Monday, August 18, 2008

Race Report: Desaru

A looooong report for a looooong RACE - you have been warned!
I bagged a lift with Sam and Carmen down to Desaru for the Long Distance triathlon. This was the last local tri race of the year and would complete for me a full set of distances. I still believed IM to be “my” distance but you never know I might find that a ½ IM would give me the same goose bumps – but then again that may have been beginners luck as someone kindly thought to mention. Forewarned of a lumpy swim, and scorching tarmac on the run, the bike leg seemed to have the thumbs up for being a good surface and gentle rolling hills and NO DRAFTING – sounded right up my I thought.
We arrived late Friday afternoon in time to register, put the bikes together and pop out for a spin with the rest of the team for a 30minute there and back. I couldn’t help myself, George just likes to go fast, I kept my legs loose and span and everything seemed to be in GWO (Good Working Order). An early dinner with everyone was followed by early bed. The race didn’t start until 10am but there really is not much to do in Desaru so bed and one English Channel on the TV would have to suffice.

Before I indulge you with the details of race day let me first tell you about the delights of my room. Everyone had the same deal and I feel the Kampong character of this “Golden Beach Resort” should be highlighted for one and all. One light worked, my bedside light cable was held together with sticky tape so I didn’t risk playing with that, there was no hot water and every time you turned the tap on, water spouted from every orifice. The shower rail was fixed to the ceiling, which meant the curtain didn’t cover the bath tub and since there was no hook to hang the shower on the shower hose span round and round in the bath. Randy got it right saying the whirlpool effect was preparing me for the swim. Friday evening the water looked inviting. Would it be quite as calming in 16hours time?
RACE MORNING: Breakfast was fixed for 6.30am, rather early I know but Sergeant Sam had spoken. I stumbled down a little after 6.30 expecting to see Sam and Carmen already champing at the bit. So imagine my surprise when they were nowhere in sight. Buggar this I thought and back off to my room I went. Funnily enough their room was next to mine and when I called Sam to see where they were I heard a phone ringing through the paper thin walls. A sleepy voice answered:
Emma: “Hi Sam, you did say breakfast at 6.30 right?”
Sam: “Yes. What time is it then?”
Emma, “6.45,”
Sam (and this is a classic), “SHIT! Carmen forgot to set the alarm,”
So it’s true people, even Sergeant Sam can be late once in a while, although on this occasion it really didn’t matter.
POST BREAKFAST: I walked down to the water to collect my thoughts. It looked choppy. Oh well never mind, if I can get out in under an hour I will be happy (previously I was hoping for 45min). Bumped into Steph at transition; she wished me luck telling me it was my race – HA! I told her I had to get out the bloody water first. She then replied with a grin on her face, yes it’s like a washing machine out there today. Cheers I needed that. It was like a washing machine and it seemed I was in for the long cycle rather than a quick wash!

THE SWIM: I just could not get going, a bit of breaststroke, and bit freestyle and then a bit of treading water and trying to sight with swimmers coming at me from everywhere. Kicked in the stomach, back, arms and kidneys, luckily my head stayed on and together. Like a ride at Alton towers if it wasn’t a race it was fun swimming in such manic conditions. The one BIG plus I took from it is I didn’t panic. And that for me is a HUGE improvement, if you remember my fiasco at the A formosa sprint all the way back in May.
T1: Out in one piece with my watch saying 54min, I sprinted off to transition. This is where I was going to play with fire. 90k is no short distance, I knew I shouldn’t red line so was aiming at keeping my heart rate in the young 150’s but also I am rather competitive and had to yet again to play catch up. So with no prior experience of the distance I thought let’s just welly it and learn for next year should it (excuse the saying, but I like this one) go TITS up!

THE BIKE: My bike was great, loved it loved it loved it. Took a gel every 45min, 1 ½ bars and plenty of liquid. Admittedly I was nearly but not quite hammering it and in the later stages of the 3rd loop that nasty 5letter word came to visit. CRAMP. Not quite full blown, it was enough to warn me to back off and stop being a silly girl. Relax Emma I said to myself, gently, gently catch a monkey. I heard people yelling good wishes and saying hi but my blinkers were well and truly on. I got off the bike in 2hr 40min official time 2.45.
T2: This is where 2.45 happened. I was 5 minutes in transition because Mr Cramp came to haunt me again. Racked my bike and bent down to put my socks on. I needed them for a 21. As I bent down my right leg started cramping in the quad, knee and groin. Ok I thought. No sitting down and no bending legs, let’s try and put socks on with straight legs shall we? Meanwhile I noticed Steph come into transition. I only got out just in front of her – that’s how bad it went.
THE RUN: Out onto the run and not even a K into it and BANG full blown cramps. Run through it, run through it, rather difficult but I kept telling myself don’t stop. Common sense prevailed and I stopped for a few seconds and punched my leg (don’t know why but it seems to work better than massage). I then stood up and carried on. Slowly I got into a rhythm, it wasn’t quick but at least I was running. I took the thimbles of water on offer at most stops and put a sponge on the nape of my neck each time. My fault for staying aero (mat rampet) style in the saddle so long! The heat wore off and the heavens opened on the second loop bringing a welcome reprieve. I started feeling slightly better but knew if I upped the pace cramp would come back meaner and harder and probably not give me a second chance. So basically the run was a fine line balancing what my mind would get my body to do and put up with.

The bananas had long since run out so having missed out there I settled for a gel intake on a water stop by the hill of the second loop. As I approached I reached back to get the 2xcaffine with tangerine. I patted my back, fumbled around. Where the bloody hell was it? I had lost the thing on the bike! EEK. So I was going to have to complete this without any more electrolytes. My last intake being at 85k on the bike, all good experience I tell myself. (Yeah right, Silly NOVICE more like it!)
I passed Randy Tan just after he was pelted at with sponges from a very jovial KK. I had seen Carmen, Chris, RH Bee, Li-Sar, Cecil, Gnae and Sam, basically everyone on route and as I passed the Tan Man I saw in front a girl. When I came in off the bike two girls where in front of me and I had yet to catch either one (usually my strong-ish run would allow me to at least run down one girl). The shape my body was in it was highly unlikely I could, but the carrot was there so I thought let’s give it a whirl.
To cut a long story short because this report is already waaaay over written, I didn’t catch her. I had to decide between turning it up a notch and getting totally body cramp and not finishing or just save my ego for another day. She finished 20 or so seconds in front. BUGGAR! I was 3rd and 3rd overall so still happy.
After doing the silly but normal thing of sitting down at the finish I tried to stand and realised I couldn’t and promptly fell over. Off to the medic tent eventually. My body temperature dropped so badly, my hands, lips and feet where turning a nice shade of blue. It didn’t help matters much that the medics left a bag of ice in the bed next to me under the blankets!
With no hot Milo to warm me up that’s all I really needed. I asked them to find my teammates and with the help of Chris, Randy, Sam, Ivie and Carmen they escorted me to my room in the pouring rain and collected my bike and kit from transition. I had left the air-con on so I ended up sitting outside the room in the corridor chatting whilst Ivie held down the on button on my crappy kettle that didn’t work, to make Milo. And since I had no hot water, my neighbours, Sam and Carmen ran a hot bath for me. After that I was finally able to stand and we went for dinner and some well earned beers.
Feeling rather sore today but it is to be expected isn’t it? This weekend for me was really to see how far I have come and improved over a long distance since February. My head is now in IM mode not that I think it has ever been anywhere else, but now it is IM training mode. Borneo Marathon (my first marathon) then Lumut Powerman followed by Phuket for fun (she says) and then the BIGGIE.
Thanks to all my good friends who called out well wishes – I did hear them and they do help. I would like to also pay particular congratulations to someone who is an example and institution of what this sport is all about, Patsy Yap. As we were leaving for dinner at 6.15pm, Patsy at 64years old was still on the run course. I saw her the next morning, post breakfast with a beaming smile on her face. I remember her asking me for advice in A Formosa – ME! I told her you are the one that should be giving me advice. I think it took Patsy around 9hours to complete Desaru. She does it because she can. Not to climb on a podium but just too compete and COMPLETE. Well done Patsy, hats off to you, I am proud to know you, proud of you and if I only match half of all you have achieved in the sport I will be a very happy bunny.
TO SUM UP: A super knackering weekend, with tougher conditions than last year, so I am told. TTH did extremely well which just goes to show how our Tri-hard attitude has helped everyone get stronger, faster and more confident. Here is the rundown of TTH’s achievements this weekend. BTW: No one did the sprint. I signed up but didn’t pay (good foresight). And if I ever think of doing a sprint after a ½ ever again you have permission to well and truly SLAP ME!
Sergeant Sam: 2nd mens over 50. Sam had a phenomenal swim, steady bike and sensible run. I must learn to listen more! Check out his take on the race below. Well done Sam, not setting the alarm obviously helped!
Carmen Leong: 2nd ladies over 34. She didn’t enjoy the swim but Carmen had a strong steady bike (she listens to Sam). Her run was fantastic and she knocked 17minutes off her PB! A great training race, Kona Carmen is right on track for IM Hawaii.

“Uncle” Don: 2nd. Don is one guy who I think looks even more serious than I when racing these days, an awesome effort, once over the smiles are never-ending. Great race Uncle Don, awesome result.
Emma “pull-me” Bishop: 3rd ladies 16-34 and 3rd overall lady. Thanks KK this is one nickname she can live with! Emma dealt with one too many obstacles but held her head and still got to the finish albeit painfully.

Cecil: 4th. A strong race from Cecil. I saw him on the bike and run and he even had time to acknowledge me. Caught Patrick on the run for a well earned 4th place.
Ngae: 5th mens over 50. Ever smiling and cheering, Gnae always puts a smile on my face. We passed on the bike and on the run. He was struggling with a foot problem and thought he might not finish but he did so in true TTH style for a well earned 4th place. Collecting his prize as usual with his favoured sarong replacing the Lycra!

Li-sar: 5th ladies over 34. I saw Li-sar on the bike every loop and on the run, she looked like she was turning in a truly gritty performance and with last year’s DNF probably in the back of her mind she came through and across the line in great time. Well done.
Chris: 5th ladies 16-34. Looking absolutely the business, Chris had an amazing race. On her new P3C, her bike has improved in leaps and bounds and she finished with a really strong run, something that usually bites her. Well done SEXY lady!

RH Bee: 6th ladies over 34. Bee had a PB today, didn’t panic on the swim, a steady bike and a strong run with sub 6min k’s which she rightly so should be duly proud of. Well done Bee!
Randy “The Tan Man”: 14th. Randy suffered on the swim. Usually his strongest discipline it proves just how tough it was out there in the washing machine. Despite this he had a solid bike, battled the onset of cramps and finished strongly.

KK: Unsure of KK’s position, I do know that the aim was just to get the finishers shirt. Suffering all week with flu and having been on antibiotics, KK finished well under the 7hour target he set himself and with as usual a beaming smile on his face. (Could it be something to do with the pretty ladies KK?)
Gane: DNF. Not sure what happened to Gane on Saturday. I saw him on the bike looking comfortable (he was smiling, that means comfortable in my book). Better luck next year and more to the point good luck for Bussleton this year.

Sergeant Sam’s RACE REPORT: The day started as a real scorcher in true Desaru style. All the participants stood at the starting line sweating their balls off as Chan did his race briefing yet again (I guess he had to since only about 20% of the participants attended his evening briefing). The shape of the swim course was changed this year to a long out followed by a short 100m parallel to the beach and then back to the start, 2 loops. The water was very choppy and once you were in the water, you could not see the first turning mark. The only thing to guide you was the line of small buoys that went vaguely in thedirection of the turning mark. Most swimmers kept to the outside of the small buoys where it became a bit of a bun fight and a roller coaster. I chose to take the inside line with the small buoys to my left which turned out to be a wise move. I had much clearer water albeit it was still choppyand I was able to get into a rhythm, if you can call it that after 50m or so. I had no panic attacks, thank goodness. In fact, I quite enjoyed the conditions. They kept my mind occupied on the job at hand and when I came out after the swim in 43min or so I discovered I was ahead of Randy and Japanese Sam, both of whom normally beat me on the swim. One reason for the choppy sea was the strength of the wind, even at 10am in the morning. So I knew that there would be some head wind on the bike. Sure enough and soon onto the bike, you could feel the effects of the wind. Of course, this helped you in one direction and it was against you in theother. I decided to adopt a conservative approach and to save myself for the run particularly since it was turning out to be a very hot day (39C) and very reminiscent of Langkawi. The last thing I wanted to do was to bonk so I took on as much water as I could on the bike which meant stopping at theturn-around by the golf course to refill my bottles since they only had small plastic cups and jugs as means to dispense the water. There were no bike-friendly water bottles that you could pick up on the move. Given that this water station was the only one marked on the bike course, it should have been managed better. I finished the bike course in just under 3 hours which is a tad slow for me but under the conditions, it's what I chose to do in the belief that the worst was yet to come. I went out on the run not knowing where I was in relation to the others in my age group except for Michael who was not far behind me. As I started the run, the heat of the day started to take its toll and I could feel my body overheating. I got as far as the golf course turn-around and gave myself a"Langkawi shower" by pouring loads of iced water over my head and back. Phew! You could see the steam coming off me in true cartoon style! I knew I was taking too long at the aid stations but it was either that or blow up! So, I took every opportunity to cool down and to take on two cups of waterand the odd gel. I could see that Michael was slowly but surely catching me up. Eventually things started to improve and I got into my stride and my breathing became less laboured. I passed Alvin from the Philippines who was in 1st place. He was suffering from cramps and persevering like a truetrooper. At the half way point, the sky clouded over and I became less concerned about overheating and more concerned about picking up my pace albeit I was still stopping at every aid station to take on water and to cool down. With about 4k to go and on that nasty little incline, Michael comes past me looking strong. I could not respond and once around the roundabout and heading back to the finish opening my stride, I knew I could not catch him. Good on you Michael! I finished 2nd in 5.22 and I was very happy with my time. We all went down to Sungai Renggit for the traditional "fish supper" that evening washed down by a few bottles of ice cold Heineken. Lovely!
We then retired to that famous ice cream parlour called the "Petronas petrol station" in Desaru for a well earned Cornetto before turning in for the night to watch the 100m men's final on the tv. It was yet another great day in Deasru. However and for some, the day did not end there. You will be amused to know that Dr Tan who did the race, Ngae and Jason of Pacesetters stayed up in the hotel bar drinking beer until 2am.


yipwt said...


Good job finishing 3rd. Team TTH surely kicks a**.

Keat Seong said...

emma, your race report is a close as anyone can get to experiencing the real thing... nicely written :)

looks like a superb outing for Team TTH :D

Emma said...

Cheers for that. You got to the end and didn't fall asleep then!

Ishsal said...

patsy is my eternal hero! my first OD last year 07, afamosa, she overtook me on the bike (the word sex change came to mind before the bike u turn then). i caught up with her 1k on the run, and we waddled to the finish line together. ladies first of course, which gave me the absolute honour of finishing dead last, woohoo! the next OD was bukit merah, i somehow freaked on the swim and threaded water one time too many, Patsy was at least 500m ahead. by the run, she was 5km ahead. at this point, my doctor somehow refused to do my sex change surgery, despite much pleading. anyway, a few minutes after i read this post of yours yesterday (in between driving, at lights), wednesday at precisely 12:53pm, there was patsy cycling past the securities commission building along kiara-hartamas highway, the the friggin' blazing sunshine. terribly recognisable with her two red bottles under the saddle. not even 64, if at 50 i can be like her, i'd have led a full life. 10 years to go!