The hot equatorial climate lived up to its billing, which meant a challenging bike and harsh run for this northern Asian habitant. However, I was happy to complete the race with a fairly competitive time despite low training hours since July Zurich ironman, finishing 14th in my age group of 200 men.
Singapore half ironman (70.3 miles)
Prerace: Morning prep went relatively smooth: a 5 am wake-up call, banana and cereal with toast in the hotel room, 6 am stroll to the start point, body markings, last minute bike air/adjustment. I felt unusually mellow before the race as I had gotten the big one done in July. Keren and I had the same start times at 7:35 am, so after the bikes were prepped, we made our way down to the beach to watch the pros and other age groups start before us.
Swim: I didn’t know what to expect from the swim, as this was my first tri without a wetsuit, but I knew my stroke was better than in previous races. The course looked fairly simple: 2 X 900 meter rectangular loops counter-clockwise. Although there was a staggered start, the 2 age groups in our start were huge with over 300 people, so there was much bumping and kicking at the high speed water entry. I thought the crowdedness would subside after 200 meters, but it never really did. I hugged the left side, foolishly hoping to reduce the distance. It seemed overcrowded with slow swimmers, but I thought it would clear out. I got kicked by a breast stroker and karate chopped by a free stylist, taking the kick squarely in the cheek and goggles. Despite the high traffic levels and lower buoyancy, I settled into a nice rhythm. By about 500 meters, I checked my watch and saw 11 minutes, slightly slower than normal wetsuit pace. The first loop was 20 minutes or so, and I ran by a roaring crowd on the beach, waved to Megumi, and dived in for 1 more lap of love. The 2nd loop went relatively smooth and I was able to use more freestyle than usual. I got held up by drowns of breastrokers from earlier age groups. Despite the increase in freestyle usage, I ended up with 41 minutes for 1.9k, slower than my 1:17 for 3.8k in the ironman Zurich. I blamed the lack of wetsuit buoyancy. Anyway, I was happy to get out of the water in 1 piece after all the kicking, punching, biting, scratching, and other horseplay...
T1: The transition took over 3 minutes as I went for socks, bike shorts, gloves.
Bike: The bike ride was also more crowded than I had reckoned it would be for 2 reasons: 1. The highway was relatively narrow with extended no-pass danger zones. 2. I was in one of the last swim starts, and thus was trying to pass most of the 1,400 riders in the field. I was cruising at 34-35 kph, and felt satisfied by the pace, but was a little frustrated with the lack of space and giant pelotons forming. “Is this the Tour de France or what?” a fellow rider commented. The course was 3 X 30k loops from the east coast to downtown Singapore. There wasn’t much to look at except the huge ferris wheel, construction projects, and skyscrapers. It was really hot on the unshaded highway. I was chasing Keren, and finally caught him at 75k turn. We rode together as there was still little space on the last lap. It didn’t help things when a motorcycle race staff perched himself on the divider line. Several of us nearly hit him and I yelled, “Get the f___ out of the way!” The bike course really exposed the lack of experience of the course organizers. There was hardly any solid food aid, a lack of drinks, narrow course, and obstacles such as that motorcycle that could have been avoided. We noticed a lot of crashes and a huge amount of DNF’s. Perhaps I was spoiled by the copious amounts of power bars, bananas, gels at the Zurich ironman. Anyway, at the 90k point, I wasn’t feeling so genki due to the lack of nutruition, high tempeture, and lack of bike training (I had only done 5 rides in the past 8 weeks). I tried to convince myself the run was a different race with different muscles, but didn’t feel confident as I dismounted Hillary. My bike time was 2:38:50, a PB.
T2: 2nd transition took too long, almost 3 minutes, as I forgot to take off my bike shorts and ran the wrong way initially.
Run: At 11 am in equatorial Singapore after 3 and 1/2 hours of swimming and biking, I dreaded the ominous half marathon in front of me. I started along the run course fully exposed to the direct sunlight and thought, “where is the shaded run course hyped by the course directors?” Nightmares of China’s IM haunted me as I hit the first of 3 7k loops. At 1k the sign said: 1k: 1st loop, 8k: 2nd loop, 15k: 3rd loop. I thought sardonically, “only 96% of the run left, Motozo!” At 2.5k turnaround, the course volunteers yelled “keep going!”, although I was supposed to turn around. Singlish for gambatte? I could see Keren moving at a blistering pace, already 2-3 minutes ahead of me, trying to run down our posse (Mika, Vanessa, Bevan) and anyone else in his path. At least the Mika (smiling torpedo) versus Keren contest was going to be interesting to watched as I plugged along at 5:30/k pace. At the next turn (6k), Keren had closed the gap with Mika, and they were both pulling away from me. Kawaii so, Motozo! With little fuel left in the tank, I dismissed the idea of catching them and focused on running the best time possible, which was a 5:25:00 at my current pace (1:57:00 21k run). I felt the heat and lack of nutrition taking its toll, and again was disappointed with lack of solid food on the course. The only solid food was bananas, and they weren’t even chopped up. Amazingly, they had delicious watermelons, oranges at the finish line, but not during the run when we needed the nutrition the most. After the 2nd loop (14k), I was more confident I could finish without walking alla China IM. I was really tempted to pull over and walk, but Megumi’s encouragement really kept me going. I did like how the back of the run course went thru a grassy bit and thru some palm tree cover. Hey this is Singapore! At 16k, I started the 5k countdown and began counting the kilometers, 100 meter intervals, paces, all of it to keep my mind off the fatigue. 5k, 4k, 3k, 2k, 1k to go…a tiny spurt at 500 meters to go got me under 5:25:00.
Swim: 1.9k: 41:53 (14th place out of 161 age group finishers)
Bike: 90k: 2:38:50 (28th place)
Run: 21k: 1:57:44 (14th place)
Total: 5:24:56 (14th out of 161 age group, 133 overall)
Congrats to Keren, Mika, and Vanessa for podium finishes.
Keren was the star with a well thought-out and executed race. Most impressive was his run in the hostile heat. Omedeto to Mika, the celebrity queen of Singapore, for a gutsy run despite a heel injury. Thanks to Megumi for constant support and candid photos. It was a wonderful event and experience, but I will have to have a hard think before signing up for another hot weather ironman event.