Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Kapas Marang Swim (6.5 km) on 22 April 2018

This is the longest running (since the early 1990s) and most popular swim event in Malaysia. The 600 slots were fully taken up in minutes. 
The event is strongly supported by the local Terengganu Government. For the very low entry fee of RM 100 (USD 25), swimmers receive a Finisher's medal, good T Shirt, boat transfer to island, hotel transfer to jetty (main hotels only), 100 kayaks / jet skis on duty,  well marked course, nice after race meal, grand prize giving occasion, prize money for top three in each category, trophies for top ten in each category, on line results and e-certs the following day, rescue and medical etc.
Can't  be matched by any other event I've participated in terms of value for entry fee.
100 kayaks on duty
The 6.5km swim is from the beautiful island of Pulau Kapas to the Terengganu coastline on the east coast of West Malaysia, specifically Pantai Kelulut, which is also a nice long beach. The east coast of Malaysia is known for its nice beaches and clean waters, except during the monsoon months.
The islands off Terengganu - A swim party waiting to happen
Malaysia, specifically Terengganu is blessed with many beautiful islands and warm clear waters, which are very capable of becoming world class open water swimming venues. The diving community have discovered them, its time for the swimming community to discover them.
The swims / venues that have strong potential are:
  • This Kapas -  Marang swim which started about 25 years ago. They could easily get 1,000 participants next year. They have the strong backing of the Government  agencies and the financial backing of the local Government.
  • Pulau  Perhentian (16km and 4km) started last year (2017). The water is super clear, support boats available etc.
  • Pulau Redang, Pulau Tenggol, Pulau Tioman (Pahang) etc. are all a swimmer's paradise waiting to happen.
Getting there and the accommodation
The 6.5 km swim is from the island of Pulau Kapas to the mainland (Pantai Kelulut).
Swimmers may opt to stay at either:
  • Pulau Kapas itself. The waters and beaches around the island are nice (good opportunity to take stunning photos). But the accommodation from what I was told and can observe, is AWFUL. There's problems with electricity and many other things. Many swimmers did opt to stay on the island.
  • Close to the finish (Pantai Kelulut). There are simple chalets.
  • Kuala Terengganu, which is about 11 km to Marang Jetty and a bit more to Pantai Kelulut. The city of Kuala Terengganu has many modern hotels. We stayed at the Regency Waterfront which I like very much. Located in a beautiful park next to waterways, horse training area, the sea etc. Centrally located, it is a reasonable distance to the Airport, Marang Jetty, Shahbandar Jetty, the town etc.

Its a five hours drive from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Terengganu. Many of my friends did this. Our little group flew (55 minutes flight) and rented a car at the airport. The organizer did provide a bus between the town and jetties and Pantai Kelulut. If you miss the bus then you are in trouble as its very difficult to get a taxi. So renting a car is a good idea.
Thus if you opt to fly and then rent a car at the airport, its a very convenient to get to this event.
Race briefings are held at Marang Jetty and on Pulau Kapas. Race pack distribution is at Marang Jetty. 

Checking out the Finish
The boat trip beween Marang Jetty to the island is a short 25 minutes. Its about one our if one takes a nice ferry from Shahbandar Jetty. Those that took the Shabandar ferry only arrived at the island a mere 5 minutes before race start. So please take the 6 a.m. boat from Marang Jetty to the island on race morning. 
The Actual Race
Race morning : Ernesto, Han Ah Wah, Soh, KL Tan, Thong, Myself and Philip Tan
The Men started at 8.08 a.m. whilst the Women started at 8.13 a.m.
The official distance was 6.5km. Swimmers recorded from 6.45 km to more than 8 km on their smart watches.
Men's Race Start
Sea Lice
For the first part of the race, there was a lot of painful sea lice stings going right across one's face. It felt like jelly fish tentacles.
Sea lice stings affects individuals differently. Some develop severe rashes, allergies and don't do this race anymore.
But for most, the sting is severe but it goes away quickly. For the second half, no stings whatsoever.

My strategy was to go from buoy to buoy (about 350 m apart), no matter what. I don't actually trust my sense of direction. I just head for the next buoy regardless of what my wonky brain was thinking..
Sometimes I arrive at a buoy at right angles due to the currents. I try to pass each buoy on the right side. This meant I got quite an accurate 6.5 km or so on my Garmin, but the down side was, I was always sighting and this slowed me down a lot I guess. But better to swim straight I thought.
Some fast women went by me even before the half way point.
Half Way
At Half way, I literally swam into the kayak that was giving out water. I didn't take the water but did swallow down a gel I was carrying. A swimmer set off from the kayak and I decided to draft him. I soon realized the swimmer was Soh Chiow Chun. I have lost to him at P.D. and Labuan so I didn't mind going at his speed and trying to conserve energy.
Two young girls also elected to draft Soh. So we swam in a pack of four for quite a while.
Nearing the Finish
Swimmers started appearing from all angles, all converging on the finish balloon. 
It was incredibly exciting. I felt like this was the Rio 2016 finish. Everyone picked up speed and were going into each other.
I decided to swim on my own as drafting is a boring way to swim. Surprisingly I was able to actually pull away and I managed to overtake the whole bunch except for one young girl who had already broken away.
So it was a 2 hours 5 mins and 32 seconds finish. I was secretly hoping for sub 2 hours, but we always accept whatever fate gives us. 
Some friends were in front of me, whilst some were behind. You win some, you loose some. No problem.
  • The clear overall winner was Tern Jian Hin in 1:25:46. He had just been to the Brisbane Commonwealth Games and had participated in the Backstroke final.
  • Second overall was Rupert Tan in 1:27:15.
  • Third was young Australian Luke Mallia in 1:29:11
  • Fourth was Jose in 1:29:12 who also won his category.
  • First in my category (above 47 years) was Australian Dean Hancock in 1:42:12
The most amazing result to me was that of Jessie Wong Toh Shing in 1:34:52 winner of Female 35 years and above.
I first met her at Pattaya in Dec 2016 where she was already fast and yet 40 minutes behind Rupert. Now its only seven minutes.
Her 15 km training swims at 3.30 a.m. have paid off. Congratulations Jessie.
Jessie, going to create history soon
Full Results
By exercising, by being at the start line means you are a winner. Only 534 swimmers finished the 6.5km out of Malaysia's population of 31 million. Being at the start line puts you in the top 0.002% of the population. Definitely a WINNER.

Andy, Rupert, Annika, Jose, Myself and Gary
Exercising / swimming delays the aging process, increases the body's immunization system, sharpens the mind, makes you happy, keeps serious ailments like diabetes, cancer, arthritis and many more away.
So anyone that does sports is definitely a WINNER. 
The down side was, just for a two day trip, I put on 1 kg. Our group didn't stop eating.
Thank you
2 May 2018

Pics by Fiz Said, Lokman Hakim etc and us


Dean said...

Great write up!

sofiantriathlete said...

Thank you Dean.

I trust you have received your photos from Gary.
Otherwise peruse "Fizsaid" on facebook.
He has many event photos, thousands.