Sunday, April 5, 2015

Putrajaya 70.3 Half Ironman

Sign up and experience the true meaning of sufferfest.

"Can a newbie jump straight into doing a half ironman?" I asked.
"Sure. Just follow the training program. Can be done one."reassured GT.

And I signed up for Putrajaya 70.3.

It turned out to be a roller coaster adventure.  In between chronically strained and painful peroneal tendons of both ankles, and trying to fit the training sessions into my working schedule, I somehow managed to put in some kind of training.  Sprinkled in a couple of weeks of illnesses, and that completed the whole picture.

Here is the official video of this year's PJ 70.3  Very unforgettable video of this most unforgettable race.  At 1:24min we could see Richard grimacing as the cold water shower cooled him, and at 2:38min we could see David raising his arms up in triumphant celebration.

DAY 1: 3rd April 2015.. Shaftsbury Serviced Residence
Official photographer Ah Chua
It was always a good idea to arrive two days ahead of such a major event.  But a hot day it was. Putrajaya was a nice, modern, albeit quiet city off Kuala Lumpur.  Plenty of IT companies setting up buildings here.  But certainly a quiet little place.
An nice view of Shaftsbury. [Photo: Ah Chua]

Jason and GT very quickly got things arranged.
Shaftsbury Serviced Residences was really not bad.  Of course, a small place like this we really couldn't expect them to be working as quickly as a full-fledged 6-star hotel. But for MYR 715 (about S$260) for three nights, it was really quite good.  Rooms were big, with oven and kitchenette and such.  But the only thing was, one needed to take the hotel shuttle to and fro the city (town) centre, at MYR 10 per trip.  So we got to plan our trips carefully because otherwise we could easily end up paying quite a bit in a day. 
David and Darric admiring GT's  unique torpedo aerodynamic hydration system.
While waiting, some of us discovered some other things about some of us.   And some tried to make themselves comfortable on the machines.

"It is very comfortable!" said Debbie.

"OK put your stuff up in your room and chope chope come down, we will take the shuttle bus down to the Race kit collection centre," instructed Jason.

A group photo of a few truly seasoned Ironmen, a few well-prepared Ironmen-to-be, and a wanabe who would never know what hit him on race day.

The truly Eh-Sai category - Abigail, Rudin, Jason, Tien and Jacky. [Photo: Ah Chua]

Race Kit Collection

Putrajaya was not huge.  But somehow, despite the proximity, the design of the road required us to make several loops before we could arrive at the building.  It was a relaxed day this Friday afternoon.
Really Carnival Atmosphere. [Photo: Ah Chua]

The kit collection was very well organised.  Everything went on efficiently and the volunteers were polite and smiling.  We all got our wrist bands tagged and were instructed to keep them there for the next few days.

Francis happily smiling. "Bring it on! I am ready." was the gesture.

Kong Wan the champion newbie cyclist who just got his road bike a few weeks ago.
EvoLV's biggest clown of the month getting himself tagged, oblivious to the pain that was to come.
And how on earth did Serene become an official.  She even had access to the out-of-bounds area to take pictures of us from within the tables.
Siao siao lah, this girl. Don't play play ah. [Photo: Ah Chua]

 "Hey, look!" someone discovered. "They even have our names printed on the Ironman T-shirts!"
I couldn't believe it.  But it was true. And for a long moment, every single one was frantically preening into the tiny words searching for his name.
Darric kao beh kao bu cos he couldn't find his name.
Mine was here.  Right in the middle of the T-shirt.  This organiser was really smart. What a sure way to make a MYR110 from the T-shirt.  Die die must buy, like that.

 Pre-Race Briefing

"Wei, brieing starts at 4pm. You guys still buying food ah?"
Huge auditorium.  And an automated detailed video clip as a briefing.  Interesting.
[Photo: Ah Chua]
The ambience was so comfortable that apparently every one fell asleep except for David Low and I. Luckily we had David Low to pose us all the important questions that we inevitably missed out.  His questions got us thinking... how to overtake the front cyclist without falling foul of the 25 seconds rule...
Most trying to stay awake. [Photo: Ah Chua]

Putrajaya has no taxi?

Yeah.  Putrajaya has plenty of space.  And mosques and buildings of mammoth proportions.  But at 4pm-ish in the afternoon, we found ourselves stranded outside the race collection centre with no taxi willing to take us back to Presinct 6, Jalan Impact, where Shaftsbury was, despite Francis's best efforts.  And my limited Malay brought me little luck with the public bus driver.
Thankfully our hotel was able to rescue us with the hotel shuttle.

DAY 2: Transition Bike Check-in

I was all readied to do an early morning test swim in the famous Putrajaya Lake.  But somehow, a few of the guys managed to convince me not to.
This lake made its name for being slightly contaminated some time back.  And past Ironmen from all over the world entered it with a good dose of apprehension, taking care to avoid drinking too much of lake water, lest they should develop some kind of stomach upset half way through the race.

"Ok Ok.. we will just go for the bike check-in at the Transition area at 3pm and we will survey the landmarks at the shoal of the lake then."

So, 8am on day 2.  We ended up eating roti prata breakfast at the stall just below our serviced apartments.  All thanks to Ah Chua's early morning gallivanting on his bike around the area.  He was the one who took picture of this roti-prata joint and messaged every one of us, even while we were all still sound asleep that morning.

My wrist tag.

... and the mandatory visit to iOi Mega Mall some half an hour away from the serviced apartment by taxi and shuttle.. walking around doing nothing much but merely soaking up the air-con, buying bananas and had a good chit chat with Ann Kheen, David and Kong Wan.. and who knows, we ended up having beer and pork knuckle for lunch (courtesy of Darric Tan)...
.. only to find the pre-arranged taxi and shuttle bus not keeping to promise, leaving us stranded at both the East and West Gates of the huge shopping complex at 2:15pm, with no transport back to the hotel.  Thankfully, the hotel receptionist was able to whip up some transport at the last minute, and we needn't miss our set off at 3pm for the Transition bike check in.  What a close shave!

3pm. Set off for Bike Check-in at the Transition area

"Remember to bring your helmet," was the reminder.  We all really didn't understand why.  But some smart fellow finally rationalised it by saying that the technicians might want to check our helmets as well as our bike brakes.
And Shaftsbury gave us a huge bus.  Neither the staff nor the driver had the slightest idea how we should load the bicycles. So we ended up kee kee gu kee kee and improvised a nice fashion with which the bikes should sit in the coach.  All 18 of the bikes.

The bikes took up more space than the humans.
En route...

The lake and the mosque in the background.

The bridge..
We were all seated comfortably in the air-conditioned bus.  But we could feel the heat beating down on the outside.

Bike Check-in!
Helmets on.  We pushed our machines through the red-carpeted lane.  And man, was it hot.

"Hey you should take a selfie of yourself like this," showed Kong Wan.
"Oh.. I am not very good in taking selfie," I replied. "But let me try."
So that was all I could manage.  A reflection of the heat on this afternoon.

And while the other boys and girls were busy looking for their bike racks, David and Ah Chua posed for me.  A memorable shot.
Too bad, this shot was against the sun.
"I want to go look for pump. My tyres are all soft," I said.
Francis warned: "You'd better not. It's in the hot sun.  Your tyres may burst."
"Oh ok lor ok lor.." I remembered how Francis's tyres burst at the bike depot a couple of years back during Tour de Bintan. 
"Kong Wan, maybe we come tomorrow early early during the Transition area opening and queue up to pump lah," I suggested.
So a shot of myself when I was still happy, euphoric and optimistic.
And a shot of my poor little machine, racked up under the hot sun (and the heavy downpour that was to follow that very evening)...
As I was walking towards the end of the transition area to check out the Changing tent, Hui Mei called out to me:
"I am at Rack number 494," she said. "Tomorrow morning if you guys need a pump, please come to 494 to have your bikes pumped up.  I will bring it tomorrow."
My heart melted, and it wasn't because of the sun.  Such warmth.  Thank you, Hui Mei!

Transition Area Tour...
4pm.  The Transition tour started.
And this very nice Australian Race Director (or whoever he may be) gave us a good run-through of the whole place.  Yeah.. this same nice Ang Moh who would be ever so gentle in exercising his cut-off time the next day.
The lane to the Swim Out.

The Run-Out

... and studying the lake from the pontoon where we would be jumping off from the next day.

Night came.  And a heavy downpour came.  We could do nothing but think about our bikes, all wet and soaking in the rain.  We were most elated to find Steven and KC Liew waiting for us at the lobby came dinner time.  These two champions managed to arrive in time for food.
And we had a totally (over-) filling dinner of roasted duck and chicken, while KC, David and Steven discussed their hearts out what time each should check into the Transition area the next day.

That evening, I slept like a log.

D-DAY: The Day of Reckoning...
6th April 2015.  A day I would never forget.
The Eh-Sai group was waaaaay earlier than any one of us, all gathered in the lobby waiting for the shuttle.
"Wah lau," said Jason. "Our shuttle bus was supposed to be the 5am one.  The bus is here, but the driver is nowhere to be found."
Was very happy to have a chance to take a group photo with the Eh-Sai team. Really my honour.

And of course, our evoLV guys were out in full force.

Our very own Support Crew!
Christina, Debbie and Serene were so excited about being there to support every one that they went to buy the 'Support Crew' Ironman T-shirt just to wear it for the very day.
They were truly the best.

The Transition area opened up strictly for one hour from 6am-7am.
Our bus were, in keeping to fashion, about 15 minutes late in setting off from the serviced apartments.  And we arrived just about in time.  We all scrambled to lay out our area.  And I queued up at the end to have my tyres pumped up.
I still had about half an hour to go to the toilet.  Slowly but surely the excitement built up.

David the mountain goat getting ready to show the Ironmen what he is made of.

Meanwhile our Support Crew waited at the entrance to the Transition.
Add caption
... and when the Transition area finally closed, we all gathered at the Swim in awaiting our rolling start.
"So which wave shall we position ourselves?" someone asked.
"Just start in wave one," said Francis.
"Wave one? That's the under 45mins wave leh!"
"Yes, but you will have lesser people to crowd with," replied Francis the champ.
"That's also true," said Kong Wan.
"Ok, we will start at the tail end of wave one," said Steven.
Very rare to have another group shot with Steven in it.

Honestly at this point in time, I didn't think I was nervous. I was a little worried about the swim.  But I didn't have the usual kind of butterfly in the stomach feeling.  Being with all my friends at the starting point was kinda reassuring.

The 1.9km Swim Leg.

It was what they called a rolling start for the vast majority of the participants.  Only the Pro category athletes had a Deep water start.  So simply, we just followed Wave 1 (below 45min estimated swim time) or Wave 2 (46-55min swim time) or Wave 3 (above 56 min swim time).  Slowly the snake moved.. And we found ourselves standing at the timer mat on the platform.  On the count of three we jumped into the lake four by four.

All of us made sure we were close together at the start.  I guess for the support lah.

And did we jump!! A few of us leapt feet first into the water and we sank deep deep down, so deep until it took as quite a while before we floated back up on the surface.  That was quite a start. 

I still remembered what Richard said to me after the whole thing was over:
"Wah lau eh.. this lake water has no buoyancy. Even lesser buoyancy than a swimming pool!"
Indeed the man was correct.  Many would have been swimming uphill.  But that wouldn't have been apparent right from the start.
This year's swim route was a much improved version compared to the previous year's.  It was a simple left turn right out of the platform and a straight 750m, and then two right turns at the two yellow buoys at the end, and a last 850m straight back to the bridge.

Sounded easy enough.  The swim front was wide.  And there really wasn't much rough handling, butt-slapping, arms-pulling going on as far as my wave was concerned. 
Once in the water, I totally lost sight of all my good buddies.  And I was all alone in the deep blue water, with black bodies flapping all around me.
It took me a while before I got warmed up.  But I couldn't swim straight.  I kept veering to the right, and on this first leg, I kept crossing the small buoys into the other lane, and the lane marshalls on the canoe had to keep whistling at me to warn me.  Quite an experience that was for me.
That sapped my energy quite a bit, having to look up, sight again, and correct my course.

I remember setting my tempo at 1.43 second.  And I forced myself to keep to that pace in order not to over-cheong.  The silly yellow buoy seemed forever unreachable.  This time round I felt that I swam straighter than when I was doing the Aquahtlon because I followed Francis's advice "4 stroke 1 sight".  So although I veered off I wasn't very far off.  The first 750m leg felt a little tiring for me, perhaps because it was my very first real swim in a real event.  I peered again and again into the distance to catch sight of the elusive yellow buoy.  Only when it drew near could I finally aim towards it.
Somewhere during this fist out leg, I was just minding my own business when out of nowhere my left wrist got kicked really hard by a lanky Ang Moh swimmer in front.  Really hard - BANG - like that, right on my watch. Stupid!  My nightmare.  I had always worried about my Forerunner being kicked out of its mount, as I had heard so much on the forum.
instinctively my right hang went to the wrist.  Heng ah!! The watch was still there.  Luckily for me the 920XT made a much better watch mount than its predecessor.  And I was safe to continue swimming.

I made the right turn at the first buoy using the turning method taught to me by my coach.  When I reached the second buoy, I just swam as usual. To heck with the turn lah.

Sucking in Lake water...
Right after the second yellow buoy, I became just about comfortable in my strokes.. Then suddenly the inevitable happened.  I took a breath to the right side and suck in a big gulp of lake water.  Had it been drinking it would have been ok.  But this was a suck.  And water went into my airways.  I really didn't know how it happened.
A few breast strokes to settle my nerves and I went front-crawling again.  But I could feel a wheeze as I breathe in, and I could not inhale.  Shit.  This was serious.  The resting pontoon miraculously appeared by my side and I grabbed on to it for dear life. 
Only when I later studied my Garmin did I realise that I hung on for about two minutes.  It was funny when I thought back about it.

While I was stranded, I believe Ann Kheen was already running up the transition, his swim time an unbelievable 38mins.
Ann Kheen bursting out from the water at the 38th minute.

Darric was also already very near the end point of the swim.  And Serene captured a shot of his Herculean attempt springing out of the water.
Darric looked just fine after a tremendously fast swim.
Not long after Darric emerged, Ah Chua came out of the water.  But... he looked as if he was punched by a boxer on his side... walking a little wai wai...

The walkway was a little slippery as Ah Chua ran out...

So while the faster swimmers were running up the transition lane, I was struggling to finish my swim.  The remainder of the swim leg was uneventful.  I didn't know how breathless I was until my foot touched the floor board and I started walking up.
GT swim out.

I remembered Steven's words:
"I would always slow down at the last few metres of the swim because I want to get up looking fresh for all the photographers will be there mah."
But I was probably looking quite breathless, as confirmed by this shot by Serene.  I looked like I was hit by a whole bomb.  By the time I reached the shoal, my Rock Tape was half out already.. Frustratingly I torn everything off as I reached the Transition area.

There went my last hope of looking sat-sat as I emerged from the water... I was a shagged as a camel.

Even in the following shot taken by an unofficial event photographer... me remembering to press the 'Lap' button, I looked as pale as a sheet. Shit.

[Photo: Jack AhBeh}

I looked up, and on the right side Serene called for me.  And I caught sight of Steven standing relaxly at the side.
"Come on, Wee How. Go!" shouted Steven. 
And instinctively I ran right up to him and shook his hand (as taken by this photographer).  At this moment I was so filled with admiration for his swimming prowess, this man.  He must have had been up there on the shoal for ages waiting for me.

Richard was really enjoying the shower as we ran through the transit into the transition area from our swim.  Providing cooling relief and a nice clean shower to wash off all the lake water.

Transition One... slow and steady.
 I managed a trot to the changing tent and guai guai removed my shorts inside, and ran back to my bike rack.  Well, the race ruling did say if we were to remove any clothing items it had to be done in the changing tent mah.  So it was a simple little run in and out. 
"First thing, relax and don't rush," Darric's advice was in my head.
So I sat down, and turned off my Tempo trainer.  Put the swimming cap and stuffs neatly on one side. Dried my feet with the towel, and pulled up the compression calf sleeves that I treasured and used with care all these months as they were a special gift from GT.  Then I pulled up my Fast Corner socks.  Then I grabbed my still ice-cold Promax+Glucolin drink and gulped down all that 520 Cal of nice cold drink.  Following that I poured all 700Cal of blended rolled oats into the other cold bottle of honey water and gulped that down.  Whoa! 1200Cal of nutrition.  Cannot die liao!
Breathe, take deep breath! Breathe!
I removed my Heart Rate monitor from my cycling shoes and clicked it onto the HRM strap on my chest.  And I clipped on my Newton racing belt with three gel on it, untwist my Garmin Forerunner 920XT from my wrist strap and onto the bike mount, and for added measures, mounted my Garmin Edge 800 too so that I have more data fields as I rode.
Last thing - sunglasses and the helmet.  I kept reminding myself - Ironman ruling was very strict, you cannot unrack your bike until you have put on your helmet and clipped it securely.
OK, off I ran with my bike towards the Bike Exit.

The 90km Bike leg...

Jason Tan 兴福- a picture of Sat-Sat-ness. [Photo: Jason Ng]

This year they apparently also changed the dark underground motorbike tunnel which caused quite  few crashes there the year before due to the sharp right turn immediately after it,  So as a price to pay, we had more upslopes this round.  About a total of 600m of elevation, especially one long long one right at the beginning.

I couldn't feel myself being particularly strong when I clipped on my pedals. It was starting to feel hot.And pedalling out of the transition area, I discovered two things:
1. My heart rate was at 155/min and,
2. My speed was a meagre early twenties. 
"Perhaps I just needed to warm up my cycling muscles," I thought.
But I knew at that moment the I must have overdone the swim. Ok, I had to go easy on the pedalling to slow down my heart rate. 

Not long after the start, I hit the long long climb.  It wasn't that bad.  Mostly a gentle climb.  But my speed really slowed down to the early teens.  Thankfully I could make up for it with much faster speed downslope.  
EvoLV Mountain Goat David.
[Photo: Kannan Murugasan]
"How much average speed do you hope to achieve?" David was asking me the day before.
"Hopefully 30km/hr." I replied.
On this morning, I knew I was too presumptuous to have even uttered that figure, because a glance at my Garmin told me I was only averaging about 26km/h, for the first loop of the 90km ride.  I tried keeping myself down in the aero position, and I was happy to be able to maintain that for most part of the first loop.

David was among the first few to spring out of the mounting line on the bike.  He was so adapt at climbing that, in his own words after the dust had settled, he said:
"I was able to over take a few of the Ang Mohs on Tri bikes as I sped up the slopes, but of course, being Tri bikes, when it came to the downslopes, they over took me easily.  But we ended up having the same time."
Truly a Mountain goat, this David.

Still cheerful during the first loop.

There were so many fast Ang Moh triathletes who simply zoomed past me on the right side with their rear disc wheel, and as they passed, the 'whoosh whoosh whoosh' noises from their wheels were conveying to me that they were the real true blue Ironmen.  It was a joy to watch them cycle, as these very established cyclists took to the slopes like spinning on flat ground.

Francis was way ahead, cheonging ahead with his pink pina.

The cycling leg wasn't without its excitement.  At around 9km into the ride, I suddenly looked up from the aero-position to feel a strong jerk in front.  I had banged head-on into one of those cones on the road.  I didn't know if I was lucky or what, because the cone flew off to my left and my bike continued straight.  Heng ah!  I didn't fall!
[Photo: Kannan Murugasan]
And needless to say, Ann Kheen was zooming in front on his Bat Mobile with the wolves.

Ann Kheen said afterwards: "The Tri bike makes it so easy to cycle.  You just need to pedal a little bit only.  The bike is already moving by itself."   Words of wisdom.
GT on his Tri bike.

Through hot tarmac I churned my power.  All my pre-race plan of following a constant power got thrown out of the window.  I couldn't explain why, but I was simply feeling nausea all the way the first 45km.  The only one thing I was glad, was that my heart rate remained fairly constant at around 130 plus/min.

Ah Chua kept kao beh-ing he's got leg cramps.
[Photo: Kannan Murugasan]
 "My average speed for the whole ride was about 31km/hr," shared Jeremy Quek after the event. "You just have to keep practising to be on the aerobar as long as you can."  This fellow is a real champion.

I kept counting the distance, looking forward to every water station at the 15km mark.  I would asked for ice cold water, drink half a bottle of it, and poured the rest over my head.  The shock of the icy coldness would refresh me instantaneously and before I leave I would pour yet another ice cold bottle of water all over myself.  At one of these water points, I saw the Blue Smurf cycling passed, it was Abigail.  Wow, this girl was impressive.  She just started cycling with cleats three weeks ago and she was already doing so steadily.
Inn Inn on her pink bike
[Photo: Kannan Murugasan]
Hui Mei very steady.  Had her hydration pack on her all the way.
[Photo: Kannan Murugasan]

As I begun to cool down, I started looking around me. And I started noticing that Inn Inn and Hui Mei were all cycling about the same pace with myself.  We kept over taking each other.  But I was simply too tired to even start talking to them.

At the end of the first loop, I turned back towards the starting point, and that was where I saw Serene and Debbie waiting for me and taking my picture.  
"I bonked!  I bonked already!" I announced to them, as I slowly spinned up the slope yet again.  I never imagined I would ever have to say this to them.
Richard was as cool as a cucumber in the hot sun.
This second loop of 45km was even worse.  My average speed slowed down tremendously, and it dipped to 23km/h and later 22.9km/h.
"Shit," I thought.  "After this how am I still going to run?"  
Going through the second loop, this thought of self-doubt kept recurring to me.  But unbeknown to me, perhaps my couple of good mates merely a few metres behind me on the bike leg was probably harbouring the same sentiment.

"Before this event, my longest ride was only 70km," lamented Kong Wan after all was over, and he was officially Ironman-ed. "But here it was 90km and it had so much slope that I got thigh cramps!"
Poor man.  So yam gong.
Kong Wan showing his colours as a marathoner.... on the bike!
[Photo: Kannan Murugasan]

On the last 15km of the cycling, my mind was but a messed-up rojak of yearning for cold water and looking out for the finishing line for the bike leg.  It was a worst kind of emotion, one that shouldn't even exist in the first place because right after the bike, one would need to start running.  How to run like that?!  Impossible!
Scanning the data fields on my Garmin Edge confirmed that my heart rate was, by then, only about 128/min.  This was really not fast.  But somehow, an indescribably sense of tiredness has emerged from deep within me.

I had been guai - I stopped at every water point to drink, and to pour bottles after bottles of ice cold water onto my head and body.  I took my Crampfix capsule every hour on the dot.  I ate my gel at the top of every hour.  I sucked on my Glucolin+Promax mixture, despite feeling nausea and wanting to merlion at every water station... but managing to hold it back.
But now at the end of my cycling leg, as I crossed the mounting line, my attention was, strangely not on my stiffened legs, but on my breathlessness.

The 21.1km Running Leg.

By now, the sun was merciless, in Francis's own words.
The infrared and ultraviolet rays simply streamed down and bombarded every melanocytes on my skin.  And I just threw every thing onto the Transition Area, changed into my Hoka One One Conquest running shoes, slipped on my Flip Belt loaded with six gels, my visor, my running water bottle.. gulped down another bottle of nutrition, and off I.... walked.

I walked out the Walk-Out and I could see Steven, Debbie, Serene and the rest of the support guys watching intensely at me.  I flashed these good fellow a feeble smile and a thumbsup, all the while simply walking slowly.  I crossed the line and started my 'walk' leg.

It was about 11:30am aga aga by the time I walked out of Transition 2.  The heat was really killing me.  All my life, I had believe that I was a 'Heat' person.  And that I thrived best in the hot sun.  All my life.  And I'd always believed that I could cycle well. But today was that fateful day which changed everything.   I bonked on my cycling leg.  I wilted under the sun.  And right at this very moment of my life, as I stumbled on the radiating pavement that was supposed to go around the island,  I alarmed myself by discovering I was feeling breathless.

"I don't think I can last," my mind started telling myself stories.
An older Ang Moh man walked pass me.
"Wow.. it's such a hot day!" he looked at me and remarked.
"Indeed." was the only word I could return him.

While I was still suffering on the bike, Ann Keen was already gliding on the run leg.
The first water point at 2km saw me zombied in.  The volunteers were really a cheerful bunch.  One of them grabbed a scoop of ice cold water and splashed all over my head.  Suddenly I woke up.  But not enough, even with gulping down some more cold water.  I knew I was well gel-ed through the bike leg.  I had another 500Cal of Glucolin-Promax mix at Transition 2.  I hydrated myself thoroughly and regularly through the course so far.  But I simply couldn't mount any energy.  I was a lump of sand about to crumble.

Slowly I shuffled another 500m (roughly) out of the water station.  Around me, athletes were slowly running.  Some had to stop to walk.  In fact, MANY had to walk.

"So that is why Putrajaya 70.3 was so notorious," in my mind the thought coursed through. "How can ANYONE even walk in such condition after a swim and a bike ride, not to even mention walk?"
My mind was kee-siao already.  Totally no mental liao.
I saw on my right, one of the few rare patch of shade under a tree and I pulled my feet towards that.  I knelt down, leaned on my side, and laid down, spread eagle, breathing heavily.  Oh.... the rest was good.  Simply luxurious.  My watch gave off an alarm - the one it gave every 15 minutes.  My mind drifted off to nothingness.  I just wanted to sleep and forget about the whole nightmare.

"Bro, hey you ok!" some good fellow shouted out as he passed me.
"Brother, you fine?" another one.
"Hey, man.. are you alright?" yet another one.
Countless kind-hearted runners must have called out to me.  For the second time in this event, my heart melted, and again this time not because of the heat.

One fantastic Indian guy came up to me and handed me a bottle of purple Gatorade.
"Hey drink this! It will help." He gave me a pat and ran off.  
To all these good people I could only lift up my hand and wave thanks.
I couldn't even sit up.  It was so strange. I tried to slowly lift myself up.  But I knew I was going to give up already.  I was only thinking of my strategy - whether to walk back to the previous water point or walk another 1.5km forward to the next water point.
It was really a Welcome To Facebook moment.

Even until today I cannot understand how a seasoned Ironman like Jason laughs and smiles as he runs.  It's non-human!

My watched alarm went off again.  It had been fifteen minutes lying down on the grass.  Shit.
Finally I struggled up and steadied myself, still sitting on the grass.

"Hey Wee How are you OK?" Jeremy shouted out as he ran passed me.  This must have been his second loop. 
"Yah, I am ok. Don't worry."
 OK. I had enough.  To heck with this whole damn race.  I was going to walk back towards the previous water station and ask them to ferry me back to the start point.  My mind was made up.

"HULLO, SIAO EH!" came an exclamation from right in front of me.
It was Richard.
Whatever. My mind was made. I was going to DNF already. 
"Hey, man. I bonked already." I offered Richard a 苦笑.
"Hullo. Can walk right? You didn't come all the way here to stop mah. Come, let's walk together."
Walk together? This Richard must have had his brains fried by the sun like me. 
I stared at this man who was talking nonsense. I wasn't going to walk with him.
"That was the plan right? We were supposed to walk the 21km together mah, right?"
This fellow was really out of his mind. I was in absolutely no state to stand, much less walk.
"Huh?" I look at this burly Commando, and muttered through heavy breaths.
"Come, let's go!" Ordered Richard.

Welcome To Facebook. Ok ok.. I convinced myself I would only walk to the next water station and I was going to bid him bye bye liao.
Slowly I shuffled forward. All that I had learned about the Ironman shuffle.. But it just wasn't supposed to be like this.. Not this kind of shuffle.   Richard was talking. I could see his mouth moving and I could sense myself replying him. But I didn't know what he conversation was about.

Two fellows in blue walking in the hot sun!
"Hello!" Came from behind us. It was Kong Wan.
"Wah Kong Wan, good job!" Richard was very happy to see the marathoner. "I saw you cycling with the guys at the slopes just now."
"Yah, it's very siong. I got leg cramps going up the slopes." complained Kong Wan. "Come, let us walk together."
The President Obama on his Royal Inspection of the grounds of the Putrajaya Island.
This Kong Wan was really encouraging too.  And these two good men walked with me this stretch.

4km. The second water point. The scoops of ice water came tumbling over my head, and icy fluid nourished my stomach. I plonked myself on the floor behind the desk.
"Ok Kong Wan, you better start running now, cos we are going to take our time one. We will see you later!" said Richard.
"Ok see you guys!" and off he ran. 
My goodness, my jaw dropped when I saw how this established marathoner ran. Such light strides, and the spring in his steps. A runner would really be a runner.
Jacky and Abigail really enjoying the hot sun.

I have decided.  I was going to Give Up.
"I am going to sit down here," I declared. "Richard you better go."
"Huh? Hullo. If I walk away now you will be sitting here forever." Insisted the man.
Such an inspiration.  But when the body is tired, and the mind becomes weak.. it just doesn't work.
[Photo: David Low]
Shucks. Looked like my plan wasn't going to work.  I was going to be stuck with Richard now.  All my plans of giving up (really really really wanted to call it a day) seemed to be thrown out of the window by this insistent fellow.  Richard was really going to make me walk all the way.

Rudin showing the photographer what he was made of.

We continued walking. Richard kept looking at the watch and monitoring our pace. We were doing 14-15 minutes pace. Not fast enough. I needed to quicken up and Richard urged me to. 
"Ok we can make it." he kept encouraging me. "Walk like this all the way.  Look at you now.  You are no longer hyper-ventilating like just now."
In fact he was right.  I was beginning to feel better.  For once, I felt that I could actually complete the 21km.

Tien showing what minimalist running is all about.

The volunteers were one of the best I had ever seen.  Very spontaneous, superbly cheerful and forever ready with a cold sponge, a scoop of ice water and a cold drink. The supply of hydration was also at an Ironman level- isotonic, cold coca cola, and an endless supply of water melon and power gels.
We both looked eagerly forward to every water station every 2km.
Running also happy.

10km came and we completed the first loop.
"Ok, now we go for the second loop, but you got to walk faster.  And we won't stop at the water station now. OK?" said Richard.
I nodded in agreement. 

We arrived at the Transitoin pen and waved to Serene and Christina.  They had been waiting for the longest time and were all chao-dar-ed under the hot sun.  In fact three of them, including Debbie, didn't end up leaving the Transition area as they originally planned.  They stayed on and supported every one all the way.  They were truly the best!

Darric jubilant in his finishing!

By now, most of the guys had completed their races, or in the process of finishing the last loop of the run.  Both Richard and i were stopped by the Race Director at the Transition and told we just missed to cut off time by one minute.  I plead for him to give us a chance and he agreed. We started walking faster.. in fact Richard was running.

We did another 2km more into the run, but behind us came the Race Director in a motorbike.
"Sorry guys, you don't look like you are fast enough to make it. I have got to ask you all to get back here.  I'm sorry."

That was it.  12km into the walk/run leg and our quest was truncated.
Really a pity it was.  I felt really bad.  Because of me, Richard's race was similarly truncated.

"Well, look at it this way - in our heart, we have made it, " reassured Richard. "Because we know we could have completed it one, given a little bit more time."
He was really consoling.  And what he said was true too.  The guys were all very encouraging too.
"The course of merciless," lamented Francis at the end point.
"It's your first Half Ironman," said Ann Kheen. "It's really not easy, especially if it's your first attempt."
 "A runner will always finish the race," said Jeremy.  Such truth! I will forever remember this.

So what have I gained from this?

Well, I have learned so much after this 70.3.
I have learned that I was not a heat person as I had always assumed.  And I have learned that I was really not prepared despite me thinking that I have been regular with my training programme.  In addition, I have learned that it was never easy being an Ironman, and those who completed the course were really mentally and physically in a class of their own.
What was important was, I learned that I have not been running enough due to my ankle pain.  That could never be.  One could never hope to complete such an event without training on one's running.

And what was most, was that I have seen clearly how all my friends and team mates have dug deep into themselves in pushing themselves to the finishing line.  I understood myself more, and I have also understood every one around me much more.
This Half Ironman was an eye-opening experience for me.

Till the next one, I hope.

The Dream Team - David, Steven and KC Obama