Monday, September 25, 2017

Pulau Perhentian Besar Round Island Swim 16 km (16 Sep 2017)

It was a historical day for Open Water Swimming in Malaysia. The inaugural 16 km round island and 4.5 km swims held at Pulau Perhentian Besar,  on 16 Sep 2017 (Malaysia Day), was a success. By and large, all swimmers were hugely thrilled to take part in this first formal swim race at beautiful Pulau Perhentian Besar  and its only going to get better. Exciting times indeed for Open Water Swimming in Malaysia.

Coach Jose with the Whale Shark that kept us company
I saw Cheah, a young chap from Pulau Penang  laughing his head off with his kayaker (Wong) on the Barat Beach just after his 16km swim, marveling at their achievements ha ha. Also, the 4.5km swimmers were the nosiest during prize giving, they just couldn't believe their accomplishments, some were quite overweight, but they still did it (well done). I was happy for my 16km comrades, the anxiety and waiting was finally over. The 16 km swim was  the longest ever swim for almost everyone apart from probably Signor Alberto Perez, the easy winner. I had already swam the loop last year on 28 Sep 2016 in 7 hours 2 mins. The Organisers looked pleased and relieved at prize giving, everyone was still in one piece even though a large docile Whale Shark was mingling with the swimmers.
By and large the event was a huge success for Open Water Swimming in Malaysia and it is going to be BIG in the world of Open Water Swimming.

The 16 km route. Anticlockwise

The 4.5 km route. Start point was the same for both distances

  • Everyone loves going to a beautiful tropical island. Add in a swim race in warm clear waters and swimmers will come in droves from all over the world.
  • The water is clear. Whilst swimming, swimmers can see beautiful rock formations, colourful schools of fishes, sun rays piercing the sea and this year there was a huge Whale Shark mingling around. Whale Sharks whilst having a huge mouth (ha ha), are docile creatures, feed only on planktons and do not pose a threat to humans.
  • Competent organisers who can pull it off. The lead organizer is probably En Amirizal Ishak who is a local Terengganu lad. He has the local contacts, contributed to the organization of the very successful SEA Games (Open Water Swimming and Triathlon), Asian Open Water Swimming Championships, Oceanman Putrajaya 2017 etc. He is very hardworking and I actually have not seen him lose his temper ha ha.
  • Amir's partner is Jose Lois Larrosa. From beautiful Spain, Jose has swam all over the world. He thus has the international contacts and knowledge. I have been to his Dad's house in Elche, Spain. He is a wonderful chap.
  • Competent safety partners. Aquaputra Putrajaya are of course the people that pulled me out of the water when I had a heart attack during a swim event on 18 Dec 2016. Please take note there is only a Government Clinic (there is no Hospital) at Pulau Perhentian.
  • Pulau Perhentian is relatively easy to get to, considering its a real tropical island. From KL, its only a one hour flight to Kota Baru, then a one hour taxi ride through nice rural roads to Besut Jetty where there are regular fast boats (45 minutes ride) to Pulau Perhentian. In fact my buddy, Seah Ban Kiat flew in from Qatar (more than 7 hours flight) to KLIA and immediately carried on to Pulau Perhentian. He finished third!!! Obviously he is super human.
  • Nice mementoes for swimmers. This year all 16 km and 4.5 km swimmers had their names printed on a huge banner. Then all swimmers received a T Shirt, Mug, Medal and Certificate. Of course the podium finishers received a trophy too. This is no mean feat. Bali for example, only gives a finisher's towel and swimming cap, nothing else. Clean Half Hong Kong (15 km) gives NOTHING to swimmers. Perhentian also has photos and videos by the official photographer. Next year I understand the mementoes for Perhentian will be of even better quality.
  • Reasonable hotels. First bear in mind that this is a tropical island. There are no roads, centralized electricity or water supply. Hotel rooms are mostly the wooden type. There are luxurious accommodation now at Coral View and Perhentian Island Resort. I took a cheaper room at Barat and it was ok.
  • The official hotel, Coral View has a great location as it straddles Teluk Pauh and Barat Beach. It was a perfect venue for the race briefing and prize giving.
  • Teluk Pauh (the start and finish for 16 km) is a popular snorkeling and sun bathing spot. There is at least one turtle permanently residing in the Bay. The underwater view is  nice. Kids and loved ones can snorkel here the whole day no problem.
  • Many nice restaurants on the Barat Beach. Please don't miss the night time BBQ. For me, it was the best food I have ever tasted.
  • The 16 km will attract very serious swimmers whilst the 4.5km will attract the fun swimmers. Thus something for everyone.

Please take these tips with a pinch of salt as I am no guru.
  • Do your swim training whichever way makes you happy. For example I only swim at one single speed every day, use a pull buoy every time, use the same pool and only swim alone. You need to be happy with what you are doing, otherwise you will soon stop.
  • Learn to swim alone. Motivation should not be coming from someone else. If you are comfortable with swimming alone, you will be able to swim for the rest of your life.
  • Be weary of doing speedwork, swim drills and things you are not used to. Unusual body movements may cause injuries or headaches.
  • Start your races or training slowly, unless you want to get a heart attack like me ha ha.
  • Stretch your shoulders everyday. Don't worry, you don't need surgery or a physio for that shoulder pain. You-tube has numerous examples of stretches and exercises to do. Choose what you like. A simple towel stretch does wonders.
  • Manage your health well. No point being sick. Avoid cold indoor pools, cold showers, cold air cons. Cover up when you sleep.
  • Do whatever kms you can in a week. We all have different constraints. Try to put in as much as you can, but don't get injured or sick.

Nutritional tips for Perhentian;
  • The round island swim can actually be done on just bananas and water. Don't underestimate the simple banana and plain water.
  • If you want to use the gels, sports drinks or any of the numerous things available out there, make sure you have tested them thoroughly in training. Race day is not the place to try out new nutritional stuff or new swimwear.
  • All 16km swimmers will each have a support boat or kayak (like for Mr Cheah). All nutrition will be placed in the boat / kayak. Each boat will have a skipper and a feeder. The feeder will hand over your nutrition to you.
  • Good cooling boxes can be bought from Decathlon. The minimum is to have one bicycle bottle tied to a string. Some swimmers had many water bottles each tied to a string.
  • I'm not sure if anyone used the stick and cup method that is used at the Olympics.
  • Touching the boat is actually not allowed, even during feeding. But I held onto the stationary boat (please don't tell the organisers ha ha ) for my last three feedings. I was so tired by then, that I couldn't tread water.

 Swimwear tips for Perhentian;
  • The published Perhentian Swim Rules follows FINA's Rules.  FINA oversees pool swimming and Open Water Swims for the Olympics.
  • Your swimwear at Perhentian should have a FINA sticker. Of course the Perhentian organisers can modify its rules as its not part of the Olympics. For example, if you want to swim the English Channel, there are very specific rules for that. Triathlon has the ITU rules for the Olympics, Ironman has its own rules, Challenge Family has its own rules.
  • Certain types of swimwear that is allowed for Triathlons eg wetsuits, neoprene material, ROKA, ORCA are all not allowed for Open Water Swims. Organisers may give exemptions of course, eg wetsuits is permissible if water temperature is below 23 degrees.
  • I think only one or two participants at Perhentian had FINA approved swimwear, which I think can only be bought online.
  • We see Open Water Swimmers at the Olympics and SEA Games wearing the one piece bare shouldered competition swim suits. This is allowed for Perhentian  but its impossible to get the correct size on your first attempt. They can be bought online for about RM 1,500 and can reach your home after only 3 working days. After some trial and errors, I  finally found that ARENA Size 32 is perfect for me. Wearing that took about 30 minutes. I used the JAKED Brand (both are Italian made) for Perhentian and got bad chaffing around the neck as it wasn't tight enough. So the suit has to be very very tight and I think ARENA is better than JAKED.
  • Monsieur Serge (2nd Overall) wears lycra type long sleeves and long leggings for all his tropical swim events. This provides protection from the sun and any jelly fish. The lycra suit has to be quite new and not loose fitting. If its old and loose, it will clog up with water and hinder your swim rather than help it.
  • Most swimmers were bare chested for Perhentian and this is ok as there were no jelly fish of note at this year's event. Mr Seah Ban Kiat (third overall) only wore  basic swimming trunks. Most wore tight swim shorts. Don't forget to apply generous sun tan on your shoulders, back, arms, ears, everywhere actually and lots of Vaseline around the arm pits and neck. The Vaseline on your palm / fingers will affect your "catch". So wipe off the Vaseline before the swim start.
  • So basic swimming trunks or tight swim shorts is enough for Perhentian with or without the FINA logo ha ha.

Swimming Goggle tips for Perhentian
  • The brand and model of the googles you wear for the event will also be the same one that you train in. Your preferred brand and model needs to have been thoroughly tested that it will not leak or fog even after several hours of swimming. I use the Optical View Brand from Japan which can be bought for about RM 90 at the Kampong Pandan Swimming Pool.
  • Buy a new one to use only for races. Test it properly once or twice with anti fog and store it away until race day. Old pairs of goggles can snap anytime so its not advisable to use an old pair on race day.
  • 16 km Finisher, Cheah from Penang swears that spit is the best anti fog ha ha. I think any of the commercial anti-fogs are ok.
  • Rinse your goggles after each swim. Dry it completely using a clean towel. Apply anti fog  before your next swim practice but rinse it  before wearing. This way I found my VIEW Goggles has lasted with perfect vision after more than a year of daily use.

What happens during the 16 km swim?
  • The swim starts at the Teluk Pauh Jetty and finishes nearby after one revolution of the island at the same beach. Our respective boats were waiting around the corner near the Barat Jetty. Depending on personal preferences, swimmers will swim to the left or right of their respective boats. Its most important to stay clear of the boat's propellers. At the start there were a lot of swimmers, boats and fumes close together. This was quite fun.
  • The 4.5km swimmers started 15 minutes after us.
  • Slowly but surely swimmers started to stagger out.
  • For about 3.5km the sea was quite flat. Then around  the corner, close to the 4.5km finish, it became seriously choppy. Thus I think the 4.5 km swimmers got their money's worth too.
  • The sea conditions continued this way the rest of the way, mostly flat but choppy at places. No where near as choppy as last year but I wasn't feeling good this year. I was a little bit sick at the start and felt dizzy whenever the water was choppy. But as usual we keep on going.
  • I couldn't see the first four swimmers. They were way out in front, out of sight and out of mind.
  • But I could see Wong in the kayak accompanying his swimmer, Cheah.
  • I was happy to get around the last big corner and saw the huge mosque on Perhentian Kecil. But the water was quite choppy here and progress seemed to take forever. Still another hour of swimming even though you could see the finish was nearby.
  • I caught up with Cheah and his kayak. Cheah was stopping many times, so I went by him as fast as I could ha ha, knowing that trophies only went five deep for Men.
  • I was happy to finish. It was a struggle as I still had some sickness.
  • I could feel my dodgy heart was pumping away right until prize giving in the evening ha ha.
  • But the brilliant BBQ at Barat cured everything.

ROLL OF HONOUR - Perhentian 16km
The clear winner was Signor Alberto Perez Diaz from Espana in 4 hours 13 min
Alberto was very fast because he followed the Whale Shark, who knew a short cut.
No its not Bruce Lee. 2nd was Monsieur Serge Domenichini from KL in 4 hours 57 mins. Serge is the funniest person in our WhatsApp group. I wonder when will he grow up.

3rd was Seah Ban Kiat in 5 hours  11 min. This cute guy came all the way from Qatar and would have done even better with another day's rest.

4th was Prof Ghazali Musa in 5 hours 14 min.
5th was me in 5 hours 40 min. On my left is Safety Leader, Cherish Chin, who pulled me out of the P.D. Sea on 18 Dec. Thank you again.
6th was Cheah Chong Yung from USM, Penang in 5 hours 46 mins. When I grow up, I want to have a body like that ha ha
7th Overall, Female Champion and the only female finisher was Claire Parsons from Spore in 5 hours 57 mins.
8th Overall was Doctor Muhammad Fauzi Othman in 6 hours 26 mins.
Fauzi's next adventure is the Langkawi Ironman on 11 Nov 2017. All the best Doctor.
9th Overall in 6 hours 44 min was Andreas Hvass (Scandy Andy). No that's not the Indian flag but Sweden's.
Andy is well known for his contributions to Open Water Swimming in Koh Samui.
10th Overall is Philip Tan in 7 hours 1 min. Isn't it great when the family is around? Well done Philip
11th Overall was Ridzwan A. Rahim in 7 hours 3 mins. Well done buddy.
15 swimmers started the 16km. Unfortunately 4 did not complete the swim.
Lets not forget the 4.5km swimmers. They were the happiest swimmers I have ever seen.
  Sources of Information on events, online shops etc
  • FINA approved Open Water Swimwear can be purchased from Proswimwear, UK. Takes only about 3 working days for delivery (but its difficult to determine your correct size for the Open Water Competition Swim Suit at the first attempt).
  • From SWIMINN too.
  • ROKA. Popular with Triathletes but not FINA approved.
  • Swimon Malaysia is my favourite Open Water page. They have a good Calendar of Events.
  • On "Facebook", try searching for Larrosaows, Swimon, English Channel, Swim smooth, Triathlon Malaysia, Penang Open Water, Rottnest, Swimbot, Swim Junkie, Thailand Swimathon etc and you will get many wonderful pages on Open Water Swimming.

Next year's Perhentian swim will be on 6 October 2018. "Like" Swimon's Facebook page to keep abreast. Don't miss the event and good luck.  
    With the very competent Organisers. Come everyone, lets make next year's event a World Class Open Water Event that Malaysia will be proud of. Thank you.


Kevin Siah said...

Well done Sofian! And thanks for the comprehensive write up. Something to consider in the future.

sofiantriathlete said...

Thank you Kevin.
Yes it's an event to consider.
Hope you and family are keeping well.
Best wishes from us.

QuickSport said...

Wow! Great whiteouts on the event as well as the precious tips in endurance open water swim! Congratulations Sofian! ;)

sofiantriathlete said...

Thank you Yong

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