I’d be lying if I said I was calm as a clam for this race. I had started Ironman training from about February, and I’m happy to say it has been going well. Thus far, every event I’ve taken part in has proven that my training is paying off, and I am quite pleased about it. For a training-averse person like me, these race results speak volume and will motivate me to keep it going till September.
So when the time came to race in Danang, I was struggling a little to hold the butterflies down. There is, in my opinion, a fine line between being very confident about a race and feeling the pressure of that confidence, knowing full well that one small mistake, and your hopes might come crashing down on you faster than you can imagine. So, breathe in, breathe out, was my mantra on Sunday morning.
Swim. Target: Anything under 50 mins. To freestyle or not to freestyle? Let’s see. The sea was calm-ish. A quick dip in the water before race start confirmed that no sea lice or jelly fish was present this morning, which I think was extremely lucky of us. The temperature was perfectly cool, and I was feeling strong. To freestyle it is! I started with the 35-40 minute group, but I knew I was definitely a 45-50 minute gal. It’s okay, I couldn’t wait that long. :) I ran in Baywatch style until the water got to about upper thigh level, then dolphin-dove right in. Pull pull kick kick, everything was going good. It was a little tough as the current from all the other swimmers made it slightly choppy, but still manageable. Then in about 5 minutes a big slap came out of no where. Next, a kick to my ribs. I lost my rhythm, drank a gulp of sea water, struggled to breathe, and so, it was screw this, breaststroke it is yet again. Ahhhh, comfort. This is so bad, I keep going to my comfort zone :(. No matter, it was my turn to start kicking into the ribs and faces of others. I swam strongly and with purpose. I was gaining good distance, and was feeling great! Swim swim swim, turn turn and finish! Checked my Garmin and hello, 45 minutes!! 5 minutes PB for my 1.9km swim, off to a good start!
Bike. Target: A low 3 hours, stay as close as possible to 30 kph. There’s been a whole lot of talk about Danang being a very fast flat course. So with these expectations in mind, I may have set a slightly more challenging target for myself. I also had my new Superteam carbon wheels, and CEMA ceramic bottom bracket and RD pulley installed, which I was pretty excited to ride on! But I have never been able to hold anything more than a 27 kph average in all my rides, so I don’t know if I am setting myself up for disappointment or not. Anyway, stuffed some gels and chews into my pocket, and off I go, voom voom!! I was loving my ride! The ease of pedalling, the sound my wheels make, the wind blowing in my face, heaven! A swig of N8 Endurance and I was determined to meet my target. I was doing good time, averaging about 33-34 kph in the first 10 km! I started to wonder if I could maybe expect a 3 hour finish? Don’t think so much, just keep pedalling. I held on to the lower handles of Queen B, and immediately felt the advantage in aerodynamics. I was pushing upwards of 35 kph and I wanted to laugh with joy! The first water station was a little upsetting because I couldn’t seem to grab any bottles from the volunteers, I think I knocked 3 bottles off their hands and I felt so bad that I eventually gave up and decided to go without re-fueling. I’ll get the next one. I was happily enjoying this new speed of riding and ain’t nothing gonna hold me down! Made it to the subsequent water station and this time my bottle picking skills was better. I managed to swig some water, doused myself with some of it, all without getting off my bike. Perfect. My back was starting to feel a little sore, but I am a master of withstanding pain, and decided to power through. Coming towards the second U-turn, and noticing that I was starting to lose a little bit of speed, I decided to stop and refuel my bottles. I slowed down, and tried to unclip my pedals and couldn’t! Now this all happened in lightning speed, but I lost control of my bike right in front of the water station, with my left foot still attached to the pedal, I skidded over to the opposite of the bike loop and narrowly escaped an in coming cyclist! Thankfully, I released my foot at the very last second and managed to jump away scratch free. I grabbed my bike and ran back over to the water station, my heart pounding. Then I checked my shoes, and noticed a gummy candy stuck to the bottom of my cleats, and was melted all over it. I must have picked that up while running out of the changing tent to my bike at T1! Bryan came right up behind and asked if I was okay. I assured him I was fine and urged him to go on. I proceeded to dig out every sticky bit of the gummy as I possibly could with my fingers. Lost probably about 5-10 minutes, I’m not sure, but thankfully, me and Queen B were unharmed! Refilled my bottle, and went on my way, staggering a little as the chain ring had been forced out of the big crank halfway and took a while to get back to position. But it’s okay! On with the race! The rest of it was quite drama-less, thankfully! I spotted Gary on the other side, and smiled to myself knowing he was having a good race too! Things went on smoothly as I build my speed back up to 30-32 kph, all up until the final 12 km of the bike loop. The headwinds and cross winds were crazy strong, and my carbon wheels, as much as I loved them, were quivering! I powered through as hard as I could, and but noticed that my speed had dropped to about 28-29 kph. One final U-turn and it was the last 5 km back to finish! Headwinds have now become tailwinds and I was back up to north of 30 kph and finally closed in at….2:57!! Sub 3 hours baby!! Okay okay, want to dance, but must run first! It’s showtime, Karen Siah!
Run. Target: Breaking 2. Ha! I know, half the distance. But to be honest, I don’t even know if this was possible. I had sprained my knee (minor one) last week, and so I don’t know how far I can push it. I have not done much brick training either, and my legs were feeling pretty pumped from the fast ride! It’s ok, don’t think, just run. It took me pretty fast to find my running rhythm. I smiled, because this is when my race actually starts. I have always loved the run leg, and I know that I can catch up with quite a few people on this leg. So far, pain free. I checked my Garmin and steadily I was doing a 5:30 pace. I tried to bring it up to a 5:20 pace, and managed to stay there for a while. My breath was steady, and though it was hot, the sea breeze was inviting. I caught up with some friends, and wished them good luck. About 6-7 km in, I realised I needed to pee and had been for some time. So I ran across the road, braving the impossible Vietnamese traffic, to a seafood restaurant to use the toilet. After that, I was feeling tonnes better, and happily ran at a 5:10-5:15 for a while. I saw Gary on the opposite side, and figured he was about 3 km in front of me. A bit impossible to catch up, but I was happy to see that he was going strong! I used that positive energy to stay on course and keep pace. U-turn, and I saw that the time was just about 1 hour. Breaking 2 possible? Negative split on a half Ironman course? Almost laughable but let’s try! I wanted to up my pace, but noticed that while I had invested more energy, my speed was dropping. I was doing a 5:30 pace again. So, I ate a gel, and loaded up on some energy drinks. The water stations and their crews were amazing! I threw some water over my head to stay cool, and continued to push harder. Then I could see the finishing! Let’s bring this home! I ran as hard as I could through the finishing chute (which was on a rickety man-made ramp downhill onto the beach). I crossed the finish line with a jump! I jammed my finger on my Garmin and to my elation, I saw the first digit 5! I did it! At 5 hours 58 minutes and 34 seconds, I had finally managed to do a sub 6 half Ironman! YAAYYY! I ran through the stats on my watch, and saw that my run was 2:0050. So Eliud Kipchoge, I feel you bro, but it’s okay! It’s still an impressive time nonetheless!
Shout out to some of my sponsors, N8 Sports Nutrition, Lifeline-ID, Zamst compression wear from Japan, Aftershokz bluetooth bone conducting headphones, TBFS bike shop for the CEMA ceramic bearings, LittleRock Bike Fit for fitting me on my bike.
Shout out to the wonderful Underdog Team for letting us tag along on the bike recce and sight seeing on the first and second day. And for being familiar faces along the race course (because there were so many of you!).
Shout out to Abang Fendy and Yaoshan and everyone else for the lovely photos!!Shout out to my best friend, my training mate, my soulmate, my partner for life, Gary Fong, for just being you! Congrats on smashing your PB too! So proud of you! xoxo