Friday, September 21, 2018

12km Inaugural Putrajaya Core Island Swim (1 Sep 2018)

Putrajaya - background
Putrajaya is the Federal Administrative centre of Malaysia, meaning all Federal Government offices have recently relocated there.
Many beautiful buildings at Putrajaya
It is a specially planned city, built from scratch, the construction of which started less than 20 years ago. It is a super beautiful city, I should think one of the most beautiful in the world. There are many beautiful buildings, mosques, bridges, wide roads and a Lake. In this Lake is a "Core Island" which has many buildings of its own. The distance around the island is less than 11 km, but because we started and finished at the Kelab Tasik Putrajaya, the swim distance came to about 12 km. Kelab Tasik Putrajaya itself is a kayaking / SUP centre. It also has a gym and a restaurant with a view of the Lake. Lately, Swimon has been having its swim series there.

History of OWS at Putrajaya Lake
The famous Malaysian English Channel swimmer, Datuk Abdul Malik Mydin had more than ten years ago, swam around the Core Island. No one else has done the swim or been given permission, until us on 1 Sep 2018.

Currently PPJ and Swimon are both very keen to hold more OWS events at the Lake. The intention is to make the Putrajaya Lake a top OWS destination (very possible, I think).
A little bit further away is  Precint 6's Water Sports Centre, where the Oceanman, SEA Games, Asian OWS Championships etc have been held. Then there have been international triathlons and duathlons held at Putrajaya.
During weekends, the office complex becomes a ghost town as there are no shops. So that's when KL residents come over to cycle, run, kayak or swim in the many pools at Putrajaya.

The Core Island swim that we did on 1 Sep was so amazingly beautiful and safe that I feel Putrajaya Lake, is going to be the new hotbed for OWS in Malaysia.

The Organisation behind the swim
We all know, Swimon (Amir) is the organizer. He is "a kampong boy from Terengganu" but has to-date organized many successful and safe swimming events all over Malaysia. I have watched him grown from strength to strength in the swimming world but he has always remained humble. He always listens to suggestions by swimmers, has never gotten angry with anyone and gets along well with all members of his organising team. In turn, his team (mostly women) are happy to follow him wherever he goes. I really wish him every success because that would mean swimmers would have more swims to participate in.

The future of Open Water Swimming in Malaysia. A very competent Crew.
The ten participants were specially selected by Amir, all well known to him and to each other, and all have swam in a 10 km event.

To support the ten swimmers was a crew of about 30 skilled people, comprising one kayaker per swimmer, 3 medical personnel and an ambulance, lifeguards (Aquaputra Putrajaya), Marine Police, PPJ personnel, 3 support boats and a super capable Organising Committee (Amir, Julia, Cherish and Afiq) etc.

Its important that the sport of Open Water Swimming has these events, even small ones as it develops the skills of everyone involved. I feel that with the many events that Amir has organized in 2018, the sport is moving along very well. Baring a tragic incident happening, we all can look forward to more OWS events.

Informal support was also provided by three top photographers, PPJ staff and swimmers' family members (my wife, Joey, little Elysa etc).

After the swim there was a nice lunch / prize giving at the Kelab graced by Dato' Omairi Bin Hj Hashim from PPJ. This was the first time ever, since participating in about 200 events, that I  received a framed certificate. Such an incredible gesture, we were made to feel so important. Thank you Organiser.
Doc Fauzi Othman came to see us off
Before the start
The atmosphere was very relaxed. We knew each other very well. The bantering had started weeks earlier in our WhatsApp group.
Bob, my outstanding kayaker
Swimmers were introduced to their respective kayaker. Amir, Afiq (Chief Referee) and Cherish (Chief Safety Officer) all gave their briefings.  Everything was very professional, we even wore electronic timing bracelets.

Swimmers and crew before the start
The actual swim
Swimmers about to start
The swim started at 7.58 a.m. We swam anti clockwise. Very quickly the swim packs were set. Serge Dominichini was way out in front on his own. Then there was a group comprising Sabki, Emily, Claire and myself. The others came behind swimming on their own, I understand.

Swim conditions
Conditions were actually perfect. It was cloudy for a good few hours. There was no wind or waves for almost the whole way. No jelly fish of course. Some swimmers reported seeing fishes and even a large monitor lizard in the Lake.
For me, the water was clean, no complaints.

The first 9 km
I found myself at the back of my group (fifth overall). There seemed to be a large number of kayaks, observers and swimmers with their safety buoys in front of me. I couldn't for the life of me figure out why I was doing so poorly. Try as I might, I couldn't narrow the gap to Sabki, the one armed swimmer. I was in awe of him.
Close together for 9 km

For a good 9km, Sabki was close by
Mentally, I was starting to come up with my excuses. My arms and shoulders were so painful, there seemed to be nothing left in them. The good thing going for me was that I was regularly taking my quick breaks for nutrition and my legs were fresh. 

Always close to my kayaker, Bob

My beloved kayaker (Bob) told me that Serge was so far ahead that he was about to finish. I was in fourth place overall by now, but one of the swimmers in front had not been taking his nutrition breaks. I decided it was all or nothing right at that moment with 3km to go. My legs had not been used, so I kicked for all I was worth. Previously, I seldom utilized my kick as I didn't think it helped.
Overhead shots by Fiz Said
 The last 3 km
Once I  decided it was all or nothing, I found myself in joint second with Emily. Her strokes were fast and firm. No way I could take her, I thought.
But Bob was probably the best kayak escort on duty. He was always on my breathing side (my left) and deviced his own hand signals which I could understand.
Slugging it out with Emily
Finishing soon
 I only needed to look at my kayaker the last 3 km rather than looking ahead which is very tiring. Emily is close he signaled. Emily is very close, he kept on signaling.
I realized Emily kayaker's had gone off course. So I got lucky and was able to get clear of Emily only in the last 100m.
Last few meters

Job done, just
I found the whole swim to be stressful due to the close proximity of other swimmers. The route was beautiful but I didn't give it one look as I was trying to keep up with the other swimmers. I was so surprised at around 9 km, I was finally able to overtake Sabki, quite easily actually.
Then it was a neck and neck fight with Emily. So exciting, it felt like our own little Olympics.

Many positives
Definitely one of the best sporting events I have ever participated the last 34 years.
  1. We were made to feel special. Only ten participants.
  2. A full support crew (30 people) to support us.
  3. A historic event. Not easy to get permission to swim around the island.
  4. Beautiful scenery.
  5. Clean water. Whilst the water  was pitch black, I felt that the water was quite clean. No e-coli. After the swim, our bodies were not sticky like after a sea swim.
  6. No jelly fish.
  7. Close proximity to our respective homes. No need to take flights, book hotels etc.
  8. Wonderful prize giving lunch.
  9. All of us receiving a framed certificate was a wonderful gesture.
  10. Many top quality pictures and videos available for free. Perfect for our memories.
Its all about the Crew and we have it

Trophies for all swimmers

Framed certificates for all. Thank you Datuk

The swimmers

Swimmers' Testimonials
Amir (Organiser):
"Not sure I can repeat this. Maybe it was my sweetest memory of a swim event ever".

Serge (Champion):
"I feel the same about it - great event and very scenic swim. Almost no animals, except for a big monitor lizard".

Wonderful event Amir, Cherish, Afiq, Julia, PPJ, Polis, Medical, Photographers, fellow swimmers and family members.



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