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.
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 
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