Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How My Ironman Malaysia 2015 Will Be Raced

52 more days to Ironman Malaysia at Langkawi. Training has been consistent even though the work travelling was hectic. Constant and minimum 30minutes every day on the trainer with weekend sometimes exceeding duration for an Olympic distance race were a norm. The need to always “do more” drives the constant fear of not able to complete the 226km journey to become Ironman (again). Within the last 10 months, I’ve clocked about 5546km which covers all swim, bike and run distance.

The excitement builds up towards the race day and those of us that have raced it before, more so in Malaysia would know the biggest challenge is the weather. Everything from overcast sky to overly hot day, calm sea to sea with strong current, running in dusty condition with sunset burning down your back – make no mistake that Langkawi remains as the second toughest Ironman route. Coincidently, this race hold a high percentage of non-finishers (read: DNF or Did Not Finish). A stat rolled out by in 2012 is still very much valid for any newcomer/Iron-virgin looking to complete their first race in Malaysia. In fact, it is sort of like a “baptism of fire”.
Understandably, the pressure to train to complete is very high in every Ironman hopeful’s priority. Being in Malaysia and perceived to be “acclimatized”, take it from me that the race always spring a few surprises. The 2014 race saw the return of a major climb up towards Datai, where the total elevation for the 180km course was in the range of 3200m. In comparison, the Putrajaya loop returns about 1000m over 90km (of 70.3 loops). Now, with the 2015 route changed in terms of T1 and T2, only the cycling route remains similar to 2014.
The swim will now be 2-loop at Pantai Kok, which then will see the triathletes heading out to climb Datai within the first 15km of the race. With so much “fresh” energy, I would need to ensure I have the climbing power and endurance to sustain the next 90km before the second climb up Datai happens. Having said that, the Lisram Highway will need to be conquered twice… and that is a pain itself. T2 would be at Mahsuri Expo centre – a first it seems for an air-conditioned T2. I bet many are looking forward to this after being out in the sun for 180km. Just make sure it doesn’t make you want to stay in Transition longer than you should. The run this time around would be a 2.5loop of flat road around the airport landing strip. I am excited about running with the sunset on my right as I run out from Mahsuri Expo towards the seaside where the wind will provide awesome breeze. Best of all, you may strike a drink or two as you run through Cenang beach with tourists and locals cheering you on into the night. I can’t wait!

With my travel plan all set since November, flight was cheap at RM750 return for whole family. Lodging has not been booked but it will likely be nearby with Pelangi Meritus to be the closest to the finish line. However, Langkawi Island is only that big. Staying in Kuah may make sense especially for food and shopping for the family that comes along to support the race. 17hours for many of us would be the ultimate cut off time, and it is totally different for non-competitor to be out for the same hours supporting you. With all of that said, 52 days to November 14, 2015 looked all set. Many of you that made the decision to race this has been training hard. Putting in the time, improving yourself. Finding and searching the soul to fight the demon inside that says “No”. Part of the battle has been won when you decided to sign up and train for it. I know that was how I felt at least. It will be my 5th Ironman race and I am looking towards racing a day after my birthday.

Now imagine, after coming out knowing you survived a 3.8km open water swim in the water known for jellyfishes and strong current; I look at my Garmin and it says 1:20. Smiling and hi-fiving everyone along the beach as I enter T1. Never mind I’ve likely swallowed sea water by the liters as I brave the hands and legs of confused triathletes like me. You then grab your T1 bag, wear your socks, shoes, sunglasses, helmet in that order. Stash a few Hammer Nutrition Gels into the back pocket while gulping a serving of Montana Huckleberry flavored HammerGel, drinking in some water as you swallow 4 Endurolytes and 2 Anti-Fatigue (only those that takes these know how hard to obtain the AF nowadays). You ran a little, hobbling in your cleat shoes careful not to scratch the carbon bottom and counting the bike aisle. There is nothing more embarrassing than to arrive at the wrong bike rack; panic to see your bike not there, when it was just across the other aisle away from you. Of course you will be very embarrassed, but no one is looking, as everyone is as anxious even if this will be their n-th race.

You pushed your bike out of T1. Mounting it only as you pass the line, else risking penalty time. You start to pedal and clip the shoes on, hoping you get it right the first time or suffer the humiliation (again) of falling in front of cheering crowd.

Calm Your Nuts Down Stupe.

As you pedals out, you glance over your shoulder to see your training mate close to you, smiling knowingly that today’s journey will be all about personal glory. Your own race. The 180km will be your longest hours on race day. Key is to remember to eat and hydrate every 40mins and 20mins respectively. It’s not a choice, it’s compulsory. Unlike your usual weekend ride, Ironman is a non-drafting race. You will be alone. Deal with it. For once, you are glad those days you cycled alone, not sucking wheels are slowly paying off. And oh…those hill climbs over Bukit Hantu, Bukit Tangga, Janda Baik, Frasers, Gohtong Jaya… the hills over Datai is now looking flat, if not flatter. Yet, the burn in the quads is as bad if not worse.

As you cycle the last 2km to complete the 180km, spinning more consciously at 90rpm to rid the lactic acid from the system. You are glad you completed and have more than sufficient time for the last 42.2km. Time check. A decent 6:00 on the bike. My time now stands at 7:30, including an easy 10mins T1. If I could hack a 5:00 marathon, I will be clocking a PB of 12:30 easy.

The run was strong. All y injuries picked up over the years and the one that tested me big time (ITBS in 2014 15km into the run) stayed away. The tempo as good. Body felt superb, legs felt strong. I could envisioned the finishing line with every steps and pace I took. As with all mind-games goes. I nailed the marathon in not 5:00 but a 4:45, shaving off more time and running strongly towards the finishing line – head high and smiling. 5th Ironman in Personal Best timing. Win.

Ee-Van Lim (in typical mat salleh style) - YOU ARE AN IROOONNNMaaaan.

Now, back to reality. If only the previous paragraphs in today’s blog entry holds true for me. As luck has it, I have pulled out as of June this year due to work. I will be away during the race week and won’t even make it back to register myself before the athlete check-in by Thursday, November 12 by 5pm. My meeting will only end on November 12, 5pm, even with a private jet, it will be near impossible to be back by then. I have to let this race go and will be supporting from far.

For those of you that has signed up, been training for it, soaking up the pain and joy of training, for those that has been taking part in local races to fine-tune the transition and flying mount, long ride that perhaps rocks your marriage (because you are away whole day on weekend), suffered multiple sunburn within the same weekend, I salute you. Train smart, keep injuries away – I be rooting for all of you. 

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