Ironman 70.3 Vietnam 2016

One year on from my first half-ironman, the butterflies in the stomach have mostly flown away, replaced by expectations. Last year I was just hoping to finish in one piece, and I came in at 6:22hr.

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Team TriEdge on the day before the race

This year, I had set myself a target time of <6 hrs. Just to be clear, for those unfamiliar with finishing times for half-Ironman triathlons, this isn’t a time that even remotely challenges podium winners. In fact, they are almost done with their run by the time I set off on my run leg. (This year’s winner finished in 3:54hr!)

SWIM

Compared to Putrajaya where everyone seemed to have been funneled into a mass orgy in the water, there was a relatively wide berth for swimmers. But sighting became an issue without any tall buoys used as turn markers at the far ends of the course. I ended up trying to swim behind whichever feet I could find. Also, found myself being pushed into the ropes more than I liked, and getting back out into open water was a bit of a pain. Ended up with a 37+ min swim, which was about 1:30min quicker than last year, and there was no Roka speedsuit this year.

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Into T1…

T1

Long run in to T1. I had the shoes already clipped in, so it felt like I hardly had anything to do apart from getting the helmet and sunnies on before getting the bike out.

Bike

I felt my inner knee/lower thighs starting to burn quite early in the ride, and that wasn’t something I was expecting. About 5km out, I knew something was wrong. I was sitting more upright than normal. I looked down at my seat and saw that the marking I had made to indicate the right seat post height could not be seen.

My seat post had sunk.😦

This means that you’re riding in a position that doesn’t allow for you to use all the muscles you’re supposed to be employing.  Knowing that Coach Mike would be out on the bike course, I was hoping he would have an Allen key with him. Still, it wasn’t too bad as I managed to push 33-35 on some stretches, and even started wondering if I should bother with the seat adjustment. But I told myself that even if I managed to push hard now, this less-than-ideal position would mean sapping strength from my legs, and I would be suffering (even more) on the run.

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That sinking feeling. Literally.

Turns out Coach Mike didn’t have the tools with him anyway, so I pushed on.The last 20km on the bike was as painful as I remembered last year with the crosswinds, and the low seat certainly didn’t help. A slightly modified course meant that at least we had a tailwind on the last 6km, which was a nice morale booster. Finished in 2:57hr, just over 10 min quicker than last year. I’d like to think I would have gone quicker without my seat fiasco! After the race, I found that the seat post had gone down by an inch.

LESSON: bring the damn tools!

T2

This was a big downer last year -Going out and seeing most bikes still racked in T1, but coming back in T2 and seeing most bikes back already. This year, not so many were back. by the time I came in.😉  Not much else to say after I decided to go with a semi-new pair of shoes and run sock-less.

RUN

The first 5km was relatively ok, coming in under 30 min. But each km gradually got tougher, and I was eventually overtaken by my team mate Filippo. Happy for him, but it pretty much confirmed my pace was slipping. I was losing hope that I would crack the 6hr target, but I didn’t bother to do the math. Just wanted to finish as close to the 2 hour mark as possible for the run and hope for the best. Coach Mike shouted at me not to think about everything else earlier on, and focus on what’s ahead. VERY USEFUL ADVICE. Just tried to keep my eye on Filippo and the size of the gap when he U-turned. The 10-15km mark was relatively uneventful, and I was actually waiting to be caught by my other team mates at some point but it didn’t happen.

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Trying to hail a cab. (I’m only half-joking)

Later I realised how much they had to deal with (Regis with a badly stubbed and swollen toe and Philippe with severe food poisoning) and still finished their race! I tried to step up the pace somewhere after 15km, but the gear just didn’t seem to click. Once I got to about 4km to go, the strength started to come back. Not sure if it was because I consciously tried to take less stuff at the aid stations in the last few km? I found I could kick harder and eventually overtook Filippo, who had slowed down. Got over the line, looked down at the watch. Run: 2:10hr (17 min quicker than last year)

Total time: 5:52hr. Mission accomplished.

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With Filippo, who helped pull me forward in the last 3km, and placed 4th in his age group!

Special thanks to Coaches Scott and Mike for all the advice and coaching, and all the members of the TriEdge family for the encouragement! As they say here in Singapore, “Semangat“.😉 Go google it, you know you want to!

(All images here by Michael Lyons and Gladys Kwok)

Metasprint Triathlon 2016

This was a bit of a mess, coming after 1.5 days of a major event launch at work plus the onset of flu. Thankfully, I woke up on Sunday morning feeling relatively ok. Thing about racing after/during illness is you’re not exactly sure how hard to push, especially with the big race just around the corner – Danang is less than a month away.

Credit to Jaime K for the pic!

 Swim: I decided to take things relatively easy, and not push too hard. Unfortunately the swim was a nasty one. There was some contact in the swim, some gulps of salt water during unfortunately-timed breaths, water in the goggles and I started hyperventilating. Wasn’t sure if the flu had anything to do with it, but severe self-doubt crept in. Was really tempted to call it a day, and had to stop to tread water for a bit before restarting. I also underestimated the strength of the tide, and how important positioning was. Could have just started way to the right of the course for the current to push you back on target. Ended up on the ropes at one point and having to push through bodies to get free of the tangle, then having to swim an arc for being pushed too far out on the last leg. Lesson: Visualise the path you’re going to swim, and where you want to be in the pack. Even if it’s just a easy race. Sight more, don’t count on following the guys ahead. They might be lost too.

T1: Something new I tried was having the shoes already on the bike, which made it really feel like I hardly spent any time in transition at all. No flying mount, but some time saved already. Lesson: Have the velcro on the shoe partially done. Having the shoe completely unstrapped makes it difficult to locate the end of the strap.

Bike: Fairly uneventful, and didn’t have that many people overtake me. Might be psychological, but my legs are feeling less used to the road bike position now. I could however, pretty much stay on the drops the entire way. Maybe time to move on to a more aggressive fit for the road bike?  Unfortunately I had no idea how fast or slow I was going thanks to a Garmin cock-up that I didn’t want to spend time meddling with lest I crash. Ended up with a 31+kmh average, which still sucks. Lesson: Get used to the handling on the TT bike and stick with it. Learn to screw with the garmin while moving(??)

T2: Silly thing is I somehow came off my bike and had the rear tyre rub my shin, taking off some skin with it. Didn’t realise it until I started running that I felt bit of a sting. Re-racking issue with my bike falling off the bar twice. Like WTF? Lesson: Practise the dismount. a lot.

Run: Coach Mike asked my how I felt was I was heading out. Didn’t know what to say, but I wasn’t comfortable so I just shrugged. Relatively slow 1st loop at 5:20 – 6:00min/km pace, but gradually built till I was on 4:10min/km for a 4:53min/km average. Lesson: Apparently my racing shoes suck, says the podiatrist form myFootDr. Hmmm.

So am I happy with the result? Hmm… Can’t really say? Feeling a cough coming on though. That, I’m not happy with.

2016 Race Calendar

With the MetaSprint Aquathlon – opening event for the MetaSprint Series – coming up this Sunday, thought it would be nice to look ahead to what this year holds in terms of races. Here’s what it looks like for me at the moment. (Events in bold = Registered!)

21 Feb : Metasprint Aquathlon
6 Mar : Powerman Putrajaya
20 Mar : Metasprint Duathlon
 3 Apr : Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya

 3 Apr : 2XU Run  Clashed with Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya

17 Apr : Metasprint Triathlon

8 May : Ironman 70.3 Danang
28 May : Bintan Triathlon (OD) 
 17 Jul : Singapore Triathlon (OD)
18 Jun : Singapore Aquathlon
13 Aug: Challenge Nusajaya
21 Aug : Trifactor Triathlon (OD)
 X Oct : Stanchart Malaysia Marathon 21/42km
X Oct : Singapore Duathlon
X Oct: Port Dickson Triathlon (OD)
27 Nov : Ironman 70.3 Phuket 
X Dec : Stanchart Singapore Marathon 21/42km
Looks like quite a few, but it’s actually not much different from 2015. Hoping for a good year with visible improvements! What’s on your race calendar?
8 Apr EDIT: 2XU clashed, updates for Singapore Triathlon, Singapore Aquathlon, Trifactor Triathlon, added Challenge Nusajaya (considering!)

Synch Strava with Google Calendar

If you schedule your life via Google Calendar, and track your training via Strava, it makes some sense to have your Strava feed integrated into Google Calendar to have an all-in-one view.

Just found a neat way to do it via StravICAL.

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http://stravical.appspot.com/

In summary, you give it access to your Strava account and it generates an iCal feed that you can add to your Google Calendar account. Follow the fairly idiot-proof instructions and you’ll have your Strava activities showing up in your Google Calendar.

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Strava activities prefaced with [Ride], [Run]…
You’re welcome!

**UPDATE 12 Feb ’16: 2 new Strava activities today didn’t get synched to Google Calendar. Not sure why.😦

UPDATE #2: Found this link that suggests adding “?nocache” at the end of the link that Stravical generates. Google Calendar seems to like caching your data, so new events don’t show! Anyway, issue now seems to have been fixed.🙂

UPDATE #3: Bug is back. New events aren’t showing up. :( Suggestions, anyone?**

Bicycle chain cleaning and lubing: It’s a dirty job

One of the filthiest parts of the bike has got to be the chain. No, it’s got to be the filthiest part for sure. Just ask the inside of your right calf after each ride.

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Dirrrrrrrty!

I’ve tried using simple (read: cheap) tools to get the job done. Rags and toothbrushes combined with degreasing solution works… to some extent.

After some praying and scrubbing, the chain looks kinda nice, kinda shiny. Then you turn the pedals and you hear a grinding sound, like sand is stuck in there somewhere, and no amount of brushing or scrubbing does anything to fix that horrible sound.

Enter chain cleaning tools. More specifically, the X-3 Dirty Chain Machine.

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There are a bunch of chain cleaning tools out there, and frankly the X-3 is the first I’ve used. As a chain-cleaning-tool-virgin, the X-3 was idiot-proof enough for me. Basically, you detach the top of the cleaner, reattach it over the chain, and drag the greasy chain through by turning the pedals.

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One hand on the cleaner, the other hand to turn the pedals. (I took this photo with my mouth)

All this while dripping chain cleaning liquid onto the chain. It’s way less messy and less grief than anything else I’ve tried. All the nasty stuff is contained within the cleaner.

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All that grease and grime…

Once the chain is clean, you’ll also need to lube it to keep it running smoothly. I was lucky enough to be given a bottle of Muc-off Hydrodynamic Chain Lube to try. Apparently it’s the same stuff that Team Sky uses.

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What’s nice about this tiny bottle of lube is that you really don’t need to slather it on liberally, but be clinical in applying a drop or two on each joint in the chain.

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The narrow nozzle makes it easy to drip the good stuff onto the chain with precision

Just as well because this lubricant is a little on the pricey side -It retails for close to S$40 if I recall correctly. To help you make sure you know which bits you’ve done and which you haven’t, every drop of the lube is smurf-coloured. Yes, it’s blue!

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Feeling smurfy!

In case you happen to be colour blind as well, they’ve included a UV light that will make the lube glow! (Don’t forget to lube up if you’re bringing your bike along for a rave.)

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I vote this best lube to use in a club.

And the smell. I’ve read a review of this lube where they’ve described this as “slightly perfumed”. I agree that there’s a smell – akin to rust – that comes after the application. Maybe it’s a chemical reaction between my chain cleaning solution, rust and the lube, or maybe it’s just my cranky sinuses.

Performance wise, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t my mind playing tricks on me but the pedal strokes just felt that much easier and smoother. (Muc-Off claims it’s 27% more efficient than an unnamed competitor brand!) Almost like I’d rubbed a block of melting butter on my bike chain. Think I’d prefer it if it smelt like butter too. I’ll leave out the technical mumbo jumbo for you to dissect on your own because frankly, I wouldn’t be any wiser if they told me they were using smurf blood instead of whatever miracle recipe they’ve got in there.

………………

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This is a way overdue product review was partially made possible by my friend Kenji Lim who runs Hodaka Motoworld that stocks lots of stuff for motorbikes and bicycles. You can check out the X-3 Dirty Chain Machine and the Muc-off Hydrodynamic Chain Lube at their showroom at 10 Kaki Bukit Road 1, #01-08 KB Industrial, Singapore 416175  Tel: +65 6844 0078

Full disclosure: I was given a bottle for Muc-off Hydrodynamic Chain Lube and bought the X-3 Dirty Chain Machine at a discount. 

DNG #40: Coach Class

Going into a race like Danang, you see all sorts of people taking part. Ranging from the seasoned professionals, to those who make you worry for their well-being. Seriously, you risk doing some real damage to your body if you’ve not conditioned yourself prior to the event. I’ve mentioned my emphasis on getting the right coaching before, and it’s on raceday when you see everything come together.

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Coaches Scott (left) and Michael

It’s been just under a year since I joined my first triathlon. Safe to say I would never have  trained as hard had I not been given the right instructions and structured programme to follow. The tips along the way have also helped move me along the learning curve much faster than if I relied on trial & error, and the internetz. (FYI, the internetz is full of idiots with half-baked theories and potentially dangerous advice)

So this post is for you TriEdge Coaches Mike n Scott. Also to Coach Vargin who shared some killer tips that have made a real difference…  At least to me! Thanks for pushing us hard and looking forward to many more PBs.

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Coach Mike in the back doing a Ray Charles impression

DNG #39: T2 + The Run

Hopped off the bike knowing the legs would be jelly. True enough, I stumbled a bit and stepped on my front wheel, not knowing till the next day that I broke the valve in the process. Ran with the bike back into transition only to realise that a whole motherload of bikes had come in, almost like what I saw when was there during T1.😦 It was depressing.

Still, I was hoping to make up time on the run. I did, but it was a slow, painful process.

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Slowly increased the cadence and stride in the first couple of km

The inner quads were hurting like I feared, but after the first 2 hydration points, I found that the ice down the shorts and electrolyte really helped. I managed 6 – 6.30min/km pace leading up to the 10km mark, and even thought I might be able to push harder on the way back.

But rounding the 10km mark, I felt the pain coming back on, and sometimes even hurting more. The pace dropped, and I ended up dropping to 7 – 8min/km pace, especially in the last 5 km or so. What I was thankful for that did not come up at all, was the killer pain that comes on the outside of my knees at each Stanchart Marathon. Given the ultra-flat Danang course, I’m quite certain that the knee pains were a result of the hilly Stanchart 21km course.

Nutrition wise, I was religiously downing 2 cups of electrolyte and shoving ice down my pants at each aid station. Sponges too whenever I saw them. Still, I didn’t really feel like I could down another gel without potentially throwing up, so had only 1 gel on the way up and half a banana on the way back.

Lesson: Forcefeed myself. If I throw up, pray there are no cameras around.

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The end in sight...

I had hoped that there might have been a chance to come in under 6hrs, and if I had been able to put in a better performance on the bike, I’m definitely sure that I would have at least come close. All that pain that came with the bike leg carried into the run, screwed up any chance of putting in a run that would clock in close to 2 hours. 

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Done. Dusted. Next pls!

Overall, it’s been a great experience preparing for the race. Not sure if I can keep up the same level of training though. Definitely know there are minutes to be lopped off the next time around.

DNG #38: T1 + The Bike

Out of the water, I felt good running up the beach. Reached behind to lift the zipper of the Roka and split the suit so the upper half was off. (Little did I know I’d forget the rest of it!)

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It was a long run to the Transition Zone, and thankfully they had laid  carpet on top of the extremely hot cobbled surface that was there the day before during bike check in.

Transition 1 (a.k.a. T1)

Saw the majority of the bikes still on their racks, which was a good sign that most people were still in the water. I had a relatively smooth transition. Maybe too smooth, because I didnt realise I still had the bottom half of my Roka swim skin on during the bike leg! Doh!

Mike was a welcome sight at the bike mounting line. Somehow dropped the Clif bar I stuffed in my back pocket as I was running through. Mike yelled out “leave it!” and I was more than happy to, but a helpful volunteer came by and passed it to me. Shoved it back into the rear pocket and climbed onto the bike.

Lesson: Make sure everything is taped on. Pockets suck.

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Adrenaline was still going and I managed to find Jeremy ahead of me after a bit. The enthusiastic volunteers really helped, with their cheering and bright smiles. I maintained 30 – 32kph pace in the lead up to the 3 loops. Not sure what Roro was doing at transition, but he eventually came by after a few km and was off in the distance pretty quickly.

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Still feeling relatively fresh

In the first loop, Aylwin came by too and I managed to tail him till the second loop when I started to feel the legs slipping away. Still, seeing and hearing all the TriEdge folks made it feel much less lonely.

At approximately 60km, things just fell off a cliff. I hadn’t managed to keep to 1 gel every 30 minutes as I just felt too full. Only grabbed an extra bottle on one of the laps. Didn’t feel like I needed that much liquid either. That may have been a mistake as the cramps started to come at the end of the bike ride.

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Couldn't stay down on the aerobars for very long at all.😦

With all the messing about with my seat, seat position, aero bar position and even cleats in the past weeks, it would take a miracle for me to escape unscathed from this 90km. No miracles that day. I had to get my ass off the saddle every 5 minutes or so to ease the soreness in my inner quads and sitbones.

Lesson: Get a proper bikefit. Early. (Better yet, get a TT bike AND get it fitted)

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It just got harder and harder to keep to the target pace

I saw the lead I had from the swim over most people fizzle away as many of them passed me. The crosswinds also picked up as the day passed,so it just got progressively more miserable. Practically crawled back to T2.

I’m not sure what exactly is wrong with my riding, because even with the hours I’ve put in on the bike, the improvement doesn’t seem to have materialised. Not enough hours? Bike not fitted properly? It’s been very frustrating trying to fix this piece of the puzzle. 

DNG #37: The Swim

The race is finally over, and now it’s time to sit back and reflect. Being a rather long race, I  thought to break my report into parts rather than ramble on, and on… And on. So here goes the first bit.

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Coach Scott giving some tips on start strategy

When it comes to triathlon starts, I’ve been quite the chicken and started to the back and wide. For a change, I wasn’t too far off the front. In fact I think I was just behind the front row, but slightly wide on the right. Right off the start, I think I kept pace because I didn’t feel much happening beside nor bodies climbing over me. Midway to the first buoy though, I started hyperventilating.  Had to try to slow down the breathing and exhale properly, else nothing would be going in.

Did a bit of breath stroking which helped, then carried on as per plan. Rest of the swim was less eventful, except for groups that seemed to hover at my feet, then did a combo of slaps on the back of the head followed by elbows to the face. Irritating, but not life-threatening. On hindsight, probably could have pushed harder in the water, but was worried about busting the legs if I pushed too hard. Got out of the water and saw Roro a few metres ahead. On to T1!