Project Hero Race Report: Harum’s Moment of Glory

So this is it, the one day Project Hero Athlete Harum Delima has spent the last 12 weeks training for. Only 113.1km stands between her and Ironman glory. This is the story of how the other half of the Project Hero Ironcouple achieved hers.

Race Week
by Harum Delima

Ready to rock!

Ready to rock!

It’s funny that when you are used to train nearly everyday, few days of rest feel like you have been slacking off forever. Due to the suspected reoccurrence of ITB on my right knee, I have been extra cautious on my training before the race. To get injured before the race would have been extremely frustrating after all the hard work I’ve put in for 6 months!

The training scheduled for the race week was a light one. I decided to swim and left it at that. I was getting quite nervous from not doing anything. I also started doubting myself that maybe I wasn’t meant to do this and that I was being too ambitious. I regretted making my training public.

I felt slightly better when Knut came back from Manila. He reminded me, “Remember, you can do this. You have trained for it. Just don’t have any negative thoughts. Even when it gets tough or really hot, you just have to think positive and breathe calmly. No negative thoughts.” Yes, I’m very bad with hot weather, and my mind just shuts down when it gets too hot and I haven’t shown any positive attitude when it got really warm during our training. Yikes.

Race Morning

This is it!

This is it!

I woke up a few minutes before the alarm went off. I thought I was feeling quite calm but from my body’s reaction, I knew I was nervous. I always poop in the morning, without fail (except when I’m travelling). I woke up much earlier to wait for it, unfortunately it didn’t happen. Then I got restless. I was hoping that it would happen in Putrajaya because I wouldn’t want to race “heavy”. Well, it didn’t happen.

On the way to the race venue, Knut and I hardly talk. I don’t know about him but when I’m nervous, I like to be quiet. Because when I start talking, I would feel like throwing up.

Upon arriving, we went straight to the transition area and started organizing our things. Funny how the set up seemed much simpler than our Olympic Distance at Morib Tri in December 2013.

There were a lot of people. So many things were happening. My mind was not really registering anything. I kept reminding myself to enjoy the race and have fun. Yeah right.. more like “bring on the pain”!

My wave was about to start. Knut gave me a kiss and somehow I felt like crying. Perhaps I just realized the craziness of what we were about to do.

Swim – 1.9km

I had to pee real bad. I had to pee so bad that I got a mini baby bump. I didn’t want to stress myself too much by going for the long queue etc so I decided to pee when I’m in the water. While waiting for my wave to start, a fellow triathlete kept asking if I was ok. Maybe I looked very serious or nervous. I was glad that she asked ’cause it made me feel better. Shortly after that, all of us got into the water. I wasn’t nervous about the deep water start as I know how to float. I only panicked slightly when I noticed that my GPS wasn’t ready! Because of that, I only had the time recorded but not the distance 🙁

Upset with my timing and feeling quite tired Photo by Janice Chan - Imagines

Upset with my timing and feeling quite tired
Photo by Janice Chan – Imagines

Just before the start horn, one of my left toes started cramping. So annoying!! I ignored it and continued swimming. The same triathlete that asked if I was ok swam breaststroke. Man, she was fast. I tried catching up with my front crawl but she was “flying”! For some reason, I felt tired. Everything felt heavy including the water. I wasn’t moving as fast as I wanted to. Despite all that, I was just happy that I had so much space to myself. Not sure if that meant I sucked or there was just that much space to myself. Oh by the way, I couldn’t pee. I tried very hard to pee, but nope. It refused to be released. Maybe I’m just too ethical about these things.

I usually have good pace and I hardly use my legs to save energy. The longest I swam was 2.6km. I even swam in Putrajaya lake twice without any problem. I guess on race day, I got more tensed and ended up with unsatisfactory timing – 52 minutes. Such a pity that my watch didn’t get to record the distance. I’m quite sure I swam much longer. The swim felt very long at least.

I got out of the water feeling spent. I thought, uh oh… this is not good. I only have, well, 90km to bike and 21km to run. So yeah… not promising at all. I ran to my bike rack, started changing. I nearly took off with my swim cap still on my head! That would have been so silly.

Bike – 90km

I was hoping to feel fresh when I started riding. To my disappointment, I felt somewhat breathless. Everyone was overtaking me and it was demoralizing. Never mind that “this is your own race” or “you are only competing with yourself” bla bla bla… It still sucked. Then I saw this girl riding at a slower pace than me so I overtook her to boost my non-existent self esteem in this race. Just when I thought I was far ahead, I heard her thanking the photographer for snapping a picture of her. Judging from her voice, she must be really close to me. Then came another dude overtaking both of us and shouting at her with an Australian accent, “12 meters, laaady!” (in reference to the non-drafting rule) I thought that was funny.

Please disqualify me already! So exhausted!

Please disqualify me already! So exhausted!

Throughout the ride, I felt exhausted. I poured water on my head and back to cool my body down. I even dropped some endurolytes due to lack of concentration. Luckily I brought extra. At one point, I was kind of hoping that I would get disqualified on the spot for doing something wrong and not allowed to continue the race.

I was somewhat happy when I didn’t see Knut. That meant that I was moving with an okay pace as he started later than me. Then I saw this guy waving at me frantically and shouting “Hi!”. I felt down. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to see my husband of course, but that also showed that he was catching up and I was slowing down. Meh.

It felt like thousands of cyclists overtook me and most of the time I was riding alone. For a few kilometers, I actually thought someone was drafting behind me. After a while I got annoyed. I turned around and there was nobody behind me. Freaky.

Another drama that I thought I had was a flat tire. I started panicking like crazy. I think I know how to change a flat tire by watching videos and Knut doing it. To actually change it yourself is another story! Luckily it was just me on heavy gears. Ha ha. Silly me. Hey, not my fault. My brain was getting fried from the heat!
Then water started tasting very bitter. My mouth was bitter. Yuck. When they were giving out some colas, I was worried if I should take it since it might screw up my system. I took it anyway. And that was the best cola ever! Finally, my mouth didn’t taste like shit. Thank goodness that my stomach was also fine.

Some guys were kind enough to encourage me along the way, like “You can do it!” or “Come on now!” or “Go go go!”, I wished I could be more hyper about it, but all I said was “Yeah”, quite close to a sexy sigh or something like that haha… Things you think about during these long rides. Tsk.

Right at the last water station for the bike leg, I told myself that I had to pee as I felt quite fat from my bloated bladder. Try flushing one of those mobile toilets with your leg after you have been cycling close to 90km. Not funny. My leg was shaking helplessly.

I have nothing much to complain about my timing for the bike leg as I finished around 4 hours, just as I predicted. Quite amazing that I rode with a cramped left foot and stomach ache the whole way (they hurt like hell by the way) and I managed to tell myself that was nothing. Upon dismounting from my bike, I could feel my quads started to cramp up, slowly. My muscles got so tight that I had to take my shoes off and continue running barefoot with my bike to the transition area.

Run – 21km

 Wet sponges and ice cubes were my best friends! I actually discarded the wet sponges towards the end for better photos :p

Wet sponges and ice cubes were my best friends! I actually discarded the wet sponges towards the end for better photos :p

Thanks to all the brick training, I started my run quite well! I was excited that I wasn’t going to suffer so early. However, after 4km, I could feel my quads and calves cramping quite badly. It was so bad that I nearly fell several times when the muscles tightened up. I started walking to ease the cramps, however the pain was too much that I wasn’t sure if it was better to run or walk. I stopped at every aid station to have some water. Then I realized that I wasn’t thirsty at all. Instead, my body was overheating. I saw some guys stuffing wet sponges underneath their tri top. So I decided to do the same. I think I had like 5 sponges in front, 2 sponges on my back, and 1 under my cap. I’ve also thrown in some ice cubes in my sports bra to cool down my body temperature. I even made sure that I would always have ice cubes in my mouth to overcome the heat. I told this story to a lot of people after the race and all of them laughed at me and even thought what I did was disgusting. But seriously, if it wasn’t because of this method, I would have suffered heatstroke like a lot of the other participants.

I remember in one of Chrissie Wellington’s interviews (British triathlete and four time World Ironman Champion), she said that the reason why more older people are doing triathlon is due to the mental strength and maturity. You tend to be smarter about endurance sports as you grow older. Because of this, you are strong enough to disassociate from the pain and boredom (referring to the long distance one has to endure) that comes with the sport. I think this is so true as I’m a completely different athlete now compared to when I was playing basketball. I have no patience or strong will then.

Both legs off the ground! And that's one of my fans :D

Both legs off the ground! And that’s one of my fans 😀

I still have no idea how I completed the race. I was practically a zombie during the run leg. I ignored the heat and my cramped legs. I only started walking when I nearly fell, which was most of the time.
I closed my eyes when it was getting too much. It felt like I have been running for a while. I thought this must have been a few kilometers at least. I felt accomplished. Unfortunately, when I looked at my 910XT, I only ran around 100 meters. I got so pissed off!!

On a positive note, it felt so good when the crowd was cheering me on and calling my name. Since my name literally means “fragrant pomegranate”, many Malaysians got excited about it and in turn, lifted my spirit to finish the race.

At the last few kilometers, I suddenly noticed some of the participants picking up their pace, almost rushing to the finishing line. I thought maybe they suddenly got the energy to finish the race. Then it dawned on me that the cut off time was 8 hours 15 minutes instead of 8 hours 30 minutes. My heart sank. There was no way I could run that fast to meet the cut off time.

Nevertheless, I gave my all and sprinted to the end. Knut was looking for me and he spotted someone who had similar outfit as me. He thought, “that can’t be her, Harum doesn’t run that fast”. Hmph! It was me after all, running like there’s no tomorrow and “chicking” quite a few men along the way! I heard Knut and my friends shouting my name. That was funny ’cause I actually got spooked! So nice to see them there. I was very touched that they bothered to come!

Finally I finished the race after an epic sprint! Time: 8hrs 15 mins 26 secs

Finally I finished the race after an epic sprint! Time: 8hrs 15 mins 26 secs

I was so relieved when I crossed the finishing line and I let out a big YES! I thought I made it. Unfortunately, I missed the cut off time by 26 seconds. I wanted to cry but I was so tired that I went straight for the cold shower. I sat down and I couldn’t speak for 10-15 minutes – still not sure if it was due to the disappointment or exhaustion or relief. Knut came over and I could see that he was extremely proud of me (he told me later that he had tears after I completed the race).

I knew everyone, okay, maybe not everyone, but a lot of people had doubts about me. I just had a feeling that a lot of them didn’t think I had it in me to finish the race.

In the beginning, I regretted sharing my training publicly due to the unnecessary attention and pressure. But now I’m glad that I did. I’m proud to show and share the hard work involved to do this.

Some people made fun of my efforts, belittled my training and even ridiculed me of behaving like I was a professional athlete. That’s ok. Maybe some people get away with little or no training at all. But I’m not one of those. I strongly believe that you have to respect the distance and commit to the training. It’s called Ironman for a reason. If you are not committed to it, then why are you doing it in the first place? So for those who plan to do this, remember not to be disheartened if you don’t get the love you expect from your family or friends. Do it for yourself and stay strong!

My first half distance race and second triathlon event

My first half distance race and second triathlon event

On another note, I got so much support and encouragement from other triathletes who are so kind and helpful with tips on preparation, equipments, nutrition, training etc. Thank you so much for entertaining us with our silly questions!

I’m also very honored and grateful to be part of Project Hero. The training program provided by Lycraheroes has definitely improved our lifestyle and helped us to complete the race successfully! Thanks to my friends as well who have to put up with my wild ideas from time to time 🙂

Last but not least, my fantabulous husband who has been such a great drill sergeant and awesome training partner, thank you, thank you, thank you! You are the best! Thank you for going through this with me. It’s been such an EPIC JOURNEY and I think we did ok 🙂

This is not the end. This is just the beginning. We have started our training again to prepare for other races. Now that I know I can do the distance, it’s time to improve on my timing. Thanks again for following our story!

The aspiring Ironcouple! Still looking fresh after the race, not knowing what would hit us the next day :D

The aspiring Ironcouple! Still looking fresh after the race, not knowing what would hit us the next day 😀

Congratulations Harum, and we thank you for being a big, big part of Project Hero. We look forward to hearing more of your journey. A 140.6 perhaps??? All the best.

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