Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Ironman Langkawi - You can't be serious!

"You can't be serious!" Is what most people said when I mentioned that I was thinking of doing the Langkawi Ironman this year. Naturally this response removed any doubt that I might have had in my mind.

So here's the picture - I got hit by a van while training on my bike in early September, I got the expected lacerations but also four fractured vertebrae. The next 10 weeks I wore a body brace to isolate spin movement, spent several weeks off work and wasn't allowed to do any exercise. Gained 10 kilogrammes and a bad temper!

Come the end of December the brace was off but a fever had set in and on returning from a trip to India I developed severe food poisoning followed by a very persistent case of bronchitis. After three courses of antibiotics (that had no effect) I decided to let the body's own immune system do the job and in the meantime I'd start training for Ironman Langkawi.

Most people thought I was joking especially when they saw me retching and struggling to breath at the beginning of every run or ride. What they didn't realise is that I had a plan (and after all, Ironman Langkawi was a full 5 weeks away).

Step one in my plan was to gather all the knowledge from my best endurance, marathon and long course triathlon books and throw them in the bin - no time for the "only increase your distance by 10% per week" rule. I knew this rule was flawed anyway because increasing nothing by 10% still equalled nothing and that's a couch potato's training manual!!!!

My first run was 8.5k, the next day 21k, the following week 30k, a week later 21k the next week 42k and then another 42k one week later followed by a 21k and then it was Ironman. There were also a few 5 to 12k runs thrown in mid week but not too many as I didn't want to over do it.

Each long run listed above was preceded by a long ride the day before; starting with 100k and building up to 213k (the Fraser Hill ride). All this time the bronchitis was getting better but at an almost imperceivable rate, I felt like it was improving by about 2% a day. Therefore I stayed out of the pool and didn't swim until a week and 2 days before the race.

On the Thursday I swam 2k, Friday 1k, Saturday 3k, Monday 4k and that was my swim training - at least come Saturday I knew I could do the distance without drowning. This is quite important because drowning leads to a very slow finishing time and I'm told may even lead to disqualification.

So that was that, my rather inadequate crash course (pun intended) training in my lead up to the race. Amazingly I had no injuries and the bronchitis, although still there, was no longer impeding my breathing too much.

So the race itself; the swim was gorgeous, flat calm, no jelly fish (I didn't find any at least). An out and back course, just like a super long 1.9km swimming pool. Got to the turnaround in 37 minutes and back in 1:23, I'd got to be pretty happy with that!

I saw my buddies Sam and Don getting changed, had a quick chat and then strolled out to the bike. The plan was to keep my heart rate at about 124 and my cadence over 100. The bronchitis put paid to that plan though and it soon became clear (even after the hills) that my heart rate was going to be awfully high today - a sure sign of trouble later. The temperature reaching 41 degrees didn't help much either.

Three laps of the bike were OK albeit a little slow for me (as expected though), kept it all together and finished in 6:15. Again I got changed at a relaxed pace and even had a pee (the colour of highly toxic nuclear waste though).

On to the run and it became a run/walk within a few hundred metres. So that was that, run a bit, walk a bit, run a bit, walk a bit, get to an aid station (every 1k) and drink something (I can never eat anything on the run), have an ice water shower and then off again. Unfortunately my feet had started developing blisters in one of my training runs and with the very wet feet from the ice water showers the blisters became the leading feature of my pain sensors as the run progressed.

I got within 8k of the finish and realised if I picked up the pace I'd have a sub 14 hour finish time. So off I went trying to run the rest of it - walking through aid stations, get a drink, taking and ice water shower. The fact that it was dark now and the temperature had dropped helped somewhat.

1.1k to go and 6 minutes to the 14 hour mark, I felt like I was sprinting, I was now within 700 metres of the finish and the blister on my right foot exploded AGGGHHHHHHH! Golly, that was painful let me tell you. It didn't slow me down though and as I rounded to the finish my watch said 14 hours and a handful of seconds - oh well eh! They're just numbers and at least having the sub 14 goal made the last 8k pass a little quicker.

So that was that another Langkawi, I'll be back next year, hopefully infinitely better prepared. I may do another IM before then but let's wait for the blisters to heal first (actually I've already decided which race to do later in the year - watch this space).

What got me through the race was probably the fact that I've got quite a few tough Ironman's under my belt now (this was my 11th), you learn a lot about how to manage yourself through a race over time and if you only step back and ignore "Mr Ego" and listen to the experience it can be invaluable. With my back injury, bronchitis and lack of training I had no choice but to try to think my way around the course rather than go too hard until I fell over.

Additionally I re-read a book called the UltraMarathon Man by Dean Karnazes, when you read this.....well rather than me try to explain it I strongly advise you to read it - it's inspirational.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Dedicated to all those that had the courage to start Ironman Langkawi 2007

Some of my buddies had a good race, some had an amazing race, some a disappointing one, I for one was just lucky to get away with it, while others were positively unlucky not to finish - most of us probably thought there were things we could have done better but hey, that's why we'll be back next year!

Here's a list of my dedications, if I've forgotten you it's not personal just give me a nudge and I'll put the record straight.

Don Khor M 45/49 11:44:06 - You looked totally in control and fresh from start to finish - awesome!

Mohamed Sofian Ismail M 45/49 16:51:10 - Even with a long-term injury this man confronts Ironman every year and can always find a smile however bad it gets.

Sam Pritchard M 55/59 12:56:59 - 5 Ironman Langkawi's and this is his first finish - just seconds away from qualifying for Hawaii - now that is commitment and a never say die attitude.

Tom Vigors M 35/39 D.N.F. - The unluckiest man on the course, he trained harder than most but came down with a fever a couple of days before the race - he still managed to get within 20k of the finish before being dragged off the course by an ambulance crew (he managed to take a couple of them out first before they strapped him down though).

Fiona Lim F 35/39 12:23:18 - An icon and an Ironman legend!

Joo Ngan Ng M 55/59 D.N.F. - 3rd in his age-group in 2000 but a puncture ended his 2007 Ironman - next year he's thinking about carrying a spare!

(Dr) Tah Ming Tan M 50/54 D.N.F. - In fact he did finish but after the cut off in 17:15. Without doubt the athlete with the strongest mind and will power I've ever met. Good luck in MDS.

Randy Tan M 30/34 D.N.F. - Saw him in the medical room afterwards - not sure what happened but he did what most people wouldn't even dream of - he gave it a shot - next year dude, next year!

Edwin Ng M 30/34 14:45:29 - I was surprised to see him there also very pleased - one thing you need as you struggle round the marathon is a cheerful and friendly competitor - awesome job Edwin and thank for the encouragement.

Koh Hieng Ngae M 50/54 N/A 2007 14:49:24 - Now this is a man to look out for in the future, he only gave it 80% effort as he's training for MDS. A real gentleman!

Ah Thiam Wong M 30/34 N/A 2007 11:20:00 - Another Malaysian Ironman Legend, only a puncture stopped his Hawaii dream for this year.

Hairul Azwar Hashim M 25/29 14:17:24 - This man could hardly walk due to a hip injury let alone train most of last year and here he is completing his first Ironman (and Langkawi is probably the toughest one). He was having a bit of a low point towards the end of the marathon as he had to walk sections of it (as did some of the Pros by the way). Ironman Azwar what you have just achieved was the unthinkable 6 months ago and now no one can take it away from you. I hope the quote below puts it into perspective for you.

When interviewed after completing the Hawaii Ironman in 24 hours Michael Collins, (the son of John Collins, the founder of Ironman), was asked to define a bad day. He said: -

"A bad day is when you're walking the marathon, and you're walking through town and you see the paperboy and he's delivering the paper with the results of the race your still in. That's when you know you're having a bad day."

Finally, this is for all of us that finish Ironman in the dark: -

A quote by Tour de France legend Greg Lamond "It never gets easier, you only get faster."
A quote by Ironman struggler Simon Cross "Shut up Greg"

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Kapil and Ritu's Reception in Bangkok

Having celebrated Kapil and Ritu's wedding with them in India, we raced back for Christmas Day in Malaysia and a birthday for the boys followed by a New Year's Eve party later.

Back to work for a couple of days and then off to Bangkok for Kapil and Ritu's Bangkok Reception at the Sheraton Grand Sukhumvit (where Shilpa and I had our reception).

The place looked gorgeous as did Ritu, Shilpa, Meenu, Mum and Mom too.

We'd ordered little three piece tuxedos from the US for the boys for the occasion. Unfortunately Sid had already grown out of the shirt but they looked adorable anyway.

Our friends Mike, Bella, Christopher and Asha also came as did my Mum and Dad of course but they were feeling a bit fragile (as were many of us) after all the partying, traveling in India and the inevitable Delhi Belly.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Julie Moss - Ironman 1982

This is a classic piece of Hawaii Ironman footage. This unbelievable fight against exhaustion and dehydration really sums up what the human spirit can accomplish. It's got to make you want to do an Ironman hasn't it?

This few minutes of drama brought the Ironman race to the masses.

You are awesome Julie!