Monday, April 29, 2013

Xterra Malaysia 2013 : Race Report

An A-race is a race where an athlete mark it as the race that they will push 100% and perform, a race where all training and preparation will be put to test with a good result expected from the end of it.
Xterra Malaysia is my A-race
Well until the race start, that is.
Race prep the day before. All Ready To Rock And Roll-er!
T-3hours to Race
Woke up at 4am. Grab hold of my Perpetuem powder, mixed it with water and brought along for my convoy with Hin Toong. We were to meet at 4.15am at Edwin's place (Joo Ngan Son) for safety reason as there is a 24-hours restaurant next to it. I was late and Hin Toong pushed off first, calling to tell me he will wait for me at the Petron Puchong. 
Perpetuem Powder. 
My fault really for taking a bit longer than planned to leave. I was just being paranoid about leaving anything behind. We got to Putrajaya at about 4.45am and we were the first car parked at the open car space behind the Watersports complex. We got the bike out and took everything needed for transition and headed to the race area. It was still pitch dark and I found myself placed at the far end of the transition area. 
Yeah, I was that early
The Organiser of Xterra Malaysia (Radius International) has made a very good approach to the transition setting up - they mixed the age group and sex together. There is absolutely no way for you to know who you will be up against. 
Luckily, my spot has a spot light to make photo taking possible
You see, usually when you are out of the water, you scan around to see who in your age-group is still not out yet. With this never know and you are forced to get out and get it all done as fast as possible. 
My Transition basket. KISS.
The transition basket was arranged in the simplest manner. Everything I need is here. A "Take-And-Go" concept. I am aiming for a good transition time and I have my focus ON. With the transition set up, next would be the compulsory body marking. It is a ritual by itself. For first timer, body marking initiates you as a triathlete.
2ndSkin and #224
Doc Yap
Jacui Slack, Pro, GBR
Unka Leong
Hin Toong
Bring it on.
I must apologise in advance that this posting will be devoid of first-person-view photo as i made a very hard decision not to race with one. Photos you below are courtesy of friends that has came and support the race. 
Swimming 1.5km 
The sky started to brighten by 6.45am and the MC has announced that all participants to be at the water start area. For some of you that wonders, the water in Putrajaya is clean (where we swam) with the organiser engaging an environmental monitoring company to run some water quality test (particularly for patogens). I jumped in for a moment to get myself warmed up a little. Got out from the water and the horn went off! Race is ON!
The swim for Xterra was in a "box" configuration. 2-loops of 750m each. Big blue bouy were placed at the intervals and everything look perfectly fine. Well, they always will be when you are above water level.
Blue line : Swim course
I got into the swimming groove very well. Strokes for strokes and I knew I was at my usual leisure pace. An estimated 40mins to cover the 1.5km would be expected. The plan was to take the first loop easy and away from the main pack and go all out in the second. The first loop was completed without any issues and as I turned into the second loop, the morning sun was somewhere above the horizon and the reflection sort of blinded me - I lost sight of my sightings and started to swim in a zig-zag manner. I started to do the 6-stroke-1-sight exercise to get my bearing right again and that did cost me some time. But it was a drama-less swim. I know my swim is not my strongest point but I was very happy i finished the whole 1.5km with only front crawl/freestyle. An achievement by itself. 
Is it tea time yet?
I was actually quite behind in the race!
 When i exit the water, i realised that I forgot to start the Garmin 910XT Multisports mode. So, my swimming time on Multisports was not recorded. Bummer. I then spent the run back to my bike to T1 basically getting the watch to start the Multisports mode.
"Wei! Why keep looking at your watch?" I heard Rupert shouted.
I estimated that I should had spent close to 45minutes in the swim. Looking around as I ran to my bike, i knew I was pretty "behind time". Bummer.
Tippy toes...
The bike rack, as you can see in the photo below...were pretty...empty.
Keep moving
Transition is where many people can make mistake and spend more time than they should Chee Hon, which captures these photos below, showed my "usual routine" when going from swim to bike. I have this playing in my mind every time when I exit the water. It is crucial to practice this and have switch on the mental note to get this done as fast as you possibly can.
First, the ever important sunglasses. Looking cool (and staying cool) is absolute. Plus, you don't wear sunnies after helmet, you waste time trying to slot the earpiece in. Take note.
Then you wear your shoes. I went sockless for this race and peppered talcum powder into the shoes. It's magic lubricant to get a wet feet into the shoe in an instant. Shoe lace already tied to the tension i wanted. Slip and Go.
Then get the helmet over the head. Buckle up.
Then put on the race belt (LAVA wording) and because I am riding a mountain bike...I get to color coordinate my gloves
Gloves ON.
As expected, no one should bitch about having to carry the bike over a stairs out of transition. I felt it sort of level the playing field a little bit.
My bike is 12.5kg heavy.
But it felt light with the cheering that was done!
Always carry your bike over your shoulder, you run faster that way
See how much easier to run up the stairs with the bike higher?
Once allowed to cycle, jump over the seat and pedal away!
In that short instance, I caught up with two participants
My total Swim+T1 time took 41:55. I am pretty impressed with my self having to only use 2:05 in T1. That's out of water, to bike, to kit up, take the bike up the stairs and start cycling out of T1. I was ranked 129 out of 163 participants. 

Mountain Bike 30km
I crank up the bike and hammered down to chase as many people as I could. I know I have the skillset of being able to handle the bike a bit better than before. This is after attending the Zero2Hero class. Never had i felt that much better and putting the skills to practical saw me catching up and overtaking many that has exited the water before me. Everything was super fine with me gaining speed and gaining ground then due to my own mistake, i followed a bunch of the participants and missed the correct turning. That was despite the Race marshall installed no less than 5 (it was 6 actually, i counted it on my second lap) signages. 
Yeap, that added an extra 1.5km or about 7 minutes of the total time
Having tried the race course before, I had the advantage to know what will come my way. I was prepared for it and with the recently installed Schwalbe tyre combo, the grip and speed was just perfect. I knew the I have to concentrate and push my way around PCP and that will make or break the cycling league. I started to overtake more participants and the downhill sections were obviously my advantage as I roll down the declines with ease. Everytime I see someone upfront, I will let them know verbally and thank them as I overtake them. Remember, they do not owe you any favour and likewise, if someone faster is coming behind me, i would have to yield for them.
Exiting PCP the first time, We had to get over to the other end of Putrajaya. By then, i bumped into the front pack judging by their descending skills and speed on the bike. I knew my chance was there.
Pushing through the first lap around PCP
The race continue as we cycled through and towards the STP in Putrajaya. That is at the fringe of Precint 20. There was where the first section on "unrideable" happens and you have no choice but to carry your bike over your shoulder and up the steep slope. As a bonus, a recent tree that has fallen due to bad weather blocking your way.
The guy in black looked like he is ready to throw his bike over
Spend your energy wisely, sometimes it is good to carry and run, at times, pushing makes sense too
 From there, we need to cycle down and up and over another steep hill and cross over to this side of the road were a smooth but longer steep drop awaits adrenaline junkies.
This is where it gets really exciting and mentally stressful if you can't descend decently
Keep your butt off the saddle and to the back. Traction and modulate your brakes! Do not lock them out.
If you are not careful at the bottom, you will endo as you get excited about clearing the drop
Time to pick up speed again
The next section is a field where you might not think twice about cycling through. It looked like any field kids would play football in during weekend. Well, this section has gain the notorious Rump-Shaker award among the participants. It is impossible to sit down and cycle through smoothly, even if you are on full-sus. The ground is bumpy as if someone tilled perpendicular to your movement direction.
All 1km of it
The bike league continue with us re-entering PCP via the route we exit. This time, it is to cycle all the way up to the pondok at PCP. Technical easy trail and you would need to keep in mind to crank at the right gear. I've seen too many participants cranking up on grannies here when they should had dropped to a heavier gear to gain speed and balance.
Climbing up, keep your body to the front. The tires need traction there!
Cranking it up!
A little bit more!
Immediately after this small climb is downhill all the way to exit PCP. Done correctly, it is one smooth flowing ride. Miss the line, you will tumble all the way down with bruises.
Finding the line
Keeping the line
Clearing the line
Upon exiting PCP, we had to clear a road crossing and hop over the road kerb. I was really excited as I managed to get 15km done in 50minutes. Above my own expectation and the legs felt super good. I cleared the first kerb and disaster happened as I tried clearing the second one as the rear tyre landed squarely on the edge of the kerb - exploding the inner tube immediately. I had my first puncture. 
Godamit. I was making really good time, that was despite getting lost the at the beginning of the bike!
I spend the next 15minutes fixing the flats. I inspected and saw my rim was dented as well. Shucks, one item to change after the race. I never did expect a puncture. It's rare when you ride mountain bike. It happens and usually it is just bad judgement. This rear wheel puncture was proof not to rush through the kerbs. Continued cycling and had to make up lost time. Everyone that I overtook earlier has overtaken me back again. I know I am losing position and had to step it up. 
Must remain calm.
I cycled and begin to gain ground back again. Toward the trail right before it enters the vicinity of Precinct 6, we have to go through a small plantation...I spotted a fresh fronds (palm oil branch) along the trail and told myself not to roll over it.
And i rolled over it.
Front tires rolled right at the thorn and I knew what's going to happen, after less than 15minutes since the last puncture, I had another puncture. 
What luck.
Remain clam? 
I carried two tubes for the race. Unlike me as I usually only carry one. I had one in my tritop back pocket and one strapped around my handlebar stem, secured using Velcro. A trick i learnt from Kenny Kwan just two days before the race. 
Rewind - Rupert captured me stuffing a tube into my back pocket.
I could had spent another 15minutes trying to fix the puncture and getting the tires up to pressure. More importantly, checking if my rear is holding on well due to the slight dented rim. By then, it was already past the 1:45 timing and I lost estimated 30-35mins of moving time. 
I knew by then It will be too late to catch the front pack and I had to fight harder to get back upfront. 
I pushed through the second loop and this time, knowing where to go and not ending up taking the extra turn, i blasted through the kampung, entered and cleared PCP, got over the fallen trees, down the rump-shaking field, back up in PCP, sped through the same route, taking extra care over the two area i had punctures, pushed through the last trail before entering T2.
And i knew my inner thigh has taken a huge beating and the instance I dismounted...yeah. The muscle seized.
Harden The Fxxx Up Stupe. HTFU.
2:26:34. Position 83/163. Blasting through transition and managing the muscles pulling on both inner thigh. 1:31. Unhappy. Could had been a sub-2 bike.

Trail Run 11km
As I climbed the stairs up out of T2, I know i had to keep running and not walk. My strong point is the run. How do I run with the muscles seizing up? I risk not finishing. I can't not finish. This is my A-race. 
It was really a mental game. One that you bite your tongue and shut you mind to just keep moving. I stopped at every water station to shower and to cool down. Stuffing ice up my tri-shorts. Letting the ice numb the pain. It worked. I picked up speed on the run. But it was below my usual racing speed. It was all i can afford to push. 6:00 pace. 6:30 pace. Too slow. 
Running turn into jogging. 
I saw many people in front of me on the run. Those that i managed overtake on the bike. Those that already on their way to finish their race.
Then, there were the staircase that the organiser built.
A 3-steps structure with each steps at least 2-feet high. Talking about gaining elevation in shortest time and distance possible.
Then there were the rubber plantation terrace.
Then the fallen trees that was oh-so-painful on seized muscle to climb over.
Damn I love this sports.
The run was two loops and that would meant climbing the stairs structure 4-times and over most of the obstacle twice. Everyone has to do it. The playing field was level. If it is tough for me, it is tough for everyone else too (maybe not the Pros).
Keep It Going!
I showered at every opportunity I can get
I finished the first lap in about 40minutes. A leisure "jog" on any other day - only differences was the effort was the best I could give.
I see many started walking. I have to continue. Can't stop.
I went for the second loop, and never felt happier that I will soon finish the race.
Last 800m
I had Pui San and Rupert cheering me on towards the last 200m. I was still running and keeping the pace. It was too late to give up. Too early to take it easy.
Should I sprint? Nah
Must maintain the pace
It was a slow slow run...
As I turn into the lane to the finishing line, the cheering from the crowd drove me on. You can be forgiven for thinking I "won".
And...the story begins...
Soon KT capture the finishing video. 4:32:23. Two punctures that threw my A-race away. 
And it was a freaking good race.
I was greeted by Sean and Eunice. No better way to have the organiser welcoming me back. I was handed the timing slip. Yes, the race timing minus timing chip!

I finished the race in 74/163 overall, 17/41 for my age group and 66 out of 145 male participants. It was a very "average" results for me, despite the A-race billing. I guess there are lessons to be learnt here and I know I can only do better.

The official timing was later shown on the website below and I gained a spot ;-) So, officially, I am 73/163, 16/41 and 65/145. Someone inside there perhaps DQ.
Official Results
My run was 47/163. Could it has been better overall for me result wise? Definitely. But I'll take this and work to improve it 16 folds.

- Superb race course. The biking and running course has everything you want in a world class trail. Those that has doubt (including myself) that Putrajaya can hold an Xterra race has got to race one themselves to see why. Oh, that would be next year ;-)
- Great support stations - including the extra water station on the bike as the weather got hotter than expected.
- Regarding the water station, thank you for the ice cold water and the ice!
- impressive "timing system" that has no timing -chip. One less thing to worry about aka lost timing chip and trouble of returning the chip to get back deposit ;-)
- World Xterra officials out on the race course to cheer participants? I don't even recall the Ironman WTC doing that! Reinforced my believe that Xterra Triathletes are the "more fun" people!

- A more secured transition area. Outsiders were seen within the transition and they should be kept out. Danger is spectators crossing the transition and the participants run into them, injuring both.
- Not enough dirt. Then again...not the organiser's fault. It did not rain the day before!;-)
- More technical course. I need to put my new found skills to good use ;-)

I got nothing bad to say about the race on Sunday and you can see the above last two were just my own thoughts. While I did suffer two punctures, I believe many went through the same too. It is what added to the race excitement and also unpredictability. Even the Pros has their ups and downs. Jaqui Slack were leading the women's field when she had two punctures. So, things like these happen. I just have to HTFU and keep moving.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the organisers, Radius International, together with the MyCEB for making this happen. Special shout out to the wonderful people such as Sean Chee, Eunice Lee, Dave Spence, Darcy Steinhardt, Kenny Kwan, Aslan and everyone that has helped to make the race course amazing. I know how much work it takes to set the course having involved in Xterra 2009 Kuantan. Thank you Sponsors and also the awesome volunteers that made the race possible. See you all at the next Xterra Race.

Stay Dirty.

My race on Garmin 910XT
Swim: Not recorded :( Did not switch on the Multisports mode.

Thank you to my Sponsors 2ndSkin Asia, Skechers Performance Malaysia and Hammer Nutrition. For this race, I was geared with the Garmin 910XT, Skechers GoTrail (superb grip in all condition) and fuelled fully (and strongly) by Hammer Nutrition Malaysia.

ps - see this awesome t-shirt? 
That's me running testing the t-shirts up
It's for sale at at RM69.00. It is made from the Vaporlite material that are Ultralight, Ultracool and Ultracomfortable. And no, you don't need to complete an offroad triathlon just to wear this. 
Wait up for my review on this Vaporlite T-shirt soon.