Thursday, May 08, 2014

Xterra Malaysia World Championship Race Report 2014

The Dirtier Weekend
My second Xterra race and it was one that I was looking forward to after the Sabah Adventure Challenge about 2-weeks ago. Venue is at Putrajaya, similar to the year before and the course for the bike and run has changed rather significantly. I have previously written about the 34-36km bike course and the 11km run course. The swim is pretty much predictable and it will be a 2-loop around the Precint 6 lake.
The race for 2014 happens on Saturday, which meant the race kit collection were scheduled a day before aka Friday. I took extended lunch hour and rode to the venue on my motorbike. There wasn't a hive of activities at the race collection and it's mainly due to it being a working day and at Putrajaya. I was told many came in the morning, and more may come later in the afternoon.
Tags being prepared for Media and special guests
The race kit collection were SOP for many and it involve signing an indemnity form before passing it to the organiser.
Sam at work
 It was also an opportunity to catch up with a few friends that has been involved with Xterra since 2013.
Azlan. Managed the bike route. 
Race bib
However, there is no fancy tattoo number like Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya. For that, the Xterra tattoo were in abundance.
Gonna use it this year
I returned back to office and only went back really late that day to catch up on the extended lunch hour. In fact, it has been a balancing act for me since I've taken up additional role in the current office. I am nursing a strained back for the past week that I've picked up from doing housework. A simple everyday chore that i do hauling rainwater to wash the porch has resulted in a rather bad back that may be a problem for me on race day.
Race prep at the 11th hour, literally
 I count on my experience to know what to bring/take for races that are typical olympic distance. So, the compulsory items were laid out and the transition T1 and T2 played out in mind.
New Kraftfit padded shorts
 I've decided to experiment with the new Kraftfit padded cycling shorts. My trishorts has seen better days and it is running a bit too thin to be decent at some part.
Review soon
The Backside, literally
With what to wear sorted. I had to plan my nutrition. For races about Olympic distance, I will bring less and focus my fuelling at transition. It is tough to eat on the move on a mountainbike and I had to plan it in such manner I will get sufficient kcal to last the race. For this, I went with Anti-Fatigue (4-pre-race, 1 each transition, total 6), Endurolyte (4pre-race, 2 each transition, total 8), Perpetuem solid (1 pre-race, 1 each transition), Hammer Bar (1 pre-race) and will take two spoonful of coconut oil pre-race as breakfast. I will bring one bottle of HEED on the bike, and leave another bottle at the Transition, to finish 250-300ml/transition. Calculated, I will get estimated 180kcal/ fuelling, which works well for me. That planned, the last thing to do was to check the bike.
Mechanical Issues
My mountainbike is not exactly the latest or swankiest. It was build with one intention - to withstand the abuse of Sabah Adventure Challenge 2011. It survived and the only thing I've changed since was the tires and the seat. The drivetrain (read : parts) are most basic of Shimano Deore and the crank was what I've spent the most money on with it being the Hollowtech crank.
And that was the problem i had on race night - my bottom bracket froze. I tried reviving it by soaking with mineral oil and it sort of free up a little. But as it is, too late to do anything. At least the bottom bracket is turning, just a bit more resistance that I expected. The Xterra Race now looked like another disaster waiting to happen for me.
Race Morning
Like last year, I drove to race site at 5am. Like last year, me and Hin Toong convoyed to race site. We arrived at Putrajaya by 5.45am and already hordes of people were parked by the roadside leading to Pullman hotel. I left the bike at transition and headed straight to have my body-marked. As usual, it is a rite of passage especially for the first timer and a gathering for the old timers.
Old timer
I love body marking. It make me felt complete (as a triathlete). You are known by your race number to the organiser. No name and all that mattered will be how you race that day.
Ask for the number to be printed on the front, that is the correct position
Then i bumped into Julie and Reita. Both were on Marshall/ITU duty. It was a course I wanted to take, as a progression and improvement for myself. It is rewarding to be a certified International Triathlon Union (ITU) official.
Hello girls!
Back at transition, The final prep were done with all gears checked and fingers crossed that the BB will hold up with the abuse. The wet condition of the trail due to heavy rain were a concern as well and i decided to use more wet lube (read, mineral oil) to ensure minimal chain suck if condition gets really dirty. Enjoy some of the pre-race mingling. Photos are mine unless credited otherwise.
With Nelson. Thanks Pui San!

Thanks Azman
Thanks Puh Heng and Keng Ping
By 7.15am, the Pros were in the water and that signalled us the age-grouper to get ready. My last swim in Putrajaya for the Ironman 70.3 was pretty disastrous with the toes cramping for whatever reasons. I was of course, a bit cautious and hoping I won't suffer the same that day.
Thank you Cycling Evolution

I decided to hang on until the clock countdown to 1-minute and jumped right in, swim at a leisure pace to the starting pontoon and arrived right on time for the horn to be blown. It's race-on!
Swim 1.5km
Clearly my weakest discipline as I did not put as much time and effort. I am expecting about 40mins in the water and my motivation was not to come out of the water among the last few. The swim was in a clockwise direction for 2-loops. Bright orange buoys were visible and I know I just need to focus and look up every 6th stroke to correct my direction. I stayed away from the main bunch and work on my own pace. It turned out really well as I only breaststroke at the turns to get around the buoys, and then spend about a minute trying to steer clear of other swimmers. Obviously, there are those that does front crawl but they are everywhere on the swim course, crossing you twice and bumping into you, which doesn't really add to the distance covered but potentially hitting someone with their very defensive strokes as if we are the one that bumped into them. Having races for years, I've learnt that it is nobody's fault. I was once defensive on the swim, now, i realised everyone just want to stay afloat and get to their destination. 
That day, everything was right. The strokes were great, the sighting was near perfect and the toes did not act up. It was almost the perfect swim for me, short of the slow timing I've registered. Officially it was clocked at 42:29mins. Which is actually what I will clock during training. 
As I got out of the water, my knee scraped the rough surface of the jetty concrete floor. It was quite painful and it bleed a little. Somehow, adrenaline numb the little bruise and I cruised into T1.
T1+Bike 34km
I was among the last few out of the water for the Championship course. In fact, I was number 150 out of water in the Championship category. There were only 160 people that took part. It was kind of depressing and I realised just how slow I was.
T1 for me was a fast 3minutes, considering that I had additional things to worry about aka the gloves. It is essential as Mountainbiking takes a lot of sure-gripping or risk losing grip of the bar and end up over the handlebar. I kept the whole setup minimal. A Camelbak bottle with HEED inside to juice me up the 34km (the official distance is 30km, but from the Teaser, I know it is more than that). I made sure I was wearing a semi-clear lense as riding in the trail with dark-lense will be disastrous. The Spyder Agent sunnies with semi-transparent red lense was superb as it highlighted the dark section and kept me cool under the hot sun. 
Out of T1. Thanks Pui San!
The race was the 3rd time i was using the clip shoes. I decided to stick with it even though I had many falls using it in the Teaser as the Marshall. The fear of having the feet bound as I go tumbling was there. I was ready to face my fear that day.
Rather ungracefully mounted - thanks Doc!
The route on the MTB changed a little bit as a portion of the trail at the start was flatten to build landing strip for remote controlled planes. We work ourselves around the fencing and towards the other side.
Having spent some time on the bike trainer, it again paid off as I slowly overtook riders by riders along the way. I have basic technical skills riding single trail as long as it is not overly technical. Lucky for me, PCP is very manageable as the route are very clear and the line easily predictable. But with the clips, it was suspiciously cautious as I do not want to be overly confident.

Heading out to the trail. Thanks Cycling Evolution
As it turned out, the ride in PCP and me falling all over was unfounded. Everything seems to flow smoothly. But there was one thing I was worried - my back. The strained muscle was behaving until then. I was hoping it holds off and not come-a-calling. Making good pace on the bike as I chance upon another acquittance and decided to follow his line. It was impeccable as if he was born in PCP. Thank you Safwan!
Thank you Safwan for the lines. Thank you for the photo!
The photo above where where the most fun happened, it was meant for ATV and Motocross to climb up over undulating surface. For us that day, it was a roller coaster downhill ride over those bumps. Smooth as silk was what I can sum up my ride over these. It was almost magical. I rode with Safwan a little bit more and I pulled away after the Field of Broken Dream (aka that bumpy @*&%^ field) and headed towards Sun Off A Beach section. 
I continue to surprise myself with the riding I did, it was smooth and it could be the ground condition being more "sticky" and hence favoured the tire setup I have. 
I find myself powering through each section and cranking up on large gears on the cross-country/behind village double-track trail. Kicking up mud as I move along and overtaking more riders as I do so. 
The Climb up Sun Off A Beach was a pleasant one. However, it was marred partly by those decided to take a shortcut by not riding the whole distance up and receiving the orange band.
Riders come up from northeastern side, turning south to climb the last section, then turn around and head northwest, before turning west.
Then I saw a few shortcutting as well on my way down...such is a sad state of competition. Yes, you wouldn't win the race, but you will deprive other of better position - and what if you do it at the start of the pack and end up at podium?
Anyhow, I decided to let it past, as I have a race to go. The downhill section took quite a toll on my back and it started to ache as I arrived at water station number 2. Cold electrolytes were served and I had a helping there while refilling my Camelbak Podium with ice cold water. The rest of the route were cross-country and i went as fast as I possibly could. Last section of the ride was endured with a back numbing that radiate from the bottom (waist) to the upper between the shoulder blade. At that point, I saw I was clocking sub-2hours on the ride. Unbelievable as just 2-months ago, it took me close to 3hours to reach that location that is near PICC.
The climb up PICC was a roadie climb. No issues as I love hills (like the Sun Off A Beach climb) and then it was a fast downhill over root laden side of PICC. 
Awesome capture by Cycling Evolution
The bike was wrapped up in 2:07:02. I overtook 60 riders in the Championship. Moved from position 150 to 90. Into T2 I go!
T2 was an opportunity for me to stretch a bit to loosen the tight numb back. It helped as i got down from the bike as I try regaining full mobility. It did hurt but I was making good progress to stop then. T2 was a quick 2:40 and I just changed the shoe to the Skecher GoRunUltra, removed the helmet and gloves, put on the running bib, take my last serving of nutrition and headed right out. I managed to run a little as I leave transition. Trying to catch my breathe as I do so. Section devoid of any photos as the only one inside the trail were the official from Run will be a two loop 5.5km each. I know the section suffered from some sort of destruction in recent months due to development on the other side of Precinct 6. But it did not occur to me just how much until I cleared the first two KM (which covered the wasteland aka old quarry climbs) and realised the section with rubber trees missing. What it was replaced was a section where fallen rubber trees posed as obstable for the runners. I found myself climbing over, under and through branches, big and small. 
As I was running, I realised a few that came in about the same time as i did on the bike were running one loop short. I did not question much, just keep moving. After all, it is none of my business at that point. I am not in the position to land a podium position, let alone a spot to Maui.
Running, being my strongest section due to the time I've committed to the training and re-learning to run, was easy - until the muscle pulled at the back and numbness again. It wasn't pleasant as each landing send shiver and tingling sensation. More so when going downhill. The only respite I got was when I drench myself at the second water station aka u-turn. I found my second wind after KM4 and started to move faster.
At one point, I was hoping there will be more climbs, as it seems that was the only part my pain was taken away. It was hard on the downhill, as the pushing through on the gravelly trail sent jolts over my back. I had a 1:02 timing during the Teaser event, and it seems that was slowly slipping away. Despite thinking I was moving faster, truth was I wasn't. A 7:30 pace was pathetic but I console myself on the injury I am nursing.
Enough of excuses Stupe.
I pushed and ran the last 2km. Ignoring the pain. Will pay dearly for this, i know.
Thank you Keng Ping. 
As I made the last turn, passing the water spray mist, it was a lonely stretch, as I noticed no one was around me. I wasn't sure how well I did. I did not know what my timing was as well. Running to finish and crossing it, i was greeted by Sean Chee, the race organiser from Radius, which I've made friend with since the Xterra 2013. 
The adrenaline kicks in back. The pain disappeared. I hang around the finishing line to cheer other on. 
Thanks Doc Pui San. Yes, this photo was used to communicate to my wife i finished the race safely.
Official run time was 1:19:41. I managed to overtake up to 46 people on the run it seemed. Total time for the whole race was 4:15:18. As usual, like last year, JTLTiming provided the results without timing chip. My name was wrong in the register of JTL, and nothing a bit of polite asking could not solve.
Not too bad
It did not occur to me that the timing was my PB for this race. Last year i scored a 4:32:23. This years' result was a cool 17mins improvement, and that is with a bad back. I can't ask for more (other than the pain go away).
Race Post Mortem
Gears were checked for damages after the race. Except for being dirty, all is good.
The catch of the day
As expected, it was indeed a dirty weekend. But not as dirty as I was hoping. It did not rain the night before. It could be a blessing in disguise as my bike's bottom bracket jammed after the race. 
3rd time the charm - no fall on clips!
The dirt on the bike wasn't extensive except that the mud cake was pretty tough to wash off.
It was indeed tougher to wash the bike after the race. 
By the way, i realised i brought pump and tubes...but not SKEWERS!
Thanks Iron Sloth and Angel for the photo (of me suffering after race)
The race overall was good. I am not going to complain other than those that has cheated in the race. It is obvious as some of the time split were impossible even for the Pros. Sadder was some actually went up the podium to collect what is not theirs, and when it was revealed, they pledge ignorance. Shame on you.
Having said that, the race marshaling could be more strict. I caught someone pushing the bike out of transition without wearing helmet. That is an infringement itself. No issues with drafting, just issue with cutting short of the course. 
Will I do it again in 2014? 
Let me nurse my back, get back training for Ironman Malaysia, and we decide again come October 2014.


  1. Awesome race bro! Spoilt by some cheaters :(

    Quick tip on washing the bike, the clanners swear by CT-18 ( available at Boon Foo at RM50 a pop. Enough to last me for 6-8 months, depending on the trail conditions.

    1. I am using th CT18 ;-) forgot to bring to wash after race.

  2. nice to see you on both days Stupe :) and congrats !!!!

    1. Likewise. :) Thanks for helping as official!