Ironman Malaysia - Triathlon

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World Triathlon Corporation
83F / 28C
Total Time = 12h 45m 58s
Overall Rank = 260/1221
Age Group = 45-49
Age Group Rank = 3/17
Pre-race routine:

Up at 4, breakfast (Bob's Red Mill instant oatmeal--yay--found it in the supermarket in Singapore!); one Cliff Mojo Peanut Butter Pretzel bar, coffee. Got stuff organized, headed out to the shuttle at about 5:15, shuttle to swim start. Checked bike, put on nutrition and bottles, pumped up tires, stood in endless porta-potty line next to one of the pro women (who later won). Very egalitarian--no separate potty for pros? She said it was the "first leg" of Ironman! Things cleared out once the 70.3 started at 7 AM. Had a gingerade Gu with about half an hour to go--seems to help with my occasional nausea issues on the swim/in T1. Down to beach for swim warmup.
Event warmup:

Got into the water and swam around for about 10 minutes. It was a small area, very crowded, and water was quite opaque (it's clean, and looks blue from outside, but minerals in the sand make it that way), so didn't really go very far, just got wet and got a feel for the water. Out of water and into first AG start corral. This is the first time I started in the first group. (I really don't slow down from HIM to IM distance, so I estimated my time at 1:12; first wave here was 1:15 and under; I actually did 1:10!)

  • 1h 10m 23s
  • 3900 meters
  • 01m 48s / 100 meters

This was really a stress-free swim! Not crowded at all; it's the first time I have felt that I was not getting swum over by bigger, faster, more aggressive people, having to start faster than I wanted to, or fighting my way through a lot of much slower (and, when men start first as they usually do) bigger swimmers. I was really able to do my own pace the entire time. I ran into a guy I know from the Singapore race scene at the start; he is very close to my pace for shorter races. We decided to start together and swam together on the first lap (drafting each other). We lost each other in a crowd near the first lap exit. But then I drafted someone else to the side. It was an awesome swim--like being in a large, orderly school of fish!
What would you do differently?:

Nothing, really. I was happy with my time and it was probably the best I have ever felt on a swim.
Transition 1
  • 05m 43s

This was my first IM and first time with a change tent and helpers. It was pretty quick since I did swim and bike in the same suit. Just took off the goggles and cap on the way in and unzipped my speed suit. Once in the tent, took off the speed suit and got bike helmet, sunglasses, socks and shoes on. The helper got me re-coated in sunscreen and I was off to the bike! My goal was to keep it in the 5-6 minute range and I did.
What would you do differently?:

Can't think of anything. I made good time.
  • 6h 49m 43s
  • 112 miles
  • 16.40 mile/hr

Arrrrgh! The bike was a non-stop shyte show. It was like a crazy movie that never seemed to end. Would have been great fun if it was a bike tour but this was a race. Fortunately my main goal today was to finish. I was not putting a lot of pressure on myself to AG podium or KQ, or I might have lost my marbles on this part!

Act 1: About a mile into the race, we started up the first major hill (on Datai road, up into the jungle. I shifted into my small ring...only to realize that none of the gears worked except the "granny" gear (the easiest one). I had checked the gears before bike check in Friday and they were fine. Basically over the course of the race I had access to 3-4 gears total. Two or three on the big ring and one on the small. Shifting on the big ring was clunky and difficult; nothing happened on the small. Clearly derailleur or cables were screwed up but no idea what to do; might have stopped to ask a mechanic but they were always occupied and anyway in IM Asia rules cannot actually touch your bike, only give you supplies/ suggestions. (Turned out to be a loose cable, probably from the trip over.)

Act 2: About five miles into the bike (in the jungle) the black cloud I'd seen approaching on the swim descended and all hell broke loose. Torrential rains, high winds, debris falling all over the road from the trees, screaming monkeys running across the road in panic for about 15-20 minutes. A large limb was down in the road on a downhill section; fortunately no athletes were hit, but we had to weave around it. Apparently the IM athletes were better off (at least those on the bike course) as there weren't many of us on the road yet (many of those who were swimming or in T1 stopped until the worst of the storm passed) and we were pretty spread out. Tons of crashes with the 70.3 athletes (more of them and further along); several people taken to hospital. The main effect for me is that I didn't see a patch of really rough road and all my water bottles except my front frame bottle ejected less than ten miles into the race.

Act 3: Everything ejected, everywhere. My original bottles with my favored sugar-free electrolyte drink, extra nutrition from my tri suit, some of my Special Needs stuff in the first miles after Special Needs. For many of the rough sections, I had to reach back to hold down the bottles because I didn't want to run out of fluids between aid stations. I had some of my nutrition in my bra; saw guys with water bottles in their tri tops.

Act 4: The Garmin. I knew I wouldn't have power data as I couldn't bring the battery on the plane and had no time to replace it in Malaysia. But the cadence sensor also failed (maybe knocked loose?) and in all the jungle sections plus the coastal areas, the Garmin continually went between "on" and "pause" without my touching it, beeping every time. It paused so much that even the time and distance data became useless, and the beeping was driving me crazy, so I shut it off at about 60 km and rode by feel.

Act 5: Cramps. The quad cramps (in a weird area right next to my knees) that I've been struggling with on long rides for the past few months came back at 60 km and never really went away. I've tried and failed to figure out what triggers these. They developed suddenly on a long ride with no clear trigger; sometimes I get them sometimes I don't. I got them. Pushing too hard a gear makes them worse. So I had to push an easier gear than I wanted to, even on the flats. And on the hills it was overgear or the granny. Those were my options. Sometimes the cramping affects my run, sometimes it doesn't, so I opted to play it safe. I had some topical anti-inflammatory (like Icy Hot) in my Special Needs bag and was able to put it on at about 100 km; stashed the tube in my tri suit but it fell out a few minutes later. Asked medical at two stations and no one had anything similar. (They did have a similar spray at T2 and a few run stations, though, which really helped.)

On the plus side, the heat didn't really bother me. It was in the 80's and 90% plus humidity, but there were only a few times when I felt uncomfortably hot on the bike. And maybe because of the slow pace, I never really felt that tired or "over it" on the bike leg. I finished feeling comparatively "fresh", if one can use that term in a full IM.....
What would you do differently?:

Ummm....have a derailleur and shifters that really worked. No idea what happened. I checked the shifting for all the gears before checking in the bike on Friday and it was fine. Once into transition, had a mechanic do a quick once-over of my assembly job and tighten a few bolts on my aerobars. He didn't do anything with the derailleur but did spin through the gears. Not sure if something got screwed up then or maybe overnight--there was some heavy rain and high winds; some nearby athletes said their bikes had been moved. Maybe some fell over and something got knocked out of place? Anyway, when I started up the first hill, right away I noticed that my gears weren't right. On every hill I had to decided if I wanted to stay in the big ring, or go to the granny gear. Pretty much always under or over-gearing on all but the steepest hills. Ugh.

It would have been nice to have power . I think if I had access to power data (and proper gears) I would have pushed myself to hit a reasonable power range and might have ridden a bit faster and paced more consistently. Or maybe it was good just to ride by effort, given the tropical conditions and my total inexperience at the distance. I just don't know.

Maybe use different water bottles or a different system for keeping them in. I lost both back bottles in the first ten miles, partly due to extremely rough conditions and not being able to see the road well during the storm. So I had to keep getting fluids from the aid stations. It was too much sweet stuff (the electrolyte drink) to tolerate the whole time and I started burping as the isotonic drink on course is carbonated. I had extra Nuun tablets in Special Needs in the event of issues with the on-course drink, so I was able to remedy this, at least. I stopped at subsequent aid stations (after 120 km) to put the tablets in the water bottles from the station to make my own drink. Had I been able to drink all my initial bottles of Nuun, I think I could have done that less and saved some time.

It was just a complete shyte show and an effort more befitting of a bike tour than a race, in the end. I really don't know how much was my doing, how much the rough conditions, and how much just bad luck.
Transition 2
  • 06m 25s

I did a flying dismount and handed off my bike, walked a few yards to the change tent. There were helpers, so that sped things up. I wasn't sure beforehand if I wanted to do the run in my tri suit or not. On one hand, it would save a little T2 time. On the other, I was worried about potential chafing given the salt water and heat. So I put a singlet and run shorts in my run bag just in case. Decided to change as in addition to salt water and sweat I had done quite a bit of peeing on the bike. (TMI, I know) and the suit looked gross, plus I thought I would really chafe. I kept on my sports bra and put on a comfortable run top and shorts. (Full disclosure--brand new Zoot singlet from the expo. But very loose-fitting so there was nothing to chafe.)

Took a minute to thoroughly lube my feet as they were wet and knew they would get wetter on the run; I have a couple spots that tend to blister or rub on long runs so paid extra attention to those. I also made a potty stop (my only one in the whole race) as I felt that despite all my valient efforts to pee on the bike, I'd never managed to totally empty my bladder and didn't want to run a marathon like that. I figured sitting down and getting up again would only get dicier with each passing mile, so got it out of the way early.

Then was out on my merry way. BTW the convention center, which is where T2 is and which you pass through at about 17 km and 34 km, is air-conditioned! It feels really good.
What would you do differently?:

Not sure. I could have saved a few minutes if I had kept my tri suit on and kept peeing in it. If I had my heart set on KQ in this race, I would have done it (I have in all my HIM), but for this distance in this heat, I felt it was worth it to be a bit more comfortable!
  • 4h 33m 50s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 10m 27s  min/mile

I wasn't feeling great on the first lap (kind of nauseous and woozy, tight back and glutes) so I did not push the pace, walked part of all the aid stations, and did a little extra walking at ten minute intervals (maybe 30 seconds) to try to cool down a bit.

Once the sun got lower and particularly after dark, I felt a lot better and tried to pick up the pace.I still walked part of the aid stations as per my coach's advice, but didn't really feel it was necessary anymore. Mainly did it so I could eat pretzels, which were helping me tolerate the sweet stuff (electrolyte and gu). Otherwise I think I would have had nausea/GI issues with them--I certainly have in shorter events.

I really just kept feeling better and better throughout the run. Except for some glute tightness and intermittent minor calf and shin cramps, no real issues with anything. My guts were fine and I felt like I could keep going for hours at a steady pace, if not as fast as I'd hoped. It was NOT what I expected at all. Even in the last few kilometers, while I didn't feel particularly fresh, I didn't feel totally exhausted. I don't think one is supposed to feel that good at the end of an IM!

Anyway I made it to the finish in good form, high-fived some kids and shook hands with my mom. Then I waved my "flag", a bandana with the flags of about 20 countries on it, including the US, Vietnam, and Malaysia. I chose it for the photo, because I am an international person! Someone told me in an Australian accent that I was an Ironman and put a medal around my neck. Then I got hugged by Craig Alexander. (I had asked him a stupid newbie question the day before and he was really nice to answer it. He recognized me at the finish!)

Honestly, the finish itself (except for Crowie) seemed kind of anti-climactic--the race experience itself was much more amazing, and once I started the run, I never had any doubt I would finish!
What would you do differently?:

Not sure. I think I could have pushed the middle and latter parts of the run harder. I kept expecting the wheels to come off dramatically and they never did. Chalk it up to inexperience--I really didn't know what to expect or what I am capable of at this distance. I was also more cautious than usual owing to the heat/humidity and not being as acclimated to them as when living in Vietnam.

I think that also owing to all the bike drama, and inexperience, I exited the bike fresher than I otherwise would have (if I had had proper gearing and a PM and was pushing a more aggressive pace). Had I pushed the run harder, it probably would not have been enough to get me into first place AG and KQ (38 minutes back of that) without a much stronger bike leg that is probably beyond me right now, but maybe could have given second a run for her money.
Post race
Warm down:

Uh....none. Unless you count talking with Craig Alexander at the finish. The "catchers" made you sit down while they took off your timing chip and then chatted you up to make sure you were okay. My legs really cramped from sitting. They wanted us to sit longer, but I insisted I would be okay if I could just get up out of the chair. Which I was. I just refused to sit anymore, apologized and got up and walked away to the food.

They had a lot of food but most of it looked disgusting. Passed up the spaghetti with meat sauce and potatoes au gratin. Had three bowls of pumpkin soup (really!) and a couple of Thai coconut custards. That was enough. Collected my swag, failed to find Mom (she was at the finish, but went back to the room when I didn't materialize quickly at the exit) and stumbled my way in the dark back to our bungalow. I swear that was harder than the last two km of the race!

What limited your ability to perform faster:

*Mainly inexperience at this distance. I think I finished with too much in the tank. I simply didn't know what I was capable of, and was probably a bit too cautious. Should have pushed the run harder once I started feeling better. But my first priority was to finish, and out of the med tent, which I did. I would rather be third than DNF or end up in the med tent for my first IM. So I am good with the result for now!

*Bike course difficulty, the storm, rough road conditions, and heat/humidity. But it was like that for everyone. All bike splits were slow--many other athletes said 40-45 minutes off splits on faster courses. I know I can do the distance close to 6 flat in training.

*Bike issues--I couldn't always use the best gearing for my body and the course and that probably contributed to cramping and sub-optimal pacing on the bike. Also wasted time due to things falling off bike. Having some data (cadence, power, speed) would have probably helped me manage effort on the bike better.

Event comments:

I originally chose Malaysia for my first full IM when I was still living in Vietnam early this year. A good friend (actually, the only other competitive female triathlete in Vietnam) had done it, it was an easy trip (two 90-minute flights) on budget airlines, I wouldn't have to worry about a cold swim or cold weather, which I really dislike, and I would be well acclimated to the heat, living and training in Saigon. Despite the obvious inconvenience, I decided to stick with my decision, even after I knew I'd be moving back to the US at the end of the school year after my dad passed away. Just couldn't get enthused about the available late-season alternatives in North America. In the end, I'm glad I stuck with my original plan--it seems like all those races ended up having issues with bad weather, cold water, swim cancellations, and/or location changes.

It's a stunning course. The swim is beautiful, calm, and well-organized in a sheltered bay. I detest cold water and felt that the temps (low 80's) were almost perfect. Some complained that it was too warm--as in most tropical ocean swims, there were a few stretches of water that felt warmer than others, in this case almost uncomfortably so even for me. Someone who's sensitive to that might want to consider the bikini or speedo and speed suit route, rather than a trisuit on the swim, to stay a bit cooler.

The bike course is slow and brutal--very rough road surfaces in many areas, many steep, though relatively short hills, a possibility for severe, even dangerous weather en route, little traffic control in many stretches..... The course never disappoints or bores, but be prepared with bomb-proof tires and tubes. (I rode Gatorskins with sealant--watt savings be dammed, I didn't want a flat. I'd guess at least 10-20% of participants flatted.)

Nutrition, hydration, Garmins, etc. need to be NAILED to your bike or person. I was actually keeping stuff in my bra after a while! Whatever could fall off the bike, did, with the exception of my person. The roads were littered with fallen bottles, nutrition, bike parts, etc. Quite possibly this bike course could win a Most Interesting Roadkill competition--I rode past (hopefully not over!) the remains of monkeys, monitor lizards (the size of small dogs) and a cobra. Roadside monkeys were having a field day with fallen water bottles, gu packets, and bars. (No, I wasn't hallucinating.) Kids, dogs, etc. occasionally wander on the course. You have to be alert at all times. In some ways that could be bad/stressful; on the other hand, I think it helps keep you mentally engaged and notice fatigue less! I would avoid expensive wheels or automatic shifting on this course--the fancier the bike, the more breakdowns I saw. There were athletes who had to withdraw due to cracked frames and broken wheels. (Not tires, wheels!)

The run is "easy", except for the heat and the fact that it's the last leg! 2 1/2 laps and totally flat, with aid stations every 1 to 1.5 miles. You go through the Convention Center, which has an aid station, Special Needs, and AC, for T2, then again at 10 1/2 and 21 miles. The only drawbacks are a near complete lack of shade before sunset, and that some sections after sunset are REALLY, REALLY dark, out in the country between villages. (My friend had said the airport perimeter lights would be on, but they were not.) I would suggest a headlamp. Few athletes had them, but I think I could have run a bit faster and more confidently if I'd had mine.

In general, the event was very well-organized with some minor glitches. T1, T2, and finish are in separate locations. T1 is about 45 minutes by bus from the finish and race HQ hotel. The "shuttles" are normal tourist buses, and it was really interesting with everyone trying to load bikes into the seating area. Might be better to organize a private taxi, but there were long waits (an hour or more) for both taxis and shuttles on Friday. I think organizers need think this through a bit more, given the numbers of people and time limits for bike check-in. They need trailers or trucks to transport the bikes.

Other than that, no complaints. It was great as a first IM for me--I love adventure type races, ocean swims, the jungle and beach, and running in the dark, and tropical heat doesn't bother me much. No regrets, despite all the crazy bike issues. Being pretty much smack at the equator and at sea level, this is one of the few races in the world where you are pretty much guaranteed warm water and warm weather. It's probably not the best choice for those looking for a fast, tame course or cooler conditions, though!

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Last updated: 2018-11-18 12:00 AM
01:10:23 | 3900 meters | 01m 48s / 100meters
Age Group: 3/17
Overall: 194/1221
Performance: Good
Pretty even pace. It was 34:39 when I stood up after the first lap; ran maybe 50 yards on the beach and back in the water again; 35 something for the second loop. There was a little more current on the second loop. I thought about slowing down as the time was a bit faster than I expected, but saw approaching storm clouds and decided just to keep the same pace! In retrospect, it was a good decision!
Suit: 2XU sleeved compression suit plus Rosa Viper speed
Course: Very straightforward. Two triangular laps. Out maybe 300 meters toward a small island, right turn, parallel to the shore of the island, across to another little island, parallel to that one, right turn, diagonal back to shore. "Lanes" were marked so nearly impossible to go off course!
Start type: Wade Plus: Waves
Water temp: 83F / 28C Current: Low
200M Perf. Good Remainder: Good
Breathing: Good Drafting: Average
Waves: Good Navigation: Good
Rounding: Good
Time: 05:43
Performance: Good
Cap removal: Good Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? No Run with bike: No
Jump on bike: Yes
Getting up to speed: Average
06:49:43 | 112 miles | 16.40 mile/hr
Age Group: 6/17
Overall: 409/1221
Performance: Below average
No idea. No working Garmin, no data! Great variety of terrain and road surface so hard to keep a steady pace.
Wind: Some with gusts
Course: Two lap course with mainly rough rural roads (extremely rough; in some cases, barely paved) and a mix of hilly terrain through the jungle and mostly flat sections through rural areas. There were some small towns and one larger one en route. Two very hilly areas--nothing really long but each had some short, steep climbs. The first one (Datai Road) was an out and back so we hit the big hills in each direction, twice. The second was just after one of the towns--two sets of three shorter but very steep climbs. It is a much tougher bike course than it appears on paper--all times are quite slow, even pros. Most athletes I talked to said splits were 40-45 minutes off their times on fast courses. I had hoped to do about six hours, so I guess that is about right. At the time, though, I just couldn't believe how long it was taking me to finish the bike leg! It was a beautiful course though and very "busy" (lots to keep track of) so never got sick of it!
Road: Rough Wet Cadence: ?
Turns: Good Cornering: Average
Gear changes: Bad Hills: Average
Race pace: Comfortable Drinks: Too much
Time: 06:25
Overall: Average
Riding w/ feet on shoes Good
Jumping off bike Good
Running with bike Average
Racking bike Good
Shoe and helmet removal Good
04:33:50 | 26.2 miles | 10m 27s  min/mile
Age Group: 2/17
Overall: 260/1221
Performance: Good
Not sure. They were on the tracker but I don't have them now. I think the slowest splits were on the first loop.
Course: Two and a half loops (so a full loop was about 10 1/2 miles), between the convention center (T2) and the finish area near the race HQ hotel on the beach. For much of the run, there's an airport runway on one side and the beach on the other. A short out and back through a busy tourist area just before passing the finish line behind the hotel on each loop. Most competitors enthused about it--new this year--but I didn't like it. The food smells were nauseating, and I preferred the peace of running in the dark!
Keeping cool Average Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %?
Overall: Average
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
Physical exertion [1-5] 4
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 4