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!

DNG #35: Tracking the Ironmen

Less than 8 hours away till race start.

Had a long nap this afternoon and a relaxing massage, so I’m still up now at 10.41pm and fiddling with stuff.

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No supporters here, so here’s an unused supporter sticker.

Thought to let everyone know that they can track the progress of all participants tomorrow.

If you have nothing better to do, or are just kaypo, you can track my progress either by
1) the official ironman website
2) downloading the IM Trackr app (iOS and Android)

My bib number: 314 (coincidentally relevant to my history with the game of pool, as my pool khakis would know)

schwiiiing!
Like my (newly-shaved) aerodynamic calves?

Might be my last post before the race, so wish me luck!

DNG #34: Registration

It’s getting real.

Signing in at the Hyatt Regency (race venue and official hotel) makes this all feel like it’s finally happening. I’d like to think that everyone is excited. The volunteers certainly are enthusiastic, practising their English with us participants, and me doing the reverse with my pidgin vietnamese.

xin chao!
Early bird, so no queues yet!

They even help you to make some memories with their own mugshot corner where they ask you to hold up your number while they snap a couple of photos for you. I shot one of my own of course.

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And once you’re done with registration, there’s the biggest and heaviest race pack I’ve every had to lug back. It’s not just filled with sponsor flyers though. Check out the haul below…

swag!
Coffee powder, chocolate, mug, 6 drinks, water bottle, visor, Non La (conical vietnamese hat), race numbers, transition bags, programme, safety pins, gel, and a cool little bamboo dragonfly that balances on your finger.

A walk around the grounds of the Hyatt and you could sense the build-up to Sunday. Banners up, billboards lining the beach, flags fluttering in the wind. And of course… the finish arch.

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And one more obligatory selfie with the usual sponsor logo and mascot to round off this post.
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Also found out that the official event hashtag is #vngironman703 in case you’re posting anything relevant!

DNG #33: Here’s looking at Chu

Like I’ve said before, I’ll save money where I can, given the relatively high overall cost of being involved in Triathlon.

Choice of accommodation at an overseas race is can be a big chunk of change, depending on how many days you decide to arrive before the race, and how many days you decide to chill after.

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That's the "Chu"

After going through the options and reviews on Tripadvisor and Agoda, Chu Hotel seemed the best compromise in terms of cost and proximity to the race start. It’s about right smack between the Hyatt Regency and town (the Bach Dang strip next to the river) –  5km from Hyatt, 4km from town.

a map!
Location in relation to the other important sites

Room is spacious enough to set up a bicycle, which is important for this stay! Lift is a bit small-ish though, so getting a bigger bike box in is a problem, as I learned. The staircase is also quite narrow, so getting it up to your room may be hell. I was on the 2nd floor, thankfully. Not looking forward to bringing it down again.

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Better than basic, I think!

Staff are friendly, and basic english isn’t a problem. Even a little corner for live music. There’s a minimart a few doors down the street that opens till midnight for any toiletries or snacks you might need/want.

Cost: S$66 per night (after tax). Includes daily breakfast. I had to extend another night, and got it for even cheaper. I’d recommend mailing them direct to see if they have any promotions that may be cheaper than the rates you find on the usual hotel booking sites.

In comparison, staying at the official race hotel (Hyatt Regency) would have set me back S$333 per night (more than my entire stay at the Chu!). Bit too rich for my liking.

DNG #32: Getting mobile broadband (3G/4G) at Tan Son Nhat airport (Ho Chi Minh city a.k.a. Saigon)

My post on getting internet service on mobile in Hanoi seems to get me a consistent stream of traffic, so thought this would be a useful follow-up.

If you’re travelling to Ho Chi Minh City and can’t live without cheap/free internet, you’ll want a local SIM card. While wifi is quite frequently offered at F&B establishments in urban Vietnam (Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh), it’s spotty, and not practical when you’re using the internet to help you navigate.

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Once you’re out of the immigration area, you’ll go down either one of two escalators to the luggage carousels. Pick up your bag(s) if you have any and head out the customs clearance. If you’re at the doors with the larger numbers, you’ll be closer to the shop you need to go to. But don’t worry anyhow, just need to walk a little bit further if you’re at the other end of the (small) Tan Son Nhat airport.

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Immediately after you have your bags pass through the scanners, you’ll pass through some sliding doors. Turn left and walk to the end. Go to the LAST shop.The staff in the last shop speak good English, and will understand your questions and requests easily. Don’t go to the outdoor area where the general public (waiting taxi drivers, relatives, random people) gather. If you have, you’ve gone too far! Not sure if you can u-turn, but you can get the same SIM card in town, I’m sure.

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Note that my personal preference is for Vinaphone. I’ve tried Mobifone before, and the coverage didn’t seem as good. The shop next door (2nd last shop) carries Mobifone/Viettel I think, but I’ll stick with what I know.

There’s a promotion (as of yesterday, 8 May) where you get 5GB of data for 100,000VND. That’s about S$6, or US$5. Pretty damn good deal compared to Singapore.

But I went for the “D1” deal where you buy a SIM card for 148,000VND and you get 1GB of data every day when you SMS “D1 on” to “888” for 5,000VND (S$0.30 or US$0.23). If you exceed that 1GB, you just SMS “D1 on” again and you can do this 3 times a day apparently. (I’ve never exceeded 1GB a day, I think, but just in case…) Don’t worry about figuring out what kind of SIM card you have, what settings you need to fiddle with. Just hand your phone to the ladies and they’ll get you sorted. You’ll also need to hand them your passport for them to make a photocopy.

Happy surfing!

DNG #31: Triathlon packing checklist

It’s been a quiet few days here, but IRL it’s been a little more busy trying to get last-minute things sorted before the race that’s happening …. in 3 DAYS!? Where did the time go…??

Typing this at Changi Airport, waiting for my flight to Ho Chi Minh city, where I connect to DANANG!

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20+++kg of gear

I’m usually one to travel light, so the logistics of a triathlon are a bit overwhelming. The bike alone, I had to have help from Coach Mike to break down and get it inside the huge-a$$ box (another courtesy clearance sale from Aylwin!).

Anyway, put together a list for future reference derived from an even longer one that Aylwin shared. It’s a long list… and there would have been even more stuff had this race been in a temperate region! *shudder*

Race day
– Tri top
– Tri bottom
– sunblock
– watch
– transition bag
– 3x bottles
– 10x gels
– electrolyte tablets
– goggles
– vaseline
– speedsuit
– towel
– race number belt
– bike
– 2x wheels
– seat post + seat
– helmet
– bike shoes
– bike lights
– lubricant
– running shoes
– socks
– visor
– sunglasses
– towel

Others
– Passport!
– mobile phone
– SIM card(s)
– $$$, credit card(s)
– charging cables
– bike pump
– electrical tape
– camera
– slippers
– moisturiser
– shampoo/conditioner/soap
– toothbrush+toothpaste
– X sets of clothes & underwear
– jacket
– contact lenses / spectacles
– entertainment (music, headphones, speakers, laptop)
– tools (allen keys!)
– rags

Ok… Time to board.

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