PD Triathlon 2011

23-24 July 2011 was a weekend like no other.

On Friday (22/7/11), I took my leisurely drive from Penang down to PD. My OD event was not due til Sunday 24/7/11, but I had promised Steve that I would come down earlier to support him on his maiden Sprint Triathlon event on 23/7/11. Besides, I haven't attended any of the Tri clinics; so the least I could do was to catch a glimpse of the Sprint event to get a feel of it...before I take my plunge.

When I met up with Steve, it was already 7pm. After picking up my race pack, I stayed for the briefing for the Sprint event. Mr Chan was humorous yet exertive. A real character. But gentle at heart. Someone who doesn't just care about the running of the event but also has genuine concern for the participants' welfare. This year's event had depleted most, if not all of the available hotels in PD. Total race participants alone was a staggering 1450! 350 more participants compared to last year. And from Mr Chan's statistics, there were about 250 first timers doing either the Sprint or Olympic distance. I was one of the newbies....

Steve having done his Sprint Triathlon (Uu Ban, who came to give support)

The day before our maiden OD Tri (Cynthia Gan, smiling on nervously...)

The Sprint event was an eye opener. It was 750m swim; 20km Bike; 5km run. Witnessing it was extremely helpful to gain some perspective about the run of the event in order to avoid any mishap on race day. Steve did superbly in his event. He has always been very modest and conservative. I told him he should have taken the OD event but he felt that he wasn't ready for it. In fact, we probably should have swapped places. He was strong on his swimming and cycling. His finish was 1:45. My pulse was racing as I watched the race. Thoughts that raced through my mind was: "I will be doing this tomorrow. Am I seriously ready?!" And tomorrow's event would be double the distance! Anticipation can sometimes be your best friend or worse nightmare....wasn't quite sure how I should react to that.

After the Sprint event, I had the luxury of some quiet/alone time in the afternoon. That helped a lot to clear the head. Felt more relax. Mentally more resolute. Stopped thinking about how I should feel. I rehearsed the transitions in my head over and over again. Let's leave the rest to God. And that I did.

Slept like a baby that night. Woke up refreshed at 5am. We were at the start venue well before 6am. Yet many were already there. After placing my bike at the transition zone, I went for my body marking. Kinda cool having the numbers 3045 stamped on my deltoids. Pretty much like having pre-ritual tattoos, an initiation to the triathlete clans....

Then it was the set up time and last minute check on the bike and essentials. All there. I didn't feel nervous. Just a peaceful calm. Bumped into a few guys I know and made a few new friends along the way. Bonuses!

7:15am. The crowd started heading towards the beach. Many were already doing some warm up swims as I reached there. The water wasn't cold. But it was murky as expected. I plunged in to get myself in the swimming mood. Soon enough Mr Chan called out to us to return to shore. It was time to start.

Since there were too many of us, the swimming part was flagged off in waves. You can imagine, it would be impossible to swim all together. So the younger age group were the first to go. Mine was the third group. My starting time was about 7:45am.

At the blow of the horn, I dashed forward with the hope to break away from the crowd. But soon enough, the crowd caught up while I was still finding my swimming rhythm. Left. Right. Behind. I was pretty sure there was one that nearly went under me. It was messy! I was kicked, grabbed, scratched, pulled...But I did some of the pushing and kicking too (to be fair!)...It was very disorientating. I surfaced to look from time to time to make sure I was going in the right direction since I couldn't see a thing in this murky water where visibility was virtually zero. I swam a fair bit of wasted distance as I was zig-zagging through the course. About 450m into the swim, I started finding my bearing and momentum. I was more relaxed, and my speed improved a little. Then I remember thinking to myself: "Trust the Training! Trust the Training!" I had nothing to lose. So, I increase my pace as I made the turn. I finished the swim in good time: 32 minutes. 5 minutes better than my usual training. So, as I came out of the water into the bike transition zone, I was pretty pleased with myself. But I knew the next stage would be more demanding....

Finishing the swim, refreshing!

The transition was fairly straight forward because I had rehearsed it in my mind a zillion times (even in my sleep). 4 things in sequence: 1.Sun glasses; 2.Helmet; 3.Number belt; 4.Socks and Shoes. Then OFF I went pushing my bike towards the starting pad to commence the next gruelling 40km of bike... My least prepared portion of the race.

coming out from the transition zone (T1)

Did I just mentioned that this was to be my worst portion of the race? Well, it was. I was heading off in my usual speed of 28-30km/hour. Lo and behold, bikes upon bikes were whisking pass me as though I was stationary! I actually lost count of the numbers of bikes that overtook me. It was disheartening. All the hard work on the swim was going down the drain. I was so cheesed off! It was as though some fancy R8 or Ferrari was effortlessly pelting pass you when you are already on five gear at 120km/hour in your MyVi. (No disrespect intended ya!)  It was especially during the hill climbs. But my anger was not directed towards anyone but myself. I realized for the first time that THIS IS HOW IT'S DONE! And I should aim to train that way in future. My bike portion was a lousy 1:19. But I did managed to overtake 6 people....(I know....quite pathetic ya?)

Heading back after the 40km ride. Relieved.

As I was heading back to the transition zone before the third part of the race, I was already quite tired. My inefficient cycling methods was the culprit. And of course, lack of training has everything to do with it. So, I knew that my last run was not going to be easy because my legs felt like bricks. As I came off the bike, the transition was straight forward because I had no bike shoes to change from. I just took off the helmet, put on my cap and off I went. I down one Naughty G with caffeine and a pack of GU Gel to boost my fatigued legs. It was like shuffling with bricks strapped on at both legs as I coursed through the first 1km. But soon enough, I started picking up pace. It was then that I started overtaking some of the people that mercilessly overtook me during the bike portion....and it was pay back time! And happily I overtook a fair bit of them too. However, my pace was not the usual 10km pace that I was aiming for. I was tired. And besides, the 10am heat was already scorching and beating on my worn out body. (And I was not too wise to choose an all black Trisuit either) I had to cool down by drenching myself with cups of ice cold water along the route. My last running portion was 41min (I think the route was actually less than 10km).

I finished in 2 hours 35 min. My very first OD! And obviously a PB la!

Last 750m to go.....

PD Triathlon has opened my eyes to a totally different world. These are things that you can only appreciate when you have gone through it yourself. A bit like SCUBA diving or Marathon running. It ain't easy. But it's worth it. And for me it was a rather bitter sweet experience. 

In summary, it's a triumph of the human spirit over fears and doubts.That, is priceless.

But how is it different compared to marathon running? It is a different sort of ball game. I feel that it is predominantly a bike rules it all game. As long as you have a fairly decent swimming and running ability, you stand a good chance to win yourself a spot on the podium if you also possess that amazing agility and speed on the bike. This is a common quality that all the winners have.

Don't worry. I have not forsaken my first love (in sports). Marathon is still my Number 1. And I have a dream and a target to fulfill in it. I have not forgotten it just because of a fantastic weekend in PD. Of all three events, running is still, and will always be, my true passion.


  1. wow. did i just see someone arming with a Nikon DSLR? wat model is that? when wanna show off ur photographs? ^^ and congratz for ur tri~

  2. It's not mine. Held on to it for a friend Steve who was doing the Sprint event. Took some nice shots also for him....
    Thanks. I am just a beginner in triathon. Lots more room for improvement...

  3. Hi Francis, you have "put money into my pocket" again: bike section rules the game...:)
    Thanks for the sharing...:)

    41minutes to cover 10km after swimming and biking, and it's not even your expected pace... simply amazing!!!

  4. woohoo! means that u actually know how to shot ^^
    btw, i believe u'll soon upgrade to Francis aka ironman ;) cant wait for ur next blog update !!!

  5. In fact, some said that the actual distance for the run was 8.8km....I felt that it was definitely not 10km....


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