Sunday, 11 December 2011

Journey to my world championship part 3

Race day is here

8th of October is my calling. The most anticipated day in the whole year for me.

Woke up at 0400hrs and munched on my cereal. Taste was bland and the restless night of tossing and turning didn’t help to the start of my day.

I was really lucky to have found a parking lot close to the race site despite all the hectic of a World Championship.
Got all my equipment’s out of my red truck and set off to the transition area.
Tires checked, chain checked, bike checked, swim and running gears checked. Last but not least, body marking checked. I am looking good so far.

Checked in my baggage at 0615hrs and it was a long wait up to 0635hrs before I was permitted to head into the water along Kailua Pier for my warm-up.
The swim start of the Ironman World Championships is like a bike washing machine. Nervous, intense and physical made me feel as if the clock has come to a standstill and that the moment would never pass.
Than it came, the traditional ‘boom’ from the cannon sounds off the start of the swim start.

It was chaotic during the initial swim, I felt it was only sensible for me to find a decent pack and follow them throughout the swim rather than risking myself out at the front and tiring myself out in such conditions.
It was really physical; up to a point where I did not dare to look up for sightings and just follow the pack to the PowerBar buoy, which signals the u turning point.
The u-turn was just as hectic as GSS when there is a 70%off sign. Pushing and pulling were all part and parcel. Nobody wanted to waste energy taking a larger turn around the buoy, thus creating a rubber band effect.
I’m lucky enough to spot another swimmer in a full skin-fit suit among all the chaos and tagged on to him for the remaining of the swim. We distanced ourselves from the initial pack and haul ourselves back to shore. I came out of the water with a timing of 1.13hrs.

Being the youngest age group, our transition area was furthest away from the bike out area. That would also mean that we would have to run the furthest within the transition area.

T1 went smoothly and it was time for the bike leg.
The first 10km was really harsh on my body. I was trying to ride into a rhythm with my legs and my lungs having to adapt to the sudden change of breathing.
It was all thanks to the wonderful volunteers and fans along the Alii drive that created such a great race atmosphere and ambience to get me through the 10km.

There was a slight incline before the Queen K highway but that didn’t deter me. I was soon riding into a good rhythm and was flying. Nutrition and hydration was good. The road conditions were relatively flat apart from the occasional gust of wind. The 50km of riding felt really good. This was one of those special moments where I couldn’t believe I was riding alongside of the famous lava field.
My special moments were however, short-lived.
The kilometer after the 50km mark could not be described better than the word unrelenting.
Wind conditions were erratic and coming at me fast and hard. Wind coming from all direction but never from my personal favorite, the tailwind. It was just crazy to be riding in such a condition.
The single file pace line that we had form cycling was now oscillated across the very wide and vast road here in Kona, Hawaii.
Having come across a near fatal accident in my life, I was more concern about crashing down on the road than finishing the race at the point of time. All I could recall was gripping as hard as I could on my aerobars and prayed for the best.

As if Mother Nature was playing a trick on me, she decided to bring the wind conditions a couple notch higher for the next 16km, on a slight incline and just before the U-turn point.
Going at 19km/h, there weren’t any riders passing me. It somehow actually seems normal to be riding like this.
I told myself that such difficult wind conditions would not last and was sure that after the u-turning point there would be tailwind for me. Sounds very logical if you are someone who has spent countless hours out on the road riding and understand how wind conditions will help you save energy.
I was wrong.
There was no slightest change in the wind conditions at all. Not even on the downhill stretch. It was relentless.

It was only around the 120km mark when I returned back onto the Queen K highway did the wind subsided barely.
Up to this point, there were damages done to my body to a certain extent.
As I was not able at any point of time during those insane windy moments lift my hands off my aerobars, my hydration and nutrition plan was ruin. My initial goal of clocking a sub 6hrs ride was now seems not achievable.
It was damage control from now on. I need to make some changes to my game plan.
I pressed on hard for the next 50km before easing off on the last 10km stretch of the bike leg to save some juice for my run.

I completed the bike leg in 6hrs 3mins. 3mins off my initial target.
The wind conditions really took a lot out of my body. I was aching all over. I was really caught off guard by such conditions, as I never once knew.

I calmed myself down at T2. Took my time to get my gears in place and told myself to get over what I just went through and focus on what is ahead and coming for me.
I needed to prioritize finishing the race with a respectable timing over my personal ambition of setting a PB this time round. The race is very spiritual to the locals here and I too had the same believes as them. The race must be respected.

The initial 8km on the run was just as difficult for me during the first 10km on the bike. Having a nutrition plan that didn’t really worked out as a plan, didn’t help the situation.
All I could do was to take in as much hydration and nutrition that I brought along without over-doing it. And hope for the best.

Feeling better, I set myself a steady pace to make up for lost time.
After 10km of nice steady tempo, and approximately 2 stations before the turn into the infamous Energy Lab, my left leg began to crack under pressure.
I was in pain at the area of my broken femur and I had to stop and stretch just for it to ease off to a point where my legs could be walk-able.
What started off as a brisk walk within 1mins had slowly evolved into a jog and by the 20km mark I was back into a running rhythm.

A left turn, on the road and I was ready to tackle the infamous stretch along the Energy Lab. It was really hot and gruesome to be running in such conditions.
It was a low point for me in my run and if it was not for the motivational points and markers, my morale would sure to have been low.

Nothing felt more comforting and assuring than seeing your special needs tent, after having gone through what I had covered over the last 9hours or so.
I was so looking forward since the start of my run to my bag of gummy bears.
I could not take in any more gels at this stage of my race, as I have grown so sick of the taste. I was solely depending on coke as my primary source of fuel.

If some were to say I am stubborn with my approach to racing, so were my left leg injuries.
My legs felt worst after the energy lab.
I followed the formula, which worked very well previously that is to stretch, walk, and jog and than finally breaking into a run.

I managed to get into a tempo race pace and found myself running along with a group of 4 other runners.

We weren’t talking to each other about how our race has been so far.
It was the synergy and energy that we all felt bonded and obliged to make it to the finish line. We all worked well together pacing and having each other company up to the 40km mark.
I was feeling much better and decided to pull myself away from the group on the last 2km. I somehow felt a certain familiar pain creeping up into my body soon enough.
The final 1km was like liberation for all the pain that I have gone through and put up with. Those pains that I have grown so accustomed and familiar to during this race were just of non-existence now. It was a feeling of ten thousand volts of electricity flowing through your veins. Pride, fulfillment and the world greatest sense of accomplishment were just some of the emotions. I simply felt out of this world.

I reached out for my country’s flag, which I have been carrying all this while in my Spi-belt, and crossed the finish line in rapture. The feeing was insanely out of this world.

I was greeted and ushered by two volunteers, and was awarded with my extremely oversized and hard earned finisher medal. It was really the size of pancake!

The experience at the Ford Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii was just simple breath taking and out of this world. Every single finisher is treated just as if they were a World Champion themselves. Simply awesome.

Knowing I have just made history and broken a National Record in Singapore. I am in a world of my own.
Weeks after the World Championships, looking back at all experiences that I have gone through and put up with. All the wonderful people whom I have met. People who have help or advised me to be a better athlete myself. The strict discipline I had to go through. The bare minimum of social life that I had to limit myself to. The no-late night life-style that friends around my age are all living in. The sacrifices that I had to make. The insanely limited 24hours in a day that I have to work around my schedule. The constipating weather that I sometimes have to put up with during training sessions. Everything that I may or have given up and to put up with all the pain and suffering that lasted the 11hrs and 40mins.
It is not something that in the public eyes, normal people deemed as normal. Having broke your leg in a near fatal accident. Coming back to win races again and qualify for the World Championships.
It is with all this difficult time comes these opportunities for me to come back stronger and better.
Everything happens for a reason.

I would like to give a tribute to the people who have made all this possible for me. If it was not for them, my Ironman dream will still be just a dream.

My Family- For always believing in me and supporting in what I myself believed in. And never giving up on me, ever. Thank you all very much.

My BFF’s- You girls have been fantastic. You girls being in heels and me in sports shoes, I bet you probably understand only half the stuff I share and rant to you about but yet you never fail to spare a listening ear. It does help me think out of the box sometimes. Thank you so very much for sticking around.

My training buddies- For putting up with my erratic schedule and demanding training sessions at time. I am just glad I have all your company to pull me through each and everyone of those sessions. It makes training a breeze with you guys.

Entro Cycles- For choosing and believing in me to use your brand, Argon18. And for the flawless FFWD F6R wheelset that has travelled with me through hell and back on the bike. Thank you so much for your support and faith in me.

Key Power International- For having me as your Newton running shoes and 2XU triathlon series ambassador. Always accommodating to my last minutes changes and request. Thank you so very much for facilitating all my gears.

All the friends I have come to know in my life. The kind words and great support from all of you, and believing in me. Your beliefs acted as prayers to me, to move another inch further during my stint, racing in Kona. Thank you all so very much.

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