Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Happy birthday mum!

After 12 years of being away from home on mum's birthday, I was finally able to sing happy birthday to mum. 

It was a quick but nice dinner at Plan B, Paradigm Mall. Quick, because we all just returned from the Putrajaya 70.3 and were pretty tired that night. I guess I still never learn in getting my priorities right when planning my trips home.

But mum never complains as she always puts our needs first before hers. Well, now that she has retired, hopefully she has a bit more time for herself. As I'm typing this, she's on a plane to Korea now for a holiday with her friends.

Happy birthday mum! And I'll see you again soon in Brisbane... for your next holiday!

Your eldest son

Friday, 10 April 2015

Putrajaya 70.3 2015

I signed up for this race as part of the bundle along with IM Langkawi due to take place in November. Being held on the Easter weekend, it's pretty convenient and I only had to take an extra day off work for the travel home from Brisbane. I took a night flight and arrived in Malaysia on Friday morning, about 50 hours before the race start. I had some breakfast with my family and took a short rest before I went to H2C bike shop to collect my tri bike - the Boardman TTE 9.8. I've been eagerly waiting all this while but it was well worth the wait - isn't it a beauty?!

This picture got shared on Boardman's official Facebook page! Photo credit - Loh Sau Teing 
I'll post a proper review in due time. I spent most of the day at the shop and only managed a 15 minute ride in the afternoon to check that everything is in proper working order. The electronic shifting is way too cool! Then, I had to rush off for a dinner date with.... yes, you guessed it - the one and only Craig Crowie Alexander! I was so fortunate to be amongst the selected few to attend this dinner. Many thanks to the organizers for giving me this opportunity!

Didn't look like he aged at all since I last saw him in person in 2009 when he came to Perth
Race eve came and in the morning, I visited my maternal grandmother's grave for Cheng Beng festival. It was nice catching up with my relatives and I paid my well overdue respects to my grandmother. We pushed off for Putrajaya just after lunch with my sister and her boyfriend. My sister was doing the relay run in Corporate Teams Challenge. We collected our race kit and checked in my bike. The sun was scorching hot and I was a bit nervous if my fully pumped up tires and taped gels would last under the heat but I took my chances. Luckily, they were alright on race day. We checked into our accommodation, about 7kms away. My mum got a great deal at the government apartments at Rm70 a night for 3 bedrooms - perks of being a retired civil servant! A quick dinner with mum and dad and some last minute groceries at the nearby mall before calling it a night.

All racked in and ready to go! Hope the gels don't melt or the tires don't burst under the heat!
Race morning

I had a fairly good sleep but woke up about 20 minutes before my alarm went off. Did my usual routine and went to the toilet for the 2nd time before we left the apartment. It was still dark when we got to the transition area. Had my bike set up and slowly made our way to the swim start. It was a rolling start for the age groupers. The sun was slowly rising and by the time the professionals started it was all bright. The age groupers weren't allowed to enter the water for a warm up. But then again, you would notice there were still some wet patches on the floor beneath us as we lined up for the start. What could it be, you wonder? Hahaha. I'm guilty myself - sorry, I can't help it but I have to empty my bladder before the swim.

Swim 1.9km

I was about 2-3 minutes after the first group of age groupers were released into the water. I had my watch set on clock mode so I made note of the time I started - 7.23am. I dived into the water and somehow when I wanted to surface, there was someone swimming above me. Had to push the person aside to catch my breath! The swim course was rectangular, in clock wise direction in the still waters of Putrajaya lake. Heading west in 790m, a quick right turn for 50m and returning east for 850m before another right turn for 150m back to shore. The water was surprisingly pretty clear with visibility up to the person swimming in front or next to you.

I felt good during the swim and swam mostly in a straight line. I was probably keeping too close to the buoys and one some occasions, I went across and had to correct myself to swim outwards. As it was a rolling start, every now and then I would bump into slower swimmers in front and had to swim around them. I didn't quite get a suitable draft so I swam at my own pace most of the time. Got out of the water in 33:15, not great but not too bad either. I was hoping for somewhere between 30 to 32 minutes, but this wasn't too far out.
I later noticed a small bruise mark on the right side of my neck. Maybe the straps were too tight.
Transition 1

The run in to the bike racks was about 200m. My first encounter with drama came about when I dropped my goggles. A spectator yelled out to me and I was about to back track to pick it up but my sister who was cheering from the side said she would pick it up for me. I later found out that a fellow participant picked it up from behind and had it dropped off at my bike rack. Thank you anonymous participant! Then the second drama episode came - as I was stripping off my swimskin at the bike racks, I heard a ripping sound and.. yup, I tore a big hole right across the suit. It must have got caught on the timing chip. Nothing could be done and I pushed off for the bike course. Took me a while to do a fly mount as I must be out of practice, but better to be slow than sorry. Time taken 2:12.

Bike 90km

The bike course is two laps and it goes around the neighbouring precincts of the race venue in anti clockwise direction. It has some short climbs and fast descends with a couple of corners. The roads are mostly smooth, as we were cycling on the main motorways. There were a handful of pot holes and rough patches but these can be easily avoided by being attentive.

It's been about 5 months since I last cycled on aerobars. And my rustiness showed. Throw in some deep rim race wheels into the mix and the ride started off a bit ugly. Each time my speed went above 35kph, I got a bit nervous that I would lose control of my bike. And my bike handling has never been my strong point. I sat up every now and then to gain control (and sacrificing some cool race pictures in the aero position!). Don't get me wrong, I was very comfortable on the bike. This bike fitted me much better than my previous tri bike. And it feels much more responsive too. I just need to ride on it more often to have these qualities transferred into faster bike splits.

Nice picture, if only I was on my aerobars!
People say most things come in threes. And so... shortly after the 10km mark, as we got the longest climb of the course, I kept shifting upwards and... dropped my chain - 3rd drama! I cursed under my breath, but I kept calm. Got off my bike and put my chain back in. Cost me about 30 seconds and some momentum, but wasn't going sweat over it. Rupert overtook me shortly after and he did very well to finish 7th in his age group and 2nd Malaysian overall with a new PB. At this point, I was sitting in 5th Malaysian position. I averaged 32kph for the first lap and at that point in time, I gave myself a target to aim for 2:45 to 2:50 bike split.

A rare picture with me on the aerobars, too bad the bike can't be seen
I got a better handle of the bike on the 2nd lap but my average speed was starting to drop. The wind picked up, it doesn't get very windy in Malaysia but it was noticeably more windy than the first lap. The temperature rose as well and it started to drain on my energy. I finished all three gels that were taped to my top tube but didn't need any refills on my water bottles. My water bottle actually had some moth balls odour, must have left them too long on the shelves at home. I overtook another Malaysian with about 10km left to go. I finished the bike in 2:50:49, about 15 minutes slower than I normally would cycle.

Transition 2

No major issues here, but my legs did feel a bit wobbly and I crossed through the inside rather than the outside as I did my fly dismount, just so I won't fall off the bike. Took a couple of extra seconds to slip into my shoes as the left heel wasn't fitting in properly. Grabbed my sunglasses, visor and race belt and put them on as I ran out of transition. Time taken was 1:14.

Run 21.1km

The clock was running just under 3.5 hours from race start. Achieving a PB of 4:45 was near impossible but a finish time of sub 5 hours was still within reach, albeit it's going to be a tough challenge. My Garmin did very well in getting a signal as I ran out of transition and hence, was able to give me km splits. I felt good as I started the run. My turnover was quick and my upper body didn't feel tight. I was averaging about 4:20 per km for the first couple of kms. The Bunanamo supporters at the 1.5km mark did give me an extra boost! At this rate, I could still get a sub 5 hour finish!

Getting cheered on by the Bunanamo supporters. Photo credit - Phuitin Kong
But that didn't last long. My right quad was feeling a twitching feeling on the inside and I kept on saying to myself - don't cramp, don't cramp! It didn't but I had to manage it by slowing the pace down and lengthening my stride. I soon settled into 4:50 to 5;00 per km pace. I tried not to break my rhythm as I got to the drinks stations. But I still grabbed what I can - coke or electrolyte for my mouth, cold water or sponges over my head and my twitching inner thigh. And I think that did the job from preventing it from turning into a full blown cramp.

The course was 2 laps and clockwise direction on the footpaths that go along the lake. We weren't able to see the other participants returning on the opposite direction. My sister and I made a bet on who would finish first and I was looking for her throughout the whole course!  The organizers did very well by providing shower stations and large containers of water for dousing to keep us cool under the heat. It wasn't unusually hot but it was your typical hot day in Malaysia. About half of the course was shaded with the other half being pretty exposed.

Trying to maintain my stride. Photo credit - Shah M Zain
I kept well under the 5:00 per km pace but only up until the 15km mark. I was running in a group with 2-3 other guys and I got dropped as they started picking up the pace. That affected me mentally, and I dropped to 5:20 per km pace. Being so far away from my target times, it was very tempting to slow down to a walk but I willed myself to finish strongly. Enaikay, who was on Finisherpix duty gave me some encouragement on the course and hung in there. The 20km mark was a little deceptive and I found myself running another mile before the finish. I finished the run in 1:45:31 with an overall finish time of 5:13:01 (the only time I went slower was at Desaru in 2009 when I walked half the run course because of cramps). I was 69th overall (4th Malaysian) and 14th in my age group.

My sister was off her half marathon PB by 1 minute, big effort under the heat! 
Post race

Greeted my sister at the finish line, she finished 6 minutes before me and she said she was running scared throughout the course, looking out for me from behind hahaha. I took my time submerging in the cold water tank and had about 3 sticks of ice cream from the recovery area while waiting for my massage. Once I got cleaned up and collected my bike, we adjourned to the functions area for the awards presentation. My sister's team won first place for the Corporate Teams challenge - a pleasant outcome as it was the only category other than the professionals that was paying cash prizes.

Not a bad payday eh? Photo credit - Loh Sau Teing
Big thanks to Gary and the Bunanamo supporters slugging it out in the heat and mum and dad for taking care of me during this short trip - I don't visit enough and if I do, I always tie it up with a race! And my heartfelt appreciation to my sponsors... H2C - the exclusive Boardman distributor for Malaysia, for setting me up with the awesome bike, Compressport Malaysia for the very cool On/Off race gear, Lifeline-ID for the neat Pro tag that gives me assurance that my loved ones need not worry in the unlikely event that I pass out on the course!

A bit of a post mortem - obviously, I have a lot to do on the bike before Ironman Port Macquarie in about 3 weeks time. But without overdoing it. I'll be cycling every ride with it for now to get as used to it as possible. I wished I ran faster too but considering the quickest run split for the day was just under 1:22 (and Crowie ran 1:29), my run split wasn't that bad. I'm back in Brisbane now and I've recovered well from the race and the travel, I felt strong in the few sessions I've had this week. This weekend will be the acid test when I do my longest ride and longest run.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Ready, get set...

Can you believe it? It's Easter already! How time flies!

I'm less than 5 hours away from boarding the plane back home to Malaysia for the Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya. I'm actually pretty excited! Of all the racing I've done back home, I have never raced in Putrajaya before. Sure, I've done a few training rides but never actually done a race there.

As much as I would like to race it like my A event, I have to be realistic. My main goal is to do well at Ironman Port Macquarie in about 4 week's time, so I have been logging some long training hours the past couple of weeks and not tapered properly for this weekend's race. Plus, I'll be racing on a bike I've never ridden before. Yes, I'll be actually travelling home with an EMPTY bike bag but coming back to Brisbane with a new bike. What will it be? You would have to wait and see, so watch this space!

Having said the above, I'm still very much looking forward to the race and will it my very best effort. It's always a special feeling racing at home. And... I get to be home for Mum's birthday, something I've not done for the past 13 years since I've came to Australia.

Plenty of exciting posts to come, so stay tuned!

Oh, and happy Easter everyone!

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Revisiting Perth

Last weekend, .we did a whirlwind trip to Perth. Well, I did anyway. Li-Ann had her PhD graduation ceremony which I unfortunately missed as I couldn't take time off work. But I arrived a couple of days later, it was nice revisiting the place we called home for 10 years or so, even though I spent less than 48 hours there.

We went to Sorrento Beach 3 times during my short visit. Something we have always taken for granted that the beach is about 15-20 minutes drive away. Of course, I had to throw in a 10km run with my partners in crime - Sam and Dennis.

Photo credit - Dennis Tan. Visit his page at Paparazzi on the Run
Blind selfie!
Pizza lunch with our friends from university at Theo & Co pizzeria in Victoria Park. Newly opened, we were regular customers of the Little Caesars franchise. Now, the original owner Theo has opened this new branch. It was Li-Ann's birthday that Sunday and there is no better way to blow candles than on a dessert pizza!

Photo credit - Jessie Yeow
Photo credit - Natasha Jalani 
Capping off with a dinner at Good Fortune BBQ restaurant and another mini birthday cake for Li-Ann. Thanks Sam for dropping us at the airport.

It was a very short trip with plenty of good food and the company was even better! Thanks guys for all the laughter. We miss Perth dearly and hope to make some more trips in the near future.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Minor setback

I guess the picture says it all. It's been about 3 weeks since I've last joined the Saturday group rides. It has been raining the past few Saturdays and I have been swapping my long rides to Sundays.

Anyway, I thought it would be nice to ride with the group again. I even wore my new Red Dog kit for the first time. There was some light drizzle in the morning and some stretches of the roads were quite wet.

My front wheel slipped as we crossed the train tracks. I suffered some road rash on my right elbow, hip and ankle. I now would have a scar to match the one on my left hip from my fall a few years ago. A slightly deeper cut on my right eyebrow but it doesn't need stitches. Broke my sunglasses and I just happened to put them on minutes before the fall. If I had kept them in my pocket, they would be fine.

My bike had some scuff marks on the side of the handlebar and brake levers. But other than that, it is alright. Another girl fell too and her rear derailleur got totally dislocated. She had to take the train home. I could have probably continued cycling with the group but I chose the soft option of ringing Li-Ann to pick me up, I was only 20kms from home.

I'm recovering well and the wounds are starting to close. I even did a run this morning, with a decent pace too. Was planning for 26kms but only did 11km. Not sure whether it was psychological but I felt a bit faint after the 2nd lap around the neighbourhood so I decided to stop.

That makes two weekends without a long run as last week it rained most weekend. And this weekend without a long ride to add to that. But I try not to let these minor setbacks get to me. Tomorrow is a new day, which starts off a new week.

Reset. Refresh.

Sunday, 15 February 2015


It's been a while since I've updated on my training progress.

I recovered well after Hell of The West and was able to get back into training hard fairly quickly. And just as well, as this week we had quite a few hard sessions.

On Tuesday's track session, we did a 30 minute set of 600m at 70%, 400m at 80% and 200m at 90% with 10-30 seconds rest in between, just rolling through the set until the 30 minutes are up. Then we finished with a 1km best effort, which is more like 90% for me. As being an endurance athlete I find it difficult to do all out sprints for the short distance. Managed to lower my time to 3:38. I've only gone quicker once at 3:33, but I also suspect that the track is a few metres longer than my Garmin.

Thursday's swim set, we did some 50m sprints. My quickest that night was 36.4 seconds. About a third slower than what I used to be able to swim in my teenage years.

Friday was the first time I joined the Computrainer session. It was fun seeing your name on the screen and how you ranked against those around you. But it did hurt, we had to do some two minute all out sprints after doing 15 minutes at 70% and 10 minutes at 80%.

These speedwork hurt but I'm seeing the benefits already. I felt really strong for this week's long run. An average pace of 4:32/km for the 24km - four loops of the 5.2km loop around the hilly neighbourhood. Getting comfortable at this distance which means I'll be adding another 2kms for the next long run. Adapt and then progress.

I haven't been cycling with the group for the Saturday long rides for a while. Just a change in schedule and have been cycling on Sundays instead. Rode with a fellow Red Dog member last Sunday and we headed south to a small town called Yamanto. Nice roads with rolling hills and wide shoulders. Today I rode on my own to Redcliffe and struggled a bit with the headwinds. I've done two 140km rides and aiming to increase to 150km next week.

Li-Ann is away until Friday. She's back in Malaysia for Chinese New Year. While this gives me no excuse to attend all the training sessions, as cliche as it sounds, having her around does give me strength when the going gets tough.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

To the man...

To the man... who raised me to take personal responsibility in my decisions and actions, but still is always there for me to look to for guidance and advice.

To the man... who taught me all the important stuff in life, from making wise financial investments decisions to adjusting my bike brake cables.

To the man... who showed me how to be a good son, a good husband and someday, how to be a good father.

Happy 60th birthday, dad! Sorry I couldn't be home to celebrate with you in person.

Love, your son.