Monday, 23 December 2013

2013... another chapter

Today is my last working day for the year. Only a couple more sleeps before Christmas and just over a week before the year ends.

2013 has been interesting to say the least. Moving to Canada early this year, the other side of the globe with a time difference of over 12 hours and climate difference of over 40 degrees Celcius during winter. The snow has been coming and going. Yesterday was a first where although it didn't snow but we have crystalized ice all over the roads making them into skating rinks and the car was frozen with a layer of ice that I could not break. I stayed home a while more and went to the gym later when the ice have thawed.

Having a new job at the hospital on a contract basis in the finance division and dealing with physicians' finances was another experience. I have less autonomy and there is more red tape than my previous jobs but I'm getting used to it. Took me over 6 months just to get to know what's going on and I'm still learning as I go. Only another 9 months more in my contract and I doubt I'll be able to know everything at the back of my hand by then, but hey, that's the way contracted work goes. Just try to do my best in the given timeframe.

Starting my small coaching service for fellow triathletes back in Malaysia was something I've been thinking about for some time. So I'm glad that things took off pretty well with the athletes I coached achieving their goals with flying colours. And I hope to build on this next year, as I'm competing in Ironman Malaysia myself so it would be exciting going through the same training cycles with my athletes and racing on the same course with them on the day.

On the side of my own training, it has been fun training with taskmaster Coach Sheri and Team Sheri athletes. The dynamics of the group is very diverse compared to the Break Your Limits team back in Perth. Not better or worse, just different. And I look forward to training with Team Sheri once again in summer - Splash N' Dashes, Megadays and Niagara camps, can't wait!

We'll be off to Li-Ann's cousins this Christmas and then to Niagara Falls to usher in the New Year. So my next blog post will probably be in the 2014 year.

Until then, thank you all for reading this blog for another year. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

From the other side...

I've not mentioned this in my blog before but I started a small coaching service for triathletes in Malaysia specifically for those aiming to race in a half Iron or full Iron distance. It was something I have been thinking about for a couple of years now but I didn't make it happen until sometime middle of this year. I've done triathlons for over 10 years now and although I've had my fair share of training and racing experience, coaching is a different ball game altogether and I'm conscious of imparting wrong information. As we all know, what works well for an individual may not work or even be detrimental for another!

Anyway, after being coached for the last three seasons under former pro triathlete Bill Scanlan in Perth, and currently by Sheri Fraser, the grand dame of Ontario triathlon, I decided to take the plunge and see if I can give something back to the Malaysian triathlon community. As I'm geographically thousands of miles away, technical aspects like swim stroke analysis was going to be difficult. So I roped in my brother, a former state swimmer, to conduct these sessions for me. All my athletes were impressed and most made separate arrangements with him to have ongoing sessions. From there, it took off further through word of mouth and referrals, he's pretty much booked out for most of the week with stroke correction sessions. It's great to see my baby brother (okay, maybe not so baby anymore) having such a success with this.

Coaching athletes was definitely not without it's challenges. There are many things I've taken for granted as an athlete myself. I've been blessed to be given the opportunity to train overseas, with world class facilities and top notch infrastructure e.g. a 75km bike path with no interruption from road traffic. Li-Ann is very supportive and quite often, she's occupied with her research work, so I don't feel too guilty being away and logging the long miles during the weekends. Yes, I have it easy and it did take me a while to realise that the athletes I coach have it different. Very different. One's a pilot who travels several times a week. The other works night shifts. And finally, another one gets last minute calls for business trips. Plus the heavy traffic in Malaysia suburbs makes it almost impossible to log in mid week outdoor workouts. And with young families, long training hours on the weekends would be a massive hurdle to overcome.

But hats off to these guys for being determined and pulling through these challenges. The past few months of coaching came to the final test in the past couple of weeks. One competed in Challenge Laguna Phuket, the other two at Ironman Western Australia. I've never been so anxious tracking live results before! The end result? I'm happy to say each one of them achieved their goals... and more. I've always had my heart skipped a beat each time I see a finisher line or a finisher medal picture. But seeing pictures of these guys celebrating their race finishes is even more special... much more. I felt that a part of me crossed the line with them!

But the credit should really go to them. The effort is mostly theirs and they all deserve the rewards. Congratulations and well done, guys! You guys inspire me. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share this truly humbling yet invaluable experience with you. I'm already looking forward to the 2014 season. With Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya and Ironman Langkawi making their comeback, I hope to be able to work with many more to achieve their goals.

In the meantime... for those looking for a triathlon coach, you know where to reach me *wink*

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Snow white


Sorry, I'm not exactly the fairest of them all. But this is me last Saturday, preparing to go out for a bike ride. It was forecasted to start snowing sometime between 10am to 11am. Which means if I started my ride early enough, I could have got about a 3 hour ride in before it snows. It took me almost 20 minutes to put 3 layers of clothing on every part of my body - including my hands and feet. My helmet fit because of the layers. Another 30 minutes of trying to adjust the helmet buckle and vents of frustration ensued... Li-Ann was very calm throughout though. 

In the end, I figured out it was not worth it and decided I would ride indoors that day. And a good decision too as the snow came earlier than expected with some howling winds as below. Had I had no gear issues, I would have been stuck in this!

video

It stopped snowing at about midday but the floors were slippery. I slipped and fell while we were out shopping for groceries, my bum still hurts as I'm typing this. Not much cushion I have in my rear end! 

Overnight, more snowing followed and we woke up to the sights of these!


As if not being able to do my long ride outdoors was bad enough, the roads were all blocked and we could not drive out, so I couldn't get myself to the gym or the pool. I wasn't going to go through another 90 minutes on the bike trainer staring at the wall, so I took a rest day from training.

It was reported that London experienced an average snow fall of 30cm over the weekend with some areas having up to 70cm of snow. Had this happened on a weekday, it would have been declared a holiday... darn!

This is going to be first full winter here and I'm going to have to learn to be flexible and creative with my training regime. It's not going to be easy but I will try. Until then, I'll take a step back and enjoy the white scenery and it's beauty.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Few seconds of fame...

I was mentioned in the Malaysian New Straits Times today. I was asked to give a quote by Ironman journalist Emma Bishop but I did not expect my picture to be included. Full text of the article below or can be found in this link. Thank you, Emma for the opportunity! 


IRONMAN is back and everyone here is talking about it. Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya takes place on April 13, 2014 and Ironman Malaysia returns to Langkawi on Sept 27, 2014.

The events are a welcome reintroduction of the Ironman brand here, giving local triathletes the chance to take on the ultimate endurance challenge.

But before that finish line can be crossed, there is a lot of work to be done. Not for the faint-hearted, Ironman is often regarded as the toughest endurance event in the world.

Training for the 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42.2km run can take the average weekend warrior up to a year. Some athletes may require the full 17 hours allocated to complete the distance while professionals may need less than nine hours.

ENTERING THE SPORT
If you are new to the sport or interested in taking part but find the full Ironman distance overwhelming, then the Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya is a great way to enter the sport.

The half Ironman distance of 1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21.1km run also has a relay team option.

Geoff Meyer, Ironman CEO Asia Pacific, says the relay option gives more people the opportunity to take part in an event where they may not be comfortable in all three disciplines. It’s a great stepping stone into the sport and gives athletes a taste of the Ironman experience and healthy lifestyle that triathlon offers.”

Local athletes who deemed themselves newbies a few years ago are now leading the charge for a surge in participation.

Lim Ee-Van, 37, is ecstatic that Ironman is back. “Triathlons are very much a lifestyle for me and my family and having Malaysia back on the Ironman map means a lot.

“The chance to race alongside the world’s best triathletes and friends and the camaraderie during training goes beyond transition. It is a huge commitment to train for the Ironman but the rush to complete the race and taking part in the event is unlike any other.”

MUSCLE OF METAL
Kevin Siah, 30, is a Malaysian living in Toronto, Canada. He has many races to choose from in North America but has chosen Ironman Malaysia as his race for 2014.

“Langkawi is where my Ironman journey started in 2009. There’s something special about racing on home soil with the Malaysian triathlete community. I know I can pick one of the many North American races to enter but I wouldn’t miss Ironman Malaysia for the world, even if it takes me more than 30 hours to get there!”

Ironman Asia Pacific will be setting up a permanent presence here, working alongside local partner Hivelocity Events to deliver a complete athlete experience that will reflect the international quality Ironman is recognised for while embracing Malaysia’s local culture and communities.

Registration for the two events is now open. Details at www.ironmanmalaysia.com and ironmanputrajaya.com.

Follow IRONMANAsiaPac on Facebook. E-mail your enquiries to ironman@usmevents.com.au

Thursday, 7 November 2013

It's official...

7.58pm... 7.59pm... 8.00pm - CLICK!

The registration for the 2014 Ironman Malaysia opened on Thursday morning 9am - Malaysia time. Though I didn't think that the race will sell out within minutes but as I have already booked my long flight home and local flights to Langkawi, I was not going to take the risk!
I completed my entry under 5 minutes - having a pre existing Active.com account saved me from filling in all my personal details. No confirmation as to who was the first to sign up but I'm pretty sure I'm amongst the first few - as I can't win the race, I might as well try to beat the rest to signing up right? I was literally shaking after my registration was confirmed. And this would be 8th Ironman race - which shows how excited I am to be racing at home with the Malaysian triathlon family! And getting spoiled by mum and dad as my supporters on race day :)

I've been slowly getting back into a routine of training regularly. The recent switchback of daylight savings meant that it gets darker quicker after work. And temperatures are dropping quickly too. Which means most of my workouts now are kept indoors - on the treadmill, on the trainer, in the pool. I'm not too worried as the race is more than 10 months away. The key goal for these few winter months is to keep fit and to work on my speed by including short but high intensity workouts. This will help me get stronger and faster when Ironman training hits full swing beginning of Spring.

For those still pondering on whether to sign up or not, don't take too long. Rumour has it that the participant limit is capped to 1,000 and being the cheapest Ironman race on the calendar - both in terms of entry fee and the local cost of accommodation, transport and food etc., I'm willing to bet that it will sell out soon.

See you at the start line!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Featured article... on Lycraheroes

The following is my 2nd article featured on this new and exciting website - Lycraheroes, a triathlon website that for once, puts the everyday age groupers in the spotlight. Be sure to like their Facebook page too for the latest news and updates! And share your triathlon related experience by sending your stories to mystories (at) lycraheroes (dot) com

Never ending journey… two wheels at a time


The bike is undisputedly the biggest investment for a triathlete… both in terms of money and time spent in training. This is no surprise given that in most triathlons, the bike segment takes up the largest proportion of the entire race duration (unless you are having a bad day and the ‘run’ segment is no longer a run but more like a walk/crawl, but let’s not go there!) Your trusted steed, your race machine, your ride of pride, your prized possession etc…. the bike goes by many different names and I’m sure each triathlete shares a special bond with their bike(s).


Throughout my 10 years or so of doing this sport I’ve gone through my fair share of bikes. Each etched a significant part in my memory and adding different flavours to my triathlon experience. I did my first sprint triathlon on a borrowed bike, which was two sizes too big for me. You bet I had a sore bum after but I was pretty much hooked into the sport.


I then bought a used Giant OCR3 from a local bike shop in Perth, Australia. I know many who had this model named theirs the Yellow Submarine but back then, I did not know it was a convention to give pet names to your bike, so I didn’t give it one. I did my first Olympic Distance triathlon on this bike in Port Dickson, Malaysia.


I soon realised that the Giant was one size too small for me. I gave it to my younger sister and it served her well for several triathlons and duathlons. I then bought an Avanti Monza and also invested in a pair of clip-on aerobars. I had many fond memories with this bike and even did my first half Ironman with this bike in Busselton, Autralia.

It was then when my triathlon journey took a leap. After completing the half Ironman without too much suffering, I was ready to take on the next challenge… so I signed up for what was touted as the Toughest Show on Earth – Ironman Malaysia in Langkawi. I decided it was time I invested in a tri bike. I got a good deal on a Quintana Roo Kilo that was on clearance. But the I had a poor fit which was evident below.

Still, I completed the full Ironman in one piece but the bike porn at the race with so many superbikes at transition must have fuelled my lust… lust for carbon (okay, maybe the poor fit was just an excuse)! I upgraded to a Felt B2R, a full carbon tri bike with Sram Red components. I call it my Faithful Felt, as it served me well through ridiculous miles in training and countless races including 4 full Ironmans.


After being my loyal steed for 3 years, I bade farewell to Faithful Felt. As technology progressed, I saved up a bit of money for my next bike purchase. I still remained a fan of the Felt mafia. I got a good deal on Felt DA1 frame and had local bike shop in Taman Bahagia, Malaysia take care of the rest – the new Sram Red, Zipp Vuka R2C shifters, Prologo Tri40 saddle. When the bike was fully built, I was salivating and could not wait to take it out for a test ride! Affectionately called my Dark Knight, I’ve raced 2 full Ironmans with it and looking forward more races to come.

Despite going through quite a handful of bikes, I’ve only had one bike at a time - yes, it was a monogamous relationship (although my wife would disagree)! New bikes with state of the art technology are launched each year and although the temptation is always there to upgrade, I cannot justify the costs of upgrading. So I’m sticking with my Dark Knight for now and I’m more than happy to do so.

Unless… I get a deal I can’t refuse somewhere down the road… (shh, don’t tell my wife!).

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

King and Queen of Kona

In the previous years when we were in Australia, because of the time difference, I was only able to catch the later parts of the bike or the start of the run. Well, now being in Canada, we're actually 6 hours ahead of Kona, Hawaii. So I actually get to catch the live streaming from midday onwards. As it was the weekend of Canada thanksgiving (the US one is end of November), we stayed the night in Markham with Li-Ann's relatives for a lovely dinner of turkey and roast beef. We arrived just after the swim start and I was able to watch most of the race up until dinner time. And continued watching on the iPad after I finished dinner, when the pros were in the later stages of the run. I was probably not very sociable but Li-Ann's relatives were very accommodating to allow me to watch me the race.

I'm so happy that Mirinda Rinny Carfrae won her 2nd World Championship with a course record... and 3rd fastest overall (men and women) run time as well. The picture below shows the sheer joy and energy she had as she leaped into her fiance's (TO who did exceptionally well too with a 5th place men's) arms at the finish.

Picture taken from Ironman.com
The men's winner Frederick Van Lierde was a bit of a surprise but looking back at his 3rd place finish last year, it was definitely not a fluke and it clearly showed that being patient and consistent throughout the race will reap massive rewards. But the one I'm most surprised with... and I'm sure I'm not the only one, even Ironman.com did not feature him as one of the contenders... was 2nd place men Luke McKenzie. His cycling prowess showed even more strength on Saturday and he worked on his achilles heel - the run, coming into this race very lean and posting a fast marathon time. Luke was the winner of Ironman Malaysia in 2009, the very same one I did my first ever Ironman.

Picture taken from Slowtwitch.com - Sorry, I can't help but think that he looks a bit like a leprechaun with the green cap and his green skinsuit!
It is a pity to see pre race favourites like Pete PJ Jacobs, Craig Crowie Alexander, Andreas Raelert, Caroline Xena Steffen not living up to their top billing but it only shows that anything can happen on the big island.

A big shout out to my buddy Enrico Varella, Kona legacy competitor who finished in 13:35:35. There was an inside joke as to whether he could beat Hell's Kitchen Gordon Ramsay and he did just that after trailing him after the swim. Well done mate!

Watching the race was simply inspiring and I hope too, that one day I could be on the big island. In the meantime... back into training for next year. I think I am more or less decided on which Ironman race to do. *wink*

Saturday, 12 October 2013

The return of the eagle

In just over 12 hours time, the Ironman Triathlon World Championships would unfold in Kona, Hawaii. Although there is no clear favourite, there are definitely some who would be likely contenders for the crowns of being king and queen of Kona this year. I am a Crowie fan myself but I see the odds are in the favour of Eneko Llanos after bagging two Championship titles - Asia Pacific and Europe. For the women, I'm sticking to my guns and rooting for Rinny, whom I am a huge fan.

But apart from having this year's biggest show in Ironman taking stage soon, massive news made the headlines recently, hitting somewhere closer to home. After a 3 year hiatus, Ironman would once again return to Malaysia... my home country! A two loop swim course in sheltered waters off Legenda Park, followed by a two loop undulating bike course from southeast to northwest of the island and back, rounding up with a 4 loop run course along Kuah town and finishing at the iconic eagle statue at Dataran Lang. Here's the official press release.

Picture of Dataran Lang taken from the official website
Ironman Langkawi, Malaysia was my first ever Ironman in 2009. I had no idea what I was in for. My longest ride before the race was 160km. I had a modest goal of 12 hours and I was totally elated to cross the finish line in 11:15:20. A year later, I came back with higher expectations. I sliced a whopping 25 minutes off my bike split. But in the heat, I struggled on the later stages of the run, finishing in 11:33:12. I was eager to make amends the following year but sadly, 2010 was the last we saw of Ironman Malaysia. Since then, I've been really blessed to be given the opportunity to enhance my Ironman experience overseas, in Australia and recently, Canada - adding another 5 more Ironman finishes to my cap.


First tri bike, dorky glasses and poor bike fit. Ate too many gels and bananas. But had a ball at my first IM
In my 2nd year, I had more pressure on myself and when the heat turned up, all wheels came off and I jogged/walked the 2nd half of the run
 To have Ironman return to Malaysia in 2014 is a dream come true to many Malaysian triathletes, be it those who aspire to tick off their bucket list of completing an Ironman distance or those reminiscing some nostalgia and yearning to relive those special moments again. I fall in the latter group and I'm over the moon when I heard the news. Although that puts me in a difficult situation being so far away from home, it would have been totally different story if I was back in Australia.

Most of you know I have yet to commit to a full Ironman race for next year. I've heard rumours about Ironman Malaysia was in the works and now those rumours became reality. Apart from the additional costs of the long travel home for this race, I would also need to consider the 30 hour journey and jetlag. Plus it would be in my final month of working contract here which only gives week of handover to the lady I'm standing in for.

Having said that... I know what my heart wants. Big kudos to all those involved in bringing Ironman Malaysia back. When registration opens on November 7, I'll have to make a call.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Turning 30

So yesterday marked the 30th anniversary of my birth. Hitting the 3rd decade seems like a milestone. For one most relevant to me, is aging up to the next age group for my triathlon events. Last year I had did a race in Miri, Malaysia on my birthday and the year before I was probably getting into the big training weeks before Ironman. This year, after having an early season Ironman, I am currently in off season. I had my candle blowing and cake cutting over Skype with my family back home. Li-Ann woke up early to bake the cake just in time for us to Skype. I have two aunties, one cousin and a niece celebrating October birthdays, so it was nice celebrating together.

We then had a quiet dinner in Morrisey House. Given that I'm currently in off season and training hours are significantly reduced, I didn't over indulge and kept our portions reasonable. Plus, I'm still recovering from the bout of flu that hit me last week, it's taking a little bit longer that I hoped for to go away which is very annoying but I'm getting there. But we did have another serving of cake at Symposium Cafe.

There's always time for beer, recovering from flu or not
I had a craving for a good steak... and I wasn't disappointed
Li-Ann's massive plate of salad
Okay, maybe this banana caramel cake wasn't quite a reasonable portion
Thank you everyone for the well wishes through Facebook, Whatsapp, SMSes etc. Both my siblings posted photo collages on my Facebook wall, which were very touching. I don't think I feel any different turning 30 although I do find this new age group a lot more competitive. Also, I find myself filling in my age in the middle of the drop down menus of surveys now, instead of the top few options. Subtle differences but differences I notice nontheless.

Here's to great year ahead and many more great birthdays to come! :)

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Holiday

It was the final week of Li-Ann's parents' holiday here. On the weekend, we attended her cousin's wedding in Markham, about 2.5 hours drive from us. Well, actually, she's Li-Ann's niece although we're younger than her. It was our first time being served tea at the tea ceremony. The night before the wedding, there were plenty of delicious hakka cuisine, all cooked by her mum. Congratulations Eve and Bernard on your wedding! And thank you and your family for the warm hospitality.


The next day we left for the Billy Bishop Toronto City airport to catch our flight to New York. Boy, was it a stressful event. We did not expect the Toronto traffic to be so bad. What was meant to be a 45 minute journey took us nearly 1.5 hours and we got to the check-in counter 15 minutes before the flight departure! The check-in staff were not happy and we pleaded and pleaded. Even though they checked us in, it was still not guaranteed that we would be flying as we still had to catch the plane before it flies! Anyway, we rushed through all the security procedures and just made it before take-off. My heart rate probably stayed high for at least the first half of the flight!

We stayed with another one of Li-Ann's cousins in New Jersey. Having a big family has it's perks as you are bound to have someone, somewhere! Her cousin in law is a chef and we were welcomed by a delicious Taiwanese style steamboat with geoduck and sliced kobe beef!


The next 2 days were spent visiting New York city. It's such a busy city and luckily we had Li-Ann's cousin to bring us around. It was great weather, cool with sunny skies. We managed to watch Mama Mia on broadway - it was a fantastic performance and it was difficult to resist dancing to the show.

The bomber sandwich at the local diner - pork sausage, ham, bacon, two eggs, hash brown and cheese - all in one sandwich!
9/11 memorial - this is one of the pools where one of the twin towers was originally built. It was an eerie feeling thinking how the water fall represents the fallen souls on that tragic day.
Empire state building at the Rockefeller Plaza. We didn't go up the building. It was US$50 per person and there was such a long queue.
Time Square. It was the opening night of the opera, so the roads were closed off to lay out chairs to air the opera to the public, we watch the same show as those inside - free of charge! Can't say I'm an opera fan though. I found myself walking away to the nearby shops after 10 minutes!
On the ferry to the Statue of Liberty island. Because of hurricane Sandy, the port had to be rebuilt and Ellis Island, was closed due to damage
Aih... posing fail, crooked arm! And, what a sunny day! My lips cracked and my sun burnt for that day.
The final day of my trip was at Atlantic City. Li-Ann's cousin is a member and put us up in a really nice and luxurious suite at Borgata Hotel. As it was a weeknight, it was pretty quiet at the casino. I returned to London early as I had to work. Li-Ann stayed with her parents for a trip to Washington DC for a couple more days.

Big thank you to Li-Ann's cousin and cousin-in-law for the warm hospitality and taking us around. We truly enjoyed our trip!

I came down with a bit of a cold and sore throat from the travelling. It's ironic how my body can tolerate hours and miles of training but struggle with the late nights and rich food while travelling. Resting lots and taking my meds now and hope to recover soon. In a way, it is off season from my racing and this is the first time I've been sick all year. So I'm counting my blessings!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Off season

So with no upcoming race in sight for at least until the new year, I am officially in the off season. But if you know me well, that doesn't mean I stop training completely. We only have a couple of months of sunshine before winter comes. As it is, the mornings have been pretty cold lately.

I've started doing my evening runs at Springbank gardens. As I don't work in Western campus anymore, stopping by Springbank is on my way from work to the campus where I pick Li-Ann up. Running at the garden trails is a nice change from dodging the heavy traffic at Western campus to downtown area. Only thing is there are no long climbs on the route. But no matter, I would still be able to get some hill training when I run around our neighbourhood.

I have also stopped my membership at the Western fitness centre. I have a few multi passes left to the YMCA near our place. Only thing is they have swim classes in the afternoons which take up all the lanes on most weekdays so my only options are to either swim weekday mornings or during the weekends. And being off season, I find it difficult waking up before sunrise for a swim, especially now the first light comes later.

Li-Ann's parents will be dropping by tomorrow for a visit. They have done their grand tour of the west coast from California to Vegas and recently to Vancouver and Calgary. We'll be going to Toronto to attend Li-Ann's cousin's wedding this weekend and then a short trip to New York. I'll be returning to London earlier while Li-Ann would stay with her parents for a visit to Washington DC up until end of the week.

So that's pretty much it from me. Hopefully I'll be able to post up some stuff each week. It is as though my blog goes through off season along with my training haha. But at least for next week I have some pictures of the New York trip to share.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Ironman 70.3 Muskoka 2013

Held in Huntsville, Ontario - about 4 hours drive from us. The course is challenging but beautiful, as the organizers label it - naturally tough! I signed up mainly because of the 100 slots to the 2014 Ironman 70.3 World Championships and the event didn't seem to sell out, so I thought I'd try my luck. But with 2 weeks after Ironman Whistler, I wasn't sure what sort of form I would be in. Li-Ann was away in California travelling with her parents who are here for a USA/Canada trip. One of the rare times that I would be racing without her by my side. I was concerned about keeping myself awake during the long trip but it turned out okay.

I got to Huntsville at 11am Saturday and it was raining. There was limited parking at the host hotel, Deerhurst Resort but the organizers arranged for shuttle buses throughout the race eve and race day from a nearby parking lot, formerly an airstrip about 2 kms away. I picked up my race pack and checked in my bike. Bike racks were allocated according to age groups but were not numbered. So luckily I checked in early and booked a spot close to the bike exit. Went to say hi to Coach Sheri who had an expo stall selling trigger point therapy equipment.

With 2010 World Ironman Champion, Mirinda Carfrae. I'm a big fan as she rides a Felt and win her races on the run. 
I checked into my accommodation - Motel 6, a very nice place actually, about 7kms away. Rested a while before returning to Deerhurst for the professional athlete press conference. After that, it was pepperoni pizza for dinner - yes, my trusted pre race meal! And then, tried having an early night's sleep. But I was having trouble sleeping. Didn't stress too much about it, instead I checked up on Facebook updates and watched the final bits of the movie Anaconda (Jennifer Lopez looked so different then) and finally fell asleep a bit after 11pm.

Race morning, woke up at 5am and got ready. My gear was all prepared the day before so all I had to do was have breakfast and get changed. The shuttle bus service was really efficient. After getting my bike ready in transition, I still had 1.5 hours before the race start! So I sat in a quiet corner in Deerhurst Resort lobby. Had a final visit to the toilet and got into my wetsuit. It was a pretty cold morning, less than 10 degrees celcius so I placed arm warmers in transition. At least it wasn't going to rain as earlier forecasted.

Race start was 8am, I was the next wave after the professional athletes. The walk from transition to the start was LONG! And we were walking downhill, which means we have to run up after the swim! The swim course is one lap, shaped like a letter P. There were maybe about 150 people in my wave and I had the sun in my eyes for quite a bit of it. So navigating was a bit difficult but I didn't think I went off course too much. I came out of the water in 12th position in my age group in 30:44.

A bit disoriented after the swim
This was the first time I used wetsuit strippers, great idea - I should have done this in my earlier races! My legs were a bit wobbly and I felt a bit disoriented running up the hill into transition. The sudden change in blood flow from being in a horizontal position while swimming to vertical. It wasn't that cold when I got to transition, so I made the decision not to put on my arm warmers. I mounted the bike with no problems. T1 was 3:18.

Had a pretty smooth transition
The bike course is one loop, lollypop shaped (or something else for those of you who think that way haha) with a big head and a short stump. It is 94km with lots of ups and downs with not many flat sections. But I didn't find the hills too steep. There were some of the bigger climbs I had to use my 27 teeth gear but I stayed in the big chainring at the front throughout. As usual, I used my weight to my advantage, overtaking the guys in front on the climbs but finding myself losing out on the downhills. The roads were not closed to traffic but they were wide enough and I was able to descend confidently on the wide open sections. Only found myself braking like a wuss on some of the tight corners.

Enjoying the ride and scenery
The weather was perfect, sunny with not as much wind as earlier predicted. The scenery of the lakes and tall pine trees was simply amazing. Towards the later stages of the bike, I caught up with some of the pro females who started 6 minutes earlier. That gave me quite an ego boost but I guess they were new pros just starting out in their career. I came off the bike in 2:50:47, still in 12th position in my age group. And guess what? My bike split was only just over 5 minutes quicker than Coach Sheri! 

Nice scenery eh?
Into transition, grabbed my visor, sunnies and race belt and off I went, slipping them on as I'm running out. T2 was 43 seconds, I think that's a new PB! 

The run course was one lap, out and back. Mostly on road. We ran about 7kms towards town before making a turn into some dirt trail and then making a U turn. It was pretty challenging too with some steep climbs. I was surprised with how good my legs felt. The weather stayed cool and that really made a difference. I reached the turnaround point just under 44 minutes. My pace went a bit slower after, I was expecting it so I wasn't worried. But it didn't drop by much. 

Surprised with how good I felt
Somewhere after the 12km mark, my left hamstring seized up but I shortened my stride and prevented it from becoming a full blown cramp. At the downhill sections, I leaned myself forward, using momentum to roll myself down. There was one section where there was a wooden bridge, I don't remember crossing it in our outward lap and the cones were placed on the outside path adjacent to the bridge. Still, many were crossing the bridge on the way back. I did so, for a few steps and backtracked to the outside path. Lost a few seconds there. I passed Coach Sheri as she was heading out in the opposite direction - she still was able to shout out critiques about my form! Look straight! Swing your arms! 

Putting up a strong front going up one of the hills
As I got close to the finishing chute, there was one guy in my age group just a bit ahead. I quickened the pace the final few hundred metres, overtook him, only to be outsprinted from behind at the finish! And just a bit ahead was another guy in our age group as well. I finished the run in 1:33:39, a new PB for a half ironman run, with an overall time of 4:59:11. I came in 11th in my age group and 76th overall. There were 8 slots to the World Championships and all 8 were taken. I would be kicking myself it a slot rolled down to either 9th or 10th! Still, I'm very happy with my race performance and amazed at how well I backed up after the Ironman two weeks ago. 

I'm no sprinter, hence lost out to the 2 guys in front but very happy with the strong finish!
The spread at the post race buffet was really good. My only gripe was they only allowed us one time to get our food, there was only so much food I could carry with my two tired arms and I was hungry! I waited around for the roll down as there were some other Coach Sheri athletes who stood a chance. Coach Sheri won her age group as usual and was 21st female overall including the pros, with a 5:18:41 if you don't mind! Congratulations to her and all those who got their slots. My regular training buddy, Clare lost a slot by 1 second, also outsprinted at the finish by a girl who came from behind! What a pity! 

I celebrated my race with a KFC dinner. This is my first time having KFC here in Canada, and I was surprised the coleslaw is green and there was no hot N' spicy on the menu! But a reliable source told me that this was probably only specific to Huntsville. So that's it for racing for this year. Time to get fat to prepare myself for the winter. I haven't committed to any big race next year. It's a weird feeling not having a goal set out... but that won't stay for long!

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Labour day

Today is a public holiday in Canada and USA - Labour Day, or if you from around here, it's spelled Labor Day :)

My own home country celebrated it's 56th independence day on August 31. Here's a belated happy birthday wish to Malaysia! Malaysia will always be my home and I hope someday, I can actually return home for good, to be close to my family and friends.

So after three full days of rest... well, actually not complete rest. Monday was a tiring day travelling back from Whistler to London. We arrived in London on Tuesday morning and went straight to work. I volunteered for a MRI scan as part of a exercise science study that evening - I was struggling to stay awake in the scanner!

So okay, after three days of no training, I got back into it on Thursday. I have Muskoka 70.3 to train for and so far the signs have been good. I'm recovering well and responding well to the sessions. Did a 2 hour ride on Thursday, out and back to Embro, just over 60kms. Friday I did a 10km run and was able to keep it under 4:30 per km average. Saturday I did a 3km swim set. I didn't renew my membership at the Western recreation centre as I'm no longer working in campus. But I had some passes left over for YMCA. The one near our place had its pool closed for renovation so I went to downtown instead. I prefer to swim at the pool at downtown YMCA anyway.

Sunday, I did a swim-bike-run session with Coach Sheri and Clare at Port Stanley. It was such a misty morning, we swam in Lake Erie but I could barely see a thing and kept on stopping to check my bearings. Didn't think I covered much distance at all in that 30 minutes. Then we rode for about 2 hours, covered some hills and I did an additional hour as Sheri had to give a swim class at the beach. I finished up with a nice 6km run after and felt pretty good.

This morning's 16.6km run around the neighbourhood, I struggled a bit but was only over a minute slower than my usual time in total. The air felt damp so it was quite humid. I'll take a rest day tomorrow and I only have one session each for swim, bike and run this week before the race on Sunday.

This would be a new territory for me - backing up a 70.3 two weeks after an Ironman. Also, it is not easy course with lots of climbs on the bike without much breaks in between. The distance is also a bit longer at 94km, which has been that way for quite a while. 2010 Ironman World Champion Mirinda Carfrae is racing, I'm a big fan of Rinny mainly because she rides a Felt and wins most of her races in the run, something I can relate to although we're miles apart in terms of our racing ability.

Hope to write up a good race report next week! And perhaps an autograph or picture with Rinny :)

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Ironman Canada 2013

Located in Whistler, British Columbia. A new race venue after the Challenge Family took over Penticton, which is the previous Ironman Canada venue for the last 30 years. With Ironman Mont Tremblant also located in Canada and Whistler is no longer the original Ironman Canada venue, I find it more appropriate to be called Ironman Whistler instead of THE Ironman Canada. Anyway, that's a discussion for forums like Slowtwitch, not my blog.

I signed up soon after I got the news that we would be moving to Canada for these 2 years. Whistler was the host of 2010 Winter Olympics, a ski resort town which boasts spectacular mountain views overlooking its majestic lakes. It's undulating course on both the bike and run suits a small guy like me. With 100 Kona slots on offer - double the number at most races, I'd thought I'll give it a crack. Little did I know that the field was super competitive and it served as a reality check that I still have lots of work to do if I even want to be close to contention.

Host of the 2010 Winter Olympics 
Pre race

Although located in Canada, it's quite a bit of a journey from us. In fact, it's easier to get to central USA! We took two flights to arrive in Vancouver via Calgary - 4 hours and 1.5 hours respectively. Then a 3.5 hour bus ride to Whistler. We reached our accommodation, Cascade Lodge just 30 minutes before race packet pick-up closed! So I rushed to the athlete centre in Whistler Olympic park. The volunteers teased me of my tardiness but they were all very helpful. Instead of a welcome dinner, the organizers gave us $25 voucher to be used at the local restaurants. I like this idea actually. We dined at Caramba Restaurant, it was packed but we didn't wait too long for our food to arrive and it was high quality as well. We attended the welcome ceremony, the entertainment was a bit weak in my opinion. Secretly I was hoping there would be a performance by Avril Lavigne - yes, I did type that out loud! But the race briefing was quite informative and the course directors for each leg have their own sick sense of humour. Something about welcome to Whistler, where you should take caution of wild life e.g. bears and avoid littering on the course as this attracts them. I later found out they weren't kidding. The run course is mainly trail too, so athletes anticipating to run in the dark were advised to be prepared with their own torchlights - scary!

$25 voucher to be used at local restaurants
I assembled my bike that night so that I can get an early start the next morning. Little did I know because of the time difference (British Columbia was 3 hours behind), I was up before 5am and just waited a couple of hours for the sun to come up so that I can do a practice ride and swim. The swim start is at Alta Lake, about 3kms from where all the accommodations are. It was raining as I rode there and there weren't many people. Swam for about 15 minutes and rode back. Had lunch at El Furniture Warehouse (where everything on the menu is C$4.95!) and took it easy for the rest of the day. After setting up my bike and gear bags, we took the shuttle bus down to T1 to drop them off. Volunteers were very helpful and there were so many of them. I was given a good run down of the transition area. I slept well that night, no insomnia issues, must be tired from the travelling the day before.

Burger and chips at El Furniture Warehouse - everything on the menu is C$4.95!
Bike and gear bags all ready for check-in

The calm before the storm - the swim start the day before the race
Race morning

Woke up at 4.30am, had my toast for breakfast. Received the sweetest short video from my family back home in Malaysia wishing me good luck, really touched my heart! Made my way to the shuttle bus to T1, while Li-Ann walked as the buses were for athletes only. It turned out because of the queue and the longer bus route, Li-Ann reached first! It rained again the night before so I had to wipe my bike down. After a 2nd toilet visit, it was about 10 minutes to start. I kissed Li-Ann farewell and made my way to the deepwater start. The start line was about 100m from the beach, so it was a nice warm up.


Swim 3.8km

It was a two loop swim course. After swimming in the choppy ocean in Australia for many years, the calm lake waters were much welcomed. The course were well marked every 100m. And with 2500 over participants in the water, it may be mayhem at first, but at least it keeps you on course without swimming astray too much. I thought this would finally be my chance to break under 1 hour for the swim. I was on track until I came to the 3.8km mark and we still had to swim back to shore, about 200m away. Anyway no matter. I came out of the water in 1:02:54.


Transition 1

My wetsuit got caught on my left ankle where my timing band was located. Even with the volunteer's help, it took me a while to get the wetsuit off. The change tent was pretty crowded and it took me a while to get my way out. Due to the bike course design, I took the time to slip in some Clif Bars into my back pockets because we can only access special needs once. Also, with pretty chilly morning, I used Li-Ann's old stockings as arm warmers, to be discarded when the weather warms up. T1 time was 4:10

Bike 180km

The one lap course starts with a 20km flat-ish ride from Whistler to the Calaghan Valley turn off. From there we climb up Calaghan Valley for about 15km. The climbs here are pretty steep and I found myself overtaking quite a few people. Once we turned around, it was the opposite - I'm not very confident at the descends, plus my light weight, so many passed me. I was glad I took the arm warmers as it was chilly coming down the slopes. But the weather was perfect, sunny skies with not much wind. So unlike the past two days. I discarded the arm warmers after about 60km as it got warmer. The views were simply stunning. I was glad I was still able to appreciate it despite the suffering!


It was undulating getting back to Whistler and mostly downhill from Whistler to Pemberton. At Pemberton was where I accessed my special needs bag. There were arranged according to numbers and I just missed mine, so I had to back track. As this would be the only time stopping here, I was stuffing my peanut butter sandwiches down my backpockets. The volunteer must have been quite amused. Only lost a minute or so in total here. At Pemberton it was out and back for 60km, mostly flat. Here is where I stayed low on my aerobars in time trial mode. It was disappointing though to see quite a few draft packs with 15-20 people in each. You would think that starting with some hills would break this up, but unfortunately I think it made it worse as it kept people together.


At the end of this flat section, we had another 30km back to Whistler but uphill this time! I thought if I would be able to finish this remaining section in an hour to give me a 5:30 bike split, but boy was I wrong! Even though I paced myself conservatively, I didn't have much left in my legs to ride those hills strongly. My left calf was twitching and a cramp was imminent, so I switched to the lightest gear and spun my way back. I was no longer overtaking people. We got back to Whistler Village but there were a few turns here and there for at least 3-4km or so before we reached the finish. It was a bit under distance at 177km. My bike split was 5:42:39.

Transition 2 

Not much drama here. I proud myself in having speedy T2 times simply because I already have my socks on. Out in 1:46

Run 42.2km

A 2 lap course Mostly dirt road trail and shaded, which kept us cool. A few twists and turns with some undulating hills but nothing too steep or too long. Throughout the run course, the crowd support was simply amazing! The next few sentences probably divulge too much information, so if you are squirmish, just skip a few lines! I didn't get to pee much on the bike as it didn't feel comfortable. But I was feeling a full load when I started the run and it was affecting my stride. I didn't want to waste time getting into portaloos and I found that each time I drink something at the aid stations, it makes me want to pee minutes later. So I learnt how to pee while running - mid stride and all, no stopping! And it wasn't trickling pee, but a full blown relieve-myself-water-gushing pee! You bet that our hotel room stank of my race gear that night and the morning after.


There was a brief section where we came out of the trail and ran along the bike course which overlooked Green Lake. Again, gorgeous view. We did a turnaround here and back to Whistler Village where we start the 2nd lap. I was happily clocking sub 5 minute km pace (or 8 minute miles. Yes, markers were in miles! C'mon we're in Canada!) but could feel fatigue starting to set in. Li-Ann greeted me at the end of the 1st lap, that gave me a short boost. But as I started my 2nd lap, I could feel myself getting more tired. I was getting hungry too and I normally have watermelon in addition to my usual coke but there weren't any. I didn't want to peel the bananas, so I took some cookies instead. I tried to keep my pace under 6 minute kms, or 9 minute miles. After I did the second turnaround at Green Lake, it was the home stretch and suddenly I found my legs again. I even did not stop to walk the last couple of aid stations. Just dunked coke into my mouth and splashed water at myself to keep me cool whilst keeping the pace.


Finish 

Just like the bike, we took some twists and turns in Whistler Village before finally reaching the finish line. But you could here the voice of the announcer and the cheer from the crowd. Li-Ann was there to greet me just before I reach the finishing arch. I gave her a kiss and grabbed the Malaysian flag and ran through the arch with my arms holding the flag up high. 3:35:08 I did the run and finished with an overall time of 10:26:37. My 7th Ironman finish, not my fastest but could say, one of my proudest. I can't recall how many times I wanted to give up climbing back from Pemberton to Whistler. I was 191st overall and 36th in my age group. Yup, tough field definitely! The 100 Kona slots must have drawn quite a bit of a crowd.


Post race

There was no post race dinner. But the recovery area was quite open and I was able to share my food with Li-Ann. The next day, breakfast was served while the roll down and awards were given out. I didn't see much of it as I was busy shopping for bargain deals - scored a C$50 Castelli bib short (and I was good, that was the only thing I bought)! We had lunch at El Furniture Warehouse again and ordered the same stuff again! Soon, it was time for our long journey back to London, Ontario.

As always, it is a bit surreal that the past 5 months or so lead up to this event has come and gone. I personally, deem my race as a succesful one and I'd like to make a few acknowledgements to those who contributed to the success. Coach Sheri Fraser, is a tough lady but with a golden heart. She poured her heart and soul into each of her athletes and sincerely looks to improve us. My regular ride buddies from Team Sheri and London Triathlon Club - Greg, Clare, Peter and Matt, as well as those who do the Splash N Dash events. Training for an Ironman is never easy, but it is certainly more fun training with you guys. Coach Bill Scanlan and Team BYL for building the foundation to make me the athlete I am today. I could now have come this far without you guys.

Mum, dad, Karen and Keith back home. They have always been supportive of my Ironman obsession and still be so encouraging and excited for me even at Ironman no. 7. I was most touched by the video they sent me on race morning. Love you all! Friends, family, blog readers and everyone who wished me well and good luck through social media, I've tried to sell myself a bit more in regards to my participation for this event. I'm glad you don't find that annoying but been supporting throughout.

Last and of course, not least - my wonderful wife, Li-Ann. She hardly complains when I'm out for my long training sessions only to return home in a tired state and just wanting to rest. As we now share the car, she had to adjust her work schedule as well, just so I can get a workout before and after work. After each session, I don't have to worry about nutrition as all that is well prepared while I take my shower. Darling, the unwaning moral support you give me for each of my Ironman campaign cannot be repaid and I truly appreciate it. Love you very much, muaks!

With my biggest fan
So I foolishly signed up for Muskoka 70.3 next weekend, seemed like a good idea at that time. Hopefully I can recover quickly and give it a decent effort. As for what's next for the year 2014? I haven't quite committed to anything yet. But you would know for sure once I do!