Thursday, March 05, 2020

Kenanga Port Dickson Triathlon 2020 Race Report

2005, I was toeing the line with my faithful LeRun mountain bike, a Lumina cycling helmet and adventure racing outfit. Triathlon was almost unheard of, and was reserved for the silly few that believe biking and running after a swim in the sea is their ideal of “weekend fun”. In 2005, it was my biggest achievement, coming from a non-sporting background and fighting obesity all my growing years. 

Port Dickson International Triathlon or PDIT as it was always fondly called has been changed to Kenanga Port Dickson Triathlon. It doesn’t change the fact that this race has been the longest triathlon race ever in Malaysia; the one that many has used as their stepping stone in the triathlon lifestyle. I am one of them. 

My last PDIT was in 2014. The year after I took a longish break from racing as an age grouper to focus on other priorities in life as I had a complete change in career path, and a young family to provide for. I was at my peak fitness, having completely reset my lifestyle, and losing no less than 20 kg two years before. Along with that, this blog took a pretty long hiatus with occasional updates... like this one.

There are only a handful of us that still uses a blogging platform to write race reports. With the changes in Social Media and “influencers”, people prefer more visual, short, straight to point reports. But this is far from that. This post is dedicated to my friend in racing, and a great sports photographer, Nik Fahusnaza ;-)

PDIT 2020 is my second race in 5-years. As some readers may recall, IMMY was supposed to be my come back race, but drama on the bike league aplenty as I had three punctures on the race course that was super memorable. IMMY was a race I looked forward and I completed it injury free. 
Forever grateful to Kam, Fiza and Syukran that stopped to help.
PDIT 2020 started off with me having the opportunity to cycle outdoor more with Edwin and his friends. Taking Saturday morning off from 6am and back by noon took a lot of time from the family and it would not had been possible if not for the solid support from my wife. 

“Please send me your details so I can register for you”, Edwin messages the group. 

It did not take long for me to send all my details - and I don’t even know what the race fee was. PDIT has always been a good affordable race, and even if there were entry fee escalation, it is justified. When many frown upon Uncle Chan races, I have always supported  him, because if it is not him, who else would had started this triathlon in Malaysia? A big reminder that we are all responsible for ourselves - only race if you feel you can swim in the sea, can bike responsibly on the road with some traffic, and able to understand in the run if it is tough for you, it is tough for others too! 

This year PDIT was facing potential cancellation due to the pandemic of Covid19. Some sources close to the organisation even shared with me there were possibility the race may be postponed, if not cancelled. 

“We know next week”, the sources said over lunch.

I harbour the hope it won’t be postponed, let alone cancelled. Good news came a few days later, with the organiser providing an update and the race is on! What will be missing is a lesser possibility of putting everyone in the same confined area, so the race briefing was cancelled, and to manage crowd, no race pack pick up on morning of the race will happen.

That last part became an administrative nightmare for those of us signing up under Edwin. But the folks came around, got all the indemnity signed, and even the “on behalf” collection slip sorted out in time for Edwin (God bless him) to head down to PD just to collect the race kits for us that are racing. Just remember, this guy has a business to run, and a family to tend to, and yet, he always go out of his way to help. This is one reason I support him and his business!
Battle Gears minus the bike
On race morning, I was up by 3.30am. Made a serving of Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem and Fully Charged. Pop in the Anti-Fatigue and Endurolyte Extreme, final check and I pedalled to meet up with Edwin at his shop. It was me, him and long time fellow triathlete Omar, joining to drive down to PD at 4am. Final check and loading we drove down; and Omar bought us breakfast. I slept on and off and I was awaken as Edwin parked his Van onto the location which he found. We set up briefly and it is hard to miss the van, retractable canopy and the bikes!
Before long, more people trickled in and many came to the Van to borrow pump. We joked the morning to lighten things up.

“Can I borrow your pump”, a fellow participant asked
“Can. RM5 per stroke”, Edwin says seriously 
One two three...”, Omar counted as the triathlete pumped his tires...
“No cash no problem, Touch n’ Go accepted”, I added.

By then they know we were joking - anything to help fellow triathletes, we are more than happy.
5.30am on race day
As we packed the area and moved to transition, I felt like a home coming of sort. The familiar fiesta feel of PDIT. Friends shaking hand and catching up. Setting up my transition - the bike I last rode months ago in Langkawi, the new helmet that make anyone look fast, the all familiar tritop and short, the Garmin electronics that has been tracking all my races and workouts in the past years, newish bike shoe, 1000km run shoe (in the past 8 months), and the ever familiar race nutrition that I would been able to tell you what brand (or not) if I sip it blindfolded (Hammer taste delish), I was almost ready to go; except that my last swim was IMMY in October 2019, and my tinted goggles is now decommissioned, leaving me with a clear pair, and a set of ear plug that I gladly has remembered to clean since IMMY. Then the need to swim for the first time using a buoy. It has never been done before. Uncle Chan has put on the compulsory requirement for this due to historical incidences at the swim league. I am all for it. I just have to learn to use it, even if it’s the first time. 

Swim 1.5km
Heading to the beach, I realised the sand in PD is way softer, whiter, and the sea calmer. Ok. Apart from the sea and waves that you can’t control, I am impressed with the sand - who did what here in PD? Looking out to the sea, the route will head out about 200m before turning left into the covered Marina where we will loop in and back out, before turning right heading to the beach for the final 200m. The swimmers were released based on age group, and no surprise that the largest group was the 40-49. You won’t get that many MAMIL in PD except this once a year event! I managed to catch up with a handful of friends that were equally surprised to see me racing PD this year. 

A few friendly banters, laughter and before many of us realised, the horn went off for my age group. Due to the low tide, we had to walk out the first 50m till waist deep and we started to swim. Only problem with this is now I am stuck in the middle pack where it’s mostly breast-strokers. Nothing I can do but to join in the fun! I was trying to find my ways around to get nto my groove. It was also then I forgotten there was a buoy. Not bad for a first timer! It has been a while since I got kicked, clawed, pulled and pushed in the water since 2014! And I found myself strangely embracing it, nevermind the crappy swim time! Here for the fun! 
Noob hugging the buoy instead of holding in the hand. Thank you Mr Photog sir Wan Zul!
Here is another challenge many fast swimmer won’t experience - at the exit of the Marina, it was funnel-like. Imagine the toll exit where there were 10 lanes merging into two, followed by a sharp right turn towards the beach. It was all good until I swam too much to my right into the barnacles besides the retaining wall of the Marina. A moment of overconfidence with my front crawl sighting. Coming out from the sea, I heard so many cheers from friends. 37:32 to cover 1500m, pretty decent despite the mishap. I found out today, there were one small bit of stone stucked under my right turn that grazed the barnacle stone. 
A more pose-worthy photo
Running into T1, many friends shouted out my (nick)name and others supporter cheering participants on. Took a quick shower, deflated the buoy (so I can hang it on the bike rack to dry while I am out biking and running), washed my earplug and rinsed the goggles, and I arrived at my bike. I pop in two Hammer Nutrition Anti-Fatigue, one Hammer Endurolyte Extreme, and took a sip off the Hammer Perpetuem + Fully Charged as I multitasked wearing my helmet, snap on my race belt, and slipped on my cycling shoes. All done in under 4-mins including shower. I reckon I could had shaved off 2 minutes if I skipped the shower.
#HammerHard
Bike 40km
It's been a while since I took my Boardman out for a ride. All ride this year has been on my Roadbike which keeping at 30km/h felt like I am pushing 37km/h on the Boardman. It is true a TT bike gives you more speed as long as your legs can push the pedal. Coming out of Transition 1, i mounted the bike and started to get into the groove of cycling. With my Garmin Edge 1000 back from repair, I have a more direct view of my power output and that helps me to race a bit smarter. I know i just need to keep at 180W as that is my FTP. Around KM3, I chance upon KK and Felix. As this is a draft-legal race, KK shouted at me for a peloton and I am more than happy to oblige. So, myself, KK and Felix took turn to work as the lead and we were averaging at a cool 37km/h on a rolling coutnry road. Elevation gain was about 300m for 20km, which was pretty decent. On the downslopes, we were going at 55km/h and the slowest recorded sleepw as at 35km/h. Along the way, a few people hop on to the peleton, but some did not want to do the work. Myself and KK decided to drop those that do not want to play ball, and managed to get a foreigner to join in until KM20. At the (sharp) u-turn, we continued on and i found myself separated from KK as a car came between us and I wasn't fast enough to latch on. I lost KK with 15km to go. Alone, it was like the good old days of non-drafting race where we just mind our own business. I was averaging 35km/h with no peloton - that is close to a 10% speed drop. Peloton AND TT bike does help with speed!
Alone? Nope, I was drafted by another triathlete
With 5km to go, I caught up with a fellow OP, Dr. Rafiq and he followed me home to T2. I only know it was him after the race - and under my last 5km TT-breathe, I was cursing the fler that followed me but refused to go to the front to do some work... he explained (later) he had a tough time following, and can only maintain at a bike-length distance - which technically, not a draft.
See his happy face... vs my OOF face
I was particularly happy with the bike, as I've never came under 70mins in PD, and on that day, i did a 1:08:13. Could had been faster if i did not taper off on the last 2km to shake off the lactic acid build up. 
How to look fast, going slow.
Run 10km
T2 was slightly faster at 2:30. I took one last sip of the Hammer, pop in the magic pills, slip on my already 1000km mileage sneaker and off I went. No cap, no sunglasses (because forgot to bring). As some of you that follows me on my Twitter and Instagram, you will know I've been training under heat. Typically going under 34-36 Degree C sun, that gives a feel of 36-38DegC "real feel". All these is to build the body's ability and resilience under duress. And I've been training at Zone 2. All these maths came up together as I ran the last league in a relatively easy paced of 5:00 - 5:15, locking in at Zone 2 most of the time. I also train without any nutrition and hydration, and that helped me to skip most water station, or need to rely to hold onto a drink or gel throughout the short 10km. 
A sunglasses will hide the squinty eyes blinded by salty sweat
The run was uneventful except the need to run on the beach sand (damn the soft sand) at least 45% of the distance. Those sand mess your Running Dynamics and if you land on heels or drag your feet kind of runner, good luck. Even midfoot and forefoot runner like me had a pretty difficult time hopping and touching-going on the sand. This is where my "game plan" failed. I underestimated the last 5km which I wanted to push to Z3/4 and wrap it up in 21mins or so. Turned out, the 4:15 pace for last 5km was a failure due to the run surface condition. I clocked in 50:13 for the 10km run (it was about 9.5km to be exact).
Happy face. Thank you Wan Zul! (told you i need a sunglasses, see here so good looking)
I was happy with my run, it was done with easy effort and I wasn't even pushing. a 50mins 9.5km or the expected 52mins 10km rings right into my typical "training". Normalising this effort (HR) and soon, with faster speed (pace) will meant I will be able to sustain longer races more efficiently. Base load training really work folks!


Finishing pose - thank you www.lifeline-ID.com 
I completed the whole course in my personal best timing of 2:42:19, which was a 3-mins improvement over my best ever PD timing clocked 15 years ago; and this is at a Zone 2/3 HR Bike and a purely Z1/2 Run. I locked in new FTP on the bike that went from 180W to 219W, that also meant my bike power has increased almost 20%, and I can sustain the power with lower heart rate too. Looking back, I could had better improvement if i can cut my swim off by 7mins, and that would potentially bring me a new PB of 2:35. And then if i push more on the bike, another 2mins down, push on the run, another 5mins down, cut down on T1 and T2 time by 2 mins each, hey... a 2:24 looked pretty good... But of course, this can be a dream for another race, on another day. Until then, keep training, keep your chin up, keep injury away... and as a good friend always tell me... Keep Moving Forward. Until the next blog entry - Keep Safe!
Chasing Endorphin, Always






Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Zone 2 HR Training Benefits

Hi everyone!

Hope all is well on your side. Been a while - about 3-months since the last blog update. Today's update will be me re-sharing or refreshing my Lactate Threshold/Heart Rate Zone write up in January 2013 and 2019. This was greatly influenced by my personal in-activities after Ironman Langkawi 2019, and myself taking a big step in "resting" where I saw my personal fitness dropped rather significantly and decided that this is a great opportunity to rebuild my base.

I've been training this year (2020) for (to date) 38 runs and 8 cycling on my "Base-load Zone 2" (80% of the time) and pushed past Zone 3 20% of the time. This is critical if you are training as a beginner, and even seasoned age-grouper may find this useful.

As reference, the three articles i wrote on heart rate training are:
1. Finding your Lactate Threshold - 2013
2. Training Zone based on Lactate Threshold - 2013
3. Training Zone using your Heart Rate - 2019
A chart i did in 2004, way before GPS and HRM being affordable, and using stop watches and fingers as HRM was the norm. Nowadays, you don't need to do this anymore as devices are more affordable and technologically accurate
For today's sharing, I want to make things a bit simple. So this is the TL:DR version of both the write up above:
A. Finding Your Lactate Threshold 2013 write up
Look at your latest best 5km or 10km run results:
  • Look for your average HR - this will be your your Lactate Threshold Heart Rate (LTHR)
  • Look for your average Pace - this will be your Lactate Threshold Pace (LTpace)
  • The LTpace is particularly useful if you are looking for a tempo pace. Tempo (or max Zone 3) workout should be your mainstay workout. I wrote extensively on this back in 2013 - Tempo Run
  • Remember this for now, LTHR and LTpace will only improve once you get stronger and faster, this simply meant you will have to continue to work harder to achieve same level of workout quality as you improves.
  • LTHR and LTpace relates very closely to your VO2Max or Volume Oxygen maximum which is the amount of oxygen your blood can carry (in mililiter) and process for your weight (in kg) in one minute. 
  • A trained person can naturally carry and process more oxygen vs an untrained person - which is an indication of their fitness level. 
  • Your LT is an indication of how much of the VO2max your body can effectively utilise. So having a high VO2max but a low LT simply meant the VO2max number is just a "nice to have" as you won't be able to maximally expense that potential. 
  • In many cases, LT is a better indication of an athlete's capability to remove lactic acid faster than the muscle can accumulate. A (highly) trained athlete will reach their lactate threshold at 80-85% of their VO2Max. For this reason, many devices calculate your predicted VO2max based on the time you spent at this 80-85% HR zone.
  • Run Zones (Joe Friel Formula based on Triathlete Training Bible)
    Zone 1 (Recovery) Less than 85% of LTHR
    Zone 2 (Aerobic) 85% to 89% of LTHR
    Zone 3 (Tempo) 90% to 94% of LTHR
    Zone 4 (Sub Threshold) 95% to 99% of LTHR
    Zone 5a ( Super Threshold) 100% to 102% of LTHR
    Zone 5b (Aerobic Capacity) 103% to 106% of LTHR
    Zone 5c (Anaerobic) More than 106% of LTHR
  • Based on the above... the reason for a " Zone 1 and Zone 2" run became more apparent - because it is to build your cardiovascular system and build a strong base (of fitness)
  • Co-relation between Maximum HR (HRmax), Resting HR (HRr) and LTHR. How each reading effect your training zones, and why finding the correct one is important.
  • Not everyone has the same Zone 2. You need to know your HRR, HRmax and LTHR. There is no shortcut to get these data - you have to go and run and find it (also see Section A and B above)
  • Again, 80% training at "easy" (up to Zone 3), and 20% at "hard" (Zone 3 and above). In simpler term, if you run 5 times a week, 4 days should be easy, and 1 day is hard. 
My HR Zones based on my HRR, HRmax and LTHR. HRR eats into many zones of HRmax and LTHR. Using HRR is better if you are an accomplished runner
  • Many conversation on the internet (such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) has strong (and accomplished) Malaysians runner advocating using HRR as their preferred zones. I prefer to use LTHR because as a multi-sports wannabe triathlete, i need to last longer, and be more efficient, and thus, relies greatly on my lactic acid buffering ability to not get "tired".
  • If you see the chart above, you will see if I were to use HRR, I will have to run harder and enter into my Z3/Z4 at HRR Z2. If I use HRmax, it will be too easy as it will stay more at my LTHR Z1
  • So before you try to follow another person's plan (or pace), know what kind of HR zones you want to use, and your zone!
Why Zone 2?
Zone 2 is often termed as a steady aerobic rate where you can sustained for a long period of time. This is why it is known as a base load training. Ability to hold a conversation, keeping a steady pace (speed), and being able to run (or bike) efficiently. I can tell you it is not an easy task to run at Zone2. Here are some benefits of Zone 2 workout:
Easy 10km at Zone 2 LTHR


  • A strong Zone 2 base-load training will allow you to build strong aerobic and endurance capability. It will also increase your threshold capability. 
  • Please bear in mind that Zone 2 for running and cycling may differs as running is limited by your cardio-system and cycling is limited by your muscular system. This is the reason why running VO2max and cycing VO2max differs.
  • A solid aerobic capacity will help you recover faster between higher intensity effort (in same session like intervals or speed-work), which meant you can perform intervals at shorter rest in-between sets, or perform a higher volume (distance, time) at the same pace. 

Higher interval volume with shorter rest, at similar pace and at similar power profile

  • Sticking to lower HR training will help increase aerobic efficiency, allowing you to increase your pace with lower heart rate.With this, you can log in longer workout without sacrificing forms and functions of the run or bike - essential for long races! 
  • Zone 2 LTHR allows usage of fat as primary fuels. The faster you go, the more glycogen storage your body will use - which is a limiting factor as the glycogen is being depleted, causing you to slow down as more oxygen is required to convert fat into energy. I wrote on this in 2012 : Burn Fat as energy
  • Zone 2 LTHR will utilise your Type 1 muscle - or slow twitch muscles essential for endurance athletes. Type 1 utilises fat as main fuels and it is important to keep training these muscles. Fat provide double the energy of carbohydrate, so it is more energy dense (9kcal vs 4kcal per gram) and make more sense. Zone 2 will help you manage your "bonk" and "wall" at KM32 of a marathon!
I have put my wife on Zone2 workout and the improvement has been significant in space of 5 runs (80-20 rules) where she reported to be able to run easier and in more control, and in that one hard run, she has clocked likely her best 5km timing within the last few years. 

The Zone2 base training workout is nothing new, and not created by me for this purpose of the blog write up. I've been advocating and performing these Zone 2 workout for a long time as it help me to complete my endurance run and training. It is well researched and documented. And the success of this Zone 2 HR training depends on you correctly identifying your HR zones and always remember my zone 2 is not your zone 2, which is not the other person zone 2. 

Good luck in trying and let me know how it went in the comment box below!
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