Thursday, August 09, 2012

Ironman 70.3 Philippines 2012

I collapsed onto the rubber mat, staring at the slow rotating blades of the ceiling fan, anticipating to pass out in the next second.  The woman disturbed me and asked me to turn my backside to her, damn it! Even a simple task such as that required her assistance to accomplished. She has already helped me to strip off my smelly tri top, to take out the heart rate monitor and the finisher's medal.  That might be a bit too much to ask from a free massageur but I was certain that she would be understanding of my situation. The massage area was filled with a few dozens other people just like me, it could be easily mistaken as a war hospital.  She stretched my back diagonally, I let out a soft moan. Tears streamed from my eyes, I am not sure if I should call that tear for joy or relief, it was just an emotional moment that it is finally over. By pure chance it is not the first time which the Shangri-La Mactan Resort has claimed my tears.

5 Hours 58 Mins Since Race Start

"Yea Ha!......Yea Ha!.....Yea Ha!" I shouted in agony in every step I took just to keep me going. I have passed the sign that says "1.55km to go" with a dead straight arrow almost a century ago, but there was still no sight to the finishing arch. Instead I ran left, forked right, left and left and right again in the final stretch of the run leg that circumferenced the resort building as if it was a cruel joke.  I hear my name being called by the MC at the finishing line but I still couldn't see it. A crowd of expat wives picked up my "Yea Ha" chant as a mocking kind of encouragement, it was at this point I realised I must have been sounding like someone on a maternity bed . Then I saw the white arch and the clock above it said "6:00:22". I just missed my target time of sub 6 hours by a notch, but I knew I have given it everything. There would be no need for a retrospective analysis and where I could have gained another half a minute.

I took one last sure step across the line and then immediately found something to hold onto in case my legs would go into spasms.  A race official offered to take me to the Med Tent and a local athlete gave his shoulder for me to lean on.  But rising to the occasion, I summoned the reserve in me to carried myself to the opposite side of the Med Tent --- the free Massage Pavilion. Why settle for the small 'M' when I have got this far?

5 Hours 40 Mins Since Race Start

"Get into the shade!" an female athlete shouted as she ran passed.

"If I can move, I will be running." I said silently.  I was on all four limbs getting grilled by the sun like a Lechon, that is the local specialty roast suckling pig. This is already the second time I dropped to the floor as my thighs went into spasms in the last 10 mins. I have 20 mins left to meet my target time with only 3km to go. If I am fully charged, I can probably run backward with time spared, but now I am pegged to the ground with the clock ticking. I was offered a full bottle of energy drink, which I down in one, then, I rubbed both of my thighs furiously with the bones of my forearm to pump away the lactic. That would do for now, I promised to get you guys a proper massage when this is all over. My legs somehow co-operated, I got up and ran, never dared to stop for a break again.

3 Hours 36 Mins Since Race Start

I was at the T2, which means the bike-to-run transition for the unenlightened ones among my readers. I took off my one piece tri suit to reveal another set of 2 piece tri suit beneath. Very strange thing to do at T2, I must be the only one among the 1400 athletes who rode through the 90km bike ride in double layer garment. The body definitely cooled off a lot and the pressure in the groin released. I felt born again and strolled out to the run leg in earnest. with 2 hours and 20 minute left to complete a half marathon in order to meet my target time this should be a doodle, so I thought.

The run takes you into the village areas at the eastern tip of the Mactan Island.  The main road is mostly shaded, but every one of the 3 side track spurs were naked to the bone even from the satellite pictures. We had to expose ourselves to an incinerating sun which sucked every drop of water out of the spores on our skin like a demon.

The aid stations were like oasis in a desert and I indulged myself with a bucket of shower whenever there is one. The icy cold water washed from head to toe made me shout out in comfort like a shower gel commercial.

Another element to rely on was the spectators, the school kids lined up on both side of the road in hundreds, when we athletes gave them a simple gesture like a thumbs up it would send them off to a frenzy of flag waving and drum rolling. I gave one kid a high five, all 20 other kids down the row stuck their hands out and I brushed their palms as I ran along like a champion. I knew it might get painful later, for now I was having fun.

2 Hours 40 Mins Since Race Start

I sucked the last few sips of energy drinks to empty the bottle and handed the bottle to a spectator, he grabbed it so firmly that I barely had time to pull my right hand off. I frantically regained the balance of my bike by the time I had both hands are back on the handlebar. It was a close shave and was an unnecessary affair.

The truth is the crowd had been amazing all along the bike course, I had been drawn closer and closer to them as their cheering and my rallying created a positive feedback loop.  It built to that moment when I have almost lost my guard. I decided to keep a safer distance from this point. All the hard work had been done as I turned from head wind to tail wind for the 2nd time at the 60km mark the rest is just plain sailing home.  Let's just focus on my task.

It was a flat race course with a strong wind which we had to battle head on twice. The wind was mild early in the day but by the 2nd loop, it has picked up furiously. We nicknamed this course the Kona of Asia for the wind.  But the crowds gave it also a Tour de France feel, when we rode back to the busy part of town, the locals have flooded the street so much that the road narrowed nearly to a single bike passage.

30 Mins Since Race Start

My feet carefully navigated across the coral, trying to avoid any cut in the early stage of the race, I landed on the beach and checked my watch.  Only 30 mins to complete 1.9km of swim, you got to be kidding me! This just justified my last minute call to wear a one piece pocket less trisuit on top of the more comfortable 2 piece suit to minimise the drag. Subsequently I found out that I was not alone to enjoy a fast swim.  I ran across the beach, up the ramp and got into the transition area.  It was a super smooth swim-to-bike transition by my standard.  I got on the bike and start pedaling away from the resort, pick up some speed as soon as the roads straightened out.  Then I realised my school boy error, duh! I have forgotten to take out my one piece trisuit in T1 and it is making it more difficult lift my knee as I pedaled.

At Race Start

We were floating about in the deep water area beneath us was a coral reef with colourful tropical fishes.  The gun ran off and we swung our arms in unison and churned up the washing machine, I found this to be the most beautiful part of triathlon.  The athletes would soon spread out but now we were a school of fish setting out for a common challenge for the day.  The swim was one big loop which started from the beach of Shangri-La Mactan resort, ran in parallel to the shoreline toward the Movenpick Resort then turned 180 degree to bring us back in the opposite direction for a long stretch of swim that spanned across 3 different resorts.

There were a long rope with buoys marking the swim course and hence many people preferred to swim close to the line for a sense of security.  This makes the field staying close together over an unusually long distance.  I got tangled up with other athletes all the time, one even curled his arm around my neck at one point and he only let go when we both started to sink.

We turned around again once we hit the area outside the private beach of Crimson Resort.  By this point, we have spreaded out and were swimming along the direction of the current. I was gliding longer and longer with each stroke and the sensation of executing what I had trained so hard for was so satisfying.  I feel privileged to take up triathlon as a sport, in a big race like this you experience such rich emotions in a day, the joy of executing a perfect swim stroke, the anxiety before a race, the pain of not being able to go further, the kinship you feel toward another athlete without knowing their name, the solitude of fighting the elements on your own, the frustration of a bad fortune, or simply the pleasure of wind blowing on your face.  It is a lifetime of experiences condensed into a handful of hours.

As I took a breath on my left side, I looked up the cliff of Shangri-La and saw the ocean facing chapel where our wedding was held 5 years ago, I was hearing the wedding march music in my head on again.  Then a bit further was the wooden bridge where my wife Martina and her bridesmaids had their beautiful photos taken.  As I swam toward the beach, I saw a blue starfish on the sea floor.  Few years before the wedding I had also come to this resort the first time with my sis, my mum and my dad who are no longer with us today.  On that holiday he had dived to the bottom of the sea to collect these blue starfishes and put it on his nipples as a bra to pose for a hilarious photo.  In the wedding reception on the resort beach, I shed tears of joy for my new bride and tears for remembrance for my Dad.  That was the other time this resort has claimed my tear.  So with two of the most memorable days experienced in this place, I was on my way to add a third one to my life.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

First Wedding Photography Experience

Wow, can't believe it is mid April that I wrote my first piece in 2008. Well those of you who still visit this blog knows what I have been up to in recent months, busy with my wedding in Cebu in January and then once we got back, there was still a little bit of work to do for the wedding banquet in Hong Kong in March. For Cebu we were lucky to hired a great wedding photographer, Louis Pang, to take our pictures, please see the album for his shots. Since then Martina and I were a little bit hooked with event photography, I finally invested in a Canon40D and a Tokina 12-24mm wide angle lens with my annual bonus. Our first outing was my cousin Angel and Donald's wedding, here are some of my armature shots.








Sunday, December 16, 2007

Action Asia Challenge Hong Kong 2007

Completed AAC Hong Kong 2007 yesterday with Tempo Sparks teamate Andy. Photos & write up will come soon, first take a look at the race route to put things in persepective.


Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Road to Action Asia Challenge Week 3

On the penultimate weekend to Action Asia Challange, I paired up with Alain, my running pal in the SCB team to do the Action Asia Eco Adventure. It was such an interesting course, covering ground in a familiar area but trails that I never knew they existed. We started in Ocean Park, where the Shark and Flower mascots should lead the way with gentle stroll through the Panda habitat. But it seems all patience was lost after going through 5 speeches before the whistle was reluctantly blown, the Shark and the Flower sprinted faster than any of the runners and the race got underway.

We had to coastalteer the boulders toward DeepWater Bay, before walking up a tunnel which is the mouth of a river. Then up some brush wracking trails, through some pitch black tunnels, before going up a stairways from hell to the top of Nicolas Hills. Then down a even steeper trail so slippery as if filled with ball bearings. On the way down we caught Alan and Arthur form Sonics, the former was nursing a bad wrist and elbow from the MTB on the previous day and the latter a bad knee after Macau Half Marathon the previous week, hence taking their downhill carefully. "Bad for them, Good for us." said Alain crudely, who was eager to beat anyone in our age group.
Back to Deep Water Bay via the mouth of the river again, came the 2km kayak. We cruised down and caught 1-2 boat, on the return leg, we again caugh sight of Alan and Arthur and Alain did another trademark assault, "Come On, my grandma can go faster than that!" I started legging my kayak as I know they were not going to take the abuse lightly, an could just imagine Arthur snapping the paddle in two and start outrigging the kayak. The kayak route above was based on Alan's GPS watch marking, look how furiously straight they have paddled after Alain's abuse.
Finally, an easy jog around the coastal walk to Repulse Bay. We finished 2hr23mins with Alan & Arthur finished just 4-5 mins behind.

Coming Next Week, the Action Asia Challange Hong Kong 2007!!! The mother of all races.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Road to Action Asia Challenge Week 2

Week 2 was the UNICEF Run for Children Half Marathon. It was another great route, start and finish in the Disneyland Resort, the run takes in the coast line of Sunny Bay and the Inspiration Lake. The area could be turn into the venue of the next ITU Hong Kong Triathlon is negotiation can be successful. I started off well, reaching the 10km mark at 50mins. But soon hit the wall at 15km and finished with a disappointing 1hr55m, the slowest half marathon I have done. The event was more successful with Martina, who is becoming a great action sports photographer! Here are something to add to her portfolio.
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Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Road to Action Asia Challenge Week 1

When it was announced that 46% of Action Asia Challange will be on bikes, we needed some extra training dearly. So stead of doing KOTH - Sai Kung (trailrunning). We did a great MTB route called Project X, created by Julien, the instructor in our previous MTB course. The route cris crosses a gentle hill on the island, we some great downhill runs but perfectly safe with brush and grass on either sides of the route.


Friday, November 16, 2007

The Road to Action Asia Challenge

The Action Asia Challenge Hong Kong will be held on Dec 15. I suddenly realised I will have a race every sunday from now on to warm up for the big day:

25Nov - King of the Hill - Sai Kung: 15km of Trail Running

2Dec - Unicef Half Marathon - 21km around the Disney Resort
9Dec - Action Asia Eco Adventure - 10km run and 2k kayak


Monday, October 22, 2007

INATT Off Road Triathlon

Another great day out with my new mountain bike and Martina with her camera. It was the INATT Off Road Triathlon, a Xterra style race consist of 800m swim, 15km mountain bike and 5.5km trail running on the beautiful Wan Chai peninsula in Sai Kung. Who are my gang of brothers this time? There is my arch rival in adventure race Larry and Kin, also Micah from Sonic and Andrew, podium finisher in Singapore Ironmah 70.3.
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Keith the organiser can't help adding some adventure race elements into it, like after the swim we have to run across a beach, cimbing up some boulders, jumped fences and dash across the camp site to get to the transition.

The mountain bike was tough for me, I am still very cautious and slow on the bike, not quite getting use to balancing and picking lines off the downhill. But it was a glorious route, at one part, we had the ocean all to ourselves.
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To finish off the run, we have to repeat the beach + boulder run again but in much shattered condition, thanks to the marshall who yelled at me and said the guy behind you was trying to catch up, that really sparked off my final charge to the finishing line.

I finished in 2hr35min, 15-20 mins behind Larry and Kin, but they are so much faster than me on the bikes, it is kind of expected. Slowly, I am building up my fitness again for Action Asia. All photos taken by Martina, my fiancee.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Back On A Mountain Bike

The end of this month will be the one year anniversary of the mountain bike accident that fractured a bone in my arm. I have been staying away from MTB all these time, partly cause of focusing on triathlon but deep down I must admit I was scared. But the enjoyment of Adventure Race is so great, I couldn't hesitate from planning ahead for the Action Asia Challenge Hong Kong in December. First, I check on my race partner, Andy, he is still not training as ever, so any loss of trail running and moutain bike sharpness from my side probably wouldn't matter. Then finally I slashed out on a new machine - the Specialized Epic, finally gone was my oversize hardtail bike and instead of a full suspension cross country bike.

Then along with some Sonic guys, I joined a one day MTB skill course in Lamma Island, the instructor has built an obstacle course on a little hill, so we can practise bumps, stairs, tight corner etc in a safe environment. It was a real cool day to regain my confidence back. After lunch he took us to tackle some stairs, it was my my ultimate demon, coz I fractured my arm after falling "over the handle" bar on top of 3 steps of stairs. When it comes to my turn, I stare down the stairs, everything else in the background just fade into a blur. It was that dramatic, like soloing up a rock climb and nothing else in the world but the route itself matters. I headed down, there is hardly any difficulty with the wide stairs but my heart rate just pump right off the scale. I did only half the staircase and the flash back of the crash replayed again and again. Thankfully I had the gust to do the eventual challenge of the day, a drop off from a big stone, probably a bit over half a meter tall. It was easy when we know the right technique.

The next sunday, I head out to do a easy ride with Brian and gang in Tai Tong Country Park, the very park where the accident happens but we stayed on easy trail all day. It was part of the scheme to exercise the demon within. So much practise for now, I am gonna do a Xterra style off road triathlon coming Saturday. Should be fun. And let's hope for a safe off road racing season!


Monday, October 01, 2007

Hong Kong ITU Triathlon

It wasn't my prettiest race but I did it anyway. It was the Hong Kong ITU Triathlon yesterday. I turned up barely recovered from a bad cold and felt really not in form. But I wasn't limping or coughing blood, so not doing it due to a feeling of my "form" is simply an excuse. DPP_219Beside it is my first year in Triathlon, how can I miss THE triathlon race in town. The swim began with a deep water start in Tai Mei Tuk. It was hard as hell after having swam only 3 times since Singapore a month ago. Though I got out of the water along with a few Sonic teamates who were roughly similar speed as me in training, so maybe I wasn't doing too bad afterall.

DPP_515Once on the bike, I felt more alive, I had rode the Bride's Pool Road only once before when I first got my bike. And this time I was tackling the hill climbs with much stronger legs. The 10km loop has two hills on either end, with an incredibly taxing 4.5% gradien hill at the far end. But then once you turn around, it is a free ride downhill reaching 45km/h. I pushed quite hard on the uphills, unlike Sinagpore, I didn't try to hold myself back. I felt I might get some presentable result today.

Came the run leg, two loops across the exposed reservoir dam, I felt quite fresh in the begining, and I saw many sonic teamates just ahead of me, doing their first loop, so if I pushed hard I would get some good timing this time. Too eager to do that, I stupidly did a wrong U-turn at mid way of the dam that was only meant for the "fun-distance" category. The helpers standing around there actually watched me doing the mistakes and said nothing, one of them even recorded my race number on the timing sheet.

I didn't realise my mistake until I was well into my second loop, it was so frustrating to have screwed up on my strongest part in such a dumb fashion after all the hard work on the swim and the bike. So in the end, between "2km short" or "3km over", I decided to ran two full loops from that point and actually tallied 13km of running in the blistering sun. I
n my final length of the dam there were hardlyDPP_1010 anyone left on the course . I was out of glycogen, cramps were urging to kick in and eventually when I made it back toward the finishing line, the transition area was already being cleared up. Thankfully Martina and Madoka was there for the finishing snap.

So it was incredibly frustrating, I approached the race saying it was not an important one for me, but once I got on the race course, it was diffcult to take it easy, and so although I can easily look on the bright side and say at least I completed it, deep down I will always be looking forward to a revenge in the next 12 months.