Friday, July 01, 2016

Labuan Cross Channel Swimming Challenge (5.4 km). 30 April 2016

Its quite weird that this high prize money swimming race is not that well participated. One doesn't get clear information on the event until about one or two weeks before the actual weekend on the Perbadanan Labuan / Labuan Corporation web-site. Regulars know about the Race though, because it is always held around the last weekend of April.
The Labuan Swim Challenge is held as part of the annual Labuan Sea Challenge. The Sea Challenge comprises Round Island Kayak Challenge, Deep Sea Fishing, photography contest etc all held at the Labuan International Sports Compleks. If you are good, you can win the swim and the photography contest (like Jose from Spain) or swim and Kayak the following day (like Mr Yoshi). The Round the Island Kayak would take the solo winner almost six hours, so Mr Yoshi is a really very fit person to finish second.
There are eight categories and six of the categories gives a top prize of RM 2,500. Prize money goes ten deep for the men, boys, women and girls and five deep for the veterans and juniors. Thus as far as I know (which is not a lot), this is the richest swimming event around. Add the nice island location of Labuan, there's real potential for many more participants, but we won't tell anyone now, will we?
I have a soft spot for the island of Labuan because my family used to go there during the school holidays in the early seventies (that's more than forty years ago and I haven't returned since).
We would stay at the rest house right by the beach. I can still hear the waves lapping against the beach just before dozing off at night. During the day, we would go by boat to the island of Papan (the swim turnaround) for a game of rounders and lunch. Really wonderful times. Military wise, Labuan is a very important strategic location.
Labuan of course has changed a lot since then. Its an off shore international Financial Centre, an important oil and gas port, and so on. The island seems very small, one can tour the whole island in a couple of hours.
I think the most important tourist attraction is the beautifully maintained War Memorial for the Commonwealth Forces that perished on the island of Borneo during World War II. Another beautiful location is the precise spot (Surrender Point) where the Japanese surrendered. The Japanese have built a Peace Memorial there and together with the pristine beach and pine trees, this makes a most beautiful spot.
Maybe the best bit about Labuan is that it is a Duty Free location, which means chocolates and liquor are just a fraction of the price in KL.
Getting around
Labuan Airport is only about 10 minutes from the race location and good hotels. Almost brand new cars could be rented for only RM100 per day at the airport. I was very happy with that. The race location and Billion Waterfront Hotel, where we stayed were very close together but with my dodgy hip, I used the car for even short distances.
I made a mistake of booking the Hotel myself online. Whilst checking in, I saw a notice which said that it was the official hotel and participants had very good discounted rates. Oh well, next year inshallah , I will give the Hotel a call first.
They seemed to like live music at this Hotel and I had to change rooms to a quieter block.
Race Organisation
I guess one has to bear in mind that this race is not an "Ironman" or "Challenge" Event with professional race organisers but a tourism event organized by gentle government servants. They did fine though. If you call Perbadanan Labuan, they are all aware of the event and will direct you to the right person. Registration can be done the day before and probably on the morning itself of the race. One  Malay lady holding a file was always smiling and accepting registration even two days before the event at the swim location.
Jose and I did two warm up swims at the event location which is always a good thing to do. Using a bright float device is also a good thing during the warm ups as the swim location is very close to the port.

Race Day
The gentle race organisers were sort of slowish but things did eventually get moving. As usual we met long lost friends and everyone on the beach were excited waiting for the race to start.
Not as chaotic like an Ironman start and very soon we were on our own. One quickly realizes that conditions were nothing like the swimming pool.

Important decisions had to be quickly made:
To draft or swim alone?
How often to "sight"?
The waves and current seemed to be throwing me everywhere, so what should I do?
Whatever one decides, settle quickly into a smooth rhythm rather than the stop and start which is energy consuming.

Then at some point in the race, negativity starts to creep in. 
"I'm not moving forward"
"What am I doing here?'''. Ha ha
So quickly snap out of it with positive thoughts and you will feel fine again.

After the turnaround I found the goggles had gone very misty. Taking a risk, I washed it with sea water and amazingly the goggles turned crystal clear.
Simon Cross told me he always uses a new pair of goggles for a race, now that is a very clever thing to do (thank you Simon).

I finished in 1 hour 51 mins, out of the prize money. No worries, I will definitely return as often as possible in future, inshallah.

Looking Forward
We made an outstanding new friend in Jose Lois Larossa from Spain. He has participated in many long distance swims around the world and even organizes a few races himself at his native Alicante in Spain. So I will be getting advice from my new best friend often on which swims to do.

I now have a new left ceramic hip implanted and the right hip also looks a bit dodgy, so running would not be a clever thing to do. But swimming seems to be ok for someone with dodgy body parts.

So no more triathlons or running but swimming is the way forward for me.
Thank You
This picture of me finishing taken by Jose won first prize in the photography contest

Another finish photo taken by Jose and his GoPro Hero 3
When I grow up, I wish to have a body like Jose's ha ha
With probably Brunei's greatest ever endurance athlete Ahmad Fathi Junaidi
At The War Memorial Labuan. Surrender Point is another place not to be missed


Kevin Siah said...

Labuan is nice. Small and quiet. Good timing for your swim, well done! With ceramic body parts, do they move as smoothly as ceramic bearing bike parts? Hahaha

sofiantriathlete said...

Ha ha
The Labuan swim was still with the dodgy hip.
The ceramic was installed shortly after Labuan and exactly 2 months later, I did Bali.
Sometimes there is a tick tick sound when I walk now. But for swimming it doesn't matter.

Also its water proof hee hee

Thank You Kevin. Great to hear from you.

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