My phone beeped at 4.30am.
I think I barely slept. I turned to hit the snooze button.
Then I remembered.
Today is the day.
All those months of training....of logging mileage....of being perpetually exhausted.....of being sore and sleep deprived.
It all boiled down to this very day.
In 3 hours time, I'd start my 3.8km swim, 180km ride and will end my day with a 42km run.
* Racking Dylan at transition. Pic courtesy of Phuitin
I arrived with 45 minutes to spare.
Enough time to pump both tires, set my Garmin on the bike, mentally prepare myself for the race and....OH MY LORD, WHERE THE F**K ARE MY WATER BOTTLES!?!?!?!?!?
Forget calm and collected.
All hell breaks loose.
I was freakin the hell out!!!!
How can I forget my water bottles...AGAIN!?!?!?!
What the hell is wrong with me!?!?!
Could this be a bad omen!?!?!
OMG I think I forgot my water bottles for Putrajaya 7 as well and as I remembered correctly (coz you rarely forget such shit like that), I DNF-ed that race!!!!
WTH is that gonna happen today as well!?!?!?!
(to cut the drama short, Kelvin saw me freakin out and went back to his hotel to bring me his spare water bottle and then all is calm and collected once more. Thank you Kelvin Cupido. You really know how to calm a nervous wreck of a girl down)
* We got this!!!!!!!
* All happy and smiles before the start of the race :)
* Pics above courtesy of Gary...written cardboard courtesy of Karen
I was nervous. Anxious. A hundred and one things that could go wrong flashed through my mind.
I could drown. I could have a panic attack. What if I'm exhausted at sea? What if I get attacked by a group of anti-swimmer jellyfishes!?!?! OMG what if I DNF before even getting on the bike?????
No wait, hold on a moment there, girl....think happy thoughts. HAPPY FREAKIN THOUGHTS!!!
Think McDonald's ice cream....sunbathing....Maaji bikinis....adopting a puppy that Phuitin's gonna baby-sit on behalf after Ironman....oooh smile for the photog!!!
The line heading to the swim moved along....happy thoughts filled the small space that is my head and before I knew it I was getting into that murky, mud-filled water and my race had begun.
I glanced at my watch...7.38am.
Here goes nothing!
I swam along, and tried my darnest not to kick anyone in the process.
This was gonna be a long swim. I will try to make it back within 2 hours.
Yeah 2 hours is doable. I kept telling myself that. I can make it back in 2 hours.
Before I knew it...I was at the turn around...I glanced at my watch....50 minutes....ok ok still on track.
I can make it back in 2 hours. Just don't slow down.
By the time I got back to the finish (and hit my shin against the wooden step...dammit!), I knew I finished way before my 2 hour target.
In fact, it was 1:34!!!! Good job breaststroker!!!!
Ran to transition and the volunteers (awesome group of kids!!!!) handed me by transition bike bag and I ran into the tent to change out of my smelly swim gear and into my cycling outfit (this was becoming quite a fashion show and I had three outfits to change). Without the care in the world (I did apologise to the volunteers in the changing room first!), I stripped down to my birthday suit....wiped myself clean....and struggled to get into my (dry) tri pants and sports bra. I'm not too proud to say that I needed 2 other volunteers to help me get myself into my clothing. Took a whole lot of vaseline and wipe it all over myself, put on my cycling jersey, rubbed in more sunscreen...helmut, sunnies and gloves on, thanked the volunteers profusely as they were packing my wet items back into my bike transition bag, and ran out to get my bike.
I was rather relieved to see that there were still quite a lot of bikes racked at transition.
Phew...I'm not the last idiot standing.
* Getting out of transition pic by Shanaz
A real good state of emotion to be in as it negated everything else that I was feeling physically while climbing the first three hills.
I don't know if it was all those rides to Lukut and MEX highway...or the 3 weeks of relative rest and reduction in mileage....but it felt a whole lot more easier.
I completed the first 90km in 3:34 and thought, ok....I think I can get this done in less than 8 hours (taken into account that I'd be a lot slower in the second round).
I have to say that climbing the first hill all over again on the second loop was incredibly tiring and painful. My quads were starting to twitch which meant it was gonna cramp anytime soon. And after the second climb...I thought to myself, oh no...I don't know if I could climb the third hill as it was a lot longer. No matter....will figure out when I get to that hill.
As the 3rd hill approaches, the twitches in my quads were getting stronger and more frequent.
I got off my bike.....and I pushed up that hill.
No shame in it. I wasn't the only idiot pushing. And it felt like Phuket all over again.
Enroute to Datai, I was feeling exhausted. Drained. Tired. Achy.
And sore. Not my legs but funnily enough, my arms.
My triceps were starting to hurt.
I just need to survive Datai and then its the home stretch back.
Just need to survive another 20km of rolling hills.
I was worried I may not make the bike cut off.
I was getting slower and slower. I really just want to make it back before the bike cut off.
I just need to get back in time to run.
Stopped to refuel at the turn around just before the turn off to Datai stretch.
Downed a banana...took more de-gassed Coke...stretched my arms and triceps.....told myself to hang in there and that I was more than halfway done....and off I went again.
At that point, I was no longer concentrating on my timing (or lack of it). I knew I was getting slower. I knew I was getting really tired. And I can't shake the soreness in my arms away (note to self: get acquainted with the aero-bar next year!!).
I went into the Datai stretch with intentions of just surviving that 20km no matter how slow I was going.
Survived to the end of Datai and u-turned back.
At that moment, I glanced down at my Garmin. It was around 140km in. I only had another 40km more to go. I had 3.5 hours before the 10:30 bike cut off. No matter how slow I was, I was still going above 20km/hr. And I am dead certain that I can complete 40km in the next 2 hours (or less), which means that....I WAS GOING TO MAKE THE BIKE CUT OFF!!!!!
Wait...not even that...I WAS GOING TO MAKE THE BIKE CUT OFF WITH ENOUGH TIME TO WALK THE BLOODY 42KM!!!!!
And suddenly it was like something clicked in my head and I was overjoyed.
Overjoyed and extremely happy.
I was going to make it!!!!!
And like magic, the rest of the ride was easy peasy.
The hills were flatter....the headwind was less stronger....the aches and pains melted away.
I couldn't stop smiling for the entire ride back to transition.
So THIS was what it felt like to "have fun" during your Ironman race.
I got back to transition with a bike ride time of 7:16.
That left me with almost 8 hours to get this 42km over with.
* Bike pic courtesy of Holland T. Album
I ran the first 2km until I've gotten my first arm band and felt all that de-gassed Coke, water, undigested bananas and energy gels sloshing in my stomach and making me super nauseated.
I had to stopped to walk a bit. Each time I tried to resume running, I would feel my gastric content making an exit up my oesophagus. And since vomiting during race had become such a personal taboo (the last time I vomited during a race, I was pulled out and forced to DNF), by hook or by crook I was gonna keep my gastric content where it belonged....in my stomach!!!! (and hopefully down the intestines to be absorbed)
So....I walked the first loop.
Bumped into Andrew Lim. He overtook me on the bike and I found him on the run (or rather on the walk). I kinda liked the company (I mean, after all it was gonna be one hell of a long evening) so I asked if he would like to walk with me.
Surprisingly he agreed. As we approached the turning heading back to transition before running along to collect our 2nd wrist band, I proposed that we run along the main road ahead. I had a lot of friends with cameras and I would like to have some photos of myself attempting to run. I told Andrew that once they were our of view, we could resume walking. He happily agreed.
So that was our modus operandi for the 42km.
We ran whenever we see a cheering crowd with cameras...and we walked once they are no longer in sight. We also ran certain stretches as to keep the run/walk momentum going.
It worked. We were gaining ground.
Andrew said this was his first marathon. He had a rather low run mileage through out his training for Ironman (I'm not exaggerating when I say low mileage....after all, how high can a weekly mileage of 3km be?) and he was getting tired. But he said he wanted to follow my pace. He said he was worried he'd walk (very slowly) for the rest of the way if he didn't follow me.
I felt bad. And since I liked talking nonsense with him, we continued our run/walk together.
He asked if at the rate we were going, if we were going to make it.
I glanced at my watch.
Yes...we are going to make it.
And I'm gonna get us back in 16 hours.
Got our 3rd band.
It was getting dark by then. Andrew was getting quiet. A bit too quiet.
I sensed he was getting very tired.
So I did what was once done for me when I was getting tired and weary during my first full marathon.
I told him stupid running stories. Funny running stories. Stories of being conned into signing up for races.
I told him about how I started running. I told him about signing up for my first full marathon with so little mileage logged (that was a stupid thing to do, btw) and I told him how "some people" convinced me that I could do my first ultra marathon of 84km....and the subsequent year got conned again for the 100km. Told him about the "wonders" of walking in a 100km race (don't ever follow my footsteps...I was dumb and still am!).
I guess my stupid stories must have gave him something to think about other than being in pain and exhausted.....coz after a long period of silence, he suddenly muttered, "wow...100km....on foot".
* Run pic courtesy of Kam!!!
This was the home stretch!!!!!
We continued our walk/run agenda.
Our conversations had dwindled down to some "are you ok, bro?"...."let's walk a bit longer"....."we're gonna be there soon"...."take your gel and salt pills"..... and "wow....100km, on foot!!!".
As we approached the stadium area, Phuitin ran past us on the other side and said....run faster...you can make it sub15!!!!!
Nonsense, I told her...there's no way we could make it sub15.
Or could we?
I look down at my watch. Calculated with my fingers (the most accurate way of calculating stuff).
Well, I'd be damned. We do have a damn good chance of making it 15 hours if not less.
I turned to Andrew. We shall try and run a bit more....ok?
We ran (just a bit more) and he turned to me and told me to go through the finishing chute first.
I thought that was very nice of him.
So I thanks him and said perhaps we should aim to run into the finishing together NEXT year.
He nodded happily in agreement and I wondered if he got the irony of it.
So I crossed the finishing line...alone....in 15:02:44.
Was expecting tears and extreme elation. But after receiving the finisher towel, taking pictures with Andrew and offering congratulatory handshakes and hugs, all I felt was hunger.
And as I stuffed my face with the complimentary pasta (which tasted awesome!!!!), all I was thinking about was whether I could beat this timing next year.
Sigh....I never learn!!!!!!
* Finishing pic courtesy of Michelle
I would like to thank quite a few people in this Ironman journey and knowing that I won't be able to name every single one of them...I'll give it a shot and name as many as I can recall off hand.
Firstly...I'd like to thank my cycling group (the Bunanamos) for the time we've spent training together. I enjoyed the push...the tough love...the sarcasm...the support...and the makan time we've had together. I liked how we're all kiasu with the same intensity.
I'd also like to thank my whatsapp chat group that comprises of me, Phuitin, Bryan and Winnie. This chat group that came about just before our Challenge Philippines race and continued until today. You guys kept me extremely hardworking trying to keep up to your training hours. And Phuitin is the best running buddy ever!
Thanks to Rupert for his compact crank. I would have pushed my bike a lot more had it not been for the fact that I downgraded to compact from my Ultegra crank. And yes..I'll be returning it soon :(
Oh not to forget my other important whatsapp chat group comprising of me, Agnes, Lini and KC. You guys kept my sanity intact with your level-headedness and common sense.
I would also like to thank my colleagues for putting up with me complaining that I'm hungry all the time. I'm sure we would have gotten a lot more work settled if I didn't need to run off to pantry to eat so often.
Also....big thank you to Yin Fook and Velocipedeworks for helping me with my bike and all bike related shit. You guys rock!!!!!
Not forgetting lenglui Aileen Har who had been my agony aunt since the day I started my Ironman training. She dealt with all my doubts and insecurities about my training over a good cup of latte.
To all those who came to Langkawi to support the race (there's too many of you to name but you know who are you!!!)....appreciated your waiting under the hot sun for many hours and all those cheering when I ran past. It really helped lift my spirit when I was down.
Special mention to Terence Poon...the man who planted this seed many many years ago when I could barely cycle 40km and had just ran her very first full marathon. The same man who conned me to run 100km...twice!!!!! You taught me that impossible is nothing. And if Andrew Lim would like to venture into ultra marathons one day, I'll pass him your number!!!!