I wasn't planning on racing Busselton again this year but after failing to achieve my sub 10 hour target by almost an hour last year, I'd thought I give it another crack. Preparations were far from ideal. I rolled my ankle in late January and it hasn't been the same since. I sort of recovered but it flared up again in mid September and I had to take another two weeks off running. It was a balance after that to ramp up my run mileage to where I wanted it to be but avoiding further injury at the same time. But overall training was mostly consistent apart from some brief interruptions (catching COVID in April, bike fall in July, Brisbane floods etc.). I decided to do it alone this time, without a coach. Sebastian has started prep, so I try to be more involved in his daily activities and my office workload has increased tremendously with double the number of clients I had last year. So having that extra flexibility eases the pressure a bit. My weekly regime consists of 3 morning squad swims (Mon, Wed, Fri), 2 mid week morning runs (Tue speed and Thu tempo), 2 mid week afternoon indoor rides (Tue and Thu). I purchased a smart trainer in July and it was fun doing the virtual rides in various courses around the world, some fictitious ones. All weekday sessions were approximately an hour each. Weekend long rides increased by 15km after every 3 of each distance. And the ramp up in weekend long run from 20km increasing 2km each week to 32km as mentioned above. Prior to that I did 3 weeks at each distance as well before increasing 2km to the next. And I throw in a recovery week after every 3-4 weeks or so where I only did 1 session of each discipline. It wasn't a very scientific plan but it was simple and easy to follow.
Fast forward to race week, my wife Li-Ann had a job interview which meant that I was traveling alone instead of with the family. Thankfully Virgin gave full credits for their flight cancellation. My friend living in Perth, Zhen was kind enough to host me for the few days. I was getting spoiled with his mum cooking dinner each night and I didn't even had to to do the dishes. Zhen and a few of his mates were racing the 70.3 and I helped take his bike down on Friday as I had the space. I did a brief spin on Layman Road and got nearly blown off my bike with the strong wind. This is going to tough on race day, I thought to myself. I bumped into a group of Malaysians after dinner, one of them I used to play water polo with. We had a good chat. Saturday, I didn't even bother doing a practice swim as I didn't want to get my wetsuit wet. Other than a short visit to the Margaret River Chocolate Factory and bike and gear check in, I spent most of the day just chilling in my motel room.
Race morning came. 4.30am alarm went off. Sunscreen and Vaseline on, Suited up and took the easy 10-15 stroll to the race site, munching on my peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches. When suddenly a drop of bird poo fell and left a fair bit of stain on my left shoulder and pants. Today could just be my lucky day! Placed the helmet on the bike, clipped in the bike shoes and queued for the toilet. Gave Li-Ann and Sebastian a call once I had my wetsuit on and then it was time to hand in my street gear bag and head towards the start. Managed to squeeze in a few minutes of warm up swim. Water was fresh but pretty comfortable.
Two laps along the beach, both in anti clockwise direction. First big lap that went under the jetty, a brief run onto the beach and then back into water for the second smaller lap, all done on the left western side of the jetty. Swim was pretty uneventful. I was only able to find some feet to draft off for a brief moment, so I swam mostly on my own but wasn't too far from other swimmers at my sides. There was a slight current coming from the east but overall it was a pretty calm swim. The second lap was a bit more crowded with some of the slower swimmers were on their first lap. I came out in 1:05:02, my Garmin which usually understates distances recorded 3,816m at 1:42 per 100m pace. A pretty standard swim for me. Obviously a bit closer to the hour would be better but satisfied with this time.
A short run up and down the steps. Into the change tent. Wetsuit off without too much hassle. Swim cap and goggles off. Poured out everything from the bike gear bag. Put wetsuit, swim cap and goggles back in. Socks on and grabbed my nutrition (2 Clif bars and 2 bananas) and tucked them into my rear pockets as I was running to my bike. Took a few more seconds than needed to put my helmet on and tuck my ears underneath so that I would be comfortable. Had a couple of bikes around me at the mount line but got on and rode away without too much trouble. Time taken 4:18 and total distance was about 500m.
Two laps shaped like a tree branch (as opposed to last year's 3 laps), out and back at each straight line so you can see cyclists at the opposite direction all the time. Overall drafting wasn't too bad, at least from my experience. In fact, some sections were pretty lonely with the nearest cyclist being outside of sight. There was one tight turnaround at the western Tuart Drive side, which I had to unclip on both laps just so I didn't fall off. With less than 200m for the entire course, it is as flat as it gets. Very windy. Mostly headwind on the way out and tailwind on the way back. But there were many sections of cross wind and given I only weigh 60kgs, I had to switch to the side bars a few times to avoid getting blown off my bike. Given the strong wind, I wasn't expecting a fast bike split. I kept my patience and stuck to my power numbers (170+ watts) and ignored the speed readings. Surprisingly I rode a pretty decent pace and after clocking the first lap at 2:34, I thought I could be in a for PB bike split.
Last year I had stomach issues, with forcing myself to eat too much too early. This year, I've reduced the number of Clif Bars from 4 to 2 and alternated between solids and gels at each aid station. I've also practised taking Clif Bars on the go in my long rides, so I guess this helped too. The overcast weather also put less stress on the body. I had two water bottles and I didn't need to top them up. While my pace did slow down at the second lap as the legs were starting the fatigue, I still felt strong at the bike finish. Bike split was 5:12:29, not only was it an Ironman bike PB by 11 minutes, I was in the chance to give that elusive sub 10 hour finish a crack! Bike distance recorded was 179.68km, so pretty spot on. Average power 168 watts, average HR 142 bpm. Nutrition taken - 2 Clif Bars, 2 bananas, 4 gels, just under 2 bottles of Infinit Go Far.
There were no bike catchers, so we had to rack our bikes ourselves. Helmet off and I made sure it sat nicely on my saddle before I left. I've had the urge the pee around midway through the bike but was able to supress it. So straight to the portaloo I went after racking my bike and it took me ages to clear it all. I still took the time to flush and wash my hands with soap. Poured out everything from the run gear bag. Swapped to a fresh pair of socks. Run shoes on, grabbed everything else - race belt, sunglasses and run visor and put them on the go. Time taken 5:02.
Four laps out and back along the foreshore. Plenty of crowd support. In the main race venue and local residents towards the quieter eastern side. The sun still stayed behind the clouds and temperatures stayed cool within the mid 20s. Still windy though. My legs felt good and the ankle felt fine. Leg turnover was just over 160 which is my standard long run cadence. Trevor and Jason from BYL (a group I used to train with when I used to live in Perth) were giving high fives. Got caught in the excitement from the crown coming out of transition and did the first couple of kms in just over 4:30 per km pace, which was a bit too quick. Settled into around the 4:50 pace after that, which is my long run pace. For the first two laps I took only coke from the aid stations but did not stop to walk. I clocked 1:41 at the halfway mark and was well within the pace to achieve that sub 10 hour finish.
But the body was getting fatigued and it was crying for a bit of a break. Thereafter I stopped to walk at each aid station and started to take in some water melon as well. At the end of the third lap, I was still on target but it was getting tight. The stomach started churning and I could feel myself starting to retch each time I take a sip of coke or swallow some water melon. I then switched to just drinking water and that helped settle the stomach a bit. The sub 10 hour finish is gone now. I could only cut my losses and get to the finish without passing out. I continued at around 5:30 to 5:50 pace, depending on whether I was walking the aid stations or not. The last 2kms, I decided to skip that last aid station and push through to the finish.
The turnaround to the finish was a little bit further ahead after the 42km marker but it seemed like a mile away! Finally I got to the red carpet and soaked every bit of energy from the roaring crowd. Gave the announcer Pete Murray a high five as he called out - Kevin Siah from Malaysia, you're an Ironman! I crossed the finishing arch with plenty of emotions, my 15th Ironman finish, 5th one in Busselton. Overall finish time 10:03:32, placed 25th in M35-39 and 146th overall. No sub 10 hour finish but I beat my PB from 10 years ago by 12 minutes. Run split was 3:36:39, not my fastest but it was definitely up there. Distance recorded 42.48km and average HR 160 bpm.
I was a crying mess when I phoned Li-Ann and Sebastian after the finish. I could not have done it without their sacrifice. I was more calm when I rang mum and dad after. I took the long walk back to the motel, legs were sore but mostly okay and the ankle felt fine. The stomach still had issues and I went to bed pretty much immediately after I had a shower. Only to wake up in the middle of night hungry when I knew my stomach was feeling better.
With Kona for men's now moved to 2024 and I was slotted to head there under the Legacy program, I don't have a big race planned yet for next year. I'm not sure if I want to attempt a sub 10 hour finish again so soon or ever as this one took a fair bit out of me. Let's see how the year goes.
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