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.
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)
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.
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.
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. :)
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.
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!