Saturday, March 20, 2010

Oops, still about IM China


Yes Juliana Ali, I did cry. Tears did flow uncontrollably as I read all the lovely comments from you and everyone else that morning just before work. I guess I am not used to such adulation.

I think all of us participants know that it is a very emotional day. Up to now, I have never actually shed tears until IM MY 2010. For a week, in the still of each morning as I looked back, I did. And now, IM China too. You asked.......



I have already said she was a very very nice person. Read her blog. How she rested a participant's head on her lap for a good twenty minutes. Now that one you need a tissue box.


Cycling through the ancient chinese village was a once in a lifetime experience

Why I have not "messed" around

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


"We may race alone, but we are never alone". From our own Paul Lee.

You all had me in your hearts. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart (don't cry Sofian):

  1. My wife
  2. Emma
  3. Simon, Ong, Hoo, Carmen & Miro
  4. Sam Pritchard
  5. Robyn Stanley
  6. P M Tey
  7. Paul Lee
  8. Peter Chan
  9. OP A.J.
  10. OP C.K. & Jaja (just delivered a baby girl - congrats)
  11. OP Stupe
  12. OP Chan
  13. OP SK
  14. OP Upiq
  15. Abu Power
  16. Juliana Ali
  17. Denis Oakley
  18. Kevin Siah & Li Ann
  19. Mac & Adeline
  20. Richard Tang
  21. Mon
  22. Yip
  23. Dr Tan
  24. K K Lee
  25. Ivie Ong and Randy Tan

Many life long friendships forged. With this we end our Chapter on IM China and the current list of races.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

IM China Race Report

The race is "similar" to our Miri race. With 50 (more than IM MY) Kona slots up for grab and only 364 participating, it attracts the serious crowd. People who are there strictly for the Kona slots, hardly any families in tow.

The race was a real opportunity for Malaysians to attend a cheap overseas IM race. There are rumours that the budget airline would not fly there anymore. Also rumours that Hainan would no longer host the race. However, still not many turned up.


We arrived very sleepily on Friday. Wow not a ray of sunshine and cool weather the whole day (however by Sunday, the weather had turned on its head). I could spot Belinda Granger running from miles away (the wife was not happy, ha ha). I wouldn't classify Hainan as a top tourist destination. The road to the Hotel was not actually scenic.

It was a good idea to stay at the main official hotel. The staff could speak English and were helpful. The Pros were all there (wow what an opportunity to rub shoulders). As everything was expensive, we took the free hotel shuttle to a modern supermarket. Shopping there was a laugh as we didn't know the language. But no one stared at us and all were very helpful.

It was great to see familiar faces in the TBB bike mechanics (Joe, Azmil and Ali). Registration and the Race Office were very helpful.

Carbo Loading. The extra ticket for Tip cost RMB195. As it was at a swank Hotel, food was quite good (mostly pasta stuff). I followed Simon's lead (ha ha) and took back to the room bananas and oranges. Whit made a few announcements and that was it. It was just dinner, no performances. Very friendly Pro, Jocelyn Wong (10 hr 20 min at IM MY) provided the only "entertainment" by courageously requesting to borrow a wet suit. All the "Malaysians" took one table and we were joined by Brian and John from Canada and Walter from Florida. Since it was expensive, I took my time eating.


I am adverse to practice swims since you just end up spending hours putting the wet suit on the wrong way or getting sea sick from the cold choppy water or getting stung by jelly fish. So we instead spent hours enjoying the expensive breakfast that we had earlier paid for. Lunch was the cheap noodles that we bought from the supermarket.

I did test the bicycle (10 km) on the nearby harrowing roads and ran 15 minutes before the briefing (the briefing was so well done, I have already talked about it). Later, I cycled (8.6 km) to the bike check in whilst Tip took the shuttle bus. Bike check in was fun (see the photos). Even the IM MY bike check in was fun, right. Its when we see everyone, take pictures and have a laugh.

We treated ourselves to the hotel buffet dinner at 6 p.m. It was fun, Miro joined us and we spent our time watching everyone else, savouring the moment. I am not sure how 7 out of 9 female Pros (according to female Pro Miranda) got food poisoning. I learnt from IMWA and avoided all the milky stuff. Food was mostly pasta (the Hotel knew what they were doing). Early to bed as usual.


Hmm, my neighbour's alarm sounds just like mine. Five minutes later, heck that was my alarm. Breakfast was my favourite 3 in 1 coffee from Msia, PowerBar and the Hotel bananas (following Simon's lead).

Shuttle buses were every 15 minutes. We took the 5.30 am one I think. People were smiling on the bus, nice.

Bike preparation went smoothly, ably assisted by TBB. The problem was the portable loos, no light and no water in them. Some lady puked as she went in one.


There was a place to leave your glasses and slippers. The atmosphere was fun. Managed to take photos with all the "Malaysians". I thought of going for a dip but the sensation from the cold river suddenly changed my mind.

I apologise for thinking and telling everyone that the swim route was nothing but trouble. The swim was very well done by World Champion, Ian Adamson. We were released five at a time every ten seconds. The timing chip system meant it didn't matter when you started.


The moment I dived in, I knew I was going to have a good swim. The swim suit I bought from Simon was so buoyant (thank you Simon) and has served me well many times now.

I hardly got whacked. I was lapped and but I also lapped others. It was four laps and we ran a short distance on the beach after each lap. That was nice, saw Tip and Whit each time and water in cups were provided. Each lap took about 18 minutes and you could always see the next buoy during the swim.

I hr 13 mins for the swim. Forgot my glasses and had to double back for them. T1 was OK. We all know the drill.


Goodness, a tear nearly came to my eye at the bike start. "You finish this now", I rallied myself. Don't worry this is not a tear inducing Report. The roads were super smooth. For more than 10 km, it was against the wind. In fact for more than 80% of the course, there was some sort of a frontal or cross wind. We had a huge highway (reminded me of the "Queen K") all to ourselves. Uniformed personnel (Police?) were by the road every two hundred meters or so, the whole way. There was a tape the whole way. Barricades were everywhere. You could actually go to sleep on the bike and not crash into anything.

That is why I am so upset that so many people DNF. Everything was laid out on a plate for us. Whats a little sun and wind. Malaysia is much hotter (we realised this the moment we landed at LCCT). It also wasn't the "mumuku" winds coming off Mauna Loa. But I knew people were going to DNF like skittles (gosh am I cocky?). Simon's wise words "stay in aero, its the best thing to do when its windy". How right he is.

The bike turnaround (45 km) goes through a very lovely old village. Now I know what Emma and Jocelyn were on about. "The contrast of Haikou's new, wide open highways to the old world villages makes this an especially unique venue" says the Race Program. Everyone was right, we could look right into their village homes. As usual the Police marshaled the local population very well.

Heart wrenching moment: At 55 km I saw Pro Jocelyn Wong slumped over her handle bars. "Whats wrong Jocelyn", "I'm throwing up, don't give up" she said. I can't see a damsel in distress.

After 90 km we came back to the start. The last 10 km was with the wind behind, at least we ended the loop in style.

Carmen overtook me after 20 km. She was her usual powerful self (so I thought). Miro came along much later than usual. But he was cycling along very well. Simon I saw was way ahead on the other side. I saw him a few times. He was very much in the mix at the end of the bike. Luke McKenzie (I recognise his cycling style - knees close together) was way ahead alone. Macca (drafting a bit) was in third. Ong was behind. Hoo (who was later to beat both Ong and me) was getting further and further behind, hardly anyone behind him.

The start of the second loop I immediately got into trouble. I was lucky to cross 20 km/hr against the wind. My left big toe (of all things) was so freaking painful (it was only 90km). It was difficult to go aero. I knew the mental game had begun. Everyone will feel the same, stay calm, stay relaxed, lock up the pain. All these self talk worked. Of course I was slower, but at least I was moving reasonably. Hitting the village again was difficult. Even the villagers had disappeared due to the heat. The hills there gave me cramps. The big toe started to get very painful again. But we made it back. There were still cyclists way way behind.

I stopped at most of the aid stations. The volunteers were very fast.


T2 went by as normal. I saw Macca and Lothar Leder. I thought I was so useless, that they had finished everything. I didn't know they had DNF.


I felt comfortable at the start (unlike IM MY). The first 9.6 km loop I went well. Happy to see anyone. It was the first time in my life I saw Carmen in distress. She said her tummy was not right. We parted. I saw Tip at the end of the first 9.6 km loop. I'll finish at 10 p.m. I confidently told her.

As soon as I said that, I went to pieces. The run seemed so far to go, I felt tired from IM MY (I thought), I felt heavy, I wasn't even plodding right. I started to see it all slipping away.

IM Patrice (from Bangkok) saw me in distress and gave me all his pills. "Take this now, take this one hour later. Don't try it if you have never taken it, don't walk, you won't make it". I swallowed everything and pumped my arms for all I was worth. I am grateful to IM Patrice (10 hrs 39 mins), whom I only meet at races.

It was a long long lonely road. I am an old hand at catching the cut off. I religiously monitored the time. I missed Adeline Lim, my IM MY run buddy. The volunteers were wonderful. Bursting into song when they saw me from far away. We the slow participants encouraged each other. At the run Special Needs, I put on my Busso sweater. The Aussie girls especially like to see a guy putting in an honest effort. This I know well from Busso. Sorry for worrying everyone that was "tracking" me (Emma, Mac, Ivie, Randy Tan, Robyn Stanley, P M Tey & Paul Lee).

The last two km was through the busy town. They gave the whole road to us participants. Just before the finish, there were no street lights. A cyclist with lights showed the way. "The sound of victory just ahead", he said. The sweetest words I have ever heard, it seemed at that moment.


"You wife is waiting", someone said. Apparently all the blokes and Police were chatting her up. At least she had company. Whit was doing his stuff (he still doesn't know I am Sofian, don't matter). Hoo and Ong were waiting. No Emma this time, hee hee.

I was incoherent or just plain lazy to think. The officials of course were nice to us (they put me in a wheel chair). It was a nice to see Ong, Hoo and my wife. Savoured the moment, took a few photos at the finish arch and slowly made our way to the Hotel coach.


16 hours 26 minutes (two minutes slower than IM MY). Overall 5th last. I wasn't even last in my age group. What a shame.

257th overall out of 262 finishers. The final start list had 364 names. So 102 DNF (28% - the highest I know off, even more than last year).

OK the next IM is .......... just kidding. Now its my turn to sulk for two weeks.

Monday, March 15, 2010

IM Bolehland Bashing

What struck me from the trip was that, the organisation for IM MY was no where close, when compared to the effort that IM China put in.


During IM MY I saw a boy ram his motor-bike into a cyclist. Lots of kids were down right irritating, behaving like vultures to get our water bottles, safety glow sticks etc., verbally abusive, making sarcastic remarks, basically doing all kinds of stupid things.

For IM China the bike and run route is totally closed off to the general public. For the whole 90 km of the bike route there were uniformed personnel every few meters, even if there was not a soul around. They would just stand there. Around lunch time they would be eating their packed food (poor sods). There is a tape throughout the length of the route. No car or person is allowed through. There would be barricades even for dead ends.

The bike turnaround is through a lovely ancient village. The uniform people would be constantly giving instructions to the local population to keep clear. What do the local kids do??? They ALL cheer us. "How are you" they would say with a giggle.

The run was similar. We did not receive a single sarcastic remark. The run turnaround is through the heavily populated town. They cordoned off 90% of the width of the road for us, leaving a small little lane for thousands of local people. Uniformed people everywhere, making sure we the racers were alright. Can Bolehland do this?


The volunteers were from the local University (just like Bolehland). ALL of them were on the boil. From afar they would cheer us coming (this means there are alert and ready to serve). They would be clambering over each other to give us aid. They new basic English words, smiled and were quick and intelligent in their actions. They must have been preparing for quite a while, everything went like clockwork.

I know a lot of the volunteers at Bolehland were also good, but not all.


We sat on the floor at Bolehland and didn't know what they were saying.

At IM China, we all sat on comfortable banquet chairs. The audio and visual presentation was very clear. The briefing was carried out by illuminaries in the sport. Whit Raymond (we all know him, he is actually very good at what he does). Ian Adamson, the most successful adventure racer of all time (seven times World Champion). The great Jurgen Zack (who brought IM cycling to a different level in the nineties). We just couldn't avoid but give our most rapt attention.


I was the only one in the room. All twenty of them gave me their rapt attention and knew what they were doing. In Bolehland (they didn't even know what the person sitting next to them was doing)??


IM China, at a swank hotel. At Bolehland, one year the food was finished and I never went again. Lots of people at IM China got food poisoning though, not sure how that happened.


IM China - no deposit. A very reliable timing system. Flexible start time was implemented as the chips would automatically compute the nett time. At Putrajaya 70.3 - total chaos.


I asked him, what he disclosed is too sensitive to write down. Ha ha , sorry.

I of course have always supported local races and will continue to do so. IM MY for eg has always been the most special day of the year for me. I wouldn't have a life without it.

IM CHINA 14 March 2010

Priceless, priceless, priceless. JURGEN ZACK people,

Small world. Malaysia boleh bike mechanics.

The lovely and most gracious BELINDA GRANGER.

Whit Raymond (he actually lives in San Francisco)

Registration was super smooth

Sort of a swank hotel
The beach is not swim able

The Japanese gentleman has done 64 Ironmans
Pro Jocelyn Wong (Emma's friend). Very very friendly. Provided the "entertainment" during carbo loading. Unfortunately I saw her slumped over her handle bars at 55km. She was pleasant even then. Very gamely finished the race.

Tinny Tung (Race Director). Beauty and brains.

Carbo loading

Walter is from Florida
Classiest samurai ever, HIROYUKI NISHIUCHI. Still held no malice. "I just have to try again". Raced with his wife.

A very professional Race briefing given by Whit Raymond, Jurgen Zack, Ian Adamson (seven times World Champion Adventure Racer) etc.

The incredible volunteers

Lothar Leder (still the Ironman World record holder I think but dnf) and his wife Nicole Leder (2nd IM China 2010). Emma can actually outride Nicole.

So happy

Belinda's ride (red Ceepo)

Chris McCormack's ride (he dnf)

The very obliging Chris McCormack (very long list of achievements)

The incredible volunteers. All from Hainan University and many could speak English. They went all out to please us

Garth Barfoot, the oldest participant.

Miro (he did very very well)

Very very well done Simon

Hoo and Ong (they took care of us well)

The organisers let us go five at a time every few seconds. It worked, no chaos

4 laps

Carmen (dnf). Had a good swim and bike.

Simon, incredible effort

This was the fastest I went

Nandu River

Finished, enjoying our Pizza (Thanks Hoo and Ong)

Whit in the background

At the airport. LUKE McKENZIE. A very very affable person