Sunday, October 23, 2016

Challenge Iskandar Puteri - Race Report

A troubled race... a race that taught me things

I have always set to take up a 70.3 miles or 113 km as a gauge for my training and my fitness level before I pen down the ultimate Ironman race in Nov, after all, it is an expensive race and I needed to be sure I'm game for it. Challenge Iskandar Puteri 70.3 was the inaugural race in Malaysia set on 13th August, slightly a month after the Gold Coast Airport Marathon and I thought it would be perfect for me to test out my fitness level in the triathlon discipline and decide with the race result. 

Separately, the Ironman Langkawi promo rate expires at 5pm on the race day. I would wait until the Challange Iskandar Puteri race finish before signing up at the comfort of the hotel room as I was pretty confidence for a good races after months of training. Told myself secretly, If I can't finish the race below 7 hours then I'm not ready for the big race and I should just save the $$$

It took a bit of convincing to my wife travelling along with the family with the reason that I might need her to help drive back as I may knocked out by the race. All set and we traveled a day earlier to race day and took us 3 1/2 hours driving to Iskandar Puteri. Upon reaching, we quickly checked into the hotel and grabbed a quick lunch before heading to the race expo for race pack collection. Strangely for such a big named event, I was informed that there were only less than 400 or 500 participants to the event. True enough the race venue was quiet and hardly there was any exhibitor there apart from SPOL. The guys from SPOL was kind enough to let me try out the Cryo Gel Therapy on my troubled plantar facilities before taping it up. Toured around the race venue, a little swim at the hotel pool and an early carbo loading dinner set the day.

I hope someday he will kick my ass

Waking up early on race day, went down to rack up the bike before grabbing a quick breakfast and I'm all set for the race. Is a rolling swim start, as it was my first time doing rolling start, I have no idea what to expect except for trying to stay afloat in the open water. The race started on time for the 1st waves and I was with the 3rd waves about 10 mins later. Of the 3 disciplines, my biggest mental fear has always been on the swim. I know I will have no problem finishing the 1.9 km swim, saying that I can never put the fear of drowning at bay. With the race start, I begin swimming out slowly and tell myself to treat it like a training swim. Hack!!! who am I kidding, immediately I felt the jitters and there goes my swim rhythm. Not long into the swim, my breath was short and my chest feels tight and I had to kept repeating to myself not to panic, not to panic, swim easy, swim easy was playing a thousand times like a broken record. Soon I had to resort to my trusty breaststroke to calm myself down. It must be 300m or more before I decided to safe the legs going back into freestyle swimming, but it wasn't perfect and I was breathing 1 side instead of the 2 side breathing which I have done gazillion times during training and classes (sorry coach). I went on alternating between breaststrokes and freestyle swimming for most of the distance until I felt a little more confidence and easy before swimming the remaining distance in freestyle but with 1 side breathing :(

I was finally done with the swim, though I wasn't kicking hard on my breaststrokes, boy I felt so drained, most probably due to the adrenaline rush from the fear/panic. A short run to the bike seems like I have done a full marathon and the knees was weak. Took my own time at the Transition 1, I needed this to calm my nerves down and make sure I'm ok before heading out for the bike leg

Did my first flying mount :) although not perfect and not really in style but it was really cool learning from a few sessions of youtube lol. Anyway, the effect from the swim fear didn't wear off and the quads were powerless to peddle up to speed on a mostly flat and straight forward 90 km bike route. I was struggling to keep the bike pace at an average of 25km/hr for the first part of the route, even the downhill I was hitting only about 33km/hr which is horrendous!!! I knew then that I'm going to struggle on the bike. The spirit was further dampened and slowly the thought of DNF started to creep in and messing with me. Completed my 1st of the 3 30km loop with an average below 24km/hr and the thought of throwing in the towel never got away. Reluctantly, I continue with the 2nd loop and it didn't get any better, in fact that feeling sucks!!! However, with the 2nd time on the same loop I started to memorize the route and push a little where I think I could keeping myself cool headed not to frustrate myself out. As a results, it did get a little better completing the second and going into the last and final loop. I keep what's worked for me and survived through what's not on the 3rd and drizzling loop finishing the 90 km with a time over 3 and a half hours. To make matter worse, I pressed the wrong watch button changing sports in T1 and that meant the whole cycling was recorded in Transition Mode without much data for the entire bike leg. Nevertheless, I was relief and really glad that I kept going instead of throwing in the towel, cause if I did, is gonna be Bye Bye Ironman!!

photo credit to Cycling Malaysia
Same thing I did in T1, took some time to slow myself down, but what the hell I wasn't fast in the first place, what am I talking about slowing myself down :( Anyway, it was high in the day and the sun start coming out to play with us. Down plenty of water, changed into my running gear feeling like home free knowing running was my game out of the 3 disciplines.  That feeling of barely survived in the swim and bike reminds me to be humble and not to get carry away. Before heading out for the run, I took a toilet break and that gives me extra minutes to recuperate from the disaster. It was hot, with the sun blazing down on the run route. I started the run with an easy pace of about 6:30min/km and slowly bring it down to 6min pace, but due to wrong button pressed earlier, apart from current pace, I have no other data like elapse time, avg speed and distance. Into my 3rd km, I was crossing path with Jason Loh who is on his way back, he was blistering fast and later that I found out he achieved a big PB so congratulations to him. Back to my run, I was running pretty consistent and starting to pick up participants that I was powerless to response when they zoomed past me. Not to get too carry away, I decided to keep to steady pace and not pushing to crawl back the time I've lost in the bike leg. 

photo credit to Cycling Malaysia
Reaching the 1st water stop saw many participants took lots of liquid as the temperatures felt like 40 Celsius. I did the same before moving on with the run, all is well until I reached 7 km when I left legs start to give signs that it would about to cramp up. I knew is going to be a long afternoon and let the legs rest up a little with some breeze walk and chit chatting with fellow participants. As I start back the running engine, this time the right gave way... damn it!! Walked again and soon the heat was so bad that I started to wonder where is that god damn water station??? Apparently, I wasn't the only one who suffer under the heat, many others too are looking for the water station. It was then apparent that the water station was space out quite far apart and far from ideal for a hot race

Photo credit to Running Malaysia
Half way looking for the water station a fellow participant passed me half a bottle of Coke... I have never taste Coke to be soooo soooo good and I'm very thankful for him for the life saving liquid. Finally, I reached the second water station and immediately demanded for a the whole 1.5 L bottle of cold water, tucked it into my tri suite bring down the body temperature. I didn't stop there for long, and after a few more cups of drinks I moved on with the 1.5 L bottle like at precious treasure. At this point of time, the cramp was uncontrollable to a stage whenever I tried to pick up my feet to run, the cramp will set it almost immediately, it was quite bad that I can see the muscle pull and created a "dent" on my right calves.

I have earlier survived a bad swim, a bad cycling and now a bad run..phrrr. Wasn't going to give up now and so I walked mostly and do a little run whenever I can. Lean Min caught up with me having a stomach cramp herself and we walk/run together until I reached the 19 km point where there was a mobile madic station and I asked her not to wait and go on. I asked the medic for a spray which they happily helped with and offer to wrap up my calves with ice. I didn't think that was possible but I'm sure they know what they are doing, I stood still and let the medic wrapped a pack of ice tightly on my right to relief the hell. The ice helped, trust me and I was able to run again with the ice wrapped calve faster than I would have asked for. A big relief as I approached the race site and could see the finishing chute with a little more than 100m away. My son was waiting with wife flashing out her phone and took a few pics of me crossing the finishing line

 I was a race to be forgotten, saying that it was still a PB time but was way off my target. The race result wasn't ideal for signing up Ironman Langkawi, so what's next? All I had in mind at that point of time was debating whether my training has went the wrong way or was it only a bad race day. I was really hoping for the later, but there was no way to find out unless I can compete in another race immediately to find out. The competitive in me just refused to give in and sign-up on the Ironman Langkawi with the bad results freshly out from the over, at the same time thanks to Coach Sue giving a contact for a next weekend Olympic Distance race and I literally begged the organizer granting me a late entry.

Apart from the run water station issues that I have, race was well organized. Is a bad race for me, but I learnt that my race nutrition plan was wrong something that I need to get back to the drawing board. Not giving up even the odds are against you is the frame of mind that every athlete should have, as there ain't going to be a walk in the park race. Saying that I need to redeem myself in the next race and stay tune for my next race report Port Dickson International Triathlon

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