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
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 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 - 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! :)