, just right on the ball.


Transition 2

It was a bit disappointing to see so many bikes back on the racks but cycling has always been my weakest leg. I just have to make it up on the run. Rack bike, helmet off, shoes on and everything else - race bib, visor and sunglasses on the go! Time taken 1:46.

Run 21.1km

Run course is two laps, out and back from Mooloolaba to Alexandra Headland, partially on footpaths, partially on roads. Mostly flat with one long climb just after transition and we return to that climb on the way back, repeat on second lap. Total elapsed time was 3:06 after I left transition. I knew that unless I blew up, getting a PB was almost in hand. But let's aim higher for sub 4:40, which meant I had to push harder. The rain sort of stopped during the run and there was a bit of humidity coming off from the moisture off the ground. But temperatures were still pretty low, so it felt relatively cool. Still, I dunked my head with water each time I passed an aid station, which was about every 2km. I had a taste of the Isowhey electrolyte at the first station but it was too strong tasting for me. It was Coke from then on. And real Coke too! None of that fake cola stuff from Endura or other brands.


The legs felt alright though they weren't going as fast as last year when I was averaging 4:10 to 4:15 per km in the first couple of kms. But I was more consistent this year, maintaining around the 4:20 pace for most of the way, apart from the two climbs where I went into 4:30. Getting a shout out at the end of the first lap from Joel the announcer, former Reddog member like myself gave me a bit of a boost. Li-Ann and Seb was there too and so was Anthony and Greg from LTC. Trent and Rosie at the Reddog tent also cheered me as I ran past. And along the way, Kirstine, Philippe (who scored a 70.3 World Championship slot, massive congrats!) and Nathan out on course gave kudos. All these gestures while they may seem small, they definitely gave me a lift. And I sure needed that as I was very much in the hurt locker, chasing that sub 4:40 finish time.


Coming into the finisher chute, I knew I had it and was even more surprised with a finish time of 4:36:37, a half ironman PB by 7 minutes! Run split was 1:29:57 and the Garmin recorded 20.68km, so allowing for a couple of minutes for the 400-500m still gave me one of my best half ironman run splits and still a sub 4:40 finish!


Post race celebration was a pretty quiet affair. Li-Ann and Sebastian watched me finish but the poor kid was so tired that he fell asleep right after! I met them at the Good Bar for burger and beer before adjourning to Macca's again for a Happy Meal for Seb. I'm ever so grateful to have them as my support network, while Ironman is an individual sport, the journey definitely takes more than an individual and lots of sacrifices from their end as well. And big kudos to the volunteers, officials and crew for braving the rain for this ironically, not-so-sunny Sunshine Coast event. While the athletes can dry up and take a warm shower after finishing, they had to stay out there until the end including packing up.  It started pouring buckets again as I was picking my bike up from transition so the dry clothes that I changed into got soaked instantly!


So that's a wrap for my lead up race. If it was my mid term exam, I'd give myself an A. Sure, there is always room for improvement but I surpassed my own expectations and more. I'd just have to build on this confidence going into Ironman Malaysia in 2.5 months' time. And I'll see you next year, Sunny Coast - hopefully with more sunshine!


Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Noosa 80 event

Emphasis on the word - event. Organized by the Noosa Tri Club as a training event as roads weren't closed and normal traffic rules apply. We were however, given timing chips so everyone gave their best shot. Capped at 50 entries and T Rex tri club made up more than half the numbers. Entry fees were $50 and we were given a trucker's hat and a bandana, plus sausage sizzle and cakes at the end. What more could we ask for? The timing was just right - a month out from Sunshine Coast 70.3 and I haven't been to Noosa before, so it was a no brainer for me. I even tagged on a trip to the zoo in Beerwah with my son the day before, so maybe some brownie points for me!

We stayed in Noosaville, about 4km from Lions Park in Noosa Heads. As it was still in the middle of winter, it was still dark and cold cycling to the site. My back pack was strapped on too high and the tail of my aero helmet keep getting caught in the top strap as I look up, so pretty dangerous cycling for that 15-20 minutes but I got to the site safely. Got myself registered and racked my bike, took what seemed like an eternity to put the wetsuit on, listened to the final briefing and soon it was time to go.

2km swim

Deepwater start with two laps around one of the islands in the Noosa river canal. The last time I swam in my wetsuit was at Port Macquarie in early May and boy, did I struggle! I couldn't get my catch right and each stroke seemed like a fight against the water. Everyone else seemed to be getting further and further ahead. It was only on the second lap that I got into the rhythm. Finally out of the water in just over 30 minutes for 1850m recorded on the Garmin. Average pace of 1:37 per 100m, a tad bit faster than my long swims in the pool but could definitely be better.

60km bike

The short transition was a nice change compared to the bigger events that I'm used to. My helmet visor was all fogged up from the morning dew so I had to give it a bit of wipe before I hopped on the bike. And then, the fairing came off a bit as I put it on and I couldn't get it back in, so had to ride the whole distance that way. The bike course is shaped like a lollipop. We rode from Noosa Heads towards Ringtail State Forest and then making a loop around Cootharaba and Borean Point before tracing our way back. Being unfamiliar with the area and the small participant numbers, it was easy to get lost but the organizers did a great job putting up signage at the main intersections so it was all good.


As it was just before 7am when we started the ride, it was still pretty chilly. I foolishly decided to wear a sleeveless trisuit and I did shiver in some sections where the trees were covering the sunshine. My fingers did get a bit frozen and I had some difficulty pulling out my drink bottle. Also I've had some issues with my di2 not being able to change gears whilst in the big chainring, so I had to switch to the small chainring each time I wanted to change gears. Thankfully the course wasn't too hilly, about 200m elevation in total. I should really get it fixed though. Despite all these, I had a decent ride. It was only my 4th ride back on the tri ride since Port and I was stuck behind a car going slowly through the cafe strip in the final few kms, so an average speed of 34kph was pretty good in my books. Average power was just over 180 watts, which is in line with my racing efforts. Time was 1 hour 45 minutes for the 59km distance recorded on the Garmin.

18km run

Having not run off the bike since Port, I wasn't sure what to expect. But I was pleasantly surprised. Legs were turning over well and keeping to an average pace around 4:15 per km. The course was the first few kms of the bike course and it was 3 laps. We had volunteers handing out water and electrolyte at each turnaround. While temperatures were still in their high teens or low twenties, the sun rays were out in full force and the heat was slowly kicking in. I was making good progress getting closer to the ones further ahead. Run distance was a bit short though and I finally got home in under 70 minutes for the 16.3km distance recorded on the Garmin. Overall time was 3 hours 26 minutes, which I was happy with.


A bit of a catch up with a couple of friends and then it was time to have some brunch with my wife and son before the drive home. I truly enjoyed the event and many thanks to Noosa tri club for putting up a well organized and friendly affair! Looking forward to Sunshine Coast 70.3 in about a month's time.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

IM Australia, Port Macquarie 2018

My 12th Ironman finish and what I needed to be eligible to apply for the Kona Legacy program by the end of the year, just have to make sure I complete at least one Ironman each to remain eligible until I receive my Kona slot. This race has a lot of history, being one of the oldest at 33 years with the earlier years held in Forster Tuncurry up until the early 2000s. The choice to do this race wasn't an easy one. There was only one direct flight from Brisbane for $200+ per person each way on Fokker planes that could not fit in bikes. So we had to drive. On paper, it should take about 6.5 hours. But with the Pacific Highway upgrade roadworks and the stops we had to take before our toddler son gets too cranky, with each stops have to be at least 30-45 minutes so that he can have a bit of a play, the journey took much longer. We decided to break the drive, spending the night at Coffs Harbour on the way down and a night at Iluka on the way back. I'm glad we did. I can't thank my wife Li-Ann and son Sebastian enough for enduring this trip with me just so I can indulge in this silly (crazy?) hobby. The other choice was to do Cairns, which I did in the past two years so I wanted something different. Also, I was too afraid to descend down Matthew Flinders hill the last time I did Port 3 years ago and embarrassingly walked down instead (I was probably the only one who walked DOWN rather than UP the hill) plus I had a tubular puncture then that I couldn't fix and waited at the road side for about 45 minutes until I was given a spare wheel, so I wanted a bit of redemption on this course.


The training build leading up to this race was short, following the post Christmas/New Year holidays so it does the body and mind to slowly get back into things. I only started seriously into training in early February, so about a 3 months build. I took a different approach this time with a longer 4 week build (instead my usual 3) followed by a week's recovery. Even in one of the recovery weeks, I slotted in Kingy Olympic tri so although the weekend's volume was reduced, it was high intensity racing. But my body responded well to this new approach and I have to say, that I was feeling fitter than ever leading up to Port. After having been coached in my earlier years of Ironman racing, I'm enjoying the flexibility of doing my own thing now and still holding myself accountable. My weekly hours peaked at just under 13 hours with 7 sessions a week (2x swim, bike, run and 1 gym), I made sure each session counts and no junk miles. I owe it to myself and my family that time spent away from home training was as productive as it can be. Doing the longer miles towards late autumn helps too with the cooler temperature, so I was able to put in some solid sessions and feeling confident.


So onto the race, with no scheduled video briefing and welcome dinner (we were given vouchers instead to use at local restaurants) my time spent at the pre race events were minimal which I much prefer. I did a trial descend on Matthew Flinders hill not once but twice and I was relieved that I have conquered my fears, it didn't seem much of a fuss after all but I would be lying if I said I didn't have palpitations when I got to that intersection. Easy 10 minute swim on race morning eve, bike check in and then taking it easy for the rest of the day. Race morning came quickly, I was planning to walk to transition about 15-20 minutes from the motel but our son was already up so we all drove down together. It was a chilly morning but calm with barely any wind. The queue to the portaloos were long but there were plenty of them so we moved pretty quickly. A bit of stretching, put on the wetsuit, kissed Li-Ann and Seb goodbye for about 11 hours or so, and then line up for the rolling start. I was able to get as close to the fastest wave (sub 1 hour swim) as possible.


Swim 3.8km

Unlike previous years, the swim start and finish now are at the same location in Westport Park. Previously we had to walk about 500m towards the carpark closer to town and we had a bit of a downstream for a longer portion of the swim. This time it's more equal, in a rectangular shape in anti clockwise direction. While I enjoyed the still waters of Hastings River, I always found it difficult to sight the buoys with the many boats docked around the course. I almost swam into one after the first turn. Other than that I kept pretty close to the buoys. I had plenty of people around me but I did not stick to any specific feet for extended amount of time. Swimming underneath the bridge always freak me out a bit no matter how many times I do it, for fear of crashing into one of the pillars. The weir crossings at the 1.7km and 2.5km were nice breaks and check points to see how I was progressing. I had to be careful though not to trip myself or push anyone over while hurrying up and down the steps. Catching sight of the finishing flags was a bit of relief as I was getting bored of seeing nothing but water. My swim time was 1:03:18 which was a minute slower than the last time I swam this course but still a good swim for me. I have long given up chasing to clock a swim split under the hour and as the years go by, I become less and less of a swimmer (used to swim for club in my teens) so as long as I don't slow down significantly, I am happy. My Garmin recorded 3856m so it was pretty much spot on, pace was 1:39 per 100m, on par with my training splits.


Transition 1

It was great to see Li-Ann and Seb as I was running towards the change tents. I struggled a bit to find my wetsuit zipper and almost asked Li-Ann for help (could have risked a DQ for outside assistance!) but I found it in the end. Wetsuit came off without any trouble. Wipe down feet, socks on, 4 Clif bars into my pockets and put on helmet on the go. Volunteers in the change tent were great, pulled out all my bike gear and packed away all my swim gear swiftly. I was a bit wobbly trying to fly mount my bike, so I decided to be safe and unclipped one shoe before putting in the other. Time taken 3:11.

Bike 180.2km

Bike course is two laps along the coast from Port Macquarie heading south towards Camden Haven with two brief detours before heading back to Port. Roads are decent, not great. The hot mix surface can be rough and slow, it saps the energy out of you if you don't pace yourself well. Some areas can be a bit patchy with a few potholes. But all of this is expected and everyone's doing the same course. A few short steep hills with the infamous Matthew Flinders climb, about 8km before the end of each lap but we descend down this hill first. My Garmin Edge and 920xt recorded 1684m and 1162m elevation respectively, so you be the judge. We were really lucky to have perfect racing weather. Cool temperatures but very sunny. Light winds but it did pick up on the second lap. A bit of headwind on the way out, a bit of tailwind on the way back.


It took me a while to get my speed up during the first 10km. There were a few climbs coming out of transition and I was overly cautious on the descends especially with many other cyclists around me. So I didn't gain much speed on the descends either. On the second lap, when the pack thinned out a bit and I was more mentally prepared of the corners ahead, I was more confident. I was still nervous when I first approached the sharp turn on the adjoining road leading into Matthew Flinders, but it was over before I knew it so I definitely did better on the second lap, still relatively slow though. After the descend from Matthew Flinders, there were long stretches of flat roads where I could stay in aero position for extended periods of time, sitting up just to get my drink bottle. I don't have an aero bottle in between my aero bars and this has worked out well as it forces me to sit up every 15-20 minutes or so.

Climbing Matthew Flinders, thanks Brad for this picture
I paced myself conservatively, averaging 160 watts, which is 75% FTP for me. Average pace built up to just under 32kph by the end of the first lap but the wheels came off (not literally!) pretty much about 10km after the turnaround. While it was the complete bonk I felt in Busso, the body did feel a lot weaker. I was sitting up a lot more and I was getting more and more uncomfortable being in aero position, absorbing the vibrations from the road traveling from my hands all the way to my lower back. I was still eating well though. I alternated between having an Endura gel and a Clif bar at each aid station, finished 6 gels and 4 bars in total on the course. The weather was cool enough for me to keep to having a drink every 10km. I only had to change swap my bottle once for Isowhey that they provided, it sure has a very strong taste! Lots of people passed me on the second lap but I was still pushing consistently, albeit a bit slow. I decided to take a pee stop at the portaloo at the penalty box just after the 140km mark. It was 97 seconds well spent and I did feel a lot more comfortable after. Rolled on and soon it was the final big climb at Matthew Flinders, the crowds were amazing (no Elvis this year though)! Finally got back to transition with a 5:52:54 bike split, averaging just over 30kph. Average power dropped down to just under 150 watts.

Transition 2

Having done a short course race few weeks earlier, I wanted to run back to my bike rack even though I've handed my bike to the volunteers and I almost did! Luckily I was redirected to run straight towards the change tent. Again, volunteers were great. Unpacked my run gear and packed away my bike gear quickly. My movements weren't as quick as I would have liked but what's a few seconds lost. Socks off, new socks on, shoes on, belt on, sunglasses and visor on the go. Time taken 1:50.

Run 42.2km

Run course is 4 laps starting from transition, head east for about 2kms and turnaround before heading back past transition towards north past Settlement City. There's a gradual climb, which is part of the bike course just before the first turnaround but it moves quickly into downhill after that as well. Just have to grit your teeth and power up the climb and use the momentum to roll down the slope after. If there's something I would pick Port over the other races is the crowd support. You get more of that on the bike course and you get a whole lot more of that on the run course. There were no quiet zones that you had to dig deep on your own. Throughout the whole run course I felt being lifted by the crowd.


My legs seemed as though they turned on a switch the moment the run course started. Although I had to stop a couple of times at first to adjust the tongue of my shoes, they were powering through the first few kms. For the first lap I was clocking 4:30 to 4:45 per km. The long brick runs in my last two training weekends (20km and 15km respectively) definitely helped. Next lap I slowed down a bit to 4:45 to 5:00 per km but I wasn't too worried as it was expected. I was keen to catch my friend Nathan who passed me on the second lap of the bike and was about 15 minutes or so ahead when we started the run. I managed to pass him on the second lap and he encouraged me to push on. It's nice to do the same race as friends and club members, seeing them out on the course - Greg Z, Anthony, Shane, Philippe, Mel, Afrar, Trev, Ross, Greg S gives you more motivation. Supporting club members Helene and Brad and many others were great too, giving us the extra boost!


Once I passed Nathan, it felt that the rabbit chase is over. I started walking at the aid stations, I didn't prior to this. But I still kept the running effort pretty consistent albeit at a slower pace as the body gets more fatigued. The km splits from then on ranged from between 5:30 to 6:00 depending on whether there's an aid station or not. After the final turnaround, with less than 4kms to go, I decided that I wanted to beat my sister's sub 3:45 open marathon time at the recent KL Marathon. So I ran through the aid stations, grabbing the drinks on the go. This was also my first time getting the glow sticks denting my ego a bit, the marshalls were strict and didn't give us a choice. The downside of doing a late autumn race, it gets dark just after 5pm. But hey, it became a handy toy for my son after the race. Finally, could see the finishing marquee in sight, hearing the crowd cheering and clapping against the barricades, once again for my 12th Ironman finish, tears welled up in my eyes as I cross the line. And Li-Ann and Seb were waiting just at the side immediately after the arch. We had a few hugs and kisses before I was escorted to the recovery area. Finish time was 10:42:15 with a run split of 3:41:02. And despite finishing 15-20 minutes before Nathan, the sneaky bugger finished 45 seconds ahead of me, he must have started way later than I did. If only, if only, if only...


I placed 35th in my age group and 149th overall. While the finish time was a bit slower than I hoped, given that I was training well leading into this race and expected more, it was a finish that I needed and that's good enough. Coming in under 11 hours is still pretty decent in my books. There are many who helped me through this journey but top credits obviously goes to Li-Ann and Sebastian who made lots of sacrifices for me to get here. Logan Tri Club has been a great support network inside and outside training and on the race course as well. Mum and dad, and my siblings and brother in law, tracking me online and sending me well wishes leading up to the race, it's always a nice feeling that they are sending me love and keeping me safe even from so far away. And to everyone else sending me positive vibes through social network, thank you as they definitely kept me going when the going got tough.


Now for a bit of reduced (note not zero) training during the off season before building up again to Ironman Malaysia in November! Fun, fun, fun!

Monday, 19 March 2018

Kingscliff Triathlon 2018

Also known as Kingy Tri and held twice a year - March and late November/early December. I signed up for this race as part of the package along with the Tweed Coast Enduro and got 5% off, yay - I'll take the small wins! An easy 75 minute drive from home, just need to be up at 3.30am so that I get there in time before registration and transition closes, being held in New South Wales where daylight savings apply. The distance was meant to be the standard Olympic but there were some adjustments which I'll elaborate further. The timing fits well into my Ironman training too, coming off a long build for the past 4 weekends, it was nice to just to have a break and smash it out in 2+ hour race.

Lucky to have a corner spot on the bike rack - plenty of space to set up!
There were several distances raced that day, starting with the kids and enticers then the sprint and finally the Olympic distance. I was in the last wave too so I took my time to have a bit of breakfast, did some stretches and make that final visit to the toilet. The organizers changed the swim course this year. Historically, it was a point to point swim whereas this year due to change in tide direction, the swim started near transition instead. So I had even more time as I did not need to walk down to the swim start. Being in the last wave at 8.17am NSW daylight savings time, meant there was less of a queue at the toilets too.

Swim

I probably got a bit too relaxed and was still warming up when the announcer was calling out for all remaining participants to get to the start. But I got there in time with no dramas. When the horn blowed, the usual push and shove took place but it cleared after a couple of minutes as there probably about 30 or so participants in the wave. Water was extremely clear and just gorgeous. You could see schools of fish swimming underneath you. The swim course is shaped like a hook, swim most of it with the tide and a short u-turn back to shore. Then run back the remaining distance to transition. We were told that the swim distance would be 1350m instead of the standard 1500m, with a 400m run back to transition. I thought fair enough, the time to run 400m roughly makes up for the 150m. But it seemed the turnaround buoy was placed a bit too early and it was just under 1km when we finished the swim. I actually looked back just to make sure I didn't miss a turn. But the run back was a bit longer, about 700m. The organizers gave the option of putting shoes on after the swim, but most including myself were running barefoot. My time when I got to transition was 17:40. About 4 minutes quicker than last year's full swim.

Transition 1

Goggles and cap off. Brief wipe of the feet, socks on, helmet on and bike off. It wasn't too crowded at the bike mount line so I was able to hop on it without worrying of knocking someone over. It was then when I felt some tightness around my waist. You muppet! You forgot to remove your swimskin... AGAIN!

All savings from the reduced drag swimming with a swimskin probably lost ten folds by having it flapping on the bike!

Bike

4 laps of 10km on an L shaped course. Small incline in the middle, about 100m elevation in total. Sharp turn at the start of each lap which I still nervously brake and go wide around. Probably lose about 10 seconds each time I do it. But I am definitely more confident this time round going low on the aerobars even when there's a sudden gusts of wind coming from the coast. Maybe it has something to do with the disc, stabilizing the bike. It wasn't too windy but you do feel it especially when you had to work against it in some sections. The first couple of laps were pretty crowded with some of the sprint participants still on course. It was a non drafting race but in these situations, it's near impossible not to draft unintentionally. It wasn't until the final lap where I felt that I could actually ride on my own without having to overtake or being overtaken.  Road surface was fair but there are a few small pot holes you had to look out for. While I felt I was riding strong and consistently, I didn't have enough speed in me to really hammer all the way. I clocked just under 1:08 for the bike split, about 1.5 minutes quicker than last year. Average speed of just over 35kph and average power of just over 180 watts. Official time had me doing 1:09:56 including both transitions.

Transition 2

Shoes on and everything else - sunglasses, visor and race bib on the go. Wait, I forgot something - remove the swimskin! Turned around and tried removing it while I already had my shoes on. One side came out fine, the other I had to kick the shoe off and quickly put it back on after. Tossed the swimskin and hopefully it landed right back on my spot.

Run

The run, my favourite part!

I'm glad I took that time to get the swimskin off. While it wasn't hot to start with, it was getting hot on the run and my legs would have overheated. The run course is two laps of 5km, with a short but steep incline just after coming out of transition, followed by a fast downhill. The rest of the course is mostly flat and partly shaded. Mostly on concrete and footpaths, a bit of wooden boardwalk, a bit of grass with a very small section running on sand covered by carpet. The run is always my favourite part and that's where I usually make most of my gains. This time last year, I wasn't run fit as well so I knew I could improve on last year's time even more - after making some mental deductions for the shortened swim. My legs were probably still running on the cycling cadence and I clocked 4:04 for the first km. Thereafter it settled in the range of 4:15 to 4:25. I wasn't running as fast as I did for Robina tri in October but I kinda expected it based on my training. The great thing about doing an Olympic distance after all this Ironman training, is even though I was hurting, I knew there wasn't long more to go. Finally got to the finish line with a 42:36 run split and overall finish time of 2:10:13.

I finished 6th in my age group and I later found out that it was the Queensland State Championship (ironically held just across the border in New South Wales) and I was actually the first Tri Qld member in my age group! Probably with all the qualifying races held around this time (Mooloolaba last week and Wollongong this same weekend) for the World Championship later in Gold Coast in September, the field must have watered down a bit. But... I left early and missed the rare chance of standing on top of the podium. Will have to arrange to get my State Champion medal some other way.

The race organizers put on a great event!

Overall I'm pretty happy with my result. Adding another 5-6 minutes for the shortened swim would still give me a PB of 2-3 minutes. It was a fun outing too, being able to catch up with some tri minded friends before and after the race. I'll definitely do this race again if the timing is right. Things are shaping up well for IM Port Macquarie in 7 weeks time. One more build to go before the taper. Can't wait!

Monday, 12 February 2018

Tweed Coast Enduro 2018

This is my third year in a row doing the Tweed Coast Enduro half iron distance triathlon. Located in Pottsville, just after the Queensland-New South Wales border and less than 90 minutes drive from home. Plus the entry fee is less than $250 (if you sign up early) so it was an easy decision to make. Having said that, the race is earlier in the year this time, as with many events got brought forward due to the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April, so having to get into good form shortly after the Christmas holiday season was a bit of a challenge.

Being a Saturday race, I took Friday afternoon off work and stayed the night pre race with my wife and son in an airbnb, about 3.5kms from race site. I was considering driving down by myself on race morning itself but I'm glad I decided otherwise. With a favourable swim tide this year, we started about 6.30am (NSW daylight savings time) - 1.5 hours earlier than last year, which meant I had to leave the house before 3am. I met a few Logan Tri Club at the race pack pick up and it was nice to have a chat. Other than that, it was relatively low key, some of the expo stalls weren't even set up yet. In the evening, we took a drive to Cabarita Beach and had a really good seafood pizza at the local bakery.

A different bag given this year, waterproof bag unlike last two years' transition bag

Race morning came and I woke up after a decent night's sleep. As good as a night's sleep could be, being in a different bed and with some pre race nerves. I cycled to the race site and it was still dark. I was overly cautious at one of the descends that comes to a speed bump, decided to unclip my pedals and walk that section. Didn't want to stack myself before the race even started! I had some minor issues while racking my bike. The black tape I used to cover the valve hole on the rear disc wheel were getting stuck in the brakes so I removed them altogether. Other than that, I took it easy, had my peanut butter and nutella sandwiches and banana. I was feeling full but I had my Clif bar anyway as I knew I would need the calories. One last visit to the toilets and then it was easy stroll to the swim start. A relay swimmer who was doing this event for the first time needed some directions so I asked her to join me and we had a nice chat throughout the walk.

Swim 1.9km

Water was 27 degrees, so non wetsuit. Being a point to point swim, this event prides itself with a downhill, current assisted swim. Although last year we swam against the currents, we were fortunate to have the tide with us again this year. Mine was the last wave at around 6.40am. The water at Mooball Creek had always been shallow and it seemed to be even shallower this year. There was plenty of water wading as the horn went off up until we turned left on the first buoy, where we could finally start swimming. But there were some sections where the sand built up again and then I could see some walking ahead. As I have shorter  arms than the other guys, I was able to swim through these sections but not sure if I would have been faster if I walked.


It wasn't long before I was overtaking some in the earlier waves and that always gave me a confidence boost. I was averaging about 1:30 per 100m as I checked my progress on my watch. Quicker than what I usually swim but not as quick as the first year I did this race. True enough, I hit the first timing mat in 31:11, over 4 minutes slower than the first year. But hey, it was over 10 minutes quicker than last year when we swim against the current, so can't complain. Looking at the overall results, the average swim times were slower compared to the first year too. My Garmin recorded just over 2km distance and I didn't think I was zig zagging too much. 9th place in age group after the swim.

Transition 1

I made sure I removed my swimskin this time as I forgotten to take it off last year. There were lots of loose grass sticking to my feet, so I spent a few more seconds wiping them off before I put my socks on. It took me a couple of tries before I was able to fly mount on the bike. I have to get myself to attend more of these brick sessions.

Bike 90km

The bike course is L shaped, 4 laps. It can get crowded at times but with a relatively small field, it wasn't so bad. The road surface is generally rough with some pot holes to look out for. Two noticeable inclines on each direction, with the rest being mostly false flats. Overall elevation for the 90km course was 200+m, so I would say this is closer towards a flat course than a hilly one. The last time I rode with the deep race wheels was in Busselton so thankfully, conditions were calm and there were no strong cross winds. So I could keep my nose onto the aerobars and hammer straightaway. It wasn't even 10km before I lost my spare tube and tire levers going over a pot hole. Probably the same spot where I lost my water bottle last year! Better not get a flat then.


I was pretty consistent with my efforts. I was gradually building up the average power to about 180 watts and average speed to 35kph. I had the Garmin set to beep at every 10km and I was holding just under 17 minutes each time at first. The wind did pick up after two laps and I slowed down a bit, but not by much - just slightly above 17 minutes for the next few 10kms. It was only at the last 8kms where a piece of sticky tape got stuck to my front wheel and that significantly increased the rolling resistance. By the end of the course, it seemed that it had picked up lots of debris off the ground as well, so luckily I didn't get a puncture. My Garmin recorded 2:34:31, bang on 35kph average with average power of 181 watts. Official results was 2:36:49 including both transitions and I gained 1 place in age group after the bike. I was 3 minutes slower than my PB bike split, so I can't complain but I have some work to do if I want a PB finish. Nutrition taken during the bike - 3 Endura gels spaced somewhat evenly - start of bike, somewhere in the middle, just before bike finish. One 500m bottle of N8 Endurance - yes, I'm a bit of a camel - don't try this at home!


Transition 2

Ran past my bike rack by a few spots and had to back track. Bent down to put the shoes on and everything else (sunglasses, visor and race bib) put on the go. I almost ran out the wrong direction but was directed back on track by an official, phew!

Run 21.1km

The run course is 3 laps, shaped somewhat like a letter T with a short turnaround and a longer one. Mostly on footpaths and some sections on grass. Partially shaded with two short inclines as we run around the park. Having not ran off the bike for over 2 months and only started building up my long runs in the last month or so, I wasn't sure how my legs would feel. But surprisingly they were okay. The leg turnover felt good, they always do at first because they mimicked the bike cadence. First few kms were done under 4:30 minutes per km. However, I only held this for the first lap. I could feel a twinge on my left quad and I had to be careful not to let it turn into a full blown cramp.

One my favourite run pictures. This looks like the other guy is lifting me off the ground! Photo credit - Belinda

It was getting hotter by the minute but the encouragement from the supporters and volunteers were great. It was also good to see fellow Logan Tri Club members out on the course and we gave each other motivation. I was aiming to take line honours but superstar Philippe put in too much time on me on the bike and I was only able to take a minute or so off him on the run. My run pace dropped to the 4:40s per km on the second lap and slowed further to the 4:50s on the final lap. I was really digging deep but trying not to cramp at the same time. Finally, I got to the finish line with 1:37:22 run split and overall finish time of 4:45:23, placed 5th in my age group. I was a couple minutes slower than my PB on this same course two years ago but I can't complain. I felt strong throughout and this definitely made up for the disappointing DNF at IM Busso.


After the finish, I recovered in the shade with my wife and son. At this point, I'm more concerned about their well being than mine and am glad that they didn't suffer too much in the heat. Finally caught up with the other club guys and great to hear that everyone did well. This is a well organized event and I truly recommend it, see you guys next year!

One with the boys, we missed out on two more. Thanks Erika for this photo!

With my biggest fans!

Monday, 11 December 2017

DNF at IMWA

The title says it all and most of you would have known by now that I didn't finish my race at Ironman Western Australia, Busselton last weekend. I was feeling great and was on PB pace for the first lap of the bike but it was as though I hit a wall immediately after the turnaround. My pace up until the half way point was an average of 34.5kph but I struggled to hold 25kph thereafter. I soft pedalled for the next 20km to see if I could push through. At one point I was even calculating if I could meet the cut off! But the body was weak and the mind was even weaker, I found a wooden hut where the timing mats were kept at the 110km mark and hid in the shade to see I would feel better after a few minutes rest. I didn't and shortly after caught the SAG wagon back to town.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed. I was really looking forward to this race. I signed up for it way in advance, whereas IM Cairns was more of a last minute thing. It was meant to be 12th finish and I would have been able to apply for the Kona Legacy program but looks like I would have to wait anther year now. What may have caused it? I don't know for sure. Having the swim cancelled and a delayed start, waiting on the beach under the sun for about 45 minutes didn't help but many others went through the same. I pulled out of the race before the bike course was shortened due to the bush fire further away but it may have caused the temperate to spike in the last hour or so of my ride. It was of no one's fault and the organizers did the best they could on that day as participants' safety was paramount. Conditions were definitely challenging to say the least and I congratulate all those who persevered through to finish that day. At Li-Ann's insistence, I'll  also be reviewing my race nutrition plan as I have over simplified it all these while and it's time to put some science to it.

Despite all this, I did have a great trip. Coming back to Perth is always nice, going to places that brought back lots of memories and great to see some new developments as well. And the time spent with family and meeting up with old friends was priceless. So it was definitely a trip worth while.

Pre race portrait shots by Paparazzi on The Run
What's next for 2018? I'm still undecided at the moment. While I have already signed up for IM Port Macquarie in May, we were given $200 discount off any full Ironman race within Australia and New Zealand for the cancelled swim and shortened bike course, no refunds for races already registered of course. This kind of makes me lean towards Cairns again and possibly defer my Port Mac entry to the following year. But I would also like to do IM Malaysia again and I'm not sure if I want to go through training for two Ironmans in a year again. Been doing that for the last 3 years.

I've got some thinking to do.