Tuesday, October 20, 2020

27.5 km Swim. Two laps around Pulau Perhentian Kecil on 10 Oct 2020 by Emily and Sofian

About to start (7.30 a.m.), Barat Jetty


The Covid situation has cancelled the annual Perhentian Round Island Swim (16km) scheduled for 10 Oct 2020. Swimon though held an informal "Perhentian  Escape 3" complete with a small competent medical team, so I decided to do my own long swim long swim on the same weekend.

Last year's Perhentian Race was excellent. Indeed, the whole of 2019 was my most enjoyable year in swimming. So early in 2020, I purchased many flights and made hotel bookings for the whole of 2020. But in March travel restrictions kicked in and will remain until the end of 2020, maybe even longer.

We did manage a 2 km local swim race in Feb 2020. Then March came and all swimming was initially not allowed. Some relaxation came and luckily my apartment opened its swimming pool with conditions. It was enough for training purposes.

From 14 Oct 2020, swimming in pools has been banned again. The 10 Oct swim was our only trip for the year 2020, so we had to make it count.

In 2019, I swam around Perhentian Kecil with Claire. Claire was still having a lockdown in Spore so  for the Oct 2020 swim, I did it with Emily Wang. All three of us (Claire, Emily and myself) swim at very similar speeds. We know each other's swimming very well.

8 & 9 Oct, Barat Perhentian

There wasn't the usual crowd when we travelled. We stayed at the Barat Perhentian which is actually my favourite hotel even though it is not a top hotel. I just love the restaurant ambience.. You won't be bored. Indeed, I stayed there the whole of Sunday to recover from my Saturday swim. The night time BBQ is excellent and its Menu items are pretty good too.

The Barat floating jetty is brilliant. Its convenient to start and end your long round island swims or for going to the village and clinic (very important).

The floating Barat Jetty (very convenient)

Barat grounds

I noticed that the sea water was the murkiest I've seen at Perhentian. Maybe the start of the rainy season and the unusually low tides had stirred up the mud.

My trusted boatman, Jebat (H/P : +60197112300)

I have liked him from Day One. He has a lovely caring personality. He will make sure the swimmer is ok. He is now very experienced at escorting swimmers and can handle A to Z. 

Jebat, my boatman. I trust him completely

Jebat can get ready foam boxes, ice, bananas (the swimmer doesn't have to buy these in advance), siren, red flag, phone etc. He is able to pilot the boat and do the feeding alone all by himself but this time his son came along.

He figured out himself that next time, he will force me to stop for liquids as I was severely dehydrated at the end.

He treated us to refreshments the day before and even brought breakfast (authentic Nasi Dagang) for my wife who loved it immensely. So, I always overpay him and I completely recommend him to any swimmer.

The Plan was to try and swim twice around Perhentian Kecil  I prefer Kecil for its incredible underwater scenery, but this time the water was murky.

Swim Day Saturday 10 Oct 2020

Jebat arrived promptly at 7.20 a.m. as agreed. We started the swim at 7.36 a.m. from the Barat Jetty.

It was a perfect cloudy day with no waves. The speed initially was quite good (10 / 11 mins every 500 m). Minor problems only arose when we reached the northern tip of the island. Its a popular snorkeling place and there is normally a narrow channel to swim through (very exciting). The current is quite odd here. Sometimes it goes one way and sometimes it goes the opposite. The water was very shallow and we were actually almost walking on some rocks. 

We made it through this channel safely, but avoided it for the second lap, choosing to swim wider around.

Choppy and exciting in between the rocks

The western side of Kecil is always calm due to the mainland I think. Its best to swim from north to south to go with the current.

The first lap was completed in 5 hrs 20 mins, the fastest yet for me. The distance swam on the watch was unreliable, stopping completely for very long periods. We took a short break for swimmers and crew to do our respective things.

My tummy was feeling funny I think from the bananas. Part of me actually wanted to stop. But luckily Emily wanted to carry on and swim at least 20 km. I did nature's call, Emily changed her swim wear, Jebat did his prayers, we waited for Emily's family but just missed them.

2nd Lap

We started the second lap at 1329 hours and I knew straight away that my tummy was cleared, that I was feeling fine and I had a good chance of finishing.

Start of Second Lap

The wind had picked up and it was quite choppy, going slower than the first lap. After about half way, our speed was even faster than the first lap.

I knew I had a chance and in my haste didn't hardly stopped during the second lap. Emily went into the boat, i couldn't recall when. I was a blur at the end and couldn't remember many things.

Sunset finish past the village

But finished I did.

Smooth finish at the end

Total swim time (excluding the half way break) was 10 hours 56 mins for 27 +km.

The finish

I didn't remember much. Emily took a lot of good videos of the end (Thank You). We took our family photos and I remember going back to the hotel room for a shower, then dinner.

Rejoicing with our families

Then I blacked out, I suppose.

Medical Emergency

Looking at the photos, I laid out on the settee at the Barat Reception. Swimon's Perhentian Escape 3 participants and the medical support (Dr Amira and Irfan) were around too. 

Thank you Apek Pacer Dr Chooi

Dr Apek Pacer (YS Chooi) was the first medical person I understand to check me out. Amir had a brand new stretcher and six people used it to place me in a boat. I was taken to the Government Klinik on Perhentian Kecil.

The Village Klinik is actually not bad. I was quite comfortable. Dr Amira and Irfan were quite comfortable with the medical equipment there. They got me on drips, ECG and other things I didn't understand. Jebat my trusted boatman came to check up on me.

THANK YOU Dr Amira, Nurse Irfan (Village Klinik was F.O.C.)

I recovered very quickly after the drip. I could go on the return boat without assistance. Paid RM 50 to the boatman for five of us (Amir, Dr Amira, Irfan, my wife and myself). Returned to the hotel and slept quite well.

Recovered !

My eternal gratitude to all

This is my second medical emergency from a swim. 

The first time, I had a full blown heart attack on 18 Dec 2016 at Port Dickson. Amir's safety set up worked liked a T. Cherish Chin and a fisherman life guard pulled me out the water. Ariff and his ambulance team got me to the Port Dickson General Hospital very quickly. The P.D. Hospital only has Third Class wards, but they saved me very well (led by Dr Siti at the Wards, a superb young Indian Doctor at Emergency and all his staff, the nurses at the third class ward. The follow up was at the National Heart Institute. I still go there every six months.

This time, it was "just dehydration". Still scary as I blacked out which can't be a good thing to happen.

Somehow I survived. Somehow many people came to my rescue both times. They say God works in mysterious ways. I don't know. The previous day at the Perhentian Village I made a good donation to twenty real needy village folks. So maybe, if you help others, "fate" will in turn take care of you.

Whatever it is, everyone has my gratitude.

Lesson learnt

DRINK REGULARLY during the swim. Thank You.






Thursday, December 05, 2019

Langkawi Swimming Festival 1 Dec 2019

"My Boys"
This event has my full support and recommendation. If the Organiser  (Azura ) or local authority (LADA's En Azhar Anas) wants any help from me, I'm happy to assist for FREE.
I hope the event stays as the Armed Forces Open Water Swimming Championships, as meeting the Military boys (my late father was ex Military) gave me much joy.
Overall, the Langkawi Swimming Festival 2019 (which has the full support of the local authority, LADA) was actually quite good. Once a local authority supports an event, then all the uniformed bodies, government resources, personnel, Bomba, medical etc will get behind the event and it will be very good for swimmers.
I look forward to many more good years at the Langkawi Swimming Festival. This is a very good event.
The Air Force Commandos Triathlon Team

The Air Force's competent Coach

Navy Commandos (Paskal)
Many good points 
  • The organisers made it comfortable for swimmers with good tents, tables, chairs, changing tents, showers etc.
  • Nice stage erected.
  • Nice start / finish gantry.
    Official English Channel swimmer, Estino Taniyu (Navy Paskal)
  • Nice after race food.
  • Fast and accurate results.
  • Finisher's medals.
  • Very nice trophies with many categories. If swimmers want to win a nice memento trophy, this is the place to be.
  • Some prize money.
  • Nice Event and Finisher's  T shirts for 8 km.
  • Clear loud speaker system.
  • Competent lifesaving services by Jabatan Bomba (they are very professional with proper equipment.
  • Better kayakers this year.
  • Jet ski patrol.
  • Value for money entry fee because local government support (uniformed bodies) are provided by them as part of public service. 
  • Prestigous prize presentation.
  • Possibility to collect MOWS points.
  • The Armed Forces Open Water Swimming Championship adds to the occasion.
  • Next to good beach front accommodation.
  • Next to the best Fish and Chips on the planet.
  • Many flights to Langkawi.
  • Very cheap car rental.
  • Duty Free island, thus very cheap chocolates and other stuff.
Some Weaknesses
  • The distance was short (6.8 km on my Garmin vs 8 km officially), but everyone swam the same distance.
  • Buoys missing and moving about (don't sight via buoys, look at landmarks).
  • One swimmer got very badly stung (hospitalized, OK) by jelly fish. Swimmers who are worried, should cover up their arms and legs.
  • Feeding boat not labelled.
  • Turnaround buoy not labelled.
  • At times, kayaks and / or support boats were blocking the buoys from the swimmers' view.
  • No finishing funnel.
  • The official Facebook page (Langkawi Swimming Festival) was much too quiet before the event.
  • Not enough official photographers.
Suggestions for improvements to the Organisers
  1.  Keep the event as part of Swimon's Malaysian Open Water Series. Many swimmers came just because of Swimon's involvement and / or they wanted the points.
  2. Keep the event as the Armed Forces OWS Championships. It gives me great pleasure to meet the Military boys. I am happy to sponsor a Challenge Trophy for the best Armed Forces team next year.
  3. Maybe keep the current course format (out and straight back). This is a very safe (the most important concern) format for swimmers and the safety providers. Swimmers are always in sight of safety personnel and vice versa, which gives everyone confidence that safety wise, everything is ok.
  4. Also with the current out and back format for the 8 km, the feeding point is the beach (4 km point) which is very convenient for swimmers and organizer. If a boat is the feeding point, the boat must be clearly labelled as the feeding boat, because all boats on the course looks the same. I noticed at many previous swim events, swimmers were unable to identify the feeding boat.
  5. It was very unfortunate that many new marker buoys were suspected to have been stolen during the night. It was also unfortunate that other buoys "moved" during the night and again whilst the event was ongoing. But, the only important marker buoy is the turnaround buoy for the respective distances. Swimmers can use the island (Pulau Gasing) for sighting purposes on the way out and the large tents on the beach when swimming back. The respective turnaround buoys should be very clearly labelled and secured.
  6. For your kind information, regular Open Water Swimmers have informed me that they prefer to swim around both islands
  7. Kayaks and boats should not be blocking the buoys from the swimmers.
  8. There should be a finishing funnel (eg two buoys) for swimmers to swim through at the finish. We observed some weaker swimmers going off course and then walk to the finish which is actually a faster way to finish if the swimmer sprints on the beach to the finish.
  9. Get more official photographers. I know of one highly competent photographer who was just waiting to hear your reply. But silence. Photos are shared over and over on social media. Seeing nice photos are why new swimmers will participate. 
 Please make the official Facebook page ACTIVE
The official Facebook page (Langkawi Swimming Festival) was just TOO QUIET. How are swimmers going to get interested when there is no news.
I humbly suggest:
  1. Answer all questions promptly, even the most boring or repetitive question. Swimmers will then believe in the credibility of the organiser and event.
  2. The event has many good points but why keep quiet about them.
  3. Mention the stage, start / finish gantry and the tents.
  4. Show off the nice trophy.
  5. Show off the nice T shirts again and again.
  6. Show nice pictures of the location again and again.
  7. Make a nice video, like what Oceanman does.
  8. Tell them about nearby restaurants. The Fish and Chips !!!
  9. Tell them that the event has the full and active support of local government, Bomba, Hospital etc
  10. Boast about Langkawi's attractions.
  11. Boast that this is also the Armed Forces Open Water Swimming Championships.
Why keep quiet? Come on. Hee hee
Tips for swimmers
  • Stay nearby to the race start / finish. Its very convenient and less stress.
  • Cover your arms and legs (eg lycra) against jelly fish.
  • Identify the landmarks for sighting. Buoys are notoriously unreliable.
  • Sight often as the cross currents are quite strong, but keep the head low.
  • Hydrate properly before the start as its hot there.
Hero for the day. A two star Navy General. Way to go Sir
Everyone is happy
Organiser's Contact:
No hard feelings I hope. My wife and I are always happy to support Malaysian Open Water Swimming.
Majulah Sukan Untuk Negara.
Thank you

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Oceanman Krabi, Thailand 10 km. 3 Nov 2019


This is the second year of Oceanman Krabi and the number of swimmers have roughly tripled to more than 900. Must be because of my posittive blog report last year (just kidding). 

The event organiser is A Thrive Co. Ltd. (Anusit Sukprasert "Golf"). They organise numerous sporting events throughout the year. Sergeant O (Auttapon Pramuansinkum of Sport Buddy, Satahip) and the Royal Thai Navy handles the swim course and safety aspect.

Together "Golf" and Sport Buddy have organised numerous successful and exciting swimming events. They were the Thailand Swimathon at Pattaya on 9 Dec 2018,  Oceanman Krabi 2018, Thailand Swimathon on 2 Dec 2017, 12 km Samui Channel Swim in May 2017 and Thailand Swimathon 2016 on 4 Dec 2016, which was the first time I met them. Meeting them were very instrumental in making me fall in love with Open Water Swimming. I love these guys and OWS in Thailand.

Like many other top sporting events in Thailand, Oceanman Krabi is strongly supported by the local government (the Governor of Krabi Province no less,  gave away the prizes), Tourism Authority of Thailand, a luxury hotel (The Dusit Thani), Royal Thai Navy and many uniformed bodies and commercial sponsors.

The Thai people I feel are the most welcoming ("Land of Smiles") and gentle people I know (I married one). Plus they know how to party and make even a swimming event, fun. With the many beautiful sights around Krabi, one really can't go wrong taking part in Oceanman Thailand.

Swim events planned for 2020 in Thailand

The next Oceanman Krabi has already been confirmed for 25 Oct 2020 and there will also be another two Oceanman events in Thailand in 2020. Thailand Swimathon have told me to expect four events from them. So 2020 will indeed be a very exciting year for OWS in Thailand.

Getting there, moving about and places to stay

Air Asia has many flights each day to Krabi, unlike Pattaya, where there are only a few flights the whole week. The flights are also cheaper to Krabi. Krabi Airport is decent. Eating options at the airport are limited though.

This year (2019), the Organisers provided free shuttle service to the race site. Otherwise, I understand it is quite expensive to take the local taxi. So I recommend renting a car online with the car to be picked up and returned at the airport. It is very convenient and cheap and you will always get a good car.  This year, for quite a new car, it was only RM 130 per day. With Google Maps or Waze, driving around Krabi is quite pleasant with its wide and quiet roads. Two possible car rental booking sites are booking.com or air asia car rental

Hotels are numerous. I think we all know how to book hotels. The official hotel, Dusit Thani is a possible option. A new and value for money condotel is The Beach @ Klong Muang (no alcohol allowed). I stay somewhere else, BTW.

Muslim friendly location
Krabi has a large muslim population. Mosques and halal food are everywhere. The Beach is a halal condotel (no alcohol). Dusit Thani does not serve strictly halal food.
The Beach @ Klong Muang, a new and value for money condotel near to the race site

Day before the Race

Race registration, indemnity form sign off and goodie bag collection is within the plush Dusit Thani grounds. Tents, large placards, EXPO, start / finish gantry have all been set up. Everything is well done, swimmers will get a good feel about the event.
Incredible race setting
The swim course marker buoys are also up and many swimmers go for a practice swim, which is a good idea as there is no jelly fish. Swimmers doing the 10 km should commit to memory the shape of the turnaround island as marker buoys are notoriously unreliable for sighting purposes.
Turnaround island for 10 km. Commit to memory its shape for sighting purposes

Carbo loading dinner, race briefing and event launch

I actually missed it and ate nearby. I knew from last year, that it would be packed with people and the food would be mostly plain pasta. I think I was right as I was told one had to queue for a good 30 minutes for food.

Race Day - my actual swim (10 km)
Ready to go
The 10 km started at 6.30 a.m. I arrived at about 5.45 a.m. after a short walk on the beach from where we were was staying. We had to collect our timing chips, do body marking and the bag drop off. It was all quite smooth. 10 km swimmers were then invited to the beach for a short wait at the holding area. The sea looked fine and calm at this point.
Just before the 10 km start. Cloudy but calm at this point
Race start
The race duly started at 6.30 a.m. sharp. It must have been after only a few seconds, suddenly the heavens opened and it was heavy rain, strong winds, waves going up and down and swimmers crashing into each other.

I have never been so scared in a swim, really. I thought I was going to get a heart or panic attack. Suddenly my tummy started churning and I was totally loosing it. Oh no, am I going to DNF? Stay calm, stay calm, that's my favourite mantra in choppy waters. I only wanted to hang in and not bother at all about speed.

The weather was very bad for maybe the first 2.5 km. Then rubbish appeared, tons of rubbish. I saw the feeding boat but it was slightly off course and I didn't want to waste time, preferring to wait for the next feeding at 5 km.

I'm also very uncomfortable when there are swimmers around me or when someone keeps on touching my feet. All my swim training is done in solitude at home, so I have no qualms swimming on my own.

I found myself alone and just headed for the island. The under water scenery this year was better than last year. Not as good as Perhentian, but beggars can't be choosy. I always try to look at the underwater scenery (if there is any) to get a sense of whether I was moving along.

A long line of swimmers appeared from nowhere as we neared the island. I was mindful to stay away from the rocks but luckily, the currents around the island this year were no where near as strong as last year.

I was totally famished and thirsty at the feeding boat and took time to drink two small bottles of water, down a banana and a gel. It seemed like there were a hundred swimmers there. I'd thought I must have gone off course. But to my surprise I saw Claire, who had beaten me by very clear margins at the last two Perhentian 16 km swims. So it wasn't quite as bad as I had thought.
The turnaround feeding boat felt like a god send. I was even photographed
After the feeding, we couldn't see the next buoy. We just couldn't see anything. Claire pushed on but none of us knew the right way. I vaguely remembered to head for the Dragon peak but I wasn't quite sure. The swim pack was huge. They seemed to be following us, whatever we did.

At about 3 km to go, the sea flattened and I could suddenly see a long line of parallel marker buoys. What luck!!!! I now knew what to target (yes it was the Dragon Crest) and I was feeling completely rejuvenated.

So it was just like swimming in my own pool and the aches all seemed to go away as I didn't have to lift up my head to sight anymore. I was on my own and pulled away from everyone, even Claire. I swam from buoy to buoy (each about 500 m apart). I downed one more gel and went as fast as I could without slowing down. The last 2.5 km was "squeaky bum" time. One should not slow down or stop to adjust anything. Made to the beach alone.

I enjoyed the run on the beach to the finish gantry. That run was actually my longest run the whole year as I don't run anymore after my hip replacement in May 2016.
Longer beach run this year - FUN
3 hours 35 minutes at the finish (vs 3 hours 42 mins last year). The next batch of 10 km swimmers came in at 3 hours 37 minutes. A good day at the office, I would say.

TIP : How to sight during the 10 km

The official course map. But during the Race it won't look like that
Ko Daeng (turnaround island). Memorise the shape.
Dragon Crest (I think). Head for that yellow line to finish.
Its all about sighting landmarks in Open Water Swimming. Marker buoys and boats are notoriously unreliable as targets. Buoys and boats can move about. Marker buoys also look like  personal safety floats. When the weather is mad and waves choppy, everything looks a mess. You have no idea where you are going.

But something does not change, whatever the circumstance.  Landmarks, islands, mountain tips. This is what you always look for in Open Water Swimming because they are easy to see and don't change.

Swimming out, use Ko Daeng as your target. Memorise its shape.

Swimming back, head for the mountain tip (I think its called Dragon Crest. The finish line is actually to the left of that mountain tip, the yellow line above).

Super easy, that's why I left the large group behind.

Comparing the swim in 2019 vs 2018

I feel that there were more choppy waves in 2019, but the currents were definitely stronger in 2018. There were places in 2018 where the swimmer was hardly moving, causing a very high DNF rate.

The DNF rate in 2018 was 48% vs about 25% in 2019 (if we assume everyone started, but maybe 10% DNS).

The 5 km turnaround in 2019 was much easier than in 2018, much less currents. It was a good idea to have the turning buoy closer to the island in 2019, as last year I saw many swimmers going around the island but not the turning buoy.

The feeding boat at the turnaround in 2019, did a much better job. The boat to remain stationary unlike in 2018. The feeders knew what they were doing and there was even a Pro photographer on board (CK).

Some swimmers were faster in 2018 (eg. Rupert, Charin) whilst some were faster in 2019 (eg Serge, Steven and me). Its a mixed bag. So I'm not 100% sure which year was the faster course.
Accurate distance

10 km Champion. Fredric Liljestroem (2:24). Rupert Tan's 2:23 last year is still the course record
5 km Overall Champ. Jose Lois Larossa (1:08) New course record
Sexy Serge Dominichini 50+ Champion (2:43). Improved by 41 mins from 2018!!!
Simon (5 km 1:38) and Claire (10 km 3:37)
Mohd Zaimar (3:37) has improved by leaps and bounds

Yasmin (read last year's report), 4:58 first ever 10 km, Third

My buddy, Tim (3:41)
60+ podium. Myself, Harry (3:34) and Tim (3:41)

Results and Prize Giving

Full results:  HERE
10 km Champion Fredric Liljestroem (2:24)
Very nice gesture by Rupert Tan (2:28) and his parents to present Golf with a souvenier

I exchanged a few words with the Governor, very nice man. 2nd 60+  for me
We didn't do a "Malaysia Boleh" this year, most had left

Sight seeing at Krabi

Krabi is a top tourist destination. Many beautiful islands and beaches around and many other things too. 
We took the Four Island Tour by Sea Eagle Tour Company and totally recommend this Company and "Guide Fay". Trip Advisor has lots of useful information
Please use this type of shoe for the island tours. Slippers have to handed in.


Definitely recommend Oceanman Thailand on 25 Oct 2020 and the other two Oceanmans planned for Thailand in 2020, and all swim events by Thailand Swimathon in 2020.

Khop Khun Krup / Thank you