Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Journey to Ironman Langkawi 2014 : Roy Yeow

My team mate has written on the race report for Langkawi Ironman so I am going to try to write from a different perspective, focusing on my preparation for the race itself. While Chan have to squeeze his training in a ship, I must say I am lucky to be able to train around Klang Valley regularly. I am not sure I can do it if given the condition Chan was in - fully salute him!! 
With Chloe. Thanks Frank for the pic
It all started about a year and a half ago, with all the encouragement from team members, I got myself into cycling with the plan to try out triathlon in the near future. Quickly, I got myself acquainted with cycling with my first 2 dualthlon races in 2013.

In November 2013, the journey into triathlon started with me focusing on my swimming. I have never swim for more than 50 meters before and the thought of swimming in open sea during triathlon is nerve wrecking. Knowing that swimming is all about technique, without hesitation I joined the Total Immersion Malaysia (TI) swimming class in the hope I can get myself by comfortably for any triathlon I am doing, not worrying about the cutoff time and the thought of drowning.

The first test came during the Morib Triathlon in December, a new and supposedly newbie friendly triathlon for me to test out myself if I will enjoy the 3 disciplines. With minimal swimming training, the plan is to just not to drown and come out alive. With my team mates, Irene and Chan racing and TriStupe supporting, it eased me to know all my teammates are there and sharing great tips with me. I came out from the race still in one piece and without hesitation; I took up the challenge of signing up for Putrajaya 70.3 and Langkawi IM.

I know there are still plenty of work to do for me to be able to complete these races, thus 2014 planning was all about preparing to peak myself for Langkawi. Ultra races were cut down and were used as training. Coming from running background, I decided not to focus much on running and to ensure I improved on my swim and bike.

The plan to Langkawi is actually very simple:
Swim with TI group weekly
Increase bike mileage
Run whenever I got a chance

Careful planning put my race calendar with 3 triathlons before Langkawi with a few ultra in between. The triathlons will be to gain experience in triathlon specific details while ultra are to maintain my running fitness.

Hi-5! Survived the water!. Thanks Frank!
Apart from the obvious above, 2ndskin collaboration with Get Active opened a door to another important discipline for me - Strength and conditioning. It happened that Chloe, the personal trainer for Get Active has also registered for Langkawi and without any hesitation; she became my default training partner. Scheduled in between the many hours of swim bike run weekly were 2 hours of strength and conditioning. Without a doubt this 4th discipline is as important as the other disciplines and I may say, is the differentiation between completing and DNF many races. The many hours of strengthening the upper body that as a runner I have neglected improved my swim tremendously while the strengthening of lower body makes running and cycling much comfortable now. Core workout ensures that I remain fresh throughout endurance workout. I would highly recommend anyone that is seriously into endurance sports to incorporate strength and conditioning into their program. This discipline can ensure that injuries are kept at bay.

Coming into March, I raced in my 2nd triathlon in Penang. It was another milestone to check my swim and bike progress. I came out from swim satisfy with my improvement, but bike is still a concern for me, especially when it comes to hilly route. This race gave me a snapshot of what to expect in Putrajaya and things I need to work on beyond April.

With Putrajaya 70.3, again the plan is to see how I can sustain the longer distance and see how the rest of the participants do it. During the swim leg, I swam off course a couple of time and needed to be escorted back to the right track by the kayak. There you go something for me to take note off immediately. During the bike leg, I bonked on the 2nd lap of the 90KM race, another point for me to take note off - hydration and nutrition. The run leg was completed on walk/jog/run strategy, something common in ultra races - a note for myself - need to be mentally prepared for loops run that may be boring.
180km. No joke. Photo by Frank.
And with the new found issues, simple tweak of my plan as we approached the final stretch of training - 5 months to go. Intensity for swim bike and run was raised. Strength workout was increased. And at this point of time, it is important that we balance the increase intensity with proper recovery and rest. Many times, I felt weak and tired. And when that happens, I tweaked my training plan to ensure that I recover to do another training session, with quality.

Training for ironman is not just about the workout itself, it became a lifestyle. There were lots of sacrifices in between. The training will take its toll as the time for training increases on the weekend. At one point of time, some kampung folks asked if I was an Indian. That's the extend of how much my skin color has changed <Read, no eyes see>. Maintenance becomes very important, and by that it means stretching, rolling and massage become increasingly more important. With the body taking its toll from all the training, it is only normal that we take care of it. Otherwise, it will just break down and all the planning and training going down the drain.

Coming into August, with just about 2 months to race day, my motto became "train smart, injury free". It is no longer hitting it hard every day, but rather to ensure I do not picked up any injury and be as cautious as possible. Avoid any mishap by all cost at this point of time to ensure I will be able to line up at the starting line. You can say it is tapering mode on - I would put it as, shifting to a lighter gear to ensure the body starts to recover from the months of intense training. Rest became more important than ever, relaxation of mind and body became the priority.

By the time September arrived, the anxiety started to get on to me and people around me knew that. I be blasting and having mood swing towards everyone that is engaged with me. I must say that it is not a pleasant experience and those that I have offended during this period, sorry, IMV (Ironman virgin) syndrome. The drawing board came out to plan for the 5th discipline in Ironman - hydration and nutrition. Hammer Nutrition has been a great sponsor, providing support, feedback and the stocks. Nutrition during the bike leg will be important to ensure that I could last the distance and remains fresh for my run leg. I opted for Hammer Perpetuem Solids as my main fuel with Endurolytes Extreme as my main electrolytes source.

Fast forward to the race week, I was stressed down by work and luckily I have arranged for my bike to be sent down to Langkawi by a bike shop. It was the best decision I have made as it took away the pressure to prepare, pack and carry the bike. Even without bike, you will be overwhelmed with the amount of things you need to prepare, goggle, trisuit, spare tubes, sunglass, shoe, socks etc... The list is just pure insane. 
Working the run. Thanks Frank.
I was lucky to have a great supporting team that travel down with me. I jokingly gave them roles - from Team Manager, Driver, Photographer, Secretary, Admin, Coordinator and Nutritionist. But the truth is, they are just great and makes the journey to Langkawi pleasant and stress free.

Swim - Started from the 3rd group, I was taking a fairly conservative plan to just complete the swim without any incident. It was great to see a lot of familiar faces during the start - Pui San, Phui Tin, Yim, Andrew, Warren, Chloe, Doc Yap just to name a few. The goal is to complete within 1:45. Jumped into the water and started to calm myself and try to get into a relax rhythm. It worked well until 500 meters into the swim - my goggle snapped. Water seeped in and I started to panic. The first thought that came to my mind is, there goes my ironman journey. Water tread for awhile while I calmed myself and viola, decided to take it slowly and breaststroke to the nearest kayak and try to fix the goggle. I muscled my way across the other swimmers to get to the nearest kayak which is like 50 meters away and told the volunteer I need to fix my goggle. Holding on to the kayak with my elbow while my hand tried to fix the goggle is not as easy as I thought it to be, so I started conversation with the volunteer to try to distract myself away from negative thought and joke with him about how this always only happened in your most important race. That helps as I managed to fix the goggle and immediately I feel relieved. I thanked and wished him well, glanced on my watch (opssss need to gain back some time), and got myself going again. I thought to myself, with all the training you have done, and yet it will never fully prepared you for things that may happened during the race. You just need to improvise and stay calm. The rest of the swim journey is uneventful and yeah, I managed to complete the swim in 1:37, with my goggle snapping off - I am glad I am still able to do it within my goal - I must say thanks Total Immersion for getting me this far and Get Active for conditioning me for the swim.

Bike - I took my time to change during the transition as I want to be as comfortable as possible for the bike leg. To me this is my weakest link, and is probably the do or die part of the race. 2KM into the ride we are to start our first climb. To my horror, there are already a few riders pushing their bike. I was in shocked as I thought I would have to push my bike too. I have not trained pushing bike before, which would be demoralizing with another 178KM to go. Changing to the lightest gear, I told myself just to pedal on, downhill is within sight. And that goes on for the next 50-60KM as I fight with the horror sight of climbs. As I about to complete the first lap (90KM), I glanced on my watch and it shows I have done much faster than I thought I would, but the thought of repeating the whole lap again is painful. Quick mental calculation told me that I can take it slightly easier than the  first lap and that is exactly what I did. Climb the hills cautiously, pushed a bit more on the downhill. I started a mental game with myself, counting down the number of junctions I need to pass thru to finish the lap. It works as I continue to maintain my steady pace and returned in 7:16. Not a time to shout about, but I will take it, considering this is not my strength at all. Another shout out for Get Active to condition me to be able to last the hills - albeit at a slow pace.

Run - Got into the 2nd transition, I was all relieved. No more pressure as I know I am going to finish this race barring any injuries. Running is traditionally my strongest so I have no doubt that I can just walk/run to the end. Taking more time than the first transition, I chatted with Yim and Andrew Ang in the changing tent before moving on. The run will be a mental one as we will passed through the finishing line 4 times but we are not allowed to go in until we completed 4 laps. I started walking and decided to play some mental game to run when I hit the km mark on my watch. That works for awhile before I got bored. Immediately, I knew that I need to find other factors to push me and when Fish Chia (a fast runner from FRIM group) came by, I asked his permission to follow him. However I lost him after following him for an hour. Again, my plan turn to walk and run based on my watch. Just to cut things short, since my goal is to complete and now that I know that I can complete, mentally I shutoff and I just slowly walked until Chloe caught up with me with 2.5KM to go, and I decided to start following her pace to complete my first Ironman. Completing the race together with my training partner for so many months is great!
Finally. Ironman! Thanks you Frank!
Well, that's my journey - an almost 1 year adventure just to be at the finishing line of Ironman. The race is a great experience, and so is the journey to get there. I have met so many great inspirational friends along the way, all with their own story and goals, with their own knowledge to share. It is great just to enjoy the journey itself.

Plan and execute well, if I can get there, so can you. See you racing in the next Ironman!!

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