A Perfect First Tri: Port Dickson International Triathlon Sprint 2011

author : gracetaBitha
comments : 2

What could've gone wrong did not go wrong. Everything that couldn't go right, went right. Result: The most wonderful, perfect, first triathlon for yours truly.


I would like to dedicate this post to good folk who suffer from Lupus (SLE, a chronic autoimmune illness), who face everyday the challenges related to their illness, and who continue to be productive and positive. They are among the unsung heroes in our world. For those of you who cannot run, this run was for you.


I went into this event with some worries because I was quite weakened from a relapse of my autoimmune disease two weeks prior. While I knew I would at least be able to stand at the start line on race day, I wasn't sure if I could finish. I promised myself that I would be a responsible racer, and first, do no harm. I made peace with coming in last. I would savor every minute of this event.

A first triathlon is just that – you only get one first time. I'm glad my Ma was there to share this experience (my support team & photographer, thanks Ma!).

What could have gone wrong? Well, a gazillion different things from:

  • 'annoying' e.g. forgot bicycle, to..
  • 'embarrassing' e.g. faint and taken away in ambulance,
  • 'scary' e.g. thunderstorm during the race,
  • 'not good', e.g., kidney damage,
  • 'inconvenient' e.g. oversleeping, and
  • 'so not cool', e.g., puking during the swim.

Thankfully, none of that happened (although the 'puke during swim' kinda nearly/almost/partially/maybe happened during the next day's Olympic distance 1.5 km swim (hee hee). I'll divulge all the gory details in my blog - the PD OD race report. Stay tuned!).

Race Day

Ma and I got to the race venue, Avillion Admiral Cove Port Dickson, nice and early at 7 a.m. We were accompanied by Bella & Felix, with whom we had stayed the night before (Thanks Bella & Felix!). I had my usual breakfast of four soft-boiled eggs. After racking my bike, laying out my transition stuff, and having my race number (603) stamped all over my body with black ink, we went to the jetty for the pontoon (dive-from-a-jetty) start. There were maybe about 200 Sprint Distance racers packed on the pontoon and I was a bit nervous but not too bad thanks to the tri clinic held before the race.

After a short race briefing by Uncle Chan the airhorn boomed! The water turned into churning white froth as racers dove in one after the other and took off like heat-seeking missiles.

beginner triathlete race report

It all looked too violent for my liking and I waited for the mass of churning white froth to move a little further out. As I dived in I realized I had forgotten to put on my goggles haha. After putting them on, I started a really awkward forward crawl that felt like a going-nowhere-slowly crawl, trying to avoid swimming into or over people. Eventually swimmers thinned out and I settled into a leisurely crawl-glide thingy.

This was the swim route:

This was Gracie’s route below:

My sense of direction ain’t too sharp, but I eventually got to shore! (In 24 minutes.)

The only small issue I had was at the end of the swim, my toes felt like they were going to cramp, so I relaxed my legs more and used my arms more.

I kinda didn’t want the swim to end because the next part was my suckkiest – cycling.  I’m really lame at cycling. It gives me a sore butt, and I’ve fallen a bunch of times (clipless pedals ... ow!) and I’m afraid of cycling! I still enjoy it, just maybe not as much as swimming and running.

Maybe that’s why I subconsciously had some delay tactics at transition, hehe.

Swim-Bike Transition – A New Record for PD Triathlon!

First I put on my helmet....Then I laid out my towel and sat on it....Then I washed the sand off my feet with my squirt bottle. I dried my feet; also in between each of my toes. Then I wore socks. After that I mixed my spirulina drink.

By that time the emcee/announcer somehow clued in to me. I think maybe because a small crowd had gathered to watch the longest transition in the history of the PD Tri. Some were taking photos of me even.

The emcee announced over the loudspeakers: "Number 603, hurry up!"

Very embarrassing. I tried to pretend I wasn’t Number 603, and sipped on my spirulina drink.

Unfortunately the emcee was quite persistent. He actually walked over to me.

Then the loudspeakers boomed: "Grace Lim Number 603, what are you drinking?"

I said, "Spirulina."

Another loudspeaker boom: "SPIRULINA!? Grace is drinking SPIRULINA."

I hastily gulped down my drink and pulled on my bike gloves. My delay tactics exposed, I had no choice but to move on.

Transition Swim-Bike = 9 minutes. *hangs head in pretend shame*


My bike this time was waaaay more pleasant than the last time I did the route (July 3 Tri Clinic).  I was so happy – I waved at all the marshals and police controlling traffic for the race and enjoyed a speedier ride.

Thinking back, there were two key differences. First, I got the brakes fixed so they weren't in clamp-down on my wheels. Riding with the brakes on is a real drag. Second, I inflated the tires from 20 psi to 50 psi. I was expecting 1.5 hours for the ride, but was surprised when I approached the
U-Turn point at Sime Darby at 27 minutes. I was also a little surprised that a guy in a motorcycle rode by yelling at me to turn around at the Sime Darby sign because I thought it had already been explained at the briefing. I U-turned and a mile or two down the road, a peloton of .. wait... were those the pro triathletes?? What? ... they flew by me leaving me eating dust and extremely confused.

I found out from Nurina that a bunch of riders had overshot the turning because there were no markers or marshals, and cycled an extra 10 km or more before turning around. So I was ahead of the pros for a short while! I felt bad for them and wondered how that scandal would affect the timing and rankings, and how many people were affected? I think about 100 people passed me (yeah I'm slow), but I eventually got back to transition, remembered to clip out of my pedals and successfully ended the bike leg without loss of life or limbs! (52 minutes)

Bike-Run Transition

I couldn't wait to run. I love running, although because of my illness, I am not able to run as fast I as used to. I switched to my running flats, put on my cap and race belt and was off! (1 minute)


What a fun run! Part of it was 'off-road' – how exciting hehe. There were plenty of water stations manned by cheerful volunteers handing out ice water. I grabbed some to sip on and dumped the rest on my head and down my top. I slow jogged all the way and didn't stop. My Ma, Bella and Felix were cheering me on at the finish.


The run was done in 29 minutes for an overall time of 1 hr 55 minutes.

Woohoo! I finished 11th of 14 women in the 35 and up category. The top woman in my category finished in 1 hr 47 minutes so it was a tight race.


Swim: 24 min, T1: 9 min, Bike 52 min, T2: 1 min, Run 29 min.
Overall 1 h 55 min.

This was my maiden tri, and I couldn't have asked for a more perfect experience. The PD Tri will always hold a special place in my heart.

Thank you to the race organizers, sponsors, volunteers, supporters and fellow racers for making this an event I will remember for the rest of my life. Health and circumstances permitting, I hope to come back next year and every year!

I stayed back for the Olympic Distance event the next day, which was Festive and Fun X10! I'll report on that in my next post! (Note: Race Report for PDIT OD 2011 HERE! posted 30 July)

In the meantime, check out my tribute to Cynthia Gan and Reza Ali's inspirational race report , and the thousands of photos taken by Reza & Team (Sprint Distance pics) and Tey Eng Tiong and Reza (Olympic Distance pics: Tey's and Reza's) on Facebook. Official race results here!


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date: August 31, 2011


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