Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Ironman 70.3 Bintan 2016

Bintan could never be easy.
26 - 28 Aug 2016

The boys & girls from EvoLV: Charles, Jemmy, Ann Kheen,
Baskaran, Martin, Darric, yours truly, Hong Keat, Alethea,
Chee Wai, Kae, David, Raymond, Claire, Kong Wan

Sometime in December 2015, I got bitten by a ghost, and was the first one to click on the 'Register' button for the Bintan 70.3 event.  I could only guessed that having done the relay with Serene for the Bintan 70.3 in 2015, there was some unfulfilled wish in me to complete the full event on my own.  I was supposed to train in a structured manner.  But the structure crumbled, and I ended up tapering way before the actual race.
Having done Cebu 3 weeks before the Bintan race, I thought I was prepared.  But was I prepared... prepared for suffering.

The boys from Swiss-Belhotel: Michael, Darric, yours truly & Kevin.

Bintan again? Siao lah.. But somehow it just happened...

Honestly, I really didn't know why there were people who would enter themselves into the Ironman Bintan 70.3 time and time again.  I had forgotten how suffering Bintan was, unless one was a mountain goat on the bike like David Low and enjoyed cycling up and down rolling terrain, and enjoyed running three times round and round a shade-less lake.  But here I was, one of the several hundreds who signed up despite previous suffering.
Taking the 11:10am ferry from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal.
"Let's go! I want to carry my baby Donovan across the finishing line!" replied Darric in December 2015 when I jio-ed him.  Good.  He was the first one to onz me.  Darric was into semi-retirement mode already, but had to be dragged out of it because of this event.
"Geok Lin," I told my secondary school classmate Kevin after that. "Come lah,  This is going to be your first time doing 70.3. It's near Singapore, and it's only a short ferry away."
"Ok let me think about it," replied Kevin. And he went on to jio Michael Tsai.  It was later on that I realised that Kevin and Michael were doing the Bintan 70.3 for a good cause.  They were raising funds for a school for children with special needs!  And it was these two good men's first 70.3, although they had been running extensively for a long period of time.
Yours truly and the two jio-ed fellows Darric and Kevin at BBT ferry terminal in Bintan - Darric and Kevin.
"I'm ONZ!" Charles was very quick in his decision, despite this being a last minute one, right after Cebu 70.3.  And this was also going to be his first 70.3 which he would be doing all the three legs solo. He was a great sport, this Charles.
David, his usual influential self, was able to convince the whole village to participate.  And he jio-ed and made up so many teams of relay:
  • Kong Wan (swim), David (cycle), Claire (run)
  • Raymond (swim), Hong Keat (cycle), Chee Wai (run)
  • Baskaran (swim), Martin (cycle), Kae (run)
And somehow, the Bankers finally awoken to the excitement of the race, and Ann Kheen and Jemmy both decided it would be fun to have another show-down again in Bintan, after Ann Kheen suffered a tyre puncture last year half way through his cycle leg.  And we also realised later that our EvoLV member Alethea also signed herself up, this champion of a Full Ironwoman.
So the arena was set.

Damn good. 11:10am Bintan time.  By travelling across the sea, we didn't lose a single minute.

Darric upset cos there wasn't enough Pokestops.

The Supporters


A race would never be fun without its supporters.  And this round the supporters really came in full force.  Serene, Fann and Ah Li from my side.  Debbie and baby Donovan were there specially to have Darric carry them across the finishing line.  Ai Lin was there for Kong Wan, Elaine did her part for Charles's maiden 70.3, Ann Kheen would (almost) never go anywhere without his Viena, and of course, Wendy was there giving her full support for her Ironman Jemmy.

Fann and Ah Li - the usual clowns.

Michael's wife Sylvia was happy to be there to soak in the atmosphere. A special mention was Bok Juang Yi, a seasoned triathlete himself, who decided to give support by being there with his 70-200mm. Great job, all the supporters!

Ai Lin, Viena, Elaine, Serene and Wendy
Debbie and Donovan couldn't wait to cross the finishing line together with Daddy.

Sylvia and Michael Tsai
Bok Juang Yi and his trusty 70-200mm, on a special mission not as a triathlete this round, but as a photographer.
[Photo: Bok JY]

Swiss-Belhotel Lagoi Bay Bintan

We literally grabbed the 160,000 rp 2Gb pre-paid Simpati data-only SIM card at the BBT ferry terminal Mama shop just so that those who were hot on the trails of the Pokemon Go game could explore the Poke fields of Bintan.  But alas, SwissBel Hotel Lagoi had no Pokestops!  Lucky were those staying in Nrwana, because they had a field day with the plentiful harvest over that side.

We were the first few people to arrive on Friday noon.  The rest of the boys and girls would arrive either later that afternoon or the next day.
Despite having the event transition area just 100m from its doorstep, Swiss-Belhotel Lagoi Bay Bintan was no longer the official hotel for this event this year.  I would say it was really the ideal place to stay for the convenience of being so near the action area.  But problem started when the year before (2015), Swiss-Belhotel Lagoi Bay couldn't manage to complete their other wing in time for the event and some guests had to be turned away to the other hotels.

Bargaining with the receptionist for late check-in up till 6pm for additional US$65 per room.
Not the best arrangement, but still, for the sake of our sanity we needed some material comfort.
[Photo: Ah Li]

Personally I feel, in spite of being only about a year old, the Swiss-Belhotel was starting to show some subtle signs of disrepair.  For US$160+ (Friday) and US$190+ (Saturday) a night, I would have expected some better maintenance.   I was surprised to see some of the Ironman event organisers in their official red polo t-shirts actually staying in the hotel.  Hmmm... probably they did not appoint any official hotel this year.

Plaza Lagoi
Checking out the 600,000 rupiah full body massage for 2.5 hours.

That small little 'shopping' complex next to Swiss-Belhotel Lagoi, which I personally strongly suspected would wake up once a year during the 70.3 event and drift back into its slumber for the remaining 11 months, remained still a sleepy little set up.  The restaurants had changed somewhat.  The massage shops looked the same. 

We had lunch at the HeloHelo restaurant.  Typical Indonesian fares at Singapore prices.  But the food was really not bad lah. Nice enough for some pre-race loading.
[Kevin Ng, Ah Li, Serene and Darric waiting for their fried rice, and fried bee hoon and chicken, prawn omelette and Kevin's favourite tofu (for protein-loading too).

But of course that made things simpler for us.  Thankfully that little convenience store right at the corner was still there.   Ah Li and Fann had their share of ice creams, chips and whatever rubbish they wanted during this period as a treat for being such arden supporters.
This round I was clever.  I didn't bring any water, but opted to buy from the convenience store. Their prices were quite reasonable, so for most people they could easily purchase their hydration from the shop.

Test Swim on Friday

We were glad they had a test of the swim course opened at 3:30pm on Friday for the early arriving participants.  The proximity of the start area to Swiss-Belhotel Lagoi was immediately apparent to Kevin.  Somehow I was glad that although the hotel was no longer a designated official hotel, the venue and the race course layout remained unchanged from last year.  So everything was status quo.

Going for the 3:30pm test swim
Funnily, there were only us few on the first test swim and we bore the full attention of the officials - a long-legged Australian lady and a couple more.  She noticed that I was wearing my BlueSeventy PZ3TX the wrong way - front side back and jokingly told me I needed a girl to help me zip it up behind... and proceeded to do that for me.

 This trial swim was nice.  Warm and clear water - but somehow not as clear as last year.
"This year's water is not as clear.  I think they dumped a lot of shit into the sea," said Darric.
The long legged Australian female official who did up my Swim skin zip on the first day's trial swim.

"Got strong current right?!?! Right?!?!" I complained to Darric and Kevin.
"Got meh? I just followed Darric." said Kevin.
"No lah. Where got current? So nice and straight, I just followed the buoy on my left side." Darric had to rub it in. He was a left breather mah, so it was so much easier for him.
My out leg with the severe right veering

And as my GPS above showed, indeed I veered all the way out to the right on the initial outwards leg, chasing down the wrong ripple and the wrong clown fish.  I was so embarrassed when I looked up and saw the marshalls on the kayak looking at me, and the red and yellow buoys far far away on my left.  Making my way back on course I saw Darric's muscular body swimming back and heck lah, I just followed and drafted behind him lah.  I was terrible at sighting.  That was why I must always do test swims before the actual races because I will predictably swerve out.

Test Ride Saturday morning (27 Aug) 

Click on the above to see the Strava of my test ride.

Kevin on his Scappa turning back into the road leading to Swiss-Belhotel Lagoi.
6am.  The sun rose early in Bintan, because the local time was an hour behind Singapore.  The almost mandatory test ride done by four of us from Swiss-Belhotel out on the ride route with the left turn to Bintan Lagoon Resort took us an hour and brought us on a warm up on some gentle undulations.  I was quite guai this time round.  I made sure that all my batteries were working properly, unlike that last race in Cebu when my power meter and heart rate batteries went flat on me.

Kevin and Michael on the ride back.

"Let's do one hour of ride lah," suggested Darric.  That was a good idea. "So we cycle out half an hour then we turn back lah."
The gears were doing fine, and there was no major mechanical issues.  We were all enjoying the quiet and breezy ride on this cool morning.  Darric was his usual super fast self on the bike, cheonging way way ahead, while I tried to catch up with him.  Michael and Kevin had their first taste of some of the milder slopes of Bintan on this trial ride.

The boys at the turn around of the test ride - Bintan Lagoon Resort, about 11km from Swiss-Belhotel Lagoi.

"Wah you so fast ah!" I called out to Kevin as he over took me on one of the slopes up.
"I cannot go slower, cos my gears are not big enough," replied him as he mashed his way up.
"I didn't have enough gears, and my bike just kept going fast and fast on the way up the slope," complained Michael later as his standard 53/39 + 11/25 gears brought him up the slopes way faster than ours.  

Michael, yours truly, Darric and Kevin at the end of our ride. [Photo: Serene]

Athlete Registration and Check-in

The Sleeping Giant Darric who wakes up and chin chai chin chai ace the race one.
Really the champion. 佩服佩服!
The issue with Bintan was the boys and girls invariably ended up staying in different hotels according to their preferences.  Some loved the atas-ness of Banyan Tree and others the partying atmosphere of Nirwana.  And the ease of ferry availability meant that everybody would arrive on different days at different timing.  So when we were doing athlete check-in at about 11am-ish, we were happy to see David and Claire, Chee Wai, Kong Wan and Ai Lin.

Darric, Kong Wan, David, Claire, Chee Wai, and yours truly.
Kong Wan, David and Claire didn't know at that moment that the next day will
see them standing on the podium after the race.
[Photo: Serene]

This round the athlete check in was held in the sweltering humidity of a tent.  We were disappointed to find that it was no longer held in the nice air-conditioned environment of the second floor of Lagoi Plaza like the year before.  We all were getting progressively dehydrated sweating our glands out in the heat of the tent.


The Expo was nothing to shout about.  Those of us who arrived first quickly texted the rest of the guys about the dismal display and lowered their expectations.
"This year's organiser seems to be on a low budget," complained David. "The number of drummers were lesser than last year's.  Maybe the number of participants is smaller.  I remember last year the bike racks extended all the way out there."
"Yah lor.  Even the swim cap is latex and not silicone ones," I said.

Michael and Kevin at athlete registration

Bike check-in

"I want to do a Darric Tan on the transition mat!" I told Ah Li. And she took a shot of me.
My personal feeling was that this Bintan Ironman 70.3 had the most lax security in comparison to all the other Ironman 70.3 races that I had been to.  So far, the rest had followed to the dot the rule of  'no wrist tag, no entry' into the transition area.  But Bintan Ironman 70.3 went by some slightly different Bintanian ruling.  It seemed to be 'As long as you are accompanied by someone with a wrist tag, you are allowed to enter'.

My worry was about loss of personal items from the transition area.  Because once the organiser opened up the flood gate, we literally saw a whole entourage of participants and their loved ones roaming the transition.  In the end I also bo-chap and got everyone into the transition area.

Fann asked: "Any chance of perhaps foul play and sabotage and things like that?" when I raised my concern.
No, I wasn't worried that much about that. But more of loss of items.  Because during the bike check-in, many participants actually left their Cateye cycling computers on their bikes.  So far I hadn't seen any Garmin being left on the bikes yet. I wondered if any of the competitors had their items misplaced.

The arrival of the elites - Ann Kheen, Jemmy and the Elite dragged from retirement, Darric,
and the Elite-to-be, Charles.

However, Ann Kheen had a very valid point with his reply to my concerns:

"... (this would) allow Serene to do a race finish with u. Allow Darric to carry his Donovan to the finish line. Allow me to have a photo with my wife at the athletic finish area.  They could have just said no."
 Wise words from a wise and seasoned Ironman.  Ann Kheen followed that up by pointing out:

"... I think they exercise some level of common sense. But that means we also must exercise some too. Lol"
What he said made sense.  Truly.  Because had it not been for this flexibility, I would never had the chance to cross the finishing line with Serene as my supporter, nor Darric cross the line carrying baby Donovan across.

Darric, Ai Lin, Kong Wan, Raymond, yours truly, Michael and Kevin.
We were lucky this year because the weather was relatively kinder after noon, with some clouds building up.  Thus when we racked our bikes at about 2:45pm, there wasn't as strong a sun as earlier, and my worries about burst tyres under the hot sun, was proven to be unfounded.
"Guys, let's take a group photo here at the Ironman board," Martin was very smart.  He found the board for us to capture some nice group shots.


"Ok, all the runners first, followed by the cyclists and then the swimmers," instructed somebody, who until today, I suspected sounded like David.  Because these kind of photographic ideas could have only arisen from him.  And everybody complied.

Front row: Baskaran, Martin, Claire
Back row standing: Darric, Hong Keat, Kong Wan, Chee Wai, Kae, Alethea, David, yours truly, Raymond.
The elites have yet to arrive.

Darric, yours truly, Michael and Kevin.

David and his cyclists poses.
I was looking forward to seeing everybody.  Jemmy, Charles and Ann Kheen finally arrived.

And we could not check in from the entry just right next to Swiss-Belhotel like last year.  I guess because the organising committee probably didn't want to encroach upon the compound of the hotel, now that it was no longer an official hotel.  So we all had to walk to the end.

Jemmt and Ann Kheen

Wendy, Viena, Debbie & baby Donovan and Elaine excited to be part of the fun.

Don't know why Ann Kheen was so happy...

Kevin found his handle bar ends to be missing when he brought his bike to rack.
"Never mind lah," I said. "Can always go back and replace them."
But wow.. What a bike ride it would turn out to be for this charitable man.

https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8268/28719205314_e373a067fb_k.jpgI was determined to make this pre race day a relaxing one.  But somehow after the test swim and the test ride, I begun to experience a little bit of cramp over the right calf and the left medial thigh.  I was a little worried.  Even an overdose of compression tights and calf sleeves didn't seem to help much.

The carbo loading dinner menu looked terrible, after Darric and I checked on it, and found that it really wasn't worth paying S$50 per person for it, and we all ended up sabo-Ing those who went, namely Jemmy.  The Nirwana boys and girls had their usually partying that night.  

8:30pm.  I was all tattooed up, and ready to sleep.  My right arm's tattoo was missing one number because of some inking malfunction, but that didn't bother me.  It was most probably the cramps that were still on my mind.  I didn't know how the first timers were doing back in their rooms.  I knew I was nervous on my first 70.3.  But I had learned to be a little more bo chap nowadays. Still, somehow the sleep that night wasn't as good.  Maybe I was somehow, still a little kan cheong.

Kong Wan's hard work had all paid off.  He swam for the team that came onto podium,
and he was well deserving of the award.  It was high time he did solo races again.

Race Day

3:30am.  Woke up.  Blur blur.
Walked to breakfast at 4am.  Kevin was there.  He was really nice to accompany me for breakfast so early in the morning.
"I always have my breakfast at least two hours before the start," I explained. "Otherwise I buay tahan.  Cannot digest and also need to go toilet twice. Haha..."

One thing I was grateful about the hotel was, despite not being an official race hotel, they still understood the need for athletes to have breakfast on race day at 3:30am.  That was important.  Many a times an accommodating hotel or guest house near a race venue would be crucial for a participant's performance.

5am.  Prepared my transition.  Still a little blur blur.

This time round I was super kiasu.  I had 5 bottles of 600ml of Elo water - three bottles to be used on the bike, and two bottles on the run.  I had to make full advantage of it. 11 Alpen muesli bars and one gel for the bike leg, and 3 muesli bars and two gels for the run leg.  I had to really keep reminding myself to eat on the bike.

Raymond, Darric, Baskaran and yours truly at swim start.
Swim Start
At the swim start. [Photo: Bok Juang Yi]
Viena, Serene and Elaine looking afar to spot their men.
[Photo: Ah Li]

Darric and Michael's wave was 6:24am, Kevin and mine 6:27am.  Ann Kheen, Jemmy and Charles were 6:30am together with the relay team's start.   Every body would walk in the knee deep shallow water all the way until the second red buoy out to sea (about 100m from the shore) and then the horn would go off and the wave would start.  The official explained to us that this 100m distance had been taken into account and this start from the second red buoy was because the water here was really shallow.

Yours truly walking in... [Video: Serene]

The water was warm.  That was a real consolation because nothing beats having the shock of cold water soaking through one's skin, especially for a tropical dweller like me.   And on this morning, the sea was really calm.  If I were to compare the water of Lagoi with Cebu, Cebu would be a little rougher.

Click on the image below to play the Strava Flyby for the guys' swim leg.
The Strava Flyby for our swim leg

Off we went, as the horn blew.  The wave start was kind of good for it ensured that we didn't have too many swimmers clawing at each other.  I didn't have to fight with many for positioning, and it was less frantic a start, compared with the rolling starts.  Sort of reminded me of the relaxed atmosphere down in Western Australia, sans the cold.   I really did care this time round.
I knew my weakness was sighting.  Under such condition, I had learned that it would be important to navigate by following the buoy line, by drafting behind someone and hoping that he or she was a good sighter, or navigate via swimming at an angle with the ripples on the seabed, provided that the water was crystal clear.

On this morning, my only recourse was to draft behind someone.  There was a skinny male swimmer on my left and a good looking female swimmer on my right, both of whom were swimming at about the same speed.  For this race, this strategy did me well, as I was able to be brought to the 400m yellow buoy.  By that time the male swimmer had drifted to my right and he was swimming wide of the buoy.  I left him there and took the acute angle.

Jemmy Ong showing the field what it meant to do a 36 mins swim.

It was a delightful swim from that point.  Not being a strong swimmer, I opted to still conserve like I did previously.  My stroke rate was really about 1.35 second per stroke, about 22 strokes a minute average.  The PZ3TX was good.  I was dead sure that it kept me more streamline.  This swim course was anti-clockwise sadly, which was a disadvantage to right breathers like me.

Ann Kheen just very slightly behind. But very close.
"I have noticed hor, that for countries driving on the right side, like in The Philippines, their swim course would be clockwise.  But for countries driving on the left side, their swim courses are anti-clockwise," noticed a very observant Kevin.  Probably from now on I would need to select right hand drive countries to race.
Kenn Poon outta da water.

I believed I swam relatively straight this round.  Jemmy was super fast, he was the first to come flying out of the water, Ann Kheen a close second.  And Darric, despite being in semi-retirement mode, was the third one out of the waters, right after Ann Kheen.  He was damn fast!  The other boys were fast too. Michael and Kevin were way ahead of me.  Stripping off the swim skin was a nice feeling, and running through the shower, properly having a wash down this time.  My watch said 46 minutes (official timing 47mins). Ok lah.  Couldn't complain liao lah.

Hui Mei outta da water.
Almeric outta da water.
Finally from this shot that Ah Li took, I could see those who I was fighting with in the water.

"Swimming is my thang," one of the powerful swimmers in our group ever mentioned, further emphasizing the importance of being proficient in any of the three legs. "So this triathlon becomes a Duathlon to me."  So true, so true.  But how many people could be such good swimmers?  Unless one trained for years in Chinese Swimming Club or as a National Swimmer.
Yours truly out of the water.
[Photo: Ah Li]

A video of Darric coming out of the water.
[Video: Ah Li]

Kevin so fast out of the water - exuberant!

Transition 1

Me one of the last few out of the waters, pulling down the Blueseventy PZ3TX.
[Photo: official FinisherPix]
Ann Kheen doing the initial chasing out of the waters.

The Manchester United diehard fan Darric showing his Man United colours on his wheel decals as he Man-U-ed out of T1.
[Photo: Fann or Ah Li]

T1 was faster for me this time round, taking about 2 minutes plus.  I think I'd improved on that.  Weeks and weeks of visualising the exact movements and exact steps, and practising mounting and dismounting the bike with shoes already cleated on them, certainly helped.  I paid particular attention to my heart rate as I ran out and after mounting the bike.  Following the regime of waiting for my heart rate to slow down on the bike a little while before I start to eat and drink had proven to be useful for me, because it reduced my choking and let my body settle down first.

Giving Serene a big 'MUACK' as I ran towards my bike.

Hop on and go.  My fastest T1 ever.

Fann was observing Charles: "This Uncle Charles was so meticulous. He would slowly put on his shades, and his helmet. And then steadily put on his cycling gloves..."

Uncle Charles slowly does it in T1. Steady like a rock.

Me: "Cycling gloves?"
Fann: "Yes, cycling gloves.  And then he will slowly put on his shoes and drink from his bottle.  Then he would run out with his bike... and then suddenly he would remember he forgotten something and he would run back to get it, and then run out of the T1 again.  But all these he did very steady.  Not kan cheong at all one."

Charles speeding out of T1. [Photo: Ah Li or Fann]

I still remembered at T1, as I was running out towards my bike, I saw Kevin walking towards me, pushing his bike towards the opposite direction.
Me: "Eh, Geok Lin, why ah?"
Kevin: "My seat post is loose.  I need to tighten it."
Me: "Hey I got the wrench on my bike leh!"
Kevin: "No need, I'll just walk to the bike mechanics.."
Kevin pushing his taped up bike out of T1.

And it turned out he had a broken seat clamp! A broken seat clamp?! That was really rare, but severe.  The bike mechanics tried making some calls but they didn't have any spare seat clamps and they could only tape up his seat post, hoping that it would hold.  It did hold, but merely for 10km.
"The rest of the cycle leg up and down the slopes I rode like I was riding on a rental bike," said a sad Kevin at the end of the race.
David flying right out of T1 after he received the timer chip from Kong Wan.

David, leaving T1 .. showing how to cycle the podium way.

Bike Leg

Click on the image below to play the Strava Flyby for our bike leg.
The Strava Flyby for our bike leg.

Bintan was famous for its rolling hills.  Short steep slopes, and frequent rolls.  I hadn't been riding on the roads for a long time, not to mention doing the rolling hills.  But I had to refresh my memory about the strategies of tackling these hills.  Having a 52/36 in front and a 12/30 behind helped a lot, as I had always been a spinner.  And three 600ml bottles of Elo water on the bike was a great reassurance.  Some parts had gradients of more than 15% but an average would be about 7-9% gradient.  For seasoned mountain climbers like some of my good cycling friends, this would be not too daunting.

What I personally found about a triathlon was, the two legs that were most not in one's control were the swim leg and the cycling leg.  The swim was dependent on plenty of factors - the surface wave, the deeper current, the wind speed,  ability to see clearly to sight... so on and so forth.  The bike leg could see one's performance affected by wind speed, by whether there was any mechanical issues or tyre punctures, and by the risk of crashing and accidents.  Many of these could not be controlled, and one would have to hope and pray that luck was on his side.   But once one was on the run leg, most things were under control already.  And that was the main reason why those who made it to the run leg would usually complete the course, barring unforseen circumstances like cramps or heat strokes etc. etc..

Very soon after T1, David came speeding and overtook me in a flash.
"Hey, Wee How!" called out David as he passed me. Very soon he was a small dot in the horizon.  Aiyah.. this mountain goat ah.  He was really the can.  Last year I overtook him on the bike.  This year David had his revenge on me. Hahaha.. life was like that.
Darric enjoying a cramp-less fast ride. 
[Photo: Bok Juang Yi]

My first official warning...

On this race day, the wind speed was about 14km/h southeasterly.  That wasn't too bad.  We wouldn't be hit by too much of a head wind.  A rolling terrain like this would see my speed dropping to single digits many a times, and even if there was some wind, it might not be significant.  Yet, the officials were still very strict when it came to drafting.
I was behind an Ang Moh rider and both of us were overtaking someone slower on our left.  After we overtook, we were still on the right trying to slowly cut in.  Then a motorbike with two officials came from behind us on our ride.
The Australian marshall on pillion called out to me in a stern voice: "Watch your spacing!"
 I nodded in acknowledgement.  See beh jiaklat.  Like that also can.  Heng ah, luckily it was only a warning.  No penalties given.

Ann Kheen showing that slow twitch muscles can also twitch fast once one crosses the half decade mark.

There were some accidents and some crashes, and that did take off several bikes and riders, unfortunately.  But sometimes these were simply bad luck.  I was praying that everyone would be spared from punctured tyres, for that kind of accident was really almost totally out of one's control and would definitely spoil the race.

The newbie smile - newbie but at this point of the race, already beat many oldies already.
Charles. [Photo: Fann or Ah Li]

The weather was still kind to us on the bike leg.  It started off nice and actually rather cool and breezy, about 7:30am in the morning.  I didn't want to push myself too hard, knowing what was to come.  Monitoring my power was the sole objective in my mind, and I believed I accomplished that pretty successfully.  Of course the Elo water helped, and I had no cramps on the ride.

Darric Elo-ing back eng-eng-cheng-cheng on the bike leg.
[Photo: Fann or Ah Li]

"Wah this Elo water really good," remarked Darric after the race. "I never train much, and I expected cramps.  But eh.. cycling cycling, still feels ok and no cramps. I could cheong even faster, because my legs felt good."

[Photo: official FinisherPix]

At 40km mark, I saw Sunny Yang and Michael Tsai and we all stopped at the 40km water station. My obligatory stop at every water station was important in replenishing my hydration.  But this round the PURE isotonic brownish fluid tasted horrible.  Even Ah Li pwee out her sip when I gave it to her at the end of the ride.  But at this time, this day when Michael, Sunny and I stopped at the 40km station, some of us were suffering.
"Wah, my neck is so aching!" complained Michael as we both left the water station.  I could empathise with his aches as my neck was feeling the same way.
Sunny Yang and I leapt-frog each other for a while until I lost him when he took off ahead.  Then Hui Mei and I took turns leap-frogging each other.

Yours truly on the way back.
This bike route had some stretches of rolling.  I remembered from around 30-40km there was a stretch of the roll, and then from 50-60km another stretch of roll.  The coastal road was a nice stretch of flat at around 65km marl.  And then the road led into the village again, with another terrible set of rolls ending in one helluva big ascend just before the turn back into the road to Swiss-Bellhotel.

Martin's bike was among the first casualties when he was crashed from behind by a female rider speeding downhill on her tri bike.  Aside from some road rash on his butts, his read derailleur stopped working.
"What a pity," lamented Martin. "Some more Batu swam very fast on the swim leg!  We appealed to the official to let Kae continue the run leg.  One said ok.  The other said cannot." I could sense Martin and Kae's frustration as they related their stories afterwards. They'd really trained for this race.

Hui Mei on the bike back.
Darric also witnessed another crash.
"There was this guy right in front of me on my left side," related Darric. "I passed him, and then he sudden slowly slowly like that swerved to the left side, as if he was slowly losing control of his bike, and then his bike hit the curb and he really got flung out."
Quite siong really.  I believed quite some cyclists were feeling the fatigue on the hills and had lost control of their bikes.  On the uphill, I spotted some cyclists getting out of their bicycles to push them uphill.  The hot weather and the rolling terrain had really taken a toll on all of us.

Yours truly quite chuan at the end of the ride.
[Photo: Fann or Ah Li]

I was really hoping to beat my own time last year.  But after three quarter of the distance, I knew I could not make it any more.  I was slower.  And I felt more fatigue.  I must have fallen into the mistake of under-dosing my nutrition.  This always happened when I was tired.  I was eating regularly one muesli bar every 15 minutes for the first one and a half hours on the ride.  But then the heat and the dehydration took over me.  In my fatigue, I forgotten to eat regularly, and at the end of the bike ride, I actually still had three muesli bars in my top tube pouch.  That had a big impact, in retrospect.  I was much more disciplined in Cebu in eating and eating and drinking on the bike.  But here I must have lost my focus and mental discipline somewhere half way through the ride.

The only thing that prevented me from thigh cramps was most probably the oxygenation from Elo water, and the BCAA inside the three bottles of Elo water.
As I slowly counted down towards the 90km, reducing the distance 10km by 10km, I started to get out of saddle to stretch my leg muscles and prepare for the run.  By then it was slightly after 10:30am and the breeze that I experienced while on the ride masked the gradually intensifying heat.  The isotonic drink did not taste nice at all, but I still gulped it down at every water station 20km apart, and kept one full bottle at least on the water bottle cage.  By then I had exchanged all my black 600ml water bottles, and was living solely on isotonic water.

Michael happy to cross the dismounting line.
[Photo: Fann or Ah Li]

Although I watched my power carefully, I could not help but noticed that my heart rate was creeping dangerously close to 150 bpm on several occasions.  And when I burnt my last match on the last few climbs, the heart rate exceeded my Lactate Threshold Heart Rate of 155 bpm.  I was sure I was going to suffer the ill-effects of this abandonment when it came to my run.  But at the point, I couldn't care any more.

Transition 2

Yours truly at T2. [Photo: Either Fann or Ah Li]
I would probably be shy to admit it.  But by the time I crossed the dismounting line running one my bare feet, I was quite sure my petrol tank had not much left, despite putting up a brave front and smiling hard at the supporters.

[Photo: either Ah Li or Fann]

I still had about three muesli bars left.  That was a crime under such scorching hot condition, almost suicidal.  I didn't know how it happened.  I must have lost concentration on the last 10-20km of the ride leg and neglected my food.  This was a mistake that time and time again I committed, whenever I was so shagged that I lost the mental discipline to refuel.  If I neglected my food, imagine how much neglect I could have done to my rehydration.  Looking down at the muesli bars, I made a mental note, reminding myself never to make that mistake again.

David to my rescue at T2.
[Photo: Fann]
"Wah Wee How, very good lah you!" called out David the Mountain Goat when I arrived back at T1.  Aiyah.. he see me too up liao lah, this David.  This time round after David cheonged ahead of me at about the 10-15km mark I never saw his backside any more.  Hahaha.. this year David had his revenge.
"Aiyah.. aiyah.. my racing bib... the button dropped out.  David, can you help me please!" wah lau.. I garang gabo in T2.  Luckily David was fast hand fast leg.  He fixed my racing bib in no time and I was good to go liao.

Kevin beating the bike time to cross the dismounting line, despite riding on a 'rental' bicycle. Hero!
[Photo: Either Ah Li or Fann]
I was among the last few to come back to T2.   The faster members of our team had already left their bikes racked and started their run.  I didn't see any more of those good fellows on the bike leg, and if I didn't see them, it could only mean that they had left me far behind in their trails.  I wasn't sure if I had much left in me.  Muscular fatigue would have set in by now, albeit cramps hadn't.
In my heart, I was thinking of Kevin.  How was he doing with his seat post all the way down?  How could one ever cycled on such a punishing terrain with the saddle down like a child's tricycle? I was worried that he might have DNF-ed the bike leg.

Fann and Ah Li were just as concerned.  And they waited.  And waited.  And then suddenly they saw afar, the green tri suit appearing.  And everybody cheered.

A video of Kevin back from his gruelling bike leg on his broken down bike.  Shagged like down know what.
But his spirit wasn't broken.  With trembling hands he gulped the last bit of water from his water bottle,
while Fann sang 'You'll Never Walk Alone' to him.
[Video: Fann]

Fann: "We really waited and waited.  The organiser announced 30 minutes more they will close the bike leg.  We waited.  20 mins. 15 mins.  And then 10mins, we saw Uncle Geok Lin coming on his bike!  I was so happy I sang his Liverpool song while he changed in the Transition!"
Finally, I got my acts together and ran out of T2.
[Photo: Ah Li or Fann]
I was determined to maximise my advantage.  Short of carrying a Camelbak, I hand-carried my last two 600ml of Elo water at the start of the run.  I was hoping that I could squeeze whatever oxygen I could out of those Elo into my hypoxic muscles.

Run leg

By the time I ran out of T2, it was about 10:50am.  A late morning in Bintan island was as mercilessly burning as any tropical island could get, especially if there was no trees.  And that lake by Lagoi Bay was one heck of a notorious lake for being shade-less.  At least (from those who complete the run leg in Putrajaya) Putrajaya had shades along the run leg, they would always compare.

Click on the below image to play the Strava Flyby for the guys' run leg.

Click to see the Strava Flyby for the run leg and how I got bashed terribly here.
Well, last year I had the luxury of Serene doing the run leg for me in our relay, and I only did 7km of the run.  So this year my karma was such that I had to suffer the consequences of my crime in making Serene run the 21km then.
Claire on her podium run. [Photo: Either Serene or Fann or Ah Li]

I started the run smiling.  I'd always did.  Until the run took all the wind out of me.  But right from the start I had to keep my facade going, for there might just be official photographers lurking around.  I didn't know where were all my friends.  All I knew was, the whole place was full of racked bicycles, meaning I was really really one of the lasts to come into T2.  Shucks.  Not again.

Alethea strong and powerful on her run.
[Photo: Either Serene, or Fann, or Ah Li]
It wasn't too bad right at the start of the run.  The sun was high and furiously beating upon us, but there were many runners with me.  Like last year, I kept being passed.  Everyone who ran up to me, would not fail to pass me, either on my left or right.  I kept wondering to myself why.  But for consolation reasons, I comforted myself that those who would overtake me were the fast ones.  Those slow ones who could not overtake me, would be left far far behind by myself.
That reasoning sounded good.  At least quite Ah Q.

Ann Kheen was unemcumbered this round by punctured tyres.. and he showed his full colours here on the run.
[Photo: Serene]
Serene, Ah Li and Fann were distributed all over the Lagoi compound.  And Bok was running all the way to even the other side of the lake with his Tua-Leng-kong lens to look for the guys to shoot.  These boys and girls were even more hard-working than us runners.

The Champion swimmer Jemmy on the run.
[Photo: Either Serene, Fann or Ah Li]
The run route had distance markings km by km.  Somehow the Bintanian unit in distance measurement seemed to be more imperial-like rather than metric-like.  Their 1km felt like 1 mile.  I could not exactly agree with the distance when I saw the signboard '1km' after I ran for what felt like eternity.
"Huh? 1km only? How could it be only 1km?" I thought to myself.

Now I know the secret to Darric's fast run - LONG and SEXY LEGS!!
[Photo: Fann]
Again, the consolation was the first lap of the run lake had plenty of company.  The difference was, the runners here were totally engrossed in their very own cocoon of sufferfest and had little or no words for their fellow participants, unlike the Ang Mohs down under.  The only people who gave me their full supports, verbally, in action, or by show of applause, were the volunteers in the stations and the athelets' own supporters.  In the severe heat, every little encouragement went a long long way.
Michael very fast on the run leg.
[Photo: Bok Juang Yi]
"Hey, 伟豪!" the unmistakable Taiwanese accent of the Taiwanese Star Michael Tsai called me as he passed me on the left.  It was not long after the start of my first lap.  And finally the inevitable happened.  A strong runner would always finish a triathlon race strongly.
"Michael, wah you are very good!  Don't let me hold you up. Keep going.  I will see you at the end!" I promised him.  But at this point in time, I wasn't that sure yet.
This Chee Wai ah... quiet quiet says knee pain.  But when he started running he really flew.
[Photo: Fann]
There went plenty of trees on the side of the run track.  But there were either palm trees or small little newly-planted botak trees with little protection against the UV rays.  There weren't that tiny short episodic stretches of temporary respite that the runners can hide under even for a few seconds.  Before the race, I was praying that I would arrive at each water station early enough for them to still have ice for me to put into my cap, or into the back of my tri suit.
Unfortunately, it could only be my own fault for not being at the stations one or two hours earlier, when the ice cubes were still solid.  What was left for me was sponge and water.  Thankfully on the first round, the water were still cold.  And I relished the coldness with a shudder of my head and body like a sexy model in swimsuit coming out of the swimming pool in a commercial.

This Raymond was quite something.  He finished the swim leg for one relay team, and then he represented another relay team to do the run leg!
[Photo: Fann]
So far, I had no cramps in my thighs.  Really heng ah.  7km done, and it felt like I had done long enough a distance to deserve flying across the finishing line.  I could only 眼巴巴 see the fast runner take to the left lane to the finishing line while I despondently detoured to the right lane for the 'Next Lap'.  Shucks.  Two more laps to go.  How was I going to tahan another 14 more km?
The second lap was still not too bad.  I still had plenty of company.

Claire- where got people run until so happy one!
No wonder she was podium. [Photo: Serene or Fann or Ah Li]

At the beginning of the second lap, I heard someone call out to me from the left side.  It was Kevin!!!
He made it!
"The official almost wanted to cut me off at the bike leg, but they gave me chance.  And I made it within the cut off time," he panted, as he told me exactly what happened to his bike.  So that was the reason.  It was only then did I realise how much more suffering Kevin had gone through, many folds more than any one else on a seat post of normal length.
It was later that Fann told me that when she saw Uncle Geok Lin struggling hard on his almost decapitated bike in front of the official vehicle, her eyes teared.

Kevin doing his utmost at the run leg.. the runner in him all fired up.
[Photo: Bok Juang yi]
This year Jemmy did better than last year it seemed.  He had his calf compression on which was what he sorely missed last round.  So had Charles.  Charles was a fast learner.  Being a slightly later starter, he caught up very quickly and learned the ropes from the experts in no time.  I had every respect for him, and would believe he would level up in no time.  On this run, Charles started off with his cap and ran until he had no caps on.  He must have felt that the air resistance of the cap dragged him down.

Charles had really proven himself to be of Half Ironman material up to this point.
But when he really shone on the run leg, every body knew he was truly Full Ironman stuff.
[Photo: Fann, Ah Li or Serene]

This year, the winner of the team turned out to be Ann Kheen.  He had been very consistent in his training, and despite being sick just a week before the race, he was able to retain sufficient fitness to ace the course.  Jemmy was a few seconds behind, really not far back, this hulk of an Ironman.  Jemmy had a totally different style of training.  He would go on very high intensity large volume training very near to the race day, and in fact, most of his sessions were at race pace.  And he thrived superbly well under such training condirtions.  Very imeresting, two styles of training, but both just as effective.  A great inspiration these guys, all on the not-so-ideal side of 50 years old and still doing so well!

Ann Kheen on the home stretch!
[Photo: Serene]
I'd read on an article by a 70.3 coach that when it came to the run, one had to subdivide it into 3 sections of 7km, or 4 sections of 5km.  That would break down the whole distance and made it easier for one to pace onself.  The objective of the first 7km would be to conserve and go on a really nice and easy pace.  But I had none.  For me, being a poor runner with constant ankle pain, even a slow pace would be agony.  The second 7km would be some kind of no-man-land where one could feel just lost.  The trick, the articel said, was to grit one's teeth and kept going.  I did, but felt even more lost.  In fact, I started questioning myself at this second lap whether I could complete the course.

Jemmy never missed a chance to pose for the camera, even on his last stretch towards the finishing line.
[Photo: Serene]

The life-and-energy-sucking issue about this Lagoi lake was, it was made up of meandering in and outs along its periphery.  So when one looked across to the opposite bank, the people and structures would appear mirage-like close, but in order to arrive at that point, one had to make don't know how many curves in and out and traverse another at least 2km before finally stumbling into the much-desired water station.

Yours truly trying my utmost best to give forward momentum to this heavy body full of inertia.
[Photo: official FinisherPix]
By the time I made that right turn into the last round, I was quite alone, spared some company by some of the slower runners like myself.  It was really lonely running like this, from many many runners till almost nobody left.  This was demoralising, and I kicked myself for being lazy and for not training my run better.  The water stations had all run out of ice, and even cold water.  The volunteer could only give me a helpless smile and offer warm water to pour over my head and body.  Whatever that was in water form was helpful. 

Kenn Poon don't know done how many 70.3 already. He the champion lah, he.
[Photo: Serene]
I envied the way the lean and light runners leapt on their feet and seemed to bound from one foot to another, with the lightness of steps.  I saw the way Michael, Kevin and other seasoned runners dashed forth.  It was really poetry in steps.  And after everything, I looked at the run time for all the lean and light athletes, and the whole impact became even greater.  I needed to do something about that bunch of adipose tissues around my waist.

Charles doing his rounds.
[Photo: Don't know either Fann or Ah Li or Serene]

And as if Upstairs heard our collective cries, the sky suddenly darkened, and clouds gathered.  Instantly the heat in the air dissipated and a drizzle of tiny raindrops came sprinkling onto our parched bodies. 
"Wah lau eh,"  I remembered distinctly at this moment I thought to myself, as demoralised as one could be. "From many runners, run until no more runners on the track.  And from hot hot run until the sky started raining.  This is really ridiculous.  Where got face to see people?"

But if I were to DNF right there and then., then I would really have no face to face my wife Serene and my daughters Fann and Ah Li waiting eagerly for me at the finishing line.  I hadn't come so far just to not complete the course.  Die die I must also finish it off, even if my timing was beyond the cut off time.

Die die also must smile.
[Photo: official FinisherPix photo]

Gradually, 15km became 16km.  And 16km became 17km.  The last few km was pure torture.  I looked back at my photos and I laughed at how contorted my ankles had become.  I was literally walking - quick walking.

Darric finally crossing the finishing line carrying baby Donovan with him - his wish came true!
[Photo: Bok Juang Yi]
I spotted the official photographer at the proximal shore as I rounded the corner and I started running, the moment he picked up his lens and aimed at me.
As I passed him I thanked him.
"Even if I walk, when I have to have my photo taken, I die die also must run and smile right?"  I joked to him.  And he laughed his butts off, this lovely man.  He was really patient.  Fancy waiting there until so late just so that he could capture the photos of the last few runners.

Alethea looking forward to her post race makan at this point in time.
[Photo: Serene, I think]

The last 3km was tiring.  I knew fatigue had set into not only my legs but also mu whole body.  Pure unfitness, if there ever were to be a description thus.  Ok.  No problem.  I'd just walk, and see if there was any way I could pick up my pace and run the last 1km.  The mud track upslope was finally in sight.  And the supporters at the side cheered me on.
"No. 721, keep going! You're almost there!"  shouted one lady.
At the signboard indicating one km left, I knew I had nothing left in me to run.  I could only simply walk down this last stone.  The Lagoi Plaza came into sight, and I started smiling to myself, somewhat deliriusly, from dehydrating and from severe lack of energy and imbalance of electrolytes.

Eddie, a seasoned marathon runner.  I only saw him once on the bike leg.  And then after that never saw him any more.
[Photo: Fann or Ah Li or Serene]
I wondered how the other guys felt on the run.  After the run, I asked Chee Wai how did he feel.
"It's really a nice run," he said. "Just that it was hot. Totally no trees one.  The guys were saying last year was even worse.  At least this year there was some cloudy sky."
This Chee Wai was really another champion material.  A runner by nature and a runner by training, he was always ready for any run.

Chee Wai, the Liverpool supporter, couldn't wait to cross the finishing line to see the final score of
Tottenham vs Liverpool.
[Photo: Serene]
There was this old old man whom I saw on the last lap of the round.  And he overtook me on the last 2km.  I was awed by his fitness at his age.  Imagine, still being able to do a 70.3 and still being able to accomplish it within time.  Inspiring to say the least.  I would never forget the sight of this elderly Ironman.

And from the corner of my eye I spied Ah Li and Fann on the left side of the carpeted runway.  And Serene in her pink Support Crew Shirt was on the right.

"Dar, I run with you!"  she shouted.  And this time, there wasn't any security to stop her from holding my hand and excitedly running along towards the finish, while Ah Li and Fann cheered and kept taking shots on their iPhones. 
Both of us cruised through the last 100m.  And I stepped hard on the timer belt right at the end, signifying my overcoming the tough course.  And at that moment, Serene and I brought our faces close, and we ended up naturally in a kiss.  And Fann teared again as her iPhone trained on us.


The volunteers were very caring towards me at the end.  I supposed they knew that for participants of my calibre, I could collapse any time and would require an ambulance.  But I had neglected to inform them that I recently did a CT Coronary Angiogram to ensure that I would not suddenly die of ischaemic heart disease at the finishing line.

What this nice volunteer said was true.  I recorded down shat she said to me, verbatim.
[Photo: Ah Li]

Post Race Athlete area

Limping into the area, I was so happy to see Hong Keat, Kong Wan, Claire, Chee Wai,. David and Ai Lin.  Man, it was such a relief to be in the company of these good people again.. And what more, to hear that Kong Wan, David and Claire's relay team came in podium in the race! My, that was really the highlight of the race.  Team EvoLV had a podium team in Ironman 70.3 Bintan 2016!
I was so proud of these people.  And I was proud of all my friends who excelled in the race, and of those first timers who overcame obstacles to complete the whole course.

Hong Keat, Chee Wai, Kong Wan, David, Claire, Ai Lin and yours truly.


So how was Bintan 70.3?
Man, that was a really difficult question to answer.  Not difficult in terms of how tough it was, because Bintan was never easy.  But difficult in the sense - how tough was Bintan as compared to Putrajaya?   I would never know, for I DNF in Putrajaya.  Neither do I have the desire to find out.  But I knew one thing.  From now on, I would try to look for nice and enjoyable destinations to race, and I would definitely stay near the race venue. 
For me that was important.
But like what some of the guys said: Not as important as the company, to which I would like to add, and as important as our loved ones and good friends who were there to support us!

Till the next race!!

Bintan was a tough race.