Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bitter sweet victory

Thank you mom, for bringing me lomotil pills in case i had the runs again on raceday, it saved my race.

thank you team for the tough love and great company. thank you ivy, CK, jaja, lin, alisa, haimi and jason for smiling and making the heat more bearable. thank you adzim for the fab pictures. thank you team iron-monyets for your crazy ride distances during training. thank you all my sweet friends back home, who tracked my race progress till wee hours of the morning (sorry i got you worried on my last 6k) and those who gave me well wishes and good luck. thank you ishsal for saying 'i'm catching up with you!" on the bike. thank you shen for shouting "run, babe!" at kenyir OD 2006 (the memory never left and still haunts me at every run leg). thank you KC for bringing shen to langkawi. thank you patrick for your company on my last 500m and setting me off like an eagle last 50m towards the finisher's tape saying "go, enjoy your victory. you've earned it".

thank you dad, for catching me at the other end of the finisher's tape.


i wanted to write about everything. i wanted to share the excitement, the joy, the happiness, the success of our trip to langkawi.

i wanted to share how my heart stopped and everything became like a dream. moving slowly with a blurred voice shouting "629.... YOU. ARE. AN. IRONMAAAAAAAAAN!".

i wanted to share everything.

people say no victory comes without pain. guess that's why they call it bitter sweet victory.

my heart is too heavy to share everything about my bitter sweet victory, so i'll sum it up in two lines:
sunday 12:33am - i crossed the finisher's tape after 16:48:03 of gruesome race conditions.
monday 2:35am - my mah-mah (paternal grandmother) passed away after more than 10 days of hospitalisation.

there is joy in me yet i mourn for mah-mah. is this really what they mean by bitter sweet victory?

how should one feel given such extreme milestone opposites in life? The person who can answer this question with confidence would truly be a master of his own heart.

in my previous entries i spoke about how mah-mah has totally forgotten who i am, yet she stroked my face in her last days in hospital as if to say "i know you, i love you" while she could. i also spoke about how i wouldn't want to inherit her memory lapse. later, i spoke about how my pee-with-audience debut at 5 years old could be my calling and i was meant to be an ironman after all.

i now know what i inherited and what i was meant to be.

the sunday before traveling to langkawi, i visited mah-mah. she was asleep and breathing with great difficulty. for the first time, i had her to myself. i spoke to her while she slept. i told her how i was about to travel to langkawi to do the ironman. i told her how it was a race of great importance to me and i have every intention to finish it. i told her i was scared. scared that i would fail to meet cut off again. scared that my family and friends had such high hopes and spirits for me that i would let them down. scared that so many of them, including mom and dad were coming, that the pressure to finish was almost unbearable.

above all, i was scared that she wouldn't be here when i come back.

our 'conversation' was interupted by her sudden wake. i said hi and she went back to sleep.

i spent a quiet moment in prayer with her and i walked out of the hdu to meet a cousin outside. while outside, the nurse advised us to re-enter the hdu and to call all relatives. mah-mah's breathing was getting weaker with no signs of recovery.

we rushed to her bedside and she was in and out of consciousness. as we waited for the rest of the relatives to come we called her to wake up and encouraged her to breathe more. we told her to hang on. we said others are on their way.

and then it happened.... she smiled... through her oxygen mask!

the next hour felt like an eternity. uncles, aunts, cousins took turns to say their goodbyes. an uncle was heading a christian prayer, he was asking her to not be afraid and walk towards the light, the lord had come to guide her way.

she did not die that sunday.

we waited another 2 hours and nothing happened. i later found out that my uncle had to say the same prayer on 3 different occassions, but she still hung on.

before i left that day i whispered into mah-mah's ears "wait for me. i will finish the race". she was asleep.

that was the last time i saw my mah-mah.

on sunday morning, after the race i couldn't wait to write this entry. i imagine a beaming face that cannot stop smiling while i typed. i imagined pausing to laugh at something stupid that happened during the race. today, my heart hurts and i only feel the lump in my throat and welling of my eyes.

she kept her end of the deal. she waited for me.
and i kept mine.

after receiving news of her death, my journey home have been so confusing. we travelled in a group and it wasn't fair to mourn in the presence of so many ironman successors. it wasn't fair to bring the group's spirit down after what they have worked so hard to achieve.

i received many smses of congrats for finishing the race, shortly followed by condolences of mah-mah's passing. it was such a strange feeling.

the group knew of her death but were sensitive and played their part to ensure the atmosphere did not remind me too much of the pain.

in return, i put up a brave front and help keep the group's spirit high, saving my tears and heartache only in arif's company.

thank you arif, for cheering when you saw me fly and catching me when you saw me falling.

now thinking back, it was a week filled with silent pacs, the one with mah-mah being my most treasured.

at her wake, my uncle said mah-mah can be described in three words: loving, strong and determined. he told us the story of how mah-mah drove from kuantan to kuala lumpur to meet my grandfather. she was alone with 13 of her young children, and had no driver's licence. it's stories like these and how she refused to 'go to the light' even after being told more than 4 times (once by an official priest who gave her an hour, at most, after his prayer - mah-mah lasted more than 8 days after his prayer), and how she was probably waiting for me to finish that makes me believe my uncle was right.

and i now believe i did inherit something from her that i can truly be proud of - her strength and determination. i was wrong to say maybe i was meant to be an ironman. it was her inherant strength and determination that helped me cross the finsher's tape.

thank you mah-mah for making me an ironman.

Monday, February 11, 2008


Ever wonder why some titles are just more gender skewed?

and it's not because ironWOMAN or ironLADY sounds strange..

i truly believe it's because some races are not meant for women or ladies!

now, before you throw cabbages at me, let me explain and set the record straight:
1. i am a supporter of ladies being included in all sports, especially male dominated ones.
2. there are ladies who beat men square at races
3. at a race, to a certain extent, both genders are equal
4. i will be truly honoured to be called an ironman

point 3 is what i would like to use to best illustrate why i believe races like the ironman is not meant for ladies.

gender equality.

does this really exist in races? well, let's see:
1. race timing? yes and possible
2. equipment? yes definitely
3. strength, skills and experience? yes quite possible although the average male is 20% stronger than the average female but sometimes, this is not a disadvantage to the ladies
4. training hours? yes, can be equal

you can probably think of a million more equalities, so what tips the scale and makes it ironman and not ironlady?

... the wilderness...

women and men react differently to the wilderness.

men on one hand (or the other, whichever one they choose) can pee/poo at any point in time and place. and sometimes it's not even during a race! you often see taxis at the side of the highway, both doors open, cabby standing in the middle, only thing in sight is a thin stream shooting out into the wilderness. I once dated a guy who was waiting for me while the whole household was out and he needed to pee. mom never really understood why her baby roses died overnight.

ladies on the other hand, think really hard and contemplate if they can hold it to avoid the wilderness. a doctor once told me, urinary tract problems are more common amongst women because of our natural habit of holding in our pee till a proper rest stop. he mentioned "especially for chinese women"... he must be referring to the large number of chinese women on tour buses across china longing for a proper toilet or one with a door!

it must be the way we are built differently. men do not have to be inches from the ground to pee hence saving them the worry that any creepy crawlies can nip them in the process. if anything, they probably had fun shooting the creepy crawlies at a distance.

we're pretty much the same when we poo in the wilderness, but this only happens when it's really bad. by which time, you're too consumed with the tummy churns to bother about creepy crawlies... mr crawlie better be on vacation before sh*t happens!... know what i mean?

but the wilderness is not the reason why we do not have ironlady titles or that the ironman is not meant for women.

the fact for me is, it's called the ironman because the race is 17hours (and some 40mins more for me). you've got to go sometime during that period and a proper loo is a luxury. so women and men just 'go' as they go. no qualms, no gender boundaries. ladies react like their male counterparts.

admit it. it isn't a very lady like thing to do.

during a race, women are not coy. we are just as strong as the guy next to us in spirit and courage. we no longer act very lady like either. we become athletes... not women and definitely not ladies.

we are strong, confident and honestly... can't give two hoots about who spotted our fannies in the rush of the race.

we dump our bikes, and hit the nearest bush clearing. helmets visible... nothing else. i've once shared a bush with a triathlete friend during my first OD at kenyir. sweet guy, threw me his water bottle to clean up after..

as I looked at pictures from that kenyir race, i thought "how ironic!". the day before i had taken a picture dressed in white, with slight make-up on.. smiling sweetly in front of a bunch of kept dears. some other shots had me feed them through the fence. and the very next day, i was sharing a bush with a guy and his water to wash... without even blushing or feeling awkward after.

what is even more ironic is the person who taught me how to pee while on the bike was shen. sweet shen, now happily married and pregnant with her first child. sweet in real life, tyrant survivor during races (makes you wonder which is her real self and which her alter ego).

how ladies change at the bang of the start gun..

so to me, the ironman title is quite apt seeing that it really isn't a time or place to be lady like. we become one of the boys and it is always in great admiration that some ladies beat the guys at their own game.

but we couldn't have just adopted this tyrant survivor gig. i'm quite sure all women have it in them.. we're just too lady like to do it other than in races.

for example, the first ever wilderness I can remember is locking myself up in the toilet with my cousin su-en.

there we were, sweet young things of 5.

i came up with the idea that since our parents have started letting us feed ourselves, we must be matured enough to lock the toilet door. su-en couldn't agree more. So we marched up to my mom's room, went into her toilet and closed the door.

su-en asked how does the lock work and like a pro i said, "you just push this button. see?" once locked, we realised that there was only one toilet bowl. being my guest, i let her go first. while I waited cross legged my mom called from downstairs. i instinctively wanted to open the door to answer when i realised that i couldn't unlock the door. i panicked and su-en, still seated, started to cry.

ever notice how, when you panic, your pee just feels like gushing out even more?

well, that was how i felt. su-en did not help either by being fixated to her seat. I wanted to pee right there but was too shy because at 5, you are matured enough to know that that's not what you should do.

meanwhile, my mom had rushed up with a bunch of keys to open the door from the outside. all was calm until we heard my older brother say (and i'm very sure it was said on purpose)"wah! so many keys-a? it'll take us forever to find the right one!" su-en started crying again...i only two things on my mind:
1. i need to pee... how?
2. how can anybody pee THAT long? i'm sure she's just sitting there on purpose!

the moment of truth arrived and i knew i had no other choice... and like an organised crime raid, my mom found the key, busted through the toilet door and found me peeing my life away... ... into her toilet sink...


ok, maybe that was a psuedo wilderness situation. but thinking back that must have been my first pee-with-audience encounter. and when it was time to deliver, i roughed it out like the boys and delivered.

who knows, maybe that was my first calling and i was meant to be an ironman after all...