Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Birth of a Duathlete

Metasprint Duathlon 2015

- Serene showing what kind of iron she is made of.

"DAR!" complained Serene. "You very yam gong ah! You signed me up for the Duathlon! I also never trained, I have been so busy since Chinese New Year preparing food and cooking.. and now I am going to do the Duathlon?!"
Yes, so she complained.
But she knew long beforehand that she would be doing the Metasprint Duathlon on the 15th March 2015 yah... Yet, this girl somehow has a knack for being a procrastinator.
So she happy happy ran, happy happy didn't run.  And she happy happy cycled, and happy happy didn't cycle.
And the day drew near.
Before she knew it, the day for the Metasprint Duathlon came.

What's the Metasprint Duathlon?
It is essentially a 'Sprint' event, meaning everybody would just cheong and give it all out to complete the race in as short a period of time as possible.  There is generally no holding back, because it consists of three legs - a 3km Run, followed by a 20km Cycle, and then another 3km Run.

The event venue was at the F1 pit, similar to last year.  But this year it wasn't going to be at the F1 Paddock, but at the so-called F1 Village which was a longer walk away from the car park at The Singapore Flyer.

The Preparation the Night before...
"So how, Dar? Are you comfortable with handling two Garmins - a Garmin Edge and a Garmin Forerunner?" I asked her the night before.
"No no no!" she was adamant. 
So I configured her Garmin Forerunner 920XT and made sure she knew how to untwist it from her wrist strap and twist it onto the bike mount on her bike stem, and how to remove it and mount it back onto her wrist.
"Just keep looking at the watch," I instructed her. "And keep a close watch on the distance you have cycled.  You will be doing four laps of 5km each, and your Garmin watch will alert you each time you complete a lap of 5km."
It took us some time.  But I managed to brief her and run her through the whole sequence of how to start the race, what button to press on her Garmin Forerunner 920XT, how to use the Lap button to mark her Transition, what to change into at each Transition.  She has done the Cycle leg for the Tri Factor Triathlon relay last year. But the difference lie in the the fact that now she needed to do all the transitions on her own.  It was certainly going to be a brand new experience for her.
"Are you kan cheong?" I asked her.
"No lah!" she replied. "Kan what cheong? Relax one lah.  I just do at my own pace."
Very good lah, this young lady.

On the Morning...
This year, the starting time generally much later than the previous year.  The Elite wave set off at about 7am, at the time when Serene and I just arrived at the transition area.  I remember well lat year when the guys set off in their wave it was still very early and the sky was still dark.  I didn't know why the organiser changed the timing.  But as Serene was in wave 9, her starting time was scheduled to be 8:20am.
"Siao liao lah," I thought to myself. "By the time she finishes, it will be 10:20am.  Damn jiaklat."

Preparing the transition
"Only you can enter the transition area with your wrist band," I told her. "So go and lay out your things nicely and rack your bike and make sure the Promax and waters are all nice and secure in the chill box."
Serene all on her own looking for her Transition area.

Zipping up her chilled box with her Promax and water, an idea shared by Debbie and Darric.
OK, she did well.  Her setting up of the transition area was fast.  She seemed to know where her things were.

Meanwhile, Vincent and Kong Wan had already set their transition up.  Here was a shot of Vincent's (a little messy) transition area.
Vincent's transition area.  The highlight was of course, his F8.
[Photo: Vincent Loh's iPhone]

Waiting for the Start..
The guys were here even earlier - Vincent, Kong Wan and Ah Chua (who was so kind to be here to support the team!".
I never knew the heir of the great biscuit magnate looked soooo good in the top and bottom...
... and I wasn't referring to Ah Chua. LOL!
... and never had I known that Vincentzio looked so dashing in his ballet leotard.

And then from afar we spotted Dawn Chen and Alan Tan approaching.  Dawn was so overjoyed to see Serene that they ran towards each other in a warm embrace.

Didn't know what transpired... but the ladies were pretty tickled by something.
And of course, Alan Tan was here to support his lovely wife.
And Alan very kindly took a picture of Serene and yours truly here.
[Photo: Alan Tan]

"Take our photos here!"

The boys wave started off!
Right on time at 7:30am, Vincent and Kong Wan's wave 4 was horned off.  The guys disappeared before I could even take a shot.  The next time I saw them was just before the girls got waved off.  "Hey, you girls better gate crash Wave 8 to start at 8:10am instead of 8:20am," I suggested to Dawn and Serene.  Agreeing, they took their place at the starting point, cheerfully smiling...

The boys were coming in fast... into T1.
In fact I kinda underestimated the boys.  They completed their first 3km run leg almost 2mins faster than I expected them to.  Fortunately I lifted up my lens in time to capture them dashing back through the Run-In.
Kong Wan and Vincent showing the rest of the field (those huffing and puffing at the back)
what is called real RUNNING.
Vincent and Kong Wan wasted little time in sprinting to their respective transition area and preparing for the ride.  These guys were really pretty good.   Despite this being their first attempt at rushing through the transition, they made good time.

Vincent still managed to do some Facebook surfing before donning his cycling gear
and shooting off on his F8.

Kong Wan with his Ferrari.
 We witnessed an interesting scene.  As Kong Wan was pushing his bike out, an Ang Moh athlete ran pass him and gave him a pat on the shoulder.
"What was the Ang Moh saying to Kong Wan?" I asked.
Serene: "He was telling Kong Wan - Nice Bike!"
I looked at Serene.  But she insisted that was what the Ang Moh said to Kong Wan. So that was recorded in history for posterity.  The first day of action for the Scappa Farghana.  And all donned up, Kong Wan and Vincent were ready to fire their pistons off on the cycling leg.
Vincent ready to show what his F8 is made of.. cheong time!
[Photo: Ah Chua]

Very nicely matched! All colour-coordinated, this Kong Wan.
[Photo: Ah Chua]

And off they went!
[Photo: Ah Chua]

The girls' wave was flagged off!
The umpire was very on time.  And with the sound of the horn, Wave 8 started.
I had only one chance to pan, and I set my 1DMkIII with the 16-35mm to f/5.6 and 1/30 sec for the panning shot.
And for some 15-16 minutes I had nothing to do but wander around, looking at my watch keeping tab of the time the girls would return via the Run-In.  By this time, Ah Chua was somewhere out at the bicycle route taking photos of the boys.  For an event like this, we would need at least two if not more photographers, each stationed at different sections of the route to cover the whole events.

And the girls came screaming in...!
Again, my estimate was off.  Dawn Chen was rocketing at a pace of 5 minutes plus for her 3km run leg.  She came back in a blur of blue.  I only managed to press my shutter, in time for this shot of her hair dancing in the wind.
Dawn Chen was so fast.. she caught me by surprise!
Of course, the Auntie came not far behind.  In fact, she would be pleasantly surprised when the official result later showed her to be running at a pace of 3:41min/km for the first 3km run leg.
Running at 3:41min/km pace and yet so relaxed and smiling.

I was very excited to see the girls running in. I was looking high and low for Dawn in the transition but I couldn't find her.  I only manage to pick up Serene. 
Putting on the helmet at T1...

I didn't know what to expect.  Serene was really a picture of calmness as she transited.  Putting on her helmet in a relax fashion, changing to her cleat shoes in a gentle manner, and walking her precious bike like the way one would walk her dog.
Unzipping and zipping, very carefully, her cool box, where the precious protein drink was kept.
... and then non-chalantly she pushed her bike slowly off to the Bike-Out. What a cool girl!
OK, Bike OUT!  Don't forget to press your Lap button!
The Girls' Bike Leg
It was never easy for a photographer, having to lug all those heavy cameras and lenses, and run all the way from the starting pen to the bike route waiting for the girls to appear.  But I was lucky to have made it there in time.

Dawn was all smiles when she saw me.
As happy as a Blue lark.

... and Serene was a distance behind Dawn, appearing just as I was about to squat down with the camera lens pointing towards the correct direction.
Serene right out of T1.
The bike leg consisted of 4 laps of 5km each.  The organiser boasted that it was to be a good route with wide U turn at each end.  But when Serene came back she complained to me like siao, saying that the U turns were still rather sharp and there was still the danger of cyclist in front coming to a complete stop and if you were not careful you would crash into them.

You can see the intense focus on Dawn's face.
I just stationed myself on one single nice spot where I could see from both sides.  There were plenty of very fast cyclist trying to make the most of their cycling leg, and there were just as many leisure and slow cyclists who, perhaps due to their ignorance, cycled all over the lane, some in the middle, some on the right, inevitably blocking the paths of the faster ones.
"Stay on your LEFT!" was a common shout from those zooming furiously from behind, many of which were really fast Ang Moh cyclists.  I kept watching the slow riders.  Some of them did give way. But many didn't.  In the future, the organizer could do better to educate the cyclists, especially relatively new participants, on the etiquette of multi-sport cycling.  We didn't want to have the newer cyclists hurt unnecessarily

Serene pulling away

Blowing and blowing.. that is her favourite way to catch up with her breath.
I turned left and right repeatedly, hoping not to miss either of the ladies. Alan Tan was already on the other side of the cycling route, capturing his lovely shots.  Here are two of the many shots he took of Dawn.

"Dawn Chen Love(s) SG"
[Photo: Alan Tan]
Dawn & The Garden
[Photo: Alan Tan]

And then came Serene.

"ON YOUR RIGHT!" shouted Serene, as she came up upon a crowd of slower cyclists.  It was never easy, being a fast cyclist.  You would forever have to be on the lookout for not only cyclists faster than you, but also for those who were much slower.

The boys have completed their races...
Meanwhile, the boys have completed their races.    Vincent and Kong Wan have crossed their finishing line and were happily checking their mobiles and re-hydrating themselves.
"Kong Wan very good, let me pace him all the way," beamed a very relieved Vincent.

The first thing Vincent did upon completion? Check his Facebook!
[Photo: Ah Chua]

Transition 2 finally!
OK, it felt like eternity.  But finally the girls made the loop back.  I was already waiting at the transition area.  And here came Serene, WALKING?!?! Wah lau eh. she must have been really shagged out.

WALKING into Transition 2.
"Yah lor.. I think I was tired lah. Must conserve lah.  I don't want to rush in and rush through everything like the fast girls," explained Serene later. "I could feel my syncope coming already.  I think I had better take it slowly."
And took it slowly she did.  A transition time of 5 minutes!!! *faint*
So after she racked up her bike (slowly), she looked at her watch (slowly) and twisted it off the bike (slowly) and twisted it back onto her wrist strap (slowly).

... and she bent down and took off her cleats shoes (slowly) and put on her favourite NB Minumus (slowly)...

... and as instructed by me, drank half her bottle of Promax (slowly), ate a gel (slowly) drank some more water (slowly)...

... and while Serene was (slowly) enjoying her transition 2, Dawn has very quickly transited and has started her dash down towards Run Out...

The very fast Dawn, who did a 5 min pace for her first run leg, now was aiming for an equally fast pace
for her second run leg... passing by Serene who was still enjoying her Promax.
... and as Dawn quickly ate up the running track, a check back in the transition area found Serene (slowly) taking off her sunglasses and cap, and (slowly) wiping the sweat off her face...  The race officials must have been pretty amused by this Aunty who must have been the most relaxed participant in the whole event.

... and FINALLY!! The Aunty was ready!

Making a last check to make sure she had enough cold water in her
running bottle to pour over he face... one of her favourite pastimes.
The Third and Final Leg - The Last 3km Run
By now, it was more than an hour already.  I remember thinking to myself while waiting for the girls to come back: "Wow.. poor thing.  Must be tired. Non-stop and cheonging for one hour plus already.  Serene must be feeling tired and maybe cursing and swearing at me already.."
LOL.. it was a different feeling, to be the spectator rather than the participant.  I quite enjoyed it though, I must say.
I squeezed my way into the fences around the finishing line.. trying to grab the best angle available.  Finding the zoom lenses of little use, I switched to the other camera with the 16-35mm.

And then.. out from the corner of my eyes, I spied a tiny speck of blue rounding the last corner.  It was Dawn making her final dash to the line.  I readied myself in time to hear the announcer: "Here comes Louise Dawn Chen!".. and the very fast runner crossed that finishing line!

Dawn making the final dash!
"Where on earth is that Serene Gan huh?" I asked myself.
She must be somewhere out there... struggling perhaps.
And then she came.

"Gan Seok Hwa, crossing the line!" announced the loud-hailer.  And the whole world saw the lady in purple-pink break her own world record.

Finally crossing the line 1 hour 40 minutes.
"Wah lau.. the last leg see beh siong!" kao beh-ed Serene when I gave her a big kiss. "My shin was so painful, I can hardly run. I had to do it slowly.  The marshalls all looked at me and ask me am I alright, the ambulance medic looked at me and asked am I alright. Wah lau eh!"
And true enough, the young lady was limping after the finishing line.  The transition from cycling to running was something she wasn't used to.  And it definitely took a toll on her.  Dawn was very candid when I asked her the same question.
Dawn replied: "Ok lor.. I just ran and ran after the ride.  Normally I would conserve.  But this is a sprint event, that is why I gave all out and didn't conserve.  After a while I found my running legs back."
Triumphant duo!

This Metasprint Duathlon was a nice distance to test one's VO2Max.  Of course there were so many ways of testing the VO2Max.  One could do it the cheongster's way.. or Serene's relaxed way.  Either way, it was great fun, both for the contestants as well as the supporters.  I was pretty sure this wasn't going to be the last time these good boys and girls would be pushing their hearts and lungs out on the race track.  I am fully confident that the world will see them on the roads some time, some where again, putting themselves to the test again.

Till then.

Yours truly and Serene.
[Photo: Alan Tan]