(Yes, I have a link to photos, at the end of this article!)
The finish-line euphoria was almost blinding as I ran those last couple of metres (initially not knowing what to do when two volunteers ‘blocked my way’ with the finish-line ribbon – which, by the way, was held up for everyone who finished). I was then garlanded with three medals (one for each member of the team), and handed an ice-cold, soaking Powerbar towel wrapped around the most welcoming sight at that point of time – a bottle of water. My own 750ml bottle had been finished and refilled at least thrice over at several water stations.
This scene wasn’t at a marathon, but a triathlon event. In particular, I was the runner in a relay team, doing the run leg of the Olympic Distance triathlon (10K, though at PD ours was 9-ish).
Saturday by the beach
We had decided to make my trip to PD a family holiday. And since the hubby would have to spend an entire half day with a capricious almost-2-year-old, I booked us into the comfy Avillion Port Dickson, so that I wouldn’t feel too guilty leaving them behind to spend half a day at the beach with a thousand other merrymakers, as the resort had a well-maintained swimming pool, kids’ playroom, petting zoo, and a decent stretch of beach (well, as decent as PD beaches get).
Of course, it turned out that every other participant with a family had the same idea. The resort was practically filled with wheeled conveyances – from gleaming Cervelo two-wheelers to my kiddo’s Trunki sit-on-and-roll-along four-wheeler luggage. The hubby bumped into several friends who had signed up for the individual Olympic Distance event. They wondered if he, too, would be wheeling in to transition the next morning, whereupon he pointed at me, and I waved and said “Relay!” with a grin.
I have not been known to swim competitively, much less cycle, and am perfectly content being the runner in a crack tripartite team 😉 However, I can’t help but feel immensely unworthy participating amongst true multi-sport athletes at events such as this.
Margie and Foong found me at the hotel check-in line. We got our room keys, and headed down to Avillion Admiral Cove to pick up our race packs. I met up with my team cyclist, Suzanne, who helpfully walked me through the course, having just done the Sprint Triathlon earlier in the day.
We then realised that we were just in time to witness the flag-off of the Kids’ Triathlon events, so I waded into the water, holding up a smartphone amongst photography enthusiasts with DSLRs and others with iPads (seriously? :D). It was a delight watching the under-10 kids gleefully leap into the water, with no fear of whatever was to come! Some even had hand-floats and paddle floats. Parents were allowed to accompany the kids through the water, and many did. Back at the bike transition, spectators were applauding a little boy who very leisurely wheeled his bike to the mounting area, then carefully mounting the bike and riding away as if it was just another Saturday afternoon out in the park, oblivious to the ruckus around him.
We waited long enough to see the rather more competitive 12-15 age category finish off their cycle and run legs – we wouldn’t have been able to leave early anyway as the road was closed for the event. (We heard several stories of hotel patrons complaining loudly about the road closure. I hope that the hotel did in fact inform the patrons in advance of impending road closures for the weekend!)
The rest of Saturday was lovely. We brought the kiddo along to the ‘carbo-loading’ buffet dinner, which made for a very decent meal despite the crowd we had been warned about. Halfway through dessert I realised that, for all my meticulous packing of run gear and toddler supplies, I had forgotten to pack a pre-run breakfast for the next morning! I managed to pack two buns and some butter.. I hoped that would suffice. Ah well, at least there would be coffee in the hotel room. Have coffee, will run.
The night before
The highlight of the evening, for those at dinner, was undoubtedly the briefing by race organiser Uncle Chan. After having a good belly workout guffawing at Uncle Chan’s stage antics (“Why must we run on the beach, you ask? [sings] Why, why, tell me why...”), I finally sobered up enough to listen to the clarification on who would run the 800m of beach in between the swim and bike legs, as far as relay teams went. We were told that it was up to each team to decide whether their swimmer, or runner, would do the beach run.
Our team swimmer, Jack, very kindly offered to do the beach run. I was grateful for that, because it meant I wouldn’t have to figure out how to avoid being soaked by the showers en route to transition. I was more concerned with wet shoes than wet hair. While I had brought a spare pair of shoes, I was hoping not to have to bring an additional load in to transition (and to have to pack away wet shoes). I considered running the beach barefoot. However, by the time Saturday night came, I had ruled barefoot out, because – (and this is really pathetic, I know) – I had already gotten a blister on a foot as a result of chafing from sand and water and the rubber straps of my flip-flops, while on the beach taking photos of the kids’ tri earlier on.
My feet chafe just from walking on the beach. How sad is that?!
Fortunately, being aware of my feet’s tendency to chafe at every slight bit of friction, I had packed along a whole tub of Vaseline, and plasters.
I went to bed thinking, my feet chafe just from walking on the beach. How sad is that?!
What I didn’t know was that the run leg of the Olympic Distance route the following morning would have its own stretches of soft sand too. And grass, and gravel. And rocks. It wasn’t going to be your regular road run.
I was awakened by the sound of waves crashing on the shore, and the dull ache of the darned blister on my foot. I hopped off the bed, slapped on a plaster, had my coffee and bread and butter, planted a kiss on sleeping kiddo’s forehead, and headed off to meet Margie and Foong for the drive down to the event venue.
“Remind me why I am doing this, again?” Margie quipped as she unloaded her bike from her car.
It was a rhetorical question, of course. Runners, and triathletes, don’t need any reasons. They just do! 😀
Transition was buzzing with activity, high-fives, hugs, selfies and wefies. There couldn’t be a happier gathering at sunrise that Sunday. We were a little puzzled as to why there didn’t seem to be enough baskets for holding our belongings, but Suzanne expertly whipped out her large IKEA bag, which not only niftily contained all our bags of barang-barang but would also protect our stuff in the event of rain.
As we trudged through the soft sand towards the start, I wish I had worn slippers instead of my running shoes (then I recalled the blister and decided I was probably better off in my socks and shoes..) There were numerous waves of starts, depending on age groups and gender. The relay swimmers hit the water at close to 8am. The sky was already bright, and I stayed at the beach for some time to take photos.
Less than 40 minutes later, Jack was back from his swim. Suzanne strapped on the timing chip, and was off on the cycle leg. At that point, I decided to head to the changing rooms at the hotel to clean off the layer of sand that had formed on my calves and ankles after the morning’s walk on the beach.
I returned to the site, bought a cup of coffee, and all of a sudden sirens started blaring. They were from police cars – escorting the leading cyclists in. Some seconds later, the run leg of the triathlon officially started.
I went back to the transition pen with my coffee, and sat in the shade with Foong, awaiting the return of our cyclists.
The sun moved higher, and it got hotter, and hotter.
At some point after 10am, Suzanne wheeled in, happy with her personal best (Congrats, Suzanne!), and I went on my way as quickly as I could after strapping on the timing device. In the balmy, salty air, it didn’t feel like a good start, though I flashed the widest smile I could for Jack’s camera as I ran out on the carpeted track. I had been standing around in the late-morning heat for too long, and my legs felt like they were labouring tremendously. It felt as if a ball and chain had been attached to the ankle with the timing device.
(I was later surprised by the fact that my first km averaged 6:47min/km; better than most of my first-lap timings on racedays. Perhaps a lot about running is all in the mind after all.)
The first 4K was a chore, with heat radiating from the asphalt and dust wafting over from the traffic on the main road. I bumped into veteran run photographer Tey, who was on his way back to the event area. I did what every runner wanting a photograph would do: yelled “Tey!!” and waved madly.
The mundane flat stretch of Jalan Pantai continued, past a school, small shops, hotels and public utility buildings. At the first water station, I began to wonder what heat-stroke would feel like, in case I had to look out for symptoms. I took advantage of the ample availability of cold water. I sipped from my bottle and refilled it at every opportunity.
Finally, a detour onto a shaded dirt path where the road narrowed around a cliff provided great view of the sea and a brief respite from the sweltering heat. Running towards the runners setting out were participants who had set out earlier, returning for the last 2km or so. Many waved and high-fived us. I know it was meant to give encouragement, but I couldn’t help feeling extremely slow as I plodded along back to the asphalt after the dirt road was over.
A chap in yellow and blue, and I, sort of took turns to pace each other, until the water station at km #4 where I pretty much doused myself in ice water (looking back, an ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that morning would have been no sweat at all!).
I jogged around the bend to pick up my half-way-mark ribbon. From that point onwards, it would ‘off-road’ for most of the way back. I was looking forward to anything that would break the monotony of Jalan Pantai!
I love how one’s surroundings almost always looks different when one is running (as opposed to when one is driving past the area). A trail through pine trees by the beach on slightly sandy ground greeted us after the 4K water station. What had seemed a run-of-the-mill seaside stretch from the windows of a car suddenly took on a new character. I decided to take out my smartphone to snap photos, as words probably would not be adequate to describe the sights.
After a short detour back onto the tarred road to cross a waterway, we were back on a dirt path that eventually led to a rocky ledge. Most people were walking by now. The route was headed for a tiny patch of land just off the coast that housed a cluster of mangroves.
Ah, the mangroves! I had thought the route would be circling the mangrove patch, but no – we ran right through the mangroves! At the end of the mangrove trail, a runner armed with a compact camera stopped to take shots of a bunch of us clambering through the mini-maze. I think all our expressions would have said “Woohoo! That was fun!”
An exhilarating breeze greeted us as we got out of the mangroves. A wooden bridge brought us back to the mainland.
The off-road route continued, past sea-facing beach resorts and terraces of people having their morning coffee. After some very soft sand (here’s a tip, if you may call it that – I found it easier to run on soft sand than to walk on it, as the momentum keeps you going) it was back to the paved main road. Before long, I was on my way back into the event area at Avillion Admiral Cove. The finish line was finally there! It was almost a shame that the off-road section hadn’t gone on for at least a couple of km more.
What an awesome run it was! Kudos to Uncle Chan for a great route!
And before I post the link to the photos ..
So what’s come out of my little weekend trip to Port Dickson?
- Running on sand ain’t all that bad, lah.
- I realised, from the off-road part of the circuit, that I miss being on trails – hiking, that is (I always figure I’m too clumsy to do proper trail running). Time to get back to that?
- The hubby has been unwittingly sucked into my euphoria, and is considering swimming and biking more seriously.
- Oh yeah, of course I’ll be back. I’ll bring the kiddo along to the beach too, next time, for her to observe the festivities.
- Ok, ok, here are the photos I took, all on my trusty iPhone5S.