On my brief #roadtoIronman, 113 Bukit Merah Triathlon would be the half-Ironman distance triathlon race which would serve as my last warm up race in preparation for the full Ironman Malaysia in Langkawi next November.
The third and final triathlon series by 113 Triathlon Series in Malaysia, took place beside Malaysia’s largest (7,000 acre) freshwater lake which would host our swim in Bukit Merah, Perak. Many aspiring Ironman triathletes, some familiar faces and some new would use this race to decide on whether to register for full-shebang in Langkawi, including my younger brother.
Most importantly, I was excited about using the multi-sports GPS tracking watch – Garmin Forerunner 735XT (FR735XT), and already made a mental note to myself to switch it on during the swim! Sheepishly, such things happens to the best of us.
The FR735XT tracks multi-sports, especially triathlon where you can switch from swim, to cycle and run throughout the course and breaks down your transition time too.
Use swimming dynamics to improve pace and strokes
Once I’ve uploaded my triathlon to Garmin Connect’s app and website, I clicked on the Swim icon and analyzed my swim on Race Day. It’s interesting that the FR735XT is able to display my swimming dynamics, tracking how many strokes I made, averaging to strokes per minute as well. I should use this data further to improve my swim.
The water in the lake was warm as we plunged in, and I completed my 2km swim in slightly more than 1 hour, averaging 3 minutes per 100m, but I did a good deed in the water.
As I was swimming towards the first buoy, I heard a scream and saw a fellow participant having difficulties and appear to be drowning. As I was the closest, I quickly swam towards him to help him.
I tried to calm him down while keeping his head above the water, while another participant called out for the Rescue Team on jet skis before he was hauled up to safety. A note, do not attempt to rescue someone in a water if you do not have proper training.
Once out of the water, and onto the Transition Area in the resort’s car park, I knew I had to make up some time on the cycling route. The cycling route is rather flat, with two loops around Bukit Merah and Kerian town. The only climb throughout the whole bike course are long, steep slopes leading in and out of the Bukit Merah Laketown Resort. This is where the men would be separated from the boys.
Packed with two energy bars on the top tube, I mounted my bike and prayed that I do not get a puncture this time as I’ve been pretty unlucky in previous races.
It was indeed scenic, as when we rode pass the lake with a beautiful view on top of the bridge, I managed to see a train running across the lake.
Before long, I realised I was in a peloton with a few fellow cyclists, and I knew it was illegal. However, we were going at a fast and steady pace, no one wanted to break apart until Race Marshalls on motorcycles came and showed us a yellow and red flag, warning us to break up the peloton.
Get your race right with FR735XT
Along the way to the second loop, is probably where I went wrong, making the loop at the wrong spot. There was some confusion which I didn’t understand and in retrospect, should have consulted my FR735XT.
But in the heat of the moment, we adhered to the Race Marshalls in case they changed the route midway, and after the race, only did I realised that I had cycled 80km instead of 90km.
As I climbed the final steep stretch back to the resort, the mid day heat bearing down on our backs was torturous. I decided to give in and push my bike up, to conserve some energy for the 21km run. All of a sudden, I heard a familiar voice cheering me to get back on the bike and ride. Lo and behold, my wife was at the top of the hill with camera in tow, and that’s all the motivation you need for that spectacular cycling photo of the race.
For cycling statistics, not only does the FR735XT displays the usual elevation, speed and heart rate, it also calculated my average cadence.
Sweltering tropical heat
Going into second transition, T2, I actually took my time to drink more water and ate a banana and gel before going out for my run. It was almost high noon and the sweltering afternoon heat began searing through our skins.
Fortunately, the running route was 100% flat without any slopes, and with some shade along the two-loop route along oil palm plantations towards Kampung Selamat. There water stations were too far apart, but thankfully a triathlon group from Penang had set up a water station out of their own pockets, saving many of us on this extremely hot day.
At the second loop, it began to drizzle and rained a bit, and it was the most welcoming sight from the sweltering heat and temperature. I met my brother as he was just completing the first loop, and encouraged him on. I was slowing down in the final kilometers when a few people overtook me and I crossed the finished line with a total time of 7hrs 47 mins. Not much improvement from my previous half-Ironman distances and I know I need to buck up on my training or I’ll be facing disqualification in Langkawi.
Monitor running cadence to improve stride
Looking my running statistics, the FR735XT displays my stride length and running cadence. According to Garmin, the running dynamics measurements are displayed in different colours, showing how your cadence compares to other runners. In general, more experienced runners tend to have higher cadence, and the often-cited target for running cadence is 180 steps/min. This would come in handy in trying to improve my running.
Garmin’s FR735XT has been proving to be my best training buddy on my wrist, throughout my weekly swims, cycle and runs towards Ironman.
It’s battery life seems to be able to last for 17 hours on a single charge, now the question would be, will I be able to outlast the FR735XT at Ironman Malaysia in November?
Photos were taken using Casio Exilim FR100 and Nikon D7000.
To view 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.