Half a decade since my last triathlon
I can’t say how delightful I was to make it through the swim last Sunday morning. 5 years is a long time and for those who have shy-ed away from triathlons due to life/career commitment, I feel you. I have continued taking part in races even when I was expecting my first child. When my eldest was 1+, that marked the last swim-bike-run before I eventually slowed down in triathlons to focus on other events ie run, duathlons and cycling events (apparently K.O.M events are my favourite. Have done 2 so far, and hopefully 1 more this weekend!!).
So there, it’s a matter of prioritising and being selective. And that I don’t need to justify everything which goes on under the sun. My friends who understand my priority appreciate that, and them too being caught up with life just get on with theirs. But of course, the regular hellos continues whenever I bump into my tri friends during training, races or any random occasion. I was just catching up on Monday (day after race ray) with an old friend in sports, Chin Chin Tan.
We bumped into each other at breakfast. Naturally the conversation will be defaulted to anything related to sports or our friends. We agreed that nowadays there are just so many races here in Malaysia that you can select which one to go to. Those days multisports races were scarce. Now there are many races in throughout Malaysia in different formats and distances– you can race back to back, one after another if that is what you intend to do. But of course, choose wisely and race with your head attached ! Not like a headless chicken !!
Signing up for the event
I am giving credits to Sangup Richard, my Komando friend who informed me about this challenge, and I thought… I have been training, why not give this challenge a shot? Like common tri races, normally the organiser would have 2 distance categories; sprint distance (750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run– typically), standard or Olympic distance (just double the sprint distance).
I planned to register for the sprint only to find out there is Olympic distance. Only. I was like…for real? Asked a friend if it’s doable for me given the training load I’ve been through the past couple of months and the weeks left to ready myself for this distance. I told him there is Olympic distance (OD) only, and asked if there is enough time (left) to train. He replied simply ‘Can’. And typical me said OMG it’s been crazy long ago since I did an OD, help!! (Who doesn’t mind a little bit of a drama). His reply just reminded me again that anything is possible.. He said, ‘TRAIN‘.
So there I was doing the most that I can since October 8th, for this event. It was simply a continuation of the training I’ve been doing all this while with adjustment to fit the time left and the race. With 2 kids at home by evening ( and the husband!), and out again in the morning, and the kids home on weekends, planning time to train is almost like planning the move to get that 🍭 when your mom’s not watching ! Just have to be extra creative in time management and some sacrifice here and there (and everything in between) ! Did a couple of rides in Putrajaya, Sempah, and the bulk of it unfortunately (or rather fortunately,) was on the trainer.
Traveled with kids on Saturday late morning. Mummies with kids below 7 can attest to how getting out of the house is a chore on its own. Husband works weekends, so I had to make do with that. Lucky Allah made it easy for me because the usual helper who sometimes babysit my kids happen to be available. There is no turning back! We were on the road, a bit of North-South expressway traffic before we finally made it to the race kit collection place in Tanjung Bidara Beach. Didn’t realize that the beach was just next to the famous Terendak Camp!
It was almost a historical drive down the road from Negeri Sembilan to Melaka. Checked out the old buildings, bridge and rivers which connects and divides the states, and the beauty of the surrounding where it is untouched– many traditional Malay houses still stands and many long narrow path leads to temples which I suppose have been around for a long time. Such historical landmarks should be preserved and never been given away to so called urban development. We should always be connected to our roots should we want to progress and succeed.
Race kit collection and race briefing
Nowadays I notice that participants don’t print their race confirmation slips anymore. Just flash out the phone screen and Walla, you’re good to go with your kit. Signed the waiver clause form, paid RM50 for timing chip deposit, and then collected my pack. The race kit was pretty basic but has all the essentials. Race number temporary tattoos, bike sticker, timing chip (uncle Chan, the co-organiser owns the timing system– as I understood it), the race tee,…and a cute Visit Melaka 2019 pin badge.. just about the smallest badge I’ve ever seen. Everything packed into a black string bag. And I was done.
Met Leng and his colleague (restocked some race stash from him), caught up with Barry, who’s now officially retired from racing at 27, and then while waiting for the race briefing to commence Chan came and said Hello. And then Amirul and Aiman. All my adik2 and partners-in-developing- multisports during our years as students. And there were we, reunited once more. Kak Suzie @ Ahmad Syazwan wasn’t around but we were hoping a more complete reunion the next day 😁😁
The race briefing was a short and sweet one. The army officer gave his best English briefing emphasing that the toilets and showers will be free for us, and that lunch will be free as well. Well, at least I thought it was funny! Ease the tense building up in me I suppose. I was just happy to be there and meet old friends, including those in the army ie Jusery Ghani and Zuhar (I over took him by seconds at Ironman Langkawi 2009). There will be 2 laps of swim in the shape of an inverted triangle/pyramid. Less about a 100m run to T1. 46km on the bike course. Amirul said it would be rolling towards the end. And a 10km run cut short by a few hundred meters (about 9.6km there about).
I didn’t or couldn’t catch on the water station but I trust that the army better be stocked and well-organised with the race course logistic. My observation was rolling the moment I drove into the race vicinity. Everyone was doing something related to race prep/organisation. My kids were of course excited to see pakcik2 soldiers in their respective uniforms ! Aminah couldn’t stop crying ‘Soldier!!!’ to them. Haha.. a little embarrassing but I let her have her moment. Minah ohh Minah…
Tertinggal goggles (left goggles at home lah!)
After all that was done, we headed back to our accomodation for a late check-in. Wouldn’t recommend you guys to stay here at Damar ‘resort’. (can’t complain cz last minute arrangement from my end). Early dinner at masjid tanah, Maghrib prayers at a new mosque we passed earlier on, and off to bed only finding me staring at the dark and waking up 2-3 times in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep after the 3rd time.
Usually I would prep my gears before sleeping ie sticking the bike sticker on the bike etc. But because I was just so tired the evening before I did it in the morning…and that was when I realised that my goggle was missing!
Convinced I accidentally left it at home and true enough after a few checks– it was at home.. unfortunately! Honestly, I’ve left other things before but not the crucial items…like the goggle !! Or maybe I did… Can’t exactly remember .. maybe one year I DID left my cycling shoes at home…anyways.. my hero saviours were around to help. Alhamdulillah !! Terima kasih (thank you) Aiman and Amirul for saving my life. Eventually used Aiman’s goggles. Meant a lot to me ok! Masuk la juga airnye (water did come in!!) but it was definitely better than nothing!
Had my breakfast before Subuh prayers. Had peanut butter sandwich and soy milk. I forgot I had my bananas. But the bread peanut butter and milk combo was good enough! Changed into my race wear, pakai telekung and waited for Subuh.. Placed all my items in the car. No plans to warm up on the bike ie. Ride to the start venue. So I drove. Parking was full by the time I reached the race venue, so we had to park at the air strip right before the camp entrance. Good decision by the organiser and an accomodative one too. Bila lagi nak park di army air strip kan?
Brought my bike and gears to the transition area. No bike checks or race number checks. So went straight to my rack. I wanted to do a short video so I headed back to my car and also to collect another small bag. Video below 😉😉
In the midst of all this race morning chaos, the only apparent thing was How shall I survive that swim? All that training doesn’t equate a 5 years not swimming for more than 1.5km in the pool what more in the open water. A few friends mentioned about the salt water crocs being spotted at the very water where the swim will take place. I know insyaAllah with proper safety checks, observation and water combing, the race course should be cleared from any danger manmade or natural. InsyaAllah. I trusted the army too in doing that job well. I just wanted to survive the swim and proclaim my own little record my first open water swim after so long.
Did a short swim warm up and to test those goggles again together with Aiman. Downed 1 gel minutes from race start. Still had time for a few photos with the UPNM alumni triathletes (nice to see you Shahril, and Thanks Kak Suzie for assisting me). Truly appreciate it. Felt at home again somehow and that did calm some nerves.
The guys started first.. and the countdown to female start was just too dramatic..old faces; Agnes, Pui San, Veron.. all so excited to start.. ! We watched in wary as the guys hit the water at their swim start. Lucky thing we started 3 minutes after them. Anyways..
Despite making in through the first lap.. and then second, it was generally quite a disastrous swim. Partly due the goggles as water kept sloshing inside the lens everytime I turned to breath and partly due to my own confidence. It would definitely be different when swimming in a calm wave free and pool with intact goggles!. But the swim course itself was reasonable because at least it’s not like swimming straight and having make a U-turn at the long end (IM Langkawi swim course was like that). The fact that at race start we knew it’s roughly 250m from 1 giant orange bouy to another and 250m to swim start eases the anxiety a bit…
Transition 1 (Swim to bike)
Managed a quick T1 alhamdulillah and gulped down 1 Weider in Jelly Energy In I got from Leng the day before, some water and off I went for the bike section.
The plan (read: as long as they’re not ‘water plans’!) was to go as strategised from my training routine as to save up on the legs for the run. So I stuck with that plan and maintained a regular cadence. The aim wasn’t speed for me for this race as this is my first 1 in 5 years. I managed the climbs and downhills well using previous techniques learnt as not to over exhaust the legs too soon. I was not on a tri-bike nor was I on aerobars. Just me and my machine from 2011. My Yellow Submarine is off-duty and taking just too long at the mechanic. And probably less suitable now as I am using this bike.
The Guerciotti which I am using fits me very well and adapting to any ride terrain comes so easily. And the fact I just got it serviced days before leaving for Melaka made it even more perfect. So a gratitude shout out to the guys in Cycle Studios.
I’m so happy that the gears shifts much more smoothly now. Sipped water about every 12 minutes. And concentrated on the maintaining the spin without depending too much on big heavy gears at all flats. I had a longgg way to go so don’t wanna waste them legs too fast too soon. I have another 10km run after the bike and I don’t wanna flunk on that. Eventually riding styles and strategies depend on what kind of outcome triathletes want at the end of the bike as well as making through the run section right after. It also has lot to do with adapting to the race course with efficient energy spending.
Amirul alerted me earlier it would be rolling towards the end, well it felt like it was rolling all at the earlier parts and towards the end. Made a few supportive gesture as I passed a few triathletes who looked like they were struggling, huffing and puffing on their bikes. I saw at least 1 triathlete pushing their bike possibly due to puncture. I think he did finish the race. Some repeated overtaking action took place with two other triathletes which I thought was cool. Eventually dropped them towards the end of the bike section as hills started to pop out at every bend !
Transition 2 (Bike to run)
Glad I chose my Salomon City-Trail running shoes. It’s light, has lock lace and my favourite support insole. I’m a flat footer (very slight arch of varying degree between the feet). But most importantly it’s light and that fits into the plan for a quick pace 10km. My legs didn’t felt super heavy but enough to make me feel that I have the system going and ready to roll on the next section. Helmets off, cap on, socks on, shoes on and off I went. I heard a participant behind me crashed just before the turn in to the transition area. Hope you are okay!
We ran in the back roads of the kampung (villages) adjacent to the Tanjung Bidara beach. The intersections were well marked I ran on unassisted pass those junctions until we came into a long stretch. Those who are about to finish their run were passing by me this time. I wasn’t looking where they appeared from just that after several kilometres there were no more runners on the other side. That means that the loop ends on a slightly different route but parallel to the beach.
The run was pretty lonely. Wasn’t pacing anyone as everyone was too far apart (and that I am at the back of any crowded bunch!). I was comfortable with my own pace and thats all that matter. I was beginning to feel the heat as it started to get hotter and hotter.. I was hydrating well and no signs of cramp alhamdulillah. The N8 energy gel was still with me. I had an extra stash in the form of a cream bun with me. Eventually let that go to Huzaifah who was around to support the the athletes (nice to see you Huzaifah !)
The last 2km was a killer.. bladder was full, and that time a marshall passed by on the motorbike offering me a bottle of ice-chilled water ! Took it, said thanks and took an ice Cold shower on the run. During the stretch before the last 2km I did feel it was getting chillier inside, but warm on the outside.. luckily it went away.. there were no shades at all (hence the ‘challenge’). Just scorching ! Eventually made it back around the small hilly roads leading to the race venue.
Passed the transition area, and last few meters to finish line. Mannn that was one long race…Passed the playground next to the transition area and I knew I couldn’t end this challenge without my 2 beautiful daughters with me. They are my heart and soul ! Called their names a times before eventually appeared from the playground. Kakak literally pulled my hands to run faster and said why mummy run so slow?? (cz they waited so long for me to finish !), While I made sure I had a strong grip on Aminah so that she won’t trip over as her kakak kept tugging me. The crowd at the finishing arch cheered as we made our way to the finish line and boy Wasn’t that the sweetest thing ever!! Thank you everyone who made put moment extra memorable at the finish line! I am not sure who presented the medal when we finished, but he was sweet enough to ask who shall he present the medal to. I said this one, pointing to my youngest daughter.
I was so happy I finished the swim, the race and with my family! Manage to achieve a sub 4 given the over distancing for both the swim and bike and hiatus from the tri-scene!
Time on watch: 3:58:51
Official results: 3:58:50
SBR split: Swim 1:01’41, Bike 1:49’28 and Run 1:07’41
SBR distance: Swim 1.8km, Bike 47km ++, Run: 9.6km
Position : 16/29 (Gen Pos), 12/19 (Cat Pos)
Happy I survived the swim alhamdulillah. Glad to meet everyone from the tri-community and mini reunion with beloved tri-friends, positive vibe throughout the race course and dedicated race organising standards by the organisers and committee.
Everyone came in full force to make the day a memorable one. Looking forward to my next run in-the-ocean ! Congratulations to all my old and new friends who took part in the Tg Bidara Challenge. Do spread the good reviews and hopefully ATM will open this challenge to the public again. Terima kasih ATM dan semua Yang terlibat dalam acara ini. Salam Tahniah !!
Post race video 😁
More photos below: