On Saturday, 10/5/2008, the trip to A'famosa was marred by a nasty traffic jam which'd started somewhere after Nilai interchange until 2km before Seremban exit. It was a horrendous 2-hour journey for a short stretch and the crawl was at least 20km long. Darn..!! I cursed the bad luck. Certainly, it was not a good sign at all as the Sprint Event registration was supposed to close at 2pm and the event kick-off time was as 430pm. A very stressful and tired journey.
I checked my registration number on the board, looked down at the list and yes, found my name. Sprint event. I went to the official table and suddenly.....Out of nowhere, i'd asked the girl if i can switch and do Olympic Distance (1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run) instead. And she said, yes. Unexpected 2. Honestly, the split decision was taken because of me feeling slightly exhausted from the journey coupled with mental stress. But could be because i felt kinda jittery over the whole event?. Maybe too.
Friends and supporters were surprised as i was not at the starting line for the Sprint event.
Lotsa questions followed later,
Those who knew im here to compete asked, "How come you havent dressed up yet? They are starting already."
Those who'd heard im doing A'famosa tri, "You are not doing Sprint, meh? Are you sure? or you'd chickened out last minute?"
Those whom i just got to know at the registration table, "You came to support your mates, huh?You came just to witness the event?"
Aiyaaa, byk betul larr soklan.
Anyway, the Sprint event went on as planned and i watched the competitors going through the sequence of swimming, biking and running. I took the opportunity to observe, learn and take note of the critical points of a tri race. Remember, ive never done the sport neither ive been training specifically to compete for the sport and it was only three days ago that i decided i would give it a try. Thus, it was a very good exposure to watch the Sprint event in action. I spent a lot of time at the transition area observing the proceedings. An eye opener of what to expect the next day.
Later the same nite, we had the official Carbo-Loading Dinner. I tell you, massive dinner plate for me. It has been a long time since i had pasta, mashed potato, lemon chicken, fish nuggets and all in one plate. Makan kaw2 bang.... i also brought back a bunch of bananas for breakfast.
After dinner, went back to the room and prepared my essentials for tomorrow's race.
I told myself, "Everything's ready, mate." while clutching my hands, quietly.
Then, i went to bed at around 11pm.
I did the ritual visualisation of the race by imagining the route and the atmosphere of the event. My so-called final mental preparation. However, it turned out to be a disaster. Unexpected 3.
The visuals just refused to leave me in peace on the nite. It kept coming back every few minutes. I was tossing and turning but still it wont left me alone. I think race anxiety got over me already. My eyes wouldnt close at all. I was still awake at around 345am and we're supposed to wake-up around 530am for breakfast and final preparation. Disaster... disaster... not enough rest and sleep are a big 'No-No' before a race.
On Sunday, 11/5/2008, I woke-up at 530am. After the dawn prayer and a couple of toilets sessions - I had bananas, bun and cereal for an early breakfast. By 630am, i was out of the room and went straight to the transition area. Prep my bike and went for body marking. I had my body marked, "292". Yeah, that's my race number.
At 8am, we're at the starting line. The swimming course. We had to complete a two-loop of the island in the middle of the lake. Look at me, nervous like hell. I was the 'biggest' and 'largest' of the lot. I had many eyes on me with curious and suspicious look.
Deep inside me, i said "Say whateva you wanna say. I am doing this for my own good. Im racing against myself and im only competing against the my biggest enemy, me. I will defeat me." My hands were trembling.
The gun went off and i started breaststroking slowly. The better swimmers must be annoyed having this dugong swimming among them and blocking their way. Swimmers were shoving and kicking each other... haha... i felt a sense of anger at one point as i got kicked and slapped many times. One after another, they overtook me with ease.
I had never swam 1.5km at one go ever in my life and one could imagine the negative thinking i had in my mind at that time. The strategy was to keep going and survive the course in one piece. DNF is not an option. I kept telling myself that i wanted to come out from the water and see my son. (see the previous post where i'd my son's photo on my handle bar).
...and he did brought me out of the water.
By the time i reached T1, there were less than 10 bicycles left. Look at the empty rack above. Well, at least im not the last one to come out from the water. I was elated. haha. Go Upiq, Go..!
Here, we go again. Exiting T1. Huffing and puffing before mounting the bike.
For the bike course, 40km, the strategy was try to catch-up with those in front. Wishful thinking, of course. The first part of the course was rolling hills which drained my energy out quite considerably. Mid-way through, i reached for my drinks only to find out that i'd left them behind in the freezer in our room!! Big time mistake. Struggling. Struggling.
Final hill climb. Nasty climb. I saw a rider had dismounted and walked up the uphill.
I kept telling myself to keep it going. I fired myself up by remembering those nasty comments, teasing, unpleasant memories about me being the guy with extra all the extra baggage around his huge belly. By end of today, these people will eat their own words.
I was determined to prove my critics wrong.
By the time i reached T2, there were almost no one around. Even the 100 plus served at the water station were diluted already. Oh shit.
It's almost 11 o'clock now and my legs were wobbly like jello coming out from the transition area. It was almost a kilometre later than i felt my legs were up and running.
The strategy was to 'hop' from one water station to the other. Walk on an uphill, run on a downhill and slow jog on flat areas. 10km run.
Physically, I was drained already. Luckily, no sign of cramping or injury. I took 1 Powerbar and 1 Powergel.
5km in. My body was beaten. Im walking more than running now. It was really tough running alone. You and the tarmac. There's no one in front or at the back.
What kept me going were the thought of loved ones, the thought of those who constantly making me a laughing stock, the thought of all the time i spent training alone and the sufferings i went through, the thought of me breaking my self-belief etc.
3km to go. I saw my mates from far. They were on the bikes. They must have finished the race but now, tracking and searching back for me. I felt a sense of gratefulness. These are the ones who'd tirelessly rendering countless support, encouragement, time and energy all this while. Suddenly, i felt renewed. Step by step my legs were running again. My friends cheered me on and pushed me from the back.
By now, my determination is bigger than me. My mind is stronger than my body. My eyes saw want I wanted. My heart screaming for victory. I wanted to complete the race so badly. Never once i felt like quitting and the real challenge is actually to see whether I will quit.
It was an emotional finish. I burst into tears. Tears of joy. I just couldnt describe the feeling in words. I wished i can and share it with everyone.
No 292. You're not a quitter. You have defeated your No 1 enemy, yourself.
My watch showed i'd completed the race in slightly less than 4 hours including transition timing.
If there anything i've learned from the race were.... to belief in yourself and never quit.
The A'famosa Triathlon maybe a race to many but for me, it was race of my life.