Friday, December 09, 2011

Phuket 70.3 Half Ironman 2011

I had high hopes for the Phuket 70.3, I'd been training hard since September following the Mark Allen Online coaching plan. The volumes weren't as big as I was used to but the intensity greater and two gym sessions a week really knocked me about.

I was very much above my racing weight at 78kg when I began but even by the end of the training I'd only lost 2kg. I pretty much gave up trying to lose weight in the end and focused on staying healthy and sticking to the plan. If I'd forced the weight loss issue I'd have been sick every other week I reckon as my immune system was already struggling.

I turned up quietly confident that I had at least an outside shot at a Kona qualifying place and felt that it would really come down to the run (as it usually does). I'd had an amazing two runs in the Miri races 5 weeks before but a confidence bashing breakdown on the run at Powerman 3 weeks before. However, I had rested well and was hoping for the legs to respond come race day.

I started the swim confidently on the right hand side of the course by the marker buoys. If I got beaten up too much I still had room to move right and come back in line when it all settled down. The swim in this race is unique in half Ironmans, you do 2/3 of the race in the ocean and then run across the beach and do the last 1/3 in the freshwater lagoon. The saltwater part went well but I felt I lost my way a little in the fresh water.

Swim Time 36:14 - pretty disappointing considering the amount of swim training I've been doing. I've clearly got to make some radical changes in how I'm approaching this aspect of the sport.

A good transition and onto Gladys. Time to start pulling people in. The roads were still wet from the downpour the day before but I didn't think much of it until a guy 15m ahead of me sat up to take a corner and at the merest hint of the brake his front wheel slide from under him on the mossy wet road. We were doing a little over 40kph on the flat; the guy behind him sits up to avoid the crash and immediately goes down too. So now I'm doing more than 40kph, I have a narrow, slippery, wet road with two bodies and two bikes sliding down it directly in my path and no place to go. I think quick, there's only one sensible thing to do in the circumstances CLOSE MY EYES AND HOPE haha. It's true but first I aimed at a gap that was starting to open between the bikes and the bodies and then shut my eyes. I got away with it but then I was upon the corner; I cant tell you how much self control it took not to touch the brakes, if I had I was a gonner, as it was I wasn't sure I could get round without the wheels going from under me. Luckily I survived.

That was within the first 5km. I had 85km to go. At least it wasn't the rain wouldn't join us until half way and then it was a downpour of biblical proportions. In the meantime, I caught Steve Lumley who'd come out the water at the same time as me in both Miri races but had gained a 4 minute lead in the swim today. We hit the first massive hills at about 43km. I had a 27 chain ring on the back but even so I was worried that I couldn't get over the hills they were so steep and slippery. If you went to the side of the road the back wheel would slip on the slime. If you were in the dryer middle and stood on the pedals the back wheel would still slip and lose traction. It was almost impossible. I somehow managed but then had to descend. Certainly the most scared I've been on a road bike. People were sliding off and crashing left, right and centre. Even the great Chris Lieto crashed for example.

Again I survived but then the heavens opened up for a tropical, torrential downpour that didn't abate until the end of the bike. At this point I said to myself that all bets were off and it was just a case of survive. But quite honestly from the first crash I'd narrowly escaped a lot of my usual advantage was wiped away as I was being cautious from that point onwards. I rode the rest of the bike in the same vicinity as Steve. At about 75k we hit the next set of debilitating hills. You had to stand to get over them but if you stood the back wheel just spun out underneath you. I created some weird pulsing leg and body movement to try to keep the pedals turning while staying on the saddle to keep the weight on the back wheel. I made it but now I had to descend, it was crazy madness.

There was a max speed limit of 20kph where you would have massively exceeded 100kph had it been straight and you'd freewheeled. The road were severely twisting, the torrential rain was possibly worse and my brakes were starting to cook themselves. All you could smell was burning carbon. I heard Steve behind me shouting to give him room on the inside. "NO" I thought, he had to overtake on the right, this was a yellow flag zone so no overtaking anyway and if I tried to get out of the way I'd probably crash in the wet. Then I heard "NO BRAKES, NO BRAKES". At which point I thought "OH F@&K". Closing my eyes was not an option this time and somehow he managed to get some traction and I lived to tell the story.

Bike time 2:36:51 Compare that to my Singapore 70.3 of 2:13:54 and you'll get some idea of the challenges of this course and weather conditions. The picture above is me finishing the bike - the picture doesn't lie, I was not a happy bunny.

So a reasonably fast transition and onto the run. I was going well from the off and pulling people in. After about 4k though we hit a muddy section on the golf course with some little rises and dips. I felt the heart rate soar and the legs falter. I pushed on still catching everyone in front and only being taken by the relay runners. The second of two laps started pretty well, I caught a buddy from KL, Damian and cracked on. Then I hit the golf course section again. Uh-ho, I had to walk, I needed to walk, I must walk...NO NO NO NO NO NO... I was blowing up big time. I told myself that the next 2k were going to define my race, I reminded myself that I've been telling Sid that he'll make a superb sportsman but he must get stronger in the mind, how could I tell him that and walk.

I made it through what was the lowest point of the race but I was running with the crowd now, no more pulling past my competitors and I saw a couple of guys in my age-group go past. I now had to walk through the aid stations, I just wanted to get to the end. Kona? Bo!!ox to Kona (for today anyway).
Run time 1:40:41 Not a bad time but not what I should have been capable of.

Total time 4:58:01 and 15th place (the Pros started 6 minutes ahead of our wave). I can't complain, I didn't deliver and it's clear to me how much more I need to do to elevate myself to to next level. I'm not disheartened nor disappointed, the field was total class and quality. I turned up with my A- game when nothing less than an A++ would have done. I just need to make that happen on March 25th for Ironman Melbourne.

On a more successful note, Sam scored a second place in his category for the second year in a row. (Only one slot for Kona but he wasn't chasing that anyway). Brilliant job and as I often say "I want to be like him when I grow up", he's an amazing athlete and an icon of our sport.

A big shout out has to go to team Malaysia, they all finished and peaked when it counted...At the awards banquet. The after race party in Phuket is second to none. There is nothing like it anywhere that I have ever experienced. It's so much fun and my fellow Malaysian's didn't let the side down.

And finally I found my A++ game by midway through the evening and discovered pole dancing skills that I never knew I had. Lesley suggests that I look really gay and I think she's right, I was indeed very "happy" haha.

A brilliant weekend that I then extended and went on to have a three day alcohol fuelled bender in Phuket before limping home and trying to shake the inevitable hangover.



Squirrel said...

Another wet race in Phuket during a supposedly hot weather season. Like the poll dancing picture. Saw the husband day care center when i was there the last time too. Was wondering if there is a wife day care nearby...

Mike said...

Great race report! You had a great time considering the scary, wet conditions.

JohnP said...

Great report - I thought for sure you were gonna crash lol :)

I know what that kind of bike ride feels like - congrats on keeping the rubber-side down! I hope nobody was seriously injured.

That's a great performance considering the conditions, but obviously still not enough. Kind of curious if you are getting enough/proper calories which causes you to hit the wall on the run?

Look on the bright side - by the time you get around to actually qualifying I will have qualified too - we can goto Kona together :) I won't be ready for another 5 years time so that sounds about right ;)

Keep at it!

Matty O said...

HAHAHA shocked you posted the gay picture! Although Bryan would follow up and say any picture of you is gay!

Great job man, just comparing those times from your other race puts everything in perspective.

Keep your mental strength! That is probably the hardest part in this sport!

Anonymous said...

One day,I hope can go support this Phuket tri.

Well done to your sub 5.