If there is one word to summarize this race, it’s HOT! SCORCHING, SEARING and BLISTERING HOT!! Most of the participants struggled with the heat during the bike and run legs, resulting in slower finish times. I signed up for Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya quite late, in February to be exact. It was a replacement race to Challenge Philippines which I could not go. Signing up for this race meant that I would be joining Justin and Jason again on another quest for a 70.3 finisher medal.
The drive to Putrajaya was my first time driving to Malaysia at night. I left Singapore at 3am, entered Malaysia at about 4am and was greeted with speeding demons going at 150 km/h on the highway. After getting used to the high speed traffic, the drive went into steady drive with rest stops every 2 rest areas. I reached in time for breakfast at the Pullman hotel.
The key activities for Saturday were a swim practice in the morning, followed by race registration and bike check in. Swim practice was well organized, with safety kayaks marking the 500m route. I had my first taste, literally, of the brownish fresh water. It felt a little disgusting at first, but I put it behind me and just focused on the swim.
Bike check-in was routine, the only highlight being an unknown “Team Crowie” bike parked at the #1 rack. We were left wondering why would Crowie be riding a non-Specialized road bike and non-Shimano wheels. Only the next day we would learn he’s only taking part in the swim leg of the relay race.
Participants were grouped into age group waves to start the swim. It was a deep water start where we need to jump off a pontoon into the canal and swim a short 15-20 m to the start line. The water was relatively calm with a slight current along the longest portion of the swim. The wave start proved to be beneficial, spreading out the 1600 or so participants. This was probably the first race where I didn’t get kicked in the stomach, clawed over, or slapped on my face. The swim was a rectangular one loop route. After the first few minutes of getting into rhythm, I started pacing myself and managed to keep my direction easily by sighting every 10 strokes. The only problem I had was that I sighted the wrong buoy after the first U-turn, which probably resulted in additional 100 m of swim. Overall, I still managed to clock 55 mins for 1.9 km, all in freestyle.
The bike leg was made up of two 45km loops around the highway circling Putrajaya and the surrounding suburbs. The initial part within the small island where the race venue is located was pretty flat. Beyond that, the highway was a series of long gentle slope followed by long downslope, perfect for aero position. The uphill climbs proved to be more difficult than they looked. Despite the gentle gradient, the distance of each climb was enough to tire even the strongest riders. One memorable climb had little cards with words of encouragement placed along the sidewalk. The first loop went well for me, averaging 30 km/h. By the second loop, the sun was out in full force heating the tarmac and I began to suffer. The pain reached a climax at one of the major climbs around 70km mark where I had to stop for 10-15 minutes due to cramps in my entire left leg. After that, the race went downhill for me, figuratively, as I did not dare to push myself any harder, fearing more serious cramps and possibility of DNF. The bike leg was completed in 3 hours 37 mins.
On the run, I was too drained by the heat. I could only muster a couple hundred metres of run before my legs began cramping, so I resorted to mostly walking, running only whenever I can and struggled to maintain 10 mins/km. The run turned to be a socialising opportunity, giving me the opportunity to chat with other struggling participants. Luckily, the sun went into hiding during the second loop, making the run more bearable. t this point, Jason caught up to me and we run/walked together for a few kms before I had to take toilet break and he went on his way. After that, I found another Malaysian buddy to suffer with, and we shared our stories throughout the last few kilometres. A 3 hours 28 mins half marathon ended the 8 hours 10 mins long torture.
It was not a very good timing, but I was happy to have finished the race, since I did consider not starting the run after the major cramp. It was a well organised race by Ironman Asia Pacific. The only regret I had was missing the opportunity to take photo with Crowie.