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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)

DNG #30: Bike basics

One of the benefits of being part of the TriEdge team is the privilege to attend an unlimited number of training sessions and workshops. Some take place less often than others, like the Bike Handling session last sunday.

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It’s nice to see folks who genuinely want to learn how to improve their skills with the bike, as opposed to just buying their way to becoming faster. E.g. Paying hundreds to thousands for a few grams of weight saved.

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Duncan is our team's version of Vin Diesel

The group had some familiar faces (Priyankar, Mark, Duncan…) from the team, and new faces from the Trifactor bike race who had signed up for the session.

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Mark demonstrating how you can safely transport safety cones with no hands

Funny how I was doing this for the first time just over 6 months ago, and a second time slightly more recently. And I still kind of suck.

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Carpark H is a nice scenic spot for cycling workshops

Daredevil of the day award goes to Kenn, whose left hand is apparently stronger than his right. This is dangerous when cycling, because the left hand controls the front brake. End result?

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Best caption wins... a blog post. :p

Good for the man he recovered and didn’t somersault over the top!

DNG #22: Taking stock

When I did my first triathlon back in September last year, I thought I’d be happy just completing it. And I was. But what I was even happier with, was that I finished in the top half.

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Newbie alert!

Fast forward to today, and I’m wondering what targets I should set for myself for the upcoming Danang race. If you asked me back in September whether I should even be attempting a half-ironman, I’d probably be extremely doubtful. Now, I’m thinking of what times I should target.

Recently though, I seem to be struggling at times in the pool. And my cycling seems to be stuck in a rut. The run, my biggest weakness when I started, is now where I’ve shown the most improvement. It’s all quite depressing and thrilling.

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15% less newbie?

Coach Scott reminded me of the 15% improvement I’ve clocked over the sprint distance, and how it’d translate if it were in any other part of your life. Imagine 15% more sleep, 15% more time, 15% more pay! That is substantial.

And most importantly, I need to remind myself  to enjoy the ride. I’m not gunning for a podium spot, and I don’t have sponsors to please. It’s time to enjoy how far I’ve come in 7 months. To do that, here’s to the Raj man who showed me how to finish a triathlon in style.

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The Raj breaks out the dance moves before crossing the finish

DNG #21: A day in the life of…

Sorry for the hiatus, folks. It’s been a trying time. I know I’m quite far behind now, but I’ve also got quite a few half written posts in the drafts folder so you might start seeing a few double header days soon…

Anyway, one of the questions I’ve been getting a lot of is “what training is like?”, and “do you train every day”. To answer these questions, here’s what a week typically looks like:

Monday: 75 min swim
Tuesday: Turbo Trainer class
Wednesday: 90 min lunchtime run*, 75 min swim
Thursday: Morning bike ride on Mount Faber
Friday: spare day* / off day
Saturday: Macritchie run
Sunday: Long bike ride (about 100km)

All the sessions, with the exception of the ones with the asterisk*, are group sessions. This means you don’t suffer alone. And if you’re feeling up to it, have some other people to compete against.

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Rodrigo (faking heart attack) horsing around after another Macritchie run

This is really important because you’ll be amazed how much harder you can push yourself when there are others around you pushing as hard, if not harder.

And there are the coaches – Mike and Scott – too. They spot mistakes, and show you how to improve. Not something that watching YouTube videos will do!

DNG #17: Saturday Macritchie Runs

One of the things that was new to me when I joined the team was cross country running. Before Tri Edge, my idea of training for runs was pounding the pavement for longer and longer distances.

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The squad runs together at the start, then breaks up into smaller groups depending on your workout for the day

My knees hated me for it. Although they still hate me now, they do it less often, and with less venom than when I was abusing them with minimalist shoes (remember vibrams?), no less.

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The view this morning

These days, it’s trail running shoes (though sometimes I experiment with “minimalist” trail shoes too, but more on that another time) and it’s around the Macritchie Reservoir trails.

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This morning's route

Coach Mike says a kilometre around Macritchie is worth double that on the pavement. I was initially skeptical, but now I’m a believer. It’s the mix of uphill and descents on an irregular surface than constantly forces your body to adapt that makes every run so effective.

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It's important to come early to get clear enough trails to run. Bigger groups and slower walkers tend to stream in from 8am onward.

The other plus side is that the trails can look really pretty in the morning. The natural canopy also provides welcome shade as you tear through the trail. You’ll still get a good sweat going, but it feels much cooler than being out there on East Coast Park, for example.

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The morning sun filtering through

The squad runs every saturday morning at 7am, and we meet at the taxi drop off point. Come join us for a free trial session. Trail is always free. 😉

DNG #15: Putrajaya 70.3

Some of the team went up to KL for Sunday’s Putrajaya Ironman 70.3 race. It’s a notoriously hot course, and there have been complaints about the way the race is run, but still everyone  grits their teeth and gets on with it.

most photographed TriEdge athlete!
Nic still manages model running form in soaring temperatures

Despite the heat, some of the team clocked their personal best, like Nicolas above. David Watson (below) finishes 4th in his age group!

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David Watson looking calm and collected after the swim

 

That’s really how diverse the group is. There are “real” athletes like David and Kath (below) who are challenging for podium spots. And then there are newbies like me, trying to do their first half ironman. It’s nice that everyone’s friendly and there are no divas to have to deal with.

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Team pro, Kath Haesner pushing through the pain

Endurance races can be tough and lonely sometimes… Especially When you’re out in front. 😉 I suspect I’ll have more company from the back markers though.

looks like he knows where the camera is too!
Patrick looking good on the bike leg as always.

My team mates are a photogenic bunch. Strange how all my photos make me look like a hyperventilating walrus.

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Check out the skinned knee and shoulder on Kenn!

There were spills along the way too. Kenn took a tumble on the bike, but still managed to get back on and finish the race. And he’s still smiling for the cameras.

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Biggest props in my view, however, go out to Saleh. Kept soldiering on despite a nasty spill on the bike a few weeks back and squeezing in a wedding along the way. I would have melted into a puddle of goo. He kept on going and finished it in 8hrs. #respect

DNG #1: Coaching vs Kit

And here’s the first of my targeted 50 posts before Danang. Will include “DNG #” in the titles to help me track …

To complete a half ironman distance comfortably, you need to clock a good number of miles and develop good technique. Unfortunately I don’t have the willpower to grind out the miles on my own, and YouTube can’t tell you what you’re doing wrong, hence the benefits of bring part of a team with a coach.

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Keep on keeping on…

In my time picking up various sports like sailing, bowling, pool and now triathlon (yes, I’ve been quite fickle), I’ve found that I clock the most measurable progress under the tutelage of someone who knows their sh!t. No point putting in hours of practice doing it wrong. Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. If you keep repeating incorrect technique over and over again, muscle memory is going to make it a lot tougher to unlearn those habits. Funny how I keep seeing folks spending big bucks on their equipment, but nothing on learning how best to use it. As I recently learnt, the technical term for such gearheads is AGNIs – All Gear, No Idea.

That's me, the spazzo with the thumbs-up
Team TriEdge at the 2015 Metasprint Aquathon. Coach Mike on his post-op crutch (a.k.a. big stick)

If you’re keen to come by and give it a go at one of our training sessions – swim, bike, or run – drop me a line and I’ll hook you up with a no obligation trial session with the TriEdge bunch. No hardsell. And contrary to the belief of one of my team mates’ concerned mother, we are not a cult. 😉