Friday, November 13, 2009

Mr. Yee - 72 but he still nails Hawaii Ironman

(Courtesy of the Star-Online)

I am an Ironman, and an Ironman does not quit.

Veteran triathlete Yee Sze Mun said negative thoughts clouded his mind when he felt the discomfort at the beginning of the cycling leg at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, recently.

But the plucky 72-year-old pulled through when he remembered the solution suggested by Mark Allen and Brant Secunda in their book entitled Fit Soul, Fit Body in his attempt to earn the stature as an Ironman for the 14th time.

Jubilant: Yee celebrating his triumph after completing the gruelling Ironman distance at the recent world meet.

“When the mind is in the stage of confusion, fear and filled with negative thoughts, the remedy is ‘Be quiet. Quiet the mind.’ And I followed the silence to erase the demoralising reasoning battling in my mind,” he said.

And he finished the gruelling race comprising a 3.8km swim, a 180km cycling course and a 42km run in more than 16 hours.

Emerging from the water slower than expected by 10 minutes, Yee described the conservative start in completing the opening swimming leg of 3.8km in 1’51:37 as the warm-up to the race.

In his sixth appearance at the world meet, Yee was prepared to face the unforgiving gusty condition on the terrifying cycling course.

However, his misery started as soon as he mounted on the saddle and the instant pain on both hips impeded him to push harder on the pedals.

At the 10km mark after a steep climb, Yee’s agony was compounded with the unexpected muscle strain on his inner left thigh.

“From my past experience, I have always suffered and expected a slow split in this part of the race. But, it was the first time that I felt insecure about not finishing the cycling segment in my 16th attempt over the Ironman distance. When dropping out became a possible outcome, my inner voice reminded me that I am Ironman and an Ironman does not quit. If I throw in the towel, I will not only be shattering my own dream, my family and friends will also be dejected with the failure,” he added.

Although Yee picked up the pace after the 55km mark as the pain subsided, the next obstacle emerged again negotiating the legendary Mumuku wind as he entered the 16km ascending route to the half-way turnaround mark.

“The sudden blast signalled the torturous wind tunnel. The headwind was so strong on the way up. Despite having the wind assistance on the descend, the Mumuku is renowned for claiming many victims by blowing them away with the unpredictable crosswind to spice up the challenge. Having experienced the unfortunate fate in the past, I was braking constantly to stay in control of the wheels. It was a nightmare with the wind bashing me around and causing my bicycle to zig-zag on several occasion,” Yee said.

Coming on the flat ground, the Goddess of Fire Madam Pele turns on the heat for the endurance athletes approaching the end of the 180km cycle.
Yee said his wife, Wong Yoke Sum, daughter Joyce, son Rodney and daughter-in-law Ivi Ng also went through a long day worrying about him encountering mishaps on the cycling course.

“They followed my progress via the live tracker on the Internet to ensure that I was still in the race,” he added.

And Yee moved into the final transition with an 8’19:32 effort on the cycling leg ahead of the cut-off time combining first two disciplines by 15 minutes.

Following the 42km marathon run, Yee completed the tough course in 16’32:41 to pick up a finisher medal as an immortal gift for his son’s wedding the following day.
“I was fortunate that the strain on the hips and thigh did not come back to haunt me in the segment that counts. I knew that I was in control with 1’05 left on the clock to complete the last four kilometres before the 17th hour cut-off,” said Yee.

“My spirit lifted on the final stretch. I felt energised and gave a final push to the finish line visualising the images of the finisher medal and my family waiting for me.

“Even before I got to the starting line, my daughter was so confident that I will make it and tailor-made a personalised finisher T-shirt for me. I am glad that I did not let them down and share the satisfaction of accomplishing a dream.

“I hope that my son will share my legacy with his offspring that his father in his golden age went through a long exhausting journey of more than 16 hours to earn him a meaningful present on the eve of his wedding,” said Yee, who finished 17th in a field of 26 starters in the men’s 70 to 74 years age-group.


Anonymous said...

Salute Uncle Yee..!


yipwt said...

Most men his age will be relaxing at coffee shops and talking about old times...

This man goes out and do an IM at 72.

That's living...

Grace McClure Australia said...

amazing awesome effort. inspiring and the read bought tears to my eyes.