Saturday, May 2, 2015

Busselton 70.3 RACE DAY!!!

The Day of Reckoning.

It was the day, finally.
Ready in our wetsuits
[Photo: Serene's iPhone. Click to enlarge]

Four of us were here for this famous Half Ironman 70.3 Race, most of us well prepared, except one who was totally out of tune with training.  Busselton was famous for the Half and Full Ironman courses because firstly it had beauitful weather here.  It was cool in summer when it held the Full Ironman, and it had mild winter during which the Half Ironman took place.  The race course was fast and mostly flat, and the Indian Ocean sea water was nice and cold, making for a fast swim for most of the seasoned Ironmen.  Busselton is famed for being the course to attain one's Personal Best.
So it was a nice and mild wintry May that saw four of us gathered here for our first attempt in this course.

1. To find out more about the Busselton 70.3 Race day, continue reading on.
2. To start from the beginning of this wonderful trip (Day 1 and 2) click here.
3. To laugh yourself crazy seeing how the boys did their Open Water test swim (Day 3), click here.
4. To read our trip outta Busselton to Fremantle ~ Day 5, click here.
5. To view the rustic old buildings of Fremantle & our journey to Joondalup ~ Day 6, click here.

Here is the official video of the Busselton 70.3 race that we were in.  I could just make out myself in the right upper quadrant of the swim wave splashing frantically...

What's a Half Ironman, or commonly known as 70.3?
It's a triathlon of 1.9km of swimming, 90km of cycling and a 21.1km of running.  It's exactly half the distance of a Full Ironman, which is oftentimes so insane a course that many people don't even dare to think about it.  I didn't, and I am still not.  That is why I am still sane.

Busselton's 70.3 course had its swim leg just beside the iconic Busselton jetty, and contestants swam in the Indian Ocean.  It would be a swim straight out, a left turn, some more distance, another left turn, and then straight back to base.  The waves could be at times choppy and at times calm.  So that depended very much on one's luck.  But a cold sea was almost always a certainty, more adversely affecting racers like us from the tropics.
The cycle leg was a lovely one, from the transition area, out through the town and down into the forrest.  It was a fast and flat course, two loops of exactly the same 45km distance, and many triathletes would pick up their Personal Best on this bike leg.  The only issue was with headwinds and crosswinds, which at times could be notoriously strong.  Again, not insurmountable.  One just had to be as aerodynamic as possible.  The Ironman race was a non-draft-legal race.  That meant that for the non-pro category, the cyclists had to keep their bikes at least 12m apart from each other to negate the advantageous effects of drafting.
The run leg was as straight forward as could be, running along the coastal pavement.  For the 70.3, it was three loops of 7km each.  Easy.  For a runner.  But not for a non-runner like me.

5:15am. Setting up the Transition Area.
Cool dude. [Photo: Gerard iPhone. Click on the image to enlarge.]

Yes, we were early.  But not the earliest.  Some of the guys were already well prepared way ahead right as the Transition pent opened.  I poured out all my items and arranged them in the usual order of the legs.  The organiser of Busselton 70.3 was a little more particular, for they did not allow any bags in the transition area other than the official Busselton 70.3 bag.   So I simply just stacked one item on top of the other.   The space allocation for the transition area was also not as generous.  But we all made do.  I could understand why the organiser needed to restrict the number of bags.  The space available was simply to little.  This event was really highly-subscribed.
There.  This was all the space I had for my transition area.  Pathetic, right? Haha...
My tiny little transition area was merely a small patch of space beneath my bike. Pathetic.
[Photo: my iPhone. Click to enlarge]
I looked around for Jeremy and Gerard for the bicycle pump, but in the crowd I could find none of them, and in my daze I couldn't remember their bib number.  I walked all around the transition looking for the guys but I'd lost them. So I ended up borrowing a pump from a very kind Australian mate in the next row.

"Jiaklat! Hey what happened? Why you took so long? Just dump the whole bag onto the ground only what!" reprimanded Gerard.
"Sorry lah.. was looking around for you all ah.. I walked in and out looking for you all and for the pump mah..." I replied.
"Quick! Darric forgot to put in his water bottle.  We need to go back resort and pang sai and change and then come back before they close the transition to let Darric deposit his water bottle!"
OK ok... better hurry.  Make sure we poo and pee in the shortest period of time.  So 6.6km we sped back to the resort, taking a few detours as we made a couple of wrong turns in the dark.  There was some debate whether we would wear our wetsuits at the starting site or to do it right in the resort.  In the end we simply pulled our Yaohan bags through them and put them on in the resort and waddled into our waiting car.  We made it just in time for Darric to deposit his water bottle.
We had to park our cars a little further away and walk back towards the transition.
[Photo: my iPhone. Click to enlarge]

6:50am.  Parked our cars and walked back to the transition area.

Official FinisherPix photo.
The sky was just beginning to light up, and the air temperature registered 8 degrees Celsius, which was in every way still too cold for a tropical boy like me.

Gerard and I walking to the main icon for the whole day - the tents.
[Photo: Serene iPhone. Click to enlarge]
We really needed desperately to clear our bladders at this time.  We looked at each other and wondered how on earth we were going to do just that.  I knew I wasn't going to hold my urine and pee into my wetsuit later during the swim, and flood my whole body inside with my own urine.  So we did it.  And I again struggled to pull up and zip up my wetsuit.
After the pee. [Photo: Serene iPhone. Click to enlarge]

Waiting with trepidation for the swim start...

It was already exciting, just simply being there in the presence of so many figures dressed in black neoprene, and the atmosphere was electrifying.
This was a video by Serene on her iPhone capturing the participants and the supporters that morning.[Video: Serene iPhone]

We were in different waves.  Darric's blue cap wave's flag off time was 7:37am.  Gerard and mine silver cap wave was at 7:57am, and Jeremy's pink cap wave at 8:07am.  It made little difference, because it was just as chilly.  The golden sun was really rising and the glorious hue lit up all our faces and imparted a little warmth to our trembling bodies.  Standing on the beach my feet were numb from the cold.  I had brought a pair of neoprene aqua socks which I specially bought for this event, hoping to keep my feet warm.  But Gerard noticed in the fine details of the racing rules that the use of these was disallowed!  My hopes all dashed, I simply sucked it up, grit my teeth and endured the frozen feet.
Waiting for Darric [Photo: Serene iPhone. Click to enlarge]

"Eh where's Darric ah? He must be somewhere out in the sea water getting warmed up," I asked.
Darric had gone off by himself to drop his water bottle and must have hurried to the starting point to get ready.  Three of us were standing there in the cold looking out for Darric.. and then Gerard spotted him... "Hey there.. Darric!"
[Video: Serene iPhone]

... and this shot was finally captured.  All four of us before the race.
[Photo: Serene iPhone] Click to enlarge real big
Soon after this, Darric made his way to the starting point.  And we were left to do our warm up.  We saw all the Australian swimmers standing ankle-deep, shin-deep, some waist-deep with arms crossed in the water and we wondered why.  The moment we stepped into the water it dawned upon us- the water is warmer than the air!  And these Australian swimmers are getting their warmth from the water.
Here was a video clip with photos, all taken by Serene's iPhone, of us gingerly walking into the sea for the first time that morning as we did our warm up that morning.[Video and Photo  Serene iPhone]

On this morning, the 10 degree Celsius coldness of the water still hit me BANG straight on the chest as it caught my breath the moment I entered.  My first few strokes were with shallow breaths.  I tried to grind my body engine in the hope of generating at least some heat.  A few tens of metres out and back just wasn't going to do that job.  But that was about all I could do, after which I just stood in the water like every other Australian.  Butterflies in my stomach didn't make it better.  Looking around, the Ang Mohs were still smiling, chatting, behaving like it was a normal weekend swim.  There was a wonderful air of calmness about them.  It was carnival.  Yes, a race.  But also a carnival to them.
All soaking in the 'apparent' warmth of the cold water.  Only that it was merely relative.
[Photo: Serene iPhone. Click to enlarge]

I stared straight out to see but I could not see the buoys.  Maybe a glimpse of a yellow here and a white there.  But certainly up till this moment, I wasn't sure what was the actual swim route.  This time round there was apparently a slight change in the swimming route for it was no longer straight out and straight back.  It was going to to be a rectangular one.  But it looked REALLY far.  Far more than just 1.9km.  Suddenly the swim felt tough.
"Gerard, can you point out to me where are the buoys, and how are we going to swim?" in my desperation I just had to ask for help.
And the kind man pointed far out from one point to another point, as shown in the video below, the moment which was captured by Serene on her iPhone.  In my heart I was telling myself I would just try my best to draft behind any seemingly more knowledgeable swimmer and bluff my way through.
[Video: Serene iPhone]

The time was short.  The time for worrying was non-existent.  When you were here, you were just here ready to do you job.  The next 7 hours would be a whole daze of non-stop activities that would take a whole load of focussing on your mind, strength of your mental capacity, toughness of your physique and all your innate ability to survive.

Johnathan, a friend of Jeremy, who was a more seasoned participant of Busselton 70.3.
[Photo: Serene iPhone.  Click to enlarge]
FINALLY, we were going to start...
The announcer called out: "Those who are doing this for the first time, RAISE YOUR HANDS!"And I raised mine. Applause all around. And one tall Australian man behind me gave me a tap on my shoulder. I looked round at him and he gave me a smile, a thumbsup and clapped!
My goodness.  That was one of the BEST encouragement a newcomer could ever hope to get.  I felt warmth in my heart despite the cold outside.  And in a big way, I believed it was a good start to the race.
"Remember to start your watch!" I reminded Gerard.
"Wah heng ah! Luckily you reminded me," replied the Ironman.

[Video: Serene iPhone]

Official FinisherPix photo of the swim start.

After the test swim yesterday I finally saw with my own eyes how formidable swimmers the Australians were.  Certainly I had no intention of competing with any of them.  After my lesson learned in Putrajaya, my one singular aim was to conserve as much energy as I could, so that I would land on shore with still sufficient petrol in my tank.  I loved my two-beat kicks for that very season.  But I must be an extreme example of this, for I definitely was too leisurely in the execution, that my swim time was never fast enough.
[Photo: Serene iPhone]

There wasn't the butt-slapping, arms-flapping, legs-kicking encounter that I was half-expecting.  Again perhaps because I was way at the back.  But the wide starting front was certainly a good reason why there wasn't so much body contact, at least for the less-competitive swimmers at tail.
The water was definitely colder this morning.  In the silence that ensued, my mind gradually switched itself off from the cold water, and focussed on breathing regularly.

Contrary to the test swim the day before, I lost my advantage as a right side breather because the buoys were all on my left side.  It was a swim of all left turns.  Sighting became even more important this morning.  I would sight once every 6 to 8 strokes, or whenever I felt I was drifting.
As illustrated below from the actual GPS tracking of my swim, I was indeed drifting to my right, not once but twice, soon after the start, and had to correct my course.
In the previous years, apparently the swim courses were just next to the jetty and that made keeping directions easier.

I wasn't breathless.  The test swim the day before was critical as it set the tone and the expectation for today's leg.  I was no longer worried about seemingly un-moving seabed.  And I was thankful that the sea on this day was calm and had little undercurrent.   Gerard's joke about there being sharks in the sea of Busselton was tucked in the far remote corner of my mind.  "Nah, there is no sharks in Busselton lah," I reassured myself.
Darric the Giant emerging with the sharks.  He was the fastest swimmer among us.
 After I veered off twice in the out leg, I found an Australian man (I had to assume all the Ang Moh men in this swim were Australians) in front of me at about the same swim speed.  Darric's words came to my head - just follow behind the legs in front.  And I did precisely that.  Looking at the remaining two-third of my out leg, I believed that was a successful strategy for I stopped veering.

Gerard showing the correct way to strip the wetsuit before running into the shower.

It was a surprise that I very soon forgot about the cold.  It never bothered me any more.  Immersed in a sea of translucent turquoise, it was eerily peaceful - just the water, the pair of legs in front of me, and myself.  The jitter I had the day before wasn't there.  The anxiety I suffered in Putrajaya didn't surface.   As I was about to negotiate the first left turn, another pair of Australian legs came up and joined the first pair in front of me.  I could hear some conversation between the two fellows as they exchanged greetings.  These Australians were really quite something.  They could even trade pleasantries in the water. 

The horizontal leg parallel to the shoreline flew by quicker than I expected and soon, the pair of legs in front of me turned left.
"Ho seh liao lah, home run!" I thought to myself.
It was a gleefulness that came a tad too early.  Once we made that turn, I was horrified to see the front pair of legs suddenly ramping up from an easy two-beat kick into a rapid flutter.  And the red-rimmed wetsuit started pulling away.  Wow, this fellow really FLEW in the water.  He was merely conserving so that he could speed up at the end.  I could not follow and he faded off into the distance.  Once again left on my own, I could sense myself drifting right.  Again.
I was surprised to see a picture of myself smiling as I run up to Transition 1.

PIAK! A hand caught me on my right thigh.  I turned and saw a pink cap speeding past me.  And then another pink cap on my left.  The front guys of the pink wave had caught up.  Somehow the presence of perceived threats like these quickened the heart rate and triggered some kind of response.  My body must have responded because I knew as a fact that whenever I started to pull harder, my right deviation would become more pronounce.  With hindsight from the GPS track, I could see that my deviation started one-quarter way into the return leg, right about the same time I lost my lead guy and when the pink caps caught up with me.  Some good chap kept tapping on my feet behind but I didn't understand what he was trying to tell me until later.  He must have been warning me about my veering.
Jeremy: "time to change my goggles already."

The marshalls for this race were pretty relaxed, as compared to those in Putrajaya.  They didn't watch you like a hawk here.  They would allow you to go off course as much as you like.  Understandably the Australians, being so at home in the sea, weren't used to going off.  But I was suffering, especially on the last one quarter of this return leg.  I laughed when I saw how I literally zig-zagged my way back to the shore.  In the end I swam 2200m, a three hundred metres extra.
Here was the Strava record of this swim, a historical one for me. Click on the image below to see.

I was more composed on this swim.  The zig-zagging at the end, after a generally good swim frustrated me a little.  Coming out of the water, I was much less unsteady.  I'd always wondered if there would be a few beautiful and sexy Australian ladies waiting up on the shore to help me pull the rear zip of my wetsuit.  But I was disappointed to find none.  The boys had bluffed me yet again.  In the end I undid the zip on my own and pulled myself out of the top half.
"Hey good morning, Gerard!" Boy was I happy to see the man right in front of me as I ran towards the shower.  My mind in a daze, I must have happily ran past him right into the Transition.   It was later that he asked me why was I in such a hurry that I skipped all the shower heads and ran straight in.  I couldn't remember anything at all.  I was just glad to see him.
An official FinisherPix shot of me and Gerard running into the shower together.
[Terribly overblown shot. The photographer must have had his settings wrong.]

Sadly, in all races, there were the
unforeseen and unfortunate casualties...

I still remember running into T1, looking for row number 9 and had no trouble locating my bike.  The Transition area was pretty empty of bicycles by the time I reached it.  Damn.  I must have been really slow in my swim.
I plonked my butts on the grass and yanked the wetsuit off my legs.  I usually liked to start wearing my stuffs from feet upwards - compression socks, cycling shoes, racing belt & number, gloves, shades and then helmet.
I still remember forcing too much nutrition down my stomach during that nightmarish Putrajaya 70.3 that caused me to feel nauseous, and thus this round I reduced the amount by half - just a tumbler of protein powder & Glucolin, one gel, half a bottle of water, and I was ready to go.
It took me 9 minutes in T1, a deliberate attempt to go through it slowly to catch my breath and not excite myself overly.
Gerard and I reached the Mounting line at the same time, but this Parlee tri bike shot off like a rocket.


Right after the Transition. [Photo: Serene iPhone]
The bicycle course was a flat one, consisting of two laps of 45km each.  The route took us along the coastal stretch which slowly merged into a nice and tree-lined, foresty part of Busselton's Ludlow Forest. It was 9am when I mounted my bike out of T1 and started pedalling.  The temperature was in the early teens.  And the air was so crisp and cool, it was a joy to be cycling under such condition.  Humidity was low, despite being next to the sea.

Contrary to the up-slope that met me right out of T1 during Putrajaya 70.3, what I could see was a whole stretch of straight flat tarmac.  Cycling north-eastwards along Geographe Bay Road, I was delighted to see around 27km/hr on my Garmin Forerunner mounted on my bike.  This certainly wasn't fast.  But it was better than what I'd asked for.  My previous experience had taught me to curtail any temptation to push too hard.  So I kept an eye on my power, keeping it around 100W.

The cycling route continued in this northeast direction for about 12km, and changed southwards for 3km, followed by about another 10km again towards the northeast into the forest road.  This leg was energy-sapping because the crosswinds and headwinds took turn to swipe at us.  I kept my heart rate around 145/min, knowing that if I'd churned it up at this stage, it would be nothing short of disaster later.
First out of T1 - Darric.

The supporters were out in full force, clapping and cheering us on all along the way.  And these were genuine, spontaneous supporters who were really here to deliver that ooomph for their friends, teams and loved ones.  Water stations were located two in each lap.  I drank nothing but isotonic Endura all the way, calling out for the drink each time I arrived at a station.  Grabbing a bottle right off the hand of a volunteer was something I'd love to do one day, but not yet.  I'd rather stop for a minute or two right at the station, finish off half a bottle of drinks and ask for a new beautiful deep blue water bottle-ful of Endura.

My plan was simple: 25km/h average speed to complete the 90km in 3.5 hours.  As long as I did not bonk, I should have enough gasoline left to attempt a part of the run leg.  No longer was I willing to straddle myself with unrealistic targets.  The cold air and low humidity made for a lower heart rate, and I believed I was also not losing as much water as I would have in a much hotter environment.  Unbelievably I was even beginning to enjoy the race.  I wasn't suffering - at least that was what I knew at this point in time.

Gerard on his Parlee TTiR speeding away

Around me, cyclists of all levels were going at their steady speeds.  I kept being overtaken by Australian cyclists in their teardrop helmets and totally aero tri bikes with rear disc wheels, and in turn I gradually overtook other road bike cyclists.  There were a few men and women, all significantly older than I, and certainly much more over-weight than myself, who were slowly spinning away on their bicycles.  One had to salute these individuals for their courage!  It was certainly a sight that I would never forget.  These Australians had Ironman flowing in their blood!
Photo: Serene iPhone.
Somewhere along this first loop on the outward, headwind-loaded leg, I saw Darric on his bike in the opposite direction.  The man is really fast.  I gave him a thumbsup and he returned it.
Several of my friends ever described doing a long distance triathlon as being in a meditative state, as one closed up and became enclosed in a bubble.  I was far from that.  Instead I found my mind actively taking in my surroundings, and it refused to quieten down.  Going through my mind in again and again was Serene's favourite song by 陈洁仪.  I loved that song.  Having that tune in my head kept me thinking of Serene waiting for me at the finishing.  I knew she would love to have me complete.  And I knew accomplishing that would be meaningful not only for myself but for her too, as she was equally disappointed when I DNF-ed in my earlier race.
Me and my machine. [Official FinisherPix photo. Click to enlarge]

My thighs were going strong, fortified by days of Australian steaks, Australian orange juices, Australian milk, Australian wines and Australian cheeses.  My heart and lungs were in perfect synchrony.  And what was amazing was, I was down on my tri-bars in the aero-position for the whole ride, except for when I was taking corners.  After the loop back right in the forest, at once my bicycle instantly flew, as my speed rose to 31km/hr.  It was the tailwind rush!  My heart rate dropped quickly by at least 10 beats/min.  Still, I resisted the urge to draw more power from the legs. 

Closely monitoring the elapsed time, meticulously I gulped my hourly Crampfix capsule, and sucked my hourly gel.  The Endura break every 22.5km was a welcome rest, albeit only about a minute each.  On the second loop, somewhere along the out leg, I felt a cramp coming up in my right calf.
"Shit.  No no no.. please don't let me kena cramp now," I was genuinely worried.  Everything was going so smoothly.  I really couldn't afford a cramp.
I glanced at my top-tube pouch.  I had extra Crampfix capsules.  I popped two capsules and gulped more Endura.  I couldn't care if I over sodium-chloridised myself or what.  I needed to fix it. Spinning and spinning, I let several cyclists whom I overtook earlier catch up and lapse me.  With the headwind directly upon me, I just let my machine slow down.  Being a hero wasn't the wisest thing right now.  I would wait for the Loop-back before I pick up my speed.
As I was struggling against the headwind on this second loop, I saw Gerard on his bike in the opposite direction somewhere in the forest zone.  I gave him a thumbsup and he acknowledged, I think.

Eventually I made the U-turn and readied myself psychologically for the last 22.5km stretch back home.  For one who wasn't in good physical condition like myself, mental strength was probably the only thing I could depend on.  Was I feeling tired?  Well, yes.  At this stage I was feeling a little tired.  Apart from Serene's favourite Kit Chan song, the other message that kept coming into my mind was this signboard that I saw the day before:
"Difficult? YES.  Impossible?  NO."
I didn't think I ever recalled any message more encouraging than this, on this day and this moment.  Perhaps it was the actual circumstances that made this simple message even more impactful.   Yes.  I didn't come so far to DNF (Did Not Finish).
That constant silly grin on my face [Official FinisherPix photo: Click to enlarge]

What was amazing was, I had this silly smile on my face right from the beginning of the ride and it hadn't faded.  Every station the enthusiastic young volunteers simply reinforced that euphoria.  And I rode right back into town still with that smile hanging on my face.  The odometer nudged upwards - 85km, 86km, 87km.... and then at once the Dismounting Line appeared.
Phew!  I glanced at my Forerunner.  It said 3 hours 06 minutes.
"Wow, see beh heng ah!" secretly I heaved a sigh of relief.  At least I still had time.

I pushed my bike into Transition again.  And the first person I saw?  Yupe, Gerard... pushing his bike just right in front of me.
"Hey, good morning, Gerard!" I called out.
"Hello!  Wow.. I was so hungry half way through the ride!" he complained. "I forgot to bring gels."
"Huh? No gels?  Alamak.. you should have asked some from me!"
"Yah, luckily I grabbed some of the energy bars at the station.  After that I felt better."
This fellow was really superman.  90km ride and no gels but just water.  I would have died if I were in his shoes.  Here was the Strava record of my ride.  Click on the image below to see my Strava.

[I was not able to find any photos of Jeremy on his bike.  Apologies in advance for that, Jeremy.]

By the time I hopped off my bike, I could tell that my legs were wobbly already.  No degree of self-coaxing would deny that.  Some tell-tale signs of energy depletion as I felt fatigue creeping into my thighs.  Perhaps indifference had set in, me having little intention of consuming my originally intended amount of nutrition.  I remembered just drinking about half a tumbler of some more Glucolin combination. and sucked one gel.  I even forgot about my Crampfix capsules, leaving them on my bike.  I enjoyed the Endura isotonic, and that I had my fill.  My lime green Flip-Belt loaded with 6 gels felt heavy in my hand, but I knew that the gels were crucial if I were to complete my run.
T2 took me 8 minutes 46 seconds, well within my estimate.  I finished using the toilet and saw Gerard running towards it as I started to jog outwards.
"Go on!" gestured the elderly female marshall in the Transition, in her lovely Australian accent. "Go on! Go on! He'll catch up with you."
Well, I believed her.   So I went on running out of T2 without Gerard.  I was sure he would catch up with me.  As I ran, I discovered that my cycling gloves were still on.  What a joke.  I even forgot to remove them.  Another few tens of grammes of added weight wouldn't hurt my run, would they?  Nah.  Let's go!
[Photo: Serene iPhone.]


The run route was planned all along the coastal pavement, alongside the sea.  It consisted of three loops of 7km each, well spaced out with water station every 2km.
Photo: Serene iPhone.

About 4 hours 15 minutes had elapsed since the start, and the time stood at 12:12pm as I crossed the timer mat.  The sun was all the way up overhead but I felt no heat, as it must have been around 18 degrees Celsius.  The crowd cheered as I started my trod.  The spectators were indeed looking straight at me and cheering me on.  No BS one.  These people were fantastic!  They were non-stop cheering for every single of the athletes.
The yellow trail marked the running route - three loops of 7km each.
[Click to enlarge]

I felt a lightness of my steps as I tried to settle into a steady pace.   The ankles held up well.  I wasn't breathless.  The initial excitement of the run brought my heart rate to 150/min as my pace took off at 7:20min/km.  In every respect that was not a fast pace.  But for a pai-kah (injured lower limbs) like me, this was pretty close to my sweet spot.

Gerard, true to the marshall's words, came up beside me soon.
"This is a good pace," he said encouragingly after glancing at his Fenix. "Just keep to this pace at least for the first two loops.  Don't cheong."
Cheong?  No no no, haha.. I ain't gonna do anything insane.  The race had been going so far so well, and I would try to do nothing that could jeopardise a completion.  I had been as lucky as a man could be.  In Putrajaya I had the pleasure of Richard picking me up and kicking my ass when I laid on the ground almost dead at the beginning of the run leg.  And here in Busselton, I had Gerard pacing me for the most parts of this 21.1km.
My breaths weren't exactly that even yet, going into the second kilometre.  The pace might have been a tad too fast with my heavy thighs straight off the bike.  I tried slowing down a little.  My heart rate stood at around 150 still.  I was pleasantly surprised to find my cadence a respectable 176/min on average.  My pace settled.  7:45min/km.
Darric giving the Australian Ironmen a run for their money.
2km plus into the run we saw Darric in the opposite direction and called out to him.  Impressive, this Darric was.  But my aim was not to catch up with anyone, but simply to complete my own race.
At this moment, that possibility appeared highly likely as my body quickly adjusted to this sweet spot pace and my legs begun to go on auto-pilot.  At every water station Gerard and I would stop for a couple of drinks.  I refused to consume any of the sponsored energy bars despite being handed out several, depending instead on solely mine own familiar gel. "Don't try any new on Race Day," was some advice I learned way back then.
Gerard in his ever so steady pace.

"Endura!" I would call out for the increasingly-familiar deep blue cups holding the non-gassy isotonic fluid.  Every half an hour, I would lighten my Flip-Belt load by one gel.  Gradually my heart rate equilibrated to around 145/min.  "OK, this is good." quietly I assured myself.
I was very impressed by the way many of the Australian ran.  Men and women of all ages and sizes, taking over me as they shuffled seemingly effortlessly over the pavement.  I stared in disbelief as many times men and women older and bigger size than me shot from behind and shouted, almost without fail, a word of encouragement to this little Chinaman from Singapore here trying to keep pace.
"Keep going, mate!"
"That's it, keep it up, mate!"
"Come on, come on!"
An older lady over-taking me while shouting out encouragement to this tired man.
[Unedited photo courtesy of David Martin of North Coast Tri Club, Australia]
Now I finally understood why so many people enjoyed doing the Ironman Down Under.  Not only was the supporters a great bunch, the participants were also very encouraging - right from the start when the Ang Moh man tapped me on my shoulder and applauded me, until now when every Australian runner called out to urge me on.  I said it before and I would say it again, Ironman flowed in the blood of Australians!

Repeated glances at my Forerunner revealed a very steady pace of 7:45min/km.  I did not know where my energy came from.  But the adrenaline must have been still surging through my arteries.  This sweet spot pace was maintained throughout the 21km, and I attributed it to Gerard's encouragement and his constant presence beside me.
"Gerard, don't worry," I reassured him.  "I didn't come so far to DNF."
Right after I uttered these words, I tripped and almost took a tumble, giving Gerard a fright.  Jeremy, who was running in the opposite direction across the pavement, saw me as I stumbled.
Persevering despite intense eye discomfort in true blue Ironman spirit was Jeremy.
This Jeremy was really something.  It was only later that we realised that he suffered a goggle malfunction during his swim and had his eye submerged in salty sea water for the most part of the swim leg.  His vision was blurred for the remainder of the race, but he persevered.  And here at the run leg, the visual disturbances was causing him great discomfort and dizziness.  But he kept going, displaying true military grit.

At this moment, unbeknown to me, my good friends Francis Chia, Geok Lin and Ian Lee were all tracking my progress on the Athlete Trackers.  They must have been really worried for me, knowing that I could very well DNF any moment.  I could imagine the cold sweat they suffered as they watched my run, lap by lap.
This was a photo of a by my good friend Geok Lin, which he posted on my Facebook time line clocking my cycling leg and penning in an encouragement for me to 加油! Very very touched!

As far as I could remember, I was still smiling as I ran.  And I was still singing Serene's favourite song and repeating the Signboard words of inspiration from water station to water station.  Here was a shot of me.  So it was real.  No bluff.  I was really still having that silly grin as I ran.
Again.. that silly grin even on the run.  Man, this race was truly an enjoyable one. [Official FinisherPix photo.  Click to enlarge.]

The second loop came and went and the weather definitely turned a tad warmer.  I began to see some of the Australian athletes showing signs of suffering as the heat bore down on them.  It was hot for these people.  But for me, it was Air-Con!  How I wished every Ironman were like this.  And thus it was my turn to urge them on, as I shouted my encouragement to them.  This was turning out to be quite fun.  And I totally enjoyed it.  My thighs were calling out to me at the 14-15km mark, but huge amounts of circulating endorphins must have numbed a great deal of the pain.  Sensing that I was going to be fine, Gerard finally left me behind at the start of the third run loop.  I was very grateful to him for his concern and for his support.  He knew deep inside that I possibly couldn't take a failure here, and he just had to make sure I could complete.  And he accomplished that at the expense of his own PB timing.
Darric crossing the Finishing Line in his PB.
[The clock timing does not reflect Darric's race time]

I stole a look at my Forerunner with one last run loop left.  It said 6 hours.  I did a quick calculation and realised that I had a fighting chance of finishing within 7 hours.  That was the final booster shot.  And I threw all aches and pains out of my mind, and focussed on keeping my rhythm. 'Difficult? YES.  Impossible?  NO."  Keep going!  Along the run route, there was a group of supporters, somewhere along the 3km mark, dressed up in green and pink gorillas with a percussionist on the drum set performing fast-paced pop songs.  I was grateful to their music. That kept me, and I was sure many others, going strong.

Gerard crossing the Finishing Line in his PB, very shortly after Darric.
[The clock timing does not reflect Gerard's race time]

I was down to my last gel at the last 3.5km mark and I gobbled that up.  The last few kilometres would have to be on Endura and my reserve.  I dug deep into myself and found still some petrol in the tank.  I could see Gerard a distance away, having his cup of drinks and lingering slightly just checking from the corner of his eyes to make sure that I was still upright.  I waved him on and followed.   My watch kept the count down of the distances.  My mind was racing.  The end was really near.  1.5km left, and the white tents came into sight.  I picked up my pace.  Running into the final stretch, I heard spectators at each side of the lane calling out my name:
"Come on, WEE!"
"Go for it, WEE! You're almost there!"

"Last stretch, WEE!"
Yes, the expression of extreme jubilation the moment I was about to cross the finishing line.
[Official FinisherPix photo.  Click to enlarge.]

The cheers, the whistling, the applause, the bells... amidst these I made the last left turn and surged through the final 100m.  The people held out their hands and I high-fived them all the way.  Big grin on my face, fists punched into the air, the exuberance elevated me as I crossed the finishing line, and I found myself exalted to a new level which I could only dream of previously.
Official FinisherPix Photo.  Click to enlarge.

I managed to make it across in 6 hours 58mins, which was really not too bad considering me being such a newbie.  My body limped, thighs screaming, heart rate 170/min... I shuffled with unsteady gait towards the tent where the boys were sitting down.  They were all so relaxed,  and they looked like they hardly kicked up a sweat.  But for me, my job was done.  I have accomplished what I set out to.  I can finally call myself a Half Ironman.
Jeremy coming in a mere couple of minutes after.
Here was the Strava record of my run.  Click on the image below to see my Strava.

We were all seated in the shade under the tent and refusing to move.  Serene came in and sat down with us.  This girl, she had been busy.  She waited for us the whole 7 hours running around the race ground, cheering for the Ang Mohs, hugging their supportive wives and mothers, and generally made a hell of a noise out there.  I believed she enjoyed herself.  And of course, armed with ONLY her iPhone, she was the official photographer cum videographer for the team for this day.  And I must say, she did a great job documenting our quest.
Click to enlarge

The seagulls calling out in congratulations!
[Click to enlarge]

The adrenaline still running while here.
[Click to enlarge]

This man already thinking in his mind his next Ironman...
[Click to enlarge]

This man just needed a good meal, and some pills.
[Click to enlarge]

That very night, Jeremy as always, hosed down my wetsuit, and hung them up  on the varanda.

Wetsuit to dry.
And the whole group of us went celebrating in the ONLY Chinese restaurant in Busselton.

So what did I gain from the whole experience?
Firstly, I finally found out that a Half Ironman 70.3 is perfectly doable.  One certainly needed a fundamental amount of training, and a good grasp of nutrition.  Good techniques in each discipline played important roles.  And of course, good weather would be advantageous.
But most important of all, don't cheong.  Keep your heart rate at Zone 2 all the way.

Many of my friends said doing a 70.3 was tough.  Yes, it was never easy.  One could swim a 1.9km, cycle a 90km and run a 21km separately, but when you put all three together, it was a totally different monster altogether.  A monster that taught me the importance of 'keeping enough petrol in your tank for the next leg', and equally important, Nutrition - not over, not under, but just right.
Yet despite the punishment dished out by this Monster, many of my friends repeatedly presented themselves to the execution stage year after year.

Now I knew- what maketh a positive experience on a Half Ironman course.  Good preparation, good weather, good food and good company.  It's not insurmountable.
But I would just forever remember this:

Till the next Ironman.

1. To start from the beginning of this wonderful trip (Day 1 and 2) click here.
2. To laugh yourself crazy seeing how the boys did their Open Water test swim (Day 3), click here.
1. To jump right into the Busselton 70.3 Race day, click here.
4. To read our trip outta Busselton to Fremantle ~ Day 5, click here.
5. To view the rustic old buildings of Fremantle & our journey to Joondalup ~ Day 6, click here.