Sunday, 29 September 2013


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 :)