Just when you think you're tough enough

Exclusive Interview Triathlon

Jeff Lau completes 2260km Swiss Ultra Deca Triathlon as first Malaysian in history

Jeff Lau is the first Malaysian to finish the Swiss Ultra Deca Triathlon. (SwissUltra)

True to the Merdeka spirit, Jeff Lau Jun Tean was flying the Malaysian flag high through his sporting sacrifice to God, king and country and became the first Malaysian to complete the Swiss Ultra Deca Triathlon race.

The International Ultra Triathlon Association (IUTA) has also confirmed Jeff as the first finisher from Malaysia for a Deca Ultra Triathlon in day-format.

Some describe the Swiss Ultra race as BRUTAL. If doing one IRONMAN distance Triathlon wasn’t tough enough, Jeff attempted and completed 10 times the distance in 10 days bringing the total to 38km of swimming, 1800km of cycling and 422km of running.

“I’m doing all this crazy things not for my own achievement, I’m racing for the Malaysian AIDS Foundation and to promote safer sex,” said Jeff prior to the race.

Jeff with his loyal teddy bear mascot and a token for completing half the Deca Triathlon. (SwissUltra)

Appointed by the Malaysian Ministry of Health, Jeff is also a Red Ribbon Youth icon who aims to raise awareness and promote safer sex among the youth. Jeff always carries his mascot teddy bear from the AIDS foundation to his races through the Arctic, Sahara and the Amazon.

Nestled in a small idyllic town called Buchs, outside of Zurich in Switzerland, the Swiss Ultra race held the swim leg in a 50 meter swimming pool, with the 9km cycling route closed off to cars and the run leg was executed in a 1.2km loop. The Deca Triathlon attracted 10 participants – 7 men, 2 women and 1 disabled.

“On the first swim of the race, my whole face and body felt so numb as I hit the frigid cold water at 20 degrees Celsius,” said Jeff.

Jeff Lau (left) and fellow participants whom started the Swiss Ultra Deca Triathlon (SwissUltra)
Jeff Lau completed 38km of swimming in the Swiss Ultra Deca Triathlon (SwissUltra)

Coming from a tropical country, Jeff had to acclimatise to 11 degrees Celsius in the day time during the race, and adjust his racing technique or strategy to keep his body warm. Jeff finished the race comfortably on the first two days within the Cut Off Time (COT) of 20 hours.

“On the third day, a fellow participant stopped me during the cycling leg to offer me his spare bicycle which had aero bars and was made of carbon. He said I would not be able to finish the race on my own bicycle.” said Jeff on the cycling leg.

The fellow participant from Hungary, Jozsef Rokob was the eventual winner of the Swiss Ultra Deca Triathlon and had completed 70 IRONMAN races on the bicycle he had offered Jeff. Jeff’s support crew arranged for the bike mechanics to help set up the bike DURING the race, and Jeff hopped onto the bike to complete the rest of the 10 days.

Jeff Lau cycled 1800km over 10 days in the Swiss Ultra Deca Triathlon (SwissUltra) (SwissUltra)

“The winds were so strong, that I was barely cycling on my bike. The aerobars enabled me to cut through the wind better, though it took me awhile to balance myself and I was cycling like a snake!” quipped the 29-year old.

The most nerve-wrecking moment came on the ninth day, when Jeff nearly didn’t finish the race within the COT. Having to cope with only 3-4 hours of sleep daily since the race began, Jeff was fatigued and losing his apetite.

“Although I was tired, I practically had to run my fastest pace as I risked not finishing within the race COT of 20h on the ninth day! So far yet so close, I told myself not to give up!” said a very determined Jeff.

Jeff Lau ran 10 marathons totalling 422km in the Swiss Ultra Deca Triathlon (SwissUltra)(SwissUltra)

Funnily, other participants were surprised to see Jeff at the race start as he only had 3-4 hours of sleep daily. It wasn’t till day 6 that he had passed the halfway mark, that they became more supportive towards him and even gave him massages during the race.

Swimming and cycling are Jeff’s weaker sports in Triathlon, therefore he spent most of his energy finishing the 3.8km within the cut off time of 2 hours, before relaxing on the bike. Thereafter, he had to run the marathon distance consistently to finish within the cut off time daily.

“There were times when I was practically sleeping on the bike, so I decided to stop and take 5-10 minute naps during the cycling leg,” said Jeff, as the sleep deficit was definitely getting to him.


“On the run, I tried to listen to music for the first 3 hours daily, but after awhile, my mind would blank out and I just kept putting one foot in front of the other.”

As an Under Armour Brand Ambassador, Jeff wore the HOVR Infinite which lasted him for 10 marathons in 10 days and the cushioning is still good. Due to his busy schedule, Jeff was training with Sanctband’s resistance band at home and uses their massage ball for recovery too.

For nutrition during the race, the organisers prepared wholesome meals which Jeff would eat in small portions on the bike and run. He was also taking Hammer Nutrition which helped him complete the race and recover for the next day.

A very determined and triumphant Jeff completed the Swiss Ultra Deca Triathon to promote awareness for safer sex by the Malaysian AIDS Foundation. (SwissUltra)

During the course of the 10 days, 2 participants dropped out, but Jeff kept flying the Malaysian flag high, especially when the race was due to end on Merdeka day.

“It’s your mental game that will bring you to the finishing line. I’m not a seasoned or professional runner, but an average joe who wants to race and gain a personal achievement,” said the ultrarunner.

Indeed it was Jeff’s mental strength coupled with tenacity and great determination that took him to the finish line of this brutal race.

To support Jeff’s effort, do contribute the safer sex campaign on SimplyGiving.