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