My journey to Ironman was a long one. I started with mountain biking about 6 years ago when I decided to reduce my weight. I enjoyed the hilly climbs and the downhills, it was really exciting and once in a while participated in races but the target was just to complete the course.
Then a duathlon event was introduced to me and it was something different from the usual, a 5km run, 20km cycle and finish with another 5km run. Prior to the event, I watched many triathlon videos from YouTube and fell in love with Ironman.
It showed people from all walks of life taking part in this grueling race; 226 km in total with a 3.8km swim, 180km cycling and finally a full marathon of 42km. And the cut-off time is 17 hours! And I wondered how the participants could have completed the course. But I knew at that point in time, that you need to be really fit and to have the mental strength for it.
From that day onwards, I took part in a few local triathlon events, sprint and Olympic distance at the most. Out of the three disciplines, swimming was my worst nightmare, so extra efforts were needed and I got a lot of good tips from swimming instructors who were willing to part with their knowledge, free of charge. My strokes and kicks were more coordinated and I was finally swimming without being too exhausted.
My first triathlon was in Penang and the swim was held in the sea, now that was a different ball game altogether. Fear of drowning started to creep in. Lots of “what if”, what if someone kicks me in the face, what if someone pulls me down, what if I am too tired to continue half way, what if, what if… So to be on a safe side, a bunch of us newbies started to practise open water swimming at the race site prior to the race day. That really gave us a boost in our confidence, a little bit, well, it was better than nothing.
The race went well, I did not expect much from it but it encouraged me to do more triathlon events. So, I congratulated myself as I embarked on my latest life challenge, that of swimming, cycling and running myself to become a triathlete.
In 2014, I decided to take part in Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya before I turned 50. Ready or not, I registered, the fee was a whopping RM700 back then and I needed a road bike for the 90km cycle to move within the cut-off time. I got an aluminum frame road bike and it cost me about RM4,500. Shifting from a mountain bike to a road bike was difficult, the gear ratios were heavier but the speed gain was incredible. Felt great when I reached the speed of 30km/hour, but I was not able to maintain at that speed longer. I needed to build on endurance and be patient.
At that point in time, aerodynamics, head wind, and wind resistance were far from my mind. All I wanted was to complete the 90km cycle route and so I set a realistic goal. Bearing in mind that I still needed to run a half marathon after to complete the 70.3 course. There were a few things that I did to ensure that I was fit enough and properly equipped to complete the event.
Medical Check Up
That’s the first thing I did. You should know the condition of your health before taking up this endurance sport. Make sure your heart can take it. It is really tough, jokes aside.
Weight & Dieting
It is normal that most people get into triathlon because they want to look and feel leaner. However, it is paramount that your nutrition is right, not just when you are racing, but also when you are training. Extra weight will slow you down in all the three disciplines, especially the run. Proper diet and frequently monitor your waistline is important and can be a morale booster as well. By simply reducing the overall calorie intake by 10% will help. And drink lots of water (ideally 2 liters a day) and reduce sugar intake too.
Track your training
Get a multisport watch with GPS equipped with a heart rate monitor, it will track all your training and their progress. From here you know how you fare and there after comparison is easy to make. Popular brands such as Suunto, Polar, Tom Tom and Garmin are available readily in the market.
You can find triathlon training programs on the internet, use them as guidelines, it is never easy to juggle your time between work, family, and training. But try to find alternatives, if you can’t run after work, run before work then. There is always time for everything if you look hard enough. Remember, be consistent in your training.
There are a lot of brands in the market as far as goggles, tri suits, tri bikes, running and cycling shoes are concerned. Find one that suits your budget, sometimes cheap does not mean they are not good. One of the most expensive equipment here is definitely the tri bike, it is built to be as aerodynamic as possible to slice through head wind saving the cyclists tremendous amount of energy in the process.
Invest in one if you intend to do more Ironman distance in the future. I used a Specialized Shiv Tri bike for my Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya 2015 and Ironman Langkawi 2016 and it really improved by cycle time a lot, keeping me fresh for my 21km and 42km run respectively.
Join a Tri Club
There are lots of tri clubs in your area, join them as they are the source of information and tips. Learn a trick or two from the seasoned triathletes. They are willing to show you the ropes, I am sure. Most importantly, join them for the training.
Always set a day as a rest day, a good rest is part of training too or you will not recover fully for a quality training the next day.