It was the cycling leg of the relay last year which got me started in the Duathlon. I partnered with Steve to form the Dua Kaki team in 2005.
This year, I looked straight in the eye of the full challenge - 10km Run, 36km Bike, 5km Run. I had my initial reservations because I dreaded the bike-run transition. The lure of the full distance didn't seem all too attractive as well.
Nevertheless I registered for the race, reassuring myself that I've ran more than 15km before and biked more that 40km, albeit at separate times. Moreover I should be fitter than a year ago, and I've since had more spinning classes to *hopefully* improve on my bike splits. I also had the support of great training buddies who volunteered to pace me, or just simply turn up to cheer the participants on. Another group of friends from the usual Saturday morning runs also decided to take up the challenge of the relay category for a 'feel' of a multisports event. The spirit of attempting the race - even in the relay - spurred me to sign up as an individual participant.
Even through days leading to the event, I still had cold feet. Again, I reassured myself that distance wasn't my mantra, but by having faith in Luke 1:37 and being 'slow and steady'.
The Agony of The Feet
WL picked me up early on Sunday morning for Mandarin Gardens, our meeting point for the rest of the Saturday running group. I had my hearty Macdonald's breakfast and I made sure i hydrated with enough water and electrolytes. I wasn't too sure what I missed out.
Fast forward to the starting line-up, Edkor gatecrashed to pace Reeves and me. 9:30am - the Men's Open race started. I ran and maintained a constant 10.3kmph pace. There were several slips of pace but I compensated with a faster gait. A bunch of NS boys from 4 SIR in their distinctive "blue beauty queen sash" singlets overtook me in great pace. I thought of them as fit young men who could do the 10km in good timing. But could they endure the race?
I finished the first 10km in good sub-hour timing. My PB for a multisport event and I still felt good and ready to take on the bike course.
Then I transitioned for the bike leg. It was also the first time I used the carbon strykes and aero drink bottle - my first race with aerobars. The 36 km 'journey' consisted of 4 loops around the flat coastal park. I managed to maintain a good 28-36kmph speed, except for the 2nd round when I experienced severe cramps of the calves. I couldn't figure at first why my calves were straining at a seemingly flat and easy course until I caught a glimpse of my calves and they were bulging hard! I tried to vary my gears to relieve some pain but to no avail. I tried to get on aero position to shift my muscle groups. It was a temporary relief but the strains persisted with agonizing intensity. Something was not right, but my contradicting brain told me to keep going and keep pushing, albeit at a comfortable pace. I knew for sure that I couldn't afford to bonk since there was another 20km ahead of me for the bike and another 5km run. I had to finish the race (after all, WL promised to treat me to makan if I finished the race! haha... ).
Soon, my legs was on autopilot and I couldn't feel a thing. All I felt was that my calves were getting stiffer the more I pedalled. I was travelling at 20kmph in lead-laden legs. I was prepared to slow down to a halt and just fall off the bike with my cleats still attached. Then I saw a red cross medic ahead and I slowly veered to the right towards him. Lloyd screamed from behind "Munn! Right! Right! Coming in on the right! MUNN!! F-word!" I almost came to a stop and tried to uncleat but I couldn't! Lloyd took evasive action and sped past me in the narrowest of gaps on my right. Dang! I felt bad coz I could have caused him to crash!
*Sorry Lloyd, bro....*
I called on the medic to hold on to the bike while I tried to uncleat. Again, I couldn't. I had to literally twist my body (instead of my lower legs) to uncleat. Cramps. I spent a good 5 minutes having a massage of sorts by the medic (thanks!) and had a free show of the passing bikes ala Tour de East Coast.
Giving up was never an option. I got back to the bike when I felt slightly better and trudged on. The 4 SIR boys were falling away like emergency rations released from a relief helicopter. The boys were on knobby-tired mountain bikes and I could have sworn most of them were travelling at a "very leisurely" pace of 15kmph. The scene that kept me going in somewhat sadistic motivation was the awesome feeling of zooming past the pathetic blokes while on the aero position. I gobbled 2 packets of E-gels, thinking that the concentrated salt content could stop the cramps.
Approaching transition and about 2km before dismount, I set my gears to smaller chainring at increased cadence, in the hope of 'getting rid' of the lactic acid built-up. At transition, WL and Clifford (Lau) were there to support me. I screamed out cramps. But I faced the final 5km and trudged on.
The Joy of Defeat
The cramps continued. In fact, they seemed to have a brain of their own. This time the cramps moved up to the thighs. I tried to keep my pace at 8kmph. Slow and steady and I also have to admit that I took every excuse to walk when I approached the drink stations and to respond to everyone that cheered me on. It was my way of pain relief.
At the final 1.5km, there was Jerry Wan - godsent like an angel - he paced me to the end with words of encouragement and the never-say-die attitude.
I clocked an unofficial 2hr 50min at the finishing line. The moment I stopped, the brains of my legs decided to take full charge of me. My thighs tensed up so much I couldn't walk. All I could do was shuffle my feet like a geisha in kimono. Even that was agonizing.
Lots of picture perfect grimacing and contradictory mind-over-body thoughts later, I managed to just fall off my side (while standing!) and actually stretch myself to limited but
Then I collected my Orbea and regrouped with the gang... contented that I completed the race in a sub 3-hour timing.
Cramp Management while on-the-go. The joy of defeat. Defeat of the cramps.
Things learned during this race:
Lesson 1: Never cut the straw too short on the aero drink system! Time to get replacement straw!
Lesson 2: Don't underestimate power of a recovery drink
Lesson 3: Love your buddies who pace and support you!