Coincidentally, Desaru was the place where I did my first ever triathlon in 2002. I was 19 then, I took part in the 19 and under junior sprint triathlon.
I did the swim in my swimming trunks, struggling to put on my cotton T-shirt and tri pants in T1 as I was sticky and wet from the sea water. For the bike, I borrowed a Bianchi belonging to Peter Lau of P2K, who did the long distance the day before. I was in such a haste that I did not even clip on my helmet properly!
And I surprised myself by coming in 1st in my category. It was a lot less competitive then, and there was only one category for juniors. I recalled vividly that just by doing the sprint itself was enough torture for me and I couldn't believe how the others could endure the full distance of the half ironman.
Fast forward 7 years and I'm back again in Desaru... this time for the full distance.
I arrived at Changi airport budget terminal from Perth at 3am. I made another last minute decision of buying another ticket to KL to spend more travel time with my family, rather than taking the ferry straight to Desaru.
I arrived in KL just after 8am, my dad picked me up from the airport and I assembled my bike at home while waiting for my mum and brother to come home from school. The journey to Desaru was a long one, but it was nice chatting with my family. Throughout the journey, we also saw many Singaporean cars with fancy bikes going down for the race as well.
Finally arrived at Desaru at about 4.30pm where I showed my bike to a potential buyer, Richard. Unfortunately, the bike was too small for him. So it is still available and currently in Subang Jaya, so email me to work out a deal if any of you are interested!
I met Sofian at the registration. He was very nice to offer me a cupcake baked by his wife, it was delicious, thanks!
6pm was the briefing, where I met up with THG people. Tomato Ray, Jenn, Lydia, Bobby, Yip, Keat Seong, Meng, Lee, Ben and Bernard. Mich and Siok Bee were still on their way then. In fact, I think I didn't speak to Mich and Siok Bee for this entire event as I left early after the race!
Race director, Mr Chan's briefing was definitely something that I've missed for many years. His down-to-earth humour made the briefing an unforgettable one. After the briefing, I joined my family for dinner at Sungai Rengit, about 35 minutes from Desaru. I also had a bit of Tiger beer to help me sleep better... which I did.
The late 9am start enabled us to wake up at less ungodly hour. I woke up at 7am, had some kaya buns and a banana, followed by doing some stretches. This is also my first time racing with contact lenses. Luckily I didn't take too long putting them on. Oh and I left my orthotics in Subang Jaya! Had to borrow my dad's in soles fit them in my running shoes.
I cycled to the race venue. My clip shoes were acting up, kept on getting stuck. I nearly fell upon approaching the bike racks and Meng caught me, how embarrassing! I quickly proceeded to rack up my bike and had my body marked.
I chatted a bit with Meng, Bobby, Keat Seong and my family while waiting for the final briefing. This is my brother, 11 years younger than I am. You think he'll submit to the pressure of becoming a triathlete?
I met Mark and his wife at the racks as well as Stupe and his wife. I was also finally able to meet Nik, someone I've only communicated via blogs, who's doing his first half ironman.
Another person I met was Raymond Tan, whom I knew since my state water polo days. Small world eh.
15 minutes to start, Mr Chan called us to gather at the swim start for a final briefing. The infamous Desaru waves were beginning to show, but many said it wasn't as bad as last year.
It was a mass beach start. I raced with the front liners into the water, not sure whether it was a wise move, as the water wrestling followed soon after. It was a two loop swim course. The waves were quite strong but pretty manageable. I came in somewhere between 12-13 minutes for the first loop.
But as I ran on the beach before going in for the second loop, I felt a bit dizzy and decided to slow down a bit. Top junior triathlete, Barry Lee was just ahead of me but I managed to overtake him soon after.
The inward currents helped a bit towards the finishing. I finished my swim in 26:53, a lot faster than I expected but Mr Chan said it could be under-distanced... oh well...
I took it easy at the 200m run to transition as I was still slightly dizzy from the swim. But the T1 process was pretty much like clock work now. I had no problems doing the fly mount despite not doing any practice.
My least trained discipline for the past 2 months. I was quite happy to clocking above 30kph average in the beginning. It was quite a relief to see most people were behind me after the swim, including top female triathlete Emma Bishop. The undulating hills were pretty manageable and I enjoyed curling myself into an aerodynamic ball as I rolled on the down slopes.
I finished the first loop of the three loop course in about 55 minutes. But my lack of training showed eventually. Emma soon caught me at the 40km mark. And top veteran triathlete Don was gaining on me, so was Keat Seong and Yip.
I have a bit of whinging here about the ineffective draft marshals. There was once where there was a big group in front of me and there was no place to overtake. The draft marshal was following and monitoring the group but wasn't doing anything. DRAFTING = CHEATING, guys don't you get it?
Anyway, regardless of whether others were drafting or not, I doubt my position would change very much with my mediocre cycling. Don caught me at the 73km mark and Keat Seong who was working his way through the bike course, overtook me at 80km. He gave me words of encouragement to catch him later in the run.
I finished the three loop course, which approximates 87km in 2:55:11 including transition. My clip shoes got stuck as I came into T2, so I didn’t do a fly dismount. But I was surprised that I came out of T2 before Keat Seong... you put on make up ah? Hehheh.
But my victory was short lived as immediately after I got off the bike, both my legs were tightening to cramps. Stretching did not help either. Keat Seong soon passed me and asked me to follow, but my legs could not budge.
Then, Yip overtook me with his strong running. I was afraid that those who previously expressed interest over my bike would soon pass me. It doesn’t say much about my bike’s reputation if I finish later than them right?
I decided to keep on moving... brisk walking with wide steps to cover as much distance in as little time with whatever was remaining from my legs. As the cramps loosen, I ran. As it tightened, I started walking again. This carried on for nearly every 500m. Yes, I have entered the foreign terrain of undertaking Jeff Galloway's method.
The two loop course was long and hot. Yes, I admit I was being vain by trying to run when I'm posing for pictures. Thanks, Lydia, Bernard, Jenn, Yee Hua and many others, whom I don't know your names, for the support and beautiful pictures! The following pictures of me running are in NO WAY representative of the entire distance!
My wonderful family too... what was driving me to run more (or rather walk less) was the thought of having them wait longer under the hot sun for me to finish.
The final 2kms came, it was about 10 minutes to 5 and 1/2 hours since the race started. I thought if I could jog all the way, I would be able to make it but the cramps kept on coming.
As I approached the finish line, a familiar figure was just metres in front of me... Keat Seong! He must have had cramps towards the end too. I gathered the remaining elasticity in my legs, and sprinted... piping him just by a step!
I completed the 21km run/walk in 2:10:41, finishing with an overall (my watch) time of 5:32.46, 34 minutes slower than Busselton.
I was only able to catch up with a few as I was returning to Subang Jaya right after the race. My apologies to those whom I was not able to see you guys through the finish line.
The trip back was also a long drive and we got back to Subang Jaya just before 10pm. I feel very lucky to have my family, so supportive and I must admit that this rush trip of mine is pretty tiring, not only for myself but for my family as well.
I’m looking forward to some rest (although I can see myself itching to get back into it this weekend).