Monday, February 25, 2008

I Am IronMan.

It felt surreal.

I defeated myself.

Yah, i know, i'm corny.

After 8 serious months of training (running under the hot sun at 1.30pm, cycling countless hills, never swam more than 2km, waking up at 4.30am to run with my training partner Shazly), 2 road bikes, tonnes of give away gears from supportive friends, some sponsored gears and generous amount of supports from friends and family, especially the monkeys and of course wifey, it was all worth every single tears and sweat i shed. My aim is to swim 2 hours. Bike 7 hours and run, 7 hours. I could finish the race in 17 hours with 30 minutes in transition each. Anyway...

May i present to you, my Race.

Swim 3.8km - Drift. Stung. Stung.

Water was ultra calm in the morning. With the full moon just a few days ago, the tide was extra low (but still deep) and the under current was strong. I was really worried about the swim. Not clocking enough mileage in the swim was the main reason why i was worried. At 7.30am, the first horn went off and the Pros started swimming.

I was anxious to find out if my earplugs were properly plugged as i got big ear hole (not to be mistaken for the chinese loan sharks in local language, mind you) and that the goggles were safely in place. Jumped in, savoured the salty murky water of Kuah Jetty and by the time the age grouper started their race at 7.45am, the Pros were already out of sight!

At the signal of the horn, my heart pumped really fast and i somehow managed to press the start button on my watch.


The fury of hands and legs slapping the surface of the water. The excitement of the supporters cheering. The thoughts that this is the start of the race of my life.

I swam for my life.

And for my life, i swam.

I'll be frank.

I've not clocked enough swim mileage, infact, i only started swimming like a month before IM. I sort of "perfected" my own freestyle and ultra comfy with the strokes. But race day was a totally different swimming pool altogether.

Within 2 minutes in the water, i felt stinging sensation all over. It started with the arms. Then the chest. Then the tummy. The legs. The face. The cheek. The nose. The lips. It happened the whole 3.8km of the swim. One Commando was stung so bad he can't continue with his swim. Blocking the irritating stinging sensation which felt like 55 acupunture needles poking you randomly, my next problem was getting my swim bearing right. Strong undercurrent, at times, it felt like jellyfish between the fingers, drifted me off to the left of the swim course.

This is not happening. I switched to breaststroke. I slowly got my bearing right. Not helping as the goggle started to fog up and the only way to look is to tilt my head backwards and look from the bottom part of the goggles.

The bouy to mark the course was far and scarce once you passed the 200m mark. the undercurrent move some of the bouy away from the originally intended straight line.

I reached the u-turn in just under an hour and i know i'm "technically" on time. I looked straight infront and far far away was the sight of the Jetty. With a non moving landmark in sight, i switched to freestyle and swam like some survivor of a ship wreck towards the land.

And i finished the 3.8km swim in the calm looking sea infested with jellyfishes and water lices with strong undercurrent in 1:35:27!

And that was a personal best timing! (ya la, because i've notdone any swim more than 2km!)

I was obviously happy from the picture above, right? :):):)

Transition 1 (T1)

"172! 172!", the volunteers shouted and i had my bag within the next 3 seconds as i ran into T1, almost entering the ladies tent, actually.

Elated with my swim time, i went in and saw familiar faces. Hin Tong and Puzi was there. I took time to wear my socks. Make sure i got my helmet on. Take a few gulp of my homemade energy gel, took a few sip of water, went to toilet, put on sunblock (on only a portion of my, now half burned, half not burned), drank a can of sponsored RedBull, chat with the volunteers a lil and walked to the bike.

"Ee-Van Lim from Malaaaaayyyysiaaa!!", Maslan shouted and asked me to hurry.

I stopped and posed for pictures with the ardent supporters. That is as compulsory as doing the race itself!

My T1 time is 9:20. Long enough to finish one roti canai.

Bike 180.2km - Hot. Hot. Windy

I refrain from pushing myself over the first 45km. Fuelling up was my main priority and drinking enough to avoid dehydration was more important than clocking a good bike split. I finished one muesli bar while climbing up the LISRAM highway, which was a daunting climb at 55m above sea level. Sharp and Short.

I emptied my first bottle of organic homemade energy gel by the time i reached the 24km mark. That is a good 7 packets of PowerGel equivalent (well, if Powerbar had sponsored me, it would had been 7 packs of PowerGel instead. Hint.Hint@Powerbar ;-))

I finished an equivalent of 750ml of water/electrolytes every 10km. Forcing myself to drink and it help having the aero bottle which Shazly was so kind to loan to me for this race (again, thank you brother). I took another 3 bottles of liquid not because i want to drink it, but because i wanted the bottles. Hahahahah!

I finished the first 65km of biking in about 2:30 . Was feeling really good with no indication of fatigue or cramps. I decided to move into race pace and i managed to cover the next 55km in about 2 hours.

On my third loop of biking, i saw Shazly happily eating his lunch at the aid station. After the first loop, my fuelling strategy was to take a gulp of the energy gel every 30 minutes. Keeping in mind what Azwar said about me, that i can only finish the IM IF i eat. And ate i did. Every 60km i take one muesli bar. By then, i didn't bother chewing the bar but just bite it in my mouth, chew a few times and swallow it with a big gulp of water. I am just glad i did not choke. Too bad there wasn't any shop selling ABC (Air Batu Campur) along the way, or not that i saw it.

It's burger time!

and cam whoring time at the aid station

The final 60 was relatively harder as the afternoon wind got stronger, forcing me to spin on the bike rather than hammering it down to get the same speed and distance. That i believe helped to save my leg for the final 42km run.

I came in from the bike feeling alright at the time of 6:58:22. 1.5minutes faster than what i budgeted.

At the U-turn, thanks Rashid!

8 hours and 30 minutes later, it was only about 3.45pm when i enter Transition 2 or T2.

Transition 2 (T2)

T2 was less exciting than T1 because it was away from the crowd. Nevertheless, the hustle and bustle of the volunteers shouting the number that came in added more excitement.

At that point of time, i was really proud of myself. With almost 9 hours to spare, i could afford to walk the last 42km and still finish within the 17 hours cut off. But one has to beware as failing to finish 30km by 11.15 pm would cause him/her to be disqualified. I thought that was too strict of a ruling as it would deter the more average people like me suffer.

No one says it's easy anyway. I guessed everyone swallow that fact with a large cup of electrolyte.

I stayed in T2 and saw (in this order) Abu, Arif, Azmar, Shazly, Sofian and Bacin enters T2. Talked to them. Joked with them. Everyone was confident about the final 42km, it's really really do-able at that point of time.

IronMan Azmar

IronMan Abu

IronMan Bacin

IronMan Shazly putting on vaseline where the sun don't shine on

I managed to wash my legs, wear a fresh socks, put on the Adidas Supernova 7, went to toilet, rub vaselines where the sun don't shine on and changed to the Nike Pro stuff that was given to me 2 weeks before the race. I need something tight not to show my fat body, but to avoid chaffing. And lately, after losing some weight, my nipples seems to chaff. I tell you, it's painful, it's like all the jellyfish in Kuah water attack the area all at once. So, the only other way to avoid the nipples from bleeding and chaffing is to wear tighter clothings. Lastly, i wore the IronMan cap which i bought prior to the race day...

One by one, the all came into T2 and left. I waited for Shazly and even grabbed a Milo drink with him.

My time in T2 was a cool 27:40.

Hey good looking

Run 42.2km - Strong. Fun. Dark. Strong!

There it is. The final 42.2km The late afternoon humidity was a pleasant change from the early afternoon's heat and wind. i told myself that i must maintain my hydration strategy and eat only if needed. I bought along my half full energy gel bottle, should be about 3 more shots along with the run.

"Go Stupe!", i heard voices calling me. I've no idea who they were as there were simply too many people cheering everyone on!

I decided to take the run easy, i do not want to risk burning out at the final 10km. I completed the first 11km in about 1:20. pretty good pacing and timing. I still felt strong and body and mind were feeling great. The legs felt great with no indication of any possible blisters. The Supernova worked like a charm and the Nike Pro top dispersed all the sweat as expected. I saw many familiar faces. People i see during training. People i see during races. People i see that live by the motto that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

landscape before the night turns into day

With Jun Shen, which is also his first IM

Oh ya, lets not forget the supporters. They are there doing their own IronCheering. It is one thing to be racing for 17hours, but totally another thing cheering for 17 hours!

One Hunk with Three Babes

I finished my first 21km in about 2:40. That was really good timing i thought, as i've done the swim and bike prior to this. Still feeling strong, i walked minimal, mostly towards the aid station and right after i finished the water. I keep the spirit high and the legs moving. Hi-fiving everyone along the way (that i know) and encouraging those which overtook me.

4 hours into the run, i was feeling really hungry. I thinki ate like 10 muffins within 5 aid stations. No sign of any cramps and i was still coherent. I saw one uncle eating the sunblock as if it was Powergel, which i carefully told him what it was and he spit it back out (just in case i get punched by him). By now, the mind will be playing game with the body and the body refused to listen to the mind. I am just glad my head is still level (eventhough some say doing this race is totally INSANE).

With 10km to go, i told myself to just go for it. After stopping for a pee stop. being very careful not to rush it or risk the final 10km to be really painful (as in hitting the wall or whatever it is in marathon terminology, but this is not a marathon, this is IRONMAN).

With 2km to go, i begin to reflect on my journey.

The pain (of waking up at 4.30am)

The pride (of training)

The quitting (and giving up)

The sacrifices (both time and cash)

The love (of my wife and families)

The joy (of finishing)

The support (of friends and comrades)

The memory (of the late Zoob)

As i ran towards the finishing lines. The crowd was cheering. I raised my hand to my sides and pointed to everyone. Familiar faces cheering me on. Strangers clapping their hands. The crowd cheering. As i step onto the platform to the finishing line, i raise my hand in triumph. Almost crying.

With my personal best marathon time of 5:49:40, I crossed the line at 15:00:29

I Swam. I Cycled. I Ran. It was only a short 226.2 kilometers and i am IRONMAN.

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