Thursday, November 07, 2019

Ironman Malaysia 2019 Race Report

This race report is likely the longest entry I've written in the past 5-years. Enjoy.
On my IG im_tristupe
What Is an "Ironman" Triathlon
Yes, I've done and finished my 5th Ironman triathlon race. If you are first timer to this blog, and read this, "Ironman" is a brand, and they have the longest running long distance triathlon race since 1978, which consist of a 3.8km swim, 180.2km bike and a 42.2km run in succession. In between the Swim and Bike, is what we call Transition 1 or T1, and between Bike-Run is called Transition 2, or T2. The timing to qualify as an Ironman Finisher (and earn the legit bragging right), is to complete it within 17hours. Along the way, there are cut off time where if you have to complete the swim in 2:20, the bike at 10:30 of start (so you have 8:10 to cycle), and have to finish the run by 6:30. Along the way, there are smaller cutoff in the bike and run league.
Yeap. #TrueStory photo from here
Along the way, there will always be other issues; getting kicked in the face or climbed over by faster swimmers during the swim, mechanical failure on bike or irrepairable puncture on bike, golf sized blisters on feet or even stomach shutting down due to nutrition failure on the run. The permutation are endless on "things that can go wrong". Yes, it is stressful.
My Ironman Malaysia 2019 
Nov 2014 was the last race I did, and ever since then, I have been hoping to toe the start line again. No luck until earlier this year when Ironman Asia announced the race date to be October 26, 2019. I was doing a small victory dance, as i will not be able to race if it is in November due to work commitment (as travel plan is set the November before during my annual meeting). My boss has been superb is trying to help me by shifting dates for the annual meeting by a week or two in November - and everytime, Ironman Asia moves the date.
So happy to be able to land in Langkawi for the race purpose!
I was in the same flight as Henry, and he was kind enough to drop me at Edwin's place so i get to collect my bike. I've been cycling with the Edwin's team (known as Team Volt) 3 times before this Ironman race. It is the most outdoor cycling I've done since 2014. Some of you following me on Strava and on my IG will know the bulk of my training on bike since after Ironman 2014 was on the trainer. And as preparation for this year, I've clocked rides every weekend indoor for at least 6hours.
Always Going Beyond Call of Duty
Arrived at my designated motel, which is along Pantai Cenang, about 1km from the official hotel (Meritus Pelangi), which was the finishing line for this year's race.
Amzar Motel, Pantai Cenang
The lodging arrangement was with help from Yusran, which is in Langkawi maybe 4 times a year. He is a regular here and when I signed up, he offered me to help with lodging. I am always grateful for friends that look out for me! The room rates is ok (below RM100/night), and as expected due to tourist area, you get basic room, with towel, and two soap. There is no breakfast, coffee, tea or those bells and whistles you may get from the typical hotels. So, it is important to calibrate your expectation.
an old Queen bed, with homely bedsheet, and an oversized towel as blanket.

Two thin (blue) towel for your shower need.
Toilet was semi-functioning as the wash basin was blocked. I did some minor plumbing and found the cause of the clog was due to people washing down rice into the wash basin. Shower (hot) is available but the toggle for the shower is spoilt, rendering it only ONE temperature and you need to modulate the water flow to get to the heat you want. Water pressure is good, if not superb. I was already envisioning myself sitting at the toilet bowl with the cold shower water splashing down on my back.
Buddies for life

Race Check In

Edwin called me up and picked me from the motel to head to the Mahsuri International Exhibition Centre or MIEC. It is the location where the race expo, T2, and one of the run U-turn will be situated. Thanks to Henry and Edwin, my initial plan of waiting it out until registration and check in happened did not materialised and the time was put to good use to check into the motel, collect my bike, lay my race items out, and not having to lug 13kg of items on my back. Registration for race is compulsory and must be completed before 2pm Friday. I arrived on Thursday, so there were plenty of time.
Swim Cap - thinner than 2014 which was supplied by Compressport. I seeded myself conservatively to finish swim by 1:45. 
There was no weigh in this year. I am not sure if that practice is removed completely - but I thought from medical point of view it is actually a good thing to take the weight before and after the race - as an indication of potential water loss during the course of day. It will be useful for medication as well. But what do I know as I've not raced for years!
No 736 Done Checking In!
The defining moment for race check in is the wrist band that they put on you, and not to be removed until you collect your bike, after the race (whether you finish or not finish, or even if you get to cycle or not...). This wrist band was traditionally worn on my wrist for a month - because you can't wear your finisher T and your medal ALL the time for a month. Haha. Lets see if i do that!
 Along with the very expensive fee I paid (early bird was almost USD500 including the Active fee), I get a few things and one of them is the bag above. It is a race bag, and this year, it is with faux leather. I know I have to use this one else keeping it will result in it peeling and exposing only the fabric underneath. Would be nice if it is fully fabric instead! Inside the bag, is an envelope that contained my race stickers, my race number, a tattoo number and my age group tattoo.
I love stickers
The race expo was packed. The line to pay even longer. The organiser has a great way to control your spending by discouraging you to not spend with long and slow cashier lines. Of course there were good deals, but with lines taking an hour to clear if you start lining up from the back, not ideal if you are carpooling with others. It was then lunch+dinner before calling it a night in Cenang. Been tired waking up early to catch the flight to Langkawi. Best thing about eating in group? You can order many things in smaller portion so you get to taste more things. So, if you wonder what Ironman hopeful eats, this is just a sample - Team Volt mandated nothing spicy, no shellfish, no seafood, and keeping everything neutral.
Fuyong Egg or Chinese omellete

Padthai which is not spicy
Vegetable, still OK to eat but to be avoided the day before race (fiber = toilet)
Rice vermicelli or meehoon
Fried rice
With lunch and dinner done, I went back to my motel to prepare my race kits. It will be race,T1 and T2 bag check in, followed by Bike check in. Compulsory and must be completed by 5pm the day before the race. If you do not rack your bike by 5pm, you do not race. The stress now, is to make sure you do not forget anything.
Prepping Your Transition Bags
Having a checklist is a must and you must keep running the transition in your mind and make sure nothing is missed out. It is OK to have more things, but if you miss out one single important thing - you will be demoralised.
T1 Bag (Blue)
First off, the most complicated Transition Bag - T1 aka the Swim-Bike Bag. You literally go into Transition with nothing except your tri-clothing (and swim cap+goggles which does nothing for you in bike), to Battle-All-Ready cycling consist of helmet, sunglasses, clip shoes (or if you wear sports shoe, it's ok), socks and gloves if you need them, bandana (not the Boris Becker type) to help sweat management (it's not fun to have sweat salt going into your eyes while looking like a winner in aero position), and if you are like me, race nutrition that you mix right before the race as it will spoil if more than 3-hours.
Almost Ready
What goes into my T1 Bag: 
  1. Helmet with race sticker on front (as instructed), 
  2. Bandana to keep sweat off (black with Performax wording, in case you are looking for it), 
  3. cycling shoe, 
  4. Garmin Edge1000, 
  5. sunglasses, 
  6. HammerGel 5x serving (carry in back pocket when cycling - emergency if i lose my bottle), 
  7. 2 bottles with 3.5 servings of Hammer Perpetuem Powder and Fully Charged. One bottle to be kept at Special Need KM105 for final 80km cycling. 
  8. Hand pump, strap to saddle cage
  9. What is not seen - 2x Tubular, 2x CO2 canister, 1x master chain link, folded and kept inside a make shift bottle placed behind my saddle. 
  10. aero bottle fixed at my tri-bar
  11. My Boardman with race sticker on the seatpost. 
  12. Insurance : 1x Sustained Energy to be placed inside Special Need (KM105), Hammer Endurolyte Extreme and Anti Fatigue - because if it rains, all your tablets nutrition will essentially be written off! Always be prepared!
  13. The Garmin Fenix 5xPlus and the HRM-Tri will be worn on me at all time throughout the race.
Item 1, 2,3,4,5,6, partial of 7 (as one bottle will be at KM105) will go into the BLUE T1 Bag.
T1, T2 and Street gear
Next, the T2 (Red) Bag
T2 is the transition from Bike to Run. For me, it is slightly less complicated, it is just my running shoe, race bib and race bib holder. You will now notice I do not cycle with socks, and I do not run with socks. I also do not bother to change out from the tri-suit I am wearing because it is always easier and less complicated to use the same items throughout. Some will want a fresh cloths - i say, whichever way that makes you happy.
What is in my T2 bag (Red)
  1. Run shoe - I am using Nike Free 2017. Some friends question my choice. I question my pocket. RM90 shoe, won't go wrong.
  2. Race Bib on Hammer Race Bib holder
  3. Hammer Sustained Energy - really in case if i missed out my nutrition on the bike if i dropped my bottle in final 80km, and needed something solid to bring me through.
  4. HammerGel that comes with me on the bike (carry over from Bike)
  5. Cap (in plastic bag, because it's freaking WHITE!)
  6. The Garmin Fenix5xPlus and HRM-Tri will be with me from race start.
I do not have any special need on the run, and I know how well stocked the run course water stations are based on the Athlete brief. I look forward to the candy (jelly beans), and the kurma (date). My own tolerance for the run from training is my ability to sustain up till 30km on minmal fuel and water - plus i believe if I fuel correctly on the bike, I am set for the home stretch. Should I need emergency fuel, I can always do "carbo rinsing". It is a simple act of gargling the isotonic or soda water at water station and NOT drinking it. This way, minimal sugar kcal goes into your body, no sugar rush, no bonk. Viola.

Lastly the Swim gears and the Street Gears
Swimming is by far the easiest to pack, as you go in your tri-suit if you are not gonna use any other swimsuit. Advancement in technology and fabric has given triathletes so much of choices that some even wear those zip up suit over their tri-suit to provide better (less) drag resistance in water. I personally has not reach that stage. So it's just the compulsory swim cap, goggle and earplug. If i missed out my earplug, I be very upset. I can't swim without earplug as water gets into my ear canal easily.
Coouldn't get simpler
For Swim, i carry in my Street Gear (Black bag):
  1. Goggles, and i bring spare in case i misplace one on race morning while walking around, CAN happen!
  2. Earplug (inside my goggle box)
  3. Swim Cap (orange = between 1:35 and 1:45 swim time)
  4. My trusty (and old) tritop and Sugoi shorts that I have since 2013. They fits better now that I am much lighter vs 2014.
  5. Garmin fenix 5xplus and HRM-Tri will be on me from start.
  6. One serving of Hammer Perpetuem+Fully charge in bottle, mixed and to be drank 2-3hours before race start (so I start taking them form 5.30am onwards)
  7. Sustained Energy sachet in case i misplaced my bottle of morning nutrition
  8. I will put the shorts and t-shirt i wear to race start into my Street Gear Bag to be used after the race
  9. My Bike Special Need Bag will be placed into the this Street Gear bag, and dropped off right before swim start. This (Black) bag will also be dropped before start.
Magic Items 7 and 12 of Bike packing. in the black Volt bottle is my 3.5 servings of Perpetuem + Fully Charged in powder, and a bottle of 500ml water because KM105 is NOT a water station and you will need water to mix it!. Always think ahead!
Yes, by now, you know i ate almost nothing before the race but item 6 above. I will not carbo load because it doesn't work and only add on tummy issues the race day morning (remember me saying about no vegetable/roughage/fiber above?). Risky? Hardly. I train on empty all the time, and does Intermittent Fasting almost every other day. I skip lunch, and i never have hunger pang. I trained this part of my routine because I need to make sure my body will take any condition, and be prepared for it.
Next : Bike, T1 and T2 Check In!
The next day, I woke up early and joined the Team Volt for a practice swim. My last Open Water Swim (OWS) was in 2014. This year, I've not swam more than my two hands can count. It was exactly 10 times, and this OWS practice will be my 11th. The Ironman 3.8km will be my 12th. While swimming is the shortest of the disipline, it is the decider for the day if you are able to continue the race, or sit by the side to watch people race. Stories of jellyfish stings, sealices (which is really baby jellyfishes, hence the slightly less sting, but in dots), panic attack, body contacts which can put rugby to shame - Swimming in Ironman start is best experienced yourself. My swim practice was uneventful - I was more worried of the tummy starting to act up likely due to anxiousness, or the food I ate during the Athlete dinner the night before (which I took fruits mostly - much to some of my friends' advice against it).
Voted the most beautiful swim course in the Ironman world
With a short 800m swim completed, we went back to the hotel - not after Edwin helped a handful of participants with their bike-issues. Some of these were baffling - such a how did the chain got out of the rear derailleur jockey wheel while the jockey wheel is still intact? Someone must had tried to do something and not know what or how to fix it back. Or, the electronic shifting giving problem - that even resetting the unit doesn't fix the problem except needing a laptop to reprogram the whole system. I will continue to stick to purely friction-mechanical (sound sexier than "manual").
The look on Edwin's face says it all - a new bike may be needed :P
Once Edwin worked his magic, we went back to the hotel to shower, lunch, and get our bikes, T1 and T2 items for the compulsory racking and check in. All athletes need to do this by 5pm Friday. Failure to comply equals to no race. We first went to complete the T2 check in first, which is at MIEC.
We all dream of good weather on Race Day. Overcast with cloud is welcomed too. Rain will be super difficult to race
It was fun travelling and moving as a group in Team Volt van. it reminds me a lot of the old days when I was an infant in the sports, learning from many other experienced racer. A lot of jibes and jokes, camaraderie which warms my heart tremendously. There wasn't any air among the team, and we take turn making fun, and being made fun. All in the name of friendly banter.
So many Ironman finishers and hopeful in one photo
Racking at T2 was fast. Drop the red bag and you are good to go! Well, almost - can't go without checking the calm before the storm.
An insight into the ladies changing room
Like in a market
Easily done and we headed to T1, which is about 20km away from T2. My bike was already there and I brought all my stuff to the T1. I requested from Edwin one additional Tubular tire which i will place in my special need bag at KM105. I carried two tubular rolled into the DIY Hammer bottle behind my seat. As I found my CO2 head dispenser, I carried two CO2 canister, tucked between the tubular folds, apart from one master chain link - because you never know. Also, I decided to carry the hand pump that I have for the past 15 years (back then, this baby cost me a day's wage!) for good luck.
All ready! 
Racking in T1 is always a ritual for Triathletes. Bike racking can be pretty daunting - the technical checks your brake, and this year, they checked the helmet for visible cracks or sign of failure. Finding my rack was easy as they are numbered in 100s. Love the fact they place your name on the rack with number. :D How i wish i can take that sticker away!
But that imperfect sticking sort of irk me a bit :P
Right next to me was a Dimond TT bike. Beautiful. The bike looked fast even when stationery. My Boardman looked dated when parked next to the beautiful machine. Little did I know, i made friend with the owner of the bike in the race (read on!)
All racked.
I then moved to T1, where you run in from your swim. The racking is similar to T2. All sorted and time to line up for the timing chip which you collect at the exit of the T1.
I have a feeling my 736 will only one still be there once I am out of water....

Unbelievable there are 1500 bags here
It started to rain as the T1 bag were racked. By this time (around 3pm), most of us should be at around 120km of biking. If it rain, it will be a welcomed change as the heat and humidity was high. Timing chip collected, name and details verified.
A bit of concern that the velcro may be hard/sharp and will bite into the skin after 10hours.
While I walked back to the van, I stopped and took this photo. I lamented just how much I've came to experience this again. Bikes on rack. Bags in T1 and T2. Swim gears sorted, and special bag prepared. The anxious feeling resurfaced. There is this unexplained feeling in the guts. indescribable.
The biggest fear of a triathlete or cyclist is that their partner or spouse sell their bikes for the price the athletes tell it was worth
 Dinner was around 5pm, it is time to unwind and take things easy. It will be you, against you.
More fried rice
My evening has not ended. But I am calm. With my wife landed late due to flight delay, that was caused by major storm in KLIA area. My night ended around 10pm, and I was in bed and sleeping by 11pm. Alarm set at 4.30am, and that gives me close to 5hours of solid sleep which is what I typically get (or need) to operate everyday.
The Bag of Life - Extra Hammer Endurolytes, Hammer Anti Fatigue, Hammer Sustained Energy, a bottle of water, an extra tubular

Race Day Morning Blues
I was awaken at 1am by a thunderstorm. It rained so hard, thundered loudly and lightning racing across the sky, lighting up the window. I fell asleep again, only to be awaken 30mins later, stronger rain, wind, lightning and thunder. I start to get worried - if this continue, I won't be able to get to the Pelangi, to catch the bus to swim start. The swim may be cancelled due to heavy rain, strong current. I fell asleep again, and to be awaken about an hour later, the rain did not stop.By then, I realised if it is a challenge for me to get to the bus, it will be the same for others. I went back to sleep.
And awaken before the alarm went off - its already 4.15am and the rain stopped.
Laying out what was needed to bring to the race start
Showered, got my wife to fix the arm tattoo, stuck the age group tattoo (the wrong way) on my right calf. Wore my street clothes, packed the tri top, shorts, swim stuff, special need. Mix a serving of Hammer Perpetuem and Fully Charged, this will be slowly sipped until 5.30am as the bus head to T1.
With Michael, whom utilizes Langkawi Ironman as his holiday destination
We arrived at the T1 by 5.40am, and the area has not been opened yet. Priority will be given to the 70.3 participants as their swim start at 7.00am while the full at 8am. Unfortunately, no photos of the morning chaos. You will not see that many triathletes pumping air into their tires at one single place, at the same time. I changed into my race clothing - something I will be wearing for the rest of the day.
With Team Volt and the supporters
Excitement was certainly in the air as we see how the late 70.3 athletes rushed into the swim start 30minutes into the race. Talk about taking things easy!
Javier Gomez - looking easy and cool before swim start. That is the world champ there, by the way.
As we waited for swim start for the elite... one last photo with the team.
All Ready? Yes!
And The Way We GO!
There was a lot of self-doubt for me the closer it gets to race start. Swimming in open water is different that swimming in a pool. In the sea, you can't touch the bottom unless you sink (or near the shore). In the sea, the water are saltier, and less pleasant to swallow, more so if it goes the wrong way into the nasal path. Even at that point while no one encountered any jelly fish the whole week, we all knew the sea lice's (baby jelly fishes) are out there to irritate the hell out of you. I recalled in 2010 being stung by a few of them on the side of my face, and lips. I felt Mick Jagger-ish coming out of the water. The feeling of numbness against the delicate skin of the lips was akin to the dentist putting on those numbing cream on your gum.
Azman, convincing me all will be ok. I love this sports.
Swim 3.82km - 1:45:53
My turn to enter the water in a rolling-start fashion (4 by 4 swimmer were released) came rather fast. My Garmin was primed, heart rate was racing, goggles were secured, earplugs molded into the canal.
It was a short run into the water and I slowly got into the rhythm. The flags were on my right while I breathe on my left. While I've practiced to breathe both sides, somehow I decided not to do so at all in the swim. Instead, I switched to one sighting every 6-strokes. The buoys were far; 400m, 800m and 700m. There is no way you be able to see it even if the Buoy was almost 8-foot tall and 2m in diameter. It disappear in the water horizon. I remembered Henry told me to aim for the edge of the island on the 400m and 700m, and swim back to shore which will be hard to miss. I was surprisingly calm short of two incident on the first lap where I was kicked by a rather huge guy and my left middle finger felt as if i failed to catch a basketball that was thrown my way. The other incident is of course - having the faster swimmer, likely pros and the fast age-grouper, crawling over me. One thing I noticed, these fast swimmers has a good ethics - they sort of go softly over you instead of mercilessly kicking you. Something that many triathletes got to learn - have respect for your fellow racers.
Out of Lap 1. Saw wifey.
Finishing the first lap of 1.9km was a relief. I get a breather to clear my goggles. There were water station setup on the beach. The drinking water tasted sweet when mixed with the already saturated salt-water mouth. I took a cup and gargled, and walked back to where my wife was standing and spent 3-minutes with her.
And a selfie of course
That 3-minutes of rest gave me some opportunity to recharge as I went back in for my second loop. I was almost right on cue - 52 minutes including rest. Another 50(min) to go!
The second lap was tougher for me as I got caught in the middle of another group that swam at the same pace. I was stuck in between all of them - one with really bad orientation that he went zig zag all over the place, one that has separation anxiety and decide to keep touching my feet for a full 400m before I lose him/her at the 400m turn, one that decided that as a breaststroker, he deserves two full arm length of the sea. I tried my best to get out but the mild current keep pushing me back to the same group! Oh well! What's important was I got out of the water with just a sore middle left finger that was kicked! Lucky me!
Happy as I have 180km + 42km to go!
I took my time to slowly walk/jog to T1, grabbed my bag and found a chair which I sat for a good 5 minutes while soaking in the T1 tent area atmosphere. The relief on everyone's face is telling. The fact that many were in there at around my swim finish time tells that we all have the same worry of swimming. I mixed the Perpetuem and Fully Charged in the Hammer Bottle, gave it a good shake, wore my bandana, helmet and I decided not to wear my shoes in T1, but rather wear it only when I reach my bike. It is a good 200m walk to the bike and those of you that cycle will know how difficult it is to walk, or run in the "reverse" heel. I felt good. Less than 2-hours and I am cycling.
Technical Officer on Duty Andrew Snapped this :D
Cycle 180.2km - 7:35:30
I hopped onto my bike and started to spin lightly as I exit T1 and onto the Datai road. First 5km was an elevated route. I kept at a decent power profile of 180W as I overtook a few friends. Turning into Datai, the cycling legs were warmed up and felt really solid and good. If this continue, I am very sure I will clocked my best 180km timing ever - i secretly harbor the hope of getting this done in 6:15, or less. Average speed was good as I climbed Datai. I covered the first 12km convincingly in circa 30minutes over the elevation to Datai. Then, I had a puncture at KM15.
Lets use the pump first. One Tubular down. One more spare to go.
The last puncture I had was maybe 6-7 years ago. And one of my fear during race day happened. I was still in high spirit and was telling myself that this is ok. I have tubular, I know what to do, I can pump air into the tire, I still has 2 CO2 cartridges, and I still have one more tubular at the back of my seat. I was grateful that Kam and Fiza was there, and my only request was to ask Kam to call wifey to tell her I have a puncture as I know she is monitoring my progress. By then, I was already 20minutes late - and that first 15km took me almost 45minutes to complete. I am behind time of my 6:15 target. Once the tire was fixed and I got to the first water station to borrow the pump from the Bike Mechanic, inflated to 100psi, I was good to go again. It was rolling downhill to the T-Junction, and flattish with some climbs over the next 50km. I should be able to recover time. I was catching up well and then... second puncture happened at KM30.
Kam was there again, as he passed by and Fiza saw me hiding in the shade to fix the puncture.
The second puncture took a lot out of me in terms of strength and spirit. With 75km to the Special Need station (Km105), and two punctures, no more spare tubular, very unlikely anyone WILL share their tubular with me even if I stand in the middle of the road to beg. I know my 5th Ironman may be a question mark. I managed to fix it the second time around, this time I needed to use the CO2 canister, and I emptied one 16g into the tire, got it inflated nicely to 100psi or thereabout.
By then, It was already 2hours in, and I am at KM30. I should already covered up to KM55 if not KM60. Digging deep, i told myself I can't control the punctures, I can't control if it is fated I "Did Not Finish" or DNF due to things I can't control. But what i can control is my feeling, and I need to triumph over this negativity and fear of a third puncture before KM105. I am still in the game. I will do this.
Speedmachine Wannabe
I hammered the bike and made decent time recovery as I kept at the 180W profile. At one stretch of 10km, I was doing average of 32km/h and making back lost time. I max out at 69.1km/h coming down the Lisram highway. The road was rough and the vibration was bad. I hit one of the road marker while taking a straight line over a S-corner - and was relieved that the tire was ok...But...that hit broke my left aerobar pad, as I was on aero position coming down that section of the road. It did not occur to me it was broken until i realised why my left forearm keep slipping off the pad. I thought it was sweat but I can't be sweating more on my left forearm than my right.
Kam and Fizah bumped into me again at KM50 going up Lisram. The encouragement that they gave was unbelievable. Food for the soul.
"small matter", I told myself.
"I can still cycle, all is ok", the little voice in my heart convinced me.
The balance of the 55km will be ok. I just need to get to the Special Need, grab that extra (and last) tubular, and I have an insurance to finish the bike. At that point, I never felt more clever deciding to ask Edwin to "loan" me the tubular a day before the race - and for me to return it if I did not use it (in the box, new, of course).
I knew after this first climb, there is another Cat 4 climb which can be conquered as long as I let momentum takes me 75% over (at close to 70km/h, with 68kg body and 10kg bike, I have a potential energy (momentum) of close to 5,400 (not that it mattered in this write up actually, but to let you know, i did calculated this while I was slowly climbing up!)
Speeding down second climb
I kept hammering and gain back some time. 4hours in, I passed the 90km mark. I covered 60km in the past 2-hours, including 3-climbs - the last being a Category 3 climbs. Some called this combo of climbs as the "2 Daughter-In-Laws climb, and the largest to be Mother-In-Law climb". The last one sees many people pushing - and there is nothing shy of doing that. In comparison, the Datai climb is a Cat 5 climb and i do not see many pushing their bikes unlike the MIL climb! At KM100... even if I have a puncture NOW, I just need to walk 5km to my tubular, My Game is still on. I arrived at Special Need and it was already burning hot at 2pm. The skies were clear, not a single cloud. I found out later from wifey that they announced the temperature to be at high of 43DegC at it's peak circa 2pm. The playing field has been leveled.
Syukran took this shot. A triathlete will die for a great bike shot.
I spent almost 10minutes in Special Need. Assessed my Aerobar pad as I was using considerable core strength to shift the left forearm weight to the right to stay in aero. The pad definitely has deformed. Broken maybe as it flexes with minimal force pressed on it. Nothing I can do. Won't kill me. Making sure I take my time to pack my last spare tubular in, and place the punctured (which I suspect is the valve leaking) back into the bag, so I can fix it later for trainer session. That two tires cost me no less than RM400, and I am not gonna throw it away.
And It went almost smoothly... until...
With the tubular secured, I am good to go for my last 75km! All went well until circa KM160 that I had another... you guessed it right, puncture. One Tubular. One CO2, One Pump, One Spirit. I was super calm and If it was fated I am to DNF after this puncture - so be it!
I fixed the tubular (new one), and rode the last 20km faster than I did in my first 40km. Arrived at T2. Happy that I survived despite the unfortunate setbacks, four to be exact! Rolling into T2, I sat for a good 15mins.
T2 : 15:35
I have minimal in my T2 bag. I do not need my sunglasses, so i stashed it inside the already wet shoe (due to cold water shower at almost every water station 2pm onwards). I changed to my running shoe, put on my race bib, finished the last bit of Perpetuem. Sat down for a good 10minutes. Counting my blessing. The last 42km will be done and completed before 17hours. I have a good 7hours to make it count - can walk the 42km and still finish!
Off the road we go! I will be running inside here 2 more times
Run 42.2km - 6:35:52
It will not be possible for me to run a 4hours 42km. I ran the first 10km, making good progress. Wifey commented to me after the race and asked me why am I doing a 5:00 pace the first 10km. I seriously did not know, or realise. I was counting my blessing to still be in the game, surviving the bike. Now the 42km will be a breeze, so to say. I took it easy on the run, I will not be able to break my best timing of 15:00 created in 2008. I do not think it will meant to be in this "comeback" race. I am already 90minutes behind my own expected finish. There was just too much to be thankful for, to even consider wanting to chase a PB.
Here I am, at 9pm, close to 10pm, with perhaps 15km to go.But it's all good. I spent my last 15km walking with a few new friends; One Thai national, which asked me if I am sure "we" will finish the race. I assured him if he continue to walk at my 8min pace, he can. He followed me until KM30.
Not tired, actually, I felt good.
I stopped at every opportunity I can when I see friends. To chat a bit and to thank them for being there. There were too many to thanks along the whole race course, and significantly along the run route as they were likely been out there since 4pm to see the pro run. The volunteers by then knows me as "abang janggut" or "goatee brother", I took the time to engage them as they too, been out there since noon for the 70.3 folks. Even at that point, the Old Putera that took my tooth out about 2-weeks before IM was my hero - I stood the risk of not racing 12 days before the race if the condition wasn't fixed!
Home run soon!
Then I spent the last 6km walking with my Bike and race neighbour aka 737, Kelvin Lim. Along the way, I found out he is doing this Ironman for his dad which just passed away in May this year. We talked, and encouraged each other. He called out to me on the run course as me and Team Volt assisted him in the morning with his bike - see how little things created new friendship? Even the Thai National, which I later found out, knew Henry, and our little 4-degree of separation was reduced to just one-degree.
Swam 3.82km, Biked 180.2km, Ran 42.2 - 16:23:59
As I saw wife one last loop and I was about 2km from the finish, I begin to reflect on my personal journey in the last 5 years. Not racing was not by choice but due to work, and I harbor every wish to toe the start line, every year. I was close to DNF at least 3-times in the past 16hours but I did not.
The strength of it all lies with the woman that has always not allowed me to give up
I had great support with my family understanding my level of commitment to this sports I've chosen. The time and effort invested, friends I've made, and friendship rekindled. More significantly, friends seeing me race again. This Ironman race is never about being better than someone. It has never about proving anything to anyone. It is all about yourself, you, fighting yourself, winning over it. Crossing the line in 16:23:39 that Sunday morning (or midnight), was a best feeling ever. The finishing pic of me flexing in victory tells it all. I've never been more grateful and thankful for finishing what I started, and what I wanted that morning.
5th Ironman wrapped
Here are two videos, one of me running into the finish which was taken by my biggest supporter, my wife.

And one by Kam and Fiza - for without them at KM15 and KM30, This story would had been written in a very different way.
And finally, this medal, which is huge-ass big, is a tribute to all of you that was at the starting line, having the same reason as I did, gearing up for the biggest fight against the "can't" and "won't" and making it Possible. Even if you failed to finish it that day, you in my book, is an Ironman. Your Iron-will brought you there. 
Yes, You Can.
Until next race, Keep Moving Forward.