Thursday, 19 November 2015

Heartbreak in Langkawi... again!

Most of you would have known by now that I did not finish my Ironman race in Langkawi, Malaysia over the weekend. Having to pull out the year before and to have history repeat itself this year, was disappointing, to say the least. But as with each setback, it's good to reflect so that we can reset and move forward.

Knowing how I measure up against the top Malaysian guys, I sort of took the pressure off myself this year. I had a decent swim, didn't get too off course. It was a rolling swim start, staggered into different groups based on self seeded expected swim times. However, it was still fairly crowded at the start, there were a few participants swimming breaststroke despite starting off in the fastest group. But once I got through the initial crowd, I settled into my own rhythm. The organizers did a last minute change to the 2 lap swim course due to low tide, so we made the lap turn in the water rather than through the beach. As usual, I had a habit of swimming too close to the buoys. And a few times, I almost swam into them - about 10 times or so! The salty water caused my upper arms to chaff a bit as I pulled the water against my chest but it was near the finishing. I finished the swim in 1:08:01, not too great and looking at the swim times after, most people swam slower than last year and I actually swam half 10 seconds quicker. Also, I was 2nd Malaysian out of the water, after Allie Helmy and Barry Lee.

Photo credit: Tey Eng Tiong
Transition was smooth and had major dramas. 3:47 with a long run along the beach before we entered the change tent, so I can't complain. But I did drop two Clif bars just after leaving transition, they fall out of my front pocket of my tri top. No matter, as I still had two more in the back pocket.

Although most of the bike course remained the same as last year, because we started and finished at different points, we encountered the hills at different times during the ride this time. We went through the winding hills along Jalan Datai within the first 15kms of the ride. I was pretty conservative especially at the descends. Mohd Amran, last year's first Malaysian overtook me at about the 7km mark. Hafiz Wong, overall Malaysian winner for many times now, then overtook me after the 15km turnaround point. Still, I rode within myself and did not give chase. After the Datai climbs, the terrain was mostly flat for about 40km or so, so I was able to build the speed back up. My CO2 canister unscrew itself and dropped off somewhere. Still I did not panic, just try not to get a puncture.

Photo credit: Jack Ah Beh
We then came to the steep dragonback hill at the start the LISRAM highway. Shifted into my small chainring to save the legs and climbed up steadily. Same deal with the longer Bukit Hantu climb on Jalan Padang Gaong. Then back to some flat sections again and was able to build the speed back up. At the end of first lap at 100km mark, I have built back up to a 32kph average. Was pretty happy with that as I was still keeping the efforts in control.  I was even more delighted that when I got to the Datai climbs, the front 4 Malaysians were only within 10-15 minutes ahead.

And then it happened, at the 127km mark, one of the my saddle clamps came loose and dropped off. At first, I wasn't sure what came off, and kept pedaling while looking down to my seat area to check. I was worried that the saddle may come off at any time, so I stopped and back tracked for about 1 km or so, looking for the missing part but to no avail. I think that's the straw that broke the camel's (or my) back as it seemed I hit an invisible wall right after and there was no more energy in my legs. I struggled for the next 20kms or so. I started to feel a bit faint and at one point I was cycling at 15kph on a flat road - that's slower than my 1km run efforts!

I got off my bike to answer nature's call to see if the rest could help. An official on a motorcycle rode by and at that weak moment, I decided to throw in the towel. Coincidentally, an ambulance was already there and I went in to have a lie down and load up on cold drinks. The medic lent me a phone to call my parents. Li-Ann tried convincing me to continue. I did feel better after resting a while but the medic said it was communicated to the race officials that I've already withdrawn.

So again, a premature end to my race in my home country. Disappointed, of course. I've not made any commitments to iron distance races in the coming year, so to spend some solid months of training gone down the drain and going into off season without completing a race definitely leaves an emptiness inside of me.

But still, I try to look at the positive side of things. I managed to catch my sister along different parts of the course as a supporter, something I wouldn't be able to do if I continued racing. She finished her first Ironman way ahead of her targeted time and to witness those emotions in person was just surreal. My wife enjoyed a well deserved holiday back home and we spent some special time with both our families.

Photo credit: Fendy Ahmad
Many thanks to sponsors, Compressport Malaysia, Lifeline ID, Rocktape Malaysia and Saucony Malaysia for the support. Friends and family who came all the way to cheer us during the race and those supporting from far, much appreciated. I apologize that I couldn't get the intended results. Hope to redeem myself in races to come! Down, but not out.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Felt IA

Some of you would have known that I crashed my Boardman TTE at the Bukit Merah 113 triathlon about 9 weeks ago. Whilst having another identical frame replaced would be nice, it wasn't going to arrive in time for Ironman Malaysia. Still, I'd like to thank H2C bike shop for their dedicated support all this while. I decided to seek a new bike for myself (thank goodness for bike insurance!) in Brisbane. I went to Avantiplus in Fortitude Valley which stocked some nice Felt IAs. I rode Felt bikes for my second and third tri bike (the first one was an alloy Quintana Roo Kilo) and been really happy with the experience.

Apart from the Dura Ace Di2 build IA2, there weren't any other frames in stock that suited me. So they ordered an IA1 frame kit and I spec-ed it with Ultegra Di2 build, with my existing Power2Max crank and Caden carbon wheels. The end result? Very stealthy looking weapon, I call it the F Bomber! Hahaha.

I needed 45mm spacers for the aerobars for the perfect fit
House brand Zero for the saddle to keep the costs low

I've had this bike for about just over 8 weeks now and it feels great. Unlike the previous Felt DA models, this bike is narrower, so I'm positioned closer to the handlebars. Being a relatively tall frame, I went down a size to 48cm frame, I feel like a midget! With the wide tubes, the frame is tad bit heavier than most frames but it acts like sail once you get it moving.

Can't wait to put this to the test on race day next weekend!