Friday, May 1, 2015

Busselton Ironman 70.3 ~ Day 3

Race pack collection, Bike check-in
and the much-anticipated Open Water Test Swim!

Getting ready for our Open Water Test Swim
[Click on image to enlarge]

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), and learned more about Race pack collection & bike check in, continue reading on.
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.

Mandalay Resort in the morning...
It was very important to have a pre-planned schedule on the morning of all events.  Even for race pack collection day and checking in of bikes and open water swims... We planned our attacks down to the minutest of details.

7am.  Time to wake up.
I really enjoyed the look of our Chalet number 41. [Click to enlarge]
Woke up and explored the surrounding.  Mandalay looked so much more beautiful in the morning with the golden light streaming in.  There were chalets, villas - big and small.  And some of the Ang Mohs were actually just parking their campervans on car motel lots.  Good and economical way to stay, if one had a vehicle like that.
Morning rays.
It was nice and cool at 7:15am.  Air temperature was registering a nice 9 degree Celcius.  Comfortable enough to be walking around in shorts and sandals with an outer jacket thrown over T-shirt.  This would be a great kind of weather to ride and run.  But swim?  Wow.. now that was something none of us in the group had tried.  We shall see.
Yeah.. even in broad daylight the children would scoot all over the place.  I had to ask
Jeremy to get down the car and made sure my rear was clear when I was parking the car one of the days.
The night before, we all raised our arms in rejoicing when Jeremy Quek volunteered to cook breakfast for us.  And true to his words, this Ironman was up whipping up delicious food while I was roaming the estate taking photos.
Under-water Communicator cum Navigator cum Chauffeur cum Chef... [Click to enlarge]

And we all gratefully ended up eating Jeremy's sunny-side-ups, ham, cheese and chilli sauce.  Really a great nutritious way to start a really eventful day.

9am.  Move out!
Our exact plan was to move out at 9am.  Like clockwork, the discipline instilled in all these boys over their years of training for the Ironman took over and right on the dot, the two cars left the resort, with the bikes, the wet suits, body glides and registration papers with passport in tow.
Set up the bike and let's go!
The Busselton jetty was about 6.6km from our resort.  What was so brilliant about the Australian setting was, car parks were aplenty.  We could literally just park along the grass verge designated along the road leading into the event grounds.  The boys were really immune to cold, as could be seen from their attire.  I knew I could not stand the cold so well, so I was all dressed in my long sleeve base layer, my long base layer pants, my Gortex outer shell to keep the wind out.  Don't be fooled by the apparent sunniness, the weather was still only about 10 degress Celsius.
A group shot of us before we check in the bikes. [Photo: Serene Gan. Click to enlarge]
I was overjoyed to be here on this morning, getting my backside kicked into action in being ready for the race.  I had been hibernating for too long a period liao.  It was time to wake up.  And I think at that very moment, as I lifted up my arms in the air, I did.  Seconds later, my bike fell forward onto the ground, dropping the chain...
A shot of me in exuberation for I was standing right on ground zero.. the running track.
[Shot: Serene Gan. Click to enlarge]
The Registration Tent...
Our plan was straightforward - go register and collect our race pack once we arrive at the Race Pack Collection Counter, tag our bikes and rack them up in the transition area, then we will explore the Expo areas to see if we could spend more money on merchandises (hopefully) on discount.  For myself, I was dead on the look out for a Tri suit, and if possible, some compression socks, Ironman T-shirts and such.

[Click to enlarge]
 ... and after that we would attend the Open Water Test Swim briefing at 11:45am, and to start the 1.0km Open Water Test Swim at 12pm.   But at the meantime, the boys had disappeared into the tent with their bikes and documents, leaving me blur blur standing outside.  By the time I walked into the tent, their bikes were all nicely lined up at the side fence.  Shuck, I was always the last to come in and the last to do anything.  These fellows were really trained to be fast.

The bikes awaiting... [Photo: Serene Gan]
I was kinda disoriented.  Really.  Didn't know where to go to look for the name list.  Didn't know which hand to hold my documents.  Well, so much for being totally bo-chap about this race.  Maybe it was a good thing to be a little non-chalant about things.  Because otherwise I would have been my usual kan-cheong self.
The Bo-chap look in me. [Photo: Serene Gan]
By the time I looked up from the name list, Gerard was already collecting his Race Pack right in front at the counters.  I could manage to take a snap shot of him with my Rangefinder.
Gerard collecting his race pack
These Australian staffs were really good.  They ACTUALLY asked for our identification documents, namely, our passports.  I like the fact that they did that.  Because the previous Ironman I joined, the staff were just more than willing to shove the race pack into our hands without asking for ID.  Thus I proudly displayed my passport and got my deserved pack.  But I was a little confused what to do after that.  Upon prompting by Gerard, I managed to walk to another counter to collect another swimming cap and time chip for today's Open Water Test Swim event.  Hey, we each paid A$40 simply to have a chance to test out the waters of the Indian Ocean right at the edge of Busselton Town.  Of course we wanted to make full use of our earlier arrival here in town.
But jokes aside, it was important for Australian sea water virgins like us to have a go at the sea with our wet suits on.  No matter how many times one swam with his wet suit on in the swimming pool back home, nothing will give one the real experience of doing the same in the open water of the Indian Ocean.

Racking our bikes...
So it came to this.  With our green right wrist band, we were finally able to enter the transition area to rack our bikes.
Click to enlarge
Looking at the weather, it looked like it was going to be another rainy day, if not a rainy night.  Our poor bikes were definitely going to be soaked through again, just like during Putrajaya Ironman.
Click to enlarge
The (Iron)Men and their Machines...
In retrospect I could say this.  But at that point in time, I wasn't one yet... but merely a wannabe.  But still a shot of the man and his machine was a mandatory one, taken with plenty of celebratory fashion, and from all possible angles.

Yours truly and my totally manual Parlee Z5SL fitted with Enve aero Tri-bars, on Smart Enve System 6.7 wheels ~ Bib number 1532 - THE WANNABE.
Shot taken by Gerard Tan on my Leica M9P + 35mm f/1.4 with 6-stop ND filter.  Click to enlarge
Darric and his classic Wilier Triestina Zero 7 roadster on Smart Enve System 6.7 Wheels with screaming red decal ~ Bib number 862 - THE THINKING GIANT (5-times-Ironman).
Click to enlarge
Gerard and his state of the art Di2 Parlee TTiR Tri bike fitted with the Torpedo hydration system, on the Smart Enve System 8.9 wheels ~ Bib number 1600 - THE COOL IRON-DUDE (The REAL Expert in delivering Fast-ness with Nua-ness).
Click to enlarge
Jeremy and his latest and newest Cervelo P3 Tri bike specced up with the Smart Enve System 6.7 wheels ~ Bib number 1794 - THE SEASONED.
Click to enlarge
The Sales Expo at the Ground...
Click to enlarge
Disappointingly there was really not much exciting merchandise for sale at good prices here at the Expo.  Gerard rationalised it by explaining that it was organised by the local government and not mainly sponsored by one or two major companies.
Click to enlarge to see the bored faces of Jeremy and Gerard.

That was why the Tri suits, Wet suits, and running shorts and shirts we saw there were mediocre.  A mere touch of the quality of the wet suit confirmed that they were nowhere near the quality of our Roka, BlueSeventy and Orcas.  Even the Tri suit selection left much to be desired.
Click to enlarge
"Dar, did you pack my racing belt into the luggage?" I suddenly realised that I didn't have my racing belt for the number bib.
"What? You did your own packing hor!  I did not bring any racing belt for you at all," she was indignant.
Jiaklat.  First I forgot to bring my Tri suit.  And now I forgot my racing belt.  This race was going to be a REALLY fun race.  Thankfully racing belts could be had at A$14 at a few of the stands.  I really hope that was the last thing I forgot.   I could take any more of these kind of shocks.

We wandered around somre more.  The 2XU one piece compression socks were surprisingly of a good price, going at A$35 per pair.  Serene and I grabbed one pair each.  And we got some cheap cheap  Busselton Ironman T shirts, and then the boys, as if they were gong-tao-ed, kept poking me to by a Ryder sunglasses that was yellow-tinted.  I didn't really need any sunglasses.  But upon their insistence that it was going to be the team sunglasses and it was only A$70, I bought one pair, hoping that owning a pair may allow me to complete my attempt at this 70.3.
Jiaklat! Ryder Sunglasses also must have Team sunglasses one!
[Click to enlarge]
See the Difference BEFORE and AFTER wearing the Ryder Sunglasses?
Squiting in the bright Busselton sun
Cool comfort and look at those smiles!
Click to enlarge
... and going gai gai with the Ryder Sunglasses made for better visual clarity while browsing and for better decision making. 
Click to enlarge
And then suddenly we saw Jeremy dumping all his stuff out from his backpack.  Huh? what was happening, Jeremy?
WHAT? LOST YOUR TEST SWIM TIME CHIP? No problem.  Our Ryder Sunglasses will sieve it out in no time.  Just lay out your chap-lunks on the ground, Jeremy!
And guai guai Jeremy did a standby full packs on the ground.
"Hey you lose that time chip it's going to be dunno $$$ leh." this Gerard never failed to poke when people was kan cheong one. So funny, Haha....
Everyboy dug into every possible orifices on Jeremy's bags and race packs... and then suddenly he discovered his Test Swim time chip, in his jacket pocket (if I remembered correctly)! Hahaha.. Heng ah!!
Somewhere along the row of stalls we stumbled upon a familiar name...

A very very important message to me
As we roamed about at the Expo, we came to another tent, outside of which stood a couple of signboards bearing two sets of very inspiring phrases.  One of these would be constantly in my mind throughout the whole race on the next day: "Difficult? Yes. Impossible? No"... such inspiration!

Open Water Test Swim
"Ok, hey it's almost time!  Let's get ready to change into our wet suit and go for the test water swim briefing"
The boys were really fast in getting into their swim suit.  Meanwhile, Gerard and I had to walk to some trees further down the road and hide ourselves behind to take a public leak, which, if it were during the race, would have given us a disqualification. Haha..
Jeremy, Darric were already in their wet suits, and Gerard was already starting his...
[Photo: Serene iPhone. Click to enlarge]
The wetsuit glide spray that we bought the day before at the bike shop was put to use..
"Alamak.  This wet suit glide is useless!" complained Gerard after spraying copious amount of it on his body.
Still I tried it, for what it was worth.  And I concurred with Gerard.  I think that Yaohan plastic bag that I used to slide my foot into the wet suit served me better.
[Photo: Serene iPhone. Click to enlarge]
Here was Gerard showing the correct way to use a Yaohan plastic bag.
The correct way to do it with Yaohan plastic bag.
[Photo: Serene iPhone. Click to enlarge]
As always I had difficulty zipping up my wet suit.  And it was again, as always, Darric to my rescue.
"I think your wet suit is too small lah!" said Darric and Gerard.  Jiaklat.
Darric to my rescue. [Photo: Serene iPhone. Click to enlarge]

At this point in time, the weather was really nice.  It was about 18 degrees Celsius air temperature.  We were feeling pretty comfortable in the wet suits.  But honestly, for myself, even though it was cool, I was still sweating as I put on my wet suit and was struggling a little to get myself in.
The starting point of the Open Water test swim was just down at the beach.  We walked a short distance towards it.  I was a little apprehensive as it truly was my very first time in an Australian ocean, and under such temperature.  Aiyah, just heck it and give it a shot lah, I told myself.

Click to enlarge and see who was walking towards the starting point...
literally just next to the lighthouse.
It was the first time I saw so many swimmers in wet suits. I looked around and found hardly any Singaporeans (or for that, any Asians) on this test swim.  It was us - the four Chinaman - and us only.  We against the huge blue Australian ocean and all the Ang Mohs.   That was really a funny thought.  The expressions on the Ang Mohs' faces were all excitements and they were all smiles.  They were seemingly so relaxed, as if for their whole lives they have been doing this.
I was jittery inside.  And I knew the cold of the water would hit me when I finally threw my body in.  I wasn't sure about the other three boys.  But they sure looked good in the group photo.
A group shot before we went into the water. First time Serene's iPhone saw so many wetsuits.
[Click to enlarge]
And we went for a warm-up dip... or perhaps it was a frozen-down dip...
Wah lau eh.. 18 degrees air temperature, but the water sure felt freezing to me!
[Photo: Serene iPhone. Click to enlarge]

After that we dared not go back into the water.. but just stood freezing on the sand.  The Ang Moh beside us were doing that, so we guessed that was the best thing to do - follow them.  The referee was giving his briefing over the loudspeaker.. as we stood trembling.
[Photo: Serene iPhone. Click to enlarge]
But the boys could still action quite a bit.   Strange, Jeremy's cap was a white one.. that was for females leh..
"Maybe because you registered last minute lah," jokingly said Gerard.  And Jeremy, in his very own special under-water way, laughed... but with no air coming out of his nose as his nostrils were pinched by the nose clip.
Where's Gerard? [Photo: Serene's iPhone. Click to enlarge]
The open water test swim was a 1km swim straight out from the starting point in between two white buoys and then out somewhere to some yellow buoy and then a right turn to the next yellow buoy before a final right turn back towards the beach again.  It was supposedly a simple little warm up course for those new to this area.
Here was my Strava record of this swim.
Click on the image below to see my Strava record.

The organiser was announcing something... telling us where to aim for, which buoy to sight for, and so on and so forth... but my heart was racing.  I thought back of my swim in Putrajaya only a month back, when I kinda got a little scared half way through the course.  And that was a lake.  This was an ocean.  A cold one.
The old-looking commentator-cum-organiser-cum-referee and the timer mat.
[Photo: Serene iPhone. Click to enlarge lah]
The Ang Mohs were really all just standing around, muscles all loose and relaxed, and joking with each other.   We all were at the edge of the water and were getting ready for the starting horn.
Relaxed Ang Mohs.
[Photo: Serene iPhone. Click to enlarge big big]
And then... PHOOOOOORRRRR! The horn went off. And everyone started running into the water.  We slowly stepped in... and started jumping into the water.  I contemplated doing a dolphin.. but the thought of the cold water hitting me in the chest was a little too daunting.  Once thigh deep in the water I could feel the cold and I hastily leapt into the water, a little too early I knew.  Everybody around me was still walking.  But I just had to immerse my whole body into the water to fight the cold.
Me doing a Half-Dolphin.
Here is a VIDEO of our entrance into the water taken by Serene on her iPhone.  I laughed when I saw this video, for it showed me taking that half-dive right early into the water and was swimming so slowly that everyone overtook me right from the beginning, even the old Ang Moh swimmer.. and I didn't realise that I actually stood up after a few strokes, and then jumped in and started swimming again.

It was again much later that I realised that Gerard was the cool dude standing still at the back of the wave, studying his Fenix intently as he planned his attack.  While everyone was splashing away, his brain was most likely calmly assessing the situation and calculating the strategy of his attack.  Only when the computation was completed did he finally start his swim.  Real cool guy, this man.

How was the Swim, actually?
This swim was my first encounter.  It was, to me, really cold inspite of the wet suit.  I thought after my body warmed up after a certain distance the cold would dissipate.  But I was wrong.  Throughout the whole 1km swim, the temperature remained painfully depressed to my virgin body.  I felt as cold at the end of the swim as I did at the beginning.
The wet suit and the sea water made buoyancy a non-issue.  And face-down underwater, I was pleasantly surprised to find the sea water so nicely green and clear.  The sea bed was very apparent and it appeared so shallow and so close to my face.  In fact, the sea water was equally shallow all the way out until (I heard) the end of the jetty when the sea bed would begin to dip deep.
Finally I was swimming in this famous sea.  Everything was silent, except for my own breathing.  I was wearing no tempo trainer on this day, deciding to let my body settle into its own natural rhythm.  It was not difficult, because the slowness of my stroke rate allowed me to settle into a sweet spot. I kept reminding myself not to cheong, and not to over-exert, in order to simulate race-day condition.  Staring at the sea bed, I was puzzled that I wasn't moving.  I stared closely again.  That was correct, I was not moving, or at least it didn't feel as though I was moving.  I pulled and kicked a little harder, but the sea bed remained stationary.  It was later that I heard someone saying that in the sea, it was like this.  Not that I wasn't moving, for I was.  It would just appear thus.

"Well done, Wee How!" shouted Serene as I emerged from the water.  Well done? what well done?   There was almost no swimmers behind me.  All the Australian swimmers had finished their swim and were standing really at the beach watching a few of us Chinaman struggle up.  I was quite shagged at the end of the swim, and I staggered out of the sea trying to find my footing.  The referee had to hold me steady before he removed my timer chip.  That was really hilarious!

True to my usual style of swimming, I kept veering to my right.  And from the corner of my goggled-eyes, I could see the marshalls swimming chest down on surf boards pushing close next to me on my right, a signal that I was deviating.  I smiled (as if they could see me) and corrected my trajectory. I had to do this a few times along this leg.

"Well done, Darric!" called out Serene as she spotted the giant popping his head out of the sea, also trying to find a steady footing right out of the water.  "Wah lau eh, I swam 1500m instead," kao beh the big man. "I really swam off course ah!". "But look at it this way," consoled Gerard. "You did 1500m in 26mins leh.  That's very fast!"

There was nothing to sight towards on this outward leg, and constantly I had to search for the tiny yellow buoy.  Gradually it drew nearer, and nearer, until I found it just beside my right shoulder. Times like this I dared not attempt the cornering technique we were taught in swim school, but just swim normally around the buoy.  Perhaps one day I would.  But not today.

Gerard running out of the water, showing no signs of fatigue, with an Ang Moh swimmer closely behind him, for which Serene mistaken as Jeremy.  This Cool Dude was really cool dude.  Out of the four of us, he was the only one who stood steady right out of the water.

The width of the swim head was broad and I found that the swimmers were quickly distributed evenly in the water.  I really didn't have the chance to come near anyone, nor did I believe I was fast enough to do so.  The Australians were famed to be fast swimmers and I never doubted it.
It took me until AFTER the second yellow buoy at the second right turn before I finally felt myself getting into the groove of things.  The return leg was easier, as sighting towards the tall white tents was so much more convenient.

"Wah lau, there was nobody behind liao, only the kayaks left," complained Jeremy in his usual calm, quiet, under-water way.  His gait was no less shaky than mine and Darric's as the submarine surfaced.  This was really quite an eye-opening swim for us.

I think we were generally pretty winded at the end of this test swim.  I was the one still feeling cold after the whole thing, while the other boys have warmed up.  Each of us had gained a little something in his own way, in preparation for the big day tomorrow.  But one thing for sure, we knew that this water was a different ball game from what we had ever had before.  And tackling this required some new mindset, and experience would count.

The Coolest of them all, in the signature pose.
[Click to enlarge]
We half-ripped off our wet suit, and walked churn-ly down the run route back towards our car.
"Let's go to eat something.  Over the tent there lah, there are some hot dog stalls."
My tiredness prevented me from speaking much.  And I simply followed the boys back to the tents.

Hungry Chinamen. [Photo: Serene iPhone. Click to enlarge]
As we were eating our hotdogs, the tent above us got blown off by the strong wind, and the central pole landed directly on our Cool dude's right forehead, knocking him motionless for a few seconds.  What drama!  Here was him, much better after recovering from that nasty knock.  The Austrlian tents sure had their own way of singling out those who were known to be fast on the race course, and of giving them a pre-race warning in their Kangaroo fashion.

Knock head and then eat. [Photo: me on Serene's iPhone.]

The post-head-knockVictory sign. [Photo: me on Serene's iPhone]

Now, the REAL preparation for the Race tomorrow began!
I saw that the resort had Aunty bikes for rental for A$30 a day and I decided to grab one for Serene for the actual race day tomorrow in case she had to wait 8 hours for us.  This would at least allow her to cycle up and down the main road, and even back to the resort should she get bored.
A nice heavy Aunty bike with corresponding Aunty helmet and Aunty lock.
[Leica M9P with Summilux 35mm. Click to enlarge]
This Jeremy was forever the Do-man.  He was hosing down our wet suit with the hose outside the house and he very quickly hung our Orcas on the veranda rails to dry them.  Man, I enjoy travelling with this good fellow.
Our Orca wet suits and my borrowed 2XU Tri suits hanging to dry.  And they really dried quickly!
[Photo: Leica M9P with Summilux 35mm. Click to enlarge]

Nutritional Preparation
So night fell.
Gerard doing his famous minced meat. [Click to enlarge]

Serene and Gerard were the Su-Chef and the Executive-Chef for this evening.
Click to enlarge.
And the menu for the evening? Beef steak and spaghetti with minced meat.  There was a slight shortfall of carbohydrates this evening as we all put our heads together and calculated our loadings.
Our dinner for this evening.  Self-cooking in Australia was so much cheaper than eating in the restaurant.
But just made sure you bought good quality steak.  We may have inadvertently purchased dog-food quality
steaks that tasted just a tad tough.

Hmmmm... we were truly a little short, despite our bread, our banana, rolled oats blended with protein powder, and spaghetti.  For a moment we almost wanted to drive out to buy some bread.  But it was late already, and we were tired.  And the shops would have almost closed.  So the decision was made to just make do with whatever we had.

"Don't worry," reassured Darric. "We have enough rolled oats for slow-release carbs.  And Wee How you can blend them with my Whey protein powder and add in one banana each bottle.  Keep in the fridge and tomorrow you can have them for breakfast and one more bottle for your transition area liao."
Darric teaching us how to mix our blends.

And he was correct.  I did a quick mental calculation and found the amount to be about just right.  And I must say the banana-flavoured whey protein-rolled oat blended mix tasted really good.

Post Dinner relaxation...
Post dinner race planning and texting wife.
[Click to enlarge]

A crucial part of pre-race planning was the relaxation after the dinner on the last night.  This part was often neglected by contestants.  But it went a long way in setting one's mind and body in the correct frame for the race.  Jeremy and Darric were all intently at their handphones giving the next day a total detail run-over before the screen changed suddenly to games.
Gaming time!
[Click to enlarge]

Final Instruction before bed...
Ok, listen guys.  Tomorrow we would need to check in our transition area at 5am.  We would have about 1 hour from 5am-6am. We would leave the resort just before 5am, go there set up our transition areas and pump up our tyres, and we would scramble out of the Transition and back into the car.  This was to allow us sufficient time to return to the resort to do our last poop and last pee and change into our wet suit back here in the chalet.
So the stage was set.
And I was so tired, I again slept like a log.

Click here to go to the Busselton 70.3 Ironman - RACE DAY! 2 May 2015

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.