Monday, 12 February 2018

Tweed Coast Enduro 2018

This is my third year in a row doing the Tweed Coast Enduro half iron distance triathlon. Located in Pottsville, just after the Queensland-New South Wales border and less than 90 minutes drive from home. Plus the entry fee is less than $250 (if you sign up early) so it was an easy decision to make. Having said that, the race is earlier in the year this time, as with many events got brought forward due to the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April, so having to get into good form shortly after the Christmas holiday season was a bit of a challenge.

Being a Saturday race, I took Friday afternoon off work and stayed the night pre race with my wife and son in an airbnb, about 3.5kms from race site. I was considering driving down by myself on race morning itself but I'm glad I decided otherwise. With a favourable swim tide this year, we started about 6.30am (NSW daylight savings time) - 1.5 hours earlier than last year, which meant I had to leave the house before 3am. I met a few Logan Tri Club at the race pack pick up and it was nice to have a chat. Other than that, it was relatively low key, some of the expo stalls weren't even set up yet. In the evening, we took a drive to Cabarita Beach and had a really good seafood pizza at the local bakery.

A different bag given this year, waterproof bag unlike last two years' transition bag

Race morning came and I woke up after a decent night's sleep. As good as a night's sleep could be, being in a different bed and with some pre race nerves. I cycled to the race site and it was still dark. I was overly cautious at one of the descends that comes to a speed bump, decided to unclip my pedals and walk that section. Didn't want to stack myself before the race even started! I had some minor issues while racking my bike. The black tape I used to cover the valve hole on the rear disc wheel were getting stuck in the brakes so I removed them altogether. Other than that, I took it easy, had my peanut butter and nutella sandwiches and banana. I was feeling full but I had my Clif bar anyway as I knew I would need the calories. One last visit to the toilets and then it was easy stroll to the swim start. A relay swimmer who was doing this event for the first time needed some directions so I asked her to join me and we had a nice chat throughout the walk.

Swim 1.9km

Water was 27 degrees, so non wetsuit. Being a point to point swim, this event prides itself with a downhill, current assisted swim. Although last year we swam against the currents, we were fortunate to have the tide with us again this year. Mine was the last wave at around 6.40am. The water at Mooball Creek had always been shallow and it seemed to be even shallower this year. There was plenty of water wading as the horn went off up until we turned left on the first buoy, where we could finally start swimming. But there were some sections where the sand built up again and then I could see some walking ahead. As I have shorter  arms than the other guys, I was able to swim through these sections but not sure if I would have been faster if I walked.

It wasn't long before I was overtaking some in the earlier waves and that always gave me a confidence boost. I was averaging about 1:30 per 100m as I checked my progress on my watch. Quicker than what I usually swim but not as quick as the first year I did this race. True enough, I hit the first timing mat in 31:11, over 4 minutes slower than the first year. But hey, it was over 10 minutes quicker than last year when we swim against the current, so can't complain. Looking at the overall results, the average swim times were slower compared to the first year too. My Garmin recorded just over 2km distance and I didn't think I was zig zagging too much. 9th place in age group after the swim.

Transition 1

I made sure I removed my swimskin this time as I forgotten to take it off last year. There were lots of loose grass sticking to my feet, so I spent a few more seconds wiping them off before I put my socks on. It took me a couple of tries before I was able to fly mount on the bike. I have to get myself to attend more of these brick sessions.

Bike 90km

The bike course is L shaped, 4 laps. It can get crowded at times but with a relatively small field, it wasn't so bad. The road surface is generally rough with some pot holes to look out for. Two noticeable inclines on each direction, with the rest being mostly false flats. Overall elevation for the 90km course was 200+m, so I would say this is closer towards a flat course than a hilly one. The last time I rode with the deep race wheels was in Busselton so thankfully, conditions were calm and there were no strong cross winds. So I could keep my nose onto the aerobars and hammer straightaway. It wasn't even 10km before I lost my spare tube and tire levers going over a pot hole. Probably the same spot where I lost my water bottle last year! Better not get a flat then.

I was pretty consistent with my efforts. I was gradually building up the average power to about 180 watts and average speed to 35kph. I had the Garmin set to beep at every 10km and I was holding just under 17 minutes each time at first. The wind did pick up after two laps and I slowed down a bit, but not by much - just slightly above 17 minutes for the next few 10kms. It was only at the last 8kms where a piece of sticky tape got stuck to my front wheel and that significantly increased the rolling resistance. By the end of the course, it seemed that it had picked up lots of debris off the ground as well, so luckily I didn't get a puncture. My Garmin recorded 2:34:31, bang on 35kph average with average power of 181 watts. Official results was 2:36:49 including both transitions and I gained 1 place in age group after the bike. I was 3 minutes slower than my PB bike split, so I can't complain but I have some work to do if I want a PB finish. Nutrition taken during the bike - 3 Endura gels spaced somewhat evenly - start of bike, somewhere in the middle, just before bike finish. One 500m bottle of N8 Endurance - yes, I'm a bit of a camel - don't try this at home!

Transition 2

Ran past my bike rack by a few spots and had to back track. Bent down to put the shoes on and everything else (sunglasses, visor and race bib) put on the go. I almost ran out the wrong direction but was directed back on track by an official, phew!

Run 21.1km

The run course is 3 laps, shaped somewhat like a letter T with a short turnaround and a longer one. Mostly on footpaths and some sections on grass. Partially shaded with two short inclines as we run around the park. Having not ran off the bike for over 2 months and only started building up my long runs in the last month or so, I wasn't sure how my legs would feel. But surprisingly they were okay. The leg turnover felt good, they always do at first because they mimicked the bike cadence. First few kms were done under 4:30 minutes per km. However, I only held this for the first lap. I could feel a twinge on my left quad and I had to be careful not to let it turn into a full blown cramp.

One my favourite run pictures. This looks like the other guy is lifting me off the ground! Photo credit - Belinda

It was getting hotter by the minute but the encouragement from the supporters and volunteers were great. It was also good to see fellow Logan Tri Club members out on the course and we gave each other motivation. I was aiming to take line honours but superstar Philippe put in too much time on me on the bike and I was only able to take a minute or so off him on the run. My run pace dropped to the 4:40s per km on the second lap and slowed further to the 4:50s on the final lap. I was really digging deep but trying not to cramp at the same time. Finally, I got to the finish line with 1:37:22 run split and overall finish time of 4:45:23, placed 5th in my age group. I was a couple minutes slower than my PB on this same course two years ago but I can't complain. I felt strong throughout and this definitely made up for the disappointing DNF at IM Busso.

After the finish, I recovered in the shade with my wife and son. At this point, I'm more concerned about their well being than mine and am glad that they didn't suffer too much in the heat. Finally caught up with the other club guys and great to hear that everyone did well. This is a well organized event and I truly recommend it, see you guys next year!

One with the boys, we missed out on two more. Thanks Erika for this photo!

With my biggest fans!

Monday, 11 December 2017


The title says it all and most of you would have known by now that I didn't finish my race at Ironman Western Australia, Busselton last weekend. I was feeling great and was on PB pace for the first lap of the bike but it was as though I hit a wall immediately after the turnaround. My pace up until the half way point was an average of 34.5kph but I struggled to hold 25kph thereafter. I soft pedalled for the next 20km to see if I could push through. At one point I was even calculating if I could meet the cut off! But the body was weak and the mind was even weaker, I found a wooden hut where the timing mats were kept at the 110km mark and hid in the shade to see I would feel better after a few minutes rest. I didn't and shortly after caught the SAG wagon back to town.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed. I was really looking forward to this race. I signed up for it way in advance, whereas IM Cairns was more of a last minute thing. It was meant to be 12th finish and I would have been able to apply for the Kona Legacy program but looks like I would have to wait anther year now. What may have caused it? I don't know for sure. Having the swim cancelled and a delayed start, waiting on the beach under the sun for about 45 minutes didn't help but many others went through the same. I pulled out of the race before the bike course was shortened due to the bush fire further away but it may have caused the temperate to spike in the last hour or so of my ride. It was of no one's fault and the organizers did the best they could on that day as participants' safety was paramount. Conditions were definitely challenging to say the least and I congratulate all those who persevered through to finish that day. At Li-Ann's insistence, I'll  also be reviewing my race nutrition plan as I have over simplified it all these while and it's time to put some science to it.

Despite all this, I did have a great trip. Coming back to Perth is always nice, going to places that brought back lots of memories and great to see some new developments as well. And the time spent with family and meeting up with old friends was priceless. So it was definitely a trip worth while.

Pre race portrait shots by Paparazzi on The Run
What's next for 2018? I'm still undecided at the moment. While I have already signed up for IM Port Macquarie in May, we were given $200 discount off any full Ironman race within Australia and New Zealand for the cancelled swim and shortened bike course, no refunds for races already registered of course. This kind of makes me lean towards Cairns again and possibly defer my Port Mac entry to the following year. But I would also like to do IM Malaysia again and I'm not sure if I want to go through training for two Ironmans in a year again. Been doing that for the last 3 years.

I've got some thinking to do.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

QTS Robina Triathlon

The Queensland Triathlon Series host 7 events each year from September to March. Two of which have the Olympic distance race, both held in Robina, about 45 minutes drive south from home. I was planning to do this event last year but I sprained my ankle just before the event, so luckily I didn't sign up otherwise I would have forfeited my entry fee. This year's event was conveniently scheduled 4 weeks after Sunshine Coast 70.3, so a nice way to end a training block by doing some heart pumping racing instead of the long hours on the saddle or on the tarmac. Plus, it was also on a day after my 34th birthday, so I figured what a great way to celebrate doing the thing I truly enjoy!

I left the house at 5am and it was an easy drive along the M1 to Robina. There were plenty of cars parked already when I got there as the kids and enticer races started first. Picked up my race pack and racked my bike. The racks weren't numbered individually, only in groups. There wasn't much space left so I managed to squeeze in somewhere. The challenge would be remembering my spot - after the swim and after the bike, next time I'll remind myself to bring something bright that sticks out. Waited in queue for one last minute visit to the portaloos and caught up with the Logan Triathlon Club crew for a quick chat at the tent. Soon it was time to head towards the water.

Swim 1.5km

I was in the first of three waves for the Olympic distance at 7.12am. The swim course took place in the fresh waters surrounding Clear Island Waters. Two triangular laps in anti clockwise direction. Water temperature was around 23 degrees, so non wetsuit. It was a bit of chaos at the start, almost like a UFC match! But it settled down once we got to the first buoy and I was able to find some space. I actually welcomed some company as the buoys were pretty hard to sight and I relied on the splashes of kicking feet ahead of me to guide the way. Every now and then there would be the faster swimmers from the later wave swimming past and I would try to hold on but only for a few meters. After the final buoy on the second lap, we make a right turn towards the boat ramp that would lead us towards transition. Official swim time was 24:23 and my Garmin recorded 1,413m at 1:45 per 100m pace. It was consistent with my training pace, but as always I would have liked to have gone faster.

Transition 1

Good: I was able to spot my bike and didn't run past it. Not so good: I fumbled with my helmet a bit and unclipped the fairing on one side, so it was sticking out throughout the ride. Also, it took me a while to mount my bike as I was a bit nervous with the few other participants around me. But once I got into the rhythm it was okay.

Bike 40km

A five lap bike course, shaped like a T. So even if the event is non drafting, it can get really crowded. Virtually flat with a bit of incline as we rode up and down the bridge. Conditions were very calm too with some light winds. But it was hard to get the speed up when we were making turns after every 2-3km or so. Especially for someone like myself, who is overly cautious at the u-turns and the corners. It got even worse on the last two laps when the sprint competitors who started an hour later started joining the course. Still, I tried my best to bring my average speed up. I was able to get to just above 35kph towards the end of the course. The course was a bit under distanced and my Garmin recorded just over 63 minutes for the 37.3km course. Average power was 185 watts and normalized power was 201 watts, which seemed about right for an hour's hit out. Official bike time was 1:06:32 including both transitions.

Transition 2

Again, I didn't run past my spot, yay! Bike racked, helmet off, shoes on and put on the rest on the go. I was on a mission to make up the positions I lost on the bike.

Run 10km

The L shaped run course was out-and-back, 3 laps. It had been overcast the whole morning which helped but every now and then, the sun peeked out and put a bit of burn. My legs felt surprisingly fresh and they were turning over well. First km clocked in 4:07 and I was wondering how long I could hold on. It slowed down the next km to 4:14 and I  then joined a group of 2-3 others. We pushed each other and held 4:10 pace or under for the next 5kms or so. Running past the LTC tent was motivating and the support crew gave me an extra boost - thanks guys! About 3 more kms to go, I felt some slight twitching on my left quad and I decided to slow it down a bit, so that it didn't turn into a cramp. Still, I held 4:17 pace for the next 2kms and then I was on the home stretch. I pushed out another 4:08 and then just about 150m from the finish line, sprinted and gave it all I got. Official run time was 42:11 and this time it was spot on. Overall finish time was 2:13:07 and adding 5 minutes to make up for the under distance should still equate my PB, so I was pretty satisfied with my performance.

I hobbled back to the LTC tent for some sausages, bacon and eggs freshly cooked from the BBQ. It was fun day out and I truly enjoyed myself. Thanks again guys! Even though the race was less than a third of my recent weekend mileage, I'm still feeling pretty sore which goes to show how painful short but high intensity racing can be. Short is definitely not easy!

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Sunshine Coast 70.3 2017

I've been longing to do this race since we moved to Brisbane but just didn't get to. Held in Mooloolaba, only about 80 minutes drive north from home it was a no brainer. The first year, I did Bukit Merah 113 instead in my home country, Malaysia. The second year, it hosted the 70.3 World Championships so it was by qualification only. So this time, since the stars were aligned, I signed up the moment registrations opened! Plus, it was a nice lead up race to IM Western Australia later this year.

We went up to Mooloolaba on Friday morning as most places only accepted minimum two nights stay. I would have preferred to go up on Saturday and return on Monday after the race, but I had auditors coming in that day. Yes, for those who were wondering, I do have a day time job outside of triathlon. Central Motel was about 600m walk from transition on the esplanade, which is pretty convenient. It was pretty quiet when we arrived and I took the car out to drive the hilly parts of the course to avoid any surprises on race day. In the evening, the crowd started coming in and it took me about 45 minutes in line to get my race pack collected.

All set up but still very quiet
The next day, we took it pretty easy. Just a short swim to test out the wetsuit. Sebastian played at the beach for a while. I checked in my bike pretty early at 11am followed by the video briefing. Had a quick lunch and then we rested at the motel for most of the afternoon. Finished up the day with my standard pre race pizza dinner.

Still pretty empty at bike check-in! Big contrast from race day!
Race morning came soon enough. My age group wave start was at 6.37am and transition closed at 5.40am. So I had some time to spare. It was already very busy in transition and this has got to be one of the tightest transition area I've ever been in. If you weren't careful, you could bump off the bike behind you, no kidding! One of the upsides of being in one of the last few waves, was the queue for the toilet is not as long. While waiting in queue, I got interviewed by a guy who was setting up a new tri website based in South Korea called Push Push Multisport. Almost had to cut short the interview as it was my turn to use the loo! Soon it was go time and I was lining myself at the beach for my wave start.

Swim 1.9km

The swim is a dry land start from the beach. Then about 100-200m swim towards the first buoy and then turning right into a rectangular course in an anti clockwise direction before swimming back to beach. Only one lap. The water was relatively calm but as it was in the ocean, there were some mild waves as we started from the shore. Swimming into the sunrise with my yellow lensed goggles didn't pose too much of on issue. I did have a few gulps of sea water but I didn't panic. I swam pretty much on course except for one occasion where I mistook a lifesaver for a buoy. But luckily it didn't waste too much time. They should really consider having different coloured uniforms or buoys. It was also a confidence boost swimming past those who started in the earlier waves, you can tell from their different coloured caps. The last turn back into shore was a bit challenging, as I felt the currents pulling me away. I clocked 31:14 for the swim, which has been of my better swims recently. But I know I can do better. Hopefully joining a swim squad again will further improve my times as you can get complacent swimming on your own.

Transition 1

As the transition area was pretty narrow, so was the lane to run towards our bike racks. At some parts, I was able to squeeze through to overtake the person in front. At other parts, I just had to be patient and not fret over a few seconds. Wetsuit came off rather easily without any dramas. It was cold in the morning but it warmed up nicely before the swim. So my hands weren't frozen and I could put on the helmet without fumbling it. The bike mount line was a bit hairy with so many other participants around. I decided not risk it and unclipped my shoes off the pedals and clip back on again, instead of doing a fly mount. Time taken 3:02.

Bike 90km

The bike course started with a few twists and turns coming out of transition and then onto the fast flat smooth roads of the Sunshine Motorway. We rode north for about 20kms before a U-turn and back, and then into the hills in Rosemount. Two laps of these hills and then 20kms back to transition. Total elevation is about 600m, which is moderately hilly for a 90km course. It wasn't too windy but there was a slight southerly, so a bit of tailwind going out and slight headwind coming back. As usual, it took me a while to get into rhythm cycling in high speeds with the deep race wheels. But once I got them going, it was nice to see the speed climbing up. Although the motorway was relatively flat, there were some gentle inclines and descends, which I kinda like as it was a nice break from being on the aero bars all the time. Just before we got to Rosemount, I averaged just under 36kph but I knew that this would drop once we hit the hills.

True enough, some of the climbs were pretty steep and I could see the average speed falling. This is made worse by my passive descending. There was one long descent which then goes straight into a 90 degree right turn. Luckily I checked out the course before hand and I was braking very much early on, otherwise I may have come unstuck. But I enjoyed the challenge. It is definitely more interesting than the old course which was two laps of the motorway. My average pace dropped to just under 34kph by the end of the ride. Average power was 178 watts and normalized power was 198 watts, which I was pretty happy with. Bike split was 2:38:55. I would have preferred it if it was in the low 3:30s but I was pretty satisfied with that split given the course.

Transition 2

The bike dismount line appeared out of nowhere so I wasn't ready for a fly dismount. But my shoes were already unstrapped, so just remove one foot and place onto the ground first before moving the other over. Running to the bike racks with my bike was a bit of a challenge and I had to trot patiently behind those in front. Did I say before that this transition area was tight? Helmet off, shoes on, sunglasses, visor and race belt on the go. Time taken 2:01.

Run 21.1km

The run course is two laps, heading north towards Maroochydore and back. There is a hill about 500m long, about 1km out from transition, so we climb it four times throughout the entire course. While it was relatively cool at 20 degrees Celcius, the sun was shining in all its glory. Most parts of the course were exposed but some parts where we run through the parks were pretty shaded. My legs surprisingly felt pretty good, despite not tapering much for this race. I had high turnover and the first km I clocked 4:02! I thought I would slow down a lot after that but I settled into 4:15 pace for the next few kms until the first turnaround point. We then faced a slight headwind coming back to Mooloolaba and the pace dropped further to the 4:20s.

I'm still very pleased with the pace, given that I usually run around the 4:30s for my long runs and this was what I was expecting to hold. So I'm exceeding my own expectations. It was getting cheers from the Red Dog tri club tent and a handful of fellow Logan Tri Club members who came up to support us, thanks guys! My pace did start to fall towards the final few kms, with a couple of 4:40s especially on that darn hill! But I knew I was on the home stretch. Finally reached the finishing carpet leading up to the arch, saw Li-Ann cheering from the side and gave her a wave. Crossed the with a run split of 1:33:27, one of my fastest half Ironman runs.

My overall time was 4:48:41, about 5 minutes slower than my half Ironman PB but I'm happy with the results given the challenging course and the focus of my training was more on the Ironman later in the year. If this was a mid term test for the final exam later, I would give myself an A minus haha. The finisher medal was a unique sunglasses shape which I thought was pretty cool.

I had a well deserved lunch of burger and beer after the race. And then some gelato before heading back home. I couldn't have done this race without the support of my wife Li-Ann and son Sebastian, so big thanks to them! And thanking them in advance as the longer miles start creeping up in the upcoming months towards Ironman. I would love to come back to do this course again if the timing is right. Cheers Sunshine Coast, see you again!

The best support crew need to be fed well too.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Springfield Duathlon 2017

I wasn't expecting to write another race report, just 6 weeks after Ironman Cairns. But I decided to do the Springfield Duathlon for a number of reasons. In the last few weeks, I have been building up my weekend ride and run distances, towards Ironman WA end of the year. Having a race like this after a training block gives a nice break to the monotony. Plus, I last did this race two years ago and was totally freaked out by the fast descends and sharp corners, so I was keen to see whether I have improved or not.

The event was held on the grounds of University of Southern Queensland, Springfield Central about 40 minutes drive from home. Each year it was one of the coldest days to have this event and this year was no different. A crisp 4 degrees when I got to the car park but thankfully it warmed up to about 6-7 degrees when the race started. There was quite a long queue for race pack pick up and I was a bit worried that I'll miss the transition close time of 6.15am but looks like it wasn't strictly enforced. The race stickers were not very sticky and the one on my helmet actually came off during the bike. I still had some time for a last minute visit to the portaloo and a 5 minute warm up run before my wave start.

The sun could not have come up soon enough!

1st run 10km

The run course has changed from two years ago but maintained the same format. 4 laps of 2+km with a few hundred meters in and out of transition at the start and finish. Slight incline at the turnaround. Pretty straightforward. I actually like this new course, plenty of trees and nicer scenery. My run speed was not what it was two years ago, but I was able to keep a pretty consistent pace and still felt pretty comfortable by the end of it. First km was 3:53 with the excitement at the start but I settled into around 4:10 to 4:15 for the remaining. Timed 40:31 and it was about 500m short when I got to transition but here's how I made up for it!

Fumbled with my frozen fingers to get the helmet on and rushed my bike off the racks, got to the bike mount line and realised I still had my run shoes on! I laughed at myself and the officials were laughing with (or maybe at) me. Brought the bike back to the racks as I wasn't sure if I could just leave the bike at the mount line. Removed my run shoes and got back out again. I felt like a complete muppet, clearly I don't do enough duathlons - this is my 3rd one so far.

Caught in the act with two pairs of shoes on!

Bike 40km

The bike course stayed the same as last time. 6 laps - about 2kms of climbing, 2kms of descending, 2kms of flat, repeat. It was about 3-4kms too short the last time, so organizers extended the final turnaround by a few hundred meters. Clocked 39kms this time, not quite 40kms but close enough. Overall elevation of over 400m, so a pretty hilly course.

I was very nervous on the descends and cornering the last time. While I admit I was better this time round, I still have much to improve. I had a very modest average pace, just over 28kph and I still lost a lot of time on the downhills. My initial target was to beat my Olympic Distance triathlon PB but with a 1:24:42 bike split including transitions, that target went out of the window very quickly.

Transition 2 wasn't without drama either. As the bike racks weren't numbered and we could rack our bikes in any order just as long as they were according to age group, I had a bit of trouble looking for my spot. I made it harder by not bringing a towel to look out for as there was no swim and my run shoes must have got pushed around during the confusion in Transition 1, but I eventually found my spot.

2nd run 5km

The 2nd run goes through the same laps as the first run, just with two laps instead of four. Despite not doing any brick runs since the Ironman, my legs felt pretty good but it was only a 40km ride before anyway. I held between 4:10 to 4:20 pace and was able to pass a few competitors who were ahead of me after the bike. The 2nd run was about 150m longer and I clocked 21:41, giving overall time of 2:26:55. I was 6.5 minutes slower than the last time but so were most people with the bike being short the last time.

Digging deep to improve my position

Overall, I'm pretty happy with how my race went. Kudos to Triathlon Queensland, officials and volunteers for a well organized event. It was great way to dust off the cobwebs and kick off the new season. There were quite a number of Logan Tri Club members who did this race, whom I don't normally meet in the training sessions so it was nice getting to meet them. I'm looking forward to the next race - Sunshine Coast 70.3!

I need to get myself an LTC kit! Thanks Erika for the photo!

Friday, 16 June 2017

Ironman Cairns 2017

There's something magical about Cairns that keeps on bringing me back. This is my 4th trip to Cairns, 3rd time for an Ironman. The decision to do this race was done rather late. I had a great race at the Kingscliff Olympic Distance in late March, falling short on my PB by just 23 seconds. I progressively increased my weekend mileage each week, with two weeks of traveling in Europe in early May but I kept myself active. The training results had been good and I had no injuries apart from some minor niggles. Still, with a short build and limiting the weekly hours to a minimum (I peaked at about 12.5 hours) so I don't miss out too much of my young son's growth, I can't help being nervous about my preparations. But with 10 Ironman finishes prior to this, I was hoping to bank a bit on my experience.

A fellow Logan Tri Club member drove to Cairns and offered to bring my bike up. I can't thank you enough Shane and Kirsty, you can't imagine how much hassle you have saved me! We caught a midday flight into Cairns. We stayed in Cascade Gardens, a nice self serviced apartment about 15 minutes walk from the race expo and finish. I had an hour before the athlete check in closed. As I was only meeting Shane the next afternoon at the bike check in at Palm Cove, I had it pretty easy going pre race. I even skipped the pre race briefings. Until I collected my bike and I realised the front brake wasn't releasing too well. I panicked a bit and luckily there was a mechanic tent at the check in. The mechanic widened the gap a bit and sprayed some oil, it wasn't 100% fixed but it will have to do. I almost missed the last shuttle bus back to Cairns! I guess a bit of stress was what I needed to get the heart rate pumping before the race!

Welcome to Cairns!
Sebastian made sure I didn't overspend at the expo
One of the last ones to be racked in
Race morning, the alarm clock went off at 4.30am so that I could catch the 5.15am shuttle bus to Palm Cove. We decided that Li-Ann and Sebastian would not follow me that early in the morning and would only catch me after I finished the bike. It was unusually quiet in my transition area as I prepped my bike up. Then waited in queue for the portaloos for one last toilet visit. Put on my wetsuit and then it was show time!

3.8km swim

There were some crashing waves from the ocean into the beach but the water wasn't as rough as last year. The 70.3 swimmers were done with their swim as we started ours. I lined myself up with the first wave (< 1 hour) but in hindsight I should have stuck to my own wave (1:00 to 1:07) as the rest were swimming past me as though I was laying still. The course was a rectangular one. We swim out into the ocean and then a right turn to start the rectangle and then left turns at each corner until we swim back to the beach. It was a single lap swim, changed from last year's two laps. It was difficult to find good feet to draft off due to the waves. But some managed to draft off mine and got a bit aggressive too - this one guy literally grabbed onto my ankles! I was worried my timing chip would fall off! I didn't think I swam too off course, I was reasonably close to all the buoys. As I got back to the beach at the finish, I noticed my watch was already in bike mode. Must have gotten knocked around a bit during the swim. Official results showed 1:09:18, my slowest swim to date including non wetsuit ones. It's a shame I don't have any swim data to check if the swim was a bit longer or not. Maybe I just haven't been swimming hard in enough in training.

Transition 1

It was a pretty long run in and out of transition, I estimate about 400m in total. There weren't many volunteers in the change tent but I got my stuff sorted without too much dramas. After the race, I picked up an extra towel and arm warmers in my transition bag, with a Japanese athlete's name so I had to return them to Lost and Found. There was a bit of crowd at the bike mount line including a fall right in front of me, so I played it safe and slowly got on my bike. Total time for T1 4:54.

180km bike

This was the leg I was most concerned about, being the longest part of the race. Whilst I did build up my training rides to this distance, I didn't do enough of it. Thankfully, it wasn't as windy as last year and it didn't rain as well, only the occasional drizzle every now and then. So my amateurish bike skills can take it easy around the corners. The ride heads north from Palm Cove towards Port Douglas and back, turning around in Wangetti before going back up to Port Douglas for the final turnaround and then all the way back to Cairns. It's one of the most scenic Ironman bike courses I've ever done. And with good weather, you can really appreciate it's beauty, even while racing!

On the first ride up to Port Douglas, I averaged 33kph. There were some narrow stretches on the roads leading in and out of Port Douglas, where part of the roads were coned off for vehicles, which caused some riding packs to bunch up. I felt a bit guilty being latched on to these trains but I had no where else to go. Once we got back to the hills, the group dispersed again. The slight southerly winds brought my pace down but not by much. Li-Ann made me pack extra food in addition to my Clif bars (glad I listened!). I chose to bring some pizza bread rolls from the Woolworths bakery. Even the volunteers had a bit of food envy as I rode past! It was a nice change in taste from the Clif bars but I would choose something other than spicy pepperoni next time!

At the final turnaround at Port Douglas (thanks MC Joel for calling me out as a new dad!) and it was the home stretch. Might as well, as my energy reserves were starting to wane. More and more were passing me, including an amazing Japanese athlete with a prosthetic leg! I had my second wind as we got to Yorky's Knob at the 160km mark the speed got up again but as soon as we passed the airport, the wind was howling and I could only muster a roll back into Cairns. It was nice to see Li-Ann and Sebastian cheering as I rode towards transition and I gave them a wave. Got off the bike with a split of 5:34:52 (an average speed of 32kph), just over a minute slower than last year, which isn't too bad really. My Garmin measured the distance to be about 178kms, just like last year so a pretty fair comparison.

Transition 2

Helmet off, old socks off, new socks on. Put on running visor, sunglasses and race belt on the way out. Time taken 1:16.

Run 42.2km

Last year it was raining as I started the run. This year it was dry but we had cloud cover throughout with relatively cool temperatures. The run course is 3 laps starting in transition and then heading south along the jetty and then north towards the airport with a slight detour into the park. My legs felt surprisingly fresh and I had good turnover. My first km I posted 4:37! But I settled into 4:45 to just under 5 minutes for pretty much the next hour or so. I was pleasantly surprised at how well I could maintain this pace. I did not stop to walk at the aid stations, just grabbed the Coke as I go. Having Li-Ann and Sebastian cheer me on both directions of the lap certainly gave me a boost.

But as I got close to the half marathon mark, I was starting to feel some gag reflex coming up my throat. Not sure was is causing this. I still held under 5 minutes but I had to break my no walk momentum when I got to the aid station at the 24km mark. I walked through every aid station from there onwards. The pace dropped to above 5:30 per km then.

Final lap and it was getting dark. The volunteers were handing out glowsticks and my ego got the better of me so I refused. The floodlights kept it pretty bright anyway. Another thing that boosted my ego was overtaking the same Japanese athlete with a prosthetic leg and not getting beaten by star 55-59 female athlete Jenny Alcorn! I know, I should be ashamed of myself haha. The pace slowed down nearing 6 minutes per km. But I knew if I kept it that way, I would still finish under 10.5 hours. I did a wager with 90 minute handicap with my friend David Zi Xiang in Malaysia who's aiming for 12 hours in Challenge Roth in a few weeks. So that spurred me to keep on pushing for this time. Coming close to the finish, getting cheers from Shane and Kirsty, Trent from the Reddog tent and finally getting a hug from Li-Ann and Sebastian just before entering the chute. My tears welled up as the MC Pete Murray called out - Kevin Siah from Malaysia, you are an Ironman! I crossed the line in 10:28:56 with a run split of 3:38:33, overtaking 122 athletes on the run itself.


I went to the food tent and soup was the only thing I could stomach. I slowly sipped it down as Li-Ann talked to me over the fence, as she wasn't allowed in. She went to get dinner and then I started feeling a bit faint. Mike kindly took me to the medic tent (thanks Mike!) and I rested there a while. Li-Ann came to get me and after feeling a bit better, I went to collect my bike. Shane (you are a champ mate!) was in town for dinner after finishing his 70.3 race earlier and offered to collect my bike then so I didn't need to push it back to the hotel.

Not-so-glamorous shot in the medic tent with a tiny finishers medal
So that wraps up Ironman Cairns once again. My 11th Ironman finish and 3rd one on this course. It has been a while since I've felt this great in an Ironman race and am truly happy with my time. No doubt the race conditions were favourable this year with both overall men and women winners crushing course records. I couldn't have done this without the support of my wonderful wife Li-Ann and my son Sebastian. Not just on the course but off the course is where the big sacrifices are made, just so I could have a play of my hobby, which let's be honest is more of an obsession really. I made a promise last year that I would only do one Ironman this year and that has already been broken, having signed up earlier for Ironman Western Australia later this year. And Li-Ann did not make a big fuss over it and just went for the ride. I love you both!

And thanks everyone - family and friends, for following my race and the cheers, whether on the course or through social media. You don't realise it but this definitely makes a difference. Thank you.

Will I be back again next year? Let's not make any promises just yet, shall we?

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Kingscliff Triathlon 2017

Affectionately known as Kingy Tri, a triathlon festival with a wide range of event ranging from the kids race to the Olympic distance. All held on one day, twice a year with the second event usually around late November. It was a last minute decision for me to do this race, signing up only a week before the event. My last Olympic distance was in Guelph, Canada nearly 3 years ago where I had my PB of 2:18:31. Not that I'm an endurance snob or anything but having to prepare for two Ironman races each year for the previous two years, quite often I can't justify the costs and logistics of doing any event shorter than a half Iron distance or it simply just doesn't fit within the plan.

With only one Ironman signed up for the end of the year, I thought why not do a race, just for fun. After all, isn't it why we do this sport anyway? Kingscliff is about 75 minutes drive from home so I didn't even need to stay the night. I left home at 4am so that I could get my bike racked before the start of the kids triathlon at 7am, taking into account daylight savings for crossing the border. Getting a parking spot was quite a challenge as most spots were full but I managed to find a quiet residential street, which a few cars later followed. And made it just in time with 10 minutes to spare in transition!
The officials kept on yelling, only 10 minutes left!
I had about 2 hours before the start of my race but as it was a point to point swim, we had to walk about 15 minutes to the swim start. After 45 minutes of scrolling through social media on a park bench, it was time to get ready. Surprisingly there wasn't a queue for the toilets but I guess it was partly because I was in the 2nd last wave and most have made their way to the swim start. Handed in my bags to the bag drop off area, conveniently located near the toilets and took the easy stroll to the swim start.

Although the 1500m swim was in a single direction, it wasn't a straight course. It snaked in a somewhat S shape along Cudgen Creek, going underneath bridge just after the first few hundred meters. There usually is a tide pushing us forward, giving fast swim times. This time it was no different although a bit weaker compared to previous events. I definitely felt the push the moment I passed the bridge. Visibility was good too and I could see schools of fish every now and then. I overtook quite a few of green capped swimmers in the earlier wave, which gave me a bit of a boost. The swim went by quite quickly and soon we were reaching the boat ramp for the exit. I got out in 21:15 in 15th position in my age group.

Into transition and consciously reminded myself to strip my swimskin off, to avoid a repeat of Tweed Enduro. My bike was located near the bike exit so I didn't have to push it too far. Mounting got a bit hairy as there were plenty of other cyclists at the mount line, but fortunately no dramas. Transition time was about 2 minutes according to the Garmin.

The 40km bike course is 4 laps with short right hand detour at the end of each lap as we get back into town and then rejoining the main lap. Mostly flat with one small climb about a couple of kms before the end of each lap. Road surface is fair with the occasional port holes. It was relatively calm with some light gusts of wind when we were near the coast. It seemed to be more of a headwind on the way out and a tailwind on the way back. I started off a bit nervous on the aerobars with the deep carbon wheels catching the wind, I really should ride in them more often. But it didn't take me long before I got the hang of it. The course was pretty crowded as you would expect with a short distance lap and plenty of waves, so you would have to pay attention to those around you. It wasn't until my last lap that it got a bit more quiet as I was in the second last wave. I was pretty comfortable with my cycling efforts and was able to push the pace a bit, though it got undone almost at the end of each laps with my timid cornering and U-turns. I averaged 34.3kph with a split time of 1:09:28 with the official result showing 1:12:05 including transition time.

I took the legs off the pedal probably a bit too early, at the 100m to dismount sign, and had to freewheel a bit before I got to the dismount line. Lost a few seconds there but no dramas. Just slipped into my shoes and put on the sunnies and cap on the go to make up for it. I was in 20th position in my age group into transition.

Run course was two laps of 5km with a steep hill within the first km, long enough to break your spirit if you are not strong, but you get a nice downhill roll after. Towards the 2.5km turnaround it is pretty shaded and there's a small section where we run on some sand towards the coast breakout point, also known as the wall. There were plenty of aid stations but I remembered only getting water and not any electrolytes. I started off with a pretty fast pace of 4:15 per km but hovered around the 4:30 pace for the next few kms. I started to struggle a bit towards the end of the first lap and started seeing 4:40-4:50 on my watch. But the great thing about short course racing is at the halfway of the run, you only have 5kms more to go. After the second turnaround at the wall, I felt my second wind as it was the home stretch. Looking at my watch, beating my PB seemed virtually impossible. But it was never the target given my current level of fitness.

Nearing the finisher chute, with a bit of hurt I picked up the pace to get to the arch. My run split was 45:34 and surprisingly, I finished in 2:18:54, with the fast swim, I was only 23 seconds slower from my PB. I finished 15th in my age group, so I'm glad I was still able to overtake a few after the bike.

Kudos to the organizers for providing instant finisher photos
The organizers QSM Sports put up a great event as they did with Tweed Enduro. This is my first time racing Kingy Tri and I'll definitely be back as Kingscliff is a pretty place.  On the way back, I picked up a French work and holiday traveler who was hitchhiking back to Brisbane. She also volunteered at the event so it's only fair to repay the favour. Maybe this counts towards brownie points for future races!