Aviva 70.3

Ironman, October 08, 2008

Taper had been a stress free 2 weeks, and the last few days of rest and sucking on Gatorade had my legs feeling full, bursting at the seams and twitching weirdly once in a while.

Taper had been a stress free 2 weeks, and the last few days of rest and sucking on Gatorade had my legs feeling full, bursting at the seams and twitching weirdly once in a while.
D Day was upon me and I was as ready as I was ever going to be. The months of training were finally over; long solo runs in the rain, 10.30pm Friday night intervals at the track, extra bike loops before sunrise, strength training at lunch, moody burnt out weeks- all behind me. I have been managing my pre-race prep better and better. This time I hardly get nervous and manage a pretty decent sleep. I feel good- Physically I’ve done all I can. I just need to execute the race according to planned. No flat tyres, no crashes, no snapped goggle bands, no blisters, cramps, gastro melt down please- every triathlete’s prayer.
As the sun comes up, the nervous energy at transition fades into the background and a surreal sense of peace envelopes me as I methodically lay out my gear. I’m really happy that Kao Kao has come to watch today. I want her to witness the result of all these months of “madness”, as she calls it.

Thankfully she’s caught up in all the excitement and has only nagged me a little. Knowing her, she would have switched a 210 calorie bottle of Powerbar Endurance for some home brew chrysanthemum tea (has been done before)!

I chat with Siong and James at the start, full of respect for family guys that still kick ass. I hope to be like them one day. Happy snaps with the team and I’m feeling the love.

The butterflies in the stomach never get a chance to attack because 5… Is that my wave? 4, Yes it is… 3… Shit! 2… Goggles on, 1… HERE WE GO!

The cumulated race experience is paying off and I’m getting the hang of this mass start madness. I’m seriously pummeling my arms into the water furiously; protecting my space and sorry if you get in my way. I’m breathing hard but the race- specific swim sessions have paid off- I know how long and how hard I can go for without blowing up. Before long, I clear the frenzied panting masses and I’m sighting the 1st bouy, hunting for a draft. I take a wide turn for more space and the fast swimmers have shot off. “Just do your own thing” I tell myself- Don’t sweat it.
Eventually I’m on someone’s toes and it’s pretty nice but I’m frustrated in these murky waters. Visibility is low and I keep having to break my stroke to sight. I’ll just have to learn to “feel” for the draft instead. A splash of bright Nike blue tells me I’m behind Harn Sern. Nice! Just follow him then. Swimming in Harn’s draft is great but I get tangled and bashed up in a few schools of back-markers form the wave before. I loose his feet as we round one of the last turns. Mental note: Next time it’s definitely worth surging to keep a good draft.
Exit the water a couple of seconds behind him… No worries, Thanks bro! “If I’ve made it out with HS, I’m doing ok.” I tell myself. Breathing is moderate, in control. Check! I hear several cheers of “Come on Shem! and “Go Shem!” as I run into T1. No slowing down to smile and wave today, just a deep sense of gratitude for the people that believe in what I’m doing. A slap on the bum and a cheeky smile from Curren reminds me that he’s right on my tail. Who would have guessed, the white-boy can swim. Something finally clicks in my mind and suddenly we’ve got a race on our hands- Lets go!
T1 is quick and well controlled. Sunnies, helmet, race belt, Done! I’m running out in seconds. Good. Get to the mount line and jump on. The shoes, clipped into the pedals are spinning round and round. This never happened in practice before— AAAAARRGH!!! My right foot gets dragged between the road and the pedal as a searing white hot  pain shoots up into my brain.  I look down to see that my foot is now a  bloody mess and my second toenail is dangling off to the side. Fuck- This is gonna hurt! I reach down, rip it clean off and stuff my foot into the shoe. I don’t want to see it. What a way to start a 90 k time trial! I see Curren disappear into the distance. Thankfully, my brain seams to have shut down all signals from the pain receptors in the raw tip of my toe. I’m glad that my foot just feels dead, cold and numb as I switch my focus to riding this darn bike properly.
I pass Curren struggling up Benjamin Sheers. I get up to speed and mentally take note of riders around me that look like they know what they’re doing. Cervelo Solosist Ang Moh, Cervelo P2C Hed Tir spoke Chinese, Black Look 586 Ang Moh, White Cervelo Soloist with Olympic Rings, Collucchi. Whaaaa? No way- The tall, skinny Brazillian creeps up behind me. He’s  followed by White Specialized Transition- Jacobs, Cannondale Slice, O’halloaran… And just like that the pros on their second loop have swallowed me up. Siong’s words resound in my mind,” Just follow the pros!” Strangely, it doesn’t seam that difficult, I’m actually keeping up alright. Thrilled to bits to be riding amongst my heros, I tuck my head in a little more, get a bit more aero and just savor the moment. They make it look as easy as a Sunday ride down to the ice cream shop but we are flying along the Keppel viaduct. Reinaldo’s cadence is very low, and his legs very skinny. I wonder if my own short chunky thighs would ride better if I leaned out even more for my next big race.
Focus! The marshals are patrolling this front bunch quite tightly and I’m measuring out 7 ms in my head Ok… I’m measuring out 6.5 ms in my head. After what seams like blissful ages.. ( more like 7 mins) they start to pull away on an uphill. In a matter of minutes, they’ve disappeared.
Cervelo P2C Hed Tri- Spoke Chinese is still with me, riding steady. Good. We work together, mindful to keep 7 (6.5)m apart. He’s a really good rider and I remind myself to check out Bid No. 301. “I’m gonna ride like him next year” I promise myself. I’m gonna ride like him!
I’m feeling pretty good going out on to Lap 2. My foot is still completely numb and I picture the inside of my shoe filling up with blood. Where is Adrian? I don’t know if he is ahead or behind me. I should have checked if his bike was there in T1.
I feel a huge lump well up in my throat as I see Black and Green on the road shoulder; Bike hung up, rear wheel in 3 or 4 pieces. Oh no, Curran! He’s taken a spill and its over for him poor guy looks so dejected. I pray the he is OK.

We’re rolling into the u turn at Big Splash and the cheers really spur me on. It’s a nice section of the course, and I’m so thankful that I get to watch the race unfold from on top of my bike. It’s a great place to be and I thank God for his saving grace. Kao Kao’s wondering around with the rest of the spectators and this brings a special joy to my heart. “Whoi!” I call out! She’s got a big smile on her face when she sees me :)

Headed out onto the last lap of the bike now and I’m feeling it. The speed bumps are rattling me to the bone now and its getting hard to hold my form. I’m sliding all over the seat, trying to find a position that works. Cervelo P2c hed tri spoke Chinese easily pulls away. Shit. I needed him. I find myself completely on my own in no man’s land. A rude flashback to the painful last lap of last year’s 70.3 where I partially bonked- NO. Not happening. I firmly put that thought out of my head and dig in, spinning up a long climb as best as I can. I’m not going fast anymore. The bikes that I’d left behind on Lap 1 (Black Look 586 Ang Moh, Cervelo Soloist Ang Moh) are steadily making their way past me. I try to follow but my legs just won’t go. These guys have paced well- I was right for picking them out as experienced riders, but I was wrong to go off chasing professional ass. Had I been listening out closely, I would have heard them, “We’ll get you later boy”. I’m just hanging on for the run, hoping there’s something left in the tank.
I spot the bright green bike/tri suit combo of Drew sitting comfortably in the middle of a pack… Oh man. How I wish that was me. It’s good to see teammates out on the course, slugging it out within themselves. The long moderate climbs keep all of us honest as we dig deep to answer tough questions. Thinking back to where we came from, I’m proud to be wearing green and black and it’s a wonderful moment!
This gives me a second wind and I resolutely work with Black Scott Plasma Ang Moh all the way in at a decent pace. My legs are wobbly jelly as I dismount and run through T2 along side Yeow Chung- another quite inspiration. Rack my bike, socks, shoes, gels and shades… And we’re off.
Yeow Chung is hot on my heels. He passes me and I go with him for awhile, absolutely honoured to be running with Singapore’s fastest Ironman. He’s pushing the pace but I’ve learnt to stick with my own strategy. With my legs threatening to cramp and my heart telling me to ease into it, my brain reminds me that I’ve learnt to run through these. I’ve blown up too many times in training for going out too fast and I watch him disappear into the distance- one day I will be able to push like that too. I reach the 1st u turn to see Yeow Chung hobbling to a stop. Bad cramps and he’s in pain. I throw up some encouragement and continue with my own race. Where is Adrian? I don’t know if he’s in front or behind… just do your own thing boy. Do your own thing!
Soon enough I see him on the other side, coming after me. OK- I know where he is and its ON! My spirit hardens- Not getting me today! I focus on keeping good form- running light with a quick cadence. Shutting everything out to burry myself deep in the zone. Concentrate on breathing. It’s bloody hot and humid and the aid stations bring only temporary relief. So far I’ve had no major interruptions and the race has gone pretty smoothly. Siong calls out, “Come on buddy, you can nail it!”. Somewhere in my head, these words keep echoing in my head for the rest of the race. Nail it!
I don’t really see or hear anyone for the rest of the run. I’m hiding behind my shades and just hanging on. At each passing U turn I’m know I’m pulling away from Adrian and I know I’ve got him. But the heat is catching up with me and I’m slowing down, stopping for longer at the aid stations. I try to step it up a notch to psycho levels; to replicate that tenacious grip that allowed me PB the Army Half Marathon a few weeks ago. But my body can’t comply; I don’t have that extra 1.5% today. My internal clock tells me I’ve missed my goal time by a fair bit and I won’t even come close, but it doesn’t matter because I’ve left it all out there on the course, I’ve given it my all today. The last 2 Ks seam to take forever.
The finishing chute finally comes into view and I’m waving my hands about wildly and punching the air. Mel gets a big sweaty hug. It’s the 1st time I’ve seen her since the horn went off and it feels like an eternity- I’m glad that I didn’t pass out at the line as planned.
I’ll save that for another day : )
I head back to the finish line after cooling down. Mel and I cheer all our friends in. Watching all the racers come in, I’m reminded of the determination and joy in the human spirit- God is good indeed.