Sunday, April 13, 2014

Metasprint Triathlon 2014 ~ Never knew Triathlon was so enjoyable!

METASPRINT TRIATHLON 13 April 2014 - the bonding gets closer!

Finally, the day had come.  The boys had been preparing for this for months.  And, some with trepidation, awaited for the arrival.  It was with nothing short of a slight pang of sadness that I watched the guys trained, ladder-intervals after ladder-intervals, for the event.  Only 6 weeks before, a fall rendered me out of action for all my sporting events, including this, which was meant to be the climax of 'em all.  Still, excitement mounted as Serene and I got to Car park 6 along Changi Coastal Road at 6:05am to get ready with the boys.
With forearm splint tight bound on my broken finger, and ankle-lock securely holding my left foot, I shuffled to Car Park 6...

Me - pai kah pai chew - couldn't participate.  But I could still help them take photos.

And those driving guys were already there.  These fellows' enthusiasm were unbeatable.  Imagine, Francis and Chris were there at 5:20am already.  Hardcore!

KC Liew, Ah Chua, Francis and Chris - the first to arrive.

Somehow the talk went to Tour De Bintan... and the pact made five months ago between Chris and Serene was reaffirmed with this picture.

And The President made himself a promise...

Soon, we received a Whatsapp from Gerard.  They were at the starting tent.  Ok, time to take that 1.3km walk from Car park 6 down to the starting point.

And just nice!  Darric and Debbie came walking along..
Darric certainly looked lean and slim here!!!
Ok, let's go!

Body Marking tent

I don't know.  But the Body Marking part was the most exciting prelude to a triathlon, in my personal opinion.  It always sent adrenaline rushing through my capillaries.. remembering from my Aquathlon.  There were bodies everywhere, bodies in full triathlon suits, bodies in two-piece suits, bodies with top naked, bodies wearing just shorts and T-shirts. The atmosphere was really really carnival-like.  A flurry of activities occurring at every corner of the bounded area. 

Steven Cheng was having fun with the Secondary 1 boys... 
Yes, thankfully this time round the boys were much better trained.  The previous time, my number was unfortunately, not so straight... Still, body inking still always brought out plenty of comical side... as the President went on to find out...

... and somehow this President managed to convince the young boys to use a marker to innoculate his green swimming cap instead.  Unbelievable.. the gift of his gap.

Meanwhile, the other racers were being marked one by one.. This round the marking was really fast.  Within 3 minutes of being ushered into the tent, each racer was out.

Our Chef Francis purposely chose not to shave this morning. Apparently it helped in swimming.
And Ooooo la la... Number 374, LWH! Good to see Jemmy on this morning taking up his position for a most important mission of accomplishing a record that LWH couldn't.

Jemmy our seasoned Triathlete.

And the other boys all readied for the hard job ahead...

Mr Yellow Jersey Gerard excited about racing with his new Tri Parlee.

Seasoned Triathlete Christopher very happy.

Seasoned IRONMAN Darric said Bring 'em on!

Ah Chua thinking: "Relax lah!"

Serene and I met our Idol Gary Wang!

And who should Serene and I meet but our Triathlon athlete Gary Wang!  He was all readied for the spring of his life.  This fellow don't siao siao ah.. he was truly a seasoned triathlete, having taken part in many Olympic Distances races..

"I want to take a photo with Gary!" screamed Serene.  
And I gladly obliged.

Preparing the Transition Area...

Doing triathlon was like this.. You needed to organise your cycling shoes, running shoes, cycling GPS, food, gel, hydration, towel, whatever you needed, into a small little basket (great idea learned from Darric Tan) right beneath where your bike is hanging at the bike rack.  This preparation phase was as therapeutic in getting one readied as the sleep the night before.  And observing the activities going on inside the Transition area was just as fun for outsiders like ourselves.

The President was talking to me how his gel always fell out of the race belt.  Thus he resorted to not hanging them on the belt itself but somewhere else.  Even better, wallop them up before the race...

Some eat gel, others eat cap.
The podium contenders would traditionally psyche themselves up at this stage with power talk, and power thoughts.  And visualised their routes of attack and plans right from the start.  Nothing went to chance.  Everything was thought out and executed like clockwork.

Yet others were effectively breaking down their journeys into smaller and munch-able sizes.  Right before the race, Steven Cheng was telling me:
"You know what I'm going to do?  I am going to take it really easy.  After transition 2, I am going to go at it, telling myself it's only 2.5km. Then at the midpoint, I am going to stop at the water point.  Relax and have a nice cup of cold water.  Then I'll start another 2.5km.  Like this it's only 2.5km!"
This Steven Cheng is a really smart fellow.
Self-hypnotism taking place.
Turning my head around, who should I but see?! Hsu Pon Poh! Man, this good man had lost so much weight through years of running that he was only one third what he used to weigh during our reservist days!
Hsu Pon Poh and yours truly

And he was here on this day to support his wife Howe Wenli for her second consecutive year of Sprint Triathlon and their children's first foray into triathlon for children!  Man, these two people are truly inspiring. It was just like that.  Coming to an event charged with athletic atmosphere and coming face to face with people who had changed their lives through sports, or who were in the process of changing their lives, often became life changing for the beholder as well.  I guess it was because of this very reason that many got addicted to triathlons, duathlons and other forms of multi-sports races.  And here, right inside the transition area, was Wenli herself, cool as a cucumber.  Ready for her race.
Howe Wenli getting ready

OK, a Group Photo before the start!

Once the event started, it would be hardly possible to get all the athletes together for a group photo.  Thus, the customary pre-race Group photo.

Walking to the Starting Point...

We were a little disoriented at this point in time, trying to look for the Starting point.  We could see signage to the Sim In, the Run Out and the Cycle in.. But the elusive Starting point remained to be found.  Finally some smart Alec discovered it.

And who should we see but the seasoned Triathlete Gabriel himself!  Fellow flew all of us aeroplane.  "What? Not conditioned?" Aiyah! Just run lor... lol.  Gabriel ran a faster triathlon than many of us here... He was just being modest. But the man was good. He came with his camera to help shoot the event.

So the stage was set for the start as we sighted the buoys and the Swim out point making a U-turn in a clockwise direction to the Swim in pavement further down the beach on the right.

Waiting for the Flag off time...

We all just lingered around the water edge.  Flag off time for the green caps was 8:30am.  And we were chit chatting while the boys jumped into the water for some warm ups (more like cool downs).  Altogether we had five photographers - myself, Serene, Debbie, Gabriel and Hong Keat.  It was just nice.  We kinda talked a little bit about our strategies and distributed ourselves over the various points of the event - swim out, run into the transition, cycle out, cycling route.. and aga aga we got them all covered.  It was much later that I learned how important it was to have enough photographers for an event like this because every body would be everywhere.  And one photographer might miss an athlete only to have another photographer managing to catch a shot.

"Dar, I am going to go into the water later," said Serene to me. "Can I wear my Vibram Fiver Fingers inside the water?"
"I think ok lah.. but it's going to be sea water leh.. I scared your shoes spoil.." I replied.
But thankfully Christopher Soh advised her to have them taken off.  And probably saved me plenty of money having to re-buy another pair for her.

And the whole took another group shot, sans some fellows who went water-dipping...

Serene took a shot of one of our boys' feet..

And the first Elite waves got ready... and PIANG! Off they went to much cheers and applause.

And the time drew nearer for our boys to get ready for their waves.  Thanks to a couple of extra green caps, most were in the same Green wave.  The exception was Christopher Soh who was Yellow and Jemmy who was Purple.

Getting Ready at the Starting Line...

And some actions at the Starting line as the boys jostled for pole positions with the Ang Mohs..

... went the horn.  And the Green wave was OFF!  Many of the Ang Mohs and the fit local athletes were right in the front battling away for a clean start.  It was fierce.  Our boys were smacked right in the middle.  These boys were no longer the newbies a few months back when they first participated in the Aquathon. With that experience under their belts, they had become bolder, and more aggressive.  And they were not going to let the other athletes beat them to a good start.

Darric was right in the middle.  And at that moment, he saw Debbie and I standing on the left of the start line and he froze to let us take a shot of him.  Funny guy lah, he.

The splashes and the bubbling of green caps on the surface of the water belies the nervousness deep within many of the competitors.  I remembered it was probably Debbie who pointed out to me that the whole group of swimmers were drifting towards the right side of the swim route, right into the buoy..  Here, in this photo, we could see the significant drift.  The whole group was literally squeezed right... until the buoy line itself was starting to bulge out.

It was later as I talked to Gerard that he expressed his experience in the sea at that time:
"Wah lau.. I couldn't feel myself being drifted.  The sea wasn't particularly choppy.  I just followed the feet of the front guys and just swam.  It was only later when the safety vessel gave us the warning that I realised I was so far off and had to swim all the way back.  On the return leg of the swim I just swam breast stroke to keep my direction correct.  Then the last stretch I did front crawl again, but this time round I kept doing sighting..."
Hmmm.. must have been quite an experience inside there.

Waiting for our boys to surface from the water...

I looked at the direction of the sun.  "Hmmm.. really bad," I thought to myself. "The sun is directly behind the athletes coming out of the water."  Somehow I needed to position myself so that at least the side of the guys could be illuminated by the sun, to reduce too much back-lighting.  So I ended up on the right side of the Swim-in path, together with Chris Goh.   By now, Debbie, Hong Keat, Serene and Gabriel were already further up in the track positioning themselves for out boys' arrival.  Chris Goh was really good.  She helped me identify out guys as they one by one emerged.  I saw this huge, muscular Ang Moh running out of the water and I was soooo impressed by his physique and display of pure power...
Hopefully one day some of our boys would be like him.  All lean ad sinewy and nothing but a whole load of bull-power.
"Steven Cheng, Steven Cheng!" cried Chris Goh.
And she was right!  That was indeed Steven Cheng, not far from the front few Ang Mohs of his wave,
"Wow, Steven is really fast!" exclaimed Chris.   
A remark that I whole-heartedly agreed.  Don't see this Steven smile smile ah.. When he PIAH in the water, he really showed what colour he was made of. [Click on each photo and ZOOM in to see how happy Steven Cheng was.]

Steven Cheng the smiler!

"Darric, Darric! Darric is out!" again Chris was my scout.
Good job, Darric.  He wasn't far behind.  And he emerged with a flare typical of a seasoned Ironman.  I managed to shoot him in fast continuous mode.  [Click on each of Darric's photo below and ZOOM in to see an enlarged photo.]

"I see Ah Chua coming.. " I shouted.
And certainly that strapping man finished off his last few strokes and stood up.. ever so relaxed.  And with a smile on his face, as if the swim was a totally effortless one. [Click on Ah Chua's photos itself and zoom in to see an enlarged version.]

"Who is in front already ah?" asked Ah Chua.
Haha..  This fellow was wasting his money.  Where got people race triathlon but took their own sweet time one lah.  Jiaklat...

Very soon after Ah Chua went off, I saw Gerard bobbling on the water.
"Gerard lai liao, Chris!" I shouted.
And Mr Yellow Jersey came running out. [Click on each of Gerard's photo and zoom in to see an enlarged version.]

Before long, the bearded Chef emerged.
"Francis, Francis!" called out Chris.
And the super Chef lifted his swimming cap to expose that shiny scalp he was so famous for.  These few fellows really finally showed their true colours, after so many sessions with their swimming coach Alex.  Plenty of hard work, many sessions of disappointment, and finally, this.

I must apologise, I couldn't understand how for the life of me, I missed out Christopher Soh coming out of the water.  Sigh.. I just didn't have a shot of him dashing out of the sea.

And here, Kc Liew The President, finally shot out of the sea.

"GO! KC Liew, GO!" I 帮他打气...

And then SUDDENLY, Jemmy shot out from the water, far far ahead of his cohort in his wave.  WOW!
"Jemmy! Come on, GO GO GO!!!"

This Ang Moh lady standing beside me asked me: "Are you a professional photographer?" I smiled and denied.  She continued: "When my husband comes out can you take a shot of him?" I shrugged my shoulder and smilingly obliged.  And I kept to my promise.  When he came up she grabbed him and gave him a kiss.  And I took that moment.  But she ran away so fast I couldn't even ask for her email...

The Cycling leg...

The boys were running their hearts out on the blue-carpetted path... some were happy to have had completed the swim, others were looking forward to a more relaxed leg on the bicycles.  In between sea-water sripping wet tri-suits and soaking wet feet squashing into cycling shoes, they mounted their bicycles and started pedalling away..
Serene was very clever.  She slipped onto the central divider of Changi Coastal Road where she stationed herself through the whole cycling leg.  This was the ideal location to shoot the competitors racing out of T1 as well as making the U-turn upon completion of the first 10km of the bike-leg.  And she could shoot on both side of the road.  Here, were some of her shots.

Darric was the first one out of T1.  Cool and steady, this Ironman.  Unfazed.  Unperturbed.  Ready to storm all who dared race in front of him.
Darric our Ironman, was the first one out of T1.
Steven, after successfully emerging first from the water, was enjoying his new-found buffer.  And was happily enjoying a good deal of time pampering himself in T1.

I'd never seen a triathlete so happy through the whole race. But Steven topped it all.

Indeed, throughout the race, from the swim, to the ride, to the run... Steven was non-stop smiling. And that was when I realised to some, the triathlon was actually a very enjoyable event.  Don't be fooled by his apparent cheerfulness.  Because it certainly wasn't easy, having to push himself through the punishing course.  But Steven never had the word fear in him.  He was a true inspiration to all who were about to hit the half-century mark.

Unfortunately, the shots of Gerard cheonging out of T1 were all OOF.  So we could salvage none of his.  And Jemmy must have slipped through Serene's lenses as he zoomed out of T1, for she also could not capture his photos right out of transition one.

If there were to be an award for the most relaxed competitor for the triathlon, it must belonged to Ah Chua.  This fellow was simply at Zone 1 heart rate all the way.  Here, coming out of T1, he was making all kinds of funny faces to all the pretty Ang Moh girls clapping around him... although the applause definitely wasn't for him...

The most relaxed racer award went to Ah Chua!
Amongst all the smilers, jokers, cheongsters, there was one person who topped it all when it came to quietly grinding it all the way.  And it was Francis.  Cool as a cucumber, this Chef-turned-triathlete took it all in his stride, with a gentle smile, he looked down, grit his masseter muscles, and went on his own quiet way, paying no attention to any form of distraction around him.  His concentration was unbreakable.  And he just went.

Our Chef taking the road in his stride...
Christopher Soh, our seasoned Olympic Distance Triathlete, who started in a later wave, was beginning to gain ground.  He lightning through his T1, and appeared unscathed on the Cycle-Out.  And he NEVER failed to pose for the lens.

The victorious seasoned OD triathlete.

But of course, not one single triathlete could be more important than the most powerful man in the world, Mr President Obama Kc Liew.  I kind of had a hitch that Mr President wasn't really having too nice a stroll...  By the time he hopped on his ride and appeared at the Cycle-Out, his usually-grinning face was contorted into some painful expression, as though he just received news on his personal radio that North Korea just launched a series of missiles at Japan, and the Eyjafjallajokull Volcano in Iceland had just erupted again, blanketing the sky over whole of Europe, cutting links and paralysing the economies.  Just take a look at his face... the poor President, bearing the weight of the whole world upon his teeny weeny shoulders...

The grimacing President.
Half way point U-turn...

Somehow, a Tri bike was a tri bike.  One could not mess around with a Tri bike, accurately fitted and painstakingly tuned to perfection, and what more ridden by none less than a human-machine powered by ATP.  Gerard overtook EVERYBODY in his path to emerge right in front.
"It was effortless," he would remark much later. "The Parlee tri bike was superb, and the Enve wheels just took me ahead, overtaking every rider ahead.  I tried to see if there were any one behind trying to over take me.. but I could find no one."
That was just how powerful the lethal combination was.

... on the way approaching the first U-turn...

... and here, right after the hairpin U-turn...
And Ah Chua made his round...

"Wah, the power meter is really good!" Ah Chua said after the race. "I can conserve using my power meter.  I didn't care about my speed.  I just kept my power to 210-220W and kept there."
Very well done indeed, Ah Chua.  He was one of the few who really made full use of his power meter in the correct way.  That was right.  In these kind of endurance race, conservation of energy was extremely important.

And again came the half-a-century body on his Pinarello...

That was the thing.. these half-a-century bodies tended to be a little more vain...
Christopher Soh was somewhere out there already.. and Serene could see him cheonging back on his Pinarello.

... and our Chef made his turn...

Certainly no miscount, Chef! Right on the dot!
Jemmy Ong did Lim Wee How proud with this stalwart performance, making everyone behind eat smell rubber.

... and making sure the camera saw his victorious moment with the sign...

All these fellows were racing with nary a worry.  But little known to the rest of the participants, this great man here was still carrying the burden of the world on his arched back as his Pinarello chewed up the tarmac...

and he almost made the wrong dash into the home-lane... fortunately his Presidential instinct swung him over to the correct lane the very last possible moment to avoid a full, head-on collision with the Communist regime...

Soon after, I made my way quickly to the PCN which was the designated running route.

The Running Leg...

Don't play play ah.. we had all come to this last leg, the running leg liao.  By this time, the photographers had all disappeared into the crowd.  I only had Gabriel and Debbie with me covering the running leg at the 100m mark from the end.
I was a little confused by this time, not knowing if I had missed any of our boys.  But all I could do was to plonk myself in the middle of the island and hope for the best.  But I must have been dreaming when suddenly Gerard ran past me.  "Hey Gerard!" I called out.  But it was too late.  I could only capture his back.

The Black Back.
Very soon after I missed Gerard, I found myself cocking it up when Darric sped past me... "Darric!" I shouted.  Again, all I could best do was the shot of another back.

The White Back.
By now I was kicking myself in my backside.  How could I not see them coming!  I was determined not to miss any more of our boys.  But somehow, my attention was drawn away by another difference kind of back...

A more interesting kind of back...
Luckily when Ah Chua came running by, I was ready.

But this fellow was on this very day, a little not into his race mood.  He stopped and kept taking snap shots of XMM along the way.  I gave him a kick on his backside.
"Wei! Don't waste your money!" I shouted.  "Keep running ah!"
But I didn't think my coercion was of much effect.  Haha..

... and the Hunk came running by...
And The Chef was the next one who found the focus of my lens.  This Chef must have been really delighted to be on the last 4.9km of the race.  He was trying his utmost to communicate in Thai.. Unfortunately I wasn't very linguistically-talented.  I could only roughly make out what he was trying to convey...

"Pretty Very very"
"Muscle see beh ah! (See beh muscle, very muscular)"
And this one below must have taken the pandan cake of them all!

"Bosom big big!"
Less expressive than Chef Francis, but equally fast, was Steven's attempt at eating up the road in his Asics Kayano.  And he embodied the ultimate in cheerfulness in a triathlete.

Run also smiling...
Christopher Soh was fast! By now he had over-taken quite a number of people and is steadily gaining upon the early starters.

NEVER without a smile and a thumbsup!

And for once, the President seemed to be free of worries, on this last running leg.

A Surprise Supporter!!!
Yes, I was so delighted to see Jordan Tan in the classic evoLV pink cycling jersey cycling across the PCN from me.
"Jordan!" I called out to him.
"Where are they?" he asked.
"They are in front."
"Ok, I go ahead and pace them and support them," the champion marathon runner replied.
He was really good.  Did a round island, several loops of Mount Faber and still could cycle to Changi Coastal road to support our boys.  Very deserving of 30 points!

Amidst all the action, I found our good Gabriel Lim across where I was standing.  I was sure his triathlon legs were itching for some of the action.

OK! Time was ticking.  The first of our boys should be coming back this direction by now.. And who should it be but Mr Yellow Jersey Gerard Tan!  This fellow ran on a steady cadence, even as I looked at him from afar.  Not hurried, no strain.  Just a steady pace.  Lips pursed as always, and ONLY Breathing Out but NO Breathing In... as we had all always made fun of his breathing style.

And a Jubilant Gerard!

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Very very near behind Gerard came Darric, a very close second.  Only a few days ago he was still suffering from a bad bout of fever and sore throat.  And he managed to recover just in time for the race.  Kudos to this Ironman!

And who but Ah Chua came laughing along.  This fellow was NEVER serious.

And our next finisher, Francis Chia!

Although two waves behind, Jemmy Ong managed to catch up and finish in superb timing.  He was so fast that I couldn't see him.. Only when he jumped out from behind an Ang Moh as he ran and called out to me: "Brother!" that I saw him and hastily grabbed a shot of his front and back.

And as speedily as he came, he went off.

And appeared at the finishing line in true triathlete style..

Not far behind, Christopher Soh came, triumphant.

But again the award for the most steady and relaxed runners must go to Steven and KC Liew, here chaperoned by Ah Chua, as they approached their last 100m.

... and crossed the line in true blue finisher style!

Job Well Done!!
Certainly.  For months, the boys had trained hard for this day.  And on this day, all their sweat, their evening sessions at Jalan Besar Swimming complex with their coach, all their Round islands on their bikes, all their early morning runs.. everything had paid off.
And they now stood nothing short of real triumph as they took back the title of a Triathlete.

And for me, my only consolation was to have my name etched in the records of Metasprint in unbelievably fast time.  All thanks to this superb triathlete Jemmy!

I was very sure this was only the beginning to more.  And I believed this bunch of good men would go on to even bigger triathlon events and more personal accomplishments.
Till then, I will let my ankle and finger recover, in the hope that I may one day be like them.