Ironman Vietnam 70.3 Danang

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

Categories: Burn burn burn!, Ironman, Muscles | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Fit Your Bike to You

So I’ve always told people that I am not a very good cyclist. I struggle on most of the uphills, the dragon backs, the Bukit Hantus, the Brogas female or male, and when it comes to the flats, I can’t quite bring my speed to keep up with most of my friends. For one thing, I admit I don’t put in quite enough mileage in cycling, but for another, I suffer from lower back pain during every single ride. I’ve visited physiotherapists and chiropractors, and I’ve concluded, based on my own findings, that my back pain is due to a shorter psoas (and probably one or two other muscles), on one side, as well as a hyper-extended and slightly shorter right leg. So it’s never going away, but it can be managed.

The first step to back pain management is to do plenty of stretching, pre-ride, post-ride and basically whenever possible. This helps to delay the time the pain starts to set in.

The second step is to get a proper bike fit. I had the privilege to meet Chuah, of Little Rock Bikefit. He was referred to me through a friend and so I went to his quaint home-studio in OUG to get a bike fit. I’ve had a bike fit done before, in 2015 when I was gearing up for Ironman Langkawi 2015. But since then, I have laid off the saddle quite a bit and because of that, getting back on the saddle was tough! This bike fit couldn’t have come at a better time!

The first thing Chuah did was to analyse my situation, where I told him about my back pain. He then proceeded to run some tests on me, by asking me to lie flat down on the floor, then he asked me to perform a sit up, and from there he could tell that I do, indeed, have a shorter right leg, about 0.6 cm shorter.CIMG1415Next he measured the degree of my foot tilt. The foot tilt is how your foot normally rests, in a slightly supinated or under-pronated position. He did this by asking me to kneel on a bench, with my feet relaxed. He had a tool which he used to measure tilt and he found that my feet had a slight tilt of about 8°. This, he says, could cause an air gap in my pedalling, and so he placed some stack chips underneath my cleats to counter this gap.

The feet needed to be relaxed, in its natural position

The feet needed to be relaxed, in its natural position

Measuring the foot tilt

Measuring the foot tilt

He placed these stack chips underneath my cleats to fill in the gap

He placed these stack chips underneath my cleats to fill in the gap

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Just 2 stacks for me please!

After this, I’m up on my bike on a trainer. He has a webcam on the side plane, and a TV screen which allows me to see how my posture is. I was asked to cycle a bit, and he would give me some tips for better cycling. He noticed that I needed to push my saddle forward a little bit, and that my handlebar may be a bit too narrow for me. He had a test set for me to try on, and he commented on my posture after that.

New handlebar width. My shoulders were too wide for my old one.

New handlebar width. My shoulders were too wide for my old one.

Watching my posture on the screen

Watching my posture on the screen

He also measured my knee rotation ie whether or not my knee was aligned with my big toe when I pedal. This, I knew was an issue, especially with my right leg being bow-legged and hyper extended. But with the chip stacks he placed in my cleats, I think it helped realigned my knee slightly.CIMG1438CIMG1437

All in all, I believe Chuah did a very comprehensive job with the bike fit. It took about 3 hours in total, and I learned a lot from him about myself, my bike and cycling!

I’ve since gone back to cycling, and although the pain still sets in after an hour or two, I do feel more comfortable with my saddle. I also seem to clock slightly faster speed averages. Coincidence? I don’t think so :) I’m looking to purchase a wider handlebar, hopefully to improve my performance in this year’s upcoming races.

Chuah is very knowledgeable and can be contacted via his Facebook page here: Little Rock Bikefit Studio.

Thanks Chuah!CIMG1442

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How to be a Happy Bride

It’s been 3 weeks since I stuffed my boobs in a nu-bra and a gorgeous white wedding gown, had Hollywood standard make up and hair styling (like seriously, Taylor…whooo?), and felt like the Duchess of Subang Jaya as I dreamily got whisked away by Gary, my charming Duke of Damansara. It was indeed a fairy tale, and for the past 20 days, I can still be caught smiling silly as I watch the replay of the videos for the millionth time. I know I said the day I became an Ironman was the best day of my life, but this totally trumps November 14th, 2015. I loved my wedding day. It was as enchanted, as mesmerising and as heart warming as everyone said it would be. But, NOT without a few jaw dropping and heart stopping moments, though. If I told you everything went according to plan, I’d totally be lying.

Hair & Make up by iStyle Academy

I still can’t get over the fact that I had a cleavage!!!

A couple of days after the wedding, I woke up feeling like I still needed more sleep. Though it left a sweet, dreamy feeling inside of me, it was also extremely exhausting and, like any normal yet slightly neurotic bride post wedding day, I couldn’t help but analyse every single detail of it, figuring out what could have been done better, and wishing (then again, maybe not, I don’t know) that I could do it all over again. So I figured, I am not going to have another wedding, and I don’t think I’d be a very good wedding planner for somebody else, because I absolutely loved being The Bride. The only way I can somehow make good use of this whole experience, and hopefully benefit someone else is to write about it. So I’ve decided to write a simple “How to be a Happy Bride” guide. I can’t promise Happily Ever Afters, since I’m still kinda new to the whole thing. I don’t guarantee that following my guide means you’ll have a 100% fuss free wedding. At the very least, I’m sure that you’ll have fond, blissful memories of your special day, and hopefully be as minimally stressed out on that day as possible.

  1. Start early

I wanted to be a simple bride. I wanted to have a simple wedding. But even the simplest of ideas need a plan. I cannot stress this any more when I say that there will be A LOT TO DO on your wedding day. And based on experience, you (The Bride) will be doing the bulk of the work. I guarantee it. The Groom, each and every one of them, will be sweet and nice and make promises to do some of the work, but believe me when I say this, you’ll either get impatient waiting for him to get it done, or you probably won’t be too happy about the job he’s done, so either way you’ll end up doing it on your own. So, start early. The moment you’ve set a date, set aside some time every day to do wedding stuff or you’ll be rushing through it in the last month of your wedding. Oh, and did I mention? You’ll be sorting out….most of his family’s side of things too. My sister in law actually told me, the bride plays the PR manager role in the whole wedding. I couldn’t agree more.

2. Have a theme

In the months leading up to the wedding, I toyed with the idea of different themes, but couldn’t quite decide on one, so I said, okay, no need for a theme. Let’s wild card this, and see whatever works. Turned out, people like themes. Your guests, they love themes. And themes help to give your wedding a bit of structure. It helps to pull everything together nicely, instead of everything looking a little lacklustre. My friend told me this, and I totally agreed with her after I finally decided on a theme – Triathlete/Yellow/90s old school. It turned out great! We got little children bicycles for the flower girls to ride in, the girls all wore yellow, we had a huge photo wall with everyone’s names on it ala Ironman race expo, we had outdoors cycling pre-wedding shots, and our music selection (which I carefully compiled over the months) were songs from the 80s and 90s. The guests loved it! Your theme can be loose, like for e.g. we didn’t ask everyone to wear yellow, so there was no dress code theme, but as long as the people that were involved in the events were in theme, it does give a wholesome effect.

MOH Julie and Bridesmaid Li Hua

With my girls Julie and Li Hua against our awesome photo wall!

3. Save as much as you can

You’re getting married! It’s the best day of your life! Everything should be perfect! Well, with that in mind, it is very very very easy to over spend. I almost did. It’s the little things you spend on that you don’t quite think about, such as stationery (paper, and ribbons, and marker pens), and gifts for your bridesmaids and flower girls, and outfits for your Hen’s night, and photo frames and candy for the photo booth and candy bar and other miscellaneous stuff. But I tried my best to stay on top of my expenses. It helps to keep a spreadsheet to keep track of everything you bought or spent money on. Also, because for most of the bigger expenses (Photography, videography, flowers (Yes flowers are expensive!), hair and make up, your wedding gown rental), you’ll be putting down a deposit first, so you haven’t actually paid upfront till the day itself. These costs need to be jotted down too.

4. De.le.gate

This was where I made the biggest blunder of all. I failed to delegate the tasks. I had so many ideas and so many programs in my head, I wanted everybody to have a wonderful time that I refused to stress anybody out. As it turned out, the most stressed up person on my wedding day was Me. And everybody around me tried to help. They did! It’s just I was micro-managing every little detail of the wedding that I when I tried to hand the job over to someone else, there was even more work to list down the instructions and to-do list that I actually found it easier to do it on my own. Except that it wasn’t! Not only wasn’t it easier to do it on my own, it was impossible. On my wedding day, I was getting hair and make up done from 3.30 pm, my phone was buzzing off because I had put my own name and number as the PIC for the alcohol, for the beer, for the photo back drop, for the rehearsal of the flower girls, for the AV and lighting, for EVERYTHING. And even though I delegated the tasks to some of my bridesmaids (God bless them), I had forgotten to plan out the logistics of it all. For example, I told 2 of my bridesmaids to help decorate the candy bar for me. But guess where all the candies and boxes and photos and decorations were? In our car, parked in the hotel basement. I got my brother and cousin to help man the registration table. But guess where the guest lists were? Hidden in the box, that was in our car, parked in the hotel basement. I told my Maid of Honour and her fiance to come early to the venue to help with AV and the rundown of events. But guess where the laptop with all the music and slideshows and presentations were? With me, in the hotel room. I paid a dear price for my stubbornness. As a result of me rushing around once I got my make up done, my gold bracelet slipped off my wrist, never to be found again. So, Brides, delegate your work as early as a week before your wedding. You know you’ve delegated well when you can relax on your wedding night, and walk around and smile and take photos with your guests.

5. Talk it over with Mr. Groom

Referring back to point number 1, plan a sit down with your man and talk it through with him at least a week before the wedding. Make sure he is kept up to date with everything. If you ended up doing everything by yourself like I did, chances are your groom is left in the dark (and quite happily so) about a lot of things, only to start asking “Hey babe, where’s so-so and what’s happening when?” the day before the wedding. It also helps to have another less clouded and more calm mind to pick out anything you may have overlooked. Example, I had planned the catering for both my parents’ place and his place for the “gate crash” event. What I had forgotten to provide was paper plates and cutlery for his side. His brother ended up having to drive out in the last minute to buy some. Your groom may surprise you and end up being extremely resourceful in the end. He could in fact, be a total life saver! So have a little faith!

6. Feed the crew

So many people were concerned for my hunger and thirst that night. But the truth is, there were a group of people that day who worked literally the whole night and they didn’t get to eat or drink either. These were my make up artistes and photo and video crew. Because a good friend of ours is a wedding photographer, she mentioned that it’s a nice gesture to prepare a meal for them during the wedding. So we did. And the crew were more than appreciative. I’d like to think that with their bellies full and happy, our shots would be much clearer and sharper too :)

7. Soak in the moment

Finally, be present on your wedding day. Someone told me, “Enjoy it, it’s gonna pass by you so fast, the next thing you know, it’s over!”. I know it seems hard to believe in the days leading up to the wedding, but it’s true. At the end of the day, it is your wedding day. You should take time to soak in the moment. Think about what you really want to experience on this day and try your best to feel it. Being present in the moment also means letting go of things that didn’t go according to plan. And things will NOT go according to plan 100%. You just need to let it go, and enjoy whatever happens. Don’t waste time fretting over the little details that were unplanned for. I can honestly say, it’s most probably okay and not devastating in any way.

Remember, it’s your wedding day. It should be the happiest day of your life at that very moment. So, keep calm and marry on!

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Taking Selfies to a whole new level

I’ve always been an outdoorsy girl, I love hiking, trail running, rock climbing, swimming in the ocean, cycling on the highways, despite our warm tropical climate, the great outdoors always call out to me. Because of that, anything that says its water-proof, shock-proof, scratch-proof, (idiot-proof) always bling like diamond to me and I’d be drawn to it. On top of that, I do like my gadgets too, and I definitely love cameras.

So, enter the CASIO EXILIM Ex-Fr100. This neat little compact camera was introduced to me a couple of months back and I’ve been taking it for quite the spin in my active, outdoorsy life! It’s a sporty little Lifestyle Camera, which is made for adventurous people who likes to live on the edge and is not afraid to share their views with the world.

20160608_140420For starters, my camera came in a sporty bright yellow and black colour and it fits right in my palm. It’s lightweight allows it to fit into just about any pocket in your clothes of backpack. The camera consists of a lens and a console. The lens is actually the “CPU” of the camera as it houses the operating system and memory card. The console acts as a screen for you to view, select, edit, or delete your images and videos. 20160608_140501The COOLEST thing about the Ex-Fr100, to me, is its detachable lens. Do you know what this means? It means you can detach the lens and out it anywhere you want to take the ultimate selfie or wefie you can imagine! It’s connected to the console via Bluetooth, so Hello, wireless!. All you need to do, is put the lens somewhere that’s within Bluetooth signal, and you can check your frame out using the console in your hands. When you’re happy, snap away! Which I most definitely did!

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The camera has a 16mm wide angle lens, so fitting a room full of people is a piece of cake! It is wide enough to take your entire football team, but not a fish-eye lens that it distorts everybody on the side. My friends have all grown quite fond of my little Ex-Fr100, and nowadays I’m usually the one who takes the wefies!

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Then one day, I decided to pop the lens onto a Selfie stick (which came with the pack), and completely revolutionised wefie photos! We put it high above our heads and because of its wide angle lens, people actually thought we brought a drone in!

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With its 30 frames per second high speed shutter, jump shots are a must! You won’t miss the best shot this time (and Slow poke Jack can get some rest for ruining the picture)

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20160608_140642And of course, I wouldn’t be into it if it didn’t withstand water & shock! The Ex-Fr100 is water proof up to 1.5m for 60 minutes and shock proof too (not that I’m a klutz). CIMG1047It takes being dropped from up to 1.7m (1.3m when joined with its console) and the cold of down to -5℃ (which I don’t have the opportunity to test out, unfortunately). It takes pretty clear photos under water!! The Bluetooth signal doesn’t comply under water so the console doesn’t really work under water. But all you need is the lens!

We even tried to do some videos! This camera boasts 240 fps high speed movie capture in HD! It’s anti-shake function gets the video a lot smoother. Here’s a short recording on sitting in a 4WD going up to Gunung Brinchang the Mossy Forest.

The camera also has it’s own movie making function, where you can choose a group of photos & videos from a certain date, and it will pick the best shots and make a movie out of it! You can choose a 15 second, 30 second or 1 minute video. It also has 7 background music you can choose from. Here’s a family hiking trip I did with my family up to Gunung Nuang.

The EXILIM phone app is easy to use and free to download, so it makes file transfers effortless! Just a few seconds and you can upload the photos taken onto social media right from your smartphone. So you won’t have to keep throwing back and latergramming your photos. :)

I’m sure there are plenty more functions and features that I have yet to explore, but needless to say my Ex-Fr100 is a nifty little gadget that has added so much more colour to my adventures. Thanks Casio!

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On inching closer to 30.

39 days after my last post was undeniably the biggest day of my life. I crossed that finish line in Langkawi, my family and friends cheered, tears of joy were streaming down my face, and I was walking on clouds! It was a phenomenal feeling, a sense of accomplishment so great, I even went on to write a book about it. In the world of Ironmen and Ironwomen, it’s not that great of an achievement, but in the world of Me, that’s pretty huge.

Now what? These days I feel a little hollow on the inside. It’s a strange and unsettling feeling, seeing that my hay days are no where near coming to an end. Heck, in 6 months I’m marrying the love of my life, something I have been dreaming of ever since I knew the meaning of boy girl relationships. I should be thrilled and enthusiastic about the months to come and the life ahead of me.

I am happy, though. Happy with what life has given me, with the people around me and the daily shindigs I get to dabble in. I am happy. But is it possible to be happy, yet…blank? I feel like I struggle to find meaning to train any more. Is that me being burnt out? Or is that just me being lazy? And not just that, I feel a little hopeless, to be honest. Hopeless that the economy of my country is rollercoasting downhill and I can’t do anything about it. Hopeless that impending hard times are unavoidable and I don’t have the smarts to grow my funds and guarantee sustainable living for myself in the future.

And I feel bored. I yearn to go bungy jumping, or abseiling, or white water rafting, or DO SOMETHING. It’s been so long since I had an adventure of any sort, something with uncertainties, something with a little bit of danger. I feel like I’m in dire need of solo backpacking, or adventure racing or just going for a nice camping trip.

Is this what post Ironman depression feels like? I read somewhere that people go through that. Or is this some quarter life turning-30 crisis thing? I don’t like seeing a number 3 in front of my age. Or is this just cold feet? (Technically we’re already married, and at that time I couldn’t be happier to sign the papers). Is the wedding THAT big a deal?

Yesterday while driving, I almost cried. CRIED! Tell me that’s not depression. What did I cry about? About the fact that I am no longer a hot, strong triathlete rockin’ it. Haha! Humour me please, even if you never thought so. :) It is blasphemy, but I almost cried when I thought about it. About how my glory days are over, the best has come and gone.

So silly right? Thank God Gary was there to hug me and cheer me up and got me laughing again in no time. I think I scared him. Does this mean I am predisposed to depression later in life?

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T-39 days to the Big Eagle

It’s just a little over a month to Ironman. I had initially wanted to write a post with my thoughts about my whole journey at exactly 30 days to Ironman, but I happen to have some free time right now, and my notebook is fully charged right this very moment, so I figured why not now.

It’s been roughly 8 months since I started my “Road to Ironman” adventure. I had toyed with the idea of taking part in what seemed like an insanely difficult task for a few years now, though I always brushed it off with a laugh at precisely how insane and impossible that idea seemed. My brother, Kevin, has done it numerous times and seemed to love the sport very much. I have had my fair share of Olympic distance triathlons and have uttered the words “I will never do an Ironman” a few times. So what changed?

I guess it all changed last year, when Ironman came back to our shores. After a 4 year hiatus, Ironman Malaysia came back with a bang, and as soon as the registration opened, everybody jumped on that bandwagon. At that time I was still in the state of mind that I will never ever do an Ironman. It was just way too far out of my league. Little did I know, though, that my mind would be changed by the people around me very very quickly.

To cut to the chase, my friends who bike and run were all signed up for this big event and suddenly I was immersed in the Ironman conversation day in and day out. Externally, I shook my head when I read or hear about the training sessions they put themselves through but in my head, something chipped away at the mental wall I had built inside, and slowly I felt a desire to be one of them. I have always had a competitive streak in me and I couldn’t help but think that if my friends could do it, so could I. That’s right, I could do an Ironman, I totally could!

But even for someone like myself, who usually wings it, I was a little wary of the amount of work I would have to put in to survive the Ironman. I am no longer 21 years old and I knew (as much as I try to deny it) that I couldn’t just rock up and swim 3.8km, bike 180km and run 42km with no physical and mental preparation whatsoever. This is a different ball game.

So in April 2014, I completed the 70.3 Ironman Putrajaya. It was painful. But the satisfaction was indescribable. I knew for sure, then, that the full Ironman is no joke. But I was prepared to take it on. I started to take training a little more seriously from then, with the support and help from Gary and my big brother. I knew I wasn’t ready to do it in 2014. I wasn’t ready to give up so much time for it, yet.

Come 2015, February, as Chinese New Year rolls out of the picture, I decided I was ready. I was going to start taking my training seriously. I was going to set some rules, plan some routines, and told my fiance that if I wailed and whined, he would just need to say “Suck it up, Buttercup” and tell me to stick to it. And this happened on many occasions, to be honest. *oops*

The progression of my training was slow. I started up with just a bike trainer session once a week. Then I ventured into adding a swim session in on a weekly basis. As time went on, I got in long rides on the weekends. Did my first 3-digit ride with my friends, and then did a few more until 3-digit rides became the norm.

It wasn’t until I finally signed up for the race in June, when sh*t actually got real. I don’t really remember how, but suddenly it was minimum 1 hour training every day, 2 trainer days a week, 2 swim days a week, long rides on weekends and just finding time to swim, bike or run whenever I get some free time. Gone were my naps, gone were my breakfast out with mom and dad, gone were watching tv series on my notebook. I was so tired at the end of every week, Monday just seemed impossible to wake up to. I was on the brink of burning out, and much sooner than I expected.

I know myself very well, and I am not afraid to admit that I am lacking in discipline when it comes to training. Hence, to make it even 3 months long, I think that is quite a feat. I love keeping fit and working out, but I also love relaxing and having down, low key times. So it got too difficult too fast and many times I found myself cursing this Ironman and what it has done to my life. But I usually try to take 3 deep breaths and thank the stars above for sending me kind, patient and loving Gary who bears the brunt of all my worst days and still sticks around to see me pull through.

So that leads me to here. Now. 8 months into my “Road to Ironman”. Am I still training like a maniac? Mm…not really anymore. Is it time to taper down already? Probably not, still got 5 weeks. But I am cutting myself some slack for my mental health. I am doing okay. I have worked hard and the results are showing in my performances in the past couple of 113km races. I am cycling better and running stronger. I complain less about the water. I’m on track even though I know I could do more.

Right now I just want to do my best, without sacrificing my life, and my job. I need to work to make a living and I need to spend some time planning for other aspects of my life. But am I still Ironman focused? You bet.

And on November 14th, 2015, I will cross that finish line, and I’m gonna be an Ironman. Don’t believe me, just watch. =)

Categories: Because I love me, Ironman, Muscles, Run! | 1 Comment

113 Bukit Merah International Triathlon 2015

All throughout last week I was searching through cyber-space for my past blog entry which told the story of my first encounter in Bukit Merah. I know I had taken part in a tri here before, but what distance, which year, I really could not remember, until I finally found it, my blog post entitled Red Hill Biathlon & Triathlon. Year 2007, it was, and I was a wee 21 year old, still holding on to my baby chubs, as you can see from the photos then. I’ll put one here for you. Don’t laugh. :)

In the comments on that post, I think I made several promises to my friends to do a full Olympic Distance Tri someday. So 8 years later, I returned to Bukit Merah, not to do an OD, but in fact to do my 4th 113km (or 70.3 mile) triathlon. It’s pretty cool when I think about it. =)

Okay, race report! I’ll keep it simple.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t expect much out of this, because I have been working pretty hard on my bike, and I know that my run has improved too. But I dared not say it aloud because expectations are killjoys, and I was much happier not expecting anything and treating this as just another triathlon training session for the Ironman. I had my big brother Kevin with me at this race, and that’s always a nice change. My brother is a bit of a superstar in the tri arena, and I always feel proud to be walking next to him. :)

Got there after lunch in Taiping, checked in, and my brother said “Let’s go try out the route a little bit”. Everyone I met along the way had mentioned about the BIG HILL just outside. So Gary, my brother and myself hopped on our bikes and went to check it out. They weren’t kidding. 22% incline, about 2 km up and another 2 km down. And we had to do this 4 times. I laughed for lack of anything else to say because the next day was going to be EPIC.

Sunday morning, I got up at 5 to get ready. I was feeling okay, slightly nervous but mostly calm. I kept telling myself to treat it as training, and to just do my best, because, that’s what it should be. If I did better than expected, then it is a bonus and a testament to my training. The race started late (again), and it was a mass start. I stayed behind and swam my breaststroke comfortably, trying not to kick anyone (too hard). I had a pretty dreamy swim though. My head was filled with thoughts, and I constantly found myself thinking of work, thinking of wedding plans, thinking of so many other things BUT the fact that I am actually racing! So I knew that I wasn’t clocking on PBs on this swim, and when I finally came out of the water I checked my watch and realised I did about 51 minutes. Oh well. It’s just training. I heard Kanan, the MC saying “First female youth out of the water!” And I went, “wait..whaaaaat?”

11999645_966311433421639_1712154377576261711_oPhoto courtesy of SeanWorld Of Marathon

Ran to the transition area and wiped my face, squirt some water, wore my gloves, socks, shoes, helmet and stuffed all the gels into my pockets. I came out of the water with a few others, one of them even thanked me for swimming breaststroke as he had used me to navigate. I was trying to go out on the bike as fast as I could because I knew that all these guys will be passing by me in less than 20 minutes.

Hopped onto my bike and braced myself for the first climb. Andrew said to me, try moving zigzag to tackle the hill. Okay! So I zigzagged my way up the incline, and to my surprise it felt much more doable now. On the downhill, my fingers were held firmly on the brakes. Once we got to the bottom, it was a long straightforward route with gentle rolling hills. And though this might favour most people, I personally find routes like this to my disadvantage. I am not a fast cyclist, but I have the mental strength to push myself up any hill you throw at me. So I lose out on a flat terrain because I ride on average 27-28kph only (though its a huge improvement from my 23-24kph 6 months ago). I saw my brother at the side, and I had a sinking feeling he had pulled out of the race. He assured me he was okay though, so I had to wait till later to ask what happened. Anyway, as predicted, many people called out my name and zoomed past me and I just smiled. “Just enjoy the race, Karen” was all I could say in my thoughts. The bike route made us go through that insane hill another 3 more times, and I saw many hop off their bikes to push them up. I refused to. I stayed on my saddle all the time, and made it into Transition2 quite happily. The bike course was a little short – 85 km. But I guess what it lacked in distance was completely made up by that crazy hill x 4! I clocked 3:29, definitely a PB for me! :)12006579_1086002641418861_2035543873911157964_o

Photo courtesy of Running Malaysia

Off the bike, and saw my parents. Changed to my shoes, grabbed my visor, and off I went. I started my run pretty strong. I was feeling great, doing a 5:30 pace! It wasn’t long till I saw my brother running and he did a u-turn and ran alongside me. Although I was happy to run with him, immediately I felt a slight increase in intensity. But still manageable. Gary joined us for a bit, but soon he stopped to take photos of our friends, while my brother continued to run with me. At one point, I noticed our pace was 5:17! Okay, time to bring it down a notch. After 1 loop, he was done and I went on the second loop solo. I kept my pace to the best I could. I saw Gary again and he was my motivator. I ran steadily, even though my pace had gone down to 5:59. As long as I could keep it under 6!

I finally crossed the finish line in 6 hours 34 minutes! I saw Nik poised at the Finish at his camera and I made one giant leap of joy to cap it off! Happy, I am. :) What made it more awesome, was totally winning it! 1st place baby! Haha, to be honest, my esteemed competitors were all not present, and there were only 5 participants in my age group. But a win is a win, and I’ll take it any time. :)

11942298_10153095405712322_7329304301549027529_oPhoto courtesy of Nik Fahusnaza

Now, I’ve only got Kuala Terengganu Marathon, Port Dickson Triathlon and Melaka Century ride coming up. And then, in only 66 days from now #imgonnabeanironman.

Would like to thank my family, mom & dad and brother and Gary for their love and support! Thanks also to N8Endurance by Egonutrition for the race nutrition and gels, Compressport Malaysia for the awesome candy coloured calf sleeves, RSH Malaysia for the Saucony Isofit Zealot (best tri running shoes ever!), LifelineID for the peace of mind (especially in such crazy terrains), J Cycles Garage for the carbon wheels which helped me fly and all friends and supporters present! You guys rock!

Categories: Burn burn burn!, Muscles, Run! | Leave a comment

Desaru 113 International Triathlon 2015

The Desaru 113 triathlon happened earlier this year (June) than it did last year (August), so it definitely doesn’t feel like enough time has passed since we last bundled ourselves into a car and drove many hours down to this little town called Bandar Penawar in Johor. With the memory of last year’s race still quite fresh in my mind, I had a bittersweet feeling this time around when I was Desaru-bound with Doc and Bryan.

Last year was painful, to say the least, with me bonking on the bike route, and crying as I went out on the running leg because I was in so much pain. But this year, I knew it was going to be different. I had put in a lot more training this year, and although still not quite enough for Ironman, I was confident I could do a lot better this year in Desaru.

So come Saturday morning, I was excited and raring to go. I remember making a mental note to myself that, it didn’t matter if the route is over distanced (as was the case last year), I was going to give it my best, because I felt I was strong enough this morning.

Swim
At about 7.27 am according to my watch, we were flagged off. The tide was much higher than it was last year. I ran towards the water, but held back a little to let the faster swimmers go ahead. Strangely, I didn’t have the same fears I had about swimming last time. Jumping into the water felt somewhat familiar, another testament to my training paying off! I begun my first few strokes of breaststroke, and then when it got a little too crowded, I switched to free style to get past some of the bigger slower guys. It worked last time, it worked ever more brilliantly this time round, as my front crawl strokes have gotten a lot stronger too. I should also mention that the water was SO CLEAR. THE CLEAREST  I had ever swum in in a triathlon event. I could see everyone swimming around me too. I saw Doc and Bryan close by. I tried to keep close to them. Towards the end of the first loop I saw Lini swimming next to me! However, throughout the second loop I kept kicking her with my breaststroke kicks! (Sorry, Lini!) Kept on swimming as hard as I could till I was turning around the final buoy and towards the finish! When I got onto the shore, I checked my watch and it was 8.14. YES! (Improvement #1)

Coming out from the swim leg, huffing and puffing. Photo credit: Shanaz

Bike
Ran into the transition area and despite feeling quite happy, I was also feeling quite spent! I told myself to take it a notch down, lest I end up bonking again. Grabbed my little sweet potatoes and 1 Accel gel, and off I went on my bike.

Heading out onto the bike leg, with my CO2 canistor adapter thing in my race belt, looking like amo. Photo credit: LifelineID

Legs were feeling pretty strong. I drew on the memory of my trainer sessions, and how hard I know I can push. averaging 28-29 kph was a lot more doable this time. This brought a smile to me. :) I drank my N8 Endurance mix from my bottle, and rode until I go onto the flat, straight road. I then proceeded to rip off the first Accel gel from my bar. I felt strangely full at this point, probably from all the water I had been drinking. But I was feeling really good about myself. Kept on going strong until the start of the rolling hills. Shifted my gears and tried to maintain my cadence on the uphill. As I rolled onto the downhill slopes, I pedaled with the momentum, and carried on strongly onto the next hill, and then the next. This felt so good, to finally feel that I am somewhat a cyclist now! I didn’t feel like I was a struggling runner, feeling extremely uncoordinated with this machine between my legs. For once, I felt like I was actually riding my bike well, and I felt so proud of myself. It wasn’t long before I saw the u-turn at the end of the loop. With a happy frame of mind, I continued to push hard on my pedals all the way back, and onto the second loop. Throughout the way I ate 3 of my sweet potatoes and drank almost all of my N8 Endurance. It wasn’t until I was halfway heading back that I decided to take my 2nd Surge gel. The weather slowly changed and it started to rain. My bike meter was showing 85 km and I knew damn well that there was definitely more than 5 km left of the bike route. This route was over distanced by at least 5 km! At this point Alvin came up next to me on the bike and offered to let me draft him. I took him up on his offer for a while, but soon decided against it because for a fleeting moment, I thought that maybe I could actually get a podium finish in this race (Drafting is illegal in triathlons, so I didn’t want to risk getting disqualified). I soon laughed it off, because that thought was hilarious, but I told Alvin to go ahead anyway because I was still feeling pretty strong, and wanted to see how well I can go without drafting.

In the rain, I knew there was not much to go, so I pedaled continuously. I checked my meter at some point and noticed the distance of 93km and at that time the timer showed 3:31 minutes! (Improvement #2) This was enough to spur me on till I saw the roundabout and then all the way to home base.

Run
Last year I had a giant knot in my throat as I went onto the run because I really wanted to give up. I was crying but did not have enough energy to actually cry, hence no tears actually came. This year, though, I was so excited to get on the run. I changed into my Saucony Virratas, had a quick swig of water, and off I went, smiling from ear to ear. Apple came and spoke to me and wished me good luck, knowing that this was my favourite part of the race! The rain has also stopped by then. Perfect.

My mind was so focused I even remembered to start my Garmin, let it calibrate, and then start the run mode. I felt like I was running on wind. I saw that I was doing a 5:05 pace in the first km and almost laughed! This is not good. I had to slow down. Next km, I did 5:10. Next one, 5:16. I wondered how long could I sustain this. Not long, though, I found. As soon as the my legs hit the gradual incline, my pace slowed down tremendously. I started to feel strangely weak. Soon after, I had the most uneasy feeling of my period coming. Shit, this cannot be happening. I didn’t know for sure, but all I knew was from the moment I suspected that had happened, everything changed. I started to feel cramps in my lower abs. I started to get a headache. My body grew weaker and weaker with every step and I was slowly feeling more and more pain in my feet. From here on, I tried my best to shut those feelings out of my head and focus on the run. Seeing friends on the run and getting little thumbs up, nods, and cheers helped me push through. I tried to maintain a pace of 6:00 but there were moments where I slowed to walk, especially on the big uphill. I would take about 10 steps before I egged myself on to run again. I saw Vignesh, Bryan and Indran finishing strong on the other side and kept telling myself to keep going so I can try and catch these guys. I knew it was far fetched but anything to motivate me right now would be good. I saw David stalling at a water station on the second loop and I said to myself, “Go catch up with him, and tap him on the shoulder. He’s gonna be so surprised to see u!” And that, I did. After that I said “Now don’t let him catch up!”. And that was what kept me running the next 6 km or so. Running by the Bunanamo guys felt good as well as Rupert, Alp, Yip and Jane cheered me on. :)

Getting cheered on by Team Bunanamo! Photo credit: Alp (I think)

One last u-turn, and then all the way back. I pulled up into Lotus Desaru, started running down the finishing route, and then I saw it. The clock. The timer. It was 6:59:47. I had less than 15 seconds to run about 50 m to make it under 7 hours. So I sprinted! As hard and as strong as my legs could, I sprinted and crossed the finish line just a second under 7 hours. Yue Jin was there to snap my finishing photo and I was beyond elated.

“HOMAIGOD I DID IT!” Photo credit: Shanaz

The Finish
What happened after that had never happened to me before. So, I continued walking after the finish line to get my medal and stuff, and then a sudden wave of weakness swept over my body. I leaned onto the table and felt my throat tightening. I thought I was going to cry again, and Yue Jin was next to me and asking me if I was okay. I nodded to say I was, but I actually couldn’t breathe. There was a huge ball in my throat and I couldn’t breathe at all. I started to hyperventilate and found that it was difficult to walk. Yue Jin started to call the medic, and I was led to the bed when I sat. Still gasping for air, the medic took my pulse and I saw 160 at first. They then put a bag over my mouth and asked me to breathe into it. They said “Miss you’re hyperventilating, please slow down your breathing”. So I tried to do that. Slowly, my pulse went down to about 115, and then to 90. I breathed a little deeper and slower and felt a lot better.

That was my little drama. Hahaha…I don’t know what happened, but it was kinda scary. I had never felt like that before in any of my races. I suspect it was an effect of the caffeine in the gel. That, coupled with the excitement of breaking my personal best, and the exhaustion of it all, and having my period at the same time, must have thrown my whole body out of whack.

Anyway, it was an epic race. I gave it a good shot, and am damn proud for doing so well, if I should say so myself. Thank you LifelineID for keeping me safe and giving me peace of mind. Thank you Compressport for my quad sleeves (for recovery) and calf sleeves (people now identify me with it). Thank you N8 ENdurance for preventing the bonk. Thank you Saucony for really good running shoes. And thank you everyone for the support and the inspiration!

Categories: Burn burn burn!, Muscles, Run!, What's happening inside my body? | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

twenty.fifteen.

It’s the last day of May and I do realize it has been ages since I last blogged anything. It’s the year 2015, so I guess blogging is considered vintage in this age. I’m sitting on my bed listening to a playlist called “Quiet Evening” on Spotify – something to show the kind of mood I am in right this moment. It has been a really long time since I have written a journal entry of any sort, and this is evident in my inability to let the words just flow through. I am constantly hitting the backspace key, something I really shouldn’t be doing considering I am simply typing out my thoughts. Anyway…I think I’ve written way too much to start with already. Getting to the point…

It’s the year 2015, and I am feeling gracious. I am officially 29 years and 20 days old. I am the owner of Kia Kaha Fitness and last I checked, my company is still making a profit, albeit a conservative one. I work with a fun and interesting bunch of people in the industry of my dreams. I am finally sitting at my preferred body weight, God knows how long I’ve been trying to get down to this. I am doing half Ironman triathlons, and on my way to achieving full Ironman status soon. I am wearing a diamond ring on my fourth finger. My man, the love of my life, is in some obscure part of another country right now, but he calls me every day and tells me he loves me. Life is good to me. And I can’t be more grateful for all the things life has given me.

I try to be humble. I try to be modest. But the truth is I feel so damn lucky to have all the things I have now. The road I have traveled isn’t one that was pain-free, but it is the road that led me to here and now.

So, resolutions…There are 7 more months in 2015, starting tomorrow. And in this 7 months, there is plenty on my plate to achieve. A full Ironman. A new camp project. Maybe get some new wheels (car as well as bike). Internally, too, I have much to work on and better. To be more disciplined, for sure. To learn more, each and every day. To give more to those who need it. To love more, especially the ones who love me. To do my best to keep in touch with my closest friends. And of course, to plan a kick arse wedding. :)

Categories: Because I love me | Tags: | Leave a comment

Being ID’d

I’ve always been a slow rider on my road bike and people tend to say, “You just need more practise, more mileage!”, which is probably true, except that I spend a lot of the time during these rides with these he-kudas and she-kudas (male and female horses…or stallions) riding by my lonesome because I struggle to keep up with them. This is something which deters me from riding as I fear a whole list of things that I imagine would happen to me in that lonely time. Stuff like, I could crash and nobody would know until probably an hour later when they have been waiting at the check point long enough and have not seen me. Or I could have been kidnapped or assaulted by a deranged motorcyclist and the nearest rider to me is nowhere within earshot of my screams. Or I could have just passed out from sheer exhaustion (probably most likely by my riding fitness level, when compared with these lot).

So, no, I don’t fancy riding very much when my head goes through this train of thoughts.

Something to calm my nerves a little though, is being ID’d. In other words, having an ID on me with my details, like blood type, and emergency contact numbers, does help me to feel a little safer, knowing that at least if anything were to happen, the people who find me will be able to contact a next of kin.

Lifeline-ID gave me the chance to try one of their ID wrist bands out and this was the one I chose – a Blue colour Lineline PRO. This ID band is a silicone wrist band which has a stainless steel clasp, and it allows you to customize the size to fit your wrist/ankle. I realised, after Yue-Jin (the owner) handed mine to me, that I have a pretty tiny wrist, so, a regular free sized- wrist band would probably have been too loose for me. I know what you’re thinking, all that metal clasp thingy, wouldn’t that rust or gather dirt or give your chaffing on your skin? I thought the same thing too.

LifelineID Karen

I took it out on several occasions; once for my daily work which is training people which means sweat from not only me, but other people can get to it. Once I brought it cycling for about 3 hours, doing an 80 something km ride (I told you I am slow). And just this past weekend I brought it into the trails at the Action Asia Otterbox Salomon trail run in Janda Baik, where the mud went knee high, and we crossed 2 streams that were about the level of my thighs and you can bet I sweat bucket loads. After each event, I would just give it a quick rinse under the tap and then leave it to dry.

And no, it hasn’t rusted in any way. The clasp still works perfectly. And there is not a single tinge of sweat or mud smell on it. It’s pretty rock solid! No chaffing either, as all the edges of the metal clasp and ID tag are nice and smooth and tapered down (don’t know how to describe it but it’s nice and smooth la).

I think that it’s a pretty sweet piece of gear to wear, especially in today’s world of endurance athletes. We are definitely pushing our limits every week, and nothing thrills us more than a nice heart pumping training session. Our family and loved ones are the people who sit at home and worry about us when we are out doing all this crazy, so I think it is important that we let them know that they are the first people who will be notified in case of an emergency. =)

There are many other ID styles, for more info, do check out www.lifeline-id.com. :)

Categories: Because I love me, Burn burn burn!, Run! | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment