Doing both labuan openwater swim and BIM part 1

First off, originally I didn’t think I could make it. As I was also participating the borneo International marathon on 1St may 2016. And the swim was on 30th April 2016. Oh I also already booked a hotel in KK on 29th April. Suffice to say, I had a strong urge to do both, and I found a way to do both.

So what happened in general was the following.

28th April after 5pm left work to go home, and at 6pm left home to go KK, I drove until sindumin as I began to feel symptoms of motion sickness. My wife drove the rest of the way to our hotel, arriving after 11pm. Ate dinner that my wife cooked up earlier and then slept.


29th April, woke up at 6am to go off to jesselton to go by ferry at 8am by myself to Labuan, while my wife stayed in KK. I arrived at labuan after 11am. Had an early lunch at KFC, found a place called Mint Hotel that surprisingly had vacancies. Afternoon left for the labuan sea sport complex for the briefing for the open water swim. It was a simple and almost unorganized briefing. Then left to go for dinner. Which I found (and subsequently returned )  a lost wallet, met an iron lady – wendy, had dinner together, shopped for snacks and breakfast, and went to sleep. Just a note my dinner was at SCR where I consumed a significant amount of ginger that they served as condiments,  which I had to ask for another set.  😝



30th April, woke up at 5am, got ready, left at 6am to meet wendy to walk together to the event. On location checked in. Waited for event to start. Met Brunei’s ultra ironman ahmad fathi, retrying his 2009 DNF. The swim was suppose to start 7am, but we started around 7:45am waiting for the guest of honour.

As the swim started I stayed to the left, trying to avoid the crowd. But as I tried my best to head for pulau papan, a few people crossed my path, and I had to slow down so I can swim on their right and swim in the my path. The water was magically clear, clearest than I have ever experienced in the past 5 years. I could see the bottom for the next few 100 meters. At some point, I felt a few stings behind my neck and shoulders, thought it was chafing,  but as soon as I looked in the water, I realized it was jellyfish stings. I saw several small jellyfishes,  their sizes only about 5cms or 2-3 inches in diameter. Small but painful. I slightly panicked and increased my speed and pulled my hands closer to my body to avoid touching them. After a while there was a school of fish, which I easily lost myself looking at them. As I reached pulau papan I was pleasantly surprised to realize I had no signs of sea sickness.

At pulau papan, the volunteers /marshals handed out the checkpoint items and provided drinks. As soon as I arrived I saw wendy the veteran iron lady arriving. I was proud to have been faster than she was. But she went back into the water first,  I tried to follow behind her but I couldn’t catchup.

On the way back I ran into several other swimmers finishing their first half. Again I was proud as I used to be this batch,  but this year I seem to be faster. I was awestruck again to see the school of fishes,  but panicked again when I saw a few jelly fish. I almost caught up with a guy in front of me, I guess he paused due to the jelly fish, but then he started again and he was faster as I saw he got further the longer we swam. I finished the swim at a personal best of 2:22. We were required to check back in,  to record that we were out of the water safely. I was given a towel as a finisher souvenir.  Disappointed a bit that there was no finisher t-shirt. Spent the time later talking to A few swimmers,  especially the veterans that were faster than me.


A few of learnings from experience, and other swimmers.

  • My sighting strategy varied from 4 strokes to 10 strokes. It was a balance of sighting and swimming technique. If easier to sight, focus more on the swim. Get lost more often, sight more.
  • My arms started to feel tired in the first half as I think pushed a bit hard earlier, and the top of my feet/ankle hurt the last quarter. My guess was lack of training, but I was advised to do more strength training /conditioning. 
  • No signs of sea sickness. Overloaded on ginger pills, 2 per 2 hours on the drive to kk. 2 before sleep, 2 on waking, 2 before, during and after ferry. Actual ginger during dinner,  2 before sleep, 2 on waking, and 2 before swim.


The closing ceremony was supposed to be at 11am, but we were informed it was going to be 11:30am, I was worried about checking out of my hotel at 12pm, and getting a ticket for the ferry back to KK by 1pm. So I left without attending the closing ceremony.

Arrived hotel,  took a bath,  checked out, bought ferry ticket, had lunch at KFC again. And went off to KK. Off to my first Borneo International Marathon.

To be continued to part 2.



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