Sunday, February 20, 2011

Body Inking : Work In Progress

I had wanted to get a tattoo since i completed my first Ironman race in 2008. It was like coming of age kinda thing for me. A tattoo as taboo as it may sound - made worse by the thoughts (back then, it sounded damn right) of putting the famed M-Dot logo onto my body.
There were many camps of thoughts when it comes to this. Afterall Ironman is a registered trademark that belongs to World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) and putting the M-DOT would make it no better than putting the "swoosh" or "three lines".
I decided then maybe finishing just one Ironman race might not justify this tattoo. After all, i am not going to live on just ONE glory.
I was not genetically gifted to do sports. no one in the family has any record of excelling in sports. I am definitely do not have the genetic advantage to do any sports. I suck at football and uses my hand more than my legs. I suck at rugby; never scored a try in my whole entire life playing it. I can't sprint and my long distance endurance sucks. When i did my first triathlon (PD Tri 2005), i know this will be the thing i will do long term - for as long as my body will let me.
Many asked why i want the tattoo. I am not sure what i will write after this justify it, or just plain "excuse" to get one.
When i crossed the line in IM08. It was a delirious experience. I did not finish the race among the top 50% and i was not the bottom 20%. In a race such as Ironman where there is really no prize for finishing (instead, we pay top money to race!), it is about the human spirit.
It is about the "I Can".
It is about changing IMPOSSIBLE to I'M-POSSIBLE.
The next two years saw myself consistently racing and involved with more triathlon races. I finished every race and as the guns went off in each of them, it was me against myself. Swim. Bike. Run. Repeat.
I finished the next Ironman in 2009 with some drama.
It wasn't until Ironman 2010 that i really had learnt to appreciate my own health and body. By then, i was very sure that i will want to ink myself.
Decisive point was when i struggled during PD Tri 2010. It also marked my 5th year in Triathlon. I marked my journey this far. How despite at the very brink of passing out - i pushed on. I had found my calling. Swim. Bike. Run.

Corny. I know.

So. I begin scouring the Internet for ideas. Skipping everything M-Dot though i found out i really like that just might make me compromise my decision.
I decided that this wasn't what i wanted after making the appointment on my birthday last year. I do not want to carry a "brand". Then, i saw a SBR logo on my tri-mate's bike.
But how would it looked like on my calf and with possible tribal-like interpretation?
It will be something i will live my life with. I do not want to mess it up by making the wrong decision.
It has to breath Swim - Bike - Run. It has to have "life".
But this will be too simple. Perhaps there might be magic in K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple, Stupid). This rendition promises little pain. Done in 30minutes. Max.
"But i raced a whole freaking 17hours, three times over!", i told myself.
I then saw this on someones arm. Another person that breathe Swim Bike and Run. Just like me. I hate this. I hated the rock. I hated the lifeless crank. I hated the wings on the shoes.
Armed with these images, i reported myself to Borneo Ink. Wifey has had her two previous tattoos done there by the sifu himself, Eddie.
My tattooist would be Simon, Eddie's brother. They have been in business long enough and are well established. What draws me there was that they are clean. Everything are sterilized, even the chair/bed you will lie down in. Lina is the younger sister to both Eddie and Simon. They are wonderfully fun people. Entertaining and (if you see LA Ink) makes you feel really comfy.
I showed Simon the photos above. He was not in favor of anything with logo. Good. That's a start.
That also left us with just the last image.
Dauntingly, I told him what i do not want and he then went to work.
about 30minutes later, he showed me the sketch.
He gave the whole rendition another life. My smile must had caught his attention and after a few fine-tuning and my last request to include "140.6" into the artwork which he replied "I see what i can do".
The artwork received thumbs up from myself and wifey. It WILL cover my whole calf. It WILL be in color.
"Two sessions lar bro", Simon said.
It was then it begin to sink in just how much work will go into this tattoo.
I was then prepped while Fin (the parlour assistant, similarly to Yoji from the LA Ink fame) prepared the stencil.
Stencil was then transferred to my skin. I was asked to take a look.
I was smiling.
This will be what i want. No regrets.
I then laid down on the bed. In full anticipation. I will be inked for the first time.
With the heavy buzzing typical of the tattoo machine and images of needles moving at lighting's too late to pull out as it sank into my calf.
Not really. The buzzing bothers me more than the slight feeling that felt like my hair are being pulled out one by one.
Simon worked on the outline to capture all stenciled image.
It was surreal as i see my skin raised from the outlining. Yeap. Definitely too late.
Simon then started to work on the chainring. And the pain/burn starts to set in as the skin was repeatedly punctured to insert the coloring.
You can already see the skin raised and inflamed. At this point of time, i recieved sms from Adeline which read:
"I also conceptualizing....your pain".
I believe Mac was laughing in the background too. Hahaha!
It was already almost the second hour i was there by the time Simon finished the chainring.
The tattooing continued with Simon shading the wave/water. The sensation turned into searing burn type as the skin was continuously punctured at about the same spot for shading. I thought the worse was over when he said he will be coloring them.
The wave/water received full force coloring. It was like i fell from the top of Carnival in Kiara to the bottom of the car park. Each time with the stones cutting and bruising the bruises. It was like falling from a roadbike at 30km/h. The roadburn.
"Too late to do black and white bro", Simon jested and obviously know i was in some sort of pain.
I kept my composure. This can't be worse than wifey giving birth. Can't be worse than the feeling i had running on 7mg/l of blood iron.
After 3hours 30mins, the tattoo was sort of 50% completed. Perhaps. Maybe less. The wave/water still has more coloring to do. There are still empty spaces between some of the lines. The shoe was not touched. I am to come back in two weeks' time.
Can you see the shading of the wave and water? Simon has also added more "white" onto the chainring to make them 3D-like or lend some depth.
I was very impressed and happy with what came out from this. The 140.6 miles was at the rear of the shoe in a way i did not expected it to be. Impressed!
I will have to return in 2 weeks' time to complete this in another 2 or 3 hours session. And of course, i will be eagerly posting the completed tattoo here again for all of you to see.
Now that the skin is raw and felt like a really bad sunburn (to the touch), i am just very excited about the next session. 
Those with tattoos are right. It's addictive. 
It is as addictive as my Swim Bike and Run!


  1. Are they still is Hartamas?? Mine was done by Lina about 8 years ago.

    Can't wait to see the completed tattoo.

  2. Terence - they still there. Lina was working on someone's arm and calf yesterday. :)

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  4. I've always thought of getting a tattoo, but like you, I spent a lot of time thinking about it...good that you managed to decide on one, and a good one at that!

    The design is great ...definitely something that is very "you". :)

  5. Some how I just feel touched by the image, i think everybody in Tri scene will. Suddenly I am fired up to do another Ironman (Dont worry Tini, will do it after we settle down k).

    Nice artwork indeed, it is an identity, a good one my friend. Tak sabar nak tunggu siap. WAY..WAY better than putting the ironman logo.

  6. Josh - not an easy decision, not so much about the pain but the "commitment" to something you will live with for the rest of you lifetime. It is NOT just about getting inked, but with a reason that i can justify.

  7. Kev - i will still wrap/be among the last 20% of racers from the back. Not gonna make me faster, but at least a bit gaya lah.

  8. Bink - bro. Funnily, that was how i felt too. I been wanting to go out and SBR today. iM can wait, kasi kawin dulu. :)

  9. Barath - how u bro? No, me not yet pai kia. Kluang still safe.

  10. cool gila!

    in a slightly different angle, you found PASSION.. you embraced it.. and you basked in it's warmth..

    well done bro..

  11. Bandit - you will get to see it for 72hours or more when we are racing SAC. :D