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.