Monday, 23 November 2015

Langkawi Ironman 2015 Race Report

Team 2ndskin athlete Ironman Chan Jun Shen successfully overcome all challenges and completed the Langkawi Ironman 2015, the second toughest Ironman in the world after Kona Ironman World Championship! Let's read up what has this 5 X Langkawi Ironman Finisher has got to share with us.


Can I finish an Ironman with 14 days of preparation? It was one tough decision when I accepted the last minute free slot offered by Tadonamo Tri Club under RudyProjectMalaysiaBrunei sponsorship. Thank you Mr Syerol and Mr Marcus. I did not foresee myself doing any triathlon this year because I was transferred all over the places by the Navy to fulfil my career courses; it is a mess to travel around with all the triathlon gears. The whole year’s training has been primarily focusing on breaking my marathon PB. Since both of my marathons got cancelled due to haze, I called 2ndskin team principal Eugene Teoh to inform him about my last minute decision to race an Ironman. I told him, “Eugene, I want to do something big since I can’t race any marathon”. I needed someone to talk to at that time. Having 4 Ironman finish gives me a lot of confidence, but I have to be realistic. Nobody is going to finish an Ironman without enough mileage, even if I could survive the distance, I will be racing against the cut off time. The last time I cycled was last year’s Ironman which was more than a year ago, I had no idea how was my cycling endurance. 

7 days of training + 7 days of tapering = 5th Ironman In The Making

Photo courtesy Azrul Adnan.

The pre-race jitters was manageable, I slept for about 4 hours after eating really heavy Thai Food dinner. I always get sleepy after meal which is a good thing.

Entering the water. Photo courtesy Mr Tey Eng Tiong.

The swim course was a counter clockwise swim, I couldn’t be happier because I prefer to breathe on my left side. Two days before race day, race director changed the course to a clockwise swim and there will be no running at the beach on completion of the first loop. Not really a bad news because I had expected a clockwise swim before the course was announced. Knowing that swimming is just a small part of the challenge, I am confident that I can finish it more than half an hour before cut off. I studied the tide table and current condition at Pantai Kok, confirmed the reading during the practice swim and I have no problem other than jellyfish with the first discipline. Open water swimming is rough in nature, nobody is going to stop and say sorry if their strokes or kicks hit you in the face. When the Pros lapped me in my second loop, one of them smacked my head from behind and followed by their super powerful kick as they pass. Be prepared for the worst and just keep swimming. I tried to draft to peek less to navigate, but all swimmers in my pack was zig zagging so I opt to swim at my own pace. My game plan was a textbook strategy for amateur, do not go hard and save it for the bike and run. I finished my swim 1 hour 30 minutes, 5 minutes faster than last year.

I spent some time getting my calf sleeves on and make sure all the mandatory bike equipment ready before exiting the transition. It is going to be a very long day under the sun. I rode in heart rate below zone 4 all the way to keep my tummy well fed and I could only hope that I don’t get bonk too bad at the end of it. I had no mileage on the road at all, so by surviving the 180km cycling is already a miracle. 
The start of my maiden road ride for 2015. 

Photo courtesy Imagines.
The two loops course made us climb Datai at the first 21km, it is a good thing to complete one major climb early. Then we passed Kampung Kelubi area, the road was sheltered with trees and kampong houses so not much of cross winds. The villagers were all cheering for us and traffic control was very good. I had trouble holding my aero position when I felt the strain in my neck, I just couldn’t look front. Every now and then I sat up straight to stretch my neck, I’d expected this to happen anyway. The posture on the bike takes a lot of time to get used to and it will not happen within the two weeks of my preparation. The aid stations were set up around every 20km, so I grabbed a banana and a gel at every station with electrolytes as required. Being a Malaysian, I always speak in Bahasa Malaysia because the volunteers will definitely serve Malaysians first! Haha. I will shout “THANK YOU” once the food was handed to me. I consume one Hammer Perpetuem Solid and Hammer Endurolytes every hour. Maintaining at heart rate below zone 4 kept my digestive system functions like normal. Garmin 920xt gave me all the data that I need, heart rate zone, speed, average speed and distance. As long as I can buffet on the bike, I strongly believe that I can do this maiden long ride of the year 2015 without any training. Suffer is for sure, but I am trying to delay it.

What if I rode based on speed? Let say 30km/h without checking what the heart rate zone was. I might get my heart rate shoot up to my lactate threshold, and shuts down my digestive system or even burn out all my glycogen storage. The ever ending climb caused a lot of cyclist to push their bike while I slowly pedal my way up the hills. Langkawi Ironman has always been hilly, so please get the correct cassette for climbing. The Wingspan57 Rudy Project helmet was super comfortable, light in weight and aerodynamic. Absolutely fell in love with “the comfort” especially the ventilation and soft ear covers that ease up the transition process. I opt for no visor because Langkawi is just too hot to have half of my face covered. Thank you Rudy Project Malaysia Brunei for the opportunity and support.   
Photo courtesy Imagines,

I started to suffer slightly after the second Datai climb, I took full aerodynamic advantage by bending down and let the bike cruise down the hills. The handle bar wobbled so badly and I was so worried of my rusty bike handling skills. Haha. I had forgotten left or right lever is for the back brake and I pulled the front brake when the bike speeds down the hill at 60km/h. I saw Doc Yap Eng Hui ascending while Henry started to catch up. The final 20km was a hell for me but I am happy to get this far actually. My groin area started to chaff but I didn’t bother so much because I can’t do anything about it at that time. I had lost count how many riders overtook me, just too many. Unlike previous years, I could gain time and overtake 80 over riders in cycling. I was still very lucky to stay away from mechanical failures; many riders had to stop to fix punctures due to the poor road conditions. Every kilometer felt like forever, I just couldn’t wait to run the marathon! Please let me start the run, damn! If I have to dig 200% to finish it, I will give my all like any other Ironman on the course.
Which bugger drafted my backside.

I spoke to OP Sofian multiple ironman finishers and also Kannan Murugasan the Ultraman, they said I can finish the 180km as long as I ride it constant cadence in light gears. Both of the Malaysia sporting legends gave me a lot of confidence prior to race day, and both of them are people whom I really look up to. I ended my 180km cycling in 7 hours 20 minutes. Not too bad for someone who didn’t cycle for a year=p

End of the 180km. Photo courtesy Officer Cadet Cash.

Transition was brisk, no hanky panky. In fact, I was thinking of fly dismount from my bike to save some time. I didn’t because I wasn’t sure if I could still fly dismount after a year. Haha. I try to save every possible minute in transition because I was overtaken by many riders on the bike; it’s time to gain back some time.

Photo courtesy Imagines.

Running has always been my strongest leg, Skechers GoSpeed2 was my choice of gear. I tried to run slower but the legs felt really good at pace 5.25mins/km. No idea what happened, I overtook so many runners and if I could keep this pace going, sub 13 is in hand! The legs were fresh so why should I slow down right? After an hour of miracle, everything came crushing down so suddenly. Soon, I started walking. I have yet to understand what went wrong because I constantly fuel myself at every station. My breathing slowed down, my hands and head felt numb. 30km to go.

Photo courtesy Officer Cadet Cash.

The stomach bloated as I walked along the airport, I believe I had hit the wall. Every energy gel I squeeze in got rejected but I forced it down my throat. I am a soldier with a trained mental toughness. Soldiers never quit, hoisting a white flag shames the nation. I am the master of my pain. Should I fail to cross the line, I shall collapse trying. The second loop passing the finishing arch, the cheers from the crowd did not help at all as I know I need to survive another big loop. Keep eating at every station, cool the body with cold sponge, hydrate myself with electrolytes, one Hammer Endurolytes capsule for every hour, and keep breathing! I consciously breathe deeply as I could feel my breathing weaken. Karen Siah passed me and said “Hey Leftenan Chan” but I was so tired at that time, she ran a very strong marathon. I dug so deep that I knew I might pass out anytime; Lifeline ID was on my wrist so please call my loved ones. How did I survive the last 21km? I do not know. The wearing fatigue eats me up bit by bit and the mental blockage became worse.

Struggling. Photo courtesy Imagines,

However, I did not see quitting as an option. I shall not disappoint those who supported me all this while. Why stop if I can still walk? I was hardly at home with my parents when I returned to KL, I was out either to Kg Pandan pool or run around the MINDEF area to gain mileage at the very last two weeks. I became anti social. By the time I went to my bed, I get so tired that my time talking to my girlfriend shortens tremendously. I also came back early from the Bandung trip with my course mates just for the sake of doing Langkawi Ironman. All this time and emotional investment shall not go down to drain. If I DNF this Ironman, I will face a year of disappointment until I finish another Langkawi Ironman. My schedule is really tight so I am not even sure if I will be doing it next year. I am living my present life to the fullest.

Pardon me for the ugly face. Photo courtesy Officer Cadet Cash.

Final few kilometres was well spent with Henry, we walked and talked all the way. It’s going to be his 5th Ironman finish too! Mr Syerol passed by and asked if we were doing okey. Really appreciate it. Many people DNF this race. The sky turned dark and rain cloud started brewing, we up the pace a little by run-walk-run in the rain all the way to the finishing line. We jogged slowly towards the finishing arch hand in hand and Adele announced “You are an Ironman!”. 
Photo courtesy Dannie Choong.

I am now a 5 times Langkawi Ironman Finisher! Although 14 hours 52 minutes is far from my personal best, I overcame all the challenges and survived the distance. Ultimately, I am a living testimony that Ironman is doable within 14 days of preparation.

Photo courtesy Officer Cadet Cash.

I really gave my all. Photo courtesy OP Kam Kasturie.

Cameron Brown the multiple Ironman Champion hanged the medal on my neck and I walked a few steps to call for medical assistance. I blacked out for a while when they put me on wheelchair. After resting in the medical tent, I felt a bit better so I requested for BP check, BP90 and heart rate 54. I am really grateful for all the support from my family for understanding my mission to complete Ironman in 14 days’ preparation, thank you to my girlfriend for the encouragement. Thank you to my UPNM support crews who eased my logistic burden, they are the amazing Vignesh, Cash and Seargent Yusri. Huge congratulations to Officer Cadet Teoh Jian Sheng for completing his maiden Ironman. Thank you 2ndskin team mates & sponsors, Rudy Project Malaysia Brunei, Tadonamo crews, Old Putera support team, Royal Malaysian Navy, Organizers and Volunteers, and all the friends who cheered for all the Ironman participants. 



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