Tag Archives: vietnam

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 #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 #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.

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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.

Trying to Tri

It’s been about 6 months since I got into this whole triathlon business. And I’ve fallen quite far down the rabbit hole…

soft in the middle
The 2014 Trifactor Sprint: My first triathlon

For those who say I’m slightly OCD when I go into something, they would be quite right. Since that first Trifactor race, I’ve signed up with the TriEdge team to learn how to get better at the sport (or 3 sports rather) – best Triathlon investment yet! And not too long after, I signed up for my first Ironman 70.3 in Danang.

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No, I’m not becoming Tony Stark…

For those of you who think I’m slightly nuts, you would also be right. The Ironman 70.3 consists of a 1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21km run. It’s not that far considering the full Ironman distance is double of everything, and maybe triple/quadruple/… the pain. Still, quite a bit of effort required. As I write this, I have 55 days till raceday. Like me previous 100-post endeavour, I hope to blog every day about the who/what/when/why/where/how for the last 50 days leading up to the race. Will appreciate all your support. 😉

Sincerely, Slow Poke

Heritage House, Hanoi

One of the smaller “museums” – if you can call it one – is the one along Ma May (almost opposite the famous “New Day” restaurant – review coming up) called the Heritage House.

Heritage House
Looking in…

It’s got an entrance fee 10 – 30,000VND (can’t quite recall), but that works out to about S$1.80 at most, which is really a steal.

once you step in...
Front of house

Once you wander past the “main lobby”, chances are you might spot this old man. He offered to draw me, but I didn’t want to  waste his ink. :p

He'll draw you, for a fee I bet!
Artist and his work

If you like taking photos, this is a nice place to shoot. It’s been designed to maximise airflow and lets in plenty of natural light. Combined with dust and time, the house and its contents have aged gracefully.

green!
Floating green plants. Tell me if you know what they’re called!
Assam?
Left hanging
bird in a cage
Birdcage with bird. Not for sale – i checked.

There’s more stuff upstairs, so don’t forget to make your way up the narrow stairs…

Chinese chessboard
Chess game abandoned?

Unfortunately, it seems as if the proprietors are eager (maybe too eager) to squeeze their VND from every nook and cranny  available. What happens is that nearly everything on display is on sale. From small knick knacks and snacks, to paintings and opium pipes!

Buddhas of various colours and sizes
Bring Buddha home
Big pipes
Opium not included

I feel the folks in Penang who also have their own UNESCO World Heritage site, have a better idea of how to earn money from curious tourists, but are conscious in preventing things from getting over-commercialised. i.e. sustainable heritage tourism. Here’s hoping the Vietnamese people latch on to these ideas before all that’s left are crunky souvenirs in an oversized giftshop. Lots more photos in my Hanoi Flickr album.

Dac Kim: Hanoi’s best Bun Cha?

There are spring rolls and there’s pho… but you really haven’t been to Hanoi / Vietnam if you haven’t had Bun Cha.

Hanoi's best Bun Cha?
Nha Hang Dac Kim Bun Cha

This was the first place we tried for Bun Cha, and frustratingly, everyone else I’ve asked subsequently points me to this same joint. It’s not that the food wasn’t good (it was GREAT!), but it did feel as if we were being charged “tourist” prices at 100,000VND per person, which is about 3 times the price at less famous roadside joints. To be fair, we did try alternatives and they were all lesser incarnations, so maybe Dac Kim knows they’ve got the market cornered. To be more specific, the lesser incarnations are likely to only come with the meat patties in broth (which still tends to be dry) and without the spring rolls.

Meat heaven
Bun Chaaaaaaarge!!!

There’s no need to stress about what to order. Just tell them how many people are eating and they haul out the corresponding motherload of meat. The meats and sauces are just FAB. BEW. LUSS. One of the staff came over to point at what goes with what, but frankly every combo – no matter how strange it may seem to a Hanoian – tastes amazing. The crispy Nem Cua Be (Crab Springrolls) go perfectly with the bowl of sauce that you flavour accordingly (depending on your heat and bad breath tolerance) with chili padi and garlic. You can then dunk chopstickfuls (did I just invent a new word?) of white noodles into that bowl of porky paradise. The broth is flavourful without being overpowering, containing slices of meat that live in harmony with mini patties of ground meat wrapped in a little green leaf. They didn’t live very long.

Lots & lots of greens.
Eat your veggies! Or maybe not…

Hygiene tip: There’s a wise saying that if you want to eat good street food, try not to see how it’s prepared. Unfortunately, I was curious enough to see what happened to the mountain of assorted greens that comes with each Bun Cha portion. Most people are unlikely to get even half-way through. Turns out that the leftovers go back into the central pile of vegetables to be dished out to the next customer. I’m already not a fan of coriander, so this moment of “enlightenment” made sure I never had raw vegetables again in Hanoi – especially when they come in generous piles.

dong dong qiang
Your friendly neighbourhood music shop

Next door is a interesting distraction while you’re chomping down with god knows how many musical instruments stuffed into a store. Meat + Music = Yumm… And don’t forget the beer (or “bia” as the Vietnamese say…)

Address:
Dac Kim Bun Cha
1 Hang Manh
Hanoi, Vietnam

 

 

Getting fried at Quan Goc Da

We were looking for Nguyen Sinh along Ly Quoc Su after a recommendation by smittenbyfood when we came across  this place.

Fry
The Hanoi version of Old Chang Kee?

Didn’t think much of it the first time we passed it in the day time, but when the crowd picked up in the evening, it looked like something we had to try.

People enjoying their fried stuff
You don’t get this sort of crowd at an Old Chang Kee!

Think there might be some minimum order thing going on as they didn’t seem too pleased when the Indonesian (I think) couple ahead of me ordered a few items. Being the greedy Singaporean, I didn’t face any problem. Hur hur. I think the staff may be more forgiving if you’re ordering only a few pieces for take-away, as we did on our second visit.

Nom nom nom
From left, in descending order of delish! Didn’t touch the veggies (will explain in my post on Bun Cha)

What to eat: Ordering is a challenge as I had no idea what each item was, but pointing works and the boss lady knows her English well enough to tell you how much it all costs.  The skinny long thing (1st item on the left on the plate) is some fried seafood item that’s my personal favourite. The fried spring roll (middle on the plate) is pretty good too – suspect this is the Nem Cua Be (or Crab Springroll). The thing that looks like a curry puff has mushrooms in it. Not bad either! Tell me if you know their real names!

Quan Goc Da in action
Boss lady (centre) and her crew. There’s actually a board in the shop (behind the red clock) that has English translations of the food items.

Address:
Quan Goc Da

52 Ly Quoc Su
Hoan Kiem District 
Hanoi