Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Thailand Swimathon (Pattaya) 10km on 9 Dec 2018

The best swim event on the planet

Every year (4 Dec 2016, 2 Dec 2017), I sing the praises of this event, that it is the best swim event going. I have ran out of words but the usual high standards have been maintained, if anything it has got better.
The effort put in by the volunteer Organising Committee every year is incredible. Swimmers get way more value than what they paid for. I hope Malaysia will get to their high standards. We are getting there actually. Our Swimon has a very good group helping it.
The main organisers, Golf and Sgt O
The number of participants in 2018 jumped with many new overseas' swimmers from Korea, Japan, Russia, Bali and Malaysia. The usual number from Spain and Singapore was still there.

The best bit is that, the vast majority of swimmers (275) opted for the longest distance (10km). Very few took part in the 6km, 2km and 1km distances. Many first timers came for the 10km and as far as I can tell, all finished. Compare this with the very high recent Did Not Finish rates at  Pulau Perhentian 16km (30%), Oceanman Langkawi 10km (35%) and Oceanman Krabi 10km (48%). The easy and friendly course format (10 x 1km) at Pattaya is the way to go in our part of the world as swimmers are still not ready to cope with the tough choppy courses.
The dates for 2019 have been confirmed, 7 and 8 Dec 2019. Registration will be open soon. Follow the Thailand Swimathon Facebook page please for updates.
Why its so good?
  • The Thai Demeanour. They smile and are gentle in their demeanour. All Thai people (immigration officials, car rental staff, airport security, race staff, race announcers, swimmers etc) smile easily and are nice to visitors. I know, I married one.
  • The exhilarating course format. 500m out, 500m back, hit the beach (repeat 10 times). You are on a "high" throughout the 10km swim with swimmers always around you, no time to be bored, not even for one second.
    Stretch your legs every one km
  • The best bit is that your wife, loved ones get to see you every one km. They feel a part of the race. Otherwise, its "I didn't see you honey. Where were you"?
    Simple but exciting course format
  • Every one km, the swimmer is back on the beach. They can bask in the atmosphere, pose for photos, eat and drink or transit as fast as they can. Its up to the respective swimmer.
    Quick feed every one km
  • Very safe course. Our part of the world is not really ready for the tough 5km out and 5km back type of course. Our swimmers are still new to Open Water Swimming. When the course is choppy (like Krabi), then about half won't finish.
  • But when the swim is completely in sheltered waters, food and drinks every 1km, support kayaks and jet skis always in plain sight, rest tubes the whole 500m! Well an easy and safe course is exactly what swimmers want. First time 10km swimmers came in large numbers. You know what? They all finished and with a big smile.
  • The Safety Crew is the Royal Thai Navy.
  • Thousands of free quality photos. Hundreds and then thousands of quality photographs were uploaded from the day before and during the day of the event. The same expert photographer from the Royal Thai Navy volunteers every year. He has a team of photographers and drones in support.
  • Quality T shirt for all participants. I like the feel of the T shirt and it's design.
    Korea proudly wearing the event T shirt and medal
  • Quality Hoodie Sweat shirt for all 10km finishers. This must be the only event that gives this to finishers. I'm sure many hang in during the tough moments just to get this hoodie. I have three now.
    The highly coveted Finisher's Hoodie
  • Awards party. Free beer and simple food. Everyone has a smile, even Malaysians. Malaysia Boleh!!
    Brilliant party
  • Cheap official hotel. Carunda Hotel is quite new and has a nice pool. Slightly out of the way.
  • Preecha Seafood. Very close to the race venue. The best value, the best fresh seafood on the planet.
  • Prompt and accurate results with lap breakdown. The FULL RESULTS
My Race
275 or so swimmers started the 10km at 6.30 a.m. sharp. It was a rough and tumble (but not dangerous) start, only slightly less hectic than the start at the Hawaii Ironman World Championships. My heart quickly felt stressed and I slowed down immediately. I kept on slowing down, weary that I might get another heart attack like the one on 18 Dec 2016.
275 swimmers for the 10km
I didn't stop for refreshments after Lap No 1 as it was only 20 minutes into the race. I did stop for refreshments after each subsequent lap, doing it as fast as I could. Looking at the detailed lap results now, I noticed that one saves at least 30 seconds for not taking refreshments. I will seriously consider missing another refreshment stop next year.
After Lap 2, I was swimming with my expected rivals (Tim Johnson, Shauqie Aziz etc) so I was relieved that I had not been left behind. A Russian female swimmer and probably Alyze Ooi weas also in our pack. In long distance swimming, once you have settled into a pace, the pack will probably stay together right until the end.
The Russian lady had a very nice stroke. High finger tip entry and the body build of an accomplished ultra swimmer.

Accurate results with lap breakdown (this is mine)
 It was an exhilarating feeling swimming at probably the fastest speed I have ever done for 10km. The course was full of swimmers. Some were very slow and we either went inside or outside of them. Some 10km and 6km swimmers were faster than us and they did the same to us.
Then before you knew it, you were back at the beach. My wife very excitedly counted the number of laps I had done. Kids screamed as their parents emerged. Stepping on the beach every one km is a very good race format for keeping supporters engaged.
Sea conditions were the best at Pattaya so far. It rained during the night, which meant the course was completely calm on race morning. Even the race tubes kept a perfectly straight line throughout the day, unlike previous years.
At about Lap No. 7 is when the "boys get separated from the men". This is when tiredness sets in. Most started to take longer breaks on the beach. I told myself it was time to go for it and it worked. We seemed to use new muscle groups and actually picked up speed the last few laps.
At the finish, I  had beaten all my rivals except Alyze Ooi. A new course PB. I was very happy.
Job done

Congratulations to the many first timers who have now completed their first 10km swim. I'm sure they are very pleased with themselves. Well done and thank you to the Organisers for making it possible.

Don't miss this event, ever!!

Thank you

Monday, October 29, 2018

Inaugural Brunei Marathon Swim on 21 Oct 2018

My first ever trip to Brunei.
It took a swimming event for me to finally make a trip there. No regrets, all of us four swimmers that made the trip from Kuala Lumpur will most probably return.

Getting there, hotel, internal transport
SUPER CONVENIENT as Brunei is an international airport. Flight time is roughly 2 hours 20 mins from KL. Return air-fare on Air Asia was RM 260 (even cheaper than flying to many local destinations).

Brunei Airport is only 15 minutes from the official hotel (Mulia Hotel) or the race venue (Berakas Forest Reserve Recreational Park) and they were waiting for you at the airport!!!

Race pack collection and a very professional briefing was held at the official Mulia Hotel. Transport (a mini bus just for us) was also provided if you stayed at Mulia Hotel. Plus I found Mulia Hotel to be an excellent hotel, so it really is a good idea to stay there.
A professional race briefing

Visiting the race venue

When we wanted to visit the race venue, the organizer himself took us there and when we wanted to go grocery shopping, it was Huzaime Abbas again. He even contributed the coins to pay for the water.

Everything was close together that even after our  race day swims, we were able to get back to the hotel in time for the buffet breakfast (10.30 a.m.). How cool was that!! But next time they will get the swim distance correct and I won't be able to get back in time for the buffet breakfast.

First impressions of Brunei
It is a developed and peaceful country. People are incredibly hospitable. Everyone was nice to us at the airport,  hotel, race pack collection, during briefing etc. Our personal friends wanted to take us out, but it was a short trip.

We feel the people are happy and well educated.

A lady also inadvertently left her purse on a table that a group of us were sitting at.  She drove off, came back, it was still there, alhamdullilah she exclaimed. So they are honest too.

They are sporty
I understand the country officially encourages sport. We could see runners running near the stadium, cyclists on the roads (some cycled to the event) and there was a public pool right next to our hotel. 

At the showers after the swim, they were casually talking about the triathlons they had done and the places they mentioned was quite mind boggling (Cork - Ireland, Florida, North Carolina, Switzerland etc). I guess the country has done well.

Race Venue
Held at the beach of the Berakas Forest Reserve Recreational Park. Its quite an interesting Forest Reserve with places to picnic, change, surau etc.

The beach faces the open sea, i.e. its not protected by a bay, marina etc. When we went on Saturday evening, the currents and waves looked quite strong.

The beach and park is clean.

Race Course
It was a good idea to make the "10 km", 4 laps of 2.5km. Its easier to control and keeps swimmers close to the shore.

Very experienced swimmer, Jose could straight away tell that each lap was not even 2 km long. He was correct.

Feeding was near a turnaround buoy close to the shore, every 2.5 km. A few officials would stand in waist deep water handing out nutrition. I liked this as swimmers could stand  to drink and down their gels.

Actual Swim
Four stooges from KL

The "10km" started at 7.00 a.m. It was drizzling lightly the whole morning and the sea was quite calm. All the buoys were quite visible and I noticed that one could swim in a reasonable straight line without sighting often.

The first lap was only 1.7km on my Garmin 935. The total after 4 laps was only 7 km, so we could have gone another 2 laps to make it closer to 10 km.
Job done

I'm not complaining, this was the first long distance international swim in Brunei and we all knew a lot of effort by many sports enthusiasts had been put in.

Goodies for swimmers
All swimmers received two T shirts, medal, towel, bag etc.
10 km podium finishers also received Brunei Dollars 300, 250 or 200 for third placing.
We missed the actual prize giving, sorry

Brunei Marathon Swim 2018 Race Info

Brunei Marathon Swim 2018 Results

Instagram / Photos of event etc

Will we return?
For sure. THANK YOU to Huzaime Abbas and Race Director, Faizal and the huge team supporting them.

I think this event will be attractive for swimmers coming from Singapore as its only one flight stop away and internal transport is provided.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Oceanman Krabi 10km Swim on 14 Oct 2018

Thailand, always a wonderful sporting destination
For me, it's Thailand that knows how to hold sporting events. They are nice to visitors, smile a lot, gentle in their demeanour, respect elders and are able to get amazing sponsors. I've never had a bad moment there.
I started going there in 1994 for the Laguna Phuket Triathlon at the extremely plush Laguna Beach Resort. That first event in 1994 was jaw dropping for me. Just two weeks after the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon World Championships (which was my first Ironman), all of my heroes, the Professional Triathletes were there to wind down their season. We were bumping into the Pros (Mike Pigg, Mark Allen, Paula Newby, Karen Smyers, Simon Lessing, Lothar Leder, Wendy Ingraham) just everywhere. They turned out to be just simple folks.
The host hotel, Laguna Beach Resort was the most plush Resort I had ever been to. The food at the Awards Dinner was amazing, one buffet table had only ice cream on it, nothing else. First time I was exposed to luxurious Thai hospitality. Subsequent Triathlons and Marathons there were still good but not the dizzying heights of the first year (1994).
For the past two or three years for me, it was just open water swim events. Whilst they may be at nice beach locations, all of the swims I've participated in, didn't have the full backing of a luxury hotel, until now. Oceanman Krabi had the full backing of the luxurious Dusit Thani Beach Resort, only in Thailand this happens.
Dusit Thani Krabi  Beach Resort
The Dusit Thani Krabi  Beach Resort was the official host hotel for the inaugural Oceanman swim event in Thailand. They made their luxurious grounds available as the Race Secretariat, hosted the carbo loading dinner and Awards Dinner. I have not seen this happen for a swim event.
The Klong Muang Beach and sun set was also very nice. I have never been to Krabi, which is one of the top tourist spots in the world. I quite like Krabi. It is quieter than Pattaya or Phuket. Much easier to drive. The car rental at the airport was super cheap. I can hardly wait returning to Krabi for many years to come.
Apart from The Dusit Thani, the event was also supported by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Provincial Government, The Governor, Tourist Police, Thailand's Navy Rescue etc.
Thailand Swimathon
In 2016, Thailand Swimathon organized an incredibly successful international swim event at Pattaya. They repeated the event in 2017, again a very well done event. In between they organized a 12km swim from Koh Pha Ngan to Koh Samui. All really excellent events with a very high focus on swimmers' safety.
So I am very familiar with the organisers (Anusit and Auttapon). I know swimmers will get a wonderful and safe swim experience, way above the entry fee paid when they are involved.
Getting there
Air Asia flies there regularly. A car can be rented through Air Asia Go easily and cheaply. Hotel bookings are easy to do, depending on one's budget.
There are islands, rock climbing, tigers, trekking, caves etc. A great and still quiet destination to visit.

We stayed along a quiet road not far from the Klong Muang Beach. With a rented car, it wasn't difficult to find restaurants and grocery shops.

The Day Before The Race
The Race Secretariat was at the plush grounds of the Dusit Thani. The supervised swim course was open for training. I saw the Thai Navy Rescue so very hard at work setting up the course.
Klong Muang Beach - Day before the race

Carbo Loading Dinner with Duy Luong, my swimming friend from Vietnam
 Briefing was carried out just before the Carbo Loading Dinner by Auttapon. The Dinner was crowded as everyone was there with their loved ones.

The actual swim - 10km

The Swim Course

The swim course for all distances was quite similar. Out parallel to the coastline, right 90 degrees for a few meters, then back to the start. For the 10km, swimmers go out 4.8km, right for 400m going behind Ko Deang (island) then back to the start.

Whilst interesting, there was a few problems with the 10km course:
  1. After going out for about 3km, the course did not receive the protection of the peninsula coastline. It was just the open sea. Waves and currents were actually the strongest I have ever encountered,  close to the turnaround (Ko Daeng).
  2. For about 500m, 10km swimmers were swimming through rubbish. Not sure where the rubbish came from.
  3. Many rocks at the turnaround. It was very dangerous with the unexpected very strong currents. Approximately half the 10km swimmers were safely rescued by the Thai Navy Rescue Team (hoorah).
  4. I wonder how many swimmers actually went around the turnaround buoy. It took me a very long time and unfortunately I saw  swimmers that didn't.
  5. There were no turnaround referees.
  6. The feeding boat behind the island couldn't hold its position.
  7. On the way back, swimmers were taken off course by the strong currents. We didn't see the marker buoys or even the  last feeding boat. But it was much faster swimming back inspite going off course.
  8. There was a very visible "natural course marker" (Dragon Crest mountain tip) that swimmers could have easily used for sighting purposes on the way back, but unfortunately we didn't know about this.
It was unfortunate that on race morning, the currents were unexpectedly very strong. The Thai Navy Rescue did an excellent job. All swimmers came back safely.
The 10km actual swim
The 10km started at 6.36 a.m. The sea looked beautiful and super calm from the beach. Buoys were  visible on the way out. I consciously missed the first feeding boat at about 2.6km. Oceanman Krabi did not allow swimmers to touch the feeding boats or kayaks on the course.
At about 3km swimmers had to swim through rubbish.
Currents were really strong at about 4km, the strongest I have ever encountered. I barely missed the rocks, phew. I knew the situation was very dangerous for average swimmers as even advanced swimmers could barely cope. In fact even swimmers that  have swam 16km, 61km etc had to be rescued.
Anyway I managed to go around the two turnaround buoys and the swim back was also an adventure. I overtook many swimmers on the way back.
 It was an exciting finish with my close friends from Malaysia. We loved the adrenalin rush. 


Suggestions for improvements
I absolutely love this event and appreciate the excellent work done by Anusit in securing a luxury hotel as the host and the excellent work done by Auttapon and the Thai Navy Rescue. All swimmers were saved.
The suggestions:
  1. Two laps of 5km (2 x 5km) and all problems would be solved. Avoid Ko Daeng.
  2. Advise swimmers to use the Dragon Crest mountain tip as their sighting point.
  3. More marker buoys
  4. Have referees at the turnaround buoys.

The grandest prize giving dinner I have attended for a swim event. Free for swimmers.
The Malaysia Boleh went very well
All the prize winners

My turn
Results are here.
116 swimmers started the 10km. Only 61 swimmers officially finished (52%). I was 23rd overall.


Thank you Oceanman Krabi for the best Oceanman I have participated in. I will definitely return for many years.


Thursday, October 11, 2018

16 km Solo Swim Around Pulau Perhentian Besar on 6 October 2018

Always with my wife
It was a big relief for us that no serious safety incident took place. No injuries from propellers, no heart attacks etc. just a few jelly fish stings, which is nothing.
I guess the standby ambulance, standby speedboat, various safety gadgets in each boat were all not used. These items increases the entry fee, but we need to have these safety precautions in place. If there was a serious safety incident, this event and Open Water Swimming  in Malaysia might come to a halt.

Privately, I was so happy that Malaysia has pulled this off. We probably only started Open Water Swimming seriously in 2016 and its only the second year that Perhentian has this event. This is the longest Open Water Swimming event in South East Asia and we pulled it off. Just marvelous.

Big increase in swimmers from 2017
107 solo swimmers took part in the 4 km, whilst 24 solo swimmers (15 males and 9 females) and 40 duos or quad swimmers took part in the 16 km circumnavigation swim of Pulau Perhentian Besar. So there was a total of 171 swimmers this year, a big increase from 2017 especially in international participants.
The 24 solo starters for the 16 km is a good increase from last year's 15 starters. Its difficult to get huge solo numbers for a long distance swim event. For example the long running Clean Half Extreme Marathon Swim (15 km) that also took place on 6 October 2018, only had 10 starters for the solo swim but huge numbers for the relays. 
Only 17 (71%) swimmers (10 males and 7 females) finished the Perhentian 16 km this year versus 11 swimmers (73%) in 2017. What was mind boggling was that, only one Malaysian Male (myself) and one Malaysian Female (Jessie), finished in 2018. Jessie was outstanding being Champion Female and Second Overall to Jose, whilst I was last male finisher.
The build up (behind the scenes)
Preparations started shortly after last year's 16 September event. The Organisers decided that the event would be held on the first weekend of October as this was the earliest possible date to get the huge number of boats required. Actually the date for 2019  has been confirmed, 5 October 2019. Perhentian will always be on the first weekend of October.
Suggestions came thick and fast from the enthusiastic Perhentian WhatsApp group that Amir created. To his credit, he considers all suggestions made. Registration opened months ahead. The same lifeguards (Aquaputra Putrjaya), medics (EMS) and timekeepers that Swimon uses for its events were retained. The members of the Organising Committee are essentially the same from event to event. Many attended FINA and lifesaving courses at their own expense.
By the time of the Perhentian event, the Committee and support teams were familiar with each other and had acquired much expertise in open water swimming. As 6 October neared, more suggestions came thick and fast.
So I would say on 6 October 2018, everything went quite smoothly. Though we were all very stressed as many things could still go wrong unexpectedly, for example, the weather.
5 Oct 2018 (the day before)
For me and my wife, living close to the secondary Subang Airport, it was incredibly convenient. We could wake up at our usual morning time, breeze through Subang and Kota Baru Airports, take a Grab to Besut Jetty  and use the boat company (Safe Park) recommended by Swimon. Safe Park is RM 10 off the usual rate per person, each way and they seem to have the most boats. My wife and I were on Perhentian by 12.30 p.m., quite incredible.
Its so nice to be back here
For those coming from Singapore for example, its much more stressful. They have to take two flights with a transit in KL, but it is still possible to get to Perhentian by say 3.30 p.m.

Race briefing, race pack collection and Buffet Dinner for 16 km participants was at 6 p.m. at Perhentian Island ResortFor 2019, PIR will be the central Hotel for the race on 5 October.

Luckily I had proof read the Race Book in detail for Amir. So when he told me to do the briefing, I was able to do it with assistance from Amir, Yoshi and Philip. Yoshi and Philip held the loud hailer whilst I flipped through the pages of the Race Book. In 2019, we hope to do a better briefing with microphones etc. For me, it was wonderful to see many new faces from overseas and they were actually quite OK to me.

But on the eve of the Race, we the organisers were still very worried how race day would turn out.

6 Oct 2018 (before the start)
The weather was fine, a relief.
To be frank the morning was chaotic (I guess we have to improve this part). 4km and 16km swimmers met in front of the REEF Hotel. The Thai Restaurant right beside the REEF Hotel gave some swimmers (including me) a big bag of ice for free, what luck. This particular restaurant served the best food of all the eating spots. But they were about to close the business down.

Philip took charge and gave a short briefing. Thong led the warm up. The boats were late as they could only start moving  from the mainland after sun rise. When they did arrive, everyone rushed on the small Barat Jetty which looked like it was going to sink (this part where swimmers and boatmen meet, we have to improve). I had the same boat as in 2017, so I had no problems.

Solos, Duos and Team Quads started at the same time at 8.30 a.m. There were about 40 swimmers.

We met the boats at the 1 km point. I was quite concerned about this meeting point as last year it was chaotic. But surprisingly it was quite orderly. The boats were lined up in a smart line on the outside, whilst the swimmers swam on the inside close to the island. I also didn't smell any fumes this year.
I think the matching of swimmers with their respective boats went quite well, we were off.

Until 4 km - quite flat
It only started to get choppy at the first big left corner. Last year the 4.5km ended at the beach nearby and it was also choppy. Many boats and swimmers went closely around the corner and continued to hog the coastline. I feel this was a mistake as one should actually swim from "corner to corner" in a straight line to get the shortest distance. The disadvantage of this strategy was that the sea was much more choppy the further one gets from the shore.

It was at this corner that swimmers started to spread out and the sea became choppy all the way until the last big corner at about 12.5km.

4 km to 12.5 km - choppy
From 4km right until the last big corner at about 12.5km, it was choppy. Not super choppy like in 2016, but it was choppy. Some boatmen advised their swimmers to hog the coastline where it was less choppy. But I preferred to take the shortest straight line between two corners.

I sort of know from experience, that in choppy conditions, the energy expended by the swimmer still has to remain constant. If a swimmer was to fight the waves, the swimmer will run out of energy very quickly.

Slower swimmers will not be able to progress forward during this choppy part. They might be swimming on the spot or even go backwards. So the slow swimmers will stop here.

For fast pool swimmers who are new to long distance sea swims. They will be wondering why they are not moving. The bobbing up and down will also be a new sensation and it goes on without letting up for hours. If one is not careful, negative thoughts will overpower the swimmer and they will stop.

The drop out rate for solo swimmers was about 30%, same as in 2017. A 16 km swim in the deep blue sea is not for fun swimmers. I think a swimmer needs to be able to swim 6km in about 2 hours in the pool, otherwise they won't make the cut off.

Even some duo and quad  teams could not make the cut off. Slow swimmers won't be able to progress forward when the sea is choppy.

Any jelly fish or painful planktons?
Only a little. I did see ONE monster jelly fish, but over 16 km this was nothing. I did see many baby jelly fishes. I'm not sure if I did get stung. There were no painful planktons unlike last year. So overall I would say, conditions were very good.

Was the sea crystal clear?
No, unlike in previous years. The sea was of course clean and crystal but the colourful schools of fishes and beautiful underwater rock formations were missing, for me anyway.

12.5 km to the finish
After the last big corner, one could actually see the big mosque on Pulau Perhentian Kecil. This big mosque became the new target. Also, the choppy waters stopped. The sea became quite calm.

I swam beside Emily the whole stretch.

It became a bit confusing once we entered the finishing Bay (Teluk Pauh) due to the presence of other boats and various buoys (we will improve this part next year), but we weren't rushing and just did whatever the escort kayaks took us.

So I finished side by side with Emily in 6 hours 41 mins (one hour slower than last year but 20 mins faster than in 2016).
Job done. Thank you
No complaints, a finish is a finish. I was so, so tired. During the prize giving, I was dozing off in my wooden chair. Its always great to hear the 4 km swimmers still with much energy cheering everyone. I think the 16 km swimmers were very subdued.
I was last male finisher, the only Malaysian male finisher, the oldest
Jessie Wong
Female Champion in a course record of 4:51, beating a strong international field. She was the second individual overall and the only Malaysian female to finish. The most incredible performance by a Malaysian amateur swimmer I have seen. 
Jessie and Sumai

Jose Lois Larossa 
Jose came to our shores in 2016 and the sport has progressed leaps and bounds.
With good swimmers, it looks like they are breathing below the water level
Male Champion in a new course record time of 4:07, even more incredible when we consider that last year was not as choppy. Jose was first overall beating even the very strong relay teams. What a performance.
First Overall
Kevin Yeap
We are honoured to have the 2017 SEA Games' Gold Medalist in the 10 km Open Water Swim, participating in our event. Partnering his girlfriend, who I understand is also a National swimmer, this very lovely couple easily won the Mixed Duos.
Limited Media Coverage
The event was immediately reported by the  Daily News / Open Water Swimming. Thank you Mr Steven Munatones. Unfortunately there was no coverage in the local media.
Was the event a success?
Oh YES. Definitely a YES.

From the Organiser's point of view, we were relieved that there was no serious safety incident. The ambulance team that came from KL, the dedicated speedboat on standby were not required.
The many boat propellers, didn't endanger the swimmers this time due to the lengthy briefing with the boat men. The personal safety buoys that was made compulsory, is key for the safety of swimmers.

I just knew that the event went very well. I asked many foreign swimmers and absolutely all were very happy and the general consensus was that the event went perfectly ("perfecto"). They will all come back and bring their friends. We knew we nailed it by everyone's good mood during prize giving.

We are already discussing them.
  1. Lets go back to calling the event "16km Swim Around Perhentian Island". The word "Challenge" is used for too many silly things.
  2. We could do with a briefing for the 4km swimmers on 4 Oct 2019.
  3. Boats at 1 km could be arranged in sequence of Bib No. Easier for swimmers to find their boats.
  4. Bib nos could be by seeding to reduce crossing of boats at 1 km.
  5. 16 km start to be later at 9 a.m. so that there is more time for swimmers to meet their boatmen and to reduce the congestion on the Barat Jetty.
  6. The 16 km finishing chute to be clearer.
  7. Race briefing to have proper microphone, room etc (not sure if possible).
  8. Race briefing slides to be prepared. Oops that's me.
  9. Local media coverage would be nice.
  10. All boats must have ladders.

And of course, the good things we are already doing have to be maintained. Can't rest on one's laurels.

The date for all future events has been set for the first Saturday of October. So for 2019, the event will be on 5 October 2019. The Perhentian Island Resort will be the central hotel.

Finally, the all important Organising Committee
The main regular members are:
  1. Amir. Race Director and sole owner of event
  2. Sumai. Chief Secretariat (all rounder, does everything)
  3. Cherish Chin. Chief Safety Officer and all rounder.
  4. Yoshi. Course Officer, Lifeguard. His wife is one of the competent photographers.
  5. Philip Tan. Chief Referee. Swimmer, Surf Life Saver etc
  6. Julia and Azizul (very helpful all rounders)
  7. Afiq. Timekeeper, Referee
  8. Many others, even Tip, Joey helps out
That Open Water Swimming has a future and has been progressing steadily in Malaysia, is  due to having a competent Organising Committee. With each event, they keep on improving bit by bit. They work well together and they work selflessly.

Many have attended FINA Courses. Many officiated at the Asian Open Water Swimming Championships and SEA Games in 2017. Many are Life Savers, swimmers or swimming instructors.

Its because of this Committee, we are able to enjoy safe Open Water Swimming events in Malaysia. So THANK YOU.

An international crowd
Swimmers travelled from Austria (Babara, 2nd Female), New Zealand (Alessandra Cima, 5th Female, English Channel swimmer), Australia (Liz Pinches etc), Spain (Raquel, 3rd Female and others), Korea (Yang, 9th Male) and many from Singapore (Claire, Derek, Alvin Neo, Paul Agaytant and the very many teams). We know it couldn't have been easy getting to the island.

Thank you to all swimmers for taking part, See you all at Perhentian on 5 October 2019.


Friday, September 21, 2018

12km Inaugural Putrajaya Core Island Swim (1 Sep 2018)

Putrajaya - background
Putrajaya is the Federal Administrative centre of Malaysia, meaning all Federal Government offices have recently relocated there.
Many beautiful buildings at Putrajaya
It is a specially planned city, built from scratch, the construction of which started less than 20 years ago. It is a super beautiful city, I should think one of the most beautiful in the world. There are many beautiful buildings, mosques, bridges, wide roads and a Lake. In this Lake is a "Core Island" which has many buildings of its own. The distance around the island is less than 11 km, but because we started and finished at the Kelab Tasik Putrajaya, the swim distance came to about 12 km. Kelab Tasik Putrajaya itself is a kayaking / SUP centre. It also has a gym and a restaurant with a view of the Lake. Lately, Swimon has been having its swim series there.

History of OWS at Putrajaya Lake
The famous Malaysian English Channel swimmer, Datuk Abdul Malik Mydin had more than ten years ago, swam around the Core Island. No one else has done the swim or been given permission, until us on 1 Sep 2018.

Currently PPJ and Swimon are both very keen to hold more OWS events at the Lake. The intention is to make the Putrajaya Lake a top OWS destination (very possible, I think).
A little bit further away is  Precint 6's Water Sports Centre, where the Oceanman, SEA Games, Asian OWS Championships etc have been held. Then there have been international triathlons and duathlons held at Putrajaya.
During weekends, the office complex becomes a ghost town as there are no shops. So that's when KL residents come over to cycle, run, kayak or swim in the many pools at Putrajaya.

The Core Island swim that we did on 1 Sep was so amazingly beautiful and safe that I feel Putrajaya Lake, is going to be the new hotbed for OWS in Malaysia.

The Organisation behind the swim
We all know, Swimon (Amir) is the organizer. He is "a kampong boy from Terengganu" but has to-date organized many successful and safe swimming events all over Malaysia. I have watched him grown from strength to strength in the swimming world but he has always remained humble. He always listens to suggestions by swimmers, has never gotten angry with anyone and gets along well with all members of his organising team. In turn, his team (mostly women) are happy to follow him wherever he goes. I really wish him every success because that would mean swimmers would have more swims to participate in.

The future of Open Water Swimming in Malaysia. A very competent Crew.
The ten participants were specially selected by Amir, all well known to him and to each other, and all have swam in a 10 km event.

To support the ten swimmers was a crew of about 30 skilled people, comprising one kayaker per swimmer, 3 medical personnel and an ambulance, lifeguards (Aquaputra Putrajaya), Marine Police, PPJ personnel, 3 support boats and a super capable Organising Committee (Amir, Julia, Cherish and Afiq) etc.

Its important that the sport of Open Water Swimming has these events, even small ones as it develops the skills of everyone involved. I feel that with the many events that Amir has organized in 2018, the sport is moving along very well. Baring a tragic incident happening, we all can look forward to more OWS events.

Informal support was also provided by three top photographers, PPJ staff and swimmers' family members (my wife, Joey, little Elysa etc).

After the swim there was a nice lunch / prize giving at the Kelab graced by Dato' Omairi Bin Hj Hashim from PPJ. This was the first time ever, since participating in about 200 events, that I  received a framed certificate. Such an incredible gesture, we were made to feel so important. Thank you Organiser.
Doc Fauzi Othman came to see us off
Before the start
The atmosphere was very relaxed. We knew each other very well. The bantering had started weeks earlier in our WhatsApp group.
Bob, my outstanding kayaker
Swimmers were introduced to their respective kayaker. Amir, Afiq (Chief Referee) and Cherish (Chief Safety Officer) all gave their briefings.  Everything was very professional, we even wore electronic timing bracelets.

Swimmers and crew before the start
The actual swim
Swimmers about to start
The swim started at 7.58 a.m. We swam anti clockwise. Very quickly the swim packs were set. Serge Dominichini was way out in front on his own. Then there was a group comprising Sabki, Emily, Claire and myself. The others came behind swimming on their own, I understand.

Swim conditions
Conditions were actually perfect. It was cloudy for a good few hours. There was no wind or waves for almost the whole way. No jelly fish of course. Some swimmers reported seeing fishes and even a large monitor lizard in the Lake.
For me, the water was clean, no complaints.

The first 9 km
I found myself at the back of my group (fifth overall). There seemed to be a large number of kayaks, observers and swimmers with their safety buoys in front of me. I couldn't for the life of me figure out why I was doing so poorly. Try as I might, I couldn't narrow the gap to Sabki, the one armed swimmer. I was in awe of him.
Close together for 9 km

For a good 9km, Sabki was close by
Mentally, I was starting to come up with my excuses. My arms and shoulders were so painful, there seemed to be nothing left in them. The good thing going for me was that I was regularly taking my quick breaks for nutrition and my legs were fresh. 

Always close to my kayaker, Bob

My beloved kayaker (Bob) told me that Serge was so far ahead that he was about to finish. I was in fourth place overall by now, but one of the swimmers in front had not been taking his nutrition breaks. I decided it was all or nothing right at that moment with 3km to go. My legs had not been used, so I kicked for all I was worth. Previously, I seldom utilized my kick as I didn't think it helped.
Overhead shots by Fiz Said
 The last 3 km
Once I  decided it was all or nothing, I found myself in joint second with Emily. Her strokes were fast and firm. No way I could take her, I thought.
But Bob was probably the best kayak escort on duty. He was always on my breathing side (my left) and deviced his own hand signals which I could understand.
Slugging it out with Emily
Finishing soon
 I only needed to look at my kayaker the last 3 km rather than looking ahead which is very tiring. Emily is close he signaled. Emily is very close, he kept on signaling.
I realized Emily kayaker's had gone off course. So I got lucky and was able to get clear of Emily only in the last 100m.
Last few meters

Job done, just
I found the whole swim to be stressful due to the close proximity of other swimmers. The route was beautiful but I didn't give it one look as I was trying to keep up with the other swimmers. I was so surprised at around 9 km, I was finally able to overtake Sabki, quite easily actually.
Then it was a neck and neck fight with Emily. So exciting, it felt like our own little Olympics.

Many positives
Definitely one of the best sporting events I have ever participated the last 34 years.
  1. We were made to feel special. Only ten participants.
  2. A full support crew (30 people) to support us.
  3. A historic event. Not easy to get permission to swim around the island.
  4. Beautiful scenery.
  5. Clean water. Whilst the water  was pitch black, I felt that the water was quite clean. No e-coli. After the swim, our bodies were not sticky like after a sea swim.
  6. No jelly fish.
  7. Close proximity to our respective homes. No need to take flights, book hotels etc.
  8. Wonderful prize giving lunch.
  9. All of us receiving a framed certificate was a wonderful gesture.
  10. Many top quality pictures and videos available for free. Perfect for our memories.
Its all about the Crew and we have it

Trophies for all swimmers

Framed certificates for all. Thank you Datuk

The swimmers

Swimmers' Testimonials
Amir (Organiser):
"Not sure I can repeat this. Maybe it was my sweetest memory of a swim event ever".

Serge (Champion):
"I feel the same about it - great event and very scenic swim. Almost no animals, except for a big monitor lizard".

Wonderful event Amir, Cherish, Afiq, Julia, PPJ, Polis, Medical, Photographers, fellow swimmers and family members.