Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya Race Report

My first "A" race for the year. I signed up for the Ironman Bundle in October 2013 and it has been training for me since. 26 weeks into the training was the Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya. With countless mileage clocks, time spent, loads of sweat (and pain), investment in terms of gears and race fees - it is not ending yet.
The 70.3 marks the first "check point" to what has been invested and it serves as both an "A" race and "fine tune" race.
Or that was the plan.
Cutting it to the conclusion, I went in with an expectation. I would be lying if I said I did not have any. I know I will finish it, and I have intention to clock a Personal Best. Time to beat is 6:15 done in Desaru in 2007. Nevermind i might be younger back then.
And to wrap up the whole episode of no-performance, I had cramps right at the 2nd and 3rd toes of my right feet. And it has to happen as the gun goes off in the water.
Now, having put all these "disclaimers" early in the post, I can concentrate on sharing my personal experience of the 70.3 at Putrajaya.
Ironman brand made a return to Malaysia
The last of the brand presence in Malaysia was in 2010. The sad departure of the most affordable Ironman race, which marked the last long distance "Ironman brand" race for me. No doubt there was the Desaru Long Distance races (another story for another blog entry).
The organisation of the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), the license holder for the Ironman distance triathlon race brought along a new level of competency and has set a bar higher for the local organisers in time to come. You have to be there to experience it. With 1,500 participants registered (not inflated, mind you), the atmosphere was electrifying. With Craig "Crowie" Alexander being the star of the show, it is also sad that the event marks the end of his illustrated racing career in the Iron distance race. Kind of sad that only now the triathlon community (and general public) knows who "Crowie" really is. Would you have imagine if Chris "Mecca" McCormack come too? Or how about Chrissie Wellington? Legendary.
T-1 to Race Day
The race actual started at T-2 aka Friday, March 11. Unfortunately, I can't peel myself from work (rather, no chance to do so) and decided to concentrate on getting my gears in place, and playing the mental note on my nutrition. For the benefit of those without Facebook and/or Instagram, this was how my T-1 morning looked like.
Packing for Picnic, they say.
The whole preparation for the race proper started a week before with proper tapering and refuelling. It is a well calculated and executed activity and essential to ensure final race prep. This is my sharing, which I've done on Instagram and Facebook. I am replicating it here so others may also learn and use it as base to fine tune their own personal requirement.
Nutrition. These was what I brought, and I had extra at race finish. Go with extra as insurance
Sorted what i want to wear, will go one same tritop and shorts, decided not to use Kraftfit thight as i want some cushioning for 90km under hot sun. 

Swimming with Aquasphere Kaiman and re-treated with anti-fog, and my earplugs.

Biking using Spyder Helmet and Agent sunnies, Giro Tri-shoe, Orbea Ordu 2007. Both tires changed. Going full Victtoria (tubular). Higher tpi and thicker for better puncture resistance.

Running with Skechers GoRun3 with a half-cap (2XU), and the must have Spyder Agent sunnies as i am expecting a hot 12noon sun scorching down.

Garmin 910xt will be the trusted time and speed keeper. 
Athlete Check In
The process started with you signing off the indemnity form. Basically release the organiser should anything happens to you, death included. So, if you aren't ready to do it, best to weigh your (final) option here.
First step at Athlete Check In  -Indemnity form
Then you move to the check in counter where your details are checked and displayed on a tablet for verification. How is that for embracing technology?
Prepared for the showdown
Once you are done, the volunteer will stick a tag around your wrist. This will be the identification that you have agreed and checked-in for the race. However, if you do not check your bike in the same afternoon, you are not considered to be racing the next day.
tip : always keep one finger space off the tag. Your arms will swell due to edema over longer races and you don't want the tag to cut into your skin. I placed a finger over my wrist while the volunteer stick it on
Then you proceed to the next counter where you will be given the timing chip. The details is again verified against the screen. DO check in case you land into a wrong category.
OK. Good to go!
I then walked around the race expo and visited the much awaited Ironman merchandise section. Many used to buy these in foreign currency, it was good to see these items sold at local currency (but at international pricing).
nicely priced and same with some branded visor. I pick this anytime (which I did, two of them)
Sticker, magnet, mugs...can i have it all?
Oh yes!
The race briefing was done via video and in an endless loop. What was better was Doof, the bean bag manufacturer joined in the fun and placed them so everyone could chill while going through the briefing.
Comfy and even the wheel agrees
The race briefing was most useful as from the recording, i found out that bib number while biking is optional. That meant I don't need to use it until the run. If that was indeed true, it marks my first time racing on the bike without a bib! Nice as it allows the pockets at the back to be used and not having the bib blocking and flapping as you charge down the road.
Testing the wind trainer (and an excuse on the bike)
Yong of QuickSports Malaysia was there with his wonderful collection of QR bikes and triathlon specific gears. I am glad I left my credit card at home that day.
Brooks and Compressports were two of the other sponsors
As I collected my packs on bike rack day, I had stick the bike number on my bike and helmet. The Sticker pack made me feel like a small boy again. It's pretty cool getting sticker and bib made specifically with your number and name on it. Damn cool.
The race pack did not have much items but I was happy it was devoid of pamphlets that otherwise will be thrown away creating rubbish.
Here you go!
Toughest to stick due to the twist and turn on the seatpost

 As it rained heavily during the athlete check in, my bike was drenched and I took the free bike service by GH Bike (Specialized) for a quick tune and re-oil. Thank you team!
Long line, but thank you!
 Immediately after, I headed to the bike racking. It was at the parking sport next to the Monumen Alaf Baru or Millenium Monument.
Going to Market
I bumped into my colleague/project manager that was working a a technical official. Nice to see familiar faces!
I was asked to demonstrate that the brakes were working and then cleared for entrance to the transition area. Now, when Uncle Chan say there are 1500 participants, Ironman organiser showed us how 1500 participants looked like.
Does make some of the local triathlon races looked suspicious with their numbers of participants
The transition lanes were well marked with overhead high signage. If you miss your transition area, you got yourself to blame!
Racking the bike by the brakes for overnight storage
A nice touch was that the bike rack has your name and number too!
two nice sharp bike that are more recent flanking my old TT bike
Once the racking was done, it was time to walk over to the finish line and soak up the (soon) atmosphere.
The whole show exhibited why this event is truly WORLD CLASS. I have to agree and it does make my entrance fee worth it!
Then, it was a stroll to swim start. Calm water.
But it is always calm, before the storm.
Race Day
This is it. Woke up at 4am and prepped some simple food including two tablespoon of coconut oil and ensuring I have all my nutrition packed and ready to go. The drive to Putrajaya took 45minutes without any traffic and I arrived at 5.15am, parked and before I know it, the Transition area opened and was a hive of activities.
Too bad I did not bring in my camera
Rules per organiser was that we are only allowed to bring in race items. Meaning, the transition area MUST be kept clean and simple. Worked well for me as My approach to Transition has always been KISS, or Keep It Simple, Silly. My setup was simple enough that I can grab what I want and "go". The bike rack saw 5-bikes/ section. A bit tight if you ask me. Luckily, the neighbours were friendly. 
Unbelievable, this time around, i decided to clip my shoes onto the pedal. My effort to keep the transition even more simple. Running and walking with cleat shoes is tough - more so if the shoe is new and you will tend to try ensuring the rubber portion are not worn out as much as it should on first use. ;-) With that done, we headed out of Transition and towards the baggage storage area. 
Love the signage
Old Puteras and Super-Puzi
One tip if you are as practical as me. Get one of those large Ikea bag as your transition bag. No one would WANT to take that bag because it's cheap and hideously colored. And if take, you can spot them 500 meters away
What's with the hold up?
The swim was in "waves". Age group being separated and sent off separately in 5-minutes interval. My age group (35-39) has the largest participants and that caused the group to split into two section of 2 waves each (total of 4 waves!). I was unfortunately slotted at the second last wave, just before the Relay swimmer.
An hour long wait
Age group signage and cap color denotes your starting group
The wait was seriously long. Not helping with the VIP (i heard) arriving late, causing the whole race to be delayed by additional 15minutes.
Are we, there, yet?
Next year, we picnic k?
When it was finally my age group and wave's turn, it was already close to 8.30am. The sun will be out by the time we are done with the swim - and that meant most of us will be cycling under the hot sun. No issues there for me as I went prepared with weather conditioning.
Into the den y'all.
As we were walking into the last holding area, an expat that reads my blog came up to say hello. "I gave up teh tarik after reading your blog". I must say I am impressed with him. Check him out next to me. I looked so out of place not even being as toned as he is.
Man-boobs vs Pec. I lost, boob's down.
Right after I jumped in, the race started
Swim 1.9km
I jumped into the water and the horn (START) went off! It must had taken a few of them still on the jetty poontoon by surprised. I started my Garmin 910XT and swam off.
The swim start was to be deep water start. I hate treading water. With only 6.5km swim mileage done in 26 weeks, I know this will be a mediocre timing. It could be a hindrance to my overall timing and effort to get a PB. I wasn't scared of the swim (or it's condition), I was more worried of taking too long. And then, as I started the full stroke - the toes on the right feet tighten up and curled upwards. Cramps, on the small toes? WHY?
Needless to say, the rest of the 1875m of the swim was a battle of not letting the toes seizing up and an effort to maintain a sighted swim. The buoy were placed about 100m from each other, but it disappeared once you are in the water. The view ain't too good when at water level. I know I must had went off course at least twice, as I bumped into the kayak once and was whistled to change course the other time.
The dream to do the whole 1900m open water front crawl comes to an end as the toes gets tighten up every 8 strokes. The survival "breaststroke" comes into play and I know that messed up my Garmin tracking as the satellite signal goes missing after a while, and restart again due to changes in air-water medium (with the Garmin staying underwater longer, thus reducing the GPS capture capabilities).
On the last U-turn, I was just happy the swim was coming to an end. It's time to let those legs go. But will the cramping toes, hold up?

look darling, my fingers are like prune now!
Running into transition, I played the mental video of me grabbing what I need first as I reached my bike. As you can see, my 55minutes in water has resulted with the whole transition to be pretty empty. In fact, all my neighbours were gone.
First, Nutrition. Nom Nom Nom
Then drink water and hydrate (and swallow those Hammer stuff). Pretty good pose by the way Stupe.
Then you put on those cool shades from Spyder
Then, because you are bald, you need a sweat band or risk sweat blinding you for 90km. Hey, Who is that official?
Opps, Photo-bombed! Hi Esther!
As you can see, I was ready to go after i strapped my helmet and buckled it. You can see the transition area only has my shoes, cap and bib hanging. Nothing more. 
Running out of transition barefoot, I know the next task was the "flying mount" - just don't fall!
Always a first time to do things. :D
I went off immediately after wearing and strapping my shoes. The cramps at the toes lingers on and I need it to tide over. Some cramps end in a few minutes, some for hours. For me, come what may, there is no failure, just excuses!
Bike 90km!
Most of my training revolves around the bike and the bike trainer. Aero position is very much a muscle memory so is spinning at 70-90rpm. I begin the cycling soon after i got to the highway. Speed bumps at the first 500m were dangerous. My bottle dislodged once and I had to stop and pick it up. I was just glad I wasn't going too fast that i roll over my own bottle and skid all over the road. The first 16km was as expected until we were diverted into the motorbike lane. This section requires rider to be out of aero for safety reasons and no overtaking was allowed. However, the route passes through three tunnels and at the second tunnel, I saw drinking bottles all over the exit of the tunnel. I know someone or perhaps a few had crashed at this area....
Chasing others at Cyberjaya
I started to over take a number of cyclist and catching up on some slower riders from other category. The deficit I made during the swim is slowly being eaten up as I noticed cycling at between 32km/h to 45km/h.
Aero position is only useful if you STAY there.
At the first water station circa 26km, I stopped (actually stopped fully) to refuel. I figured out I won't be any faster and took a bottle from the volunteer, put it under my armpit and the position accidentally caused my Garmin to "lap", which meant, the Multisports mode went into "Run". 
Chasing the pack
I then decided to reset the 910XT and re-start the multisports. Looking at the watch, I know I've covered the first 30km well under an hour. Awesome. 
Azly, at the top of Cyberjaya climb, banging into the road barrier, cheering us on
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As I move back to the start, making my u-turn for Lap 2 of the biking, the cheering was simply electrifying. The cramps seems to had stayed away and the dun has been burning down the past hour. Today will be a hot racing day. It won't disappoint!
Passing Bandit the second time. Clearly tired as I was out of TT position!
A look at the time (as the stopwatch has since become irrelevant due to the last reset-restart) says I've covered a good ol 70km in less than 2hours 20min. Calculating, I will be able to break the 3:00hours I am aiming for. at Average speed of slightly above 30km/h, I know I came a long way being a 25km/h average cyclist to a consistent 30km/h-er. Of course more could be done. I know my speed and timing is slow compared to some other stronger cyclists. 
Dismount - without shoes and did not fall. Achievement Unlocked!
I ran into T2, stopping a few times to cheer others and to kiss my wife waiting for me.
Still smiling, why? Because the legs felt great!
Bike took me 3:00:25. If not because of the one-station refuel, I would had came right below 3:00 mark. Nice!
Run - 21km
This is my strongest discipline, having unlearn and relearn running, I know I can technically do a sub-2hours 21km. Or so I thought. Because the dreaded toe cramps came back as I entered the KM2 mark...
"Low five" Thanks for cheering babe!
T2 was fast for me as well. NO fancy shoe lace and only ran with a visor, bib and my sunglasses. I would say the T1 and T2 need to be a bit faster at 4:53 and 3:53 respectively
Cool water! 
It was about 12.30pm when I started the run and the sun was burning down. Right at the beginning of the run, I've wet myself with water to stay cool. With the heat expected to get hotter, key is no longer hydration but keeping the core temperature down. With the toes acting up, I could not run my normal pace. It was a hideous run for me as my usual 4:30 pace went missing and the "auto cruise" 5:00 disappeared. It was replaced with a 6:30 pace and creeps into 7:00 as the overcompensating of the left legs to lessen the stress on the right toes caused the quads and hamstrings to tighten up. My first 10.5km was done in a slow 1:15 and I know the worse is yet to come. As I ran into the finishing mat after completing my first loop, I have to turn left and run on the outer lane for my 2nd loop. 
Hello Darling! Yes, it's hot. I know
The heat were close to 40degree C i believe. I could take the heat, no issues. I know I will finish the run within the next 90mins. Just that I was disappointed I would miss the intended PB. I swam badly, I bike well and now i ran really badly, by my standard. 
What made it worse was the water stations ran out of drinking water, ice and muscle rub. Only isotonic was available and I am not a big fan of them. More so if it was sugary and I know taking it too much would cause me to bonk. I did the last 7km with a few friends. Encouraging each other, joking along the way and it was apparent just how prepared we were - just that we all react differently to heat. Otherwise, everyone I know was smiling!
With 1km to go to the finish line, the crowd at the finishing arch starting cheering for every one that runs fast it. I high-fived everyone, gave my wife a kiss and ran to the finish line. 
Towards the end!
I crossed the line in 6:45:48. Not my best timing for this distance, not my worse either. But considering the amount of preparation I've put in, the results were not reflective of the hours I've invested. I wasn't angry at myself. A bit disappointed yes. Who would not be. But I know where my weaknesses really are in the sports. 
DONE! Thank you Wifey for the support. OK, Now go strap down, we drive home.
My first 70.3 hardware. Pretty much hard-earned due to the conditions. I will remember this race that even the tiniest part of the body, in this case, the toes, could cause you your race. Now, where do I fix those toes?
The statistic says I was 160 out of water. I then managed to cut the losses and catch up 70 spots on the bike and finally, despite the slower than usual run, caught up with 10 people to finish at position 80 of my age group. Not too bad considering I am placed in a large group of participants. Out of declared 1500 participants, I was 441, which puts me in the upper 30%. Which meant I am pretty average! 

Race Pros
Too many to list. The Ironman brand brought along with it the Ironman ways of doing races. It has much uniqueness and the attraction to the brand-name "Ironman". I truly enjoyed the experiences, short of a few cons.
Race Cons
I've left comments in the Online Survey, in short, this were what I've shared.
- Swim - deep water start wasn't a good idea with Malaysia crowd. Not yet, maybe in a few more years. Many I know hate to tread water. 

- Bike - the motor lane was a bad idea. While it is a better one compared to closing off a few intersection/junctions, more control need to be in place for participants when entering tunnels and exiting.

- Run - Simple need : Sufficient Hydration. It was a hot hot hot day. Unless you have trained in heat, chances are you will suffer and it was evident with many suffering heat stroke, with an acquittance hospitalised and just got off ICU. 

Wrapping Up
From the 70.3 race, with 20 more weeks to Ironman Langkawi. I know I need to start swimming and to swim a bit faster. While it is not a game changer for me, a stronger swim finish will allow me to conserve a bit more energy on the bike, so I could push on the run. 
The bike trainer regime will continue, it has proven it's benefits. More intensity needed. Would be interesting to see myself being able to ride a 90km in 2:45 perhaps?
For the run, oh well. tough luck. I guess being complacent and thinking I could "do it" was clearly not working. Having said that, no heat training for run will be required for Ironman Langkawi, as by the time I am done with biking, it will be late afternoon and the run will be in cooler evening and night. Just keep moving those legs, correcting those strides and godamit, include weight training for the toes!

Hope the report share the 70.3 experiences I've went through. Time to catch 40-winks. Need to be awake in the next couple of hours to drive to the airport and head to Sabah for the annual Sabah Adventure Challenge. Yes, another race report coming up upon my return. Until then, train smart, race safe and finish strong!


  1. Sorry to hear you didn't have the race you expected. Having great preparations can be a double edged sword, along with the burden of higher expectations. But hey, sometimes you win, other times you learn. I'm confident you'll do well in Langkawi (Magnum ice cream is at stake :P), see you then!

  2. Thanks for a great and honest report!

  3. Nice report or should i say blog entry..and it was very good to see you stupe... all the best for langkawi.

  4. bro, still a record la, Course Record ;)

  5. I had that toe cramps a few times during long bike rides. What I did was shake or wiggle them with my hands rapidly for a minute or two. It usually goes away after that.

  6. Great race story. More preps on swim & turbo trainer sessions
    Maybe the watt based training ;)

  7. That's still one 70.3 more than many have attempted. Myself included. Great job bro!