Saturday, 25 April 2015

Evolving with the TTE

My race report on Putrajaya 70.3 gave a glimpse on my new steed - the Boardman Air TTE 9.8. In the past 3 weeks in my preparation leading up to Ironman Port Macquarie next weekend, I've logged close to 600kms on this beautiful machine and it's high time to do a bit of a write-up.

The TTE was launched a couple of years after Pete Jacobs won the 2012 Ironman World Championships on it's predecessor - the Air TT 9.8. It has only recently been released to the market of the general public. I've been really fortunate to be among the first few to get my hands on one. Boardman says that the E stands for Evolution and the TTE has been developed in the wind tunnel using computational fluid dynamics and technology derived from Formula One racing.

Like the Air TT 9.8, the TTE also features integrated front brakes but these are further enhanced on the TTE with the brake cables well integrated into the fork. Same deal with the rear brakes under the bottom bracket, these are improved to be integrated and hidden from the wind. After cycling with SRAM components for the past 6 years, I've decided to make the shift (pun intended!) to Shimano as I've been wanting to try out an electronic drivetrain, with Ultegra Di2. It's so convenient - I am able to switch gears on the aerobars as well as on the hoods when I'm climbing. And the front derailleur automatically trims itself as the rear derailleur switches gears, thus eliminating chain rub. All this while, I've been known to be a lazy gear shifter - well, not anymore!  Plus, I cannot discount the cool factor when I hear the whizz whizz sound each time I change gears - feels like the bike is going to transform into something else like in Transformers!

As I paid close to nothing for this bike, with the spare cash, I decided to invest in a power meter. And some Rotor aero Q rings as I've been wanting aero chainrings for quite some time now. The TTE has a BB386 bottom bracket for those wanting make a power meter purchase as well. I got the Power2Max Type S FSA K-Force Light, colour co-ordinated to match the colour scheme of the bike of course! I'm still learning to use the power meter and looking forward to getting some useful data to help my training and racing in the coming months.

The TTE still has some visible similarities to the Air TT 9.8 but with some notable improvements. Apart from the improved front and rear brakes as mentioned above, the rear seat stays have been changed and cable exit points for the rear derailleur have been moved to the bottom of the seat stays, instead of the end of the chain stay. This is done to reduce drag. The seat post has been completely redesigned to improve aerodynamics but also to add flexibility, allowing for four different seat post angles from 78 to 80 degrees. The front end is fully integrated with no bolts or cables visible. However, the bike is still very adjustable and offers many options for the width of the aerobars and arm pads as well as the length of these from the saddle.

Boardman claims that the TTE is at least 4% faster than the Air TT 9.8. Doesn't sound like a lot, but that's close to 15 minutes improvement over a 6 hour Ironman bike split. I haven't given it much testing on the race course but it does feel faster. What made a significant impact was this bike fitted me much better than my Felt DA, which allowed me to ride in a more optimal position. I can definitely feel a significant improvement in the power transfer from the saddle to pedals. It handles very well too in technical corners and I think this has to do with it's relatively slim tubes in contrast to most of the new tri bikes in the market now, which are adopting the wide down tube look like the Felt IA and Specialized Shiv.

Massive, massive thanks to Ah Siang of H2C, the exclusive importer of Boardman bikes to Malaysia for setting me up with this unbelievable bike. These guys do an excellent job in not just running a bike shop but supporting local athletes as well. Although technically, I'm not based locally in Malaysia, I am very much Malaysian at heart and would continue to participate actively in the Malaysian triathlon scene. I'm honoured to join the ranks of elite athletes under Team H2C Boardman Malaysia! Looking forward to racing well in months to come, starting with Ironman Port Macquarie in week's time!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Happy birthday mum!

After 12 years of being away from home on mum's birthday, I was finally able to sing happy birthday to mum. 

It was a quick but nice dinner at Plan B, Paradigm Mall. Quick, because we all just returned from the Putrajaya 70.3 and were pretty tired that night. I guess I still never learn in getting my priorities right when planning my trips home.

But mum never complains as she always puts our needs first before hers. Well, now that she has retired, hopefully she has a bit more time for herself. As I'm typing this, she's on a plane to Korea now for a holiday with her friends.

Happy birthday mum! And I'll see you again soon in Brisbane... for your next holiday!

Your eldest son

Friday, 10 April 2015

Putrajaya 70.3 2015

I signed up for this race as part of the bundle along with IM Langkawi due to take place in November. Being held on the Easter weekend, it's pretty convenient and I only had to take an extra day off work for the travel home from Brisbane. I took a night flight and arrived in Malaysia on Friday morning, about 50 hours before the race start. I had some breakfast with my family and took a short rest before I went to H2C bike shop to collect my tri bike - the Boardman TTE 9.8. I've been eagerly waiting all this while but it was well worth the wait - isn't it a beauty?!

This picture got shared on Boardman's official Facebook page! Photo credit - Loh Sau Teing 
I'll post a proper review in due time. I spent most of the day at the shop and only managed a 15 minute ride in the afternoon to check that everything is in proper working order. The electronic shifting is way too cool! Then, I had to rush off for a dinner date with.... yes, you guessed it - the one and only Craig Crowie Alexander! I was so fortunate to be amongst the selected few to attend this dinner. Many thanks to the organizers for giving me this opportunity!

Didn't look like he aged at all since I last saw him in person in 2009 when he came to Perth
Race eve came and in the morning, I visited my maternal grandmother's grave for Cheng Beng festival. It was nice catching up with my relatives and I paid my well overdue respects to my grandmother. We pushed off for Putrajaya just after lunch with my sister and her boyfriend. My sister was doing the relay run in Corporate Teams Challenge. We collected our race kit and checked in my bike. The sun was scorching hot and I was a bit nervous if my fully pumped up tires and taped gels would last under the heat but I took my chances. Luckily, they were alright on race day. We checked into our accommodation, about 7kms away. My mum got a great deal at the government apartments at Rm70 a night for 3 bedrooms - perks of being a retired civil servant! A quick dinner with mum and dad and some last minute groceries at the nearby mall before calling it a night.

All racked in and ready to go! Hope the gels don't melt or the tires don't burst under the heat!
Race morning

I had a fairly good sleep but woke up about 20 minutes before my alarm went off. Did my usual routine and went to the toilet for the 2nd time before we left the apartment. It was still dark when we got to the transition area. Had my bike set up and slowly made our way to the swim start. It was a rolling start for the age groupers. The sun was slowly rising and by the time the professionals started it was all bright. The age groupers weren't allowed to enter the water for a warm up. But then again, you would notice there were still some wet patches on the floor beneath us as we lined up for the start. What could it be, you wonder? Hahaha. I'm guilty myself - sorry, I can't help it but I have to empty my bladder before the swim.

Swim 1.9km

I was about 2-3 minutes after the first group of age groupers were released into the water. I had my watch set on clock mode so I made note of the time I started - 7.23am. I dived into the water and somehow when I wanted to surface, there was someone swimming above me. Had to push the person aside to catch my breath! The swim course was rectangular, in clock wise direction in the still waters of Putrajaya lake. Heading west in 790m, a quick right turn for 50m and returning east for 850m before another right turn for 150m back to shore. The water was surprisingly pretty clear with visibility up to the person swimming in front or next to you.

I felt good during the swim and swam mostly in a straight line. I was probably keeping too close to the buoys and one some occasions, I went across and had to correct myself to swim outwards. As it was a rolling start, every now and then I would bump into slower swimmers in front and had to swim around them. I didn't quite get a suitable draft so I swam at my own pace most of the time. Got out of the water in 33:15, not great but not too bad either. I was hoping for somewhere between 30 to 32 minutes, but this wasn't too far out.
I later noticed a small bruise mark on the right side of my neck. Maybe the straps were too tight.
Transition 1

The run in to the bike racks was about 200m. My first encounter with drama came about when I dropped my goggles. A spectator yelled out to me and I was about to back track to pick it up but my sister who was cheering from the side said she would pick it up for me. I later found out that a fellow participant picked it up from behind and had it dropped off at my bike rack. Thank you anonymous participant! Then the second drama episode came - as I was stripping off my swimskin at the bike racks, I heard a ripping sound and.. yup, I tore a big hole right across the suit. It must have got caught on the timing chip. Nothing could be done and I pushed off for the bike course. Took me a while to do a fly mount as I must be out of practice, but better to be slow than sorry. Time taken 2:12.

Bike 90km

The bike course is two laps and it goes around the neighbouring precincts of the race venue in anti clockwise direction. It has some short climbs and fast descends with a couple of corners. The roads are mostly smooth, as we were cycling on the main motorways. There were a handful of pot holes and rough patches but these can be easily avoided by being attentive.

It's been about 5 months since I last cycled on aerobars. And my rustiness showed. Throw in some deep rim race wheels into the mix and the ride started off a bit ugly. Each time my speed went above 35kph, I got a bit nervous that I would lose control of my bike. And my bike handling has never been my strong point. I sat up every now and then to gain control (and sacrificing some cool race pictures in the aero position!). Don't get me wrong, I was very comfortable on the bike. This bike fitted me much better than my previous tri bike. And it feels much more responsive too. I just need to ride on it more often to have these qualities transferred into faster bike splits.

Nice picture, if only I was on my aerobars!
People say most things come in threes. And so... shortly after the 10km mark, as we got the longest climb of the course, I kept shifting upwards and... dropped my chain - 3rd drama! I cursed under my breath, but I kept calm. Got off my bike and put my chain back in. Cost me about 30 seconds and some momentum, but wasn't going sweat over it. Rupert overtook me shortly after and he did very well to finish 7th in his age group and 2nd Malaysian overall with a new PB. At this point, I was sitting in 5th Malaysian position. I averaged 32kph for the first lap and at that point in time, I gave myself a target to aim for 2:45 to 2:50 bike split.

A rare picture with me on the aerobars, too bad the bike can't be seen
I got a better handle of the bike on the 2nd lap but my average speed was starting to drop. The wind picked up, it doesn't get very windy in Malaysia but it was noticeably more windy than the first lap. The temperature rose as well and it started to drain on my energy. I finished all three gels that were taped to my top tube but didn't need any refills on my water bottles. My water bottle actually had some moth balls odour, must have left them too long on the shelves at home. I overtook another Malaysian with about 10km left to go. I finished the bike in 2:50:49, about 15 minutes slower than I normally would cycle.

Transition 2

No major issues here, but my legs did feel a bit wobbly and I crossed through the inside rather than the outside as I did my fly dismount, just so I won't fall off the bike. Took a couple of extra seconds to slip into my shoes as the left heel wasn't fitting in properly. Grabbed my sunglasses, visor and race belt and put them on as I ran out of transition. Time taken was 1:14.

Run 21.1km

The clock was running just under 3.5 hours from race start. Achieving a PB of 4:45 was near impossible but a finish time of sub 5 hours was still within reach, albeit it's going to be a tough challenge. My Garmin did very well in getting a signal as I ran out of transition and hence, was able to give me km splits. I felt good as I started the run. My turnover was quick and my upper body didn't feel tight. I was averaging about 4:20 per km for the first couple of kms. The Bunanamo supporters at the 1.5km mark did give me an extra boost! At this rate, I could still get a sub 5 hour finish!

Getting cheered on by the Bunanamo supporters. Photo credit - Phuitin Kong
But that didn't last long. My right quad was feeling a twitching feeling on the inside and I kept on saying to myself - don't cramp, don't cramp! It didn't but I had to manage it by slowing the pace down and lengthening my stride. I soon settled into 4:50 to 5;00 per km pace. I tried not to break my rhythm as I got to the drinks stations. But I still grabbed what I can - coke or electrolyte for my mouth, cold water or sponges over my head and my twitching inner thigh. And I think that did the job from preventing it from turning into a full blown cramp.

The course was 2 laps and clockwise direction on the footpaths that go along the lake. We weren't able to see the other participants returning on the opposite direction. My sister and I made a bet on who would finish first and I was looking for her throughout the whole course!  The organizers did very well by providing shower stations and large containers of water for dousing to keep us cool under the heat. It wasn't unusually hot but it was your typical hot day in Malaysia. About half of the course was shaded with the other half being pretty exposed.

Trying to maintain my stride. Photo credit - Shah M Zain
I kept well under the 5:00 per km pace but only up until the 15km mark. I was running in a group with 2-3 other guys and I got dropped as they started picking up the pace. That affected me mentally, and I dropped to 5:20 per km pace. Being so far away from my target times, it was very tempting to slow down to a walk but I willed myself to finish strongly. Enaikay, who was on Finisherpix duty gave me some encouragement on the course and hung in there. The 20km mark was a little deceptive and I found myself running another mile before the finish. I finished the run in 1:45:31 with an overall finish time of 5:13:01 (the only time I went slower was at Desaru in 2009 when I walked half the run course because of cramps). I was 69th overall (4th Malaysian) and 14th in my age group.

My sister was off her half marathon PB by 1 minute, big effort under the heat! 
Post race

Greeted my sister at the finish line, she finished 6 minutes before me and she said she was running scared throughout the course, looking out for me from behind hahaha. I took my time submerging in the cold water tank and had about 3 sticks of ice cream from the recovery area while waiting for my massage. Once I got cleaned up and collected my bike, we adjourned to the functions area for the awards presentation. My sister's team won first place for the Corporate Teams challenge - a pleasant outcome as it was the only category other than the professionals that was paying cash prizes.

Not a bad payday eh? Photo credit - Loh Sau Teing
Big thanks to Gary and the Bunanamo supporters slugging it out in the heat and mum and dad for taking care of me during this short trip - I don't visit enough and if I do, I always tie it up with a race! And my heartfelt appreciation to my sponsors... H2C - the exclusive Boardman distributor for Malaysia, for setting me up with the awesome bike, Compressport Malaysia for the very cool On/Off race gear, Lifeline-ID for the neat Pro tag that gives me assurance that my loved ones need not worry in the unlikely event that I pass out on the course!

A bit of a post mortem - obviously, I have a lot to do on the bike before Ironman Port Macquarie in about 3 weeks time. But without overdoing it. I'll be cycling every ride with it for now to get as used to it as possible. I wished I ran faster too but considering the quickest run split for the day was just under 1:22 (and Crowie ran 1:29), my run split wasn't that bad. I'm back in Brisbane now and I've recovered well from the race and the travel, I felt strong in the few sessions I've had this week. This weekend will be the acid test when I do my longest ride and longest run.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Ready, get set...

Can you believe it? It's Easter already! How time flies!

I'm less than 5 hours away from boarding the plane back home to Malaysia for the Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya. I'm actually pretty excited! Of all the racing I've done back home, I have never raced in Putrajaya before. Sure, I've done a few training rides but never actually done a race there.

As much as I would like to race it like my A event, I have to be realistic. My main goal is to do well at Ironman Port Macquarie in about 4 week's time, so I have been logging some long training hours the past couple of weeks and not tapered properly for this weekend's race. Plus, I'll be racing on a bike I've never ridden before. Yes, I'll be actually travelling home with an EMPTY bike bag but coming back to Brisbane with a new bike. What will it be? You would have to wait and see, so watch this space!

Having said the above, I'm still very much looking forward to the race and will it my very best effort. It's always a special feeling racing at home. And... I get to be home for Mum's birthday, something I've not done for the past 13 years since I've came to Australia.

Plenty of exciting posts to come, so stay tuned!

Oh, and happy Easter everyone!