Ironman Western Australia 2013 race report by Mark Yeo

For those who aren’t familiar to Mark…he’s got a profile page here.

I’ve actually copied and pasted his super long “facebook status” post, where he usually put up all his race reports. Here goes!!

8th Dec – The D day!!!!!

Woke up at 0330hrs. A heavy breakfast (6 slice of bread, one cup of yogurt, an apple and cup of tea. A quick view on some of my favourite motivational video and quotes to get my blood pumped up. “If your dream does not scare you, probably it’s ain’t big enough!!” “This is about limits. Reaching them, exploring them, exceeding them what you thought yours were. Coming to the conclusion that there aren’t any limits”–kwnmw

Pre-race: Body guide my entire body, “gao gao”. Tattoo on, ankle chip on. Wake my wife up and off we go within minutes. Transition area open at 0400hrs and closed at 0515hs. Reached at 0415hrs and busy setting up. Gosh first hiccup of the day, I forgot my yogurt box which I meant to put it between my aero bars to act as a “convenient store” for easy access. My wife volunteer to dash back to pick it up for me but I told her to drop the idea. Too rush and also I will make do which what I have and one of the things we do is to overcome hiccup along the way. Get over it and move on. Next up is pumping the tires. I borrowed a pump from the crew and damn it, it’s not getting any air into my tires. This pump is different from the one I used at home. I had little experience using such pumps. I struggle and break into cold sweat. Is the pump faulty or it’s my tires having issues?? After some mad attempts, I finally figure out how to use the pump.

Gosh, what a cold start of the day. 2 hiccups in transition area. Bottles filled, gels taped, gears checked and off we go out of transition. Glad to meet up Ian, who DNS due to health concerns but he still showed up to support the event. This small guy had a very BIG heart. It’s a pity not to be able to race with him physically on my maiden attempt but I know his spirit will be with me throughout the race. More lubs and put on the wetsuit. Nice, it’s feel so good to be in wetsuit here, haha. By now the “silence” is deafening. Lots of things going thru my head now. Took some final pictures with my wife and Ian, I head into the water for warm up. The water is calm but my heart is racing by now. Soon the pros flag off and next is our turn. I’m toeing the start line of Ironman Western Australia!!!

Swim – Managed to find Vivian and after some handshakes, the gun goes off. We are freezing in our wetsuit under the cold wind and we saw one guy in normal trisuit. He happen to be a fellow Singaporean, and his reasoning of not wearing one is becos he perform better without one. Thumbs up to him. We took our time to enter the water, let the washing machine effect settle down. Immediately I look for targets to draft. Everyone is swimming pretty fast and I found myself all alone in the water. I panic a little and swim front crawl to speed up (I can swim faster in front crawl but it only last me 200-300metres before my heart rate shoot up above 200s).

Soon we hit the U turn point. Time check 40mins. Gosh It’s unbelievable. I turn around and check on my back to see how many pax behind me. I can hardly spot a few. I begin to doubt my eyes. I double check my watch and its show 41mins. It’s amazingly fast for my standard. A voice in my left corner told me to slow down and do my own race. He is none other than Wilson, my swim coach. Concentrate on the glide and breast stroke. Don’t attempt to overtake anyone unnecessarily. Trust the training. 2hrs is doable. I slowed down and concentrate on the glide. I close my eyes and keep gliding and gliding. I’m enjoying every single stroke now. I relax my legs abit to prepare them for the bike. Swim exit and Ian was there shouting at me. “Damn it, 1:30 u basket!!!” I couldn’t believe my eyes. I’m over the moon by now. I make it!!! I stay under the “shower” for minutes. I posed for pictures after pictures for my wife. Big confidence boaster!!

Bike – I took my time in the transition. Had my 2 slice of bread, one power bar and a gel. Dried my feet, apply lub and sunblock and off I go for the bike leg. 7hrs is the target. 26kph for 1st half, and 28kph for remaining is the plan. Easy easy I hit 30kph for the first segment. The supporters cheering downtown is awesome. The wind is mercilessly strong and I battled hard against them. Freezing from the water, and now freezing under the cold strong headwind. I know I’m going to fall sick tomorrow, but for now, it’s there is only one focus. No turning back and keep pedalling. Again I’m in no man land. Everyone is passing me. It hurts me a little in the mind. Everyone seems to be drafting behind each other. Big pack of bikers. I had no one except myself. I just keep on eating and eating nonstop. No “convenient box” between my aero bars, my nutrition plan is affected.

I stuff almost everything into my mouth all at one shot, and just keep chewing. One pit stop at 40km to refilled my bottles. The head wind is so strong than I almost SPD a couple of time when I was caught by surprise. I pushed and pushed, and the first 90km on track 3hr25mins. I’m so happy the bike route pass thru Ian’s house (rental) and they set up at supporter’s station outside. This sick man is not resting, he is with us PHYSCIALLY throughout the race and supporting us in the cold wind. Trust me, it’s easier to race than standing there to support. Thumbs up to all supporters. I make it a point to thank every single supporter along the way. They make a big difference in this journey and make me forget all the pain we are going thru. “If you can’t say thank you, you are racing too hard”.

I feel like peeing after 3 liters of water. I tried to pee on the bike while riding, but something seems to come out from wrong hole. Oh shit, it’s at “customs” now. Lucky for me there is an aid station round the corner. I dismount from bike and head in. Damn, someone is inside bombing big time too. Volunteer told me there is another toilet at the other end of the aid station but I rather wait than walking my way there to find someone else in it. Waited about 5mins, it’s my turn to bomb. Shoick to the max after enduring for the past 5mins. After spending some precious 10mins at the aid station, I know I need to push harder to make up for it. The bike route took us to nice scenery, but the head wind are daunting. I struggle hard to maintain a 25kph, and all my bike strategy need to change. I keep a deliberate effort to catch the tailwind and speed up to 35kph, and high cadence when facing headwind. It keep changing all day long and definitely headwind are much more than tailwind.

At 115km, I passed Ian’s house again. This time I catch my family there too. So so happy to see my son there enjoying himself. The final loop is good. I love it. All the speed monster had done their bike and no more speed monster pass me. It’s much safer in a lot of sense as now we have the whole road to us. Soon 150km mark, and time check 5hrs 50mins. I’m still on track for the 7hr goal. However 150km is my mental wall, and I hit it hard yet again. Damn it!!! I was reduced to 20kph and it didn’t help when a lot of pp start passing me. The 7hr target seems to vanish in the cold wind. I took a short break to refill my bottles and quick calculation, I need to hit at least a 32kph if I want a sub7 bike ride. It’s pretty much impossible now, but the thought of Ian braving the cold wind make me bite my lips for the final push. I pick up my legs and push hard, really hard and hope I don’t pay for it at the run leg. I crossed the line in 7:02 and narrowly missed the target of 7hrs. Slight disappointment but I know I had given it all. I saw a familiar cycling jersey “CK” whom I bike frequently with at coastal area. CK (Cycling Kaki) are a bunch of very friendly guys who bike for leisure. We both took turns to motivate each other throughout the last 30km and crossed the line together. A big high 5 in the transition area and good luck wishes for the run.

Run – Took two slice of bread, one powerbar and change of socks. I head out for the final leg, the run. Noting is going to stop me now. I’m inches (42km) away from the finishing line. My legs are feeling great, probably from the adrenaline and I’m hitting a 6mins/km pace. I need to stay conservative as I was warned about hitting another wall after 5km of run. I reduced my pace to 8mins as that’s my initial plan. 6hrs marathon with 8mins/km pace with numerous pitstop to refill and stretch. The cold wind are so strong and I was shivering. I can’t feel anything except cold. No pain no cramp. I try hard to stay within 8mins pace and soon I pass the 5km point. Time check 36mins. I’m so happy to see watermelons are an aid station. I love these thirst quencher. I fall in love with watermelon at an ultra-marathon event (Twilight Challenge).

The run route took us to the beautiful beaches and lots of supporters are lining up along the route cheering us. One stretch there are a group of stunning bikini ladies and I can’t tell you how nice and creative these pp are. Lots of messages and drawing are scribble on the road. Lots of loud music and costume parade. I saw Roy who is in his final lap probably. He is super-fast and a very humble guy. He shout out at me and it’s so nice to know he is finishing strong. Supporters are calling you by your name and it just keep you going and going. The adrenaline is so strong inside me that I make a crazy change of plan to upgrade my run target from 6hrs to 5hrs. So far I had only achieved 2 Sub5 marathons and it’s always my target to do a Sub5 marathon in all these years of running. Both of these are done as a pure marathon and this time I’m trying to do it after a 3.8km swim and 180km bike.

First loop done in 1hr12mins. The first wrist band was so precious. It’s pretty big and I scare it will slip off my wrist as I swing my arms. 2nd lap – I managed to befriend a fellow athlete named Jessica who paced me throughout the second loop. She is doing a 7min pace and it’s her 4th lap!! I saw Vivian who is doing her first lap. I’m happy she complete the bike as well and we are both on our way to our first finish. I shout out loud at her and she return me a “thumbs up”. Nothing much eventful except battling with the cold wind. I’m focusing on every single steps, body form and breathing.

Soon we complete the 2nd loop. I thanked and congratulated Jessica when she is entering the finishing chute while I continue on my 3rd lap. She thanked me back for pushing her as without me, she would have walked or slow down. Time check 2hrs 25mins. Precious 2nd wrist band. The 3rd lap was most agonizing. I start to look for new target to pace, or rather targets to block those headwind (now I know the importance of drafting when running). I can’t recalled much pain except my right ankle is start to hurt. I had injured this ankle last year during SCM where I limped more than 20km for an 8hr marathon finish. That experience is humbling and proven to be a key milestone in my life as I know I can walk a marathon with a sprained ankle and never ever give up spirit is so strong. I try not to push too hard as I do not want to end up injuring my ankle or worse ruin the entire race. I take special effort to land softer on my right leg to minimize the impact to that ankle. I asked for muscle spray or cream from the medic, I had also asked for hot drinks or food to keep myself warm, but these are not provided here. Again I recalled during Twilight Challenge, the organizer provide hot cup noodles, coffee and tea. So shoick!!! Well, we don’t have such support here, I had put ice on it to relieve some pain. Gosh, those ice in your freezing hands are beyond words. I can’t take in any more ice water/isotonic drink. I just keep on running to keep myself warm. I was given a large “aluminium foil” to warp around myself but I chuck it away at the next aid station as it’s too cumbersome to run with it. It’s freezing whenever there is a headwind.

I saw many of athletes walking by now. Some just starting their first loop. These are the weekend warriors. Wherever I passed a runner, I will pat them on their back and try to motivate them in some way. It’s all mental by now. I had “low-5” more than a hundred of them. Some are so tired that they can’t lift up their hands, so I would lift up my hand to offer a “Low-5”. Saw quite a number of Singaporean out there and we motivate each other. I make it a point to look out for every single one of them. I feel so good to see friends and fellow Singaporeans out there. There are a lot of Singapore Supporters. We are cheered whenever they see us. “Team Singapore, GO GO GO”. They recognized our Tri Suit and we have a country flag on our race bib. I felt nothing but proud to be “representing” Singapore. For my first time in my life, I’m carrying a Singapore Flag on me.

3rd loop done in 3hr 32mins. Precious 3rd wrist band. 4th lap – I’m on track of a sub5 run and mindful of the wall at 32km in a normal marathon. I’m happy to settle for a 5:15 or even 5:30. I kept telling myself. Anything is a win for me. I need to stay injury free and also I still have few more days of vocation in Perth with my family and have father’s duties to fulfill. I start to slow down abit. I stop eating stuff as now my stomach is bloated. Too much air in it after sucking in all the headwind. I kept farting and feel like shitting. I suck it in as I barely on track for the sub5 marathon and no time to shit. Haha. Now I fully understand the meaning of “Embrace the suck”. I’m still waiting for my friend “Mr PAIN” to come. I keep looking out for my family as my wife told me see will bring the kids back to the main area to cheer me for the final loop.

My vision is blur by now. Lots of images going through my head. I saw the finishing chute and start to visualize the finishing pose. Brazilian roll? Star Jump? Punching the air? Crying in tears of joy and satisfaction? Anything except looking down at the watch please. I picked up my pace. 6:30 -> 6min -> 5min pace. I wanted to finish strong. I collected the final wrist band and head into the finishing chute. Oh man, the supporters lining up, the loud music, flashing lights and red carpet. I extended my hands to high-5 the supporters and run thru it. Suddenly I hear a familiar voice calling me. My family and Ian is there and I almost fall down turning abruptly. I crossed the finishing line with a big star jump. “Mark Yeo, from Singapore. You are an Ironman!!!!” 13h53min is the official timing. $200 contribution to the Yellow Ribbon Project for meeting the time split of Swim ($50), Run ($50) and Total Time ($100). I had narrowly missed the bike time split. I achieved something that I thought once impossible. I defined a new limit and I finish strong. I’m hungry for more. If not those cold winds, I would enjoy the race more. I wish it never end.

Post-Race – All I look for is a blanket and shelter to keep myself away from the merciless cold wind. I’m shivering in the recovery tent. Volunteer took some hot food for me but I can’t eat anything except drinking to hot soup. Saw Ernest and Kelvin in the recovery tent too, and we congratulate each other. All of us is shivering and trying to keep ourselves warm. Wrap like a “Ba Zhang” with the finishing towel and aluminium foil. My family is waiting outside for me. After some composure resorted, I proceed to collect my street bag and finisher tee. Now I can’t find my family. I was in desperate mode now. Tried to call my wife but the loud blasting music probably drown all ring tones. Lucky I still have a phone with me, and after several minutes (which seems to be hours), my wife called me. She went off to drive the car nearer to this exit point. I’m so happy to see them and waste no time to dash back into the car after collecting my bags and bike. Back in the resort, drank a cup of hot tea and bowl of soup, bathed and lights off 2300hrs.


One comment

  1. Amazing job Mark!

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