Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Pacing the Twilight Bay half marathon

My last post on my DNF at Bukit Merah triathlon has been rather depressing. Incidentally, I haven't had much luck with my long rides since with several punctures, so I thought I better post something happy quick in hope of changing my fortunes a bit.

One of my Reddog tri club members, Ian approached me a month ago about pacing the half marathon distance at the Brisbane marathon. I was a bit too late to accept and my spot got taken. But I was roped in for the next event, which is the Twilight Bay Run, which would take place along the Wynnum foreshore, about 20kms east of Brisbane. I thought why not? It would be a good training day, I'll get a free entry into the race and be given a couple of singlets as well.

So the day came. It was to be an evening run starting at 5pm. Not only have I not been a pacer before, but this would also be my first time running at night! The sun sets at about 5.45pm, so pretty much at least the second half of the run would be in the dark.

Some heavy showers came upon us at about 3pm but luckily it cleared after. I arrived at the venue about 1.5 hours before to get some extra mileage in, ran 6kms in just under 30 minutes. Swapped my shoes from the Guide to the Fastwitch and made my way to the expo tents. InTraining Running Centre were the ones organizing the pacers. Collected my race kit and just enough time for another toilet visit. Luckily the queue wasn't that long. A quick group photo with our pacer balloons and we're ready to go!

Photo credit: Katherine Stark
As I was walking towards to the start line, I noticed a few curious stares and a couple of people actually tailgating me to the start line, I'm not used to all this attention! The winds were picking up and as I'm shorter than the average crowd, the poor guy standing next to me was getting hit from my balloon being blown around.

Being the 1:35 pacer for the half marathon, I stood in the second wave. Off went the gun and I started my watch straightaway instead of waiting unless I cross the start line. The aim was to get a gun time, rather than a nett time of 1:35. I ran for what felt like a 4:30 per km pace and true enough, when my Garmin picked up the 1st km signal, it was 4:30. However, it took me another 15 seconds before I reached the 1st km marker. So I knew I had to go a bit faster.

Picture from Supersport Images
I ran the next few kms in about 4:25 pace. I had a small group of 5 or so people around me, and that helped keep things in control. There were a few short climbs on the course. I wanted to increase the effort so as to maintain the pace, but had to be sure that I don't drop the group behind. After the turnaround we came smack into the headwinds and again had to dig deeper to maintain the pace. We crossed the starting arch at 10km and we were about 15 seconds inside target.

A few started to drop off the group. I felt a bit sorry but had to keep pushing to ensure we meet the target. It was at about the 15km mark where we were about 30 seconds inside the target and that's when I started taking my foot off the gas a bit. Towards the final 2kms, we started catching up with the two lead females. We ran together for a bit and then for the final km, the guys in the group started to make a surge for it. One of them thanked me for pacing, which was nice of him.

Doing the slow mo walk towards the finish line
Nearing the finisher chute, there weren't any others around me. I may have gone a tad bit too quick but not by much. I strolled the last 100m or so and crossed the line with a gun time of 1:34:48 and net time only 13 seconds quicker.

Pretty consistent if I say so myself :)
I truly enjoyed my first experience as a pacer and look forward to doing it again. The balloons did get in the way in some sections depending on the direction of the wind, but just required to be pushed away every now and then. And be mindful to ensure that they don't hit someone! Thanks InTraining for this opportunity!

Saturday, 12 September 2015

DNF at Bukit Merah 113 triathlon

Bukit Merah 113 triathlon, the third and final triathlon of the 113 triathlon series in Malaysia. What was meant to be my major lead up race in preparation for Ironman Malaysia, Langkawi in November. As the title suggests, I did not make it to the finish line. Sure I'm disappointed but I always believe in moving forward. And in order to do that was to accept what has happened and move on from there.

I arrived into Malaysia on Friday, two days before the event. Mum cooked us a nice bak kut teh dinner and then we adjourned for ice cream at Inside Scoop. The next day, we left for Bukit Merah, which was about 3 hours drive up north. We went in 2 cars - myself with mum and dad, my sister Karen with her fiance Gary. We stopped by Taiping for nice hawker food for lunch and shortly after, arrived at Bukit Merah Laketown Resort. As we drove up the winding and steep roads towards the resort, my heart skipped a beat. I have been struggling with descending at tight corners all this while and though I have been working on it, there is still quite a lot to do.

After we checked in, I suggested to Karen that we do a test ride, so at least I know what to expect on that steep descent on race day. Gary who wasn't racing brought his bike along so he joined us as well. The road out of the resort started with a steep climb about 1km in length and then a fast winding descent about 700m all the way out of the resort. And true enough, I came off my bike coming down the second corner. I wasn't going very fast so I wasn't hurt too bad and my bike was slightly scratched. I walked my bike down the remaining of the descent and get on my bike and climbed back to the resort. I was pretty disheartened and contemplated not starting the next day as I'm still unsure how to get through those corners.

Anyway, after collecting my race pack and meeting up with friends at the welcome dinner, I felt a bit better and decided to give the race a shot. Speaking to my wife Li-Ann on the phone gave me the extra encouragement as well.

Race morning came and to start the day off, I accidentally peeled off most of my race number tattoo as I stuck it on. Luckily the organizers had marker pens as back up. Having the transition area right outside the hotel rooms was handy. I was able to get on with my pre race routine in the comfort of my room after racking my bike

Photo credit: Gary Fong
Photo credit: Sean World of Marathon
The swim course was 2 laps and took place in the resort lake. The flag off started at 7.30am, about 30 minutes later than scheduled to allow for more light. There were about 200 age groupers and we started about 1 minute behind the elites. As the announcer was counting down to the age group start, those in front began swimming already! I wasn't sure whether to hold back or to start along... in the end I decided to get a head start as well, about 10 seconds into the gun off. I accelerated to get ahead and within a couple of hundred meters, I overtook the lead swimmer. What I was pleasantly surprised with was that he didn't latch on after and soon I was swimming on my own. About three quarters into the first lap, I overtook Shahrom, one of Malaysia's top triathlete who started in the elite wave. After that it was pretty uneventful until towards the end of the 2nd lap where there were a handful of swimmers finishing their 1st lap and I had to zig zag between them a bit. There was a bit of chop too by then.

Photo credit: Sean World of Marathon
Photo credit: Ang Wan Theng
Towards the last 100m or so heading into the boat ramp out of the water, Rupert indicated that I was leading the age group race. I was pleased that the second age grouper was over 1.5 minutes behind. I clocked just over 37 minutes, I then knew the swim was a bit longer than 2kms. The Dare2tri swimskin slipped off easily and I was on the bike and ready to go. The first 1km of climb was okay and I pedaled through. Once it got to the crest of the hill, I braced myself for the fast descent. I got through the 2nd corner this time... but not the third. I fell off my bike again but luckily I wasn't going very fast, so I wasn't seriously hurt. As I was already in the middle of the descent, I decided to walk my bike down those couple of hundred meters. Two age groupers overtook me at this point.

Photo credit: Ang Wan Theng
Photo credit: Y C Tan
I pushed on but I noticed something wasn't right. Each time I shift towards a lower gear cog on the rear cassette, there would be a loud rattling sound. I slowed down a bit and a few more others overtook me. There was a slight incline as we crossed a bridge about 5km into the course. Once I crossed it, I shifted towards a higher gear and then it happened... loud rattle and then the whole rear derailleur fell out. The rear hanger came apart, must have been the impact from the fall. Once it was safe, I crossed over to the other side of the road and flagged down a marshal vehicle. An athlete whom I mentor, Fadzil stopped to offer me his bike. But I was worried I would do the same to his bike so I urged him to continue with his race. Shortly after, my sister passed by, she looked worried but I indicated I was okay, so she pushed on.

The damage done
So that was a very early end to my race. The medic treated my wounds when I got back and luckily they weren't too deep. Another participant was at the medic tent and he needed stitches and had to be sent to hospital for further observation. He was keen to continue racing but was advised against doing so. I met up with mum and dad, had a bit of breakfast and decided not to waste the day. After seeing Karen finish her first lap of her bike, I waited a bit more for the elites to start running before I started my run. Boy, these elites are in a class of their own. Despite me running on fresh legs I could not bridge the gap.

I ran the first lap and then waited a bit for Fadzil, and I paced with him for most of the first lap. It was nice as we never really had a face to face conversation prior to this. My sister then came in the opposite direction and I did a U turn and paced with her then. Being a local race, there weren't any rules against outside assistance or pacing. The poor volunteers at the turnaround point was so confused and wondered why I kept on refusing to take the lap bands. I ran with my sister until the end of her first lap and that was enough for me, a total of 25kms of running in the heat!

Photo credit: Enaikay
Photo credit: Enaikay
After that, I took my time cleaning up and then gathered at the finish line awaiting for Karen to finish. It wasn't long until she came through, winning her age group with a massive PB! Well done lil' sis!

Photo credit: Enaikay
I was pretty tired on the trip back home but dad did the driving. Sure I was disappointed for not finishing the race but I had a great time spending time with family and catching up with friends. And again, it highlights how much more I need to work on my bike handling skills. I flew back to Brisbane the day after the race, it was a very short trip. I haven't quite got back to full swing of training routine as I've been feeling pretty tired in the mornings. From the bike accident, I have a few things that I need to sort out - either the insurance option or the warranty option. But hope to get this sorted soon so that I would have a tri bike to ride for Ironman Malaysia, Langkawi.

Photo credit: Kental Fan Club
Keep moving and move forward!