Monday, June 29, 2009


Because we all love hollywood...

in one of my earliest post i spoke about the difference between a TRIathlete and a TRYathlete. i spoke about the guiding principles that make and differentiate the two sets of athletes in the triathlon universe and how both are celebrated depending on your aim in this universe.

last night while celebrating arif's first sub-5 marathon despite worrying about a returning knee injury just two days before and reminiscing about how far we've come since our first sprint together at a'famosa i realised TWO things:

1. dawning of a new era
while he has had tremendous improvement in his performance (albeit slower progress than he would have liked, and me thinking he's fantastic) i had pretty much stayed where i am. YET amongst good friends we have been blessed with equal support, encouragement, compliments and our fair share of loving 'fans' (i.e not people who worship us but people who genuinely care and like to track our well being in the tri universe)

it got me thinking about that try-triathlete post and suddenly it dawned on me that my favourite tryathlete was becoming a triathlete. he, of course, was a bit sad.
our conversation went something like this:
A: but baby, my blog is called Trying to Tri and the blogspot is TRYathlete1403!
S: well i'm still beyond cut off after finishing within cut of.. so go figure. change it if you wanna be correct about it
S: and when people ask you why you do this, you can no longer say because it's fun.
A: but it is!
S: baby, your definition of fun is different from norm. your idea of fun is aiming to clock 50k run weeks. that to the NORMAL human (not even the average human) is nuts.
A: but that is fun.. :(
S: yes of course! for a TRIathlete..
A: ... :(

He then put up a small effort to justify that he was still a recreational athlete. poor guy didn't stand a chance when i started asking if his training schedule had recreation written all over it (had to name every training schedule and behaviour and forced him to admit that he actually enjoyed the training pattern he designed himself). he felt better after i told him that there's no shame in what he is slowly becoming. of course there's more room to grow, more hours needed, better more structured training to be formed but if he held on to being recreational, his mindset would be holding him back. it would be an excuse to say 'ah well, missed the timing.. that's ok. i'm recreational after all' (two 10ks + one 15k + one 20k per week in mind - recreational my arse!)

after much rationalising, reassurance and showing him how proud i was that he was naturally evolving into a different kind of athlete we 'cheers-ed' to a new beginning.

*naturally, if he ever wanted to be a tryathlete again, we will still applaud him and welcome him with open arms. or if he decides to swing both ways and become a... BIathlete perhaps? hey, any thing's better than being a couch potato - but let's leave the BIs for another time!

2. becoming diva
which then left the other part of the conversation: me.
my question was how was it possible to be congratulated and complimented when i'm, as newly defined by arif, 'euro-cool' about training?
(euro-cool = to train by FEEL. only train if and when i feel like it and even if i was training, i only push when i feel like it and never on someone else's terms)

how is it that i manage to outgrow my newbie status but kept newbie performances (or sometimes even worse than newbies) and still celebrate my 'achievements' of finishing a race? heck, even my dnf at powerman last year was somewhat celebrated.

one word: DRAMA.

yup. it's no longer about what i accomplished but HOW i accomplished it. finishing remains important but how it was achieved gave my races life.

think about it: i am slowly but quite surely becoming a DRAMAthlete:
powerman 2008: dnf because i passed out at such an early stage of the race. had to be whirled back in a van to the ambulance that was not prepared because it was too early in the race.
IM2009: completed with a not particularly fantastic time, but with a hole in my foot and hospitalised for 5 days after that
NB15k: took me close to 4hours to finish and i tore some back muscle fibers that took me out of action for 10 days with help of double dose painkillers

and my latest epic: SCKLM, 7 hours but what happened?

this is what happened: (caution: graphic details entrails. stop reading if you have a weak stomach)

the truth: did not train. plain and simple, hence 7 hours.
the truth well sold: this needs more flair

my target was to try a get a new pb timing. which meant an easy sub-6. what happened apart from euro-cool training the months before was that my last official water station was about 15k into the race. i was so slow, the water stations had ran out of water from the 21k mark onwards. after that 15k water station, i relied heavily on the charity of friends like Azmar who gave me a powerbar and water at about 17k and Budin who bought me a bottle of water at 21k, and a race official that swapped my bottle at 25k when he saw me refueling water at the shell station's men's toilet. thankfully the water stations at later parts (35k, 38k and 40k) were replenished by the time i got there.

but you would wonder: she needed a whole bottle at 17, 21 and 25?? was she showering herself? why so much water for such short distances between?

well, it's a bit embarrassing to say, but i needed it to 'kinda' shower. more like legs and below.

erm.. ok here goes (gory! gory!)

somewhere between 15k and 17k, i felt the familiar warmth of the month. not kidding. i realised i didn't bother calculating this month and did a quick mental date check and voila! 'relatives' had arrived on schedule.


then the dull cramps set in and my back felt a bit sore.

double bummer.

THEN! it started to trickle.


first thing that came to mind was 'and to think i wanted to wear a white skirt this morning!'.

and since i had no money and medic was not even sophisticated enough to have counterpain let alone a sanitary pad, i had to wash myself to avoid noticeable traces with every blob, and trickle.

quite tricky since it was already starting to get bright by that time and i wanted to avoid running in wet, blood stained socks! (sorry.. but there's more)

anyway, good thing is i was wearing a black skirt, so this hid the nasty stain and the mess on my inner thighs.

bad thing is i was wearing a skirt, which held more water when wet than normal shorts.

the entire race after that, so that's for about 25k or close to 5 hours i ran/jogged/walked with a dripping skirt, a suspicious looking trail, wet inner thighs, deteriorating energy level and limited water supply.

see the drama?

probably psychological about lack of energy with blood loss and being immensely uncomfortable, by the time i reached the finish line i thought i was going to collapse.

good thing stupe was there to take me to the finish line.

AND to add drama, i approached the finishing line with the clock striking twelve: the mellow bell was ringing. comfort and encouragement from stupe. my dad's voice shouting from the nearby pavement...'hurry senn! the clock is striking twelve'. i honestly felt like cinderella rushing home before my carriage disappeared!

bad thing stupe was there to shower me while i sat on a white plastic chair! (sorry stupe, i really appreciated and enjoyed the shower. just didn't realise the mess it made after!)

fully drenched, the mess became worst. stains were just trickling and dripping uncontrollably. i was in the medal tent with some 15 other late comers and i didn't want to get up from my white chair. i asked arif if it was noticeable and he said (rather calmly i thought) 'you're dripping blobs through the chair'.

finally mustered the courage and thick skin to just get up. got a couple of worried stares from knowing women about the familiar coloured pool left on the chair, and walked back to the car looking like i was wounded waist down.

dad made me sit on a doubled towel and drove his princess home - knackered and admittedly defeated from the race.

was that good drama or bad drama? i'll let you critics decide.

i'll just admit this much: i am a dramathlete. love hollywood but may appear more bollywod at races.

a drama queen full on.. but honestly not on purpose.

may even start writing race trailers rather than reports! (not that i reported much facts in the past anyway!)

*from the racer of 'there's a hole in my foot' and 'bloody hell!'. IM70.30 Putrajaya.. what would you do if this happened to you? - coming this july*

p.s my dad did great for his first 21k by the way. he said he's motivation was to say 'c'mon senn!' to himself, hoping to fool his mental game and not give up. 3:02 and mighty proud.. :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


If you're a person looking for a new hobby, whatever it may be, it pays to listen to those that are already in the hobby for advice.

How many of us have done something on an 'introductory' level yonks ago and then decide to take it up for real and think you can wing it base on your past experience?

How many of us in this group then think that things could not have been so different from the past experience and that you would know what to do and don't see what the fuss is all about?

I know a couple of people and have been one myself.

I'm also the sister of one such person.

For months now dad has been cycling on his own. I bought him an old steel bike and it seem to work well for him. Nothing fast, nothing far.. just leisure morning rides on his own, at his own pace.

Dad has also been proud of his progress. Conquering from 5k to 15k now 20k ride with a 5k run after.

And like any proud man, my dad has been cornering everybody in the family and telling them of his daily conquest. Always ending with the same line "not bad, huh?"

With me, the line goes "i'm not racing like you.. i go steady.. not bad, huh?"

My second brother, Lok, is one of my dad's favourite victim. And like a fish to bait, lok always falls for dad's "not bad, huh?" trick.

What's the trick?

Well, i believe dad says that line for a purpose. Like a bait to talk more about his conquest.

In the past i had teased him and he would continue like a broken record what he did and always end the same.

"not bad, huh?" was dad's way of saying "ask me, tease me, mock me, i wanna tell you more about my conquest!". some conversations can have him saying that for 3 times!

being his only actively cycling daughter, i was most exposed to this trick but learned pretty quick that if you wanted the subject changed, just say "yup" and smile.

there will be silence.. it will be uncomfortable.. but hold your stand. just say nothing.

if you are disciplined enough, this is what dad will do (in sequence):
1. he will swing and clap his hand (like trying to loosen his shoulders)
2. mumble to himself "yeah.. not bad"
3. one hand on waist, the other touching his imaginary stubbles
4. stay quiet for a few seconds.. then say "yeah, ok.."
5. leave you in peace.

Lok on the other hand, never learned this trick.

Every "not bad, huh?" thrown at him has been lapped up like a hungry puppy.

Lok would tease, laugh, ridicule, and give a sacri remark much to my dad's pleasure. And they would go on throughout dinner.

Two weeks back lok said he wanted to do some excercise. Dad pounced on the idea and suggested cycling (followed by daily conquest and bait question)

Lokker didn't have a chance.

Lok's view of cycling was this:
1. "it's an easy hobby, i did it all the time as a kid"
2. "what's the fuss about the tight shorts?"
3. "dad rides a BIG seat!"

so 'heated' was the discussion of cycling to exercise because lokker didn't believe it was much of a challenge or a hobby to fuss about.

finally, a 20k challenge was set up between dad and lok with me as the referee. the date was set at that week's coming saturday itself.

The father vs son 20km challenge was simple, it was not about speed and there was no prize-winner. It was more of a pride thing and the first person to koyak/get off the bike loses.

The day started early, 6.30am at my house in putrajaya.

My dad was very steady throughout, cruising at his own speed, about 20-25km/h.

Lok was a different story.

Here's the conversation snippets I had with him that will give you an idea of what i mean:
6:45am, 0km
Senn: Lok, i think you need to wear cycling shorts. here's mine, i never wore it .. too big.
Lok: er.. ok. looks gay
Senn: grey? ya it's grey.
Lok: no, gay.. gay..
Senn: just wear it.

7:00am 0km
Lok: senn, how do you walk in these tights? like wearing a sanitary pad!
Senn: you'll get use to it.. btw, howchu know what a sanitary pad feels like?
Lok: i've seen you walk
Senn: sharrup! you wearing underwear?
Lok: ya-a.. it's disgusting without
Senn: you'll get chaffing
Lok: can we remove this jelly seat cover?
Senn: i think it'll help your cushioning
Lok: i'll risk it.

7.15am - race starts

7.30am 5km
Lok: my butt hurts... i think i need a thicker padding
Senn: did you pull it up snug? got to make sure you are seating on the padding.
Lok: sigh.. i'll just stretch...
7.35am still 5km
Lok: are we there yet?
Senn: nope. we need to ride to the end of this road.
Lok: my butt hurts

7.40am about 7km
Lok: you know, if my chain didn't drop earlier, i would be cycling in front with dad
Senn: u-huh.. guess that's why he's getting smaller and smaller now!
Lok: ya! sheesh.. are we there yet?
Senn: we've just cycled 7km.. almost there. drink water.
Lok: can't.
Senn: why?
Lok: might fall. dont they have those people in cycling that feeds you and stuff in a race?
Senn: yes, they are called domestiques.
Lok: ya senn.. feed me!
Senn: just stop and drink
(Lok tries to coast and drink)Lok: ta-daah! i did it.
Senn: good job, you're far better than most newbie girls i've ridden with!

7.50am 10km turnaround.
Met up with some saturday lumba haram-ers at the dead end

8.00am push back home

8.10am about 13km
Lok: my butt hurts
Senn: ya.. just now arrogant, right?
Lok: ya man.. "don't like cycling shorts, take out jelly seat"
Senn: now suffer, right?
Lok: ya..
Senn: now whine like girl, right?
Lok: ya...
Senn: now wished you had that jelly seat, right?
Lok: ya..
Senn: last week dad said you can have his strawberry seat, whatchu say? "don't want, too big, ugly" now you wish you had it, right?
Lok: no.. now need bigger.. a sofa!

8.45am Alamanda Hill
Senn: Lok, big kahua hill. be steady and just go at your pace
Lok: ya, ok got it.
Senn: don't push ya? after leg cramp
Lok: My butt hurts.. legs ok
Senn: ok.. then you should be ok.

Senn at peak, slightly after the crest, waiting in the shade
Dad cycles towards Senn
Senn: Lok?
Dad: Think he's suffering

8:50am Alamanda Hill
Dad walks to peak
Senn: Is he walking?
Dad: dunno, cannot see him

8:55am Alamanda Hill
Dad: think the poor fellow's walking

9:00am Alamanda Hill
Dad walks to peak again
Senn: walking?
Dad: haha.. yea.. poor fellow. walking

9.05am Alamanda Hill
Dad: ok, can see his helmet
Senn: good job, Lok!
Lok: Wheeze wheeze
Dad: don't worry. i walked up the first time i did Alamanda too. It's tradition
Senn: i didn't..
Lok: you're weird.

9.20am race finish..

Senn: So Lok, wanna buy your own bike?
Lok: howabout i take your cow bike
Senn: Can, but you must use the pink saddle and pink bartapes
Lok: how girly! maybe i respray it yellow with black spots... like leopard
Senn: lucky you didn't say cheetah.
Lok: why?
Senn: at you're speed, it's either your cheetah is pregnant or you'll just embarass your bike.

THANK YOU:Nurina - for your perfect bike.
Mac & Arif - taking turns marshalling and sweeping

The race was two weekends ago.

Today, I will be going to check out a second hand bike for Lok.

He has decided that it would be best to let an experienced rider help him out with his new hobby :)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Heroes are just people blessed with more guardian angels than most

5 days and 20 hours after crossing the finishing line at Langkawi, I am finally home and able to write about my epic adventure.

4 days after crossing the finishing line at Langkawi, I was told that I was a hero and an inspiration to my friends in this small multi-sport circle. I was so touched I wept.

3 days after crossing the finishing line at Langkawi, I found myself on a cold hospital bed, right leg elevated above my head, sharing a ward with four others in the maternity wing wondering how the hell I landed up in this mess.

Well, I know exactly how I landed in this mess. And I also know that I would be in a bigger mess without my guardian angels:

Exactly one week ago, I was in Langkawi with Arif, Mac, Adeline and many other IM hopefuls and our fantastic supporters.

The Friday had not gone smooth at all.

My parents arrived in the morning to find out that the hotel does not have their reservation. I had to fight with the reception lady as I have made reservations last year and checked just the week before whether they had my reservations. Suddenly, my reservation record was ‘missing’.

After sorting my parents’ accommodation, we headed for bike check in.

At bike check in, I asked the bike boutique mechanic to check my gearing. The mechanic could not fix the jumping gear (the chain would drop whenever I back peddled on my big ring). He finally just said I had no choice but to ride the bike with “chain drops”. He said it was normal and there was nothing he could do about it (!). I only had 7 working gears.

I was so stressed out and dumbstruck I just sat in the jetty mall by myself wondering how I was going to race the next day. I am grateful for my first guardian angel, arif, who came to my rescue and took over the situation. He managed to pull Daniel away from the bike check-in line to take a look at my bike.

I was told that I had a missing washer from my cog and a couple of my back spokes were frayed and dangerous to ride with. After fiddling with the cog for about an hour, we decided it was much safer to switch my wheels with Mac’s. Thank god my guardian angel #2 had decided to come in full support mode.. he helped me get to the starting line.

Switching the wheels didn’t work as the gear still wouldn’t stick. That’s when Daniel said my bike’s geometry is such that it pushes my crank outwards. So, he removed my crank and started filing it to make it more aligned.

We left at 7pm after spending 3 hours at the bike transition area, just getting my bike to work. Not a good psyche to have the eve of raceday.

I also lost my pretty little pink camera that Friday. Not sure where it went but it really added onto the unnecessary stress I was already feeling with my bike.

The morning of raceday I was still feeling the stress from the day before. Heavy doubts of not making it that day weighed my spirits down.

So dark were my feelings that I excused myself, walked towards the dark parking lots and for the first time, I smoked before a race! I felt alone and was certain my day was a failure.

That’s when I cried.

Out of desperation, I prayed.

I prayed to god to keep me safe.

I prayed to the spirits of Langkawi to be kind. I told them I have been humbled by the challenges they have given me the day before and I was sorry if I have offended them with my loud behaviour, days leading to Saturday.

I prayed to mah-mah, my parental grandma who passed away exactly 1 year that Saturday. I told her I missed her and asked her to take care of me through the entire race.

I then laughed and said “while you’re at it, I’ll appreciate it if you’ll make me a little faster too!”

Feeling better, I rejoined my friends and met my mom at the transition entrance. She said “everything is going to be ok”

That didn’t last long.

Less than 15 mins into the swim (prolly about 500m at my speed) I was pushed by the mass swimmers towards a buoy. I did a breaststroke kick to reposition myself and kicked something sharp underneath.

I felt a warm sensation on my right foot and did a turtle flip to check what was going on. I remember saying “crap, my bad day isn’t over. The prayers were done too early in the morning for anyone to hear it!”

I had a deep gash, about an inch wide. My skin flapped open like a fish gill. Blood was oozing like a red ribbon in the water.

The salt water made the wound numb and I decided to swim a little quicker to get medic help on land.

Medic help on land might as well be medic help on Mars!

The medics were so dumbstruck by the urgency of my voice they just looked at me and my wound repeatedly. My wound was not washed. They only managed to slap gauze on it and taped it in place.

My race would be over had it not been for the other guardian angels I met along the way:

Faaisal for my 1st painkiller on the bike. It lasted me the whole 180k.

The le tuangers for the endless cheers up and down the bike loop. Knowing they were taking pictures distracted me from pain for awhile and I looked forward to bumping into them or passing the “GO! Le Tuang” message at bkt malut.

Getting off the bike and putting real pressure on my foot for the first time felt like a white electric strike up my foot. But the run leg was where angels just kept popping out left and right!!

“Comfort angel” Arif for walking with me for almost a loop.

“Unexpected angel” Bernard for my 2nd painkiller.

“Super guardian angel” Mac for meeting me at the run turnaround to pass me more painkillers. And “IM08 returning angel” Patrick for ensuring Mac got my message of wanting painkillers. (not sure when, but I took another 3 in total to survive the run.)

“Unsung but definitely important angel” Adeline kept me going on the run. Trying to keep up with her was a real challenge! Her comfort and company throughout the trip made me wish I had a sister.

Even “sluggish angel” Ishsal’s determination made me think twice for slowing down!

And the endless stream of ‘supportive, spirit uplifting angels” of le tuang and for cheering me on and telling me I’m doing fine although I’m sure I got them pretty worried. Shazly, Kharis, Luvis, Azly, Mervyn, Jim, Jason, Din, Willie, Tip, Azura, Aileen, Aini, Zabrina, Lin, Alisa, and many more.. I owe you my medal.

Now it’s been 6 days since crossing the auspicious line. While many of my angels have retired after a good day’s work, one angel is still on duty.

To me he has since been promoted from “comfort angel” to “grand supreme angel”. For his patience, his endless care and support. From helping me stay focus through adversities the night before race, to taking me to hospital, to ‘hero-ising’ my IM attempt, to taking me home, to my coming two weeks of daily hospital visits for wound dressing. I am glad he volunteered to be the resident angel in my life.

Thank you Arif, I am only a hero because of you.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Race kit, waste kit

Ever wonder whether anybody actually took the time to think about what should really go into a race kit?

after 3 years of racing, i finally received a race kit with sense. well, it wasn’t an actual race kit, more like a goodie bag from the penang fellowship ride organised by the KOTRT boys. in it were the rider number, a t-shirt, a water bottle and a backlight (!). when i saw it i thought “wow.. now this is a race kit not a waste kit”

race kit: the oh-so-crucial kit to be collected before race day. contains your race number, briefing/route booklet, race itinerary and sponsor goodies like powerbars/gels, visor cap and anything else that is race related.

waste kit: still the oh-so-crucial kit to be collected before race day and technically contains the same must have race items above but with different sponsor goodies.

naturally, the sponsor goodies that make a race kit are things like, powerbars/gels, backlight, water bottle, hydration salts/pills, sun block, even the t-shirt i got at that penang ride. sure, one does not wear a t-shirt during a ride, and i didn’t wear it either. BUT for other newbies, this t-shirt was very useful – it came with the ride route printed behind.

nonetheless, there are some sponsor goodies that made a race kit, a waste kit. here are some of the prominent ones i’ve received:
1. maps to local attractions and festivity dates
i understand the need to promote tourism, but seriously most of us only make it an annual pilgrimage to that one race weekend and none of the touristy dates fall on race weekend. even if it did, would i, after having traveled so far, trained so hard, paid so much, say “hey.. i know race is tomorrow, but erm, let’s cancel it to go see the annual international pottery competition!”? nuh-ah.. i don’t THINK so.

2. visit malaysia pins
right. so… what exactly are we suppose to do with these pins? we can’t pin our race numbers because they only provide one. and they’re not really secure.. so might poke us as we tuck into aero positioning. plus, it’s heavy.

3. plastic clappers
honestly, i love these clappers. they’re so cute and i won’t hurt myself if i wanted to clap for long periods of time. keyword here being “IF”, and IF i did.. how would i be able to do that when i’m racing? did they think i was so lonely that the only show of support i’ll get is by cheering and clapping my own self while racing?
maybe that’s why it’s a single hand held clapper.
maybe it’s suppose to be for the benchside barbie/ken that tagged along over the weekend (then give it to them directly.. don’t stuff my race kit and confuse me!)

4. handheld plastic fans
again, love the item, love the concept (i geddit.. it gets hot at races) but useless to me while i race. perhaps one day when i’ve mastered the art of fanning while on my aero tuck or while running.. won’t use it for the swim though, in case they mistake it for a front propelling device and disqualify me.. (eureka! get two handheld fans and train swimming with them on. far cheaper than pedals!)

5. shampoo & nescafe 3-in-1 sachet
ok-ok.. maybe this is pseudo waste kit material. because you can use it to clean up after race and have a nice hot coffee. received this at the recent 50km putrajaya walk, it was a 12-hour overnight race, starting at 8pm. at least they gave you the option of washing your hair mid-race and have a cup of coffee (bag even came with a ceramic mug!) at dawn just before crossing the finishing line!

6. toilet seat sanitiser spray
saving the best for last… the toilet seat sanitiser spray is formulated with anti-bacteria properties, and promises to kill up to 99% of the germs on a toilet seat. to use effectively, simply wipe the surface of the seat dry, spray it on and wait for 15secs. wipe dry after 15secs, use when necessary.

how naïve.

when, pray tell, has anybody found it necessary to sanitise the seat during a race? i can almost imagine chrissie wellington, winner of IM07, Kona going:
“o my! i need the loo..”
“euw! look at the state of that seat!”
“thank goodness i have my seat sanitiser” (brilliant smile facing audience)
“tut-du-du.. i’ll just spray it on and wait… 15 secs”
“wipe and go!”

the waiting is one thing.. have they even seen what the toilet seat looks like later in the race? it’s a biohazard!

tsk! tsk! tsk!

why can’t we get sponsor goodies that make sense to the racer? a spare tube, a co2 canister, quick lace-locks, anti-fog spray for goggles, deodorant, stuff like that.

did they really think i would train my swim with two handheld plastic fans, wear the visit malaysia pin proudly on my trisuit at IM, wash my hair at T1 coming in from the salty sea, race really hard into the night only resting for that 15secs here and there while my toilet seat gets sanitised and drinking coffee to keep me awake on the long run and not feel lonely when i cross the finishing line beyond cut off and everybody’s gone home because “hey! i have my own clapper! i’m my own cheerleader!”?

but sponsors are not all to blame. i’m sure they know how hard it can be.. they know what would make a good sponsor premium to us racers.

and after a hard day of racing, going through all that anxiety, pain, and emotional turmoil, perhaps they were right.

perhaps i should have known better, skipped the race and gone to that annual international pottery competition instead!