Monday, September 20, 2004

Desaru Pengerang Int'l Triathlon... Cramps.. IV drips.. and my FIRST medal!

I just came back from Desaru with Greg Lyons and wife. I took part in the Desaru Pengerang International Long-Distance Triathlon on Saturday 18 Sept. The race was particularly interesting, as they had star triathletes brought in to compete, such as Jason Shortis and Brian Rhodes (sp?). I did the Men's relay and ran 21KM, while my swim/bike relay buddy Jonathan Tan of KL did the initial work (great job Jon)! The 21km route was a 2-lap 10km stretch of road from the Desaru Golden Beach Resort, which began in the middle of the route, and that meant that there were two U-turns, which heads back to the resort.

It was a really fun race trip. Actually, to say "really fun" is really understating it... keep reading:

It all starts... here...

We travelled to Desaru early morning on race day, from Sunway Hotel Resort. Greg had a gig at Avanti's Restaurant at Sunway, so he arranged for his wife to drive us to Desaru while we slept in the car. We left at 1:30 in the morning. I slept on and off in the car, while Greg slept through almost the whole journey. Reached Kulai (at Johor) at about 4 something, and reached Desaru at about 5:30am. The stretch from Kulai to Desaru was pretty misty, as we couldn't see much except the line markers on the side of the roads. Luckily it was dead of night, so there weren't much vehicles... lorries are a pain on single lane roads. Anyway, we got there safely, and checked into the chalet.. the Desaru Holiday Chalet. It was about a km or so just before the Desaru Golden Beach Resort. As soon as we unloaded our stuff we headed off to Lala-land.

18 Sept morning:

Woke up at about 9am, when Greg got a call from Peter (the guy in charge of organising mixed relay teams), and Peter spoke to me, that my cyclist wanted to see me, and pass me my bibs. Greg was already prepped up to go to the race site, and I promptly washed up to go to the race site with him. Anyway, Greg was to do the whole stretch of the Long Distance Triathlon which was 2km swim/90km bike/21km run. As I was only to do the last event, the 21km run, I was told to expect to start sometime in the afternoon. Anyway, I met Peter and my cyclist Jonathan Tan. Got my bibs, wished Jon and Greg good luck, and I headed back to the chalet. After pinning my bibs to my running vest, I slept about an hour or so, just to get some rest some more.

Around 11:15am - I got up to take a shower and prep myself up for the race, with my running gear and all. My running gear: Yellow Asics running vest and shorts, my New Balance 765 shoes with Nike Dri-Fit ankle socks, Nike Hydration Gear (with water + Excel blue mix), two PowerGels I bought the day before (Choc and Tropical Fruit flavour), Nike Air white cap which I bought the day before as well, Adidas shades, Polar Heart-Rate monitor, and sunblock. I applied Coppertone Sport SPF-48 sunblock (I know, I know.. very extensive list.. but I like to be prepared to race), and had some light food to eat to add some energy. Drank a bottle of Gatorade to fuel up on electrolytes and salt. Then me and June headed out to the race site, and by that time, most of the racers were already on the bike event. I hung out with June and a friend, Jasmine (who's the girlfriend of one of the triathletes, also a friend of Greg's, goes by the name of Mon). Warmed up a bit in the already blistering hot weather while I continued to hydrate myself with water (bad mistake, will explain later). I must have pissed like 3 - 5 times while waiting for my cyclist. While warming up, my HR must have spiked up to almost 80% because of the heat. Hung out a little bit more with June and Jasmine and cheered for the pro triathletes and a few others of the Individual and Mixed Relay categories who were the initial racers that transitioned into the 21km run.

2:30pm - Jon came in from the bike event, and passed me the relay band. He wished me good luck and to enjoy, I told him "good going, you did well", and off I ran my 21km. Actually, I had wanted to take a last piss before Jon came back (even after I pissed about 2 - 3 times from the several bottles of water), but he came back earlier than expected. So I had to hold my piss three-fifths of the run. Anyway, I reached the first water station fairly quickly, and I took the water they were passing out to the runners. I passed the first turn-about (which was closer to the resort), and the next water-aid station was up. I drank the 100Plus Power and took some sponges (soaked in ice-cold water) and squished them over me to keep me cool (something I do pretty much throughout the race). Of course, there were several water stations along the way (but only 2 served 100Plus Power). Then, I passed the resort and ran about 6 - 7km to the next U-turn. J ust before that U-turn, the route turned out to be a short steep hill, which of course made the course interesting, which then U-turns at a roundabout back to the road that led back to the resort. Had another water station with 100Plus Power and my first PowerGel. I passed the resort which was the 10.5K split at around 1:17 (which was two minutes faster than my previous 10km record at Adidas KOTR of 1:19... yay!).

(Footnote: My plan for this race was to finish rather than to clock a certain time finish. So, I had planned to run to every aid station, and walk for a minute after stopping to grab my drink and sponges. It was really hot, and the sun was at its peak, so I didn't want to push myself too hard for this race.)

The second lap was a little more trickier. I started having some cramp attacks around my left calf down to my ankle. Everytime that happened I had to stopped and stretched my legs a bit, especially the affected area. A few hundred metres after the first U-turn (2nd lap), I stopped at a john at the side of the road to pee (cannot tahan already). And I started running again. Throughout the race, I cheered for some runners and vice versa, to motivate them and myself. Feels great doing that. After passing the resort on the 2nd lap, I had to stop to walk a little bit more than the first lap to stretch out the cramp attacks. Each time the cramp disappeared, I walked a minute, and continued a steady running pace. Before the hill heading to the 2nd U-turn, I stopped to walk with one of the triathletes from the Individual category. He had cramps and he was walking quite a long while, when I caught up with him. Chat with him a little bit while I walked. At the aid station before the hill, I grabbed some water, ice, sponges and pressed up with my running pace. This time, threading up the hill, I decided to try the lateral running technique Danny Dreyer recommended in his ChiRunning book. It's basically running partially sideways so that your feet is about 45 degrees against the road rather than parallel to it. It helped uphill running a little bit, as it uses lateral muscles that you don't usually use when you run straight up. Came up to the 100Plus Power water station, sponged, dranked and move on. Took my second PowerGel. After this point, the cramp attack came a little stronger, so I stopped a little longer and stretched a bit more and walked a bit more. After about 2 minutes, I felt that the cramp had disappeared, so I pressed on the running. At this point, around 2 - 3km to the finish line, the sun started to set a little bit, as dusk started to break a little bit (around 5pm). I didn't get the cramps anymore, so I ran again, this time to the finish line. I clocked 2:47.46 on my watch (2:47.11 on the recorded results). My relay team got 22nd place (I forgot the total finish time.. but it's about 6 hours and 30 to 40 minutes).

Intermission: Sorry la.. this blog very long.. but wanna tell whole story in one post. AHhaha... anyway, back to the story...

I got my FIRST ever racing medal!!!! It was a finisher medal, but my first finisher medal nonetheless. Best part about it, it's a heavy medal, not them cheap plastic ones that some of the more common running races give. As I received three medals from the presenter at the finish line, and the MC announced my finishing, I stopped running (of course!), and walked around the chill down. Jonathan was waiting, and cheered me and congratulated me, while I reciprocated. Walked around a bit more. At this time, I was feeling a funny tingling feeling around my nose area.. that kind of feeling like you'd get on your butt when you stand up after you've sat on a chair the whole day, for example. I thought it was just a sign of my body cooling down. Met up with Greg, Peter, and some of the other athletes, who then cheered me for my finish. I then realised why they had given me three medals.. it was for the three events. So I proceeded to give Jon two of the medals, which were obviously his, although I didn't realise it after a few minutes later. Talked with Greg a little more, got my change of clothes and walked to the pool toilet to dry up and change.

This is the fun part...

At the toilet, I was still feeling that tingling feeling on my nose, but I think it spread a little more around my face, and some parts of my body. I was talking to one of the indian school runner boys, when I started feeling a little shaky. I felt like I had not enough food to eat, and I was feeling slightly nauseous. Next thing I knew, the tingling feeling had spread to the rest of my body. I sat down on a chair thinking that I should sit down and relax. By then my hands and fingers started to cramp up, and so did the rest of my body. My hands and fingers automatically cramped to a clenched fist, although I tried hard to resist that by trying to straightned it. I felt I had lost control over my whole body, I tried to get up to walk around, but I supported myself standing by putting my hands on the table. I started to grunt out of reaction from this, and one of the athletes nearby saw me and asked me if I was okay. I told him no, and I told him that I was feeling like my whole body was cramping up. He helped me a little bit by supporting me, while his friend tried to get help. One of the top Malaysian triathletes, Eugene Chan, was nearby and he came over and asked me what was wrong and where I was cramped. I told him the same thing, and next thing I knew he rushed to get medical help. The first guy (Tee was his name), and his friend helped me to walk a little bit. The stretcher came, and I think 6 guys helped me lie down. And the 6 of them hauled me to the medical tent. That shows how heavy I am.. hehehe!

I had several people from the medical team attending to me, from spraying cooling water on my body, putting ice, and rubbing deep-rub salvos onto my legs. I was in excruciating pain, as my body felt like pins and needles poking all over me. To top that, both my calves were cramped up and the pain from that was even more excruciating. The moment anyone touched my calves, it hurt like hell, much less trying to stretch them by stretch my feet inwards. I screamed in pain quite a lot. I was in pain for about 10 - 15 over minutes, before they managed to calmed me down by getting me to take deep breaths and to not think of the pain. They inserted an intraveneous (IV) needle into my left hand, and had me on sodium drips. At this time, I had calmed down quite a bit and relaxed myself, but the feeling of absolute stiffness pervaded. There was a point or two, I almost lost feeling my face. Greg asked me how I was feeling, and I replied, "I ccnnntt fllll myyyy fcceeeee" (I can't feel my face) and I laughed. The first bottle finished, and they replaced it with another one! So I had TWO bottles of sodium IVed into me. By that time I started to regain steady feeling in my body bit by bit, from my face, to my torso and hands and then my legs. I felt like a car tyre getting pumped with air at a petrol station. By the time the second bottle finished, I could feel most of my body. My calves still felt sore and crampy, though. I thought I could use a third bottle, but it was not necessary.

One thing I must mention: The nurses and the medics were really, REALLY nice people. If anything, their great attitudes helped me calm down and relax even more, and made my recovery better. If not, I'd probably be still hyper-ventilating and all that. This makes me think back about one of Jamie's past report on being a volunteer or the organization of it, rather than being the participant. Note to all amateur athletes, runners or multi-sport athletes: Thank the fella at the water station, the medic team, the massage team, or whoever that's part of the event, but not participating in it. They're equally important as the participants in a race.

I definitely felt better at that point, and I was given salt water to drink. I tried to sit up, but getting my legs and feet to move was a rather painful effort. My calves felt so sore that every touch my feet made triggered the painful feeling. It's like having to trying to get your feet to walk when all you have is your legs are replaced with two big heavy twigs stabbed into your hips. I had to limp all the way to Greg's car, he helped me by being a walking stick support. Even that, it was limping in pain, and I could do it out of some tolerance to pain! Just imagine that your legs are made of wood and you could only walk with your legs 100% straight, and just add pain to that. Greg drove back to our chalet, and I threaded into the chalet painfully slow (literally!), and I even took a shower. And we preceded to drive out to Sg. Rengit (an hour-long drive) to have our dinner. Apparently, it seemed like a tradition that most of the triathletes go there after the race to have dinner, and there are several chinese restaurants at that, too. So the whole triathlete community were at Sg. Rengit after the race. The restaurant we went to was called Jade Garden, and most of the Malaysian triathletes/relay racers who are considered familiar faces were all there. And we ate like pigs!!! We ordered lots of food, myself included, although I had the kitched do vegetarian food for me. I had a plate of fried race, and ordered some vege dishes like taufoo, eggs, and green vege. I had another small bowl of rice to help finish the vege dishes! I ate portions enough to feed TWO persons! But it's only natural to replenish after you've done a race, especially if it's a heavy one. So that's the only time that a person who's training could really pig out (aside from carbo-loading a few days before a race). While waiting for the food, I got some ice and applied them on my calves, which helped alleviate the pain and the soreness a bit. I started to walk a little better and faster, but still with a wood-draggy feeling. After having long chats over food and drink, we proceeded to head back to our accomodations to have a mighty good rest.

More coming up next... if not you'd probably fall asleep on your keyboards trying to read this...

Up next: Desaru pt 2.. analysis of race.. and pictures!! Stay tuned

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