Monday, 2 March 2009

Stick a magnet onto me...

...because I'm now a 100% FULL IRONMAN!

Oh boy, where do I start. As I sit here, compiling the pictures from various photographers (thanks guys, you are the best!), recollecting as many snippets of the race as I can remember, and procrastinating to pack my luggage for my flight back to Perth tomorrow morning...

Be warned, it's a LOOONNGGGG POST!


I took the Thursday morning flight to Langkawi. Was a bit upset that Air Asia did not allow me to include my bike as part of my check-in luggage, and was forced to pay Rm130 of sporting equipment fee(Rm40 for the first 15kg, Rm15 per kg in excess)... they just changed the policy recently!

Anyway, I shortly met up with THG people - Doc Ray, Tomato Ray, Mich, Ultraman Yip, Lee and Siok Bee. We were all in the same flight. Also there was Dr Hisyam, my brother's doctor (the only one who told him that he could continue swimming despite his sinus) and multiple Ironman, who unfortunately had to withdraw due to a shoulder injury.

I met Meng when we arrived in Langkawi airport. Siok Bee chartered a 12 seater van, and we proceeded to collect our race kits. Thanks again, Siok Bee for handling the logistics and Lee for playing driver!

Keat Seong, Jeffrey and Bernard joined us for lunch. After that, THG checked into Kondo Istana, while I went to my room in Eagle Bay. Was surprised to meet multiple Malaysian women's champion, Dr Fiona Lim in the lift.

I assembled my bike and took it for a spin to try out the bike course (which I soon found out that only 1/4 of it was the actual race route! Well, good practice anyway, there were some hills in the remaining 3/4 too!)

That night's carbo loading dinner was a total disappointment. Not enough food and dinner plates. We were literally scraping the buffet trays and piling whatever food we can on our tiny dessert plates. We adjourned for supper and called an early night.


Woke up at 7.15am on Friday morning, took a 15 minute walk to the jetty to do a warm up swim. Swam for about 20 minutes, the sea lice were a bit annoying but not as bad as I imagined them to be. I chatted with Dr Hisyam at breakfast at Eagle Bay before joining THG for the technical briefing. I must say, that the atmosphere was getting pretty tensed. Athletes from various countries, dressed in their compression recovery wear, resting as much as possible before the big race the following day.

Darling arrived soon and we had lunch together. I then spent the whole afternoon getting my bike and transition bags ready for the check-in.

Everyone was amused by my array of Powergels!

I just love my auspicious race number - CANNOT DIE! (in Cantonese)

As if the atmosphere at the morning's briefing wasn't tensed enough, the flashy display of expensive bikes at the check-in was bringing the pressure out of everyone!

Mum, dad and Keith arrived soon after. We then had dinner. Li-Ann and I returned early to get ready for bed. While my parents and Keith went hunting for my kaya buns and bananas for breakfast. I have such a supportive family, I'm so lucky!


I woke up at 5.30am after a reasonable night's sleep (too anxious). Shaved my facial hair, had my breakfast and performed my mandatory toilet visit ritual. By the time we got to the jetty, there was already a long queue for body marking.

I was greeted by more familiar faces - Stupe, Sofian, Abu, Zul, Adzim, Julie, Ben and Yee Hua, Don, Isaiah and David Tan from Perth. Other hardcore Ironman fans and supporters - Bobby, Lydia, Aini, Mark and Jennifer. Sorry if I missed out anyone, you know who you are!

It rained the night before, so good thing I wrapped my cycle computer and bike seat with plastic bags.

I downed my Powerbar Performance bar and did a few more stretches before heading to the start. The pros started 15 minutes before us.


I positioned myself somewhere near the front, with the hope of making a good time. But at the start, my Timex watch, being less sensitive... I spent a couple of seconds starting off the stopwatch. The swim was... LONG. It was 1.9km out and back. The water was pretty calm that day. And the sea lice were at a minimum. So conditions were looking pretty good.

However, the timing band didn't have a hook on it and it felt like it could come off anytime. I stopped a couple of times, restrapping it. I heard that one of the pros, had his fell off and had to get a new one.

At the turnaround point, I noticed I was over 32 minutes. I knew my chances of clocking under an hour were pretty slim, so I just focused on doing good strokes and finishing strong, rather than rushing to the finish.

The lap back was much better, as I could see the jetty getting closer and closer. I got through the first timing mat in 1:01.03, raising my arms in delight as the first leg is over.

I was so excited that I nearly forgotten my glasses, which was left at the table before the start! I doubt I was the first Malaysian out of the water, but that didn't bother me too much. I quickly wiped my feet dry and placed on my socks (which was quite pointless and the floor was wet) and ran out to grab my bike.

Photo courtesy of Kevin Han

Total T1 time was 2.14.


I downed my first Powergel and was delighted that I slipped smoothly into the shoes as I pedaled out. As expected, the ones who came out from the water around the same time as I did, were elite age groupers, hence zooming past by me on the bike. I cycled at my own pace, spinning as much as I can, minimizing the labouring effort on the pedals, maintaining just above 30kph.

The first out loop wasn't as flat as described by fellow Ironman bloggers. The drains that we passed by were filthy! It was quite an effort to block off the smell of rubbish. Malaysian top athletes, Heidilee and Hafiz Wong overtook me at the 30km mark. That was also where Li-Ann and my family stationed themselves to cheer me.

I clocked about 56 minutes at this point, way inside my target of one hour. From this point, we went took a route around the airport and went up another few more hills. I learnt a trick from watching Emma Snowsill racing in Noosa, which is bending down flat while going downhill, that increased my speed by almost 10kph! Hence, I was still able to maintain above 30kph up until the 60km mark. This was also where the pros started lapping me. Brian Rhodes and Luke McKenzie being escorted by motorcycles.

The route then brought us to the steep uphill on the middle of Padang Gaong road. As I tried this hill two days ago, I wasn't that taken aback by it. My speed went down to 9-10kph, but I patiently pedaled up. My first small loop to this point took me just over 1 hour 16 minutes, which was inside my target of 80 minutes. We were meant to do 4 times of this loop.

Photo courtesy of Kevin Han

I stopped for a couple of minutes at the first aid station somewhere around 75km. I was feeling hungry anyway. So I gobbled down my kaya bun and a banana, which I prepacked in the special-needs bag, which was transported to the station. I didn't expect to come back to this station for each loop, but as the sun started to brighten up and the temperature started to rise, the few minutes rest were good for the legs.

The weather was actually pretty kind this year. Not sure if this Ironman should still be called the Toughest Show on Earth if these mild conditions continued for years to come.

I could no longer hold above 30kph for the second and third small loop, my loop timing slowed down to just about 80 minutes. People started dismounting and pushing their bikes up the Padang Gaong hill. I patiently pedaled up, as I think I would suffer more problems if I dismounted and tried to clip back onto the bike.

When it came to the final loop, my legs didn't want to cycle anymore. My stomach didn't want to take in anymore Powergels. I stopped smiling to the village kids by the roadside who were happily helping themselves to the disposed water bottles. I for one, was fullish enough to fill up all my bottle cages with water bottles, having no more place to bring back an Ironman water bottle as a souvenir!

But I persevered on, reminding myself that the end of the cycling leg was near. Not even thinking of the marathon, will come to that later! Bobby, Lydia and gang were at the final lap back. Their cheer did bring up my spirits a bit.

I came into transition, not fully ready to dismount. I wasn't able to unstrap my shoes in time, so I had to unclip them and run into the change tent with my bike shoes. My total cycle time was 6:08.03 (average 29.34kph).

I darted to the toilet after changing into my running shoes. Yes, I have yet to master skill of peeing while cycling. Time taken in T2 was 3.33.

RUN 42.2km

Surprisingly, my legs felt pretty good and not too awkward. The uneasiness actually came from my stomach. Must be too much Powergels! I apologize to those running behind me as I was passing out a lot of flatulence!

I did a run-walk, running to each aid station, and walking through them while I pour water, coke into my mouth and over my overheated body. This wasn't my strategy, but somehow it worked! In my mind, I only had to run to each station which was 1km apart.

Somehow, my eyes started tearing uncontrollably. It's not emotions lah! I still had 30km more to go! I think it was either the fumes from the vehicles or this was how my body reacted after almost 10 hours of racing.

I don't know about other competitors, but I always prefer u-turns and laps on the run course, as compared to the long loops. The 5 laps of 8km, passing by your fellow competitors on the other side. Having them cheer you on, Sofian gave me words of encouragement while Stupe clapped his hands each time we passed and Adzim reminded me of my sub 12 hour target. At the end of each lap, I was greeted by Bobby and gang, Jennifer followed by Li-Ann and my family.

That really kept me going, I was clocking way under 45 minutes for the first three laps and at one point, I was even doing faster laps than Hafiz Wong (although he was already one lap ahead).

But I started slowing down on the 4th lap and by the 5th lap, I slowed down to a jog. I was seriously contemplating walking the remaining few kms, as I calculated I could still make the 12 hours. Anyway, I held on and very soon, the aid drink station came. I didn't walk this time, and continued plodding along, heading towards the jetty.

The finishing line appeared and there was Li-Ann waiting for me. I grabbed her hand and we raced to the finishing line, giving her a kiss after we cross it.

I clocked 4:00.28 for the marathon (average 5:41 per km), completing the course in a total time of 11:15.20. I was 107th overall, 4th Malaysian overall, 9th in my age group and 2nd Malaysian in my age group. See full results here and here. Dr Fiona Lim actually complimented me on my run after she finished, now hearing something like that from a champion like her is something I won't forget!


My Ironman journey would not have been complete without the love and support of my close ones. My sister who provided me with all my Powerbar needs. My dad who enthusiastically helped me with some modifications to my bike. My mum and brother who persevered under the sun and rain, sleep deprived and almost falling sick from cheering me for hours.

Fellow friends and colleagues in Perth as well as in Malaysia, for giving me well wishes and encouragement. Dedicated photographers, Mr Tey, Bobby and gang, Aini, Dr Hisyam who tirelessly spent hours under the sun to capture our Ironman experience.

Uncle Sunny, my swim instructor who introduced me to triathlon and Uncle Peter Lau who took me under his wing during my early years of triathlon and ever so willingly, lent me his bike, gave me a ride, organized relay teams and accomodations at races during that time.

Dr Ray and team THG, for including me in your escapades during my Christmas-New Year training in Malaysia. I wouldn't have experienced long rides if it weren't for those sessions. The organizers and volunteers for a well organized event (apart from the carbo loading dinner), the logistics of the race were superb!

And last but not least, my darling and soul mate, Li-Ann, who flew all the way from Perth, endured me waking up in early mornings, spending time away training, talking about nothing but Ironman for the past few months. Thank you darling!

Race entry fee - Rm500
Return flights from Perth-KL-Langkawi - Rm3,500
3 nights stay in Eagle Bay Hotel - Rm350
Crossing the Ironman finishing line with your loved one - PRICELESS!


zulhassan said...

congrat bro , u are our future triathlete.

u can do better next time!!!

kev said...

Thanks, Zul! You did well too, we're all Ironmen now!

Stupe said...

You are crazily fast. Well done. You've done better than your *envisioned* write up, no less!

yipwt said...

Great race dude...think you got chance to be msian top ironman in the future.

kev said...

Thanks guys! Will just take one thing at a time now, and continue to enjoy the sport ;)

Well done to you guys too!

bola2api said...

u're damn fast!

actually i was having breakfast at the mamak restaurant at the jetty. When I came out thru the door near the bike trans, i saw u whizzing past on your bike at about 9.30am i think.

Then i saw your dad n bro looking for u, I asked your dad n bro, "you are kevin's family right?" your dad said yes. I said, "I just saw kevin past thru on his bike."

i think ur dad didn't expect u to be THAT fast, man!

good job

bola2api said...

pics from me

kev said...

Thanks Aini! I saw the pics, they're wonderful! Would post them up together with Tey's when I get them.

C-CUBE said...

one word to describe....INCREDIBLE.

kev said...

Thank you, Uncle Choi! The Fastwitch were amazing, lightweight and good water ventilation, as I was pouring water all over myself throughout the run route.

Abu Soffian said...

Well done bro. U memang laju.

kev said...

Thank you Abu! Well done to you too, improve a lot from last year, and achieve your target!

Raymond said...

Kev,u missed the boat to be a Selangor state swimmer last time,now this is your calling to achieve a bigger feat by training harder to be national long distance triathlete. We will definitely root for u! what a great future u have!

kev said...

Thanks, Ray. Would try my very best. Note that as mentioned by Hafiz Wong Ah Thiam, the sport is also getting more competitive. The 2nd Malaysian is in my age group, and the 3rd was in the age group younger than mine. So there are plenty of people vying for the spot. I can only focus on improving on my weaknesses, and hope to progress.

C-CUBE said...

Kevin, Am really glad that the Fastwitch3 was up to your expectation.

The 2nd top Malaysian finisher (Abdul Rahman) is my friend from the Navy. Very young and strong contender as you said. Another big Saucony supporter too!!!

kev said...

Hehheh Uncle Choi you should do a compilation of those who used Saucony at the Ironman, good for promo!

Anonymous said...

congrats kev.. u were impressive!!! very very fast timings!!.. congrats again IRONMAN KEV!!


kev said...

Thank you, Neeza! Possibly something that you might consider doing in the future? Hehheh.

j cooke said...

well done kev Must meet up when u return to perth saw u at the half last year at busso
iam thinking of doing Malaysia one day but not as fast as you.
North coast tri club

kev said...

Hi Cookie! Thanks for coming to my blog! Yeah, I'm considering doing Busso Half again if I recover in time. Not sure if I'll see you there as it would be pretty close to your IM Austria?

Will keep in touch. Happy training!

cRAzYtoMatOmaN-D said...

Without a doubt you are a M'sian elite triathlete!!!
You even swam faster than the pros!
Super well done!

kev said...

Hehheh, just the swimming only, then everyone passes by me after that! Thanks, iron tomato ray!

OP Chan Jun Shen said...

wow! yr timing is super impressive! congratz=)yr run is awesome!

kev said...

Thanks, Jun Shen, you did well too! And you're still very young, you can go much further!