road riding in Penang | Malaysia


2005 Desaru Half-Ironman Triathlon, Part III
Desaru, Johor, 17 September 2005

story and photos by Teoh Ween Sze with additional reporting by Finian Lee | photos by Ong Kai Seng
(Link to Parts I and II in Articles page)

We continue our story with the beginning of the bike leg, as related by Finian Lee:

Race day, 17 September: (Well, let's reverse a little, shall we?) I was the first to wake up early in the morning. Had quite a good night sleep - must have been tired after the long drive from Penang. This being my first race of any sort on the bicycle, I was glad that I was not feeling that nervous. Had breakfast which we all bought the night before from the Petronas station. I was wishing for the normal "Wan Ton Mee" for breakfast but had to settle for bread with tuna mayonnaise and a powerbar for breakfast. The rest of the gang also woke up and had their breakfast. Getting ready was the first time I started to feel a bit nervous. Anxiety was creeping up on me.

Corey, Yeang and myself then cycled to the race site at 9:00am while Ween Sze and Kai Seng drove the car there. Got registered with the team and checked out where the transition place was for swim to bike and also for bike to run. Ween Sze, Corey and Yeang went to get their bodies marked while Kai Seng and myself checked out the various "changgih" bikes on display at the transition area. Met some familiar faces from Singapore who did the RFL (Ride for Life) with Yeang and myself in early September. They were also going to do the team triathlon. Took some photos and discussed with Ween Sze on where will I be when she comes up from her swim so that the ribbon can be passed to me in the fastest way possible. Then, it was time for Ween Sze to go do her warm up for the swim. That's when the butterflys in the stomach feeling started. I could now really feel the nervousness and anxiety.

Still about an hour away before Ween Sze completes her swim. I decided to hang around at the transition area while Kai Seng and Ween Sze headed to the swim area. At about 10:00am, the race started and I decided to head to the beach to check out the action - the swimmers had to do 2 laps to complete the leg. The pros like Chris McCormack were already way in front halfway thru the first lap. Tried to spot where was Ween Sze, Yeang and Corey but there were just too many swimmers (and a whole lot of arms and legs ...). One by one the pros completed the 1st lap followed by the rest of the swimmers. They had to run on the beach before jumping back into the water again to start the 2nd lap. To our delight, Ween Sze completed the first lap ahead of the guys. Way to go!! After both Corey and Yeang completed the first lap, I decided to head back to the transition area to prepare for the cycling leg. Had to "water the flowers" (answer nature's call) before heading to the transition area...

The adrenaline was beginning to start pumping and the nervousness started to go away. The pros were the first up from the swim and started the cycling leg after about 25 minutes. Wow, they were really fast. More and more swimmers began to complete the swim and started the cycling leg. After about 39 minutes, there she was, Ween Sze came running with the ribbon. She looked exhausted and in a daze, but she did really well.

Out of my way, you scrawy sticks ...

Now it was my turn. Once I got the ribbon from her, I had to run with the bike out of the transition area before mounting it to start the cycling leg. Had to make sure that I did not start too fast as I had to do 3 laps of the 30km loop. Advice from both Melvin and Darren came to mind "Pace yourself and then taruh habis habis in the last lap"... haa ... haa. Easier said than done.

Anyway, I started the first lap at about 10:40am. The sun was shining brightly, weather was fantastic, no rain but it was getting hotter. I had to make sure that I took a sip of water every 10 to 15 minutes to ensure that I was well hydrated. Was riding pretty well in the first lap and was feeling comfortable. As I had finished a bottle of water during the 1st lap, I threw it to Ween Sze when I passed her at the end of the lap. A quick look at the Polar told me the first lap was done in about 57 minutes - which meant I was on track to complete the 90km cycling leg in 3 hours (had to do 1 hour per lap for the 3 loops to achieve my target).

Starting the 2nd lap at close to noon meant that it was getting hotter and hotter and the heat was starting to get to me. Luckily, I already had sun block on or else I would've been one giant slab of toasted meat. At one of the drinking stations, I grabbed a cup of water but to my dismay, most of the water flew out of the cup as I grabbed it. Dang, forgot about momentum. Only ¼ cup of cold water was left in the cup. Gulped that down and continued on. By the 2nd lap, there were already riders drafting which is not allowed in this event (bah!). The heat was getting to all the riders. You could now see some of the riders struggling and pedalling in squares. Not that I was not affected - I was beginning to get tired myself. My average speed started to drop to below 30km/h. As I reached the Water Bottle station, I grabbed one bottle and put that into the bottle cage. Quickly, I managed to grab another bottle. The heat was just terrible and with the 2nd bottle in hand, I just sprayed the water over my head and threw the empty bottle by the road side. What a relief. That really felt good.

No shade for the weary.

Towards the end of each loop, we had to ride up some slopes and it was there that I really felt the tiredness. The "slopes" felt like hills to me. I had 4 packets of powergels with me and gulped down the 1st packet towards the end of lap 2. When I passed Ween Sze again, I threw the 2nd empty bottle to her and she was encouraging me and said that I was riding well. Yeah, right!! .. I thought to myself. That's when Chris McCormack (the eventual winner) passed me. He was on his way to complete his 3rd lap of the cycling leg and here I am, was just going to start the 3rd lap. He just zoomed passed me. Nevertheless, I am glad to say that he was the only pro triathlete to lap me. Completed lap 2 in about 59 minutes (2 minutes slower than the 1st loop) but this time I was no longer riding comfortably compared to the 1st lap.

The 3rd lap started at 12:37pm - imagine riding in a race during the hottest part of the day. Midway through the 3rd lap, I was struggling badly. Was just giving my best while suffering and took each pedal stroke at a time. My speed dropped to between 25 to 28 km/h. Just concentrated to make sure I was averaging about 28 km/h so that I could achieve my target of 3 hours. Gulped down the powergels every 15 minutes and that really helped. Lots of riders were already suffering. I just continued on. It was a struggle all the way to the end. When I reached the end of lap 3, there was Kai Seng waiting, ready to do the final leg of the triathlon. Passed the ribbon to him and off he went. As I alighted from my bicycle, suddenly both my quads started to cramp. Luckily for me, one of the spectators held my bike while I recovered from my cramps. I was shagged ... really really shagged. I was to pooped to do anything. Just sat at the transition area to recover from the suffering I just went through. Looked at my Polar and I took 1 hour 5 minutes to complete the final lap. Total time taken was 3 hours and 1 minute. Missed my target of 3 hours by 1 minute. I was a bit disappointed initially but this being my first race, I was quite pleased to have completed the race.

After resting for half and hour, I started to cycle back to the chalet for my shower and much needed rest. Met Ween Sze at the Chalet and related my experience to her. She shared her swimming experience with me as well, before leaving the chalet to go encourage Kai Seng in the run while I took my shower. I felt so much better after the refreshing shower. I was too tired to go out and join Ween Sze and decided to rest and recover in the cool environment of the chalet where the air-conditioning was at full blast. Moments later, Ween Sze came back to the chalet saying that the water stations ran out of water and that we had to take water for Kai Seng, Corey and Yeang. I was really reluctant to follow her out but was forced to go out with her. We walked towards the finish line. I took some great shots of babes in their bikinis who were there supporting the competitors (but they won't be posted here, muah! ha! ha! ha!).

Anyway, back to Ween Sze to continue the running portion:

I headed back to the chalet for some rest after completing my job as photographer for the cycling portion. I figured the run will be slower in pace and I've all the time in the world for some rests and munchies (yes, the hunger pangs kicks in) before I baked myself in the heat to take some pics for Superhuman doing his run. When Finian reached the chalet, he looked really shagged. He told me that he had the cramps when he alighted from his bike - that sounds so painful. Went out in the sun and heat again while Finian did his showering and recovery to take some pics of Superhuman suffering in the heat in the run leg. I decided to take some water with me since I might get thirsty and it turn out to be an excellent idea as due to bad management, the water station actually ran out of water (would you believe that) and the runners had not drinking water or cooling down water.

I had to pass my water bottle out to Corey and had to get return to the chalet to get more water, not to mention getting Finian and his butt out of the chalet. We walked towards the finish line to wait for Sleeping Machine, Red Shorts and Corey. Finian took some great shots of babes in bikinis, as normal guys would (guess they could not resist the temptation?). Encountered Sleeping Machine on his 2nd loop (running leg is 2 by 10.5 km loop). Sleeping Machine looks really really shagged at that point.

We just hung around the race course, (well, more like Finian hanging around, I was like a slave, walking towards the hotel lobby to check if there are some PowerBars I can buy for him, walking to the Milo van to get Milo drinks for him and etc). To our amazement, we saw some of the runners from relay teams that we knew were behind us. Bummer, they must have very good runners. At long last, we saw our very own superstar Superhuman and cheered him to the finish line. Corey came in not far behind after him and Yeang after that. We also found out that Yeang suffered cramps on his run leg, that would explain why he is quite behind after his triumphant ride (Yeang did a superb ride in the bike leg).

At the finishing area, the guys took a while to catch their breath and recover. We all decided to make a move back to the chalets and get ready for dinner as all of our stomachs are grumbling and it's late… it was already 4ish in the afternoon. The guys Finian, Yeang and Corey only had powergels as their lunches. Met up with Ching Hoe and we decided to have dinner together, so we proceed to head back and get ready for dinner.

Faces of the shagged .... well, most of us anyway.

Dinner affair was basically comparing and griping about the organisers' skills. Would you believe, with the so called record registration of over 700 participants this year and increased in registration fees, they did not even provide isotonic drinks, just plain water, and even worse off, they did not even bother to ensure that there is enough to everyone. And believe me, it's those people who are still completing their course at late afternoons are the ones that truly needed those and in abundance too. Besides those, even the finisher participant t-shirts (given out to those who complete the total route) were not enough. We had to wait until the next day to get it. Over dinner, we also briefly discussed the next day's plan. We sure had to leave since some of us have a long drive back to Penang and although we were due in KL for bike shopping and some R&R, we wanted to travel together up until KL anyway.

It was time to go back to the chalet and Sleeping Machine just crashed again (I still do not believe the amount of sleep this guy can clock). We sat around for some talks before calling it a night, everyone is also bushed. Woke up early the next day and start packing up and it was raining cats and dogs. Checked out and swung by the official hotel again, hoping we're able to get our t-shirts, but guess our luck ran out. The organiser promised us to shipped out t-shirts to us (it's has been 3 weeks and still no sign of the t-shirts). Left the place for good - Sleeping Machine again slept in the car and Finian drove. Our entourage broke apart somewhere in KL and the rest of us, (me, Eating Machine, Sleeping Machine and Red Shorts) continue our journey to some great food and great bike and cycling gears' shopping expedition in KL. Corey continue home to Penang on his own. Great fun, great race but bad organising I guess is all I can say about the Desaru International Half Iron Man Triathlon race.


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