Sports has always been full of sibling rivalries. Alastair and Johnny Brownlee of Great Britain have been leading the charge in Triathlon after Tennis giants Serena and Venus Williams and not forgetting the Schumacher brothers in Formula 1. Anyone who has a brother or sister can tell you that you’re forever locked into a lifelong competition with your sibling.
Lee Brothers showdown
When my younger brother, Wee asked me about joining the Penang International Triathlon together, I agreed immediately. Both of us had never been in a triathlon event together after we both embarked into the sport a few years ago. Both of us have completed the Putrajaya half Ironman so it’s time to find out which Lee brother excels better in triathlon.
In my part, I only agree partly due because it’s Penang. As my previous article says, “Go for the event, and stay for the Food,” said elder brother Richard.
A bit of history to sum up my competitor. My brother, Wee is undoubtedly physically fit as he teaches RPM and BodyPump part time at gyms. However, I hold a secret card in my deck in the great outdoors. This might play to my advantage in the Olympic distance triathlon, requiring triathletes to swim 1.5km, cycle 40km and run 10km before crossing the finishing line.
So the stage has been set, the last person to cross the finish line will have to buy a scrumptious, luxurious dinner. This could also be the perfect end to completing my trifecta of 3 triathlons in 4 weeks.
Time for a face-off!
Interestingly, Penang held the first Triathlon events in Malaysia in 1988, but was withdrawn as host due to jellyfish infestation in the Batu Feringghi waters years later. Returning in 2013, Penang Triathlon made a come back and quickly became a favourite venue as an International event.
On Race Day, I started with my breakfast of champions – overnight oats with raisins and one energy bar, 3 hours before race time and headed to Teluk Bahang dam to rack my bike. Entering the transition area, it was very dark due to poor lighting, but I spotted my brother’s bike rack just a few numbers away from me. Perfect, I can keep check on him during the transition later.
From the transition area, all participants were required to wait for the organiser’s shuttle to the swim start at Jubilee Beach. Due to the extra transition, we were given spots to hang our bags with shoes for the run to transition area at the Teluk Bahang dam roughly 2.5km away. This might throw the spanner in the works for some triathletes today.
Settling down on the beach, the usual photo sessions and chit chats with familiar faces started the morning proceedings. One surprise of the morning was meeting Dannie Choong who is a powerful runner and is attempting his maiden triathlon today. Perhaps, he will graduate to full Ironman distance one day.
Jellyfish check – done!
This time around, I had a quick warmup swim to check for jellyfish while waiting for flag off. Flashes of my right arm stung by jellyfish two years ago came to mind, but I quickly shrugged them off. The sea was calm that morning for the 1.5km swim in two loops.
At 7:35am sharp, we were flagged off by Penang’s Chief Minister YB Lim Guan Eng. Splish splash, my brother and I headed into the water together.
I realised I kept hitting the swimmer in front of me. Does this means I’m faster this time around, or was I surrounded by slow swimmers?
By the time I completed the first loop, it was close to 20 minutes. My wife told me that my brother is just seconds ahead of me. Not wanting to be left behind, I trotted quickly in the sand and managed to quickly overtake him. Swam my heart out and completed the second loop with a total time of slightly below 40 minutes.
Once out of water, this was completely new as I have never needed to run 3km to the transition area before. Put on my running shoes (checked my brother’s spot, he’s still in the water) and off I went. Being a poor runner, my strategy was to follow some strong runners as close as possible till I reached the transition area at Teluk Bahang dam.
Did I mention there’s an uphill climb which could render me breathless before the cycling began?
Out of the T1 – bike transition and as I turned towards the Balik Pulau direction, my wife gave me an update – still no sign of my brother. Good note, that means I’ve opened up at least five to ten minutes on him. But all is not won yet, as he is much stronger in the run and fast on his aero bike as well.
Ride it like you stole it
Ride it like you stole, as the saying goes, I pedalled as fast as I could. Climb after climb faced us going up and down Balik Pulau on the 40km cycling route. Felt relieved to finally reach the top so that I could enjoy the downhill all the way towards the U-turn point. Fortunately, I managed to tag along with a fast peloton for the final 25km of the ride towards the transition area.
Going into the running leg from T2, I hadn’t spotted my brother but I was still worried that he would overtake me on the 10km run.
I decided to keep running as fast as I could while eating another energy bar to give me the last push.
The run looped around the Teluk Bahang housing area and fishing village.
The run became spooky as we ran along a huge Chinese cemetery with tombstones less than 2 feet away. I was hoping for hot weather today, to play my trump card but it was hazy instead.
What I didn’t count on was the rain, which played for dramatic run to the end, but I was hoping to avoid getting blisters from wet socks again.
At the climb towards the dam, I decided to save my legs a bit by walking till I reached the entrance to the dam. But its not the end yet, as we had to do a final U-turn 1.5km away. Suddenly, Dannie came up from behind and immediately overtook me with his strong running pace and I set off trying to keep up with him.
Within seconds, the skies poured again and it rained really heavily for the last 3km of our run. Of all my triathlon events, this is the first time I ran in the rain and it was really welcoming.
I tried my very best to keep up with Dannie and we crossed the finished line together.
I still hadn’t seen my brother, nor has he overtake me, so indeed I crossed the finished line first.
Time to start thinking about where we would go for dinner, probably the best restaurant at Batu Feringghi.
To sum it up, my brother came in 25 minutes behind. For now, the question has been laid to rest, until the next battle. Watch out for the Lee brothers at the next triathlon.
For more photos, view Tough Asia’s Facebook album here.
More about the author
Richard Lee is on his life-changing journey from XXL to M. First dabbling into cycling, trail running and now triathlon, Richard sets out to inspire and improve himself and others along the way.