Friday, December 16, 2011

November Notables and the Laguna Phuket Triathlon 2011

So, the last time I blogged was 29 Oct, 5 days before Spencer arrived in Malaysia for our 1 month adventure. November was just a really great month! How to do you condense a month's worth of happenings into a short blog post? Answer: You Don't. Heheh. You have been warned, this is gonna be a long post but this is my blog and I'm allowed!

I'd like to dedicate this blog post to all my friends and family... and Spencer. Thank you for always being there for me. Love you all.

Pre-LPT Secret Training ;)
Quite a bit of what we did in November was geared toward the Laguna Phuket Triathlon at the end of that month. Neither of us had done a long distance triathlon before. The LPT calls for a 1.8 km swim, 55 km bike and 12 km run. Spencer has done a few sprints these past few years, is good on the bike and is a strong swimmer, but not runner. I took part in a few sprints this year, but had never cycled more than 20 km (blame my bike phobia!). So we went running to get him used to the heat. In preparation for the purportedly crazy hills on the cycle leg of the LPT, we also got some rides in: 25 km bike ride halfway up Genting Sempah, 35 km at Putrajaya with Raymond and Mich (thanks for the tour!), and 58 km at Hulu Langat with Yip (to whom we are forever indebted for loaning us his babies for that month, Thanks Yip!). The Hulu Langat ride was a huge confidence booster for me, because after that, I knew what 55 km feels like. Even then, nothing would have prepared me for the Naithorn Hills in Phuket... (more on that later). While Spencer and I packed our days with activities, we were careful to keep me to my sleep and diet regimen. Throughout Nov, I continued weaning off the hydrocortisone with no relapse.

We spent a few days in KL chilling with family, makan with friends and other relaxing pursuits.

We are Family :D

Pa, the Bird Whisperer (at KL Bird Park)

Italiannies eats with friends
Italiannies creme brulee .... *drooool*

Visited Singapore and got to hang out with my lil sis Eirene. This was Spencer's first time in Singapore and he enjoyed it heaps (great public transportation, clean :p). We had a wonderful long run from MacRitchie to Bukit Timah, that 30 km was the longest either of us had done (good company makes for great runs!).

Enjoying an ice-cream sammich in Singapore
We Love Phuket!

Phuket was planned as our destination honeymoon. Now, we've been on quite a few honeymoons since we tied the knot in 2008, we just love honeymoons!

The Honeymooners at Eco X Sprint 2008, the day after our Malaysian wedding
This Phuket honeymoon tops all others so far (although Bali and Pangkor Laut Resort come close). For one, I wasn't sick (recovering from relapse, or in relapse, etc) but was reasonably fit and able to do stuff. And boy did we do stuff! We arrived a week before the race, so we had plenty of time to explore the island, and familiarize ourselves with the race course.

Moped at 250 baht a day got us around Phuket

We took a kick boxing class. 

We went snorkelling at Phi Phi Island. 

We ate lots of yummy Thai food, and splurged on an exquisite meal at Daniel Isberg's Surin Gate Kitchen. And lots of shopping! Oh and we got a massage every other day. :p

Gravlax Sashimi with Quail Egg, Seaweed Salad and Sesame Glaze anyone? 
Pre-Rides and Pre-Runs
The pre-ride was on Thursday, and the pre-run was Friday. There were about 30 riders on Thursday, and I quickly fell to the back of the pack. Faaaar back. Spencer stayed with me, and we were escorted by the sagwagon the whole 55 km. I thought I was going to have a heart attack going up those hills at km 8. Spencer kept up a steady stream of encouragement and tips, and even pushed me a bit (hee hee). I learnt how to stand up and ride, and zig zag up the steepest parts. Then came the downhills, and I felt my heart drop to my stomach and my stomach contents wanna come out of my mouth. I was riding the brakes all the way down and sat waaay back in my seat, hardly daring to breathe. It was terrifying. The rest of the ride was beautiful, but my sore behind was glad when it was over! The pre-run was gorgeous, and far less scary. After the run, we tested the waters. Aside from the sea lice chomping me to bits 100 m out at sea, and random water weeds trying to drape themselves around me in the freshwater lagoon, that swim was good! But my swim time was over an hour - a bit close to the 1 hr 10 min cut-off.

After the bike check-in and race kit pick up Saturday morning (we rode the bikes from Surin Gate Hotel 5 km away), Spencer jogged back to the hotel to get the moped while I attempted the swim again - this time in my tri suit instead of my saggybaggy tri top 'n shorts combo. This time I did better - just under an hour. Nerve-wrackingly, 1/2 km out, the sea became very choppy and I had a moment of panic when I inhaled a lungful of water. I calmed myself down and breast stroked while getting used to the feeling of being tossed about, then continued swimming. Next time, please bring your pull buoy ok, Grace! At the 5 pm race briefing, we met up with the Malaysian 'contingent' including Syerol, Helmy, Cynthia and Shahrom. And stuffed our faces at the lavish 'Pasta Party' spread with Allan, Harald & Co.

Race Day
Spencer and I had originally planned to race side by side and even got matching 'honeymooner' cycling jerseys.

Plan A: The Honeymooners with tuxedo and bride's cycling jerseys

But the 15 minute difference between the start of his wave and mine, and the additional time penalty applied to racers not starting in their correct wave had us reconsidering, so we raced our own race in the end. 

Plan B!

Spencer found himself next to Belinda Granger at the swim start! 

Spencer hob-nobbing with the pro triathletes at the front of
the swim start. What in the world was he thinking?! :O

My wave was last, and I felt my usual calm-yet-excited self as swimmers gathered at the start. My main strategy was to not get roughed up. The last thing I need is a kick in my kidneys! So I hung out at the back and let everyone else go first. It was a fun swim as I 'sighted' off breast-strokers just ahead of me instead of trying to sight the buoys. You know, breast strokers probably swim straight right? So that helped conserve more energy as I came out of the water feeling fresh :D. 52 minutes. 

Gotta love Total Immersion!

The bike leg went smoother than expected and I credit having done the pre-ride with Spencer for teaching me how to better cope with the hills. For downhills that I could see ahead (no blind corners) I pedalled hard to get momentum to go up the next hill. So I was able to make it part way up hills before needing to stand up on the pedals or do zig-zags to get to the top of the hill. I was less nervous going downhill this time, but went just as slow as in the pre-ride. I sipped on my honey every 20 minutes to keep my energy up, yelled 'khap khun kha' to the marshalls and volunteers, and high-fived all the cheering school kids lining the village roads. Before I knew it, the ride was over and I found myself unclipped and doing the jelly-leg-jog with the bike at Transition. 2 hr 29 min.

The Run oh the Run! By that time, even under the shade, the heat was pretty intense, so I started out cautious and slow. With aid stations offering ice and 100+ every 2 km, this was the most pampered I've been on a run. I ramped up my pace as I felt able and finished the 12 km in 1 hr 10 min - a PB!!! Well, it was my first 12 km race anyway hehe. Total time 4 hr 38 min! Spencer was cheering me on at the Finish - was that a tear in his eye kikiki...

Oh ya, one of the best things about this race for me: It was my first race off the meds, where I wasn't sick, didn't get sick, still am NOT sick! (So far so good, fingers and toes crossed!). I am thrilled to report that as of today, I have been free of the corticosteroids for 23 days and feel gooood. :D

We went directly to the Athlete's Hospitality Tent where I ate and ate and ate. There was chicken porridge, fried rice, noodles, fruit. The chefs kept bringing out more food. Yummmm. We also got our free Thai massages at the Hospitality Tent. Ahhhh bliss.

Spencer filled me in about how his race went. He was pretty fast out the water (36 min) and also did well on the bike (1 hr 49 min), but overheated on the run (1 hr 17 min) for a total time of 3 hr 47 min. Also a PB!! (Yeah, since this was our first long distance race, of course we both get PBs right?).

I also asked Spencer if he had seen Cynthia, whom I hadn't seen at all since just before the swim start. We later found out from Syerol that Cynthia had suffered a serious crash during the downhill at Naithorn and was warded in the ICU (She is slowly recovering back home now, thank god).

We had to leave soon after, to pack the bikes and catch our flight back to KL that afternoon. Hope to visit Phuket again some time!

Post Phuket and Post Spencer 
The very next morning we dragged ourselves out of bed and attended the Total Immersion seminar at Solaris Dutamas, followed in the afternoon by a 3 hour in-the-pool TI course for Spencer and a chap who flew in from Brunei. The next two days were devoted to Spencer's TI course and the biggest thing he learnt was how to r-e-l-a-x while swimming. Thanks Tang Siew Kwan for your patience and dedication in teaching Spencer how to swim the TI method!

Total Immersion Level 1 students and coaches
with the 'One Finger Power' pose
Spencer's last few days in Malaysia went by all too quickly and next thing I found myself blubbering as he walked through the KLIA Immigration to board his plane back to the US. :(

It's been 12 days since he left, and I've run close to 100 km hahaha. Running is therapeutic, it's cheaper than retail therapy! I fill my hydration pack, put in my first aid/survival kit, money, phone, raincoat, snacks, the superawesome Timex Global Trainer GPS (Thanks again Agnes, thank you forever!) and hit the trails that start behind my apartment complex. Yeah, I think my next post is going to cover my newfound favorite pastime in the world. It brings back wonderful memories of my three months in the jungles of Brunei and Sabah with Raleigh, and of insect collection expeditions deep in our rainforests (FRIM entomologist = best job ever).

Having struggled with illness for half my life, I may finally be on the way to getting completely better. My body is stronger than its been for many years, and I am enjoying it - discovering what it can do, curious to know how much more it can do. I'm having fun with Grace's body :p


  1. Awesome! So proud of you, best vacation ever!

  2. Its beautiful Grace, just beautiful

  3. Spencer, you're the one! It's tough keeping up with you, but I'm gonna try for as long as I can. :)

    Jenn, Thank You! Btw I told KS to bring you to LPT for honeymoon hehe. It really is beautiful.


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