Motherhood: One Year In

Where do I start?

I was sitting down at my dressing table, blowing my hair just before I started typing this. (I can count the number of times I’ve been able to do this since I had Ollie) I notice a million grey hairs, some long, some merely sprouts, all over my head. I also notice the fish tail lines at the corner of my eyes are definitely more pronounced, and the spots on my face more defined. I was never somebody who took a great deal of care of my skin to begin with, but I did manage the basic cleanse and sunblock for my outdoor rides. Plus, I wore make up a lot more pre-baby, which probably concealed the spots on my face more hence I don’t see it as much. Sigh. I’m 34 going on 40.

I have been sending Ollie to day-care 3 times a week starting this month. It took me a lot of deliberation, especially since we were down to only 1 income, thanks to the Covid19 pandemic, and as it is, my income had already been halved since having a baby, because I can no longer do evening/night sessions with corporates or PT clients. I knew Gary is paying for way more than I was hoping he’d have to and the thought of that guilt trips me to the end of never. I compensate by saying ok to his training sessions and outdoor rides and runs, and then battle a silent argument in my head about how unfair it feels that I am stuck with baby ALL day and then when he comes home, I am STILL STUCK with baby. And that I never get to train as much as he does. Sometimes I stay quiet about it. Sometimes it boils over. And I can feel myself about to say some nasty things to my husband. I always regret it. Every argument.

To me, Motherhood is a lot of this. A lot of contradiction. I am frustrated whenever I don’t get to have a relaxing outdoor workout (yes working out, riding, running, busting my lungs in the outdoors is so relaxing) because I am always rushing back to see my baby. Yet I will never take my time after these sessions, even if Gary offered to let me have that time, because I always feel this need to rush home. I am angry that I spend a lot of time doing household chores like cleaning, tidying and cooking while minding our child (which is so difficult, I really super respect all stay at home mothers). I get upset, even though I already know Gary wants to put in a training session every evening, because I feel I need to rush through my dinners, or my showers or just anything so I can quickly take over Ollie and Gary can get on with his training, and I’d have to clean him, get him ready for bed, etc. But then when my husband comes home that day lamenting about how much his swim fitness has dropped, or how he gets dropped in the cycling pack, I get this pang of guilt. I know how much his sport means to him, and how hard he worked to get there, and I feel like I robbed him of it. But then what about me? I want to be fit, and competitive, and win races again, AND I want to be a present Mom, who can help her child develop by being around.

In my little circle of friends, there are 2 other families who seem to be somewhat in a similar situation like us i.e. both husband and wife remain competitive at the sport of triathlon while having a 1 year old toddler. They are Shahrom and Jessica, and Aldrian and Serena. I’m not super close to Shahrom and Jessica, but they seem to be doing great, their son Aaron was running around before 11 months, and they both still maintained their fitness levels. Serena and I are closer, and I’ve found her to be a very good friend and confidante this past year. I always benchmark myself against them, whether I want to or not, and in the one and only triathlon race we raced together this year, I lost terribly to the both of them, but I’ve come to terms with it. I did manage to excel in a handful of runs, which I am quite proud of. But enough about us, the mamas, how are the daddies doing? They all seem to be doing amazingly well, and though I think Gary managed to maintain his own fitness quite well, he always doesn’t think so, which I will again feel really bad about.

I sometimes wonder if I have changed a lot in this past 15 months. Am I still the same person I was before having a baby, does my husband still see me the same way? It’s something people hardly talk about, but I think it’s very important that the spark remains in your relationship as husband and wife. I know before I had Ollie, I was so determined to make sure we remain the same people, that we would organise date nights every month or so, that we will not be the kind of parents who drops everything for their kid in an instant. Part of my wanting so badly to get back into my career and my sport was because I wanted to be at least a little bit more like that girl he married, the fit, sporty Personal Trainer, who loved me some sweat and sunshine.

I have been watching a series n Netflix, The Letdown, and it’s about motherhood. As I am watching it I can almost feel my spirit transpose out of my body and look back at the woman I was those first few months of being a new mum – emotional, agitated, sensitive, and unreasonable. There were so many times I was unreasonable to Gary, when all he was trying to do was to help! I wish I could have handled it better, I intend to handle it better the next time round.

Anyway, this is it – motherhood, 1 year (14 months to be exact) on. My daily musings – Am I still the same person as before? Am I doing a good job as a mom to Ollie? Am I using my parents too much, and can I learn to be more independent, without having to trouble them as much? And how can I make more money so I don’t have to rely on my husband so much?

If any of you have the answers to any of the above, please let me know, thanks.

And just like that, it’s almost time to pick my son up from daycare – also another thing I debate with myself every day, should I go now, or later, now or later, now or later….haha…

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Getting back into the game

It’s been exactly 10 months since I gave birth to Ollie. 10 months prior to that, I probably didn’t even have the faintest idea how different my life would be 20 months into the future. I was training hard for World Champs in South Africa, and thinking that THAT’d be the one of the most difficult yet greatest achievements I would succeed in. How very wrong I was.

Life as a mom, as you all know, is not without challenges. Our little bundle of joy, is also a bundle of energy and a bundle of dirty diapers and spilled food. Oh, and being a semi stay at home mom (SAHM) means he’s also very attached to me. So when they say it’s not easy to juggle motherhood and life in general, they weren’t joking. And the optimist in me also decided to throw “Training for a triathlon” into the sardine packed mix. And although I have managed to juggle things a lot better these past couple of months, it is still not easy.

SO, on to my race report for the Port Dickson International Triathlon 2020.

I did not train much. Honest to God. I trained as much as I could, snatching little time opportunities here and there, with the greatest help and support from my family, Gary and my in-laws. But to say I had enough training would be a denial. I trained okay. But to be fair, I have been able to perform pretty decently in my runs, and my bike has also markedly improved of late. So that eliminates the fear of not being able to complete it. I just may not be able to go very fast once I put all 3 together.

The one and always fear I have would be the swim. I swim about a total of 1800-2000 m IN A WEEK. I am slow, in fact, I think I still swim like I am pregnant. Heh. BUT, I have ONLY been doing the front crawl, and have not once did any breast stroke. So in a way, that has improved. I’m finally comfortable with front crawl….somewhat.

Race Day. I was nervous. But also excited to begin. I wanted to feel what it was like again to be in a multisport event. I met all my friends, new and old, and actually felt quite happy to be in the transition area as a participant again. My fellow Mama triathletes, Serena and Jessica were also taking part. These two are so strong, you’d think they never had a baby. They’re amazing, and I look up to them greatly.

The Swim. When we were flagged off, I was pleasantly surprised that I felt quite comfortable in the water. I began my strokes and just swam like I would in the pool. I wasn’t pushing it, but then again, I really don’t have any other speed apart from that speed when it comes to swimming. So I just swam, stroke after stroke. I sighted quite a lot, and the little orange safety buoys everyone must wear confuses me, because I can’t really see which one is the BIG ORANGE buoy I am supposed to swim to. I had quite a few people around me for the first half of the my swim, but by the time I made the final turn to head back there were not many left in the water. When I finally saw people could stand up, I was super happy.

Photo by SoonPeng Lau

The Bike. This I was quite excited to get to. I have been putting in some solid indoor and outdoor rides and was eager to see if I had anything to show for it. I had a quick transition (luckily not so gelabah and could remember how to transition), hopped onto Princess Ava, and ate an N8 Refuel gel on the way out of Admiral. My legs felt strong, and I thought, this must be why everyone keeps saying switch to front crawl swimming. heh. I had one goal. Push as hard as I can and see who I can catch up to. I know I was way too late to catch any peloton trains. I had to do this solo. All the way I pedaled till my quads burned but as cliched as this may sound, my spirit burned even more, and I was on fire. I had to make up for the swim time, and in the past, my legs have never failed me on dry land. About 5 km in I overtook a guy on a roadie, and he soon latched on behind me. It didn’t bother me too much, I was just going to race my own race, and if he could hang on, so be it, but if he could go faster, he’s more than welcomed to overtake. Turned out, he hung on almost all the way, although there was once he went ahead of me and signaled for me to draft him instead, but after 3km, he gave up and said sheepishly “sorry, I tak boleh, you’re too strong!” I laughed. I said “Thanks anyway!” and went on ahead while he stayed behind me. About 4 km before the u-turn, I saw Serena on the other side riding strong in a fast train. She shouted out, and I felt ever so inspired to push even harder, though 8 km gap is really quite impossible to overcome without any pelotons to work with. After the U-turn, I worked with the tailwind and pushed even more to bring myself back as fast as I can. My drafter finally came in front and helped me in the last 5 km back to Transition, which was really good, giving me a small recovery window for my legs to attack again on the run.

Photo by Fali AG

The Run. Now this is usually where I shine the most, but this time I was slightly nervous. My legs felt like lead after pushing so hard on the bike. And I have not done any brick sessions yet! But thankfully, my New Balance FuelCell Rebels made it easy to find my running legs and in no time at all, I was crunching sub 5:00 on the tarmac. One by one, I chased down the women. I felt like I was a hunter. I actually felt a little bad when I had to overtake some of my gal pals. I’m sorry! But I really needed to do well to gain my confidence. When I hit the sandy stretches, I told myself to “Run Light!”. Briefly, I remembered the days when I was much younger and raced in adventure races, where we ran on road, trail, sand, you name it. We’d run with life vests, swim with shoes, and run with soggy shoes. So compared to that, this was a piece of cake! When I came into the finishing chute, I know better than to expect any sort of position. The OD distance is never my pet event, but I gave it a good go anyway :)

Photo by Ahmad Hufaizah (baby pouch can be seen here)

Turns out, I came in 9th position, and when I cross checked my timing with my 2018 results, I actually did about the same time in both the bike and the run, with only the swim slower by 2 minutes. That’s already a win, getting back into full fitness after having a baby. :)

Official results vs my Garmin results

Thanks for reading, if you have read all the way here. A lot of drama over a small family friendly race. But it meant a lot to me, and I know I told some of you that I was slightly disappointed because I was the last new Mama triathlete to finish, but I’m ok with it now. Like I said, they are amazing women whom I respect immensely. I felt happy to be able to race with them :)

With the Lougong. Photo by Albert.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ollie.

I’ve changed. On the 29th of April, 2019, our first child was born. Gary, has become a father. And I have become a mother. Here’s the story of how our little Ollie was born.

As we approach the 40 week mark of my pregnancy, it was decided that I induced my labour. It was a hard decision to make, one that sent me on a rollercoaster of emotions as we approach the date, but in the end, Gary and I agreed it was for the best.

On 29th April, Monday morning 8 am, Dr Yus came in to put the Prostin suppository. She said contractions will start in about an hour, so perhaps we will meet our baby in the afternoon. But they didn’t really start until about 11.45 am. Then, it was quite mild, even though the CTG scan showed they were there.

Dr Yus came at 1.30 pm and checked, dilation now about 2.5 cm, so she said maybe tonight baby will be out! For the next few hours, the wait was more painful than the contractions. Mum and dad stopped by at 4.30 pm to say hi and see how I was doing.

At roughly 6 pm, I had to go to the toilet. When I  came back to the bed, water started flowing out from me. Started as a little bit, then it became more and more and soon felt like it was gushing out. The whole mattress protector was wet with fluid and blood. Gary called the nurse and she asked me to put on a pad to check and see if it was really my water bag that had broken. I did and within seconds my whole maxi pad was soaked through. I was so afraid to move, I stayed lying down on my bed, feeling the water soaking through my hospital sarong and the new mattress protector.

My doc was busy at that time but she has been informed. The nurse did a dilation check and I was still only 3-4 cm dilated. But with the amount of fluid coming out I feared the water levels were fast depleting.

At 7 pm, the nurses wheeled me into the delivery room on my bed, then transferred me to the delivery bed. I can still feel water flowing steadily out nonstop and the contractions, the real ones everyone keeps telling me about became stronger and stronger. My dilation was still only 4 cm, so, the nurse said it might still be a while, roughly 1 cm per hour. I thought I was going to deliver past midnight. I told Gary to go have his dinner quickly. I breathed through every contraction, which were coming every 2-3 minutes now, and was so intense I was gripping the sheets so hard. I tried to focus on objects, colours, sound around me, and kept telling myself to open open open! The nurse told me a couple of times that if I wanted pain killers, I can say so. I breathed and through clenched teeth, said I was doing fine.

At 7.45 pm, Gary came back and I was writhing in pain. Dr came and checked and said still about 4+ cm. She proceeded to remove the urine from my bladder which she said was blocked by baby’s head hence I was unable to pee it all out, and also might be what’s causing the slow dilation progress. The pain shot through the roof after this. And I think I was going “Aaaaahhhhh!” pretty loudly.

At 9 pm the nurse asked me if I wanted pain killers, and after thinking that I still have a good 4-5 hours to go, I agreed to have the butt jab of Pethidine. Within 20 minutes I started feeling really drowsy, but the contractions were still there and they woke me up each time I dozed off to sleep.

I’m not fully aware of what happened after this, but I remember Dr Yus coming in and checking and she said 8 cm. I looked over at Gary and said “that escalated quickly!” Then shortly after, she came again and checked and she said 9 cm. And I looked at the clock and it wasn’t even 10 pm yet. Then, at the next contraction, I woke up to doctor saying “10 cm, ok let’s go”. It was about 10 pm on the clock.

Throughout the push phase, I wasn’t fully awake, but I could hear the doctor and the midwife guiding me on when to push. I knew I had to wait for the contractions, and I knew they told me to “Continue, Continue!” I could hear Gary telling me “Come on Hunny, Allez!”. I was grabbing onto the handles like my life depended on them, and at some points I think I may have raised my butt up too. I keep hearing doctor say, “Sikit lagi sikit lagi!” So I don’t know how many times I pushed but I felt it, a big blob of jelly coming out. It was the biggest feeling of relief, ever!! 10.18 pm, was the time recorded when Ollie was born and placed on my chest. The most adorable piece of mess I have ever held in my arms. ♥

Full name: Oliver Ben Fong Kayzen
Birthday: 29th April 2019

Our first family photo

Ollie and his Por Por

Ollie and his Gong Gong

Categories: garenjunior | Leave a comment

2018.

So it’s a few hours shy of the first day of the new year. I used to do a wrap up cum resolutions list few years ago, but realised I missed it in 2016 (the year I got married), and in 2017, I kept it short, somewhat bittersweet and slightly emotional. You can read about it here, I just did. And from those short 8 paragraphs, I teared up halfway through, and then laughed softly at the end of it. I guess I’m pretty good at making some resolutions come true :D

Here’s 2018 in bullet point.

  • I started the year with The Running Plan, and a new personal best target of 3 hours 45 minutes for the marathon. Like any other training plan, I start out excited and full of determination. Along the way I hit some bumps, and doubted my ability to meet the target. I wondered if I ever had it in me to be that good a runner that so many people say I can be. I went into race already consoling myself that it was okay if I did anything under 4 hours. I crossed the line in a net time of 3:44 at the KL Marathon – one of my proudest moments of this year.
  • When the marathon was done, next on the agenda was the Ironman 70.3 Worlds in September. Again, I wanted it to be epic. I know getting a spot in the WC was already reason to celebrate, but I didn’t want to just celebrate that. Because I knew not everybody had this opportunity, I wanted it to be the best damn race I’ve ever done. That was mistake number 1. I placed so much external pressure on myself because of this, ended up almost burning myself out as I failed to meet the performance targets I wanted so badly in the last 3 weeks before race day. I broke down a couple of times, regretting ever taking home the WC coin, and wanted nothing more than to be done with Swim Bike Run and racing. It wasn’t my best race. I missed my PB target by so much, it’s a joke. The experience was priceless, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t stung by the feeling of defeat whenever I thought about it. Then again, I was 5 weeks pregnant on race day.
  • I am pregnant. JOY! When I found out I was pregnant, I was thrilled. I had wanted to be for a while now, and when I was slowly giving up on training for triathlons, the desire to be a mother grew. I just hadn’t expected it to happen so soon! But Gary and I are both very happy. (Took Gary a while, but he’s getting there). I’m 22 weeks pregnant now, turning 23 in a couple of days. I enjoy feeling all the kicks and punches with my hands every day. I look forward to watching all the weekly videos, and to attending my monthly check ups. But I have to admit, the FOMO is REAL. Missing out on rides, runs and races really bum me out! Not being able to feel the wind in my face, taking more than 30 minutes to run 5 km, needing an extra recovery day after every “long” workout, and kissing goodbye to potentially winning (though I managed a 10th place recently, completely to my surprise, haha) is not funny. I know my body is building a miracle. I know I am nourishing and creating life. I know all this sound extremely amazing. But sometimes, I really wish I can pause it just for a couple of hours, and go out on a 60 km ride with Gary and the rest. But, my baby, I cannot wait to meet you, hold you in my arms, messiness, sleepiness and everything. This I promise you.

So 2018 has been BIG. I am quite happy with it, and will give myself a pat on my back for pulling through it.

2019, I know you will be BIGGER. In a very different, yet no less daunting way. Life will change, for me, for Gary, for us as a couple. And I know that there is a high likelihood that half or maybe even none of these plans will go accordingly, but here they are anyway.

  • I want to be a stronger person. I want to be the mother my child needs me to be, the wife my husband married, the daughter my mother raised, and not give up on these targets as easily as I did on my athletic targets. I will falter, but I will get back up. I will cry, but I will not stop trying.
  • I want to be more open minded, and still stubborn, but only in not giving up. I will learn from my amazing mother and other mommies around me.
  • I want to love my family fiercely, and guard them and the relationships I have with them fiercely.
  • I want to find my love for triathlon again. It’s there, although I kind of buried it while training for WC, I know it’s there. I want to get back into my sport as soon as I can, and knowing that it will be challenging, I will not let that deter me from climbing back onto the saddle.

Have a happy new year everyone. xx.

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

New Chapter, baby.

We’re having a baby!

I’m sure by now you’ve seen our little (carefully crafted) “We’re Pregnant!” photo announcement. The concept was my idea, but props to photographer Gary for the amazing photo. Both Gary and I are super excited, kinda nervous, but feeling an immense amount of gratitude to God, to the universe, to Life, for granting us this unimaginably amazing gift.

Yes, we were planning on starting a family soon. I was prepared to put all Ironman racing on hold after the World Champs in South Africa. So I have not signed up for anything major after September, even though our friends have already lined up their 2019 race calendars. Trust me, the FOMO (fear of missing out) is real. I just had to tell myself that I’m going after a different kind of prize, one that’s no less daunting, no less challenging, but, I’m pretty sure, a million times more rewarding.

In the weeks leading up to our great big South African trip, I was feeling the nerves. I got injured, had to stop running for a while, trained hard to get my fitness back on track, only to feel myself caving in to the pressure and stress that I put onto myself in the final couple of weeks. I did not get my period in August, and I was so sure it was stress related, as I was failing to meet my performance targets in swimming, cycling and even running in the last few days before we flew off.

Come 1st September, Race Day, I knew there was nothing else I could do except to put my best foot forward, and race as hard as my heart, lungs and legs would let me. It was a tough race, one that had me in tears, but I finished it with my head held high, and I was more than ready to get on with my vacation, finally!

After Port Elizabeth, we rented a car and drove to Knysna, our first stop. Gary was still training for IM Malaysia this November, so I tried my best to support his training program. He had a 14 km run scheduled, so he dragged my exhausted body out of bed the next morning, and ran around the quaint little town. It was cold, but really beautiful. I was pretty exhausted though, so I wasn’t a very good training partner, but having just completed a 70.3 IM, I think I was doing pretty okay.

Knysna, pronounced “nice-nah” was breathtaking.

The next stop was Botlierskop Private Game Reserve, a luxury one night safari package. If you ever make a trip to South Africa, you HAVE to go to one of these things. It’s not cheap, but it’s out of this world. We saw so many different types of wild animals, free roaming, and pretty up close. We even had the opportunity to sample of these exotic game meats, which I must say, once is enough. I think I’ll stick to ayam percik, thanks.

I think I’ll stick to fish and chicken and pork. Thanks.

Having a cup of red wine at sunset, my last glass of wine.

After that, we drove to Hermanus, a slightly bigger town, close to Cape Town. A destination for whale watching, it was a beautiful town, with the most laid back feel, ever. It didn’t take long for us to notice that it was a place for retirees and their holiday homes. We had 2 nights here. Gary had us signed up for a spin class at a local gym at 6.30 am the next morning, which again, I dragged my sorry, very tired butt to. Happy husband, happy Ironman, happy holiday. Later that day, though, a random crossed my mind…my period never came, and sure it was probably stress related, but that usually just delays it. And I am feeling a little more tired than usual, even though I did just finish a 6 hour race. I usually bounce back quite fast though. Could it be….? I had nothing to lose. So we hopped into a pharmacy and from a very helpful and enthusiastic pharmacist named Yolanda, we purchased a pregnancy test kit.

Two lines means positive. There’s no other way around it.

The next morning, I woke up bright and early, and did the test. I didn’t have any expectations, I wasn’t really feeling anything at all. I just did the test for fun. But then, the lines appeared. And from that moment on, I felt very….different. It was as if I suddenly acquired hypersensitivity to everything that was happening to me, to my body. Like some weird Spidey senses, I paid extra attention to how I felt, what taste was in my mouth, what mood I was in, what tingling feeling was that in my abdomen, in my lower back, in my feet….everything felt weird, I was cautious.

Gary took the news very calmly, like he didn’t quite believe it. We went back to the same pharmacy later that day, and Yolanda was there with the biggest smile on her face. She pulled me close and eagerly asked me “Please please tell me, what was it?” and I laughed and asked her in return “How accurate are these tests?”. “VERY”, she said. To which I nodded with a big smile on my face. And she was so happy for us! She said to Gary, “you’re a very very lucky man, she’s so beautiful! You HAVE to come back to Hermanus with your child next time!”.

So Yolanda was the first person to know about it. The rest of our trip, my enthusiasm slowly dwindled as the sickness and loss of appetite slowly set in. Not to mention, the both of us catching the cold and feeling absolutely lousy on our flight home. No alcohol was a bummer too. But deep down, I was trying to hold my excitement, and could not wait to go for a proper test to confirm these results.

We talked about it at lengths, and we both agreed that we are truly blessed. The timing could not be any better, I was still able to race at World Championships (which meant my baby did too, at 4 weeks old), and we didn’t have to play the waiting game. We know how hard it is for many couples who had to endure month after month of waiting.


Hello, baby!

I’m now 12 weeks along, and the journey has been very good. I had my share of nausea and fatigue and loss of appetite, but I think my baby and the hormones have been kind to me. I have not thrown up, and now I’m almost sickness free. I have been good with my daily exercise to keep myself fit and healthy, but nothing too crazy.I am so overwhelmed by the love and well wishes that everyone has sent our way since our photo went up yesterday. Once again, I feel really blessed and grateful to be able to share this journey with so many family and friends. I have wanted to start blogging about so many different things before, I finally have something worth blogging about. :)

Categories: garenjunior | 1 Comment

The Ironman 70.3 World Championship 2018 – Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Racing in the World Championships is a dream come true. I know that I am extremely lucky to be given this opportunity. From the moment we stepped foot into the race village and expo, the atmosphere has been phenomenal – athletes from all over the world, young and old, big and small and all beaming with confidence and strength. And meeting the pros! Gary and I had the chance to meet a handful of pros and it was like meeting super rockstars!

Race day

SWIM: The water was reported to be 15°C and my heart sank. I managed to get my breathing sorted the day before but I don’t know if I can do it again. Anyhow, when it was my time, I ran in and shut my eyes and tried to dive into the oncoming 🌊. But as soon as the cold water hit my face I felt the same chest tightening sensation again. Everyone around me disappeared and the wave after me have started making their way past me. Breathe, breathe, I kept telling myself, trying to force my head into the water but I couldn’t. I choked and spluttered about and in short, I had to stop and hang on to 3 different kayaks in the first 800m of the swim. But I owe it to these lifeguards on kayaks, they were very encouraging and one guy made me promise him that I will not give up and give my absolute best. I owe it to him. I told myself, if Harum Delima can swim 3.8km, I surely can do 1.9km. Further out, the water became warmer and I finally managed to control my breathing, and after I made my first turn (800m) I managed to keep swimming all the way. I stuck to breaststroke because I lost all sense of water confidence. I made my way onto the beach and I wasn’t even sure if I made the cut-off (1 hour). Thankfully it was 55 minutes, and I can still race! There were wetsuit strippers and it felt a little weird but whatever, gotta keep racing!

BIKE: As I guessed, my bike was sitting there alone. But it’s okay. It’s my race against my own time. I tried to transition quickly. And as I exited, I saw Gary 😄. I tried to ride strongly out, but the moment we got onto the coastal way, the wind came from everywhere! My nose was running like a tap and the rough road surface was extremely uncomfortable, it was difficult to really push because so much energy gets sapped away through the vibration. My fellow competitors were zooming by but I felt strong enough to to keep up with some of them. At about 33km in, I noticed my BTA bottle had lost the top piece (which locks it in place) and it was shaking loosely. From experience, this bottle will not be able to stay without the lock, and I didn’t want to risk it flying away and endangering somebody else, so I stopped by the side of the road, put the bottle by the side and bid goodbye :(. Onwards and forewards, I fought the wind and rough surface to the best of my strength, and then came the hills. Wind + rough road + hills = very very exhausting. I noticed it also slowed down many other cyclists, so I am not that bad after all, heh. Just told myself to keep my head in the game, watch my power, and keep my legs moving. Soon, it was on the way back to T2, and the wind direction slowly changed from head, to cross, and finally in the last 15km stretch we had a bit of tailwind to give me that last boost all the way home. Sub 3 hours was impossible to achieve, so I had a target of 3:15, and thankfully I managed 3:12:50 so yay, me! As always, I was ecstatic to be off the saddle, and looking forward to hit the pavement in my New Balance race shoes now!

RUN: My legs were pretty pumped from the tough bike course, but the weather was a wonderful 20 deg C and the sun was shining, so I was determined to run like I stole Lucy Charles’ bike! One huge difference racing in the world champs compared to any other event, EVERYONE hits the ground running! Not a soul stopped to walk. And EVERYONE was running at a 4:45-5:15 pace. I guess I was used to drawing inspiration from overtaking people, but this time around I drew motivation from keeping up with some very strong women! It didn’t take me long to observe that I was running alongside women with grey hair and wrinkled skin but were holding up very strongly! I kept my pace up, and after the first loop, I tried to push a little bit more and finally I made my turn into the finishing chute. I reached into my back pocket, pulled out my Malaysian flag, raised it above my head and sprinted to the finish! Run time was 1:49:45.

Total time: 6:06:45. It’s far from my best, but it was a world of experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I’m so glad I pushed through the cold water, I powered though the bike, and smashed it on the run. I’m so glad that I did not give up nor did I give in. Because this big ass finisher medal is worth something money cannot buy.

Huge shout out to Gary Fong, my husband, my manager, my chauffeur, my number one fan, and my reason to finish. My family in home and in Brisbane, my friends back in KL, and in some other parts of the world, thank you for tracking me and sending me all the good vibes! Thanks to my product sponsors Lifeline-ID, New Balance Malaysia, Garmin Malaysia, Aftershokz Malaysia and Giant Bicycles Malaysia for your undying support. 

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

32.

So I’ve finally lived a full 32 years and am going onto my 33rd. How do I feel? Let’s start with my birthday itself. People have been asking me what I want for my birthday. To be very honest, I cant think of anything! Honestly, I really do have everything I need in my life and I am truly grateful for what my life has brought me. I have a loving husband, with arms always ready for me to fall into whenever I was doubting myself, my life, life in general. I have the best friends a girl could ask for. I have an amazing family, my mom and dad, they still treat me like I’m their little girl, never once did they make me feel like I had to grow up and be an adult. They never falter whenever I ask anything of them, and they never will. My brothers, both the big one in Aussie, and the small one at home, always got my back, no matter what.

I don’t need anything. I have everything I would ever need and my life is perfect. But what do I want? Well, believe it or not, today being Mother’s Day, I want to celebrate Mother’s Day. I have so many friends of mine who are mothers, who are going to be mothers soon, and I envy them.

Reading about what their kids do for them, reading about what their husbands say about them, these are the true Wonder Women of the world. Every mother I have ever met and known, have such strength, grace and love for their children, it’s insane. Their passion never fading, their grace never wilting, and their love never ending. I can’t imagine what it must feel like, to have this impossible amount of love for another life you’ve only just met.

I want to feel that.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Training for a Marathon

Now that the biggest running event of the nation has settled down, I figured I’d do a post race analysis for you fitness geeks out there.

The marathon was a little test to see how much better a runner I can be, if I worked hard at it, and focused on improving my strongest element. For those of you know don’t know me well, I am a triathlete, but I am a pretty lousy swimmer, I am a mediocre cyclist, but when I hit the road on my two legs, I feel at home. Running has always been and still is my very first love.

So after dabbling in long distance triathlons for the past couple of years, I realised my running performance has been erratic. I sometimes do pretty well, and would think “Hey, cycling really improves my run!”. Then, sometimes, because Tri training takes so much out of me, my runs tend to suffer. Although, in the Triathlon world, I do alright, and all my triathlon races are saved by my run.

This year, after having missed out on running full marathons for 2 years, I decided to go back into it. My personal best time is 03:55:17 in Auckland, New Zealand, 2010. Ever since then, I have attempted numerous time to break it back on Malaysian soil, but even a sub 4 hour timing seem unattainable. I managed a 3:59 once, but I borrowed a friend’s bib, and did not run through the finish line. I managed a 3:55 a couple of times, both of which were under distanced. It was frustrating.

This year I wanted to do it properly. I got myself a 14 week Running Plan, which started on 1st January, and would end nicely on 8th April, which was Standard Chartered KL Marathon. My target? I boldly set at 3 hours 45 minutes. I was pretty gung-ho about it, and took the first couple of weeks very seriously. As the weeks went by, I struggled a little to cope, because on top of the 4 day running program, I squeezed in 1 swim session, 1 bike trainer session and 1 long bike ride into my week. That is the barest minimum of Tri training, and I did that because I had an Ironman 70.3 coming up in March. But I tried as best as I could to do 80% of my runs.

Then, the races started to come. The first one was Malaysia Women Marathon on March 4th. This was to be my B race, and also a trial test to my run fitness. I targeted a humble sub 4 hours, and I had expected it to be a relatively easy pace to keep. Truthfully, I didn’t take it as seriously, as I didn’t taper much, and had even gone for a 48km bike ride the day before. On race day, when we hit the 3rd loop, with all those hills in Shah Alam, my legs were screaming. My pace was the pace that I had set out to do, but in no way was it an easy pace. I struggled to keep up with Yim, the 4:00 hour pacer. I managed to finish the marathon in 3:55, but the distance was only 41.8 km. And I was so exhausted from that run, it wasn’t funny. I was disappointed, and started to doubt if I could meet my goal in a month’s time.

Still upset about my run, I stopped following the plan for a while, and concentrated on a crash course of swim and bike, in time for the next race – Ironman 70.3 Taiwan, on the 18th of March. In this event, my swim was horrible, but my bike wasn’t as bad as I had expected. My run was, surprisingly, a lot better than my previous tri! This gave me renewed faith in me and I started to believe in myself again.

One week after Taiwan, I went for a 21km Rawang Bypass Challenge on 25th March. Another crazy set of hills, and although it was short by more than 1 km, I couldn’t be any happier. I struggled to maintain my pace, my legs felt like a ton of bricks and I didn’t feel very good at all. I was not happy. My body was feeling extremely tired after that and it took my mood down with it.

At this time, I had 2 more weeks to go to SC KL Marathon, and I started to tell everyone (more to protect my own feelings) that I don’t think I am going to meet my target. I would be happy with anything under 4 hours. I fell into a rut, so I gave up training for a few days, and just allowed myself to recover. I went running on Wednesday, 3 days after Rawang, and managed a painful 5 km. I went running on Thursday, and again, a painful 6 km. On Friday I pushed myself to get 10 km in, and felt slightly better this time.

The next week, race week, I made sure I rested. I did a couple of strength training sessions on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday was my crazy day, so no workouts there. Ran 7 km on Thursday and that was it! No workouts on Friday and Saturday.

On April 8th, Sunday, I was nervous. I prayed that I wouldn’t meet anybody I knew, because I was afraid that I would get distracted by them, and try to start out too fast and burn out miserably half way into the race. At the start line, Gary kissed me good luck, and told me to just run naturally, run for myself, and enjoy the run. I nodded, but the nerves were anything but natural. I was fidgety.

Gun goes bang, and I started off at a casual 5:45 pace. Fell into a good rhythm and started to focus on my breathing. I tuned in to the music in my ears from my Aftershokz, and just tried to be calm. “Come on, Karen, running is in your blood. Just run!” I pep talked myself over and over. I knew the GPS on my Garmin would start off a little wacky, as it always does during KL Marathon. Something about the tens of thousands of GPS signals bouncing off tall skyscrapers. So I ignored my watch, and decided to run on feel and instinct.

I reached the 10 km mark and had a glance at my watch, and felt quite happy that it was only 51 minutes, and I was doing alright. I maintained my pace, passed by a few friends and kept going steadily. When I came to the 21km mark, the time was 1 hour 51 minutes, so my pace has probably gone a bit faster in the last 10 km. Its okay, don’t speed up just yet, I told myself. That’s where I met Allison, an incredibly strong and talented young athlete. She looked like she wasn’t having too good a day, so I decided to pace her for a bit. It was also good for me to keep my own pace in check, no increase in speed, and conserve my energy for the impending hills that would come by from KM32 onwards.

At KM31, Allison told me to go ahead, and I gave her one last pat on the back, and wished her good luck as I went on my way. At this time, the pace had slowed down a bit, and it was 2 hours 50 minutes in. If i wanted to make 3:45, I had to run the next 11 km in 55 minutes, and there were hills coming my way. I had better push harder.

I stepped up my pace, and went for it. Whenever I hit the hills, I cannot thank my bike training enough. And thankfully, I’ve had quite a few hilly runs this year to beef up my running legs! On I went, averaging 5:00 pace, dipping below 4:55 on several occasions too. I dug deep, and made sure I did not slow down.

5 km to go, and I had less than 30 minutes to spare. Come on, Karen, one last push and you can retire from marathon running! So I ran. Strong. Hard. Confident.

And then I saw it. The Finish Line. The big yellow Seiko clock ticking away at 3:44:40. It must’ve been about 100m away, and I made a dash for it. I saw the seconds ticking, 50…51…52…53….I must’ve been sprinting but I felt like everything was happening in slow-mo. 57…58…And I’m there! 3:44:59!

Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor
The infamous Finish Line photo…for all the wrong reasons, hahaha!

Of course, this meant my chip time is at least 30 seconds under that! Was I happy? Hell yeah! I was ecstatic! I made it! I wanted to jump!….but my legs wouldn’t let me. Hahaha…

Anyway, that was how I met my 3:45 target. It’s not a very fast time. But to me, it took hard work and dedication. Hence the reason I decided to share this with everyone. It is not easy and there are no shortcuts. If you want to get something, you have to work for it.

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

2017, over and out.

It’s less than a week to Christmas, and before the festivities and *ahem* debauchery begins…(and by debauchery, you know I really mean, I’ll wake up at 8 am instead of 6, eat pasta on non race days, drink 1 maybe 2 glasses of wine, go to bed at past midnight, run ONLY twice a week, and go crazy on cake)…I thought I’d pen down some reflections from this year, and some wishful thoughts for next year.

This year was the year we truly became an Ironman couple! I know that for many of you, this might sound absurd that I take this so seriously that I count this as a significant milestone, but if you walked (or actually, swam, biked and ran) a week in my shoes, you’ll see how much of our world actually revolves around this admittedly crazy hobby. But it is kinda our thing so when Gary crossed the line at Gurye, Korea, and was pronounced an Ironman, I was extremely happy about that! Of course, I also managed to break many of my own personal records, which I am obviously stoked about too.

Aside from celebrating our first wedding anniversary, we had also made some other pretty significant married-couple-esque decisions like installing new cabinets and upgrading lights, pillows, and bed linens in our home. I had also worked a little harder on expanding my cheffing skills, and was quite pleased to be able to churn out some pretty mean home cooked dinners on a more regular basis. So, as a newly wedded wife, I would say I unlocked plenty of achievements!

On my career front, I think I could’ve worked a little harder to secure more deals, because I think I was pretty stagnant. But I guess I was just a little weak mentally, and chose, instead, to spend all my energy on my training. This is not good, and I think 2018 can be a lot better career-wise. Next year, I intend to beef up my resume a bit more, and plan my time better, so that I can fit everything in, work, play, and life.

On a personal level, 2017 wasn’t exactly a bed of roses. As expected, when training for the Ironman got too tough, and I lose sight of the other more important things in my life, I crumbled a couple of times in despair. I fought with Gary over the silliest things, and many times I wondered why I continued to pursue this. I still wonder! hahaha…but I know that deep down, I actually do enjoy this, as sadistic as it may seem. Because the moment the opportunity to race again arises, I’m all over it again.

As a woman, I sometimes feel like I judge myself too harshly. I feel like I have to meet expectations of so many others. To myself and the athletic community, I expect to be the best damn athlete I can be, pushing my limits every day, and achieving success after success. To family, I expect myself to be a good wife, a good daughter and God knows how much I really want to be a good mother as well. I fawn over pictures of my nephew and my friends’ children, gushing over their cute little videos. There were moments when I start to get on my bike for a hard training session, I feel a sense of emptiness. There were times I am sitting at home, and loneliness will slowly take over, and I would yearn to have a little bub of my own.

It was a pretty tough pill to swallow, when I made the decision to postpone my “retirement” from racing again. But the decision to hold off starting a family was something I made together with Gary, and I know that it is just another year. Plus, there is so much to be excited about next year, South Africa being one of them. And I am looking forward to it!

So, thank you 2017, for shaping our lives into something so amazing. I had a great year.

2018, I am taking you by the bull-horns and making sure you’ll be far greater than I can even imagine, and hopefully by end of September, I can finally move on to the next phase of my life. That’s a promise I am making to myself.

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

On money. and life.

Today has to be the gloomiest day of November.

On top of the non-stop pitter-patter of rain outside my balcony, I come across not one, not two but three pieces of really sad, depressing news. It’s no wonder people stop reading the news, and start focusing on pictures of food instead. Because the real world is really not pretty at all.

I feel sad. Sad, that I am but the tiniest speck on this planet, worrying about where to stay in South Africa next year, when I come across news on student trafficking, the expose by R.Age. The deplorable living conditions were just heartbreaking to say the least. I felt a raw sense of anger and guilt to be a Malaysian, the very nation that conned these innocent students and robbed them of their life savings by promising them education in my home country. Education! The very word itself is supposed to hold a shiny, glowing promise of a better life, now tainted with bitter taste of deceit.

And then there was the news about the couple in Singapore, who took an intellectually challenged friend in, only to abuse her, psychologically and physically for 8 months till the day she died. That is wrong on so many levels. I really don’t know if there really is grace in this world.

And finally, a bit of news about an old friend, suffering from a medical condition for most of her life. She battles tumour after tumour, and writes books and speaks at events to raise money to fund her surgeries in the states. She’s a fighter, and I don’t know why it took me so so so long to make a contribution. That made me feel guilty too. Sad and guilty, that I can only donate so much, because my human instinct is to save money for myself, for my hobbies, my interests, my life. It’s the basic instinct of survival, but so so so selfish on so many levels too.

I feel sad. That I can only offer so little, almost pointless in the grand scheme of things.

Today’s a sad day. :(

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment