Category Archives: Achievement

Labuan Cross Channel Swimming 2017

I consider the Labuan Cross Channel Swimming as an annual pilgrimage for me to do an open water swim event. It is a 5.4km openwater swim from Labuan to Pulau Papan and Back.

labuan cross channel swim 2017 start

In the picture above, I am pointing to the island that I am swimming to. I honestly feel like it looks closer than what I remember to be. But I know how far it is from previous experience. Notice the ships in the area. We have been informed that the ships would clear out for our path, but in past experiences the currents have pushed them  in our path. Which is the case that morning. The target is just slightly left to the centre of island, and you can see the ship was partially blocking.

There were a few changes this year compared to previous years. Previously, the kids category started of from Pulau Papan, having been sent there on a boat. This year they start from Labuan, and will be picked up by boat from Pulau Papan. Joining them are the veterans, who previously did the whole 5.4km, but are now limited to half the distance along with the kids. A few people I know my age wouldn’t have mind doing the half distance, especially beginners swimmers. The start of the swim seemed more happening as all the categories started at the same time.

A last minute change was that originally the 3 different categories were to be started 2 mins apart. But as most swimmers disagreed (I believe it is mostly due to possible cheaters or confused starts, 2 mins is a huge gap for any race) the organizers decided to flag of everyone at the same time.

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(note/reminder: my gps got stuck 1/3 on the way back)

Before the start of the swim, I identified the 2 big boats that I need to sight in order to reach the island. I ignored the swim markers, knowing that they tend to be pushed by the currents, on which I noticed was being pushed to the north or left of the shore.  the first 1/3 of the swim was interesting, it was relatively clear, I could see other swimmers in the water,  and I could also see debris in the water, and I am not just talking rubbish, but the tree trunks floating in the water. It was a mine field, swimming around the debris.

At two-thirds of the swim, I could feel it was getting more difficult to swim through the currents, at some point the waves seemed coming from all directions. Possibly due to some small ship passing by or the winds blowing the big ships causing some waves. Almost to the island it always bothered me that the island doesn’t seem to be getting any closer.

As I reached the island after 1 hr 30 mins. I was wondering should I go back. 1. I was later than usual, 2. the waves were rough and 3. I was experience a few pains, including small jelly fish stings and my armpits were chaffing. at 1hr 40min, I decided to continue, hoping to that 1. the current pushing me back earlier, could push me back faster, 2. I can withstand the pain for a little bit longer. I asked the organizers there if they had any vaseline or vinegar, but they didn’t have any, it didn’t look like they even had any medic on stand by as it was available last year.

So I went, being able to see the big white tent from the island, pinpointed the ships that i can use to sight. swam back. a few times I can feel the stings from underneath my suit, and while swimming I could sometimes see small blue things in the water the size pin needle. Unsure if they are the things causing the stings. I went through the obstacles again, starting with the rough waves and the mine field. All through out, I could feel I was riding through with the waves heading back to labuan.

At some point in the middle, I felt like checking my surrounding, I stopped, looked around, saw and realized… that I was alone… no one nearby, no kayaks, only the ships. and I was 1km away from any dry land. It was worrying, and yet cool at the same time. As I checked my watched, I realized that although the time was working, the GPS was not functioning any more, which was disappointing, as it was the first time I was swimming Labuan with a GPS watch. But I carried on anyway.

Closer to Labuan, the currents were not as consistent or I was that tired that my alignment was off. I swear the currents going back was pushing me to the right, but as I got closer to Labuan, the current seemed to be pushing me to the left. Maybe something to do with vortices around the island.

On shore, I saw my wife waiting for my return. As I got out, I thought the finishing timer would be in the tent as previous times so I ran to the tent, but then I realized there was no one there recording the time, and I looked back it was the people close to the shore that was doing so. In any case, I rested in the shade before I double check with the time recorders on my official time and position. My wife took a video of me finishing the swim.

I was glad that I participated and completed the swim again this year. It was probably the most painful swim I have yet to experience. So here is a few reminders for myself as well as others when doing this swim.

  1. take motion sickness medication, my personal preference is overloading with ginger, either in pill supplement form or the in the cook foods (which by the way labuan has a few restaurants serving ginger as a condiment)
  2. sleep earlier, wake up earlier, to drink water and empty bowels before the event.
  3. book a place that is a walking distance from the start/finish line. closed areas include beta apartments, billion water front, and dorsett.
  4. contact the labuan tourism department weeks before the event for event info, registration details are rarely found online. It is best to acquire it by calling or emailing the government department involved, specifically the Labuan Tourism.
  5. Use lubricant like Vaseline on joints. e.g. armpits and groin area. I might try to use it on the rest of my body to see if it prevents jelly fish stings.
  6. consider using a thin full body suit or a rash guard to avoid jelly fish stings.
  7. During swim, go straight for the island, the faster you go, the less rough it feels.
  8. Swimming with a buddy would be easier mentally.

I look forward to the next event. Every year it seems there are different organizers, as I do not recognize the people organizing for the last few years. But if they are reading this, then here is a few feedback.

the good.

  1. This year after 3 years now, finally we have event shirts!
  2. There were kayakers
  3. event is done on a sunday instead of a saturday, more easier for some people to join.

the bad or at least to be improved.

  1. There was no T-shirt size for me, had to get the non-participant shirt for the available size. Highly recommended open up the registration 2 months before, and close the registrations 1 month before, that way you can prepare for the t-shirt as well as the event itself. I highly recommend using active.com.
  2. the event info was almost non-existent, I could only google up and found the dates for the event, but I didn’t see any event details or registration forms, until  1 week before, where a swimming colleague shared the form on whatsapp.
  3. there is no 2.7km event for open category. I know a few beginners who would want to join, but if it was one way. consider it as a half marathon to a marathon. You would get more participants.
  4. considering this time around the finish line for the veteran and the kids is at Pulau Papan… you can charge a fee for people who want to go on a boat to be at the finish line. I am very sure that parents or other family members would like to be at the finish line.

My personal reason for coming to labuan every year is because it was my first open water swim event, and it is the easiest, cheapest and closest openwater event I can get to from Brunei.

I know a few other swimmers that have joined, and the reasons for them not joining is either the swim is too long (so if you can do half some people might be okay), or poorly marketed as most people don’t know until its too late (so the forms should be out earlier), or event is poorly organized.

In any case you need some help with organization, I wouldn’t mind helping organizing it, as I have organzied a few events before. As long as I get paid a fee, but I personally would prefer to swim the event than to organize it. 😀

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Doing both labuan openwater swim and BIM part 2

30 April 2016, Arrived KK from labuan after 4pm, had about an hour sleep in the ferry. Arriving at the port, greeted by my wife at jesselton, we walked together to Suria Sabah to pick up my race pack.

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Met a few Bruneians at Suria Sabah, had dinner,  bought snacks and my isotonic drink for the marathon the next day. Drove back to the hotel by 7pm. Prepped a bit for the run. Had my KFC takeaway, took a bath and tried to go to sleep. I think I slept after 8pm but woke up before 12am. Prepared myself, drank my 1L water, ate my small breakfast. And spent some time in the toilet. 😜

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Drove from hotel after 1 am, Arrived at Likas stadium before 2am, looked for the toilet first. Then met a few runners from Brunei. I even asked some of them their expected pace, I targeted to pace a few who those targeting 5 or 6 hours.

I was surprised to meet an old acquaintance from KL who picked up running a few years ago. Thanks for the banana. 🍌

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And it was cool to see other personalities in the run.

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3am almost came, I felt like going to the toilet again, but cancelled when I saw the line.

Originally planning to start together with a few Bruneians, but lost them in the crowd. 3 am came and we started off.

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Stumbled upon Mike who was plannimg to go a 7min/km pace. I tagged a long,  along with Shahrun. We ran together for the first 15km, we wemt through a few small hills, but at one water station, Mike needed to get some muscle spray, so I took the chance to drop by the portable potty. Previously I noticed a few runners dropped to the side to their business. Finishing my business I decided that I would like to go on my own pace. So I broke off.

I started to overtake a few people. The day stayed to show. The sun started to rise. As I was going through University Malaysia Sabah’s hilly terrain, I passed the half way point, I was able to see the runners I passed. As well a Mike and Shahrun . Exiting the area, the fast 21km runners were overtaking me, and started to see the rest of the 21km runners. At one point saw and greeted another barefoot runner on the other side among them.

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Seeing 1borneo I was hopeful that the end was near. It turned out the u-turn was still far off. My water reserves was low, and I stopped by the waterpoint to reload my bag with isotonic and some ice. On the way met another barefoot runner. He was already limping, my guess he either pushed too fast too hard too soon, or he never trained this distance barefoot, or simply got seriously injured along the way. Reaching the u-turn, I saw that it was 12km left at that point. I was elated to realize that it was only 1/4 left. Hopeful that I could finish the rest of the run under 2 hours. Met the other barefooted runner again and gave him a bit of encouragement. On the way back saw other people started to take off their shoes to continue,  my guess the shoes started to hurt. Gave them a few tips to last the distance. E.g. Running on the white line. Even motivated a 21km runner to run with her shoes in hand, we ran together for a kilometer or so, till I left her behind.

I was glad to go through checkpoints that had the firebrigade bathing us in cool water. I took a few significant seconds to wet and cool myself. I actually felt refreshed enough to run fast for a few kilometers. There was apparently a spongebath but they were out of water, I took some sponges any way and was able to wet it during those watersprays and kept those sponges on my shoulder to keep cool. Those last few kilometres left, I was slightly demotivated as I saw 21km runners walking, tempted to join the walk, I pushed along,  reminding myself I have been doing a relaxed run, following the feel, and I havent pushed myself much.  But my hamstrings started to cramp, and my reserves was out. But as soon as we entered the stadium, and I felt the soft running track under my feet, I actually felt like running faster, and I did, for those last few metres. 😝

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I stopped my GPS to find my finishing time to be 5:39, (later I found official time was 5:37). I was astonished my self. Here I was expecting more than 6 hours, but I did it under that time. Some of my friends was amazed as well, not just because I did a sub 6 hour marathon, nor was it barefoot, but I did it after finishing a 5km openwater swim the day before. I was amazed myself, and I was proud. 😃

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Next up? Another faster marathon? Or more cycling to be able to do an ironman.  I think a faster marathon is sooner, the next ironman I am targeting is the Langkawi ironman in November.  But my challenge is not just the physical training,  but also the financial challenges. Let’s see what I can do till then.

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.

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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.  😝

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Physical Activity for 2014

What I find worth it to pay for endomondo premium is I can look at my statistics. At the end of the year I am looking at:

  • Total Workouts (How many times I have exercised)
  • Total Distance (How far)
  • Average Speed

Total Workouts

total workouts

I have spent most of the year running. I trained a lot in the beginning of the year, due to signing up for putrajaya half ironman. unfortunately, I think I did not record most of my swim training (it is not automatic), either that, or I think I was really focused on improving my run and my cycle. my cycling dropped as soon as I finished my ironman. but I picked up again 3 months later. at the end of the year, I started to cycle to work, and I ran before my swimming classes at night. which increased my frequency. But it may have not improved my performance. So let us look at…

Total Distance

total distance

Even though I didn’t do as much cycling than running. I cycled further than I did running (i cover more distance in the same amount of time in running). Building up the distance was important for me in the ironman. But did I spent more time in cycling than running?

Total Duration

total duration

apparently I did not spend more time cycling than running. I thought I did. But looking back at my slowest pace I was running 21km just under 3 hours. and I was usually cycling 40 km in 2hours. So at this point it seemed at the end of the year, I had more workouts but I spent less time and went less distance. So I wanted to look at…

Average Pace

average pace

I removed swimming due to some funny data I need to look into, also didn’t submit my record much. Unfortunalely it seemed that my average pace was only better in the beginning of the year. So it seems for me that Duration and Distance is a key to improving my average pace. But I have to admit that in the end of the year, even though I have increased frequency, yet lowered by distance and time, I rarely pushed my self. According to interval training, I should see some improvements. But I really dislike pushing myself so much in intervals. So I might just stick to increasing my distance/time. But if I don’t have the time, I might just need to push myself during those short workouts.

I would like to end this post by highlighting my personal bests in terms of distance/speed/time of 2014:

  • Running 5km – 24:46 in June
  • Running 10km – 58:23 in July (night runs)
  • Running 21km – 2:19:43 in June
  • Cycling – 28:84 during the half ironman.

Things to do in 2015

  • increase my speed and buy an expensive bike – looking at graph my speed for cycling at the end of year is not much different from beginning of year. despite less distance. I am considering to purchase an expensive bike just to get that 10% improvement. But I am listening to an advice by a cyclist (thanks fabian) that I am going to stick with my current cheap bike until I reach my target of 30km/hr for within 30km or 1 hour, before I buy those expensive bike.(I might just look for second hands that cost under 1k).I might need to join a few cycling competitions or events (gasp) just to get more feel of their pace …. 😐
  • I gotta do a full marathon in 2015 before I even do a full ironman. (I feel confident I can do it again though). I probably need to do it overseas. not much if any in brunei.2014 had only once.
  • Do a full Ironman. Need to increase my ability to cycle from currently 100km to 180km.
  • Lose Fat weight – currently 95kg. at least down to 85kg. but according to a height of 179cm. I should weigh at most 79kg. but 85 is good enough for me for now. I might need to drink less during runs, and might be easier for my to cycle uphill.

I need to come up with a plan… I think I will update more on these targets on my cycling and running categories post.

Here’s to a healthy, fit and fast 2015. Happy New Year!

Completed the Putrajaya 70.3 Ironman!!!


I completed the Putrajaya 70.3 Ironman.  that means I did 1.9km swim followed by a 90km cycle, followed by a 21km run. mind the fact that the pros finished under 4 hours, and I finished it under 8 hours. I did it, I completed it, and under my expected time of 8 hours. I did it in the blistering heat. my cycle ended after lunch time, and ran through till 3pm. I had to slow jog in the end, confident that with a slow jog or fast walk of 9-10min per km, I would finish the whole thing under the cut-off times.

ironman putrajaya results

 

The swim is the easiest part for me, using total immersion, I glided through the whole swim course, the fresh water was more comfortable then open sea water, and the water were calm, no harsh waves that would cause me sea sickness. only a matter of slight current and sighting the turning points. I may have went off course a bit, but that’s expected in open water swimming. did it in 51 minutes. my pool time usually 45 minutes.

after the swim, ran to the bike, spent almost 5 minutes to set up for the bike. wore my helmet, wore my socks and shoes, put on some sunscreen (wear sunscreen!) wore my arm band for the run, ate 1 banana, and packed 2 in my back pocket, and off I went. I forgot to turn on my endomondo for a few minutes. The bike was hilly thats for sure, but I found myself comparing it to the mentiri highway, but longer. I am glad that I built up my engine for the hills. Previous 80km ride, my average was 20kmph, but training on mentiri highway i got up to 24kmph, and some point at muara-tutong highway got 27kmph. for the ironman my average was just under 25kmph. so I ended earlier then I had anticipated.

I was glad there was 3 water points in the route, so we could have water, isotonic and coke… coke!!! i decided not to take the coke until the last lap due to fear of dehydration by caffeine. on the second round, as expected based on my training my water reserves of 3 bottles ran out. so on the 1st water point of the first lap, I decided to refill one bottle. I should have refilled all, considering I stopped at the next points refilling that same bottle. Could have save time by refilling all my bottles at that point, so I wouldn’t need to stop at each point.

Riding along I felt sorry for those whose bike punctured, or fell off due to sharp and narrow curves. to be fair the race managers did warn about that part, in the first round there were people around signing to us to slow down. I felt so motivated looking at other people cycling, and felt even inspired when I saw signboards meant for other people felt it applied to me. “pain is your friend”, “this is your hill”, “try to today and relax tomorrow”. the spectators were no different in cheering us on. cheering for their friends and family members and any other stranger that was competing. 🙂

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When my ride ended, i was happy to see that my riding time wasn’t 4 hours, but it was just above 3hr and 30minutes. I felt that I could relax mentally and not stress about the run, because now I have 4 hours to run half marathon, in my worst time it was 3.5 hours. Hoping for the best, I slipped my mobile phone on arm band, but disappointed to find my phone unresponsive (to the moisture collected on the bike bag). so I spent a few kilometres holding on to it waiting for it to dry before turning on endomondo for the run. Going on the first lap, saw a few people whose pace was quite face, and a few others that ran and walked, and then those who walk. I’ll admit a lot of people were running faster then I was. But I told myself that I don’t need to push myself, just play it safe and jog slow. With the day heating up, I realized I forgot to pack my cap, which i usually wore in my training. as of writing the skin of my forehead is flaking off. I did not put any sunscreen on my head, for fear the sweat would run off into my eyes. There was a aid point for almost every 2km, and for each aid point there was a toilet, medic tent, water tent, isotonic tent, food (watermelon, banana, sweets), and water… again. The medic tent had those muscle sprays (I have never needed them, just a few stretches usually clear them off for me), and sunscreen. I asked the medic to give me on my palms and I covered myself again. (I had experience terrible sun burn/blister before in my training).

ironman putrajaya cycle

At the end of the 1st lap, I noticed some runners had wet sponges embedded within their clothes. What a wonderful Idea I thought, then I realized on the last aid point that they actually provided it. On the 2nd lap, the first water point was out of cups, so I drank from the bottle, the next point was out of water, so I didn’t use any to cool myself down, on the subsequent one there was also no water, but i saw other runner taking water from the drink containers and pouring on themselves as well as putting some of the ice down their shirts. I thought good idea, so I did it as well. REMINDER on this one, do not do this for a one piece suit. my ice ended collecting around my ass, which felt cooling, but after half an hour later felt my leg muscles close to my ass cramping up. bad idea. good thing after almost an hour it dissipated, but i had to be careful. the last few km of that second lap was miraculously (THANK GOD!) cloudy, so I could run slightly faster. I had noticed during the heat that even with a slow run my heart rate went upto 145, when usually it would be 120 around that pace. I maintained under 150bpm to be safe. that last round I actually caught with a guy walking and asked me about the time, and I assured him that with the pace and time, we would make it. he later caught up to me and we had a chat till the finish line. It was interesting to note that while chatting my pace went faster, coinciding with the cooling of the weather. both probably contributed. Reminder next time to find a running partner to talk to earlier in the run.

At the finishing line, I saw my wife waiting at the sidelines and took a picture of me. I crossed the finish line and the organizers place a medal around my neck, gave me an ironman towel. and one guy gently took away my timing chip from my left leg. At the finishers’ area, they provided drinks, fruits, ice cream (ICE CREAM!!!) and massage (people had to seat in line for that one). I drank a whole bottle of isotonic, took 2 ice cream, and went to talk to my wife for a while. then I went stretching and cool down while looking at the other finishers crossing the line. I admit it was quite inspiring and emotional to see the finishers greeted by strangers and by their loved one.

Thank you to the organizers, to the other participants/competitors, the volunteers, to the cheerers and supporters, especially to one that I realize I might have been rude to by saying “please don’t push me, I just want to relax”, after she cheered me on. Thank you for the experience. Every single person that I was around on my 70.3 ironman journey was a contribution to my inspiration to keep on moving. Love you all. 🙂