The last triathlon race I did was last year’s Aviva Ironman 70.3 Singapore in September, and I kicked off this year with the same race (they shifted it to March) yesterday.
The course was nearly exactly the same, save for an improved two-lap swim that had participants swimming a smaller, inner loop within the ropes first before doing a bigger, outer loop. That meant no more clashing with the later waves or slower swimmers. Fantastic idea.
The weather was, I reckon, a couple of degrees cooler than last year and the humidity tons lower. In the couple of hours before the race kicked off at 7.10am, the sky was overcast and dark cloud-y and it was just beginning to pour in the west. A very light drizzle started to fall at the transition area at the area outside Big Splash at East Coast Park about 45 minutes before flag off. Then lightning flashed and you could see the long cracks of light shooting down in the horizon. There was certainly a possibility the race would be called off or at least the swim cancelled. But at the final race briefing at 6.45am the organisers told the good news: the storm was moving away from the area and we were right on schedule and right on course.
And so, after kan cheong-ing and chasing Damo to leave the house at 5.30am for fear of lack of time at the transition area, I was left with tons of time milling around and chatting to people. It was only 6.20am after I set up my transition area and prepped my bike, walked over to get numbered (this took ages — like, 20min of queueing — last year but there was no queue at all this year) and then went back to the transition area to mill around. Had time for a visit to the loo at Carl’s Junior, had time to pop by the Media tent with Damo. All this while my nerves were building because I think I wasn’t really looking forward to swim for the lack of pool time in the past few weeks.
Anyway, we age-group women were off on the dot at 7.15am after the pros were flagged off five minutes earlier. I was the first off the line and first into the water, which uh, was a first for me. The first 50-100m to the first buoy, as usual, was a mad sprint. But because of my good start I was spared the fists and feet in my face. Before I knew it we rounded the first buoy, before I knew it I was stung by a jellyfish on my right wrist. It was burning but I think my high pain threshold was put to good use. No worries, I kept on swimming. By then a pack of about four or five of us had formed, behind a couple of leaders. I got mega stung again soon after, this time I think it must have been the mother of all jellyfish because it got my entire left arm. High pain threshold kicked in again. The home straight was against the current and took a little longer than heading out, but I had an excellent draft behind a couple of women, both in the blue seventy speedsuits. Not much drama on the second lap, except that I got in front of the pack for a bit before those behind me wanted to work so I let them. Haha. I was fourth out of the water, possibly my best placing in a swim yet.
Pleased with myself, my confidence heading into the bike was lifted, despite having biked a grand total of four hours in the last three weeks. At transition I was way faster than the other women I’d come out of the water with, something that has been ingrained in me since my OD days. It’s funny how people train so much to shave seconds off their swim, bike or run timing when something as seemingly insignificant as transition can actually save you even more time with much less effort.
Anyway, the bike. Basically, because the women was the first age-group wave and because I was among the first out of the water, it was pretty much clear road ahead of me all the way and I didn’t have the hassle of overtaking too many people, which was excellent. My goal for the bike was to get off it feeling comfortable, so I just focused on my pedal stroke (Dan says it’s crap, and I think he’s right) and a good high cadence. Ditched my aerobars and tri shoes this time around and went roadie style on the drops and with three strap road shoes. First two laps went by like the breeze, the third lap was a bit harder but coming home I felt strong. I got passed by a couple of women but I didn’t quite bother to chase them because I was focused on my own plan. The pro men zoomed by me on my second lap and I swear, it sounded and looked like a plane taking off beside me. How the go so fast (2.06 bike split for 90km) I cannot fathom. I got off the bike in 2.56, nearly same time as last year but feeling tons better.
Finally, the run. I knew with my focus on running for the past few months (I’m training for the Sundown 84km Ultra), I wouldn’t suffer that much. Of course, running straight off the bike and not having done so since the last race in September negated most of the run prep I’d done for the first three Ks or so. My left foot was all pins and needle-y for the first 5K and I think it was cos my three strap bike shoes were too tight! Someone commented I looked like I was limping, which felt like that to me. But, I gradually got into a very good rhythm and my legs felt light and flowing again. Somehow, compared to last year’s shambles, the run flew by and before I knew it I was set for home. Must be those 40ish K long runs that I’ve been doing. Makes 21K seem short. Managed to pass quite a few women on the run too! A 1.51 run split was my reward.
I crossed the line in 5.29, loads faster than last year’s 5.41. That was good enough for first in my age group (25-29), fourth age-group woman overall (Rachel Gaudry, a Singapore PR, won in 5.16 I think, she did 5.04 last year) and top Singaporean honours (I mean, pink I/C ;-) ). Qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater, Florida, and so Disneyland, here I come!!!
Congratulations to all who competed in yesterday’s race, whether a finisher or not. My sympathies goes out to all who were victim to those nasty thumbtacks on the bike course, a prank taken way too far. And thanks to all who went down to support. Once again, sorry that during a race I hardly acknowledge your cheers because I have tunnel vision when I race.
Anyway, that’s that. For now, hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work I go.