By NG WEI LOON
ALTHOUGH the Team Tri-Hard triathletes have set different individual targets for the upcoming Langkawi Ironman on Feb 28, they share the same ultimate aspiration to cross the finishing line of the gruelling race comprising 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and 42km run.
Ready for the challenge: (From left) Ong, Leong, Pritchard, Randy, Bernard and Bishop all set to cross the finishing line at the upcoming Langkawi Ironman.
And last year’s World Ironman Championships qualifier Carmen Leong is already feeling the heat to defend her status as the national number one in the women’s section.
The 39-year-old nurse also came in third for the 35-39 years category with a time of 12’39:09 in her debut at the meet in Langkawi last season.
For her upcoming assignment, Leong will be featuring in the 40-44 years section and is aiming to clock 12’15.
Leong admitted that it is going to be tough to stay ahead as the best Malaysian woman in the field. “The competition is going to be tougher because several contenders will be fighting for the top spot.
“My training partner (Ong Siok Bee) has improved tremendously and has been narrowing the gap. I am not sure about the current form of the other competitors. But it is going to be an interesting race.
Staying ahead: Leong (right) and Pritchard working out on the trainer.
Ong registered 14’02 in her first appearance at the meet last year.
However, the 37-year-old finance manager is modest about her aim.
“I had a good outing and enjoyed the experience last year. Initially, I had the fear of taking the plunge in the open sea.
“I knew that I was going to complete the race when I came out from the water in 1’54 before the cutoff time of 2’20.
“The first leg was a real test because my race would have ended prematurely if I had come in after that. My preparation thus far has been good and I have been clocking the mileage in cycling and running with the group. But I am not spending enough time to improve on my swimming. I will be delighted to finish the race below 14 hours this year,” Ong added.
In contrast, Englishwoman Emma Bishop is taking a more serious approach in preparing for the race. A victory in the 30-34 years section will be the cherry on the cake for the 34-year-old manager, who is setting her sights on qualifying for the World Championships.
Last year, Bishop settled for the third spot in her age-group with a 12’59:15 effort in her first attempt at Langkawi Ironman.
“It has been my goal for the past one year to secure a slot for the world meet. And I have been working towards that direction. I am not sure about the strength of the foreign competitors in the category,” said Bishop, who is competing under Team TBB (The Bike Boutique) banner.
Bishop has also taken a pay cut from her work to register up to 26 hours a week in training with the assistance of Brazilian Vinnie Santana, who is based in Bangkok, Thailand, through the www.ironguides.net website.
“On certain days, my body is so sore and I just have to drag myself out to follow the programme. I have faith in the 22-week training routine and the tough regime has given me a huge boost.
“After that, it is up to me to handle the pressure and go out there to give my best on race day,” said Bishop, adding that she hopes to finish the race in 11’30.
Among the recreational competitors from the Team Tri-Hard are Welshman Sam Pritchard, Englishman Denis Oakley and local duo of Randy Tan and Bernard Tan.