Friday, July 29, 2011

Port Dickson International Triathlon 2011 Race Report Olympic Distance

The Olympic Distance Event of the Port Dickson International Triathlon took place on 24 July 2011 at the Avillion Admiral Cove. This year – the 10th year this event has been held – a record number of 1450 folks from 36 nations took part. I did the Sprint Distance the day before (Sprint race report here) and stayed back to cheer on friends and racers. Also I’m just a 'kay poh', and wanted to see if the PDIT lived up to its reputation as one of the best organized, most well-attended, and bestest, funnest triathlons in Malaysia! It does!

All photos in this post by Tey Eng Tiong. Thanks Tey! And a big shout out to Paul for helping fix parts of this post! Thanks Paul!
GO! Hong Kong's top triathlete Lee Chi Wo leads the men's 30-39 wave
while also making a fashion statement in his neon pink swim cap.
Ramping up the competitive field were a bunch of elite triathletes who had flown in from Hong Kong, Macau, Australia and the Philippines. There were 50 mixed-relay teams and 53 all male relay teams. Together with the almost 700 individual age groupers, standing on the beach that morning were over 800 people ready (or not!) to launch themselves into the Straits of Melaka for the 1.5 km swim. 
Among the youngest was Salman Ali Shariati, who at 11 years of age had already earned the title of Double Iron-Man (8 km swim, 340 km bike, 84 km run). Now at 14, he would be up against the 16-29 age-groupers. The youngest was Yeong Yik San, 11 years old, who hails from a family of triathletes (pic below). The oldest was 74 year old 15-time Ironman finisher Yee Sze Mun. Also incredibly inspiring to see at the start line was the one-armed Mohd Sabki, out to prove that disability is no barrier to participating in this endurance event (pic below). Then there were the age-groupers - the bulk of the participants - a colorful mix of first timers, veterans and people who come back every year to PD to meet friends, maybe improve on a PB, or just have fun and finish!

Putrajaya Night Marathon 2011 Make a Change Promo Video Shoot $6000 Cash Prize

Just a quickie before I get back to work. Anand and Akmal of Hooha Asia interviewed me against the gorgeous backdrop of the Kepong Botanical Gardens during lunch just now. This was for a promo video that will be now up at the Hooha Asia website for the Putrajaya Night Marathon (PJNM). View promo video HERE.

In a nutshell, if you know someone who is in need, and for whom $6000 would make a difference in their life, and you are going run 10 km, 21 km or 42 km at the PJNM, you are eligible to participate in this 'reality' competition where you submit a 90 sec to 2 minute video that states who you are, why your friend should be given that $6000, and what change it will bring to their life. The public will vote on the best video and decide who gets the prize. 

I will be doing this for my bestie, who has to remain anonymous for now. I first met her when I was hospitalised at 24 years of age, for my own mystery illness. She was a patient too. My age. We hit it off. She has lupus (SLE) and I have a more rare autoimmune illness (Henoch Schonlein Purpura). For both, doctors don't know the causes. There is no known cure. In lupus, the body attacks itself, in some victims it is the skin, or kidneys, in others the joints, and for my friend, it is her skin, joints and her brain. Life expectancy ain't great. A few of my friends that I got to know while warded in hospital have already passed away. Too young to die....

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Trying to Run Away from Myself

Summary of Post
My first 10 km! Also my first 10K in Vibrams! Also my first 10K with kidneys on strike! Could be a depressing post, don’t know yet. You have been warned!

Gracie's Komodosport Vibram Five Fingers.
Best bday pressie ever! Thanks hubs!

Post Port Dickson Triathlon Sprint – Onward Ho!!! Not…
Right on the back of my first tri (wonderful, perfect, dream tri for this tri virgin hehe), and completing my first 1.5 km open water swim with Cynthia (Olympic Distance phwoaarrrr *happy*), I was on top of the world! Best of all, my kidneys were behaving nicely, and fingers crossed I set my sights on a Half-Ironman at Desaru International Triathlon September 24 & 25. I forked out US$30 for 6 months membership at, for access to their great training plans. I was a member 2 years ago before being sidelined by illness, so I know they are good. I figured if I am not ready for Half-Ironman closer to the registration deadline, I’ll just do the Sprint instead :).

Then, I got Food Poisoning. (Note to self: AVOID Jusco Aeon Sushi King!) Day Two of Food Poisoning, kidneys started to leak protein and blood in trace amounts. Day Three, food poisoning symptoms less, but too late, proteinuria already serious (3+). By that time I already upped my meds – those hated corticosteroids (e.g prednisone, but I use hydrocortisone). Today is Day Five, massive proteinuria. I can just hope it will come back down in the next few days. I don’t want to get any weaker. I can't afford to get any weaker! Please meds, please work!

Anyway, yesterday I managed to complete my Bronze Medallion life saving certification at the Titiwangsa Golf Club. Today my training plan called for a 1 hour easy run. Usually, when I am relapsing like this, I don’t exercise much (re: 'Exercising with illness: Can?'). At the most, I get on my Orbitrac for 10 minutes and just move a bit.

Today was different.

Today I felt really frustrated. I’m sick of being sick. I’m fed up of ‘babying’ this body. So today, I tried a different strategy. I love running. I was desperate to run. So I did.

The Run

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Life Saving Society Bronze Medallion in 1 Hour Course?

What? One hour can get Bronze Medallion?
After I accompanied Cynthia on her first 1.5 km open water swim at Port Dickson last Sunday, and following Raymond’s suggestion, I called up the Life Saving Society Malaysia today and was referred to an instructor who could certify me for the Bronze Medallion. Cost RM250. After work today, I drove to the Titiwangsa Golf Club, quick introductions with Azahari, a tall bear of a man, and right down to da business.

This was da business:
  • A test 50 m just to see if I could swim.
  • 300 m (which I did in forward crawl). Must be under 9 min. Pass!
  • 100 m in breast stroke.  
  • 50 m on my back, doing the frog (breast stroke) kick
  • 50 m as above, this time holding a kickboard in front of me.
  • 100 m on my side, one hand in front, and the other hand at back, holding the kickboard.
  • 50 m towing him while he relaxed on his back, his head and hands on the kickboard. Best nyer dia tu.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Port Dickson Triathlon 1.5 km Open Water Swim: Taming the Fear


This post is dedicated to Cynthia Gan, who on 24 July 2011, against crazy odds, overcame her paralyzing phobia of swimming out to the deep unknown, and swam her first 1.5 km open water swim at the Port Dickson International Triathlon 2011. She went on to complete the bike and run and finished the triathlon (her first of what will be many) that day.

Summary of Post
I wrote this post for three reasons. As a written record of Cynthia’s first Olympic distance open water swim, as I remembered it, and corroborating with Misni and Lina’s account (they were on the beach). For Kash, because I know you wanted to be there in person for Cyn but could not. And also as an encouragement for those of you who are struggling with the fear of swimming in open water (sea/lake).

A Bit of Background
I first got to know Cynthia at the Hoohathlon 2011, a first mini-tri for us both. She was already an accomplished ultra-runner, but had floundered on the 150 m swim leg of the Hoohathlon. She had only learnt how to swim not long ago, and her water confidence was poor. I didn’t realize how terrified she was of deep water until the PD tri clinic, where together with Kash, we tried to encourage her to jump into the water off the jetty. She did get up the courage to dip her feet into the water, but no further. She did swim in the shallower water along the beach that day, but could not go deep.

That was the day I ‘adopted’ Cyn – I have three younger sisters whom I love to bits and you just gotta love this girl; also, seeing the fear written all over her face struck a chord in me because I myself am afraid of the water (I’m afraid of drowning, and although I love swimming, that fear has never really left). I was concerned because the PD Tri was only 2 weeks away. This girl had run 100 km – proof of her tenacity and mental strength. I know lots of people would think she wouldn’t have a problem overcoming any fear at all, but I understood that this Fear of Deep Water is a whole new other kinda monster.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Port Dickson International Triathlon Sprint Race Report Result 2011 – A Perfect First Tri

I would like to dedicate this post to good folk who suffer from Lupus (SLE, a chronic autoimmune illness), who face everyday the challenges related to their illness, and who continue to be productive and positive. They are among the unsung heroes in our world. For those of you who cannot run, this run was for you. 

Summary of Post
What coulda gone wrong didn’t go wrong. Everything that coulda went right, went right. Result: The most wonderful, perfect, first triathlon for yours truly.

I went into this event with some worries because I was quite weakened from a relapse of my autoimmune disease two weeks prior. While I knew I would at least be able to stand at the start line on race day, I wasn’t sure if I could finish. I promised myself that I would be a responsible racer, and first, do no harm. I made peace with coming in last. I would savour every minute of this event.

A first triathlon – you only get one first time. I’m glad my Ma was there to share this experience (my support team & photog, thanks Ma!). 

What coulda gone wrong? Well, a gazillion different things from:
  • ‘annoying’ e.g. forgot bicycle, to..
  • ‘embarrassing’ e.g. faint and taken away in ambulance,

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gracie vs Dean Karnazes

Now before you say who is this ‘Gracie’ and who does she think she is hah?, trying to compare herself with Dean Karnazes The Ultramarathon Demi-God, let me tell you, Dean and I actually share quite a few things in common. Here are some similarities between Dean and I.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

First, Do No Harm

Less than a week to go to my first Sprint triathlon at Port Dickson (23 July 2011) and it’s not quite ‘all systems go’ for Gracie. My kidney function appears to be better, but I’m weak from the couple days of peeing away all that protein and blood.  It usually takes a month to regain my strength after a relapse like this. And I don’t have a month. Not even a week.

Funny thing is I already know I could complete the sprint, thanks to the Tri Clinic on 3 July. Where I did the 800 m swim in 30 minutes, 20 km bike in 1.5 hrs and a 4 km run in 30 minutes. The last woman in the sprint (35 yrs & above) last year took 1 hr 45 minutes. So with my time of over 2 hours, I would be solid last! After that clinic, I had started looking to better my times tee hee. Just didn’t want to have the glamorous position of being last lah.

Well, today I re-revised my target for this race. I just want to finish.

I want to cross that finish line.

But I won’t say that cliché ‘I will do whatever it takes’, because… I won’t. I’m not going to push myself at the expense of my health and recovery.

I’m going to go slow and enjoy my first sprint triathlon. Every. Single. Minute of it.

Just you watch me!

Looking forward to last place J

A click on any ad below this post will put a few cents in my pocket, from the advertisers. Thanks for supporting my blog!

xo Gracie

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Can Cycling Do THIS?! The Horror

That's Hincapie's varicose vein riddled calf?
I have a phobia of cycling. The bloody carnage that I have been seeing on the Tour de France 2011 (whenever I dare watch) is making me even more afraid to get on my bike. Not only does cycling pose a danger to life and limb, it may sometimes turn your legs downright scary-looking things. George Hincapie's varicose veins are attributed by the Sock Doc to cycling and adrenal stress. I probably do not cycle enough to get this kinda problem, so much for trying to use this as an excuse tee hee. At least I have a relatively safe place to cycle at Kepong Botanical Gardens where there are no cars to run me over!

A click on any ad below this post will put a few cents in my pocket, from the advertisers. Thanks for your support!

xo Gracie

Friday, July 15, 2011

Races This Year: Help Grace Pick!

Summary of Post
Here's Grace's 2011 Race List with cost, categories, links to more info and registration. Since I currently cannot train (kidneys boycott), I instead spend my time fantasizing about what race to do next. Or rather, what race I have some small chance of being at the start line or race day. It's a bit frustrating about this uncertain health problem, but hey a gal can dream right? Note:are= Confirmed done or (hopefully) will finish, and = Eye-ing it... 

What do you think, which should I go for? :)

June 19    Hoohathlon 2011 - 150 m swim, 10 km bike, 5 km run (RM150). Success! Kow Tim 100%!
July 23     Port Dickson International Triathlon 2011 - Sprint 800 m swim, 20 km bike, 5 km run (RM80)
                 I think still got chance to make it to the start on race day < 2 wk away though health not 100%.
                 Afterall, PD Race Clinic already Kow Tim.
  July 30     Shape & Men's Health Night Run 2011 - 5 km fun run or 12.3 km run (RM60)
  July 31     Segambut Charity Park Run 2011 - 5 km (RM90 Family 3 pax)
  July 31     5A Charity Run 2011, Klang - 6 or 10 km (RM25/30. Info. Reg)
*Aug 28     Hua Hin Int'l Triathlon 2011 - 1.5 km swim, 40 km bike, 10 km run (RM150. Info. Reg)
  Sep 10     Vietnam Int'l Triathlon 2011, Hoi An - 1.5 km swim, 40 km bike, 10 km run (USD135! Info. Reg)
*Sep 11     Salomon X-Trail Run 2011, UPM Serdang - 10 km (RM60. Info. Reg.)
*Sep 24    Desaru Int'l Triathlon 2011 - Sprint 750m swim, 20 km bike, 5 km run (RM90, Info. Reg)
  Sep 25    The River Jungle Marathon 2011, Hulu Langat - 42 km (RM90. Info. Reg)
  Oct 1,2   Relay For Life 2011, Penang - 6pm to 10 am (RM10. Info. Reg)
*Oct 15    Putrajaya Night Marathon 2011, Putrajaya - 42 km (RM? Info. Reg)
  Nov 5      Sabah Adventure Ultra Trail Marathon, Kinabalu - only 25 km left (RM120. Info. Reg).
  Nov 13    Powerman Malaysia 2011, Perak - Sprint 5.5 km run, 32 km bike, 5 km run (RM100. Info. Reg.)
*Nov 20    Penang Bridge Int'l Marathon - Fun, 10, 21, 42 km (RM20, 45, 50, 70. Info. Reg)
  Nov 27    Laguna Phuket Triathlon 2011 - Swim 1.8 km, bike 55 km, run 12 km (> RM650! Info. Reg)

Please feel free to leave a comment at the end of this post! Peace!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ouch I got a Stitch while Running! WHY?

Summary of Post
I sometimes get a stitch in my side while running and wondered WHY?! I DON'T LIKE! I'm sure everyone here has kena before. Here's what might help.

"The docs like to call it 'Exercise-related Transient Abdominal Pain' (ETAP) because 'side stitch' is too easy" (Pam Perdue)

The Physiology of a Stitch
A stitch is when your diaphragm (a muscle separating your lungs from your guts and organs) SPASMS. A stitch actually feels more like a hunting knife being plunged bloodthirstily into one's side. There's no blood externally, but you gotta wonder if something awful is going on in there where the sun don't shine. Good news is, nobody seems to have died from a stitch yet.

The diaphragm moves down when you take a breath, and moves up when you exhale. Your guts and organs are attached to the diaphragm. When I am running, it's all a big jostling mess inside, even though on the outside I look quite cool ahem. The Liver – a heavyweight hitched to the right side of the diaphragm – is what you can blame for the Right Side Stitch, the side most runners get it. As you breathe out, your diaphragm moves up, but those pesky guts (what are they good for anyway) pull down on it. Even worse if you are The Type (like me) that breathes out while the right foot hits the ground. I received enlightenment today that my breathing actually synchronizes with my stride, that is, I always exhale on the same right leg. It's amazing what nuggets of wisdom pick-up-able from surfing the World Wide Web.

Formula for Right Side Stitch = Exhale while landing on right foot = Diaphragm moves up + Liver on right side of body moves down = Right Side Stitch.

Un-Stitch Me!
I found these tips from J. Johnson extremely useful:
  1. Belly breathe instead of taking shallow breaths. So the diaphragm lowers right down and the ligaments (that attach your guts to the diaphragm) can relax.
  2. Switch up your 'footedness' and exhale as the left foot hits the ground instead of favoring the right foot. Give chance to the left foot la. There are less weighty guts stuck to the diaphragm on the left side.
  3. Don’t run on a full tummy. Heavy stomach from that large super supreme pizza, nasi lemak and char koay teow equals more strain on your diaphragm. 
Here's to stitch-free running y'all! Please feel free to leave a comment and/or additional tips on preventing stitches at the end of this post. Peace!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Exercising with Illness: Can?

Summary of Post
I love exercising but can get sick if I push too hard. What kind of sick? My kidneys signal their protest by going on strike, leading to relapse of a chronic autoimmune disease that afflicts me (Henoch Schonlein Purpura). Yet, exercise is good for me, so I continue to do it. I need it! For now, I have to do it in moderation. This post outlines my exercise routine. 

Just what is my problem? Can I exercise?
Good question. I google 'Henoch Schonlein Purpura and Exercise’ and come up with just about zilch. Not surprising since only 5 people per million are diagnosed every year. HSP is quite rare. Last I heard I am one of less than 10 people in Malaysia who have this. So, can I exercise? I guess I will have to figure this out myself. 

There’s information on exercise for a more common autoimmune disease Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) or Lupus. Lupus sufferers can have joint pains (like me), skin rash (like me), fatigue (like me), sometimes kidney problems (like me), and sometimes their immune system attacks their own blood and brain (thank god, not me!). Some have debilitating joint pains that really limit their mobility and ability to live a normal life. And some die from complications involving the kidneys, blood and brain. There is no cure.... yet. 

One difference between my friends with lupus and myself, is that I get hit with everything, plus gastrointestinal problems - my insides bleed. I know, I know, I’m just

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Kepong Botanical Gardens KBG FRIM

Summary of Post
Short blurb on what to do and see in this lovely spot in FRIM just 20 minutes north of the heart of Kuala Lumpur. And how it is the perfect place for bike-run bricks for a triathlete wannabe (yours truly). :)

Waterlily in full bloom in July at the Kepong Botanical Gardens

Kepong Botanical Gardens (KBG)
The serious/real purpose of KBG is 'ex situ conservation', that is, as a collection of living plants from all over Malaysia (read more on FRIM website). These plants have been thoughtfully incorporated into various themed gardens, which themselves were designed to blend harmoniously into the Gardens' landscape. The result is a breathtaking oasis accented by precious and beautiful plants with the verdant green-cloaked hills of Bukit Lagong as its backdrop.

Ginger Garden, one of the many themed gardens in the Kepong Botanical Gardens 
What to do
Entrance fees are RM1 per person and a few bucks more for mountain bikes (Rates here). Visitors can jog, cycle,

Sunday, July 3, 2011

PD Triathlon Race Clinic 3 July 2011

Summary of Post
Insider information on race route and some great tips from Uncle Chan. I did the Sprint distance (800 m swim, 20 km bike, almost 5 km run) today!!

So far so good
I signed up for the PD Tri on the very last day (1 July), after I was 51% sure of making it to the start line on Race Day (see also 'PD Tri - in my dreams only?'). Kidneys working? Check. Joints working? Check. Overall health status: alive and can move? Check. ALL SYSTEMS GO! Then I found out about the free Tri Clinic (Thanks Reza!) and almost fell over myself signing up for that too. I was afraid of swimming in the open sea by myself, so this clinic would be the perfect opportunity to do so.

Uncle Chan gathering tri clinic participants for the briefing

The Clinic – Uncle Chan’s Briefing
The briefing started 8.40 am with about 50 attendees. Uncle Chan informed us that