Thursday, April 20, 2017

Oceanman Putrajaya (18 and 19 March 2017). 10km

What is Oceanman?
Oceanman is an international open water swim race franchise from Spain. Its first race was in 2016 and for 2017, seven races have been confirmed starting with Putrajaya and ending with the Oceanman World Championships on 15 October 2017 at the Spanish tourist town of Benidorm on the Mediterranean. Ten other races are also on the way.
Anyone may organize an Oceanman under franchise / licence by contacting Oceanman headquarters.
Thus it is similar to Ironman, PowerMan etc They are not part of the Olympic movement or FINA (which oversees swimming and related events for the Olympic Games).
Oceanman  has its own rules and World Championship just like Ironman. Each Oceanman event will have to maintain a minimum standard. There will always be things like a Race Book (similar to Athlete's Guide), Rule Book, large buoys, medals etc and a very easy chance to qualify for the Oceanman World Championship (Top Ten Male and Female in each ten year age group category for both 5km and 10km).

So Oceanman came to Putrajaya Lake, Malaysia during the weekend of 18 March (1.5km, Kids Race and Relay) and 19 March (5km and 10km). The "real" Oceanman events are the 5km (Half Oceanman) and 10km (Oceanman).

Practice Swim at Putrajaya Lake on 11 March 2017
The race organisers (Swimon), had a practice swim at the Putrajaya Lake on 11 March 2017. Registration for Oceanman could be made until 16 March 2017, thus I used the practice swim as the acid test on whether to register, bearing in mind my angiogram and angioplasty was quite recent on  8 Feb 2017. The cleanliness of the Lake was in doubt and my training (100% with a pull buoy because of arthritis) was not geared towards lake swimming.
The practice swim was actually well organized with monster buoys (the biggest I have seen) marking out the 500m loops and shorter laps for new swimmers. I started to feel good about the Oceanman. The organisers showed me the water test results taken at 3 locations (passed with flying colours actually).
I managed to put in 3.5km (7 laps) over the 1 hour 25 mins available. There was no skin irritation at all from the black lake, so what the heck, lets register for the 1.5km on 18 March and 10km on 19 March, you only live once. 
Saturday, 18 March 2017
There were three events:
  1. "Popular" 1.5km
  2. Kids race
  3. Relay
I started to notice minor hiccups. The 3.30 p.m. briefing for the 5km and 10km events the following day was cancelled, goodie bags were  not ready etc (participants were updated by e-mail). Small things,  the 1.5km event that I was participating in was pulled off successfully though.  It wasn't so easy swimming in the lake without my customary pull buoy, so I knew the 10km the following day was going to be seriously challenging.
I got a cut on my elbow finishing the 1.5km as I didn't see the embankment due to the blackness of the lake. The same medical team that took care of me at P.D., again took care of me and applied some stuff on my scrapped elbow. Small matter, I then went off to the airport to pick up my wife.

127 swimmers completed the 1.5km. No age group categories, just Males and Females. Results here. I didn't do well, 31 mins, never mind.
Sunday, 19 March 2017
This was it, 10 freaking km in a black lake, in the heat. I genuinely wasn't sure whether I could finish. There were not many participants as the very popular 6.5 km Kapas Marang swim was held the same day. But the usual race day adrenalin  was still there for me. Heck its only three months after my heart attack. Am I going to live? Will I finish?
My wife was with me, I knew the race organisers very well (Jose, Amir and Sumai), very good friends Eric Tan (Dad) and Rupert Tan (swimmer) were there, my swim buddies from overseas (Ahmad Fathi Junaidi from Brunei and Khun Priak from Bangkok) were also taking part, many swimmers I've not seen before were there, so I was set.
The Thai Group
45 swimmers started the 10 km at 8.50 a.m. The 10km swimmers do 2 laps of 5km. The 5km swimmers (about ninety of them) started a bit later. At about the 2.5km mark, the 5km swimmers came speeding by. They were very fast and I felt such a lousy swimmer. In spite of my recent heart attack, I was still swimming regularly. The mileage was there but it was all with a pull buoy. I found swimming in the lake very tough. I thought I was sinking all the time and Putrajaya was a very hot swim. By 2.5km, I was already felt in trouble.
It was compulsory for all 5 km and 10 km swimmers to wear a safety buoy. This was a good requirement. So one could either sight against the large buoys or the safety buoy of the swimmer in front.
I did see a boat at about the 2.5km which I presumed was the feed boat. But it wasn't positioned exactly on the race route, even a quick sip of water would take a good few precious minutes, so I skipped it. I didn't see anyone else going for the water at 2.5km, maybe no one knew about it.

Between 3km and 5km, was very tough going for me. I seriously considered to stop at 5km. I will tell everyone I have a heart attack coming, I'm sure they will  understand. But as soon as I arrived at the 5km feed, I received so much support from my wife, Eric Tan and Sumai. I guess I couldn't give my "heart attack" excuse, no one was listening.

5km Feeding
The start pontoon was also the 5km feeding point. This was essentially the only feeding point for the 10km race. No one knew where the 2.5km feeding point was. So we had to get everything in at the 5km point. Eric was recording everything on my GoPro (bless that guy), Tip was giving encouragement, Sumai gave me a banana, the "superfood" for long distance sports. I then gulped down a gel and a full 1.5L bottle of cold Carbo Pro.
Carbo Pro is the best sports aid I have come across in more than 30 years of endurance sports. It doesn't have a taste, doesn't smell and doesn't upset the tummy. Unfortunately I can only find ones that expired in Dec 2016.
Coincidentally, fellow participants Fauzi Othman and Ridzwan were also at the 5km feeding point.

2nd 5km lap
Having adequately refueled, the second lap went much better for me. I overtook a number of participants during the second lap. Again I skipped the 7.5km feeding boat. For the second lap I was swimming alone for such long stretches. I could see the huge buoys so I didn't think I was lost. Just lonely.

The Finish
Because it was such a  tough swim for me and I had a heart attack not that long ago, I felt immense satisfaction approaching the Finish Line. The two gentlemen helped me out the lake, I was very disoriented, my wife and a swimmer friend from Thailand (Khun Piak) held the finish banner, OP Advance Tan (the MC) announced my finish. So all in all it was a wonderful finish line moment.

So how did I do?
4 hours 24 mins versus 2 hours 12 min by Malaysia's No.1 Kevin Yeap and 2 hours 31 min by Rupert Tan. So I am really really slow compared to the best swimmers. The performance was also my worst ever 10km time.
20% (9) of swimmers that started dnf. This is  very high dnf rate because of the heat I suppose.
The full 10km results.

Lets look on the bright side though, I didn't get a heart attack, I came in second in the 50 - 59 age group and I have qualified for the Ocean World Championships at Benidorm Spain on 15 Oct 2017.

Oceanman World Championships.
As ten males and females per group qualifies, all 45 finishers for the 10km have qualified except for one person in the 40 - 49 age group. He was eleventh ha ha. The results by category.

Will I go?
To be frank, at this moment I am still undecided as I might go to another event held on the same day, 14 Oct 2017. We'll see.



Kevin Siah said...

Well done Sofian, you never fail to amaze me. To make such a quick comeback post your surgery. Go, go to Spain! Opportunities like these don't come often.

sofiantriathlete said...

Ha ha.
The truth is the other option is to go to Kona and watch the Worlds the same day.
So it's a very tough choice.
Still thinking.
Thank you Kevin