After completing the full distance at Ironman Malaysia last year, I decided I would only do the half-distance this time (phew I’m glad I did lol). Coming into this race, a large part of me wanted to get it over and done with. The past few months have been quite busy with work and I’ve been tired that I wanted the race to be done so I could catch a breather.
I flew into Langkawi on Wednesday morning and this time I stayed at The Daun Resort, this cosy hut-style accommodation that was 850 metres from The Meritus (official race hotel). I also rented a car! Add these costs together and it was still cheaper than staying at Meritus LOL.
Besides getting the necessary race prep stuff done, like doing a test ride, going for practice swim etc., I spent the rest of my time at the Purpose booth helping them out. It’s the first time Purpose is taking a booth at a race expo and it was very encouraging to see people believing in the brand and buying the trisuits. #supportlocal
The weather on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday was rainy and cooling. It rained on and off throughout the day and I thought there might be a chance that we could get nice weather on race day. The weather forecast stated that there will be light/scattered rain in the morning of race day, before a thunderstorm would hit us at 11am. Guess what? It was all LIES.
Both the half- and the full-distance races at Ironman Malaysia are on a Saturday. On Friday, it started raining when I was checking in my bike around 4pm. Poor Queen Bitch was soaked thoroughly! And the rain did not stop.
It rained the entire freaking night! I went to bed at 9pm and at 2am I was startled awake by the storm, with the wind howling and the raindrops hitting the roof of my hut with a vengeance. I thought to myself, “Man, please leave some rain for the race!”
It took me a while to get back to sleep and it felt like I had just managed to sink into a slumber when the alarm went off. You know that feeling when your body is so soft and reluctant to get up? I dragged myself out of bed anyway and went to the toilet… only to discover that my period was here. Crap, it’s a day early! I’ve never raced on the period before so this is new to me. The flow on the first day is little, for me, so it wasn’t an issue for me. I just had some cramping in the stomach.
For some reason I had no appetite that morning. I had to force myself to eat two slices of bread and a CLIF bar, and that was all I could eat. Then a driver sent Delvin, Kerwin and I down to the start line. (For this race, the start/T1, T2 and the finish are all at different points.) I got my bike ready, dropped off my street gear bag and then it was showtime soon. We are not allowed to access our bike bags and run bags (which are all the way at T2 anyway) so there isn’t a lot to do before the start, other than the bike.
There are no pros for the 70.3 race so once the start gun went off at 7am, it is a massive rolling start where we were released 4/5 at a time every few seconds.
I plunged into the warm water and got my strokes going, when I felt my timing chip loosened. Oh crap! I immediately stopped to adjust it and when I got back into the swim, I felt a little winded. Hmmm that’s not good! But I just focused on finding my rhythm and eventually I got it going.
The swim route is a triangle, with 400m on one side first, then 700m across and finally 800m back to the shore. The first 400m felt strong and I was happy, then the next 700m felt long. I was so relieved to take the last turn into the final stretch but this last 800m felt SO LONG. I was swimming alone with the occasional person cutting across me, and each time I sighted, I was hoping to see the shore.
Last year I had a pretty good swim time here at Langkawi (my first loop was 37 minutes), but when I got out of the water this time, I looked at my watch and saw 40 minutes. Oh. Hmmm. Ok no worries, just carry on with the race!
I was taking out my swim skin as I ran into the tent to grab my bike bag off the hook. This style of transition is a bit different from the other 70.3 races I’ve done where the changeover is done at your bike. I sat down on a chair, got my bike stuff on, handed my bike bag to the volunteer and ran off to get my bike.
I remember the 70.3 Langkawi bike route had a few kickers, starting with the Datai stretch in the first 25km of the race. Man I was so happy to get out of Datai! The rest of the route was fun, as we rolled along through the villages of Langkawi… until the Twin Sisters’ Hills or the Highway Hills or whatever those hills are called. I was grunting my way up and thank you to the people who positioned themselves there to cheer for us! It really helped.
After clearing this series, I remember there was one more last hill to kill. At this point, my right lower back was starting to hurt. I’ve felt this pain before and it is usually on hilly terrain. But this time, it was sharper and I was getting uncomfortable on the bike. When I sat up and straightened my back, it hurt. When I bent forward to get into aero position, it hurt. So for the last 25km, I couldn’t go into aero and I couldn’t push too hard either because it would strain my back.
And halfway through the ride, both my aeropads fell off so my elbows would hurt when I stay in aero for too long. I think this was because of the overnight rain that soaked my aeropads completely, causing the glue to unstick.
I just wanted to get off my bike so badly!
I was so happy when I saw the last pink bridge – it meant the exhibition hall was near! I was watching my bike comp so closely because the pain in my back was getting increasingly excruciating as every kilometre passed.
FINALLY, I saw the expo hall and I was SO glad to dismount. I quickly racked my bike, got my run gear on, hung back the run bag onto the hook and started the run.
The first hundreds of metres were in the air-conditioned expo hall so I wasn’t in a hurry to get out into the heat. The moment I ran out into the heat, I tried not to think about it and just thought about putting one leg in front of the other.
I really don’t like running around the airport runway fence because there is absolutely no shade and it was hot af. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky – WHERE WAS THE THUNDERSTORM I WAS PROMISED?!
The first 5km wasn’t too bad, but I noticed my pace starting to drop. Then this girl comes up to me and asked “How are you feeling?” I said I was dying and she said she was dying too and she ran off. She didn’t have an alphabet on her leg so I didn’t know what age group she was in. (We all were given an alphabet tattoo to put on our right calf to indicate our age group.) I suspected she was in my age group though, because she would look back to see where I was when she stopped at aid stations.
She started to pull away and at the 10km mark, two more girls overtook me – both of whom had “H” on their right calves. Ah! They are from my age group LOL. I wanted to run after them but my legs just weren’t cooperating. I was starting to struggle, my pace was slowing even more and at one point I even thought of walking because it was just so hot.
With the sun out in full force (even though the weather forecast said thunderstorm), it was another hot, brutal and shade-less run like Danang. I just aimed to run from one aid station to the other and I was so grateful that every aid station had ice cold sponges and chilled water. The volunteers were all very helpful too!
I saw familiar faces along the run route cheering for me, strangers calling out my name too (our names are on our bibs), and I’m sorry if I didn’t respond because I was suffering. Thank goodness I’m only doing the half!!
It was so good seeing the finish line and I didn’t want to move for quite a long time after that.
My final time was 5:43:32 and 5th place in my age group (30-34). I later realised I was second off the bike and I got run down by those three girls who were stronger runners. The 3rd, 4th and 5th spots were within two minutes but because we didn’t all start at the same time, I wasn’t aware of the gap between us on the run.
But honestly I think I gave it my best that day.
And to everyone who did this race, GOOD JOB. It was tough!
In hindsight, it’s easy to have thoughts like, “Did I bike too hard? Could I have ran faster?” But it is what it is and I did what I could. I mean, although I was in pain on the last third of the bike ride, this was still the ride of my life. I’ve never hit such high normalised power output in a race before!
And the good news is, I got a slot for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship 2020 in Taupo next November. YAY!!
Thank you everyone for the support and I am ready for a break. But first – Singapore Marathon.
P. S. This pretty custom trisuit from PURPOSE is in the exact shade of pink I like! The trisuit gave me no trouble – no abrasion (I lubed up properly too) and didn’t make me feel suffocated in the stupid heat. It is my first time using a sleeved trisuit in a race in Asia!