Saturday, 22 December 2012

Phuket 70.3

I completed Desaru with a lot of questions unanswered and needed to move on with it so i plunged myself deep into the preparation works for my last Ironman sanctioned race of the year. I was back into full-on training mode a week right after Desaru and i was very motivated at the tough of it.

Weeks passed and before you even know it, i was right on schedule with my training up to the tapering week. My schedule was packed as I was working longer hours and had two very important weddings to attend within that week. Only having time to pack my stuff in the wee hours of my departure date, i had less than 4 hours of sleep before taking a early morning flight in a compressed cylindrical filled with many people high up in the sky. My nose was watery and my eyes were getting wet. I caught the flu bug not long after getting onto the plane.

After touching down, Alan will be running around and getting all the necessities for me in place. All i can do is to hydrate as much and hope for the best come race day. 
2nd December and Race Day. As my hotel was only 500m away from the start line, i only needed to wake up 2 hours before race start. What luxury an extra hour of sleep can do for you! Race morning are usually hectic but i was surprisingly calm this time round. I only reached the race start along the beach at 0615hrs to warm up and everything was in place. The sea conditions were the only thing that was worrying for me as there were white caps not too far out from shore with the occasional wave hitting the shore well over 2 metres! Looks like it was going to be a rough swim! At 0640hr where the female age groupers were flagged off, i struggled even to get past the first buoy at 100m. It took me close to 5mins to reach the buoy. The tough of wasting vital energy and coming down with a flu played in the back of my head. I came out of the 1.3km swim feeling totally spent before even transiting to the remaining 600m swim in the freshwater lake. I had a swim time of 38mins which fell short of what i know i can do. I am just glad i made it out to continue on with the race.

I took my time at the transition area and cleared my nose,that proved to be just what i needed. I told myself that it might have been a horrible start but the day is still long and it might play into my favour when the weather gets hot later in the afternoon. Feeling better coming out of transition, i looked at the small bike course manual which Alan had stick onto my bike to let me know where are the key crucial area. It reminded me of all the hard work and effort he has put into just supporting me and making sure that everything is perfect on race day, and that was just the wake up call i needed for myself.

16km into the bike was a narrow bridge crossing where every athlete had to come off and push their bikes across, i was disturbed by the fact that it bring down my average speed on the bike. After travelling around 36km/h-42km/h, i managed to bring my average speed up to 34km/h on the 45km mark. The 40km was one of the crucial area marked out on the small bike course manual, a 1.2km climb with an max gradient of 19%. I knew i needed to approach the climb tactfully if i were to get over the climb unlike the guys on the big fancy bike and disc wheels whom i am passing. I just needed to ride into a steady tempo seated(even if my cadence was only 50rpm!) and not standing up to crank as i may not distribute my weight on the bike evenly resulting in a wheel spin. By the halfway mark up on the climb, my heart rate was hitting 92%. Thanks to Alan for finding me a rare 29teeth cassette were my legs able to be kept fresh throughout the climb!

With such a climb comes a long decent and i was able to recuperate and continue with the initial pace that i was setting. Riding a bike in an Ironman is all about pacing and moderation, if something had to be given, something else had to be taken. The 65km mark was crossing where we all had to dismount but what makes it another crucial marked out area was the fact that after having spend close to 2 hours on the bike, the bike course will start taking its toll on athletes and thats where you have people crashing and resulting in mechanical failures. I had to keep myself safe and thats why i muscled my way through the transit point. I was really fortunate to get back on my bike unharmed as i could hear in the background of athletes slipping and crashing, over the bridge crossing right after i started riding off. Such a mayhem!

As i continued my ride towards the infamous 'Tiger Hills', the worst kind of thunderstorm hit us on the bike course. With the rain droplets piercing through my skin, i was well aware of the risk i should not be taking once the 'hills' arrived. As per the marked out key areas on my handlebar from 71km, the roads starting to ramp upwards un-relentlessly. And, so did the rain. Rainwater was flushing down the slopes and causing some athletes up the road to slipped and fall. Even though such fall on climbs may not break an arm, it sure was enough to break a derailleur and ruin your race. I kept my distance from the other riders and rode in my own tempo and passing them along the way. On the 77km mark with a left turn climb at 22%, i heard Alan and Joyce cheering hard for me. The voices of those two amplified the voices of my friends and family supporting me back at home many miles away. The conditions of the weather and the steepness of the climbs were taking a lot of victims as it question oneself in the sanity to do so, but i was not prepared to be one. I pressed on harder for every pedal stroke not wanting to get off and push my bike up. My wheels were slipping. Images of myself training during my thursday morning ride clocking 15laps at Mt Faber after the end of my morning ride flashes through my head. I look at the white paints on the road while climbing not knowing how much more i needed can give, questioning myself how much is enough and is this where i want to stop. I eventually prevail in the battle with my inner demon and crested the climb with my heart rate in the region of 95%. Only 3 alphabets could sum up my emotions at the top, and they are O.M.G.

Descending such a long climb was always going to be a challenging one, even more so with the weather conditions. On the winding road down the 'hills', there were numerous crashes along the decent. With some of them looking really bad and most certainly a very painful trip to the showers after the race. Even with my brakes fully clamped down, i was still travelling down with speed in the region of some 30+km/h. Really thanked my guardian angel for looking over me when i reach the bottom of the climb and was able to ride back into a comfortable pace back into transition.

From the bike to the run, it wouldn't be to ridiculous to say that some will go through an emotional trauma over it. The weather soared from a freezing 20deg to a scorching 42deg when i hit the run! Even a little too much for my liking!!! I was much better equip for my nutrition plan this time round as compared to my Cairns Ironman with 5 packet of gels for the 21km run. Most part of the run course was in open and barren roads along the private housing estate, solely at the mercy of the sun. Much of the athletes resulted to a walk at this point in the race. As it was a fairly straight forward run on the run leg of the 70.3 Laguna Phuket Ironman unlike the previous 2 part of it, i did not have much problems during the run and eventually finished in a reasonable 1hr51mins. Final race time of 5hr 27mins.

Phuket has been a wonderful host to me with its beautiful place and i can only be glad to end my 2012 season doing this race. Beautiful beaches and friendly locals, I enjoyed myself so much for my post race holiday travelling all across the island.

Next year the race will actually be taken over by Challenge family instead of the ironman organisation. I believe the race will be run equally as well, if not even better with each passing year. I will recommend all other athletes to come and do this challenging race as it really puts your body and mind into question and than spent a couple of days after that to bask yourself into the sunlight of Phuket.

I will like to sincerely thank everybody who made it happen, Key Power for you never ending support of Newton shoes and 2XU custom apparels, Entro Cycles for the best triathlon bike and race wheels throughout my race season and most of all, my family and friends for ever being so supportive and understanding towards me. Thank you.

With that, i shall end my last race blog of the year and look forward to what else more i can do in the next. Off season here i come!!!!

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