Race Report: Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand 2018

After completing 2 full Ironman races in Langkawi, Malaysia, I wanted to come out of my comfort zone and do an overseas race. Obviously, I was scared as I have heard many stories about people travelling overseas and spending so much money attempting one and yet, they could not finish. I didn’t want to be that person. So I kept my training and race preparation for Ironman New Zealand (IM NZ) on the low profile.

Personally, I have always wanted to visit New Zealand as a travel destination. Neither I or my mom have ever been there. I read many good reviews about IM NZ. So I did my research and signed up for it.

Having had done 2 full IM in Malaysia, I had an understanding that the logistics getting to the race destination do require some planning. Based on my past experience, the planning from the flight/transport to accommodation are very crucial.

There are a few things that I have learned from travelling to a foreign race location (New Zealand in specific):

  1. Timezone – If there are more than 3 hours time differences, you may want to plan to arrive at least 3 days prior to the race to adjust and recover from jet lag. New Zealand was 5 hours ahead of Malaysia. Because I am used to waking up early, so the time differences did not affect me as much.
  2. Food – As you have been training for several months now, and if there are certain types of food that you are unable to stomach it, you’d probably want to ensure that you are eating clean and what is familiar to you. Never, never try new things before and on race day.
  3. Bike Mechanic Check – Anything can happen to your bike during flight/transition, even if you have already sent your bike to service back home. Never assume! I had a last minute bike mechanic issue where one of the spoke on my rear rim broke and that affected the alignment. I was lucky to discover it a day before the race (on bike check-in day) and managed to get it fixed at a local bike shop. Bike test is important; have at least 2 days before the race to have a good check through. I wouldn’t advise taking any risk on this.
  4. Race Item Checklist – To ensure that you do not miss anything, always prepare a written checklist and check them twice. Have a mental run through of the things that you would need for your pre-race to actual race and post-race. When you are in a foreign country, finding sport-specific items can be tricky. I.e. The local pharmacy may not sell items such as salt sticks. And the local bike shop may not carry a Polar V800 charger. I have forgotten to pack my Polar V800 watch charger and had to track down another Polar V800 user at the event. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to find one. (The last 2 examples were true stories)
  5. Sunscreen – Never, NEVER underestimate the UV from the sun no matter which country you may be racing. You would rather be safe than sorry. The aftermath is never pleasant. I made a mistake by not applying sunscreen throughout the race, thinking that the UV would be the same as Malaysia and I got really burned as a result. I laughed at the western participants that applied sunscreen and looked like ghosts. But I was the last to be laughed at for looking all burnt. So not funny at all.

    My tan line the day after the race.

  6. Nutrition – Always stick to the nutrition plan that you have trained with for the past 3-6 months prior to the race. Nutrition is the 4th discipline of the sport and should not be taken lightly. You may be able to run a marathon, but if you ran out of sodium or electrolyte, you would end up crashing down. I miscalculated my calories plan and got really hungry towards the end of the bike course. Thankfully, the aid station had plenty of food.
  7. Travel & Logistics – Most of the Ironman races around the world are not situated in the capital city. Often it is held at a small island or town which will require a second flight or several hours of drive. Arriving a few days early can help ease your mind in getting everything ready for the race. I came across Tri Travel while researching for travel packages to Ironman New Zealand and that helped me sort out the travel and logistics from Auckland to Taupo and back.
  8.  Accommodation Location –  We all know that the Ironman triathlon is not a cheap sport and some of us would try to save on accommodation. I personally would suggest staying in a better hotel, 2-3 days leading up to the race. That way you can be sure to get quality rest and wake up fresh and ready for your big day. Location can be subjective, provided you have a sufficient transport. However, staying as close to the race location as possible can make things a lot easier after the race. I.e. If (touch wood) you had a mishap during the race and could not drive, the last thing you want to do is to walk miles to get back to your room.

Ironman New Zealand Race Overview

The Ironman New Zealand (32 years in 2018) is the second oldest Ironman race after Ironman Kona. The event was very well received and supported by the locals (yearly). This year, they had over 2,200 volunteers signed up to help – that is about 4 volunteers to 1 triathlete ratio. The locals at Taupo were very warm and friendly. The volunteers came from all ages; from school kids to elderly in their 80s helping out at the race site.

Bike check-in

In our race packs, there was a hand-drawn/written note from the local school kids with encouraging words to the athletes. That really melted my heart.

Hand-drawn/written note from the local school kids in Taupo.

At the Welcome Dinner night, the athletes were welcomed by the Maori with their cultural performances, which gave us a good insight of the native culture.

That morning, it was forecast to have good weather and that helped calm my nerves for the swim leg. This was the first triathlon race that I have raced with a mass start. For any inexperienced swimmers, we were advised to swim closer to the shore if we did not want to get swan over by other faster athletes.

The swim was one huge loop and then the U-turn at approximate 1.8km. I personally enjoyed the swim. The water was so clear that I could spot swimmers 10 meters ahead of me and I could see everything beneath me. Water was cold but after few meters into the swim, I managed to warm up and get into my rhythm. The Ironman buoys were placed about 400m from the shore and there was plenty of space for swimmers to swim without getting swam over.

I came to race without setting an expectation for myself for the swim leg, as all I wanted was to complete the swim within the cut off time and move on to the next leg.

I was quite surprised that I swam about 3 minutes faster compared to Ironman Langkawi. This is my PB so far for the 3.8 k swim distance.

Swim Course – Temperature

After I got out of the water, there was a long run along the boat harbor and up a super steep ramp before I got into the transition tent. There were so many volunteers that in the transition tent that I had 2 volunteers assisting me. One was helping to get my wetsuit off while the other assisted me with my transition gear.

By the time I got to my bike, there weren’t many bikes left. I tried not to let that get into my head as I reminded myself that the Ironman race is all about racing against myself and I should always stick to my race plan.

Approximately 2 km into the bike course, I approached a long hill climb that lasted about 12 km. The hills at Taupo was nothing compared to Langkawi bike course. However, don’t be deceived by the false flats and winds as your ride through the large open farmland. Not to mention the asphalt road was too bumpy for my liking. There were many instances that I was afraid I may get a puncture.

For the first lap, I reminded myself not to rush into it and to take it easy. While on the second loop, it was already noon. The sun was up and the course started to get very windy. I was riding against the headwind for easily 45 km before the second U-turn back. By that time, I had very little energy left to peddle my way back. Usually, I do not mind the heat as I am used to Malaysia’s humidity. However, I was not prepared and did not train to face the headwind. The headwind was a different kind of challenge altogether.

Through the bike course, I had bugs and little stones hitting me every now and then. The one that caught me by surprise was a bee sting on my neck. I panicked and had to stop by the aid station to get some spray. I got all worried that I may die of a poison bee sting! But thankfully it was minor.

I made a mistake by miscalculating my nutrition for the bike leg and started feeling hungry at about 165 km into the ride. I knew I was nearly there. Luckily, there was one last aid station around that mark. I stopped by and grabbed a few cookies because I was nearly out of fuel. It felt like the best thing I have had in a long time. I felt relieved.

Traffic control on the bike course was well planned out. The volunteers were amazing and I couldn’t ask for any better.

Bike Course – Altitude & Temperature

On the way back to the second transition, I was very happy to have survived the bike course and to begin my run. I had a glance at my watch for my bike time, it read 7 hour and 50 mins. I then knew that trying to achieve my PB was already beyond my reach as I anticipated the hilly 3 loops run after.

At the transition tent, the volunteer asked if I wanted some sunscreen but I politely declined. Which I later regretted it, thinking that the weather would be cloudy and I would be fine.

I took a short break to shake it off after I got off the bike. I knew I was certain to finish the race while it was just a matter of time. The second thing that caught me by surprise was how hilly the 1st loop of the run was, and we had to run 3 loops of it! I certainly didn’t train for the hills, as I have only been running on the treadmill back in Genting Highland. And yes, I live up on a mountain and have never ran the hills. Silly me not to take advantage of the opportunity. Anyway.

Through the run course, there were many people camping on the side; cheering, playing music, offering food and aid. I tried to draw as much positive energy as I could from everyone around to keep me going. Some even made the effort to call out my name.

Personally, I felt the run course was very mental. After finishing the second loop, you knew that you still have one more loop to go. The sun had set at 8.30 pm at Taupo. I was hoping I could finish before the sun had set, then at least I could say I finished the race before it got dark. But unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it.

I finished my run 5 hours 39 mins, 15 mins better than previous Marathon timing for Ironman. This was my personal best Marathon in an Ironman race so far. I honestly did not expect to beat my previous timing with this hilly course, but I’m very glad that I did. Which also means my run has gotten stronger and better.

I crossed the finish line at Ironman New Zeland in 15:22 hours, missing my personal best by 12 mins but I wasn’t too upset about it as it was a challenging course for me.

Run Course – Altitude & Temperature

Time Swim T1 Bike T2 Run
2018 Ironman New Zealand 15:22:19 01:37:15 00:09:04 07:50:42 00:05:32 05:39:46
2017 (PB) Ironman Malaysia 15:11:03 01:40:07  00:06:27 07:25:21  00:04:57 05:54:11
 2016 Ironman Malaysia 16:45:02 01:39:25 00:10:44 07:55:38 00:07:26 06:51:49

Travel Experience with Tri Travel
Tri Travel made my first overseas Ironman race trip a memorable one. The logistics and accommodation were all well planned and taken care of, from the arrival at Auckland to transport to Lake Taupo location and back. Tri Travel also helped to assist any athletes that required bike mechanic services at the local bike shop. I was very grateful for their help when I was faced with a last minute bike mechanic issue.

Tri Travel has many years of experience organizing Ironman race travel events which gives them an edge in knowing the event organizers and race routes. Part of the tour, Tri Travel even gave us tips and advice on how to tackle certain areas of the race route, and they drove us along the bike and run course. The best advice that I took away from them was on how to put a wetsuit on properly; which I have very little experience with as I seldom race in wetsuit condition races.

At the welcome and award dinner, Tri Travel has a special reserved area for participants which was very close to the main stage. That was a bonus!

Last but not least, we made new friends through the trip as a tour group and also shared and exchange experiences with other athletes who have raced other parts of the world. Overall, my mum and I had a good experience traveling with Tri Travel and we certainly enjoyed ourselves. I would highly recommend Tri Travel to anyone that plans to race IM NZ in the near future. Tri Travel also offers packages for other triathlon race events around the world. So do check them out! 🙂

Tri Travel athletes from Asia

The Tri Travel athletes from around the world.

Credit & Acknowledgement
Breakaway Training, Coach Felipe Loureiro – Thank you for preparing me for my 3rd Ironman and for continuously improving my performance in the 3 disciplines.

PushMore Fitness & Performance, Coach Jonathan Wong – Thank you for continuously helping me to improve on my weaknesses. I would not be as strong as I am today without your guidance.

N8 Sports Nutrition – A trusted brand for endurance sports. I use N8 Endurance to fuel my long bike rides and training. N8 Natural Whey and N8 Armour BCAA as my post-race and recovery aid.

Race Report: Ironman 70.3 Busselton

    Time Swim T1 Bike T2 Run
2017 70.3 Busselton 06:35:06 00:53:08 00:05:10 03:14:09 00:05:14 02:17:25
2016 Challenge Iskandar Puteri 07:38:01 00:51:33   03:43:06   03:03:22
  70.3 Putrajaya 07:44:55 00:53:40 00:05:55 03:53:33 00:07:35 02:44:12
2015 70.3 Putrajaya 07:42:31 00:51:59 00:04:46 03:38:32 00:04:08 03:03:04

Ironman 70.3 Busselton was my first international triathlon and first wetsuit event. I was both excited and nervous as this was my first time racing overseas – new place, different climate and being 1 of only 2 Malaysians racing that event.

Racing in a country like Australia was not the first option for me due to the currency exchange rate.  I was fortunate to have a friend who lives in Perth that invited me to race the Ironman 70.3 Busselton. Logistics and accommodation were covered and all I had to do was take care of my flights and other expenses.

Having lived and trained in a tropical humid climate like Malaysia, the weather at Busselton was a bit too chilly for me liking. The air was dry so I didn’t sweat as much. It took me awhile to get used to these changes.

That morning, my friend took me for a short bike ride and briefed me on what to expect during the bike course. It was a very cold morning as I believe it rained the night before. I could barely feel my feet. I almost cried, worried it may be the same on race day. But race day was a lot warmer.

We went for a swim after the bike ride; it was more for me to test out the wetsuit in the seas. I felt comfortable. I know I was ready for the race. I was glad I took my coach’s advice getting the full sleeve wetsuit over the sleeveless as the wetsuit really help kept my body warm and buoyant.

Race Day
It doesn’t matter if I have raced the same course a thousand times before, I will still feel nervous because the race is important to me. I was mentally prepared. Got all my nutrition sorted early in the morning prior the race. The only thing I was still nervous about was, how to get out of my wetsuit. I spoke to a participant who was racing in my same age group. She was lovely and gave me some good advices. The Australians here are friendly and helpful.

Swim (00:53:08)
Swimming has never been my best leg. I went on the course just wanting to finish it within the cut off time. The water was really calm that morning however got a little choppy towards the end. I got a bit worried when I felt I was the last person in the swim as most of the Australians swam past me so quickly. Every time I looked up, there was nobody near me, not until towards the turn around about 300m towards the finishing line.

As much as I didn’t want to pee in my wetsuit, I peed myself twice to kept me warm. Oops, too much info.

Got out of the swim and checked my watch. It was pretty much within my expected timing.

After the race, I later found out that the last wave got pulled out because there were sharks within the area. They still get to finished the race but not the swim. I was lucky it didn’t happen to me as I wanted to experience the full racing course.

When I got into the transition, I looked around to see most of the bikes were gone. Suddenly the whole competitive side of me kicked in and got me pressured to get going. I wasn’t sure what to do with my wetsuit when I got there but saw everyone dumped it at their spot so I did the same.

Bike (03:14:09)

The entire bike course was flat. Not a single hill. I saw many cyclists pass me, probably riding between 35-45km/h. On many occasions I was tempted to chase them but reminded myself to stick to my plan because I know how much my legs could push and maintain. I wasn’t very happy when I saw a group of cyclists drafting but later heard some of them get penalised. It didn’t bother me.

On the second loop, the head wind caught up and my bike pace dropped. I felt the road get bumpier, had a feeling it had something to do with my tyre but I refused to stop to check as I was trying to chase after the 3 hour time frame. After the race, I found out that my tyre was rather flat. I was upset as I had some problem getting air in my rear tyre that morning and was hoping I wouldn’t lose too much either. I probably could have done better if the tyre was fully inflated.

Had the numbers at the back of my head and I know I was still within the sub 7 hour time frame after I got off the bike course.

I also noticed, having it being a fast course, many cyclists were using disc wheels. While on the other hand, there were also cyclists who were bigger than I, with cheaper bikes, overtaking me on the bike course. That kind of put me to shame. Reminding myself – It’s not about the bike but the engine.

During the bike leg, I had the urge to pee but refused to get down as I didn’t want to lose any time nor stained my bike with my smelly pee. LOL. So, I peed on the grass while putting on my shoes. Haha… Luckily it dried up after the race when I collected my bike after the race.

Run (02:17:25)
The run course was 3 laps of 7km. I personally never liked many loops as I find it pretty mental every time you passed the u-turn and still have more to go. However, the crowd was amazing. There was lots of energy, music playing and people were giving lots of motivations. I would say it was one of the best run course that I’ve ever ran.

The only thing that I missed was the cold water at the water stations. It wasn’t as sunny compared to Malaysia, but when your body is so warm you just wished there was cold water and lots of ice.

Overall I ran one of my best 21km distance in a long time. Felt strong even after the race with no aches at all. I crossed the finish line and saw the time on my watch, I was so happy, I did it so close to sub 6:30 hour.

I couldn’t be any happier having shaved more than an hour off my previous races. It was my Personal Best (PB)

My Take Away From This Race

  1. While packing, never leave the bike pedal on, as it punched a hold in my sponge. I know it’s a small matter but still. Never do last minute packing. Pack at least 2 days prior to departure, that way any problems can still be rectified.
  2. One of the pieces inside my integrated seat post dropped inside the frame. I called my mechanic back home to enquire on the problem but glad I found the missing piece and got the problem resolved. This is one of the reasons why we should always pack our own bikes just so we know what could have gone wrong.
  3. I learned a better way to remember how to tighten and loosen the nuts. – Lefty loosy, Righty tighty. 🙂
  4. Always ensure tyres are pumped to at least 110-120psi. There is no room for error.

Credit & Acknowledgement
Breakaway Training, Coach Felipe Loureiro – Thank you for the believing in me and getting me to where I am today. Your customised program is never boring and it fits perfectly well into my busy working schedule. Your program made it possible for me to train at my optimum.

PushMore Fitness & Performance, Coach Jonathan Wong – Thank you for monitoring and working closely with me every single week on my strength and conditioning training progress. Despite all the pain that you have put me through, they are all worth it!

N8 Sports Nutrition – Thank you for supporting and believing in my race endeavour. The N8 Endurance and N8 Amour BCAA made it possible for long hours of training and recovery.

Swim Smooth Video Analysis Clinic

26-03-17 (Sun): Swim Smooth Video Analysis Clinic

70.3 Ironman Busselton is about one month away. Having tried swimming with the wetsuit, I got concern when I noticed my swim timing for 100m has dropped quite drastically. When Coach Shauqie announce the date of the Swim Smooth Video Analysis Clinic, I did not hesitate and signed up for it. I know that a little correction in swimming stroke can help make a whole lot different in the overall swim timing. I was optimistic that I still have time to make some small corrections.

Swim Smooth Video Analysis Clinic (Itinery)

1. In-Pool Swim Video Recording
The session started off with each of us took turns to swim 100m lap in a steady endurance space. We were being recorded from varies angles; both, above and underwater.

I took the opportunity to have both of my wetsuit and non-wetsuit swim recorded, just to make comparison.

2. Classroom – Swim Video Analysis
After in-pool recording session was done, we move to the classroom for the theory and swim analysis sessions.

This is where the moment of truth is being revealed. Many swimmers probably have their own perception or perceive of how they think they are swimming. However video can never lie.

Two swimmers of different height would have different arm length. Which means no swimmers are alike. To know our potential we should know which swim type we fall into.

The different swim types and progress chart

(Right) Mistake: My catch-up arm pull

In the swim video analysis session, each swimmers were being analysed stroke by strokes and break down to address dead spot and areas that needed to improved. Sample videos of many world top swimmers, open water and to swimming drills were pulled out to help us to have a better visual understanding.

3. In-Pool Hands-On Swim Drills 
After the classroom theory session, we did some hands-on swim drill in the pool; to work on correcting and improving our swimming techniques.

Unco Drill – aid to help swimmer who have imbalance body rotation and breathing bilateral.

I would highly recommend anyone who wish to have a deeper understand on their swimming style or to improve their swimming pace to attend Coach Shauqie’ Swim Smooth Video Analysis Clinic.

For those who signed up for the swim analysis clinic will given a free one month access to Swim Smooth Guru online portal. The portal provides a very comprehensive range of support for every swimmers’ needs. You will gain access to videos of all the swimming drills, and even customised (this is only available for Pro version) training plan, for you to excel in your next big race.

For more information, kindly get in touch with Coach Shauqie Aziz at MySwim Facebook.

Race Report: Powerman Asia Duathlon Championships – Malaysia

Powerman duathlon have been a ‘must’ do annual race for most of us. That is because there are not many duathlon races around compared to triathlon races. Duathlon race which consist of Run-Bike-Run, a good first step for those who potentially interested to move up to do triathlon sport.

This year is my 5th year participating in Powerman duathlon but it was also one of worst event I have ever done in terms of performance wise (for my current fitness level). However, I am glad to still managed to achieve a Personal Best (PB) timing.

For those who knows me, I am a late bloomer in the sport field and I do put a lot of effort, dedication and time, to get to where I am today. I may not be at the competitive level compared to those who’ve got talent in this field of sport, but I will always try to improved my timing for each new races that I take on.

Race Report:

Run 1 (00:57:41)
Dark clouds were already covering Putrajaya area before the race. It only started to shower about 20 mins after we flagged off. I realised I didn’t bring my cap along. There are also other items which I realised that I have left out because I did not do a checklist prior before the race this around. Bad move.

I started the run a bit too fast compared to my training pace. The course was relatively flat, so I went ahead to push. Furthermore the weather was cooler since it showered. I ran a very good sub 60 mins for the first 10k. So I thought I was doing better as planned.

Photo courtesy of Nik Fahusnaza.

T1 (00:03:15)
First transition went very smooth with no hiccups, except the crowd at the bike out area.

Bike (02:08:39)
After exiting the transition, I slowly push through myself out from the crowd on the far most right lane. Powerman is an event where there are many amateurs cyclist who may not be familiar with the riding ethics. I don’t blame them as I was once like them.

I started on the bike slowly and progressively hammered through the hill. At close to 10km into the bike, I started to feel my right calf muscle cramping. Thought to myself – “Oh shit, this is not good.”. I Ignored the sign and let my ego push further on the bike. Then slowed down after realising if my calf muscle get locked I would probably fall of the bike and break myself instead.

I took a stop at 12km. Tried stretching out my right calf that got cramped. That got me very upset because I know I have prepared well for this race. Was so closed to calling a quit but giving up do not exist in my dictionary. As frustrated as I was, I knew I was losing time. The marshal that was stationed helped me to massaged my calf muscle out. After 3 mins, I felt I was okay to go and got back right in.

I later switched to using my quads muscle to ride instead. Giving my calf a break to avoid it from getting cramp again. The strategy works. However, I was really pushing myself too much. I could recall my memory muscle of my front squats movement when I was firing my quads up most of the hills. Having to lost 3 mins from the stop, so I tried to play catch up and in hope I could finished within 2 hours for 60km, but it was slightly over.

I got off the bike into transition 2 – feeling okay. But I knew I have trash my left quad on the hill.

Photo courtesy of AKU, Wong.

T2 (00:07:05)
I don’t recall taking 7 mins at the transition but I do remember seeing the timing map being placed quite far from the run out exist point.

Run 2 (01:07:13)
My legs literally felt like brick after I got off the bike. Probably that’s how they get the term – brick off the bike. Then 500 meters into the run, my left quad started to show signs of cramping. I had to stopped to massage it. I have never felt so much pain during a race before. The cramp was worst than Ironman Langkawi to be honest. A friend who ran passed me and suggested that I take some ice to release the cramp. It did help and I press on to finish the remaining of the run. There were some point where I wanted to walk, however walking would re-trigger the quad to cramp again. It was a good problem to be honest. So I just had to shuffle to the finishing line.

My take away from this race:

  1. Never forget to bring a cap or visor (be it rain or shine, it will save my face/cheek from getting sun burn too).
  2. Never forget my race checklist, more especially nutrition checklist. The one thing that I forgotten to pack was the salt pill. I know it helped me during the last 2 Powerman races.
  3. Always train with the socks that I will be wearing on race day. So I wore Compressport sock during this race and had the same blister on the same areas during Ironman Langkawi race. I thought the problem was the shoes, however the culprit was the dots on the Compressport socks. (This is based on my experience, it may vary for other people who had worn them.)
  4. Never to apply sunscreen on areas above the eyes. The sweat and rain was dripping above my eyes. I believe my eyes was feeling the burn from some of the sunscreen that got wash down from my forehead.
  5. To at least do a Run-Bike-Run session during training, prior before the duathlon race.

Powerman 2016 – 04:39:00

Powerman – 04:24:41 (Personal Best)

Time Cat Pos Gen Pos Run 1 T1 Bike T2 Run 2
2017 (PB) 4:24:41 15 69 0:57:41 0:03:15 2:08:39 0:07:05 1:07:13
2016 4:39:00 13 71 1:03:33 2:13:07 1:14:12
Improvement 0:14:19     0:05:52      0:04:28   0:06:59

Shaving off 14 mins is definitely a great improvement. However I would still definitely try to do better again next year.

Credit & Acknowledgement:
Rudy Project Wing 57 helmet by Rudy Project Malaysia Brunei
Duathlon training program by Coach Felipe Loureiro of Breakaway Training
Strength & conditioning training program by Coach Jonathan Wong of PushMore Fitness & Performance

Chasing the 70.3 Dream

It all started with a dream… a dream of wanting to push one limit, a dream of wanting to complete an Ironman race.

I was never a competitive person to begin with, but I was doing it more for self accomplishment and achievement. Regardless of gender or age, I know and believe that if I were to put my heart and soul to do something, “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE”. That is what being an Ironman is all about.

After completing my first Olympic Distance (OD) triathlon race in August 2014, I was itching to race in another triathlon. Unfortunately, one of the races I had signed up for got cancelled and there weren’t any other races nearby around the corner. So instead of training for nothing, I begin to search for a customized coaching program to cater to my needs and fitness level. Reason being is because I like having a program that I can follow for the entire month.

To race a 70.3 Ironman was one item on my bucket list, but there was a problem, I wasn’t sure where or how to begin. Going from an Olympic Distance triathlon to a 70.3 distance, effectively doubling my distance would not be an easy task. A 1.9km swim starts the day of, with a 90km bike ride before finishing up with a 21km run – each of the sport is already tough on its own, what more having to complete all of them in one day.

Having little experience in triathlon races, begin looking for triathlon coaching. I spent the first 3 months to train on my base with Coach Philip Yip purely on running and cycling, and later did my 70.3 training program with Coach Felipe Loureiro of Breakaway Training.



Two days before the race, I had the opportunity to be one of the selected contestants to have dinner with Craig (Crowie) Alexander. We had an evening of questions and answers where Craig shared some advices and his personal experience in the triathlon field.


With Craig ‘CROWIE’ Alexander himself. Photo courtesy of Ironman Malaysia

Being someone renowned in the triathlon field, Craig is really humble and honest about his struggle in life with juggling training (a.k.a. work) and family like all of us do. He emphasised the important of having family support and having them be part of your sport, which I totally agree.

Each of us (contestants) was given an opportunity to ask Craig a question and mine was – “What would be your advice for someone who attempting to do their first Ironman distance? What would be the advisable duration or build up to that level and should it be just training all the way or should there be races to build up?”

His answer was (in my own words):

The ideal duration is to give you one year to build up the distance and endurance; adding 1-2 half-Iron distance (70.3 miles) and OD races to keep the momentum going. Reason being if you just train for a year without putting in few races, you wouldn’t push yourself to the limit to improve your performance.

Race Day

We were grouped in 3 batches based on our estimated swim time for 1.9km and the triathletes were release in wave of 4 each to prevent collisions, which was really helpful for first-timers like me. I struggled with my sighting at times and swam off course several times, ultimately increasing my distance by a fair bit.

I felt good when I came out of the water, having survived the swim and ready to go all out on the bike and run!

I completed the swim leg in 52minutes despite having swum 300 meters extra.


Photo courtesy of ET Tey

Transition 1
I made my way to the transition area, trying not to panic; I took my time to ensure I do not miss out anything. Before getting onto the bike, I had a little accident on the carpet, felt really bad as it was an area shared by other participants.

I also wasted few precious minutes, with a small problem I encountered with my shoes.

Pro-tip: Practise flying mounts

I took it easy on the first few kilometres to warm up my legs, reminding myself to constantly sip water to prevent cramps or dehydration. I played it safe by wearing a cycling jersey during the bike leg just so I could keep my fuel in the back pocket without risking dropping anything.

During the first loop, I tried riding as quickly as my legs allowed. While in my second loop, I started to conserve my strength, to avoid hitting the proverbial wall before the run leg. The heat and humidity started to take its toll on me and my average pace dropped from 25/km to 23/km. By then I knew my targeted finishing time was slipping away, but I didn’t allow that to dampen my spirit as all I was aiming for was to finish.

Few kilometres toward the transition, I slowly increase the cadence for the last few kilometres to avoid squats cramp on the run leg.


Photo courtesy of Ultraman Malaysia Kannan Murugasan

Transition 2
When I arrived in transition 2, I knew I’m very close to finishing. I changed into my running tee, cap and shoes and off I went into the run.

It was around 1pm in the afternoon when I started running. I was already feeling exhausted and the heat did not make it any better. But I was thankful that there was water/shower stations every 2km of the run for us to cool off.


Photo courtesy of Darren Chan

The made a huge mistake by getting my shoes soaking wet. Halfway through the run, I started to get chafing from the tee underneath both side of my armpit and blisters on my feet. I was so tempted to walk back but it hurts more to walk, thus jogging was a lot easier and I try to get back as fast as I could to the finishing arch. At this point, I was just trying to survive.

Running towards the finishing line, I was glad to see my dad present at the finishing line. I felt great having to complete my maiden 70.3 Ironman, and my second triathlon, in 7:42:32. And having my dad witness the event itself it would help him understand the sport better and all the training that I’ve put in the past couple of months.

I’ve really learned a lot from this experience. I dedicate my finishing to God – for blessing me with supportive family and friends, especially my parents for being supportive in my sport/fitness journey; training friends – for putting in the miles with me; swim coach Amir of Swimon – for stroke corrections sessions; Coach Philip Yip – for the foundation training; and Coach Felipe Loureiro of Breakaway Training, for the effective training coaching program and believing in me. THANK YOU!


My first 70.3 Ironman Finisher!

The Day I Became a Triathlete is the Day I Learnt How to Swim

After years of running and cycling, I recently completed my first Olympic Distance triathlon at the Port Dickson International Triathlon (August 2014), organised by Uncle Chan, who is famous for adding surprises into the triathlon, I found the easygoing atmosphere and the festive mood there welcoming for a first-timer.

I chose Port Dickson to be my first triathlon as the sea is typically calm for this event, the bike route is flat and fast, and the run along the coast being very scenic, all added up to a very pleasant first triathlon for me.

I would not say that the journey to being a triathlete was easy, but at the same time it was made a lot easier with the help of many experienced athletes.

My Main Obstacle
As a long-time athlete, I have always had this desire to be a triathlete. Maybe it is because triathletes are known to be some of the fittest sports people on the planet, or maybe magnetic attraction to the sport via the Ironman brand, I just wanted to be a triathlete. Unfortunately, I could not swim.

Like many other people, swimming is the biggest hurdle to overcome, with a common saying “If you’re tired on the bike, you can coast; if you’re tired while running, you can still walk; if you’re tired or panic during the swim, you’re out of the game” showing with the most common fear associated with swimming being drowning. The fear of aggressive marine animals, no thanks to movies like Jaws with its distinctive, ominous soundtrack, is perhaps a close second.

With my problems being an open secret, I was introduced to the Total Immersion Freestyle Mastery Malaysia Program. Total Immersion, a method of swimming instruction, was developed by Terry Laughlin and focuses on efficiency. The basic philosophy is energy conservation, where energy wastage is minimised and instead putting potentially wasted energy to good use, namely propelling oneself forward. Teaching method is structured, with a systematic progression of skills that applies to entry-level swimmers, triathletes, distance swimmers or recreational swimmers.

Having experienced both a conventional, and Total Immersion Freestyle Mastery Malaysia’s swimming method, I found that Total Immersion’s method easier to learn. Emphasis on the correct form and technique does not only help make one a stronger swimmer, but also builds confidence in the water. Total Immersion’s focus of efficient energy usage ensures that triathletes are not worn out, saving their strength for the latter legs of the race.

With the increasing popularity of triathlons, the Total Immersion does not only cater to basic swimming skills, but also covers skills required for triathletes participating in open-water swims. Accustoming oneself to messy and potentially scary mass starts, learning to draft faster swimmers, and proper navigation skills to stay on course, are all essential skills to helping triathletes set new personal records.

To further develop swimmers’ skills and confidence in the open water, Total Immersion Freestyle Mastery Malaysia conducts monthly open-water swim sessions, in collaborates with Swimon. Swimon organises open water swimming event and provide lessons to acquire necessary open water swimming skills. It cater from beginners to well as recreational swimmers and triathletes. These open-water sessions are conducted by experienced lifeguards and swimming coaches, and safely introduces open water swimming to inexperienced swimmers in a gradual manner, helping them overcome their fear of the sea.

Having experienced the euphoria of completing my first triathlon, I would urge anyone with similar ambitions and fears to give the Total Immersion Freestyle Mastery Malaysia Program a shot. For more information, do check out Total Immersion Freestyle Mastery Malaysia on Facebook.