Friday, September 14, 2007
After 7 months of training, I dreaded this day, when I realized that the D day had arrived. However, August the month when I will hang everything else to dry, became convoluted with 2 critical project work that came our way. TeamworkBound was contracted to take on a 3 day leadership and experiential learning program for senior officer with the Ministry of Homeaffairs. Health Service Authority also contracted us to run their service and the train the trainer program. Hence, the month of August became incessantly a busy month for me and I neglected my training regime. I was not able to get to the pool as many times as I wished. Worst of all I did not even manage an open water swim. This race was important for many reasons, one of which is doing a Tri race with Francis Chow, a dear friend I knew as a 17 year old when we ran for school in Junior College. He was doing this ironman race for his late father and his mom. This was the first time his mom and sister were there to support him as well.
A truly inspirational guy who has never failed to awe me. He has finished a full ironman race, and one of the rare friends I have whom I have kept in touch for over 20 years. Likewise my training mate from secondary school whom I beat as 15 year old out ran me on this race, Young Seoung. This race was an exceptional event to say the least.
On the 2nd of September, I made the decision to follow through with the race I had painstakingly worked for and dreamed about.
Just before my wave of swimmers started, one chap was waving frantically asking for help. To our horror we saw his head dipping into the water only to emerge again. We shouted at the race officials to go and help him as we watched in horror wondering if we were going to witness death right before our eyes. The safety boat got to him on time and he was saved. My wave got the signal to start and there I went with a prayer to be safe as I started the 2 K swim. Even before I reached the first buoy, I realized what a big difference swimming in the sea meant. I panicked a bit as the strokes and breathing did not coordinate with the big waves that was hitting me each time I pulled up to breathe, using my breast strokes. Though I have been training in the pool using front crawl, the sea was not the place to experiment a new swimming stroke. I started to drink in water and I lost my breath too. I contemplated turning back, stopped swimming and treaded water for a while, until I summoned enough courage to carry on. It became a real struggle for me and it took me quite a while to get use to the strokes and the sea. As we swam east, the sun was rising and the only line of sight were swimmers heads and legs kicking wildly in front of you. I swam on and I realized that time was not on my side and I had just 1 hr 15 mins to complete the 2 K swim before I could potentially get kicked out of this race. I got kicked in the face a couple of times and finally I got used to the sea and the torture of just swimming and focusing on just one part of this race. That is to finish the swim. I did finish this part of the race and I did it in good time, a time of 52 minutes as I raced to my bike to start the cycling leg that will last a distance of 90 km.
I got to my bike and I sat on the floor to wear my biking shoes (T2 - sidi) that were 4 years old and only recently came apart on its soles 2 months ago. I was wearing a pair of shoes that were not the best or the latest. The bike that I was mounting on was 15 years old, a bike frame that I bought with my first bonus, GIANT CADEX. As I was riding out I realised I was ahead of many new and gallant bikes whose owners have not finished their swim yet. I got myself into my aero position and I started to kick on the pedals as we rode out away from East Coast to the city. There were many other cyclist who were in my pack, some had completed the swim , whilst others were doing the relay portion of biking. The relay bikers were strong, as their legs were fresh and I was keeping up with them. There were bumps along East coast until we reached the city. For once, the 2 lengthy hills, did not break my tempo or speed, I raced up the hills on Sheares bridge in sheer excitement and cruised down fast at 45km and hour .
It got exciting when I realized that my 15 year old work horse was competing neck to neck with the Cervelos, Feltheads and Softrides and I was giving them a ride of their lives. I knew I had made it past the swim leg and I focused to just finish the bike ride. We did 4 laps around the city and I had one of best rides ever in any competition. The legs felt great and I was flying. It was great to find my family on lap 3 when I saw my wife, Musaib and Zahra waiting for me. I turned back to wave at them as I passed them. On lap 4, I looked for them and I was not able to catch them in sight and instead, a lady cheered me on realizing I was hoping for a cheer from a kind soul or two. I finished 90 km of bike ride in 3:00 hrs, averaging 30km/hr and it felt great.
That left with just one more leg to go and yes I had just one functional leg at that time when I transitioned to run. Landing on my right leg, sent a sharp pain veering up my knees as I struggled to understand what had gone wrong in a race that was going so right for me up to now.
I have suffered with ITB, illiotibial band before and its ugly face reared itself on the run. ITB strikes even harder, when you depend on the legs for all 3 events. The swim using breast stroke makes things worst for the ITB. Likewise, the adrenaline rush I had for the bike ride, just took all the wind out of my legs as I have strained them pretty hard right up to the run stage. The 20 km run in the streets of Singapore was a limb and run as I literally struggle to finish the race. It was the sharp pain that repeated itself on every step I took. I saw guys passed me and I knew that I was inflaming my ITB even more as I ran.
One chap tap me on my shoulder and he said what I was doing was gutsy as he passed me. There were others on that day who were suffering the same pain. Some even stopped. I knew I was not able to run, but nothing is going to stop me from finishing this race and I will finish it with the pain on my right knee. My training partner passed me and he told me to hang on. I pushed to the finish and I finished with 1 hrs more to spare from the cut of time of 8 hr 15 mins. I finished my race in 7: 16 : 16, a time that I am very proud of and I can proudly say that I finished one of the hardest race of my life. I finished my race in the rain that was pelting me and I saw my wife, my son and my girl who were soaked in the rain as they cheered me on. I stepped on the finishing line with my TEAMWORKBOUND banner, for a day that started in trepidation, lasted in pain and finished in sheer jubilation, I know I have earned the title of being an IRONMAN, with my training mates, Francis Chow and Yeoung Seong.