Saturday, 6 December 2014

27 days later...


So it has been almost 4 weeks since I've arrived in Brisbane. I'm loving it so far! I'm getting used to the sunlight coming through my window blinds at about 4.30am. Most of the days, I'm in bed by 9pm so I'm still getting plenty of sleep. It's nice and sunny on most days with a humidity of around 75%. Not quite as humid as Malaysia but enough to have you sweating buckets after a 30 minute workout. Not a bad place to be to be preparing for races in the tropics.

I've had 3 weeks of work + training routine now. Actually, now I really welcome the early morning sessions. Gives me ample time to get to work on time. My office is located about 20kms south from where I currently stay. The journey is pretty smooth as I go against main traffic during peak hours. At work, I'm still getting my head around things and I'm learning something new each day. Slowly but surely.

One thing that isn't going slow are the club training sessions. The distance covered in the swim sessions are shorter than what I normally swim but with plenty of speedwork. Also, swimming with others does give extra motivation, forcing me to work harder. Something I've not done for the past couple of years and I think I've gotten complacent with my swimming, resulting in slower swim times lately.

Where I'm at every Tuesday 5.30am. And there's an earlier session at 4.30am! But I'd like the extra sleep!
The Tuesday track sessions are great and so are the Thursday tempo run sessions. Both involved running in laps, something which I found mentally challenging at first but now I welcome it as a good check of my progress each lap. We did a 5km time trial at the track this week. My Garmin measured each 400m lap to be slightly longer, by about 20m or so. So I knew I had to work a bit harder to meet my target for the official results.

Just met my minimum target of sub 20 minutes. Not great but good enough for now.
We did a cycling time trial too for 20km around the Murrarie bike tracks. No, not the velodrome type - much to my relief! But on concrete road, made specially for bikes, how cool is that! It was about 1.4km long, so we had to go through it 14 times. I'm not that great at corners, so that slowed me down a bit. Speaking of corners, I got told off a few times today when riding with the faster group (I've been joining the slower group the last 2 Saturdays). I get really edgy each time we come to a roundabout at high speed and tend to cross over my pace line. Something I need to learn and there is no short cut, just keep on practising.

It's been raining these few days, and today too in the late morning. I was at the back of the ride group when I had a flat. I yelled out but the group didn't hear. No matter, I took my time to fix it but I pinched the spare tube and used up all my CO2 canisters. The culprit was a sharp twig which I later pulled out. Luckily, a cyclist passing by gave me his spare tube and canister. I can't be any more grateful, otherwise it would have been an expensive ride home in the taxi! The rain came in the remaining 20kms home and I took a few shelter stops when it got too heavy and managed to get home safely with the help of Google maps!

Li-Ann arrives tomorrow and I can't wait to see her! It's been about 5 weeks since we've been apart. I better do a bit of tidying up before she arrives...

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Short write up on Compressport Tri Shorts

I've been meaning to write about these for a while now but just haven't got around to doing so. I've had them for months but only got to use them recently, hence the late review.

Compressport is well known for it's compression gear such as calf sleeves and quad sleeves but still relatively new to the market for triathlon racing gear. The brand holds back no punches with it's bold move into the market with the Pro Racing Triathlon Compression Short.

I have to be honest here. I typically race triathlons in one piece suits. In fact, I've only owned one pair of tri shorts before this, I got them cheap on clearance and never liked them. Needless to say, I've not used them much. Hence, I was a bit skeptical when I was first given these pair of Compressport tri shorts. Moreover, from a brand relatively new when it comes to triathlon racing. Anyway, I kept my mind open.

The Compressport tri shorts come in two colours - black or white. I'm shy... so I went with the black hehehe. The material itself is very different from your typical lycra tri shorts. Sharing the same properties of other Compressport products, these shorts felt almost mesh like. This is a good thing as this allows more ventilation, especially handy for those racing in the tropics. The Compressport tri shorts incorporate the same compression properties for the quads as offered by the Compressport quad sleeves.

The inside of the Compressport tri shorts are seamless, which is important for avoiding any chaffing. The padding seemed a bit thicker than the typical tri shorts but not as thick as the ones in bike shorts. So don't worry about absorbing and retaining too much water in the swim.

The second most interesting feature (I'll write about the MOST interesting feature in a minute...) I find about the Compressport tri shorts is the layer of dots on the outside of the crotch area. These are called silicone printing and they are to ensure optimum bike saddle positioning. Kinda like the slide control feature on some tri or TT saddles like Prologo, but much kinder to the groin!

Now, for the MOST interesting feature is... the ONE AND ONLY pocket on these shorts and they're located at... you guessed it, right outside the crotch! An odd place to position a pocket, you say? Well, Compressport didn't design this pocket for the purpose of storing gels. Some research studies show that the crotch is one of the areas where the body loses heat most quickly. Compressport designed the position of this pocket with the purpose of storing ice from the aid stations during the run leg. Very clever! Although you can still use it store gels, but I think it would look rather awkward having to pull out gels from the front of your crotch! Plus, there is a likelihood that these gel packets may break between the pressure of your crotch and the bike saddle.

The bands around the waist and above the knees are elastic. These hold the shorts in the right places really well. Otherwise, this had always been my concern, hence, I've stuck to the one piece suit all this while. Again, seamless and unlike some tri shorts with silicone strips that sticks to your thighs, cutting off circulation and leaving marks after. These are actually really comfortable and yet serving the purpose of preventing the shorts from sliding upwards on your thighs. This maximizes the compression properties for the quads right up to just before your knees. And a plus for me, as I like my tri shorts long!

 
As the Compressport tri shorts are afterall, compression shorts, putting them on does require a bit more effort than your typical tri shorts. But once you get the hang of it, it is really easy! First, you get them past your knees. Then slowly tuck and gently pull them up your quads. I'd recommend keeping your fingernails short while doing this, so that you won't risk damaging the material. And as with all compression apparel, I usually hand wash them or wash them in separate mesh bag in the washing machine to prolong the compression properties.

Photo credit - Cycling Malaysia Magazine
Photo credit - Jack Ah Beh Photography
I've only had the chance to race in the Compressport tri shorts once, which was at the Port Dickson Duathlon earlier this month. That was the first time I used them for a bike ride. Prior to that, I only used them for a brief trail run. And most of you know that I'm really particular about not using anything new on race day. But, the shorts felt really comfortable. I did not have any chaffing at all... and this is coming from someone who gets minor chaffing all the time from most bike rides. Having the quads well supported all the way until the knees felt really good and I didn't feel too sore after the race.

I wasn't in my best shape at that race, so I didn't quite do justice to these shorts. But I'm looking forward to some races coming up and putting these shorts to the test. I'm now a convert to the 2 piece suit. Stay tuned!

The Compressport Pro Racing Triathlon Compression Shorts are currently available at Athlete's Circle Malaysia and Running Lab Malaysia.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

G'day mate, where the bloody hell were ya?!

So I mentioned previously that I was returning to Australia. Though I didn't specifically mention which part of Australia on this blog, many of you would have already known through Facebook and Twitter. It's none other than Brisbane, in the sunshine state of Queensland!I was really excited as the last time I came to Brisbane was over 16 years ago, and it was only a short stopover on the way to Gold Coast.

Arriving at Brisbane airport and being greeted by the customs officers in their thick Aussie accent, was a bit of nostalgia for me. I don't know whether the accent is thicker here or it's just that I haven't heard it for a while. Never mind that they were annoyed with me having to lug through my bike box through the zig zag lines!

I'm currently renting a room in Holland Park, about 10kms south of Brisbane CBD. It's one of the cheapest on Airbnb but it's not that close to the main shops if you are moving around on foot. And as public transport is pretty expensive here, I did travel A LOT on foot! But it worked out for the best, as I just landed a job in Logan Central, located another 20kms south from where I'm at. I wouldn't need to go through Brisbane CBD in peak traffic and I'll be going against traffic as well.

Meet Louie and Larry, two other residents of this place. They're so active, I could barely get them to stay still for a picture!
 
As much as I enjoyed walking 2-3 hours each day, I couldn't be any happier getting myself a car. And what better car than the same one as I used to drive in Perth! I managed to score a great price on a pre loved 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer ES, in sexy metallic red too! Next thing to do is to get myself a toll tag... we didn't have tolls in Perth. For the time being, I need to be careful to note which are the toll roads.

I've joined a local tri club - Reddog Triathlon Training. In fact, I signed up even before I got here as I need the Triathlon Australia membership to register for some races. Talk about getting my priorities right! I joined the club a swim session at the Yeronga pool. Took me 70 minutes of walking each way, so yes I'm very glad I have a car now. Head coach Trent Patten seems like a really nice guy, so I'm looking forward to more of their sessions. I did a couple of runs around the neighbourhood too. Boy, is Brisbane hilly! Plenty of steep climbs and fast downhills, all within a 5km block around the neighbourhood.

Club rules - no sticker, no ride. As all rides are sanctioned by Triathlon Australia, only members can join the ride.
So I'm settling in quite nicely. Things would become routine next week when I start working and start joining the club sessions more regularly. They don't call it the sunshine state for nothing. Sun rises before 5am here and many of the sessions start at 5am so I got to get used to sleeping early and waking up early. Li-Ann would arrive in about 3 weeks. I still need to look for a permanent place to stay... perhaps one REALLY close to the swimming pool, so I can minimize my travel time and maximize my sleep time? Hahaha.

Just like uni days again... $4.95 pick up yo!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Get on board with Boardman Air 9.8

Some of you may have already known that I recently purchased a new road bike. It all started with a friendly group ride from Hulu Langat, doing the infamous Bukit Hantu and Genting Peres climbs. I mentioned to the gang that I wanted to get myself a road bike, mainly because I'll be riding in groups more often and the road bike seemed to be a more appropriate way to go. One of the guys, also affectionately known Captain Yip, kindly offered to take me to Hee Hong Cycle, located in Ampang and the sole distributor of Boardman bikes in Malaysia.

After much negotiating, though Captain Yip, I scored myself a Boardman Air 9.8 at an awesome, awesome price. I chose to go downwards in the specs, to keep the costs low. Apart from the frame and the wheels, the rest of the components, including the saddle, headset and handlebars actually came from the stock Air 9.2. Not top of the range but more than enough for my group training rides. The wheels were Fulcrum 7s and the frame was of course, the 9.8. I committed to purchase on the spot and would collect the bike the next day. I was pretty excited as the last time I owned a roadie was more than 5 years ago!

When the complete bike was built, I was stunned by it's beauty...

Of course... for photo taking purposes, I had to include the carbon race wheels!
The new Air 9.8 made some improvements on the previous models. Cables are now neatly tucked behind the headset on the top tube as opposed to being on the head tube. The wide but slim profile of the fork and redesigned seat stays aim to reduce turbulent airflow between the frame and the rotating wheel. The brakes are well hidden as well, with the front being all concealed inside the fork and the rear being underneath the chain stays. Topped off with a redeveloped more aerodynamic seatpost, it's no wonder that the Air 9.8 is the bike choice of the Brownlee brothers, both dominating triathlon in the Olympics and the ITU world circuit.

The Air 9.8 comes under the top end Elite series. Boardman offers a wide range of bikes in their Performance series as well.
Look mum, no brakes! So well hidden that you could barely see them!
Rear view of the bike... hopefully, a view that I can get more and more of my competitors to look at... hahaha
Front view... for the photographers on the race course
Many of you would know that I have been a loyal user of Felt bicycles in the past few years. Unfortunately, my Felt DA1 had a cracked frame while being transported on plane. Hee Hong Cycle was willing to trade it in as part of this purchase. Opportunities like these don't come everyday, hence the move to Boardman. The Felt bike brand was pioneered by Jim Felt. Like Jim Felt, Chris Boardman is passionate about his bikes and has taken a holistic approach to the design and redevelopment of his bikes. Being an Olympic and Triple World Champion, the guy really knows his stuff!

Likewise, Hee Hong Cycle is a family owned business and has been in operation for over 30 years. Siang, who took over the business from his father is very helpful and has great attention to detail. He was very open to negotiations on this purchase. Thanks Siang and Captain Yip for making this happen!

Recent studies show that a glass of wine before a ride can drastically improve performance... not substantiated though. Photo credit - Johnny Lee
I've only had two rides with the bike so far. One of it was a 90km ride under pouring rain. Though I'm still getting used to the more upright position of the road bike, it did feel very comfortable. It handled very well through the corners and descends. Yet, stiff and responsive in acceleration and steady efforts. This is not surprising, as the bike design was put through many hours of wind tunnel tests. Aero road bikes are designed for triathlons, especially for draft legal races. They are slightly heavier than the standard road bikes but much more aerodynamic. If I dare say, the Boardman Air 9.8 is one of the best aero road bike on the market!

We had some professional race car drivers riding with us that day. One was on a Boardman. The other, most likely wished he had one too! Photo credit - Rupert Chen
I look forward to putting in many more rides into this bike. And oh... remember I said that I traded in my Felt DA1? I'm still in need of a tri bike for my triathlon races. Hence, I have more news to share... in posts to come, watch this space!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Surviving the 2014 Port Dickson Duathlon

PD duathlon is my first proper duathlon. I did know what to expect. I would be traveling in the USA with my parents for a few weeks prior. So no cycling and minimal training on the run discipline as well. And... I would be flying in from Canada just two days before, battling jetlag and timezone difference. But it has been a while since I've done the local Malaysian races organized by the Godfather of Malaysian triathlon, affectionately known as Uncle Chan. Plus my sister and her boyfriend was going to do it as well, I'd thought it will be a fun race to do.

My sister's boyfriend, unfortunately, had to make a work trip to the USA and Canada for an 8 weeks. And my parents weren't free to tag along. So it became sibling bonding trip for the two of us.

Road trip (although it's only 90 minutes drive away)! Thanks Winnie for the tri bagpacks for both of us!
Pre Race

We got to Glory Beach Resort, the host hotel for the race pack pick-up and welcome dinner, at about 3pm. It was great to meet friends again and some moving into multisport from running marathons and ultras. We took a drive to the race site at the Army Museum, as it was 13kms away, and we didn't want to lose our way the next morning. Uncle Chan's humourous race briefing was the highlight of the welcome dinner. The great thing about racing triathlons (or duathlons) in Malaysia is even the smallest of races have welcome dinners included in the entry fees.

I didn't get quite a good night's sleep, I woke up every hour or so and was fully awake 2 hours before our alarm was set. But I didn't feel too tired and was ready to race. I chatted with Li-Ann on messenger a while before we left. It's always nice to get some encouragement from her before a race. We got to the race site pretty early and I had plenty of time to set up in transition as well as do a warm up run with some short spurts. Soon, we were called to the start line. I stood near the front as although I'm not in my best condition, I would still like to give my best on the day. The sprint distance started 10 minutes before us and Uncle Chan delayed our start by a further 5 minutes, so that we wouldn't catch up the sprint participants before they get to the bike.

One for the sponsors, thanks Compressport!
1st Run 10km

At the blow of the horn, the fast guys were slamming on the accelerators. I kept up for only a couple of hundred meters before I had to drop back. Even then, my first km split was 3:33, so you can imagine how fast these guys were going! Small groups were formed behind and they soon overtook me. I decided to stick to my own pace and settled to a 4:10ish pace for a few more kms. But after halfway, there was a bit of incline and lack of fitness showed. I slowed down even further to 4:30 pace and it stayed that way for the rest of the run. I was able to overtake a couple of guys, so that made me a bit more happy. Kenneth, who was running the first leg for the relay team with Rupert, who would be cycling later, caught up with me after halfway. We exchanged leads a few times and I just pipped him to the first timing mat by a few seconds, 45:28 for my first run. It was nice to see Phui Tin, another one of my coached athlete for Ironman Malaysia, and Ellya, were giving cheers as we ran in.

A very brief moment when I was in front. Photo credit - Jack Ah Beh
Hi Phui Tin! Photo credit - Phui Tin
Bike 54km

The bike was a draft legal race. Rupert called on to me to get on his wheel. I tried for a brief period, but it was evident that I could not keep up. So I asked him to head off on his own. A poor guy followed me too closely from behind, his front wheel clipped my rear and he went tumbling down! At that split moment, I did not know what to do. I didn't stop and consoled myself that he would be okay as it happened just within a few hundred meters from transition and he would be able to get help. If I'm not mistaken, the same guy overtook me later on!

Photo credit - Cycling Malaysia Magazine

The course had some rollers as well as some steep climbs that broke the momentum. I averaged around 32kph on the way out. Not great, but not much more I could ask for in my current shape. Many other draft trains passed by but I simply could not latch on. I started the bike about 7th or 8th in my age group. As cash prizes went up to 8th, I thought I could still be in contention. But after the many trains that went by, I knew I had to just do my own race.

Photo credit - Phui Tin

After the turnaround, it was even worse. I had nothing in my legs and I just wanted to get back to transition in one piece. The average pace dropped and dropped. Every now and then, there were some fast downhills that helped. But having not rode a bike for a while, I did not have much confidence descending. I finally got to transition with a bike split of 1:49:19, just under 30kph average pace.

Run 9km

Here's where I usually enjoy the race, running on tired legs! But I guess on this day, my legs were beyond tired. I hobbled out of transition. Ellya and Pui San, who did the sprint earlier was cheering us as we got out. I told her she picked the smarter race choice!  The second run route was a totally different course. We went through some villages and there were some dirt trail sections. And plenty and plenty of climbs! Steep and long ones too! I was averaging about 6 minutes per km pace. But after the last climb, my legs started to cramp and I had to walk a bit.

I just wanted to finish! Photo credit - Jack Ah Beh

The cramp subsided and I had another 2kms or so to go. I knew if I kept on going I should make it well under 3.5 hours - over 30 minutes slower than my initial target! But the cramp came in with about a km to go, I walked a bit more and it felt okay, so I started plodding again. I was on survival mode - I just wanted to finish! Finally crossed the line with a run split of 52:56 and overall time of 3:27:45. I was 13th in my age group and 47th overall. And almost 45 minutes behind the overall winner, these guys were very quick and I have lots to do to be contending for the top places.

Post race

We hung around for the prize giving ceremony. My sister did very well and got 2nd in her age group, as least one of us came back with some cash that day!

Thanks Lesley for taking this picture!
Not too shabby for a girl who runs with horns!
I only have a few days at home with my folks before I fly off to our next destination, another place which we would soon call home. Managed to get some training rides in (thanks for the invite guys!) and it's clear that I have plenty to do to get fit again. Slowly but surely. A new bike... yes, A NEW BIKE should give me the motivation to get on the saddle more. More on that to come, watch this space!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

National Lampoon's Vacation - part 2 of 2


Continuing from part 1 of our USA vacation... we finally arrived in Los Angeles about 1am and finally arrived at our hotel just a bit after 2am. Luckily we don't have a tour starting the next day, just a free and easy day out with my dad's cousin. So we get to sleep in.

Day 8 - The next morning, my dad's cousin and his wife brought us to Hollywood and we did take a sightseeing tour after all, to view the Hollywood sign and homes of celebrities. Very interesting indeed and while I'd love to have all that money, I am grateful that my life is not exposed to the public eye all the time. We did a bit of shopping in the afternoon before having dinner with another of my dad's cousin, whom he has not met for over 40 years!
Hollywood Walk of Fame - the first star I took a picture with, Bruce Lee!
In front of the Chinese Theatre, home to major movie premieres


Be careful as you tend to get harassed by costumed clad people here. At least this statue didn't ask for a tip.
One for the Star Trek fans
There is a weight limit on vehicles going through the roads leading to the Hollywood sign. This is as close as the tour bus could take us.

Have not met for over 40 years!
Day 9 - Up early again for our 3 day tour to Las Vegas and Grand Canyon. We arrived in Vegas just after lunch, managed to get some rest before the night tour of both the new and old Vegas strips. It was indeed an eye opener!
Welcome to the Mojave Desert

The 'other' Statue of Liberty
Inside the grand Venetian Hotel



Volcano show in front of Hotel Mirage
Day 10 - an extremely early morning departure at 5am for the Grand Canyon. We went to the West Rim and the views were gorgeous! No need for further description, see pictures below. On the way back to Vegas, we stopped by the Hoover Dam - which impounds Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in US by volume.
 
At the bottom the summit
On top of the summit
Hoover Dam
Don't look down!
Day 11 - The journey back to Los Angeles. We stopped by a chocolate factory that had a nice cactus garden and a factory outlet, but we did most of our shopping already. So we used the time to get some lunch. We got back to Los Angeles just before dinner time. Li-Ann arrived later that night to join us for the next few days. It had been about a month since I've seen her, I missed her so much!

Day 12 - We left Los Angeles just after 7am, heading towards San Francisco. Our first stop on the way was Santa Barbara. The palm trees and beach scenery reminds me of music videos of the late 80s. We had lunch in a Solvang, a quaint Danish town. Drove past the Apple and Google offices in Silicon Valley before arriving in San Francisco after dinner.

Re-enacting music videos of the late 80s, all we need now are rollerskates!
Bought some nice Danish pastries here

Day 13 - San Francisco tour, starting off with a stop at Stanford University, some pretty amazing architecture here - giving a Spanish cathedral feel. In San Francisco, we took the cruise to the Golden Gate bridge and around Alcatraz. Finishing off the remainder of the day exploring the city on our own.
Li-Ann getting excited looking at the sea lions
 
Jailbreak alert!


Palace of Fine Arts
Climbing up the steep 27% gradient on Lombard Street to view the zig zag road
I wouldn't want to ride my bike down that slope!
There was a run event going on that day
Cheesecake Factory!
Day 14 - Another early pre dawn departure, heading to Yosemite National Park. Stopped by a few sights, namely the El Capitan Rock and Tunnel Valley viewpoint. Then it was a winding journey back to Los Angeles. Li-Ann would be flying back to Canada while we caught our red eye flight to Chicago.
 
Day 15 - Our flight arrived in Chicago at about 6am. We took a cab to our hotel in downtown and traffic was already heavy. We couldn't check in yet so explored most of downtown on foot. It drizzled every now and then, and the wind chill made it feel like 5 degrees C. They didn't call Chicago the windy city for nothing! That night, we walked to Chinatown for dinner. Ironically, we had Vietnamese cuisine instead as the rest of the Chinese restaurants seemed a bit quiet.
Some nice autumn colours!
Chicago Triathlon Way
Cloud Gate Sculpture a.k.a the Bean. This was my main reason for coming to Chicago!
Can you spot us?
Chicago River, where many boat chase movie scenes are shot
Bikes for rent for $7 for a 30 minute journey
Train tracks right above with no road dividers. I hope there are no incidents of cars colliding into these pillars!
Day 16 - Our final day in the USA. Just an relaxing stroll along Lake Michigan and lunch at Lou Malnati's pizzeria for Chicago's famous deep dish pizza. Mum and dad caught the long flight back to Malaysia while I would be returning to London, Canada.

My second reason for coming to Chicago
The feeling after a holiday is always a surreal one. Luckily, I'm not working at the moment so I don't have post holiday withdrawal symptoms. I have a couple more days in London before I leave Canada for good. Here are a couple of pictures of autumn in Springbank Park. Li-Ann will be staying here a few more weeks, hopefully winter doesn't come too soon.

How time flies and our temporary 2 year stay in Canada is coming to an end. Where to next? It would also be a new place to us, but in Australia. More to be revealed in posts to come ;)