Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Port Dickson International Triathlon 2014

10 August 2014

I can  finally call myself a triathlete after competing in my first Olympic Distance triathlon at the Port Dickson International Triathlon (PDIT). My biggest worry before the race was the open water swim and I have never swim 1500m continuously. The longest continuous swim I did before coming to PD was probably the 500m during Aspire Aquathon series and I was really bad at it. I haven't done much swimming at all to be honest and I hate swimming. My short and stubby body was not designed to be an efficient swimmer anyway. I only swim once a week with Hamilton Aquatics from December last year and for PDIT, I swam twice or three times a week for 2 months. It was not nearly enough but my goal was just to finish the 1500m swim and not drowning. The advice I received from Phil Emslie during Splash and Dash sessions at Aspire pool and the coaches at Hamilton really helped to transform me from a 'boleh blah' into a 'boleh lah'  kind of swimmer. I also received valuable tips from my eldest brother, Hanafi who is a swim coach and a triathlete himself when I met him during the Eid.

I went to Port Dickson 3 days earlier with my family and 2 sisters in-law (unpaid nannies). It was a well deserved beach holiday for my wife and the kids after our hectic travelling for Raya. We stayed at Tanjung Tuan Regency Resort which was very close to the race venue. I had the opportunity to swim and cycled the race course twice before the race day. In fact I swam 1900m in 42 min the day before the event. It really boosted my confidence for this race.


I was feeling good and calm before the the swim start. I took my time and let others fight for the swim lead position. I was just walk slowly into the calm waters of the Straits of Malacca while others sprinted off the beach and dolphin dived into the sea. The words of advise from the race director during the briefing session last night was my mantra. He said 'If you're doing it for the first time, then you should just take your time and enjoy the race. You will not win it anyway'  .One good thing about starting at the back was you were saved from the kicks and punches or people crawl on your back but the disadvantage was you will get blocked by the breast strokers! They made an impassable wall of 10-15 bodies across. I was being held up until about 250m out. Damn it, I did not planned for this. I found an opening in between the breast strokers and pushed myself forward then suddenly, bang! I was kicked right on my face. It was so painful it felt like I broke my nose and my goggle was dislocated. I was panicked. I stop and water tread to gain my focus and fix my goggle before continuing my swim. I managed to get pass the breast stokers on my second attempt. I saw there was a big gap between me and the mid pack swimmers when I took the left turn at the first buoy. I just kept my rhythm and swim as gracefully as possible (at least that how I think I swam). I remember the instructions I got from Phil Emslie, to extend my hand as far as possible for a long full stroke, swim wide and keep my balance. It was a nice swim in the calm water of the marina and I was not as tired as I had imagined. Maybe because I did not fight the water and took my time. I swam pretty much by myself all the way as I was too slow to catch the front crawlers and too fast for the breast strokers. I finished the swim in 35 minutes. One thing that I don't particularly like about PDIT was the run was split in two parts. First the 800m beach run after the swim before T1, and the remaining 9.2km during the actual run leg. It took me almost 7 minutes from the swim exit to T1 for a total time of 42:09 finishing 448th overall (123rd category).

At the start of the Swim (see if you can spot me hiding)


I raced to the bike mounting line after a quick transition at T1. I knew this was going to be a one hell of a ride. I rode the course and I hate those undulating hills. Live in Doha, I have never seen let alone ride on one. All the Cervelos, Specializeds, Pinarellos, BMCs passing me like I was cycling on a turbo trainer. At that point I regretted for not taking my Specialized bike with me. The Merida bike I rented was so heavy and it made worse by my already poor bike skills and fitness. It was hills after hills and I didn't gain much speed from going downhill either. It was a draft legal race but it did not give me any advantage as I was not able to keep up with a group or anyone faster. I ended up working on my own the entire 40km. I just cant wait to get over with the bike and start running to make up for the lost time. Total bike time 1:29:45 (632nd Overall/ 192nd Category).

Racing to bike mounting line at T1 (I know what you thinking. You must be wondering how was I only few steps ahead from that uncle in the blue top)

At the end of the bike leg, Qatar boy needs some hills training 


Apart from running, I think Transition is my favourite part of triathlons. It is so exciting transitioning from one sport to another. I did not waste time and already sprinted out of transition area after a quick change of shoes at T2. It's hunting time I said. I visualized how Gwen Jorgensen overtaking other contestants one by one before winning her races. I was mean and focus, almost selfish. I imagined other competitors as my prey and I was a tiger. It felt so good overtaking them and I grew stronger when others were limping. It by all means not an easy course to run. Only half of the course was on tarmac. The other half was trail run on the beach and a bit in mangrove swamp and on a wooden bridge. It was exciting though. I loved it. I could do it all day. All my fatigue was gone when I saw my family at the resort when ran passed them. They thought they have missed me and were expected me to pass the resort a lot earlier among the top. I finally crossed the finish line in 47:39 run time. My run placed me 127th overall and 35th in my category. How I wish if the run was longer.

My total time was 2:59:34 placing in 381st overall / 112nd category. Happy days. 

And onto my strongest discipline, run  
With my triathlon mentor, Sofian Ismail

Saturday, 28 February 2015

ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi T-6 days

It is less than a week for my second Olympic Distance triathlon in Abu Dhabi. Though I was not prepared for the race specifically and only doing it for the experience and cross training, it should be a good experience racing the WTS race. I would also got the chance to see the likes of Gomez the Browlees, Mola, Vincent Luis and Jorgensen belting each other in the season opener.

How I felt after the long open water swim and run this morning

Sunday, 22 February 2015

RAK Half Marathon 2015

RAKHM134 that was the password for my desktop at work. Everyday I told myself that I want to run RAK Half Marathon this year in 1:34. I believe I am mentally stronger and armed with a better endurance level from my long triathlon and marathon trainings coming into the race. I will also have great supports from my DBRC and PelariStyloYo (PSY) mates. There will be JC who will lead the charge at 1:20ish. Joost will run 1:25ish with Paul Smith if he managed to recover from his fever. If not he can pace me. Then I will have Gareth Stride probably running around 1:35 ish and Davy who is about my pace. So I will catch the sights of JC, Joost and other faster DBRC runners at every turn around to boost my morale, then I will use Gareth as my target to hunt and make sure I wont be overtaken by the lanky Belgian Davy who I have lost to by few minutes last year. If he beats me again then it will be all over. Another positive for this year is, I am going to RAK with 7 others from PSY (Yusry, Sham, Nik, Kube, Abe, Aizal, Latif and Bulat). These guys will give me extra boost when I see them on the course. At least that was the plan. My grand RAKHM134 mission plan.

Like the famous Malay saying, 'Kita Hanya Merancang, Hanya Allah Yang Menentukan', the plan was not materialized. I had a severe food poisoning the day before the race. I was forced to pull off the highway 3 times while driving to Ras Al-Khaimah to throw up. First it was all water, then all the green bile stuff then it was all blood. I was panicked. Other than feeling nausea and stomach pain, I was feeling ok. The last meal I had was a bowl of tuna salad at Doha Airport. I was not the only one, Nik and Yusry were also seen baiting the trap few times at Manar Mall. I consulted my coach, she advised me not to race. Claire Stride (Gareth's wife) said the same thing. So you bet I would just heed their advise and had a nice lie in? Hell no. I was as stubborn as a mule. I would walk the whole way if I had to. I had been through far worse before Paris Marathon 2013. It didn't stop me from running the marathon.

13 February 2015

Me and the PSY guys were very excited. Our spirits were at an all time high. Probably because this was the biggest running trip we had so far. We just walked from the hotel to the start. After checked in the bag and taking few wefies, I wished the guys good luck and went to the preferred start chute where I met with JC, Joost, Paul and Davy. Joost was still sick and also battling with diarrhea and Davy was complaining about the lack of fitness. Things started going south even before the gun was fired for many of us. My goal now is just to have a PB no matter how small and run faster than 4:40/km pace. The pace from my current PB. I was cruising around my target pace until Km 7 when suddenly I felt tired. My battery drained. I was running out of gas. I tried to press on then there was pain in my stomach. I took a packet of gel and pop in a Hammer Endurolyte. This cant be happening.  No way, not this early, not in RAK. RAK has been my hunting ground for PB in the last three occasions. To add salt to the wound, Davy nonchalantly overtook me before the 7km turn around. I tried to draft on him but he went too fast and it was too much a risk to gamble on. I repeated the mantra 'mind over matter, you are stronger than you know' over and over again. One good thing about RAK Half Marathon is the KM markers were made of inflatable arches that resemble a typical finish line. From there I treated each km as a race by itself. It was the race between me and the 4:40/km pace. I was battling fatigued, stomach pain and my negative thoughts. I treated each of the kilometre marker arch was a finish line by itself. I imagined those arches pulling me to them. I won the battle 7 times in the 14 x 1km mini races I had with my current PB and lost 7 including a bathroom stop. I caught the sight of Gareth after the turnaround at 16th km and draw closer. I cant possibly ran faster. He was struggling and stop near the roundabout after KM 17. He told me that he had a pulled hamstring when I overtook him. Seeing Gareth fading affected my morale considerably. The evil voice in my head kept saying, 'It's ok you can walk now, you don't have to prove to anyone' . I would have found the reason to give up very reasonable and it was too convenient to quit, but it was just the opposite. I have never worked harder. My average heart rate was 179 bpm scoring an Epic Suffer score in Strava. I gave everything I have but it was not enough. I crossed the finish line in 1:39:38! Equalling my PB to the seconds.

I was not disappointed. In fact I was happy. Yes I failed but I failed trying. All other PSY guys did amazing too. All finished below their target time and we are still talking about our race experiences. Thank you RAK, never failed to deliver.

Race Result:

Time (Nett): 1:39:38
Rank Total: 213rd / 1817
Rank Male: 180th / 1177
Shoe: Saucony Kinvara 4

From Top clockwise: (1)Racing against my old PB (2) I ran RAK half this year as a tribute to DBRC and my adopted country, the State of Qatar. I am forever grateful for all the support I get and meeting many inspiring people since I joined DBRC (3) Malaysia's presence is more visible this year as PelariStyloYo made up 8 of 14 Malaysians contingent (4) Some of my awesome DBRC buddies, Joost, JC and Davy (5) Demi Negara yang tercinta


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Rotterdam T- 54 Days : Interval

2 km Warm Up, 3 x 1200 (800 Rec)

Calves and knees felt a little tight. Still feeling a bit of soreness from RAK, but I managed to hit the target pace in all 3 of the 1200m sets.

Garmin Connect

Aspire Zone National Sports Day Fun Run 2015

It was a windy and dusty morning, clearly not a perfect day to be spending outside during this annual Qatar National Sports day. luckily my wife and I just registered for a 3km fun run at Aspire. We were planning for a quick registration, race, come home and spend the rest of the day in doors.

We left home at 8:15 and parked the car at Villagio Mall. It was close enough from the start line that we didn't even need to checked our bags. The registration was simple and very organized. By 8.30 we were all set. We even had time to warm up for 20 minutes before taking our starting place at the front of the mass. Before the race I told Hani that my target was to be in the top 10, such a lofty target I know. 20 minutes from the start I saw there were a lot of 'professional' looking runners warming up, then I told Hani, OK not top 10 but maybe top 20. 10 minutes from the start, there were more pro looking runners. I was wondering where they came from. Don't they know this is a fun run and they wont get anything even if they break the 3km world's record? My target went from top 10 to top 30.

We were like hungry lions hunting for the prey. Everyone sprinted at the sound of the starting horn. I wasn't carried away and settled at my target pace quickly after I cleared the chaotic masses at the start. The first km went by very quickly. I already overtaking those over enthusiastic unlikely runners in their jeans and sandals. A group of 10 or so runners formed a tight lead pack and was gone from my view before the first turn.

I was just trying to maintain the 4:00/km pace but it was hard with the gutsy wind and dust. At the end I was just happy to finish with 4:15/km average. I came 1st in my Age Group but only managed 32nd from 1245 finishers overall. Hani did great too. She came 75th overall and 2nd in her age group. All in all it was a good day for us. The result gave me a mental boost ahead of my trip to Ras Al-Khaimah this Friday. Thank you thank you thank you.
Pictures Clockwise: Awesome day for both of us; Hani has improved a lot since she make a came; With Najib, my cycling buddy, Zeta's hubby and son; The nice Medal; I may not be won it, but I am just as happy


Monday, 9 February 2015

T - 5 Days to RAK Half Marathon 2015 : Pre-Race Meal Plan

I did my last interval training for RAK last evening. It was a 4 x 800 at a sustainable pace of 4:20/km. Running with me last night was my coach Sarah Whittington and my friend Nawar from Saudi who happened to be in town to watch the ongoing Tour of Qatar cycling race. By the way Nawar just ran his debut marathon two days ago where he came 2nd overall in Bahrain Half Marathon. That was pure talent.

The session was good and I was glad that Sarah and Nawar were there to keep me at the target pace. With the training concluded for RAK, I will now take it easier and taper properly before RAK this Friday.

Happy faces at the end of the Interval session

Knowing how much I tend to over eat, Sarah was quick to write me a pre race meal plan this morning.

Good training last night. You have the speed - you just need to tap into it on race day. 

Right, you need to limit your carbs tomorrow. Run your 3km pretty hard and then 'no carbs' - well very few carbs until lunchtime on Wed. It's impossible to go carb free. On Wed you can have a high carb meal at lunch and pm if you need it. Eat normally on Thurs (a balanced diet, not carb heavy). This should ensure your muscles take on plenty of glycogen but you don't gorge and end up with a heavy belly. 

As you will feel hungry  on Thurs - this is psychological rather than actual need for food - try to eat 6 small meals - maybe having your last meal as late as 8pm. This should make a massive difference to how you feel on race day. A half marathon is simple now for your endurance levels so you don't need to over carb. Your gels should give you more of a lift during the race too. 

Cheers, Sarah

Thursday, 5 February 2015

T - 10 days to RAK Half Marathon 2015

I was complaining to my coach after a tough tempo run I did on Tuesday evening, here was her response. It was an eye opener. No more excuses.

Thanks Sarah.


Syafei...brace yourself as you're about to get a rollocking!

When did you have a blood lactate test? When did you have body fat composition analysis? You haven't so how do you know you're way off the fitness level you were this time last year? 

You are your own worst enemy for talking yourself into not meeting your own potential. You set yourself up with excuses before every race.
You cannot judge fitness by feel. Feel is emotional. Emotions do not determine scientific fitness. Emotions purely give you excuses not to perform. Snap out of it! 
Sadly, we do not have the luxury of scientifically testing fitness...and even those athletes who do still don't rely on it. The human body is affected by a multitude of variables - food intake, work load, stress, rest, weather, hydration,'s impossible to accurately compare one day to the next let alone year to the next. 
You know yourself that race performance is influenced by much more than just fitness. Positive Mental Attitude accounts for a massive amount on race day. If you are putting yourself in a place where you don't expect to perform - you've already given yourself an excuse not to - and you won't. Simple. 
Instead, focus on WHY you want to race. Running hard is never pretty, it never feels pleasant, it's blood and guts pure and simple, it's a risk and that's why we do it. It you want guaranteed performance get a robot as the human body just doesn't work like that. 

You get yourself into a 'what the heck' mentality. You think yourself into a state of 'well I feel heavy so I am heavy so what the heck it doesn't matter if I eat this extra cookie' have to take control for yourself. No one else can do this for you. 
Now man up, feel the strength you have inside, get to that race line and focus, focus on what it will feel like to perform, don't ignore the pain you will feel, but it's only pain, you're stronger than that and you can ride through it. You need to go into this knowing that you will give it your best shot. Good luck!

From Johor to Boston

I took up running in July 2011 after my BMI rating shows Pre Obese. I was 10kg overweight. My doctor advised me to excercise for 30 min every day, quit smoking and eat healthy.I cannot even run a full 1km without taking walk breaks when I first started. But I can proudly call myself a marathon runner a year after. I joined Doha Bay Running Club in January 2012 and I am glad to be surrounded with like minded people around me. My goal is now to qualify for Boston Marathon.