Ironman Malaysia – the event

The feeling when we stepped off the plane in Langkawi and saw the sign welcoming the athletes is indescribable, somehow it hadn’t really seemed real up until this point, but it was pretty real now…

Ironman – anything is possible… Is it? I was going to find out in a few days!

We dropped our luggage and bike boxes at the hotel and headed straight to athlete registration. Wednesday was the first day of registration so it made sense to register early and get it out of the way.

Registration was a quick and easy process, lined up, got given a bag that contained all my transition bags, an athlete wristband was fastened around my wrist and then I was weighed – this is the first time I have had to do a weigh in at a triathlon… not sure if it is usually standard practise?

I found my name on the athlete wall and took a quick selfie with it – as you do?!

I also bought a vest top with the names of all the participants on it, I wasn’t sure if this was a bad omen but it was a lovely vest and I didn’t want to wait until after the race to buy it as Ironman Merchandise tends to sell out quickly…

Quick wander around the Expo and it was back to the hotel to relax for the evening.

Thursday morning we headed to the start area to take part in a test swim. It’s always a good idea to do this if you can, it gave me a chance to familiarise myself with the beach, the layout of the buoys etc as well as to swim in the exact water I would be in on race day.

The swim course was so clearly marked, big yellow Ironman buoys at the entrance and exit points and big white buoys at the turn points. The course was a big triangle, a 2 lap swim with an Aussie exit (30mtrs run) between laps. There were red flags marking the way on the right hand side spaces approximately 20mtrs apart… It was a very well laid out course, seeing this and doing the test swim put my mind at rest… The swim would be lovely!

We then spent a bit of time on the beach but I was really nervous about overheating or getting sunburnt so we didn’t stay outside for long.

We went out for a little practise ride to test our bikes that afternoon and managed to choose the worst moment of the day as we got caught in torrential rain!! The rain was so heavy it managed to wash one of my contact lenses out of my eye from behind my cycling glasses! Oh dear! I was a bit worried, the rain made the roads like a river, if that happened on the event day the bike would be tougher than I had anticipated!!! Bike ride done, time to prep the transition bags and get everything ready as on Friday we would need to rack our bikes and drop off our transition stuff.

Friday morning we headed to rack our bikes and drop off the transition bags. Again, a quick easy process, super well organised with lots of volunteers on hand to assist!

Then the rest of Friday was spent mostly eating, drinking lots of water and trying to stay rested and hydrated. Easier said than done in quite extreme humidity.

I got a really lovely email from Tailwind who are the company I was using for my nutrition. It’s a dissolvable nutrition that provides all the carbohydrates and electrolytes you need for endurance without the need for additional food. I had started to struggle to eat enough on my long Brick sessions so I swapped to Tailwind as I was pretty sure I wouldn’t manage to eat enough in the heat!

It’s the little touches that make such a difference. I emailed back with a picture of the swim start. Almost time to find out if I could be an Ironman!

Saturday morning was event day. We were up at around 4am, the hotel did a buffet breakfast for the athletes from 5am. I’m not good at eating in the mornings, but I did my best, some cereal and toast, then we headed down to the start!

Pumped up the bike tyres, added nutrition and bottles to the bikes. Then waited for the swim start. Adam started about 40mins before me so once he headed to the start I had a little lie down at the side of the start and dozed until they called the athletes to warm up.

I had a quick swim warm up, testing my goggles as I had positioned them badly on my head during the test swim and they leaked, I didn’t want this to happen during the event. I also managed to slice my toe open on some sharp rocks/coral! I am pretty accident prone and clumsy!

Then I was lined up ready to start the swim and I can genuinely say this was the first time I haven’t been nervous at the start of a mass participation swim!

The first lap went well, approx 44mins, then a little jog along the beach to start the 2nd lap. There were volunteers with cups of water so I rinsed my mouth out quickly and then I was back in the sea. 2nd lap underway! 2nd lap was also quite pleasant and I exited the water after 1hr 34mins. I had expected it to take me about 1hr 30 so factoring in the exit and having to swim round a few groups of people I was doing ok!

Transition1 I decided to do a complete change of clothes so I changed out of my Tri suit and into bib shorts and a jersey, this would make my bike more comfortable and also give me a bit more protection from the sun than my Tri suit. I took my time getting ready, had a few sips from a can of coke I had in my transition bag, applied sunscreen, and walked out to my bike. I wasn’t in a rush, I wanted to take some time and make sure I was settled. 9 minutes in transition was time well spent to be comfortable.

Then it was out onto the bike course. I was worried about the bike section, Iv massively struggled with my cycling this year I seem to be getting weaker and slower rather than stronger and faster. 112 miles was going to be more of a struggle than I wanted it to be!

Here I wish I could show you the course. It was amazing, through the rain forests, alongside the coast line. It really was a beautiful course. However it also had its hazards. The roads aren’t closed, however junctions and major turn points were well marshalled by both volunteers and the police, it’s still a bit daunting to be on open roads at one point a women stopped and did a 3 point turn in front of me… Not ideal.

There are also Monkeys on the course, some of these areas known for monkeys were signposted – again I wish I could show you a photo of the sign. But monkeys don’t tend to stay in their designated zones and there were quite a few wandering along the verges and across the roads, eagerly investigating any drinks bottles that managed to work loose and fall within their vicinity. Quite cute, but the athlete guide had given quite strong directions not to look at the monkeys, show them your teeth or the whites of your eyes and not to eat or drink in front of them. I was worried. I didn’t want to be attacked by a monkey! Luckily they kept their distance!

I quite enjoyed the first lap of the 2 lap bike course but by Lap 2 I was finding it tough. My feet had swollen, I had to pause to loosen off my bike shoes. I got off at an aid station, stamped my feet a bit and refilled my bottles. At 64miles there was the special needs station, I also stopped here and ate a cheese sandwich I had put in my bag, I loosened my shoes a bit more. 50 miles left, but it was going to be far from easy. It’s funny how the first lap didn’t seem too hilly, but I definitely noticed the inclines on lap 2, but so did the other riders I wasn’t alone in my struggle.

Transition 2!!! Bike was done, over, I’d made it! I was so worried about making the bike cut off I couldn’t believe I’d done it, with some time to spare as well! It took me longer than I had hoped at just over 7hrs 30mins, but it was done! 8 mins in T2 and another full change of clothes.

I was off onto the final section – the run.

Now… this is where I made some mistakes. I know that once I have walked once I find it difficult to get moving again, once I have walked for a while my hips stiffen and pretty much refuse to run, so I had planned to carry a bottle of water, jog the first 1/2 of the marathon and then take it from there. What I actually did was jogged 2km to an aid station, had a cup of coco cola, jogged to the next one, walked through again and took another bottle of water and then just couldn’t motivate myself to run… I am quite sure I ran less than 8km of the full 42.2km course… Not ideal, but once I’d walked a bit I couldn’t get my hips to run again so was left with no option but to power walk… Luckily I can walk quite fast, but even so this was going to take a long time!!!

I saw Adam when I was about 24km in, quick hug, apologised for taking so long, off onto my last lap! By now it was dark, they were giving the runners glow sticks at the aid stations which was a nice touch, but some of the paths were very dark, a headtorch would have been beneficial… the run was pretty enough in the daylight but a bit soul destroying in the dark, long dark roads, aren’t very motivating… But the kms passed quickly enough and soon I only had 1km to go, I tried to jog, not fun, jogged 200mtrs, walked 200mtrs, jogged again, started to loosen off – why hadn’t I tried this earlier? I could have shortened my time by loads! Too late now! 400mtrs to go, 200mtrs to go! Adam was at the side cheering me on, I ran (jogged) towards the finish! I had made it!

Ironman Malaysia was done! 15hrs and 28mins later! I had made it!!!

For anyone I didn’t tell about this race before I came out here I hope you can understand my reasons for doing so. For anyone who knowingly or unknowingly helped me train I can not thank you enough!

I am an Ironman, and it’s amazing! I am now enjoying the heat, food and amazing location that is Langkawi! I’m sure there is loads I haven’t said but now it’s time to get back to the beach!

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Ironman Malaysia – the logic and preparation

8 months ago I was stuck at home post ankle operation, bored, miserable and demotivated. So I started looking for something to aim for, a reason to recover quickly.

I looked up all the late season Ironman events and tried to work out which ones I could possibly be ready for.

At the end of March whilst still at home unable to walk I emailed Adam (my boyfriend) and asked how he would feel about a trip to Malaysia in November…

Adams dad lives in Singapore so the logistics were easy enough, fly to Singapore, spend some time with Adams family, acclimatise a bit and recover from any jet lag, then head out to Langkawi Malaysia for the event. Adam even decided to sign up for the 70.3 event on the same day so we would be able to do some training together!

The only issue with this plan? I wasn’t allowed to train for 3 months post op, so therefore would only have 5 months to get ready for the event. I wasn’t sure this would be possible so decided to keep it a secret. No publicising it on social media, I told only a couple of close friends and family. Therefore, if I didn’t manage it no one would need to know.

Luckily I have a number of super fit friends and we do lots of swimming, running and cycling together so training for the event as part of my normal routine wasn’t as difficult as you might think.

As soon as my ankle wound healed I started open water swimming, and entered the open water swimathon and swim serpentine events.

Both quite long distance swims so I had a public reason for doing so much swim training, and much of this was done with Olivia, who was a fab training buddy, even swimming with me in torrential rain!

I cycle with Romford Cycle Club and it’s usually easy to persuade some friends to add on a few extra miles to club rides, or ride long distance training rides with a promise of cake. Massive thanks need to go to Hassan here as I’ve really struggled with my cycling this year and he has put up with my long slow rides, even travelling down to the South Downs with me for a long distance Sportive in the tail end of Storm Brian so I could ride some hills.

Running strangely enough I found easiest… I kept my miles light until after the Berlin Marathon, then discovered some local runners/triathletes run locally at 6am on Wednesdays covering 10-14km these mornings, this became my middle distance run each week, huge thanks to Dave and Lee especially for giving me a reason to get up at 5am on Wednesdays!

I have friends at work who run 5km with me at lunchtimes and my sister Katie was training for a half marathon distance so I did my long runs and my recovery runs with her. I am hugely motivated by being with other people and am really grateful to everyone who ran with me as part of my training. Particularly to my sisters Sarah and Katie who did a 9 mile run with me one day straight after I had done a 75mile cycle with Hassan. They were ready and waiting when I got off my bike and made my longest brick Session a lot more pleasant than it might have been.

So after just under 5 months of training it was time to travel!

Adam and I flew out to Singapore on a Thursday after work, this meant we had plenty of time to get in some last minute taper training and get used to the heat before travelling to Langkawi.

Adams family were great, they knew we still needed to get some training in, so they arranged for us to be able to swim on the Saturday morning with the local Tri club who swim out from a beach on Sentosa. This was fantastic as it gave us an opportunity to swim in the sea and without our wetsuits, as the water temperature for the race was forecast to be 29 degrees.

On the Sunday morning we joined Adams dad on a 50mile cycle ride with the Singapore West Coast Riders, this was great as we were able to see how it felt to ride in the heat. We are so grateful to the local clubs in Singapore for letting us train with them.

Finally on the Tuesday morning, we headed out along the river for a 5-6km run. This for me was the hardest bit, the heat and humidity meant I was sweating almost before I had started running. It couldn’t be more different to running in the UK!

Then on Wednesday it was time to fly to Langkawi and get ready for the event, but I think it’s best if that forms another blog post.