The race that turned Captain Faiz into Captain Ironman

Earlier, we had a post about how pilot Captain Mohammed Faiz Kamaludin was dealing with his post-Ironman blues. Here now is his report about the race that gave him those blues.

Ironman Western Australia (IMWA),
8th December 2013, Busselton, Australia.
My Race Report (40-44 Male)

by Mohammed Faiz Kamaludin

It was raining cats and dogs, yet riders were zooming by me and I thought to myself whether everyone else had a death wish or was it just me being too cautious. The ‘Songkhla Century Ride’ had just begun and the rain was coming down hard that reduced the visibility to almost impossible. Oh no, I might as well embrace the kamikaze experience. Along the way one of my friends sort of “blew a piston” and at km70, I had to decide whether to leave or stay with him. My initial instinct was to ride my own race, but the thought of being in a foreign land could present some unexpected threat. In the spirit of comradeship I decided to spur my friend all the way to the finish line. This left me feeling rather impatient most of the way but I stuck to my game plan. It was to be my longest ‘training’ ride 3 weeks before my maiden Ironman race. What I didn’t realize that day was it had taught me one of the most valuable lessons that I would need on race day… which is the virtue of patience!

Swim
0515_38289Here I was a few weeks later clad in a state of the art wetsuit lining up along the shores of Geographe Bay in Busselton with some other 1,600 competitors about to embark on my first ever attempt at the iron distance.

With sand beneath my feet and the sea water waist-high in freezing like conditions, we waited patiently for the starting horn due for 5:45am. I had chosen the far right to avoid the mass chaos and it worked out pretty well for me. The water was cold but after a few strokes I had forgotten all about it. My wetsuit was doing its job and all I had to do was make the swim before the cut-off time, as it was my weakest leg of the race.

The waves were calm that morning and you could see the ocean bed most of the way. I thought that fact was pretty cool. The 3.8 km swim was along the longest timber jetty in the southern hemisphere and if you could swim with bilateral breathing, you probably didn’t have to do any sighting… nope not a chance.

Along the way, a course marshal on a surfboard signalled to me and said that I should turn left and follow along the jetty and not try to swim straight to the turnaround point. I gave him the thumbs up and swam towards the jetty. I could see lots of other bobbing heads in red IMWA swim caps all around me and thought ok, I won’t be ‘DQ’ed for this.

I was getting anxious just before the turnaround at the end of the jetty but held my nerves as not to look at my timepiece to see how I was doing. I just kept on swimming and concentrated on making every stroke as efficient as possible. After the turnaround buoy I looked at my Garmin and it read 1 hour and I thought ok… I have 1hour and 20mins to bring this swim home.

On the return leg, I swam very close to the jetty and used the ocean floor and the timber pillars as my reference and swam to the exit point. It may not have been my fastest swim but it was definitely my longest swim to date. I got out feeling fresh and heard the announcers calling my name and I thought ahh…I’m still in this race.

I got out in 1:59 and was ahead of my target by 1 minute (haha…sorry personal joke). One of the common errors for an Ironman race, I read was inflating your goals just before the race day as your body would be fitter and you would feel stronger right before the event. I dialled in my target times with Kevin Siah my personal coach some two months before the race and I decided to stick with them. The first transition was smooth as someone helped me rip off my wetsuit and I made the all important dash to the loo.

Bike
0515_16487After getting on my bike I told myself to stay in the present, “It’s going to be a long ride, so enjoy being out there”. As I entered the course, everyone else were cycling like there was no tomorrow. Ok these guys are good!!! I was riding with a couple of backmarkers from Singapore and Japan (don’t want to stereotype here, just coincidental) and kept my cadence between 80 to 90 rpm and went for my 26 to 27km/h target speed.

However, the headwind and tailwind would play an important role in this race. IMWA has a pretty flat bike course taking you on a 3-loop 60k route. After the city limits the first open area is quite brutal. The winds there can get real strong. It then takes you along the beach on Coast Road before a U-turn and then onto a long segment around Tuart Forest where at some stretches the road surface can be quite unpleasant and rather bumpy. Then it’s a short 15k back home through the same windy open area again.

During my first lap I stopped at every portable toilet station, 4 in total (LOL) perhaps from being overhydrated. I finally managed to find the right formula of drinks to take with the choice of water, Gatorade or Coke.

However, on the second lap my thighs started to burn from chafing as my tri shorts began to dry up. It was around the 90k mark when I found an aid station and made friends with Mr. Vaseline (a whole lot too). Even though I had applied Body Glide before the start, I guess it all wore off after a few hours into the race. Looking back, if I hadn’t slathered my thighs with Vaseline I would have probably suffered throughout the race.

0515_37206The winds got stronger by each lap as we approached the afternoon. I kept to my every hour gel intake and energy bars for every 90 minutes but was hungry for some real food. Nasi Lemak and Teh Tarik…not a chance mate! On the last lap at the special needs station, I stopped for a little break. I enjoyed a home packed corned beef sandwich with nacho chips prepared by my wife. Even though flies were swarming all over me but I felt pure bliss. Ah, the simple things in life.

At this point, one of the volunteers at the station told me that the winner had just crossed the finish line and the fact that I still had 30k left to ride and a marathon to run made me even more determined. After my quick lunch off I went and my left knee started to hurt. I ignored it and mentally tried to heal it.

The Captain's turbo boosters!

The Captain’s turbo boosters!

The last 10k was brutally difficult as the winds were blowing ferociously but after seeing my wife and kids cheering me on en route, it gave me that final turbo boost to get to the finish. Disaster nearly struck at the final roundabout just 200 metres before the finish when some kid with a BMX tried to cross the street making me jam on my rear brakes skidding to a halt and nearly crashing into him. Thank God we didn’t collide as it would have been a different race altogether. I got in with a bike time of 7 hours 8 minutes, being 8 minutes off my race pace. I thought to myself… This is going good. Alhamdulillah!

During the transition, I decided to chuck my tri top and put on my favourite Nike running vest to change my mindset. I made believe that I was just about to start fresh in running a marathon. Forget that I had swam and biked for the past 9 hours. It’s just another run, I told myself and off I went.

Run
0515_33859I took to the course along the Busselton Beach strip. It is a 10k loop along paved streets filled with cheers and encouragement from the massive crowd support all along the route. The atmosphere was electric and the heat was on. The sun was out in full force, however the temperature was bearable. I was feeling strong but controlled and stayed patient as not to burn myself early.

I engaged the crowd and drew energy from them. I have always been a ‘social’ runner and the scene fitted me perfectly. There were dancers in costumes, loud music blaring, cow bells banging and lots and lots of people just cheering you on and calling your name. I figured aha… my bib was showing ‘Mohammed’ and not some magical tattoo on my forehead or something indicating my name.

I kept company with a fellow rookie from Scotland during the first lap and slowly kept running stronger. After passing 21k, I pushed harder and upon reaching the dreaded 28k mark, I said hello to a familiar friend called ‘pain’. I worked with whatever that was made available such as Vegemite sticks to replace salt tablets and ate watermelons because they just looked so darn delicious. I also saw a couple of people doing the Ironman vomit, and I told myself…ok let’s not go there.

Upon completing my third lap I saw my wife and she gave me a kiss to charge up my final round. It was getting dark and I picked up my light jacket from the special needs station while whacking in another home made sandwich that my wife had prepared earlier. I was pumped up now through the last lap running out into the darkness. The cool air was a welcomed change. I encouraged other runners who were grinding it out as if I wasn’t in the same boat. It was a personal journey for everyone and I’m sure they all have their own story to tell.

0515_39478With 2 kilometres to go I could taste the finishing line. I dumped my jacket and sunglasses at the last aid station and made my way to the finish chute. Everyone and every stranger were cheering me on. I gave high fives all the way through. Finally the moment I had been waiting for, I was so pumped I jumped up in joy while punching my fist as I crossed the finish line. It felt a thousand times higher than it really was. I managed to kiss my wife and kids before the catchers quickly ushered me to the recovery tent where they gave me hot soup, coffee and pizza.

I had completed the race in 14:43 and ran a 5:18 marathon to my delight. In the end the timing didn’t really matter, as I was eager to get out of the tent to rejoin my family members. I was just so thrilled and felt very grateful to God that I had completed the race and was still in one piece. With all the training and family sacrifices that I had to endure in the lead up to the race, one of my friends commented that I forgot to weep and cry, so my Ironman didn’t count. Apparently I have to do another one, cross the finish line and cry my eyeballs out. Does that mean I have to return my ‘finishers’ tee?

On a serious note, I would highly recommend IMWA for anyone wanting to attempt their first long distance course as it is relatively flat and the least difficult IRONMAN race in the circuit. In addition, the race was well organised, the crowd support fantastic, volunteers were very helpful and the weather was just perfect to me. There were 600 first timers in IMWA 2013 and my advice for anyone trying out their first Ironman is… “Be Patient and Finish Strong!!!”

Were you ate Ironman Western Australia? Or any other race recently? We’d like to hear how that went. Send your race reports to mystories@lycraheroes.com

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