Race morning was greeted by claps of thunder and pouring rain. The alarm hasn’t even blared off yet but I peeled my eyes open anyway, and had a look at my clock. 6:43am.
First thought was: “Hmm… Will the race still commence?”. Next was a flow of whatsapp messages with Ben and Chris about weather updates and we more or less determined that the start times will be affected. As for me, since I stay near East Coast Park which is the race venue makes me the one to give the most accurate weather updates by the minute. My age-group’s start time was at 0905. So I reckoned if the rain does not subside by 0830, it’ll be a ‘no go’.
It was about 20min past 7am and the rain started to become a drizzle and the sky only had a light shade of grey. So on to stuffing up myself with some carbs and electrolytes. Breakfast- A dollop of Nutella on a slice of bread, 1/2 Powerbar Ride Energy to line my stomach walls, a Saltstick tablet, a few slices of green apple and a whiff of Nespresso Rosabaya. Once I had my fill, I grabbed my race bag and hurried off to the race venue, just in case the organisers decided not to adjust the start times. A quick check with my buddies on whatsapp just before I stepped out of the house and both said they were on their way as well.
The ride to the transition area was a cautious affair due to the conditions after the downpour and my mind was going through a mental ride of the course with some risks assessments. A pre-empt of hazards on a wet day at a triathlon race with over 1000 participants cramped in East Coast Park would help somehow. When I reached, half of the transition area was already full. Seemed to me that the rain hasn’t really dampened the mood. My tag, 6612 was located right in the middle so it’s pretty direct to the bike/run exit. I got my bike hooked up, arranged my race gear and nutrition, which consists of 2 Powergels, 1 bottle each of concentrated electrolytes and recovery drink, a small party-pack Snickers and a salt tablet, just in case if my legs feel tight provided if I had to push really hard on the bike leg. The watch shows 0840; just on schedule for a quick trip to the honeybucket and a light warm-up.
All decked out…
A few observations; the transition area was on a field so it’s pretty obvious how it looks after a ‘half-a-century’ storm. Fortunately the field had hard packed soil so it wasn’t that mucky. But regardless of weather, I felt that the organisers should’ve lined whatever mats they had or were left with for safety reasons because we wouldn’t know what lies beneath the grass and mud. However, kudos to them for having an abundance of portaloos to aid us in our last-minute attempt to improve our ‘power to weight’ ratio.
After a light barefoot jog to the warm up area which was just next to the swim start, the 40-44 group were already called to be on standby. Looked like the start times were on schedule. So that left me with 10 minutes for some quick pulls in the water. Till this point, everything was done in a huff due to the weather. There wasn’t even any capacity for pre-race nerves, which was good. And staying near the race venue was a bonus.
Man on loud-hailer: “Calling all red cappers with number tags 6600 to 6699, please proceed to the start line now. We shall be flagging you guys off in another 3 minutes. So, good news because it looks like everything is back on schedule…”
3 minutes went by like seconds and the horn sounded off. I was off to a quick start after seeing that pace wasn’t that frantic. So I took advantage of that, had a few quick peeks at the first buoy and picking out some reference points and then carried on. The water was calm after the storm and navigation wasn’t really an issue because there were other age-groupers who started earlier had bright green and yellow caps on. All I had to do was just chase them down. The swim was done in 2 laps in an L-shaped course and I was out of the water under 28 minutes.
The run to T1 was a long one and the rain started to become moderate again. I quickly stuffed in my Snickers and gel into my back pocket and I was off to the most hazardous part of the race, the bike leg. I couldn’t really do a flying mount because the course is narrow and the run-off area for the bike mount was very short. The bike course is shown on the race map below.
It basically brings us right beside the hawker centre, which is the most hazardous part of the course (more on that later), join car park E then out to East Coast Park Service Road, down to National Sailing Club past car park G, then a u-turn into the park itself and all the way back with a total of 6 loops. The best area to give it the beans was a clean stretch from car park F to the Sailing Club but unfortunately, there was some headwind. Since the course was done in loops, the faster riders had to keep over-taking, shouting, and tailing other slower riders. So much so for a non-draft legal race. I gobbled down my Snickers as a quick sugar fix because I didn’t have a proper breakfast, and I almost finished up my electrolytes as a precaution because the sky is clearing up again and it’s approaching afternoon where the sun will be right up.
Ok then. Now about the most dangerous part of the course which I call it a ‘crash pit’. There was a huge signboard that says in bold “NO PASS ZONE”. According to the organisers, this area is suppose to be an area for slowing down due to some tight turns and racers who just got out of T1. In a race with so many participants, it’s virtually impossible to make us slow right down and not overtake. And being a race, it’s a given that most will be riding almost at the limit. So in that sense, I felt that the course’s design was wrong, and that zone is full of white zebra crossing markings and concrete which effectively becomes an ice skating rink in the rain. Even those who were riding through it at safe speeds were spilling all over though I would say it still boils down basic bike handling skills, or the lack of. All the screaming and shouting by the safety officials proved to be futile. There’ll be novice and beginners at every race but the organisers failed to see this point with a poorly concieved route.
Past the skate park and it’s the end of lap number 6. My bike computer shows 1:06:48 during my dismount and after reaching T2, I took a bit time by having a quick swig of recovery drink and wipe down my soiled feet with a rag. As a personal preference, I would rather spend a bit of time making sure my feet is comfortable and have a good run than having to push with irritated feet.
My thighs felt tight initially, which I didn’t understand why because I didn’t really push hard on the bike due to the circumstances. So I decided to take it a little bit easier and maintained at about 35bpm below max HR. And just when I was about to check my pace when my watch beeped at the 1km mark, it conked out because there was an overload of old data which I didn’t delete. Talk about race preparation right down to the finest details… But at least I can still monitor my HR and speed, which my target is nothing below 13km/h.
The run course leads past the hawker centre towards the cable ski lagoon, past the back of the seafood restaurants and all the way to the futsal park (previously known as the Singapore Tennis Centre) before turning back for a complete loop and it’s 2 loops of 5km. My legs felt better just before my first turn at the futsal park so I opened up the taps a little bit. I had a saltstick clipped on my race belt as a backup just in case my legs feel tight again. During then, the sun was scorching right above us already. First thought was to increase my pace bit by bit because I didn’t want to blow it up.
One thing came to mind was I didn’t recall seeing any among my wave who overtook me. Sure, there may be a few way in front but not much because during T2, my bike was like the only one among the row of racks that were for my age group. So at that moment, I was thinking: “Hey, I may be in for a good position!”. Second time past the futsal park is when I dug deep and I started to count my strides. By now the ground was really steaming due to the evaporation of the rain. I thought: “Heck. Let’s get out of this heat quick!”. My watch died on me anyway and I’d reached a point of no return.
I crossed the finish line with the race clock showing a net time of 03:13:42, and I didn’t even know what that means. I’d have to wait for the official results to see my actual race timing. The recovery area was where I met familiar faces, pleasantries were exchanged and I was also busy scooping up ice from the huge cooler box containing drinks to stuff into my shorts. And it felt damn good. Some of the people I met there shared their timing with me and after some mental arithmetic, I had a gut feel my overall time could be between 02:20 to 02:30 and I also felt that I didn’t really go all out. My target was to finish under 02:35, which was an unofficial PB I’ve achieved years back. Awesome.
Shortly after packing up and taking snapshots at the transition area, I saw Ben and Chris and they ‘reported’ their respective timings. Both finished at the region of 02:40 and it was a commendable effort from Chris because it was his maiden tri. Even made more so because there was a foreign object stuck in one of his toes! So T*S, if you’re reading this, that’s what happens if you don’t place mats in the transition area when you’re locating it at a field!
As you can see it’s all bright and sunny after the race…
The wait for the results was excruciatingly long. Luckily I was kept company by Robin and friends from FATCAT cycles, whom they’d set up a tent there for general bike maintenance. And they were greeted by many who had suffered a crash and had damaged derailleurs hanging off their bike.
At about a quarter to 1300, the preliminary results were finally out.
I felt chuffed the moment I saw the results. Top five with a timing of 02:26:12! Not bad at all! But it’s only after a while I realised the other racers in the list with their number tags starting with 80**. These were the ones who registered for the National Championships that is in a totally different category but their result were in the same classification as the standard age groupers. This clearly looked ambiguous and I tried to seek further clarification from the race officials but they couldn’t provide a concrete answer to my queries and told me that they’ll get back to me at a later date. But it was a good result for me nevertheless because I’ve finally achieved an official short-course PB. The official results were out after a few days and here’s how it looked:
The organisers still had the National champ competitors ranked amongst age-groupers, which just didn’t really made sense. They introduced this category for this year’s edition and it was read and understood initially that it was to be a separate category altogether. This discrepancy actually affected every age group. But I guess I’ll have to be content with my own results even though I was pushed down the pecking order to sixth. Haha!
To conclude, the 6 weeks to speed programme that I’d embarked on to prep for this race worked in some way. But I felt I wasn’t really that lean and quick yet, so I was still churning out a bit of effort during the tapering week where I should’ve took it more easily in order to get myself well rest before the race. And there’s room for improvement in other areas like my transition and swim. IM 70.3 Auckland beckons and I shall be starting my training programme for that at the end of October.
Finally, as a pledge, my donation for the Home Nursing Foundation is S$51.20. And to Ian and all the other Friends of Iron Project, thanks for making this initiative possible. Thanks for reading and your perpetual support.