Just when you think you're tough enough

Tough Takes Triathlon

Battling through searing heat at the 113 Desaru Triathlon

Writer Zee Lim (left) at the 113 Desaru Triathlon 2018.

The 2018 edition of the recent 113 Desaru Triathlon race in Johor, Malaysia can be summed up with 3 words, Hot, Hilly, and Windy. It was tough, it was brutal, but then again, it’s SUPPOSED to be that way.

Come race morning at the Lotus Desaru Beach Resort in Desaru, Johor, upon racking my bicycle, I noticed that the transition area this year was slightly bigger to accommodate more participants, but the lanes were rather cramp. Everyone was jostling for space, as I arranged my gear, slapped on the mandatory stickers on the bike/helmet, and made my way to the beach for the swim start. Met a lot of friends along the way, and it warms me to see to many of them maintaining this healthy lifestyle.

As luck would have it, the tide was super low this year, hence the organizer had no choice but to delay the swim start until around 7.30am.

Even then, the tide was too low, and it was to impossible to swim for first 150m or so. The swim route was a 2 loop, counter clockwise affair, with a short beach run in between. To me at least, the water was calm, with slight chops. In my own sweet time, I finished the 1.9km swim in 42 mins.

Into Transition T1, I loved the fact that the organizer moved the water station closer to the beach this time round. Grabbed a drink and ran to the transition area. The cramp transition area proved a challenge to navigate my bike out as I was positioned all the way at the end of the wing.

Straight onto my bike, this year’s route comprises two loops of 45 km. It’s a nice mix of rolling and fast flat segments across the countryside. My initial plan was to hold back on the bike, and push harder on the run leg. On the second loop, I started passing people, felt pretty good about my energy level and I rode mostly solo for the entire bike leg.

On the way back to the Lotus Desaru resort, I started to struggle due to a combination of exhaustion from battling the ferocious headwind, and burning heat. At one point I realised I was cycling very slowly on a flat road while spinning my pedals ferociously.

It was mental to say the least. Thank God for the aid stations, as there were 4 aid stations along the loop, fully stocked with ice cold plain water, non-gassy 100plus (my favourite!) and bananas. The volunteers were a cheerful bunch as well. Finished the ride in about 3 hours, feeling half cooked from the heat.

Took a gel and a swig of water at Transition T2, and as I started to jog out of the transition area, I was very surprised to see so many bikes still inside. The heat must be worst than I thought.

Roughly 200m out of the Lotus Desaru resort, the organizer sprang the surprise of the day on us, by unveiling the new race route. It was 2 loops of hilly goodness.

It didn’t help that the temperature was searing, and I guess the best laid plans are made to waste, when the hills starts rolling by.

I struggled to maintain a decent pace, as my heart rate was spiking. It was brutal. I tend to question a lot of my life choices during the run leg. I had to dig in deep.

On the flip side, the nice thing about the out and back loop was that I could see my friends as we passed each other. A timely high five, a smile, or even a pat on the back can do wonders when your mind is on the verge of giving up. The aid stations volunteers again were the unsung heroes of the day.

There was only one scare for me when one of the water station ran out of water during the second loop. The organizers really went the extra mile to transport more water to the subsequent water stations in record time. Big thumbs up there !

The temperature soared even higher as the day went by. I was actually very relieved to see the iconic Lotus Desaru arch.

I pressed full gas on the final slope, heart rate be damned, and bombed down the long downhill towards the finishing chute.

Finished the 21km run leg in 2:28, with a total time of 6:25:15. Overall position 86 / 266. It wasn’t pretty, but with only three weeks of training, I’ll take it.

Overall, the 113 Desaru Triathlon was a well-run event. Some minor hiccups here and there, and it was a challenging event, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. The organizers were very generous for this event. Freebies includes a participation and finisher t-shirt, drawstring bag, big towel, water bottle, trucker cap (loved this!), and not to forget, ticket to the cool after-party. Good job by the Eventure team!

More about the author

Zee Lim is middle aged paper-pusher who was bitten by the cycling bug during the early 2000s. Since then, he has ventured into long distance running, triathlons, obstacle racing, and even a brief stint in MMA. He looks forward to 2018, where he dreams of breaking his Personal Best in IRONMAN Malaysia.