Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bintan and Beyond

(Photos courtesy of and Joseph)

So, where to begin? OK let's do Bintan and then talk about the other stuff.

I dropped the boys off at school on Friday and then packed for Bintan triathlon. I left at 10:15am and soon realised that reaching Singapore, clearing customs then driving through Singapore, checking Black Beauty and myself onto the Bintan ferry and clearing customs for Indonesia wasn't going to happen for a 2pm departure.

So I called Monica (my very able and trusted secretary) and explained that she needed to get me and Black Beauty onto the 4pm ferry. I soon got a reply - not a chance but you're on wait list. Oh-oh! Foot down, let's go. To cut a long story short I cleared both Malaysia/Singapore and Singapore/Indonesia immigration & customs and travelled about 400k in a little under 3hrs. Yes it's very naughty, yes I will have more speeding tickets than you can shake a stick at but yes I am quite pleased with myself.

I arrived at the hotel and got showed to my room or should I say dormitory or should I say sh!thole. At USD80 per night it was disgusting and a disgrace. OK the hotel was full but you can get a 5 star hotel for this in KL. I know it's not KL but it should be cheaper it's Indonesia for goodness sake! USD40 would have been expensive but understandable as the hotel was full - USD80 was just blaggggh!

Having said that I met some cool people there - Paul, a Scottish guy teaching in Jakarta who'd spent the last 8 years in Egypt. Mike, an American guy who'd settled in Batam, the next island over, he was getting back into triathlons. Joseph, a French guy who'd just bought a bike and was doing the sprint to start his triathlon career.

Paul, Mike and I were sitting down to dinner when the famous Greg Lyons turned up with his wife June. Greg used to live in KL but now Singapore and is a professional saxophonist - a triathlete too of course.

After a fairly uneventful briefing Greg introduced me to the race doctor who he knew well and I sought some input for my dodgy right calf muscle that I was a tad worried about. It seemed a bit strained. The doc gave some super advice - "leave your ego at home, walk or shuffle up the steep bits on the run, at least on the first lap. It's probably not torn at the moment but you'll actually hear it if it goes in the race". I was convinced, or I thought I was.

I was settling down to the noisy neighbours, the dogs barking and the ants eating me in the dorm when Greg SMS'd telling me I could crash in his chalet as they had a spare single bed. I was half way through a reply thanking him but saying I couldn't possible impose on him and June when I heard the noisy neighbours talking about the Singapore and Malaysian tour group coming in on the last ferry - I deleted my message and rewrote it - "I'll be there in two minutes".

What a great night's sleep - thanks to Greg and June. The Olympic Distance race was at 1:50pm - strange time of day and I expected the temperature to get up to 40C (I only hit 33C luckily). So a lazy breakfast was taken and then Disco Dave and Lydia turned up. Always nice to see friendly faces from KL but Disco is an especially cool dude, you always get a bit of a boost from spending time with him.

I left to go and set my bike up, have a bit of a warm up and tune the gears with my race wheels. The Sprint race was first off in the morning and Mike and Joseph came back totally stoked with their races. It's really cool to see when someone in that much on a high after a race. I got sorted and then headed for transition.

The bike racking was not numbered so I got there early to get a spot near the exit for a quick getaway after the swim. Dave had forgotten his goggles, run belt and I was expecting him to say bike as well. Fortunately I had spare goggles and belt so he was a little less stressed once he'd got those and the mechanics had finished ripping his valves out of his tires - don't ask!

I swam the first loop (750m) of the course as a warm up and liked it and then headed for the start. It was a beach start but first you had to go through a pen so that the timing chips logged on. I was trapped behind 600 Lycra clad triathletes - mostly tall, muscular Westerners, totally unyielding and not prepared to let a little English fella squeeze to the front. Quick thinking was called for so I snuck out of the side of the pen and went to the front and squeezed into the second row. Seconds later we were off.

I talked to a couple of dozen people after the swim including Disco Dave and Scottish Paul and it seems that for most it was one of the most traumatic swims of their lives - the washing machine effect so to speak. I can honestly say it was probably the best Olympic Distance swim I've ever had. I was in clear water 99% of the time and stayed focused and strong from start to finish. I came out in just over 26 minutes and in 52nd place - very very good for me.

Nice transition even with a speed suit to shed and then it was onto the bike - Black Beauty was purring, she'd had her oats for breakfast and she was off on a canter, ney (pun intended), a gallop. It was a non-drafting race but I doubt there were many that I passed that could have hung on regardless. The speed differential as Black Beauty and I went past people was considerable - a very nice feeling.

It was a little windy and a classic testing rolling course, one that would really break up your rhythm unless you are a very strong cyclist. I just loved it. As time went by I was seeing fewer and fewer targets in front of me to hunt down and pass. I was hoping for the holey grail of Olympic Distance rides of 40k in under an hour but this course was too hilly I guess. I ended up with 1 hour 2 minutes something and the fourth fastest ride of the day (happy with that with a dodgy calf).

Another quick transition and on to the run. They announced that I was in 5th place and 4 1/2 minutes off the leader (all that time lost on the swim). The start of the run was flat but I knew it was going to be hard work, my calf was seriously stressed and I knew from last weekend's run that it was unlikely to ease up and would only get worse. Never mind - DENIAL - let's see what happens - I might still win this race yet.

Then the short sharp hills hit. I wonder which ones the doc meant for me to walk up? Pop, crunch, slurp, grind, OUCH! I guess he meant that one! The calf had seriously distorted (I felt the muscles separating) and wasn't supposed to feel like that. There wasn't a nasty sound but the feeling of serious damage was there. Never mind - DENIAL - I carried on and the short but sharp rises came in regular intervals, I tried to protect the calf but the pain was getting excruciating, it then distorted again on another small but steep rise and I was trying to work out how quickly I could get through the next 7k when I realised that even if I tried to walk it then it was highly unlikely that I could finish even then.

I've dropped out of less races than I have fingers on one hand so this is an experience I'm not used to dealing with. One guy comes running past me and says something like "Come on buddy, you can do it" - not sure if he thought I was a beginner who'd just given up but I felt like I deserved more respect than that considering where I was in the race. On reflection, he was just being encouraging and I was just starting to feel sorry for myself (more of that later).

I walked down to the road and flagged down a motorbike for a lift back to the start. Poor bloke didn't bank on getting sweated on - he was soaking by the time we got there - Sorry! I found my way to the medical tent and got all iced up and proceeded to lie down and wait for the race to finish. I saw a few crash victims come in - ouch - one guy had half his knee missing but he seemed to understand when I asked him the important question - his answer was "Yes, his bike was OK" he said he wrapped himself around it to protect it as he went down. Good man, that's the attitude.

The winners came in looking stoked, judging by the times I would have been 4th overall which would have been nice but oh well ay - it wasn't to be. The guy that came in 5th came looking for me and came and gave me a big handshake as said something nice about my bike speed - that cheered me up a bit. This sport of ours really is awesome, you get fed by your own endorphins, then by everyone else's highs and on top of that everyone is just so friendly and supportive - how cool is that?

Disco Dave finished in a very commendable time, 30 seconds ahead of Greg. Lydia finished too having had a good race but a little disappointed with her time. Paul enjoyed his race and said that one of the highs of the weekend for him was having met everyone in the dorm - that put it in a different perspective (thanks Paul, you are totally right of course, if we'd been in our own rooms we'd have been watching TV and probably wouldn't have met everyone).

The prize giving dinner was pretty good - we all got totally wasted (especially and in particularly me). The high of the evening was Greg getting third place in the over 50's and the commentator asking them all for their IDs as they looked too young - he was right too. Put a 50 year old triathlete next to a 40 year old "Joe Average" and I think we all know who will look younger.

So a final positive note of the weekend (Besides another wonderful night's sleep with Greg and June! - No dirty comments please). On the ferry back I was happily listening to my ipod answering my emails on the Blackberry when the girl sitting next to me insisted on speaking to me. She was there with her boyfriend I hasten to add - she was just being friendly. Tch...Ipod cranked up, tapping away on the Blackberry, wasn't it clear I had my "Do Not Disturb" sign on? As it turned out she was without doubt one of the most engaging, interesting and thoroughly nice people I've ever met. If you've met Trudy Fawcett you'll know what I mean and if you haven't you should make a point of it, she's ace!

So that was Bintan and now this is the "Beyond". I went to the doctors on Monday and spent the day having MRI's, blood taken, platelets extracted and then re injected into my calf. It looks highly unlikely that I'll make the ITU Long Course Championship on August 1st (I'd managed to get a spot on the British Team and was really stoked about it). I'm having ultrasound treatment and physio 3 times a week. I can't run at the moment and am scared to ride - I thought I'd throw myself into my swimming but haven't got wet other than the shower since Sunday.

I've been eating loads, had a drink every night this week and I know I'm depressed and on the slippery slope to doom and gloom.....


I thought I'd write this more as a shed water for myself than anything. I shan't apologise that it's so long because if it's boring you'll have stopped reading long ago or skipped to the end. Either way, I've exorcised my self pity. More good came out of the weekend than bad - there will be a lot of worried people there next year if they see me turn up without a limp, I met some fab people, have another story (stories actually) to tell an I am now going to learn how to repair a damaged calf to a point where I'm fitter, stronger and faster than before and the whole process will make me smarter - look out world I'm oozing positiveness.

Before I leave it there though I would like to touch on a topic that won't ever leave me, I may not talk about it much in the future but I will never forget about my buddy Ngae. There was a memorial run on Sunday morning which I was desperately sad to have missed, it was more about celebrating the positive affect that he had on so many people than mourning his loss (that's how I interpreted it anyway). I felt that I needed to be there, I certainly wanted to be there and I know I've missed an important chance to share a last goodbye with like minded and mutual friends.

I'm not sure what the point of this postscript is, perhaps closure on a very sad happening in my life, perhaps my last goodbye to him, perhaps a little guilt that I wasn't there for the run...the truth be told, I need the healing to start, not my body but my heart and my grief for his loss...I'm not entirely sure what advice Ngae would have given me but I know it would have been positive, it would have been with a smile, it would have made total sense and just thinking about him now makes me smile (and cry a little at the same time) it makes an imaginary sun come out...the world was a better place with him in it but I am a better person having shared a small amount of time with him. Rest in peace Ngae but rest assured you'll be in our hearts forever.


Squirrel said...

Sorry to hear about your condition now. On the other hand, you could have saved the day for ITU... Sorry, did I just rub salt into the wound. Anyway, you should take a good rest and try to recover fast before you push even harder...

Well, Sam, Carmen and I came back in 1 piece, despite the little adventures, aching muscles and bruises. Tough hike but fantastic view...

plee said...

Wish you a speedy recovery Simon! I think the remedial therapy will definitely accelerate the healing process, so don't lose heart buddy!The hard part is that we engage the calf as soon as we stand up and walk, so do take it easy at first.

I believe Ngae wud hv wanted you to race at Bintan, so don't feel bad abt it or missing the memorial run.

Simon said...

Thanks guys - much appreciated - glad you had a good trip Ivie, sounds like fun.