Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sarawak International Triathlons

Very late I know but hey I've been very busy. Thanks to everyone for the photos by the way, greatly appreciated.

I’d decided earlier in the year that this weekend together with the KL Marathon and Powerman were going to be my big “FOCUS” races for 2009. So the Sprint Tri and Sunday’s Olympic Distance Tri were going to be biggies for me!

I’d decided to go on the early morning flight on Friday as it was a very cheap AirAsia flight and when I’d booked it there was a good chance that I’d get a game of golf in on Friday afternoon. As it turned out the golf had fallen through and I was beginning to regret the 5am wake up.

In the end it wasn’t so bad and I was checked in and asleep on the plane in no time. There were loads of other triathletes on the same flight which was cool. At Miri we were picked up by the organizers and the bikes loaded onto two lorries – very impressive organisation and service – every athlete got a free transfer to and from the airport with their bikes – nice touch by the organizers.

The bike was put together and stuff organized in no time at all. Had a “mechanic” emergency call from Elaine, between her, Disco Dave, Jason and Lydia they couldn’t put the derailleur back onto Elaine’s bike! With that fixed we all headed out to lunch – kindly driven by Jack and Eugene Chan. This finished with a McD’s McFlurry – HEAVEN.

Back at the hotel we agreed to meet up for a swim, ride and run to check out the water, gear and to make sure the body was firing on four cylinders. I’d finished my solo swim by the time everyone else turned up and I can tell you it was a bit nerve wracking as there had been reports of 4 crocodiles around the marina a few days earlier – I’m not sure whether local boy Jack was pulling my plonker but there had been a crocodile problem there a couple of years earlier so it was real enough for me.

With all the swims done we headed out on the bikes and over the dreaded “hill”. Fortunately the hill was far shorter than I remembered, although coming back was a bit tougher and longer. Job done and onto a quick 2K run to loosen the legs and the lungs.

The plan was then for an early dinner but I was still stuffed from lunch and decided to bail – mustn't overfeed as that is a sure fire way of screwing up a race. It was then that I got a call from Shilpa telling me that Seb had been rushed to hospital with a temperature of a 103!!! Oh my goodness, I felt helpless and wanted instantly to be transported home.

As it happened he was being a real brave little soldier and even spoke to me on the phone while the doctors and nurses were sponging him to try to get his temperature down. They gave him some medication and he was home by the time I got to sleep. His school had been closed due to a H1N1 outbreak that week so it was quite a worry – we never did find out whether it was that but he’s totally OK now thank goodness.

So to sleep. Zzzzzzzzzzz!


I’d had a great night’ sleep, spoke to Shilpa and the boys and had finished breakfast by 8:30. It was then that I started seeing all the “tri-stars” turning up for this big “money” race. There was RM80,000 (US$23,000) up for grabs over the weekend. Elmar (Austrian) had flown in from Europe, Frederich (Sweden), Rob (Australia) etc… Of course the usual suspects as well, Razani (Malaysia’s top triathlete), Shahrom (Asia’s top duathlete), Barry (Malaysia’s top junior triathlete) plus a whole load of other very fit and focused looking athletes.

I started getting the picture and resetting my expectations as Elmar is a Pro triathlete (albeit in my age-group) he came 3rd overall in Ironman Malaysia last year. I’d never come close to beating Razani in a triathlon (although I had beaten him a couple of weeks before in the Powerman Duathlon – he is a far better swimmer than me though). They were both doing the Sprint distance race too.

To my credit I’d been training very very hard and especially the swim over the last three months so I was going to give it my best shot and see what happened. I still had the ghosts of the Alpe d’Huez swim to exorcise and that still played on my mind a little. I needed to start out strong but not go anaerobic where I’d go into meltdown (not good in water). As it turned out I had a great swim, very strong (for me), I got to the turnaround and drafted behind a guy who was kicking his feet like crazy which made it very easy to follow and the draft made the swim reasonably effortless.

So onto the bike and back into my element, hit the hill and at the top I saw Razani and Kevin Chan descending – I put on the afterburners and overtook them soon after the descent – I was pretty surprised that they didn’t get on my wheel but then I was trying to avoid that.

Heading back I had about 40 seconds lead over Razani and needed to stretch that a bit if I was to hold on over the 5K run. I pushed hard, had a quick transition and was on the run in 7th place overall and 2nd in my age-group. Freddie, Elmar and Rob were too far ahead but a group with Barrie were about 500m ahead and I set about reeling them in.

I felt strong and fast with a good leg turnover and passed the group before the turnaround for home. With one K to go I looked behind and there was no one in sight so I backed right off and jogged to the finish. 2nd in my age-group and 4th overall – not only had I beaten Razani for the first time but also Shahrom! Wow, I had to be happy about that although I was only too aware that this was just the sprint and they were likely to have been taking it easy for tomorrow’s big event.

I joked with Shahrom that as I’d beaten him then he had to go back to transition and pick up my bike (about 2k away), can you believe it, as I was walking back he appears on his bike pushing mine along too with all my kit. What a great guy and a lovely gesture. I assured him that tomorrow I’d be collecting his bike in the race that really mattered – he said “we’ll see”!

That evening was the prize-giving and carbo-loading, there was so much prize-money that pretty much everyone I knew got something to take home. For 2nd place I got RM300 (US$85) so the hotel was paid for at least. Off to bed and a 5:30am wake up call.

Sprint Distance 750m Swim, 20k Bike, 5k Run - 1:02:18


Four cups of coffee and a Powerbar is my traditional breakfast before a race, I don't like racing feeling "heavy" in my stomach. Bike set up and warm up swim done we then waited for the start. I'd had a good swim yesterday and was determined to do likewise today.

The gun went and it was the usual mad scramble to the first buoy. I soon saw Wong At Thiam (Malaysia's best Ironman) next to me and as we're similar on the bike and work well together I made it my mission to make sure I didn't lose him in the swim. Not much to report other than the training paid off and the swim was solid. Wong and I ran into T1 together and were soon rotating the lead on the bike (draft legal race). We were passing truckloads of people and none were able to stay with us which was reassuring.

We came across Razani and a big effort enabled us to drop his group. This were looking good, came across and dropped a couple more guys in my age-group and then at about 30k into the bike we came across Kevin Chan and a reasonably large group with a Czech guy in my age-group. Wong and I tried to drop them but they managed to hang on.

It soon became apparent that the Czech guy wasn't doing any work at the front (Kevin told me afterwards that he literally sat in the pack the whole way and didn't even make a token effort at the front.) I tried to encourage the guy to do something and then I must admit I started being pretty damn rude to him about it. The guy was thick skinned or what! Being too weak to take your turn at the front or simply playing the "smart" game and saving yourself for a win on the run are both understandable but you do a token effort come what may - certainly if you expect to retain any respect from your fellow athletes and friends.

Eventually the hill came and went and the pack rolled towards T2. I moved to the front to ensure I didn't get held up in the transition and was out on the run ahead of everyone else in the pack.

The run was 8.5k, pancake flat but darn hot. Elmar was long gone, Razani was somewhere behind and the Czech guy was on my heels. Mmmm! Running scared as I've often said before is not a bad thing provided you use it as a positive. I felt strong and my cadence was high. I'd left transition with two relay guys, both of which ran away from me but after a while I started reeling one of them in again. Always good to have a rabbit in sight.

At the first turnaround I saw the Czech guy, Wong and everyone else that were in the bike pack, they were way back and only after only 2k of the run. I knew Razani was a very very talented runner though and that thought kept me "scared". At the next turnaround I knew I had about 2.5k to go and 2nd place in my age-group was in the bag. Now I could enjoy it. I crossed the line 6th overall, feeling brilliant and without having to collapse on the ground for 20 minutes. Now that's unusual for me but a nice feeling for a change.

I hung around and watched loads of buddies finishing, everyone seemed to have a great race judging by the smiles on their faces.

As I headed off to get my bike, Wong said, don't worry Shahrom's got it. True to the "deal" he brought my bike back again! What a smashing bloke, the first day was a bit of fun but to do it twice was a real cool thing to do. Probably the last time I'll ever beat him though so I'd better get prepared for bike collecting, bike washing and shoe cleaning duties for the rest of my life...he probably was just sucking me in hahaha.

Prize-giving was cool, again just about everyone I knew got prizes. I got RM2,000 (US$585) not bad for a day of fun!

Olympic Distance Race 1,400m Swim, 37k Bike, 8.5k Run - 1:52:29

This is a really great venue, fantastically friendly people and organisers, great course (although should be stretched out to full Olympic Distance next year in my opinion). They announced that the prize money would be increased to RM100,000 next year - WOW, that's a lot of money for an amateur race. I think the dates do clash with Powernman though (hopefully I'm wrong or at least the dates will be changed).

Two small moans though - 1)I was third in line and it took me 25minutes to pay my entry fee - it was farcical bureaucracy at it's worst. You couldn't pay for both races at once, you couldn't pay online and each payment had to have a receipt written out longhand whether you wanted it or not. 2)Now this is a big worry - as I was driving back from the airport I felt some terrible itching on my back. By the next morning I had welts all over my back, chest, pelvis and legs.

In the end I had to go to the clinic where they gave me an injection of cortisone and antihistamines plus a bucket load of tablets and a huge pot of cream. This was more than two weeks ago and I'm still suffering with bad itching and some welts on my back - very very unpleasant.

Having swam three days in a row on the marina it is clear that the effluent and chemicals released from the boats and goodness only knows what other chemical and waste released upriver all combined to a pretty toxic swim. The organisers need to do some water quality tests and try to establish the problem and they need to do this now. I for one will need some reassurance on this front before I go back next year. (I wasn't the only one suffering from these symptoms by the way).

The moans aside - great weekend, great races, great venue, great organisation, GREAT FUN.

1 comment:

yipwt said...

omg...u could beat shahrom. That says volumes.