Ever since I finish the Penang International Duathlon early in the year, I have thought of doing the Triathlon. Triathlon was a new addition in my Bucket List and it is one of the things that an endurance race enthusiast like me must do before we kick the bucket. The Penang Urban Triathlon 2013 came along sometime mid this year and a light bulb goes up in my head to register for it. It was a sprint distance, 800m Swim, 20km Bike and 5km Run and this is the best distance for a beginner like me to go for. It was a small event with only Two hundred over participants of mostly locals and expats.
Race Pack Collection
The race pack collection was located at the event site which is the Chinese Swimming Club in Tanjung Tokong. The collection time was open two days before the event and was glazed with sponsors booth and discounts. The briefings was done on both days. The briefing is important for those who do not read the Participant Booklet cover to cover. I went on the Saturday hot afternoon where everyone at the site was tired from the day and was chilling from the hot sun. I did not intend to by anything and the items at the sponsor booth did not excite me so after collecting the race pack above, I went back. The race pack came with a shirt, race bib, swimming cap and sponsored items. The one nice thing that the event organiser did was to provide options to participants on the T-Shirt and Race Belt. Participants had an option to skip the T-Shirt, which would one could save RM15 and the race belt was made as an option to purchase at RM20. This way, if I choose not to take the T-Shirt, I stand to save some $$ and prevent wastage. The shirts are nice in a nice to get for the first few events that we join, after some time, the closet will be full of these shirts and some will end up going to disaster relief.
As this is an Urban Triathlon and the course was done in a confined space, participants swim 800m in a zig zag route in the Chinese Swimming Club olympic size pool. This add up to 16 laps going from the top of the pool and end up at the bottom. After the swim, participants cycle 20km in a 2x10km loop. This is where many made mistakes and cost them the race. After the bike, the run was a straight forward 2.5km run to strait quay mall and back. 3hr from the last to flag off is the cutoff time. I calculated and thought this was doable and hope that I did not disqualify due to swimming. As I had not train at all and the last time I really swam was more than a year back, I didn’t really know what to expect. The only thing I knew was that I had to go slow and keep myself calm and not to panic in the water.
Race Day (Dec 15, 2013)
Though I was a little anxious the night before, I did manage to get some good sleep. I put my alarm at 4.15am and manage to leave the door at about 5am. The bike setup and body marking was from 5am to 6am and I arrived at about 5.45am. In my haste, I forgot my two water bottle in the refrigerator which cost me later in the race. I was early at the event site as there was not that many bikes in the transition area and I could get a nice parking at the hawker restaurant next door. After setting up my bike and got my body mark, I went to the pool side and waited for the event to start. Because I put my swimming time at 50min, I was placed among the last to start. Sharp at 6.45am, the race started. Every 15seconds a participant enter the pool. The crowd roar when the first participant went in, everyone watch him swim the pool length and when he did his back flip, everyone cheered again, especially the ladies, I hear them scream the loudest.
I enter the pool at 7.28am almost 45minutes after the first guy start. I started with a strong kick on the wall and cover as much distance as I can before I pull my first stroke. I started with the free style and tried to get into a nice rhythm. Though I could sync my strokes and breathing to the rhythm that I wanted, I felt like not enough air. I keep wanting to breath much faster but I couldn’t. When I finish my first lap, I knew I could not continue this further, so I decided to change to breath stroke. With breath stroke, I could breath much faster, though still not enough, so I slow down my pace and took a long rest after each lap. Along the way, the stronger swimmer guys and girl overtook me while I maintain my lead over the others. There was just a hand full behind me, but it was nice to know that I ain’t last. When I got out of the pool, I hear chattering that the first participant had already finish. Though dishearten, I soldier on as I had to finish the race. When the official timing came out, I finish my swim in 27min 28 sec.
The transition was a short distance dash from the pool, however, I had to slowly walk over because the floor was all wet and the tiles look slippery. I didn’t want to end the race here, so after a careful walk over to the transition area, I started to put on my cycling gears. I was surprise to see that most of the bicycles were already back and only a few were still out there. The old lady next to me just came back from her bike ride and rush on for the run. I help her to put her bike on the rack and the husband took a photo of me. My first transition was 2min 52sec and the winner did it in 33 sec. So much difference.
As I cycle out, I started to chew on the Fast Track energy supplement bar that was given in the race pack. It was a chocolate bar, and I had a hard time to get it down. This was because I did not have any water on my bike. I was also struggling to get enough air into my lungs as It was hard to chew and breath at the same time. I was watching my speed and I was doing at 20 something kmph. I was thinking to myself that this is not good enough, I need to go faster, but I could not, I could not get enough air in and I had trouble swallowing the energy bar. I would say that I was mentally beaten at this point where I just could not get over the water issue. I manage to finish the bar within the Strait Quay loop and when I head over to the other direction my hands were free and all I had to do was concentrate on cycling. Heading towards the Dalat International school was tough as this was the uphill climb. The good thing was that it was only a short climb, conquering the climb, it was down hill after that and only a small mound to overcome right after Dalat.
When I completed my first loop, I saw one participant took a short cut coming out from the housing estate, she did not finish the entire route. At the Chinese Swimming Club, the race organiser keep screaming for participants to continue the second loop. The second loop was easier to do, but the energy bar did not seams to have any effect. Maybe because I did not consume any water, and it did not burn as effectively. So I struggle to finish the second loop and finally clock a disappointing 47min 43sec. Biking was my strength and I finish 7 minutes later than my expectation. The top guy did it in 34min 10sec and 40min was my goal.
Coming into the second transition, all bikes were already back, I was among the last few to start running, most of all the participants have already finish the race and was congregating at the event ground. My second transition was quick, I hang my bike up, took off the helmet and glove and started running. Somehow the system did not capture my this transition time. I was physically beaten by the time the run started and I did not even bother to take my energy gel as I did not had much water to drink. The water station was only at the transition area and at the Strait Quay loop, each time I come by the transition, I only mange to grab one cup of 100 plus.
So I started running and walking and running. There was quite a number of volunteers guiding the pathway, as there are many turns, volunteers were placed at the major turns. I did not have a problem with the path, but during biking there was one guy who strayed out of the running path till Island plaza, he must have done 7-8km run. I was among the last few participants and the volunteers were nice to cheer us on. We cheer each other on as well and finally completed the race. I ran the 5km for 40min 48sec, which is per expectation.
I finish the entire race at 1hr 58mins 50sec, which I was happy with. The top guy finish his in 1hr 5min 31sec, almost an hour before me. With another year of training, I was telling my colleagues that we will go for top 30. Per this year’s performance, we have to finish it within 1hr 30min, which is doable. I just need to shave 10min off my swimming, running and biking, this would put me nicely within the top 30.
Sprint is the best distance for beginners to start and I would recommend anyone who wanted to try Triathlon. There is not many Sprint events in Malaysia, so if you see one, register for it fast. And you can put a thick on your bucket list when you are done.