Friday, August 28, 2015

Ironman 70.3 Bintan ~ A Relay of Love

Ironman 70.3 Bintan
23rd August 2015
"My Dar he sum-see-see wants to do 70.3 Bintan.  But his ankles are painful.  So I just support him and join him in the relay lor," said Serene.
Wow.  And what a relay it was!!!

It was the inaugural Ironman 70.3 in Bintan.  Francis jio-ed very early on.  And if I remembered correctly, I was the first to sign up, because I had the luxury of Serene being the runner in my team.  So it was literally a no-brainer.  I didn't even needed to think twice.

Lagoi Bay is right at the north of Bintan.  I knew it was going to be a ulu part.  No wonder they held the event there.  Everything was new.  The Swiss-Bel Hotel was new.  The Plaza Lagoi was new. But heck, that was what the fun was all about mah...

The Chias were amongst the first to arrive at Tanah Merah Ferry terminal
The heavily-muscled Mr Tan and the happily-heavied Mrs Tan waiting for the 11:10am ferry.
Swiss-Bel Hotel
This part of Bintan was so newly developed that the hotel was a mere 6 months old.  Tower A was ready.  But unfortunately Tower B was still uncompleted, despite having the inaugural Ironman planned way back.  And athletes had to be turned away from the Swiss-Bel Hotel and diverted to the other resorts.  It was a shame, as the Swiss, being the official hotel, was only minutes away from the starting line of the race.
Was the hotel ready? Not really lah. They put two single-sized bed together and pretended that this was a King Size bed.

We arrived on Friday so that we had two full days to rest and importantly also to do a test swim and a test ride on the course.  Some of us had found this routine to be useful.

The Test Swim at Lagoi Bay
Click on the above picture to see the Strava of my test swim. I really zig-zagged on my swim.  It was so funny.  I still remember complaining to Darric after the test swim how much I veered.

Thus at 1530Hrs on this Friday, Darric and I walked through the transition area to the beach start, and we were both pleasantly surprised by the nice crystal clear sea water of Lagoi Bay. It was calm, and the water was so shallow one literally could swim a few hundred metres out to sea and yet could still stand straight up on the sea bed.  I remember remarking to Darric that the water was like that of Busselton.
The six-pack-ironmen in our group [Photo: Gerard Tan]
AK51 and all his muscles-zi-teh-zi-teh.. [Photo: Gerard Tan]

The Seow brothers did their test swim an hour after us, and together with Ann Kheen the next afternoon.  Gazing into the horizon in the bright sun, I again felt that overwhelming sense of helplessness a water-fearing person like me had always had.  The yellow buoys were so tiny out there I knew I was going to have difficulty sighting them.  The outward leg had no landmarks on the horizon for sighting.  I was surely going to veer.

"Chris, the water is so nice.  This is your once in a lifetime chance to soak in a water like this. Go lah!" I told Chris.

The Plaza Lagoi
This Plaza Lagoi was just beside Swiss-Bell Hotel.  This newly constructed complex housed a single restaurant, a massage parlour and a mini-mart.  Many of the shops were still vacant. It was just opened three months ago, and probably just woke up one week back before the Ironman event, most likely only to fall into another deep slumber for the rest of the year.

Meanwhile at the Nirwana & Angsana...
The rest of the Evolv members, namely Team evoLV, Team Trivium and Team Fishlike checked into Nirwana on Saturday, and Jemmy & wife and GT & PL checked into Angsana.
Team Trivium, Team evoLV & Team Fishlike living it up in Nirwana. [Photo: David Low]
The Nirwana-ians and the Angsanaian. [Photo: David Low]
Test Ride around Lagoi on Saturday morning
 Again, experience told many of the seasoned Ironmen that a short test ride around the actual race course the day before the event would be useful, just to make sure that the gears are in order, and to have a mental idea how the terrain was.
One of my friends we met at the Swiss-Bel Hotel told me:
"Just turn right and then left and just do two hills. Good enough already. It's only 12km. But I had to change to my smaller chainring to negotiate the hills."
That was comforting. Haha....
Our test ride route.
So at 6:30am Saturday morning, Aaron, Moses, Jeremy, Darric and I rolled our bikes out of the lobby for a short test ride.  We followed the prescribed route and did about 16km.  The six-packed brothers were really disciplined.  They didn't cheong, and just kept at a very comfortable pace.  Throughout the two rest days prior to the race, I have observed how Moses and Aaron ate.  They were constantly with a bottle of water, taking small sips through the day.  And they were careful with the food they ate - minimal oil and just consumed carbohydrates, but again not overloading themselves with food.  They would lay in bed in the afternoons to rest and they would sleep very early at night.  I had read about pre-Ironman preparations, and I witnessed the Seow brothers practising these to the dot.
Click on the above image to see the Strava for my test ride.

Race Kit Collection & Bike Check-in on Saturday 
10am on Saturday morning.  The Lagoi-ians at Swiss-Bel Hotel were just gathering at the lobby to make our way down to the Race collection centre.  This was truly convenient, staying next to the race centre and the event transition area.
The Team Lagoi-ian. Darric and I wearing our lucky Australian Ryder sunglasses.
 This was the first time we had such a big contigent from the group. Apart from the individual racers, there were the Relay teams...
  • 513 Team Vacanza: Serene and myself
  • 514 Team evoLV: Christopher, David and Gabriel
  • 516 Team Trivium: Baskaran, Alan and Kae
  • 521 Team Fishlike: KC Obama, Martin and Fish.

It really felt like fun.  Looking around me, everyone was smiling and in great spirit.  I didn't feel the jitters I had when I was doing the Race Kit collection during Putrajaya.
Back for a re-match with his nemesis is Mr AK51.

The Re-match of 6-packs and Dad-bod... the quest of that two minutes difference.

Faster, fitter and stronger on his Cervelo P3 is Jeremy.

Here to show what stuff Daddy is made of is Darric.

Moses and Aaron ready to part the sea water for the rest.

The relay first timers. Yum Gong team.

All the swimmers from Nirwana showing what they are made of.

I purposely showed Serene the junction where one turns left to the finishing line...
Darric was ecstatic.

Bike Check-in...
My trusted road bike was quickly tagged and one last round of checks, some air from the tyre let go a little and it was ready for check-in.
5:30pm, check-in.
Evening came.  A long afternoon of laying in bed doing nothing took its toll on some of us.
"Very boring leh," complained Darric on the Telegram thread. "Any activity going on?"
But most of us just slept. AK51 definitely slept. So did we. The 6-packs brothers were resting their legs just watching TV, I heard.
"So sian, like that.  Can go party or not?" asked Serene.
"Of course cannot lah. I read that the pre-race preparation requires you to really rest, eat properly, hydrate and sleep fully. Cannot cheong one." I scolded her.
Vacanza and evoLV racked side by side...

Carbo-Loading Dinner
David texted everybody: "Guys, come over to Nirwana tonight and let's celebrate.".. because it was Darric's birthday the next day and there was an exciting football match that night.  Wow, this David was full of energy.  I knew I couldn't because if I party I would risk a DNF the next day. Haha...

So we all ended up going for the Carbo-loading dinner.  Food was terrible.  The chicken was really dry and tasteless, and the pasta was tough.  And fried rice was salty.  But still we ate, and Darric did us a big favour by grabbing a whole long loaf of bread.  
Throughout the whole day, I was taking sips of isotonic drink from my water bottle.  I must have drunk about 3 litres of isotonic that day.  And for lunch and tea, I had soda-biscuit with coffee, plenty of biscuit, and Serene and I gulped down cup noodles in the afternoon in between our nap.  We were really guai these few days as we stayed away from oily food.

6:55pm, we all had about enough of the dinner and we all made our way back to the hotel lobby. But Gerard's shuttle bus only leaves at 7:30pm.  So we stayed around and chit chat.. and took photos.

Meanwhile in Nirwana...
The boys and girls were really partying away.  These guys were good.  I didn't have the energy.  Neither did Darric the birthday boy.  Francis was nua-ing all the way liao...  Though deep in our hearts we were so tempted to be drinking and eating and singing in Nirwana.  In the end we opted to just retire early for the night.

So we tattooed ourselves...
 Serene was so excited to have her own competitor's tatoo.
"Wow, it's so nice!" she exclaimed, as we stuck them on before we went to sleep.

... and we slept...
So on this Saturday night, many of us followed the lead of the Seow brothers and climbed onto bed at 8pm. I knew I was really good because I was asleep sometime between 8pm-9pm, after hydrating myself further with some more of my isotonic drink.


Waking up to my alarm set at 3:55am, I walked sleepily down to the restaurant at the second floor for breakfast.  Everybody else was there already.  These guys were even earlier than I.  The importance of having breakfast 2 hours before the starting time was not lost on these seasoned triathletes. My plan was very simple - to give myself at least a few chances to go to the toilet before the start just so that I ensure that I have completely cleared my bowels.

Transition Area

Martin, KC Obama and Francis doing their last minute check. [Photo: Serene Gan]
5:30am we were down at the transition area laying our stuff, and pumping up our tyres.  I was really guai this time round as I brought my own pump.  Serene was with me to just check on the transition,  After I set off, she would go back to the hotel to sleep for another 4 hours before she would be down to take over from me for her run leg.
Official Finisher Pix shot of me, Francis, Alan, Christopher and KC Obama.
The whole last two days and nights Serene and I had been listening to our favourite Kit Chan song and by now the tune was already deeply ingrained in our heads.  I wasn't sure about Serene, but I know for sure this will be my main relaxation therapy for all the legs.
Seeing all our guys suited up and ready for their legs got me a little nervous.  
Gerard's Roka speed suit was so water-repellant that water droplets were literally running off it as Francis and I examined his suit closely.  This was really quite a revelation! [Photo: Serene Gan]

"Come, let's go into the water for a bit of warm up!"

[Photo: Serene Gan]

The water was nice and warm.  And there was hardly any waves.  At 6am, it was still rather dark around us.  Squinting, I could barely make out the yellow buoys on the horizon.  I was still worried about my sighting and my notorious veering off course.

Two minutes at stake between the Garmin and the Polar. [Photo: Serene Gan]
The Swim Leg
As always, the 1.9km swim leg was from buoy to buoy.  This time round, the route was planned on an anti-clockwise direction, favouring left-sided breathers, of which I wasn't one.  Jeremy and Darric were smiling away as they were left breathers.  I just hoped I wouldn't deviate too much from the route and end up swimming 400m extra like I did in Busselton.

It was a wast-deep start in waves.  And each wave was only about 2-3 minutes apart.  So that was really good.  Very soon, at 6:20am, Wave 7 was ready to start.  Christopher and I walked right at the back of the pack into the water.  And we were off!

Our wave walking to the waist-deep start point at the red buoys.  Official Finisher Pix photo.
Here is a video by Serene of the orange cap wave valiantly entering the water. I realised all the athletes were slim and trim.  Almost every one of them.  It was as though those who came for the 70.3 Bintan came prepared.  Indeed the vast majority of the athletes did fantastic timings.  Look carefully at 27th second to see one of these well-toned triathletes with his new 902XT.

After pang-chek-ing myself during my terrible swim in Putrajaya, and having achieved some level of positive experience in Busselton, I had learned that unless one was an ex-SEA games swimmer, or was super fit, one had better conserve and go easy on the swim.  I was one of those poor swimmers.  So right from the start in my mind I knew I was just going to rotate my hips and just focus on keeping my directions true.
So I did.  I was not particularly breathless during the swim.  But I was not able to draft behind any one as I was a little too slow. 
After all the front swimmers stamped on the seabed, the water was no longer as crystal clear at the beginning.  I tried following the rope on my left on the out leg as I rotated, remembering Ann Kheen's words.  But right after the first left turn, there was no more rope.  I thought I lost it.  But it was truly no longer there.  I was left with only the big red buoys to aim towards.  So I tried my best.  There were a few moments when my trajectory threatened to swing wildly out.  But I simply had to keep the red buoys in sight.  I wasn't going to waste extra energy swimming longer than what was needed.  Serene's favourite song reverberated in my head throughout the swim leg and that kept my heart rate nice and slow(er).
The red caps from the wave after us started over taking me on the return leg.  And all our team members were way ahead of me.  The water was so shallow on the last leg that I kept alternating between walking and swimming in the last 200m.  It was a shame because walking really wasted time. 

Heng ah! I think I didn't do too badly in terms of directions...

Click on the above image to see the Strava of my swim leg.

The Video of the boys emerging from the water...
Serene managed to shoot the video of (most of) the guys coming out of the water.  In the crowd she must have missed Baskaran...

The sinking feeling of coming in the last few swimmers in the pack was apparent as I neared the shore.  Bo bian.  I'd better buck up on my swimming after this event, I consoled myself.  But at that moment, what was more important was to make sure that I don't over-push myself and bonk on the cycling leg.  I got to make sure I came back in one piece to hand over the time-chip to Serene.

Baskaran showing the team that his Ape-index is well-suited to swimming.

One by one the boys came up running.

[Photo: Don't know who]

[Photo: don't know who]

And I am sure the official photographer was almost packing up his equipment when he accidentally took a shot of me as I finally came up from the sea.  My watch said 46mins. Ok lah.  Could not complain liao lah.  Multisports is all about steady pace.
Photo: Official FinisherPix photographer
Christopher was very candid.  "I chose the easiest leg - the swim!" as he came up from the water with his mega-watt smile.

To see how slow I was, here is the Strava Flyby, an animated minute by minute account of several of us as we did our swim.  Click on the image below to see the action!
Click on the image above to see the Strava Flyby action of our swim!!!

Transition 1

Most of the guys had don their cycling gears and had either gotten on their way or were already some way into the ride.  

Francis was among the first few out of the water.

The yellow helmet was speeding so fast with his new 920XT that his photo could hardly be taken.

Jeremy was the true-blue triathlete, running barefoot!

AK51 was all stylo mylo in his classic black, smiling all the way as he emerged from T1.

Alan was striking in his orange.
Alan was all readied.  Once Baskaran stepped foot onto the red carpet of rack 516, he was off!

David was very nice.  He saw me stumbling in from the swim and immediately helped me unrack my bike as I struggled to pull my my tight 2XU compression socks...
"Oh no, I can't help you hold your bike any more, Christopher is here, I gotta go!" finally he had to rack my bike up again.  But I was eternally grateful for his help.
All dripping wet from the sea, I struggled with my compression socks and gotten myself readied for the bike leg.

... and off I went.  I was the last one out of the transition.  Every body was on their bike and furiously pedalling way ahead of me already.  Damn.  This was turning out to be a long long day. Haha..

The Cycle Leg

Darric cheonging all the way!

Having done Tour de Bintan twice, we knew how undulating Bintan was for cyclists.  And we all went into the race with full understanding of what we would encounter.  Thus, I decided way ahead to go easy on the bike ride.  Conserve, conserve and conserve.

Gerard had a spectacular ride, with a weighted average power of 197W!!!
The weather was still breezy and not-hot at 7am as I cruised along on my bicycle.
This 90km cycling leg took us through the small town somewhere in the north of Bintan, and along the rolling hills inland and relatively flatter coastal roads.
Alan taking on the hills of Bintan.

Not bad. The water stations were at 24km, 40km, 60km and 77km.
The masked rider.

After suffering big time in Putrajaya with an over-zealous planning of nutritional replenishment, and development severely bloated stomach with nausea during that fateful race, I'd learn to go much easier on myself.  Even during the pleasant race in Busselton, I found that rolled oats with protein powder, while providing me with the energy, made me really gassy.  So I ditched all these and depended solely on gels and isotonic drinks for this race.  Under-hydration in the scorching heat killed me on my first race.  And this round I took pains to down bottles after bottle of isotonic throughout the race, small amount each time, but at more frequent intervals.  It was really interesting how much I learned about myself after every event.

AK51 on his Batmobile.  Al black. Except the water bottle and the Polar watch
which happened to be out of battery on that fateful day.

The earlier part of the ride was really pleasant, as the sun was just up and it was really cool.  The greater part of the morning was cloudy and we were fortunate that the heat was intermittent.

Jeremy was really striking on his white P3. Every bit an Ironman no less than
those lanky Ang Mohs.

"Ok, you expect to see me at around 11am.  Just get ready around that time," I instructed Serene earlier to wait for me at the transition.  I was expecting myself to be back at just about 11am.  I sincerely hoped not later as any minute after that it would mean she would be running under the hot midday sun.
Martin leading his pack of cyclists, along the ulu routes of Bintan.

The first 10km of the ride was nice and relatively flat with the most gradual slopes.  I was seeing cyclists coming at the opposite direction on the other side of the road as they made the U-turn at the 13km mark.  The first testing hill was at the U-turn.  A gradual right and I suddenly came face to face with a climb.  But I was still fresh and I held back on the power to just overcome the hill as steady as I could.

David and his four-water-bottle-cage Bianchi, asking me if I was cycling at Zone 2,
somewhere at the end of Coastal Road.  I laughed.. because that question was so cute.
I myself didn't know what zone I was in.

I was glad that I was able to perch myself on the tri bar for the major parts of the ride.  Being an inexperienced athlete as I was, I had to watch my heart rate and my power with the utmost of care, for fear of over-charging and risking a big bonk.  I remembered to keep my heart rate around 145-147/min and I didn't allow my power to exceed 200W for more than just a few seconds.  This strategy appeared to have worked, as the speed pipckups downslope more than compensated for the terribly slow climbs.
The Chef on his Pink Pina attacking the slopes with so much gusto that would
put most Michelin Chefs to shame.

The slopes were not without their usual dangers.  I recalled at about 21km into the ride, I was speeding down a particular steep slope and a cyclist from Vietnam about 10-15m in front of me suddenly jammed his brakes, did a spectacular flip and landed on the side of the road with his bike on top of him.  I stopped and ran over to him.  He was lying supine, shocked from the fall, and bleeding from his cheek and the side of his nose.  He was ok, and was able to sit up after a short moment.
I tried flagging down cars and motorbikes that drove past us and called out to them but none stopped for us.  This was poor support, especially at more remote parts of the route.  Flabbergasted, I hopped on the bike and sped another 1km down and finally saw an official and informed him of the incident and the location.  (Later on, when the race was over, I was overjoyed to check the results and found that the Vietnamese guys actually continued the ride and completed the whole 70.3 race!)

This was that first few km from the start of the bike leg. I was still using my old water bottles... and smiling.
[Photo: Finisher Pix]

I never failed to take my gel every half an hour as I rode.  And I would deplete at least one and a half bottle of isotonic, in time to arrive at the next water station.  Unlike most of the pros, I had to stop at each water station, gulp down half a bottle of isotonic, get two brand new bottles, swallow a gel and blast off - all in less than a minute.  I discovered that these split-minute rests were superb in allowing my legs the needed rest.

Along the Coastal road.  Nice and speedy stretch. I was already on the official water bottle with the Pure Isotonic drink.. and smiling away.
Despite the tri-bars, my position on the road bike was not ideal.  Truly nothing could beat a real Tri-bike for a perfect Tri position.
[Photo:  Finisher Pix]

I experienced no cramps on this ride, despite the heat and the high likelihood of dehydration.  In retrospect, I attributed the adequate rests leading up to the event, sufficient carbohydrate loading, and plenty of isotonic rehydration from the days before up till during the actual race, to the prevention of the cramps.

On this ride, I remembered several slopes where I did something I didn't usually do - pedalled out of saddle.
I wasn't sure if that was the correct thing to do, but I felt that a change of muscle usage was an instant relief for
muscle groups that were getting a little tired. [Photo: Finisher Pix]

Click on the image below to see the Strava for my ride.
Click on the image above to see the Strava for my cycle leg.
Moses Shao parting the roads.

Along the way, I could see many cyclists who were most likely quite new to this kind of terrain, for they were mashing their ways up some of the steeper slopes.  Especially within the town, there were a few distinct right and left turns which immediately brought us to steep climbs.  They were physically out of breath at the top of the crests.  Old mistakes have taught me to really step down and go easy on these.  The trick was not to flood the thigh muscles.  Something important I learned from Gerard way back then.
Aaron Seow too fast for many.

At around 40+km, I saw AK51 standing at the side of the road.  I could only call out to him, knowing inside my heart that he must have punctured a tyre. Until today I still regretted not stopping for at that moment I knew he was on the 8.9 wheels, and I had only the inner tubes for the 6.7 wheels.  But little did I know that he had a valve extension on him.  Fortunately Alan stopped and passed him his inner tube.  That made it possible for AK to continue his race instead of ending up DNF-ing.

The last stretch back to the transition area... thankfully I was still smiling. [Photo: Finisher Pix]

I kept reminding myself along the route: "Triathlon is a game of steady pace. Everything must be in a steady state." Gerard Tan's own words these were.  And simply precious words that kept me going.

Here is the Strava Flyby, an animated minute by minute account of several of us as we went through our ride.  Click on the image below to see the action!
Click on the image above to see the animated cycling action!

Transition Two

The swimmers were waiting impatiently for their team cyclists to be back.
I glanced at my watch as I approached the transition.  It said 10:37am.  Shit.  I told Serene 11am.  I really hope she would be waiting for me at the bike rack.  
"Wee How!" called out Kae as I dismounted at the line and ran left into the transition.  I could only afford her a weak smile as I nodded in her direction.
My eyes were glued to the rack 513 just below the No-Parking sign.  I saw no signs of Serene.  I just had to keep running towards the label.
"Serene Gan!" I shouted, desperately.
"I'm here!" I heard her from behind me.  She was running towards me just behind.  Heng ah!  This silly girl must had been sleeping.
"OK, here.  Grab my time chip... and go!" 
 Right on my heels, David was racking up his bike.  Gabriel was a flash of light as he ran past me.

I knew.  It was getting really hot.

Chef on the prowl for some salt.

The Run Leg

My job done.  But not entirely.  I promised myself that despite Serene taking the run leg, I would try and see how far my weak ankles could carry me.  I was hoping I could perform a miracle by completing the 21km run.  Naive, to say the least.

The 21.1km run route was three laps around the lake just next to the hotel  But unlike Putrajaya, this route had absolutely no shades along it.  The saving grace was that the water stations were located every 1.4 - 1.5km.  

Serene ran out of Transition 2.  It was a little cloudy at that moment.  But the real heat came a little after that. [Photo: Debbie Ng]
Me, I was simply ecstatic to be able to put on my running shoes and actually run.  But unknown to me, that Ang Moh woman beside me must had been equally excited by the mere sight of me,
for she was most likely touching some parts of her anatomy when she caught sight of my towering figure in black. [Photo: Debbie Ng]

Here was Serene's strava on her 21km run.  She was really something on this run.  Click on the image below to see her Strava.
Click on the image above to see Serene's Strava of her run.

This one below was the Strava of my pathetic run.  But heck.  It's ok. Cos my job was done.
Click on the above to see my pathetic strava run.

Here was some animated action of the boys and girls running on the run route.  It was a tough run.  But everybody did well. Click on the image below to see the action.
Click on the above to see the Strava Flyby for the run.
Running had always been my weakness.  I never liked running, neither had I ever been able to run well.  My best 2.4km timing was during my army days.  And that was it.  Even as Serene kept doing her half marathon over the months leading to the race, I just lazed around in the shade.  As the event approached, I merely swam and cycled. For a good three and a half months, I ran not a single kilometre.

Aaron Seow running on air. [Photo: Finisher Pix]
So it was with no suprise that despite my petrol still containing some more fuel, my legs began to suffer the toll of jogging in the sun after a while.

Moses Shao in great action.
I was actually enjoying the run and the water stations right at the beginning.  I would look forward to each water station and the ice cold water that came with it.  At the first water station I asked for some ice which I placed in my cap and wore it over my head.  The instant relief sent a cold shudder down me.  Wow... it was THAT good.  I was immediately rejuvenised and I continued running with renewed energy.  

Gabriel showed the relay teams what runners were made of, as he surfed the tracks
all the way back to the finishing line in great timing.

The second water station, disappointingly had no more ice.  It had the couple of big tanks of water and plenty of sponges.

Me action liao liao.  Cannot run also follow people run. [Photo: Finisher Pix]

"Huh? No more ice? Ok lor... better than nothing." I muttered.
"That's actually very good already lor." another runner beside me quipped in.  He was quite right, I must admit.  It wasn't every event that had a water station every 1.4km.
Jeremy was really fast, and I realised it after I examined the Flyby carefully.  This man was not to be trifled with
in water, on wheels or in running shoes.
I never once let off on the gels.  Even during the slow run.  As I had completed my mission, I was beginning to be a little more adventurous, and I would grab a Hammer gel and gulped it down, and pleasantly found that my stomach took to these quite well.  I made a mental note to myself to bring lesser of my own gel the next round but to use the supplied gels instead.  At least that would save me some weight carrying them on my bike and on the Flip Belt around me.

Darric really showing Baby what Daddy was made of as he sailed triumphantly
across the finishing line.
All around me, slim and lean runners zoomed past - both men and women, Ang Mohs and Asians.  I was so impressed by one of the Ang Moh ladies, who despite an obvious right leg deformity resulting in an abnormal gait, was running at a much higher speed than myself.  Seeing these dedicated athletes run, I promised myself that once I was home, I was going to give myself no more excuse but to do short distances slowly, bit by bit.

I was very impressed by Gerard's constant pace as he ran past me on his last lap.
At 7.24km, I started having hamstring cramp on the left leg.  I knew that my time was up.  There was no point struggling on and to risk injuring myself.  I would call it a day to fight another battle.  I walked slowly up the muddy slope and back to the finishing line, happy like a bird.  Now my next job was to make sure that Serene was ok.

She had such poor tolerance of heat one would question if she was really brought up in the Tropics.  More than a few times she would suddenly faint when running in extremely hot weather.  And this day was no exception - the heat was radiating onto the reflective ground like there was no tomorrow.  

The KT Tape was doing a fantastic job on this man.  All he needed was calf compression socks.

After linking up Martin and Baskaran with poor Kae, who was mildly injured in the run, I made my way to the running track hoping to catch sight of the bright pink attired-Serene.  

The Chef thinking of how he would prepare his salt.
I was lucky.  I saw Darric running past me (he waved to me), Gerard running past (he called out to me), AK51 zooming past (he shouted out to me), Jemmy trodding past me (he also made his presence felt).. all pointed behind where Serene was running.  True enough.  I peered through the heat waves and saw a tiny pink dot at the distal shore of the lake.  There she was, making her way slowly.  That was her last lap.  She was actually going to make it to the end of the run!

The pink dot across the lake...

 I waited patiently and observed how that pink dot ran a distance, and then slowed down to walk to the water station, at which it stopped for a while, before continuing the run to the next water station.
In great spirit despite the heat.
 In my heart I knew how tough this run was.  Because I did 7.24km of it in the hot sun.  And especially so for those doing the full three disciplines.  My full respect to all these very capable athletes, every single one of my friends who suffered the terrain and the weather together with me.  I knew there was no way I could have completed the run under such circumstances.  Therefore the greater the respect I had for all these good people.

In all her full pink glory. [Photo: Finisher Pix]
An immense sense of pride arose in me as I watched the pink dot made her way around the distal end of the lake and grew larger and larger as it came closer.  This was no simple feat for this lady, who only slightly less than a year ago, was heavily breathless even while doing a short run.

Doing her best to keep pace with a faster runner. [Photo: Finisher Pix]
"What was in your mind when you were doing this run?" I asked her later.
"Nothing.  I just... ran." was her simple reply.  Terrible lah, her.  She could have given me an intellectually-loaded response.  But it came out just so plain and simple.  But beautifully so, it its own special way.
[Photo: Finisher Pix]

Thus while Serene and I were negotiating the last round, most of our teammates had already either finished their run, or were on the last few hundred metres of the race.

AK51 on the home run!

An Ang Moh official on his bicycle came close to both Serene and I and asked if we were finishing.  I flashed him a smile and gave him an affirmative.  For once I could look an official in his eyes and said: "We are finishing!".  Memories of being pulled out of Putrajaya on the run leg were still fresh in my mind.

Fish Tang showing the way to Chi Running.

These two fellows never missed a candid moment.

The pink dot drew closer and closer to me...

So with less than 2km to go, I ran side by side with Serene, as happy as a lark, knowing that the end was in sight.  This girl completed what I couldn't and in doing so she did me and the family proud.  It was really a relay of love.
Running with Serene on the last two kilometres to the finishing line. [Photo taken by a very kind Ang Moh man who told her his wife was also on the run]

Approaching the finishing line. [Photo: Finisher Pix]

Indescribable was the feeling when we both crossed the line. [Photo: Finisher Pix]

A well-deserved medal

So proud of Serene! [Photo: Finisher Pix]
It wasn't an easy race for Serene, neither was it for many of us.  But each in our own way, we had overcome the difficulties and accomplished success.  I was certainly proud of all my friends for the way they grit their teeth and bore the pain in persevering to the end.  And I am equally proud of my friends who have attempted and given their best shot under such extreme circumstances.
In Kae's words: "Till the next Ironman!"