Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Powerman Malaysia Duathlon - Deo's race report

We've heard it that the recently concluded Powerman Asia Duathlon Championship - Malaysia has closed with a bang, not only it was properly organized, it has also made its way into the Malaysia Book of Records for being the 'Largest Participation of Duathlon Championships' in Malaysia, with 2,645 participants of 39 nationalities. Out team athlete Deo was lucky to be part of the record by taking part in the Classic category (10km run, 60km bike, 10km run). It was his first ever Powerman race and third duathlon appearance. Deo, who is more known as a runner shared how he managed to capitalise his strength in running to overcome his cycling leg.

Read on how the race went for Deo...


Powerman Malaysia made a return after 2-year hiatus. It was last held in 2013 and was not held on the year I got my bike and learn how to cycle and hoping to do a duathlon race. With Powerman not held in the last two years, I had my share of duathlon racing just from Port Dickson International Duathlon, which I can say I did quite awesomely, finishing under 4 hours in both years. So when it was announced back in August last year that Powerman Malaysia will make a come back to Putrajaya, every duathlete or the duathlete-wannabe got really excited, myself included. Registration was done early but training was hard to come by. I last cycled in August last year after PD Duathlon until I picked up my bike again two weeks before Powerman to get back into the rhythm. Only one brick session was done prior to the race day and even that, the bike leg was just over 30km as we called it a day after I had my tire punctured and spent a good 30 minutes on a very hot day replacing the tube. The only good thing I took home from the brick session was that the second leg run started at 12pm on a very hot day, which gave a good simulation to the hot Powerman Malaysia.

Unlike PD Duathlon, Powerman Malaysia's route is a bout loop. The two 10km run legs were done along a 5km route while the 60km bike loop was done over a 30km route. So for sprint category, they just do one loop each for run 1, bike then run 2. Came the race day, I thought I was quite ready for it. I am all confident with my running, except that I was worried I may go too fast in the first run leg leaving me with tired legs for the second run leg. For bike leg, I got my bike tires replaced to a new pair, this was long due. I was just hoping that I was spared from any mechanical problem. Even a puncture scared me so much. And as my weakness will be the bike leg, suffice if I could maintain a 30km/h average speed for the 60km ride. Gears wise, I was hoping to minimize the time spent in transition zone and it worked well for me during the race. I managed to carry/uncarry whatever things as planned although there were still some snacks and Coke in my transition basket that I didn't touch at all. The race pack and kit collection was on Saturday, which was also the day when we have to check-in our bike. But everyone was worried to leave their bikes exposed under the hot sun. So, it was allowed to check-in our bikes in the morning before the race.

Race day came. I was up early. Went to the race site early and was among the first ones to check-in the bike. Couldn't spot much people that I know, just a handful of them. Changed well wishes. Had the much needed toilet break before I got really sleepy. Dozed off for a while on a bench nearby and about 6.30am, I made my way to the start pen. As it was a record participation for Powerman Malaysia, I guessed it was better to get in early and get a spot as closer to the start line as possible. I managed to get a spot some 50 meters behind the start line. I looked behind and couldn't see the tail of the pack. There were so many people, and came from many countries too. Next to me was a group from Sri Lanka, and we have the elites from all over the world. That includes Emma Pooley, former Olympics silver medalist in time trial, who eventually won the women's category.

Race started at 7am and I had a great run. I ran like it was a standalone 10km race in the first few kilometers but later as the route went a little uphill along the back route after Petronas, I reminded to slow down a bit, afraid that I may lose out of steam for the bike and second run leg later. But by that time, I was quite at the front and I didn't encountered much human traffic jam. When I got back to the start line, the sprint category hasn't been flagged off yet. So there were loud cheers from them as I passed them by and I heard my name was being called many times, here and there. That lifted my spirit a bit as I moved past the start line and transition zone more swiftly for the second loop and the first running leg. Same story in the second loop but when I was around Petronas, I was already strategizing things to do in the transition zone. What's first to do, second, next, and so on before exiting the transition zone for the bike leg.

Got back to T-zone in an official time of 0:44:37, which I think was fast and no wonder there were not that many in front of me. I was recorded as 71st runner overall. The good things about being early into the T-zone is that it wasn't crowded and the aisle that takes you to the exit of the T-zone was clear for you to run with your bike. The T-zone itself was a little small and crowded where the space in between one bike to another is too close apart and there wasn't much room for you to lay your butt on the aisle. And of course, you get lots of photos too by being quite at the front pack. I got everything I need for the bike leg, took of the running t-shirt and leaving with just tri-suit, put on cleats, gloves, helmet, sunglass, chucked Hammer gels and electrolytes into the back pockets as well as the hand pump; and I was ready to go. I was timed at 0:03:40 in the T-zone and the bike leg adventure began.

Starting the bike leg, fuelled by Hammer Gel #howIHammer
[photo by Soon Chung Lim]

Not long from the start of bike leg and going into the highway stretch along Lebuh Wadi Ehsan, I was overtaken by many cyclists, thin, fat, young, old, like a thousand of them. Some were just on normal bike but mostly on TT bikes where they lay their arm lazily while cruising past me with the loud sound of their bicycle crank. At times I got quite annoyed that I couldn't match their speed but I couldn't do much. I could just ensure that my average speed will not go down to below 30km/h as planned. As much as I wanted to hook on any peloton, Powerman rules don't allow you to draft. I asked one of the marshals earlier what is considered drafting? and he answered, to ride in no less that two-bike space in between you and the rider in front. Officially, you have to ensure the gap is 10 meters apart. But with only one lane on the highway that is closed from public for the bike leg, there was no way that you could be draft-free, especially during the uphill sections. I can consider myself lucky as it was still not as crowded from the position I was riding so it was a smooth ride. After a while riding along the highway, I was back to start/line area for another loop of the bike leg. At that point of time, I really wished that I had signed up for the sprint category. Nevertheless I still have to continue for the second loop. This time there were less people overtaking me, maybe they are also losing steam. Same story as in the first loop, very lucky not to encounter any issue until I got back to the T-zone for the final run leg. My bike leg was timed at 1:53:46 and placed 455th place overall. So actually, there were only about 380 people overtook me, not a thousand lah *phewww...

Cooling it off during the second running leg...
[photo by Nik Fahusnaza]

Entered the t-zone, rest my bike, change shoes, and off I went for the run leg. It was almost 10am. It was not as hot as during the Sunday when I did my brick training. But it was still really humid. There was a water station right after the T-zone exit and I poured a cup of water on my head while sipping another cup. Then I moved for my run leg. My legs felt strong. Although I felt cramps were coming on the calves during the bike leg (which was quite strange), I felt good with the legs this time around. I was running at 5:00 pace in the first km until cramps came attacking both calves. I had no other options than to slow down and jog at pedestrian's pace. When I felt the cramps had eased, I picked up my pace again. Had to stop few more times before the cramps went away for good. I told to myself that the cramps may not be due to the heat or dehydration but more for the transition from cycling to running and the muscles were adjusting themselves, I thought so... They went away with 7km to go in the race and I could run again, all the way, only stopping at water stations for cups of drinks and iced sponge. By this time, I overtook a lot of runners, and entering into the second loop for my last 5km run, I also overtook many of those who were still in their first loop. By this time, many runners were seen walking on the side pavement, instead of on the road, to shed themselves from the sun. Somehow, I feel the loop route is better than one big loop as in PD Duathlon, as you get to bump into many others, encourage them or being encouraged by them.

Nearing the Ministry of Finance building, I knew the end is near. I got even stronger and swiftly run to the finish line. Completed my run leg in 0:52:01, for overall finishing time of 3:37:31, which I am really happy with. That puts me in 118th place overall (out of 1,316) and 16th out of 283 in Male's 35-39 age category. The timing also puts me as 49th Malaysian. Not that bad, as I managed to recover from my slow bike leg and overtook many of those overtaken me in the bike leg during the final run leg. I remember a friend mentioned to me before the race, "Don't worry, you'll be fine. Duathlon is more about running than cycling..." and she's true!

My 1st Powerman Duathlon result.

For my race details on Garmin Connect, click here.

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