I am usually pretty rash when it comes to signing up for races. In the sense that I rarely give it much thought. But for this particular race, I think at the back of my head I somehow felt invincible. I had completed the Putrajaya Ironman 70.3 and although it was the most challenging event I had ever gone through, I made it to the finish line and I was so sure I can do it again. That was the gels and caffeine talking, though. Truth be told, I was signing myself up for a lot of pain I was actually not quite ready to take on again. Fast forward to Friday, 16th August. We’re in the car together, Rupert, Gary and I, along with Doc and Phuitin in the next car, making our way down to Desaru. If I could say what the second best thing about racations are (second to crossing the finish line, of course) it’s the company. Road trippin with a bunch of cool kats definitely makes things really fun and memorable.
Ending up in Johor Premium Outlet, “by accident”. Sure.
Saturday morning, Race Day. The tide was apparently low when we got there. the buoys have not even been put in place yet, and at this very moment, the sea looked calm. I was a little nervous, the usual race anxiety. I figured whatever doubt I had was useless at this point because it’s too late! I was already there, standing on a shore I was about to run out off and endure 7 hours of hardcore sweating subsequently. Meh. Let’s do this. A little bit before 8 am, 7.56 am on my watch, we were flagged off. Mass start, which meant that I was swimming alongside big, burly men who may or may not necessarily be very fast swimmers. I realised soon that in this race, many of them were pretty noob swimmers like myself also. Because after swimming tirelessly for 15 minutes, I was still amidst huge boulder arms and legs and getting kicked in the face and gut over and over again. Urgh. Dislike. The water also got a lot choppier out in the sea. On the plus side, I devised a new method of “crawling” through the big guys if I am stuck, that is to pull a couple of quick front crawl strokes and snake my way through them, just to get past them, before going back into my breast strokes. On the down side, I saw many cheaters! Ah, but they’re only cheating themselves. :) I submerged from the water next to Fook! :) I looked down at my watch as I was running up the beach and I saw 8.46 am. 50 minutes, for 2 km of open water swimming, I smiled in satisfaction. =)
I was dying to pee. Try as I might, I could not pee in the sea. HAHA! So I decided to be all lady like and run to the restaurant’s washroom on the way to the transition area. Then it’s straight to my bike. I was a little thrown off balance, maybe by my toilet pit stop. Legs a little wobbly, I tried to unload my bike from the stand and lost my footing, almost crashing on my bum. Then I realised I have not even put my shoes, sunnies, or anything on. Smart, Karen. Racked my bike again, quick towel off, socks on, bike shoes on, sunnies on, gloves on (yes i take time to wear socks and gloves), stuffed my potatoes and one gel into my pockets, squirt of water, and off I go! I was dreading the bike leg as it had 3 loops! I hate loops. But there’s no room for hatred. Energy better spent cranking em wheels! Riding out felt good and strong. I waited till I had ridden about 8 km before I started to eat my potato. Like I had imagined, it tasted delicious! :) It kept me happy. Going out I was going really fast and I realised it was because I had lovely tailwind to thank. Got to the u-turn, and made my way back. This was hard. Headwinds from hell made it a loooong ride back. And I got to do this 2 more times? Oh boy. At the U turn to get back on the second loop, I saw Gary snapping away and felt happy. In so many ways, this guy is my rock :) Helped pushed me on to my second loop. It was during this time I was starting to feel uneasy. My tummy was starting to feel bloated and a little upset. Hm…ride it off, I thought. Downed a gel, and tried to ride on the tailwind out, getting as much good time as possible. On the turnaround point, I was feeling pretty weak. I don’t know if it was my tummy, or the fact that I was already feeling pretty exhausted, either way I didn’t know how I was going to survive the 3rd loop. I decided to eat my last potato, hoping it would keep me going a little further. Riding in loops has one advantage though, seeing your mates, whether faster or slower than you. Encouragement is found where encouragement is given. I managed to steal a short ride in a peloton (Although it was illegal to draft, but I was so slow, it probably didn’t quite matter, I was not stealing any podiums). Onto the 3rd loop and my tummy was giving me a lot of grief. I could almost feel something coming up my throat, so I stopped by the side to see if I could throw something up. A lot of retching happened but nothing came up of it. So I hopped back on the bikeand just pummeled through. 5 km later, I started retching on the bike. Again, i hopped off and tried to get it out. Nothing. Annoyed and feeling really uneasy, I hopped back onto the bike and made up my mind to just pushed on till I see the end. I shall decide whether or not to carry on when I reach base.
It was showing 90 km on my bike meter when I could see nothing but a looongg steep hill up ahead. I was so disappointed at this point. My body was shivering in pain and exhaustion right now, and yet the finish was no where in sight. Nevermind, ride back and u can complain to them! Pedaled and pedaled and pedaled, and finally at 93.8 km I was back at Lotus Desaru. I was feeling really crappy. It was Putrajaya all over again. I wanted so much to quit. Tears started to flow as I sat on the floor and put my running shoes on. But I knew quitting was the stupidest thing I could do right now. Just get back on your feet, Karen, it’ll all be over soon. (I talk to myself a lot in races). I saw some friends as I walked out of the transition area. My throat was tightening up because I was crying, so talking to them was a challenge. I don’t even know why I was crying. To be honest, I was crying not because I was sad, but because I was in pain, and it was an involuntary cry. I needed to get started again, but somehow my legs felt like concrete bricks and it was just not happening. So I think I walked for about 500 m before I decided to slowly start jogging again. Gary was next to me and he was my only source of strength at this point in time. Had he not been by my side I doubt I would have started running. Anyhow, running is my favourite leg, and if I did not try to savour it, I would’ve missed the opportunity to enjoy the best part of triathlons, that is, overtaking other runners. I am a hopeless swimmer, an ever more pathetic cyclist, but my legs are my best machine and in them, I trust. Slowly but surely, I trudged on and eventually I found my pace – the speed at which I knew that there was no stopping. To me, I said, let’s bring this home, Karen. The amusing thing about my run was meeting Jimmy, who recognised me as the girl with the devil horns in the Standard Chartered marathon 2 years ago. He had sent me a message that time to say he drew motivation from watching me run past him then, and I remember being very touched by his message. So when he came up next to me in Desaru and said “Where is your devil headgear?” I was really surprised! We chatted a good 20 minutes after that, he was entertaining me with his interesting stories. It was good! We covered good distance in that time, so thanks Jimmy!
In the 3rd and final run loop, I was numb to any pain there was. The scorching sun didnt even matter anymore. I was ready to go home. I had a peek at my watch and figured if I ran fast enough I could possibly make it under 7 hours. I tried. One last push, Karen. I tried.
I came in at 3.01pm. Which meant I took 7 hours 5 minutes. Well, considering the bike and swim routes were overdistance by 100m and 4km respectively, I managed to finish in a better time than I did in Putrajaya, I guess it is safe for me to say I have improved. =) Ah, the joy of crossing the finishing line! Nothing ever feels sweeter! :)
So I’m done with triathlons for this year. And I honestly feel super glad. I think I would really like to go back to my other fun hobbies. Like shopping or something. HA!