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|
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|
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|