Ultra Aquathlon Malaysia – January 24, 2016

First multi sport event done at the Ultra Aquathlon Putrajaya 24Jan16. Wondered for a while already, why there are events mixing cycling and running but not swimming and running? After all we are living in a climate perfect for swimming.
As such I was very happy to see that such a race format was being offered by a Singaporean organizer, with good track records organising some popular triathlon events.
Only worry my last swim was in Feb 2015 and it never has been my forte or focus anyway. Nevertheless, got to raise with the challenge so I signed up in November but did not start my swimming training until 16Dec15 and clocked 39 km of training swims until the event. Asked Jarand, Norwegian number 1 age group triathlete, for swimming training advices and Betty kept on inspiring with her impressive training regime, focus and experience she shared with me.
As I improved within such a short time of training to swim 2km in less than 35 minutes, my competitive spirit awoke. However, my training happened only in the pool with rather cold water. I couldn’t make time for the few open water sessions organised by some groups – unfortunately as it turned out.
The running leg, I thought, should be OK, having had some decent results lately and even though I reduced my running training to up swimming.

So the event date approached. On the day before the event I went to Putrajaya to the race pack collection and race briefing. It all went rather smooth, only the briefing dragged unnecessarily long. No need to further promote the event itself, as all people in the room already signed up. Better to keep the messages to the point to have all people focused.

Anyway, from the briefing it seemed the organiser did a good job in ensuring safety, especially for the swimming part with boats, jet skis, numerous kayaks and divers on standby. Having signed up for the Ultra distance (2.25km swim, 21km run) I had to make 3 loops around the 750m course mapped out on the lake.

Running shouldn’t pose too much of an issue, as the route led around the Putrajaya island with no road crossings. The entire route led along the lake’s walkway, promising flat terrain. The organiser promised water stations after every 2km, which sound great, considering the expected hot weather during the run.


Jarand, me, Teddy, Betty (photo by Betty)

Jarand, me, Teddy, Betty at the race pack collection (photo by Betty)

After the briefing we went to the event site at the foot of the Millenium Monument (Monumen Alaf Baru) only 1km away. It all looked OK, the swimming course was already setup, marked by 6 large yellow buoys. First time I also saw the water (color) of the Putrajaya lake. Well it is not crystal clear, actually far from it but what I considered as very positive, there were no algae.


After having an early dinner with Jarand back in KL it was time to prepare my stuff for the competition. Quite an headache as it turned out to be. So many things to consider in contrast to a pure running event. There would be a transition area, where every athlete gets an allocated space with basket to put everything she needs to change from swimming into running attire. So shoes, running shirt/bib, drinks, gel, etc. had to be placed there. Important to make sure everything is there to ensure a quick transition and start the running leg as fast as possible.

Getting ready

Getting ready

Very happy I could sleep early, as such I had around 5 hours of sleep in my bones when waking up at 3am. Slowly booting my body, have a slice of bread with coffee, changing into the swimming attire and put on the tattoo on the left upper arm …

My starting number, 104

My starting number, 104

Early start this morning, also giving Soh Wai Ching and Jarand a ride, picking them up from their various places. The ride to Putrajaya was smooth and I was happy to feel the pre-race excitement in me. A feeling I haven’t felt for a long time. With that tiredness had no chance to creep in. I was in a good form for this race.


We arrived 10 minutes before onsite registration started, which had the advantage to park right next to the start/finish area. No queue in front of the toilet, just as I love it <3 Time flew fast till the start at 7:30am, when setting up my place in the transition area, registering my presence, hydrating, posing for photos (thank you Rany Tan) and just let the pre-race atmosphere sink in a bit. I love such events for that precious moments.


A bit late but still acceptable we were allowed into the water, from where the start was supposed to happen. While the last male participants for the Ultra category were still entering the water, we were flagged off. Female participants in this category were flagged of 3 minutes later.


The water was very warm, I didn’t mind at that moment but that should change only moments later. I started to swim slightly higer than my training stroke per minute frequency. I did up to 64spm during my training in the cold pool, now I upped a bit to 66spm, which I hoped should comfortably bring me over the 2.2.5 km in less or around 40 minutes, which also should bring me on shore together with the leading group. I started my bilateral freestyle but immediately ran into breathing difficulties. I panicked, felt a bit like drowning I guess. I stopped, started again but couldn’t sustain. Swimmers passed me. I got frustrated only 30 seconds after the start, haha, what’s happening? On top of that my watch complained about loss of GPS signal  ..!..


I tried to analyse what’s wrong? My suspicion was that my heartrate jumped to a very high level, with the excitement and the warm water combined with my usual stroke rate in cold water. Guess I over did it and wished I had the opportunity the day before to go for a test swim or at least on the morning itself. I switched to breast stroke just to get moving while bringing my breathing under control. I still hated this situation. Slowly I switched to freestyle again but now unilateral only, a less efficient style but allowing more breathing. I focused on exhaling under water, taking a deep breath whenever above the water surface. Slowly it got better with the breathing.
The disadvantage of the unilateral freestyle among others, it is difficult to swim straight, first of all in nearly no visibility waters such as in the Putrajaya lake. So while finding my rythm and completing my swimming style adjustment, I swam way off course. I swam away from the the next buoy rather than towards it. I had to correct my course but lost already many many meters against other swimmers. My problem with keeping the direction remained for the remaining swimming course but improved loop by loop. In the picture below you can see the GPS recording started late, while time was running, also ended the time of the swim only half way into my transition. I remember to have seen 44min:XXsec when I left the water.
Swimming Leg - Ultra Aquathlon Malaysia

Swimming Leg – Ultra Aquathlon Malaysia

Rocky Balboa? (photo courtesy Jack Ah Beh)

Rocky Balboa? (photo courtesy Jack Ah Beh)

So now my first competitive swim was done with a 21km run still ahead of me. I tried to check my body to identify possible “damage” or fatigue caused by the swim. I felt just weird. A bit dizzy maybe, shaky on the legs but no fatigue as such. I felt I did some physical workout but couldn’t tell how that impacts my run. I just hoped it would be OK. During my preparation I did two or three sessions with a 2.2km swim in the pool followed by a 10km run. There it actually was OK, at one time I could even run faster after the swim than other times when I only ran.
During the transition I now checked what I have in my basket 😉 Put on my socks, shoes and running singlet, ate one gel, drank a bit of Coke and swallowed 2 Anti-Fatigue pills. Tried to put on tape on my chest to avoid chaffing but that wouldn’t hold because I was too wet. Still feeling dizzy I waited few more seconds, looking around me, then I ran off. There was a water station right after the exit of the transition area, took a sip of water and soaked my cap. I had no idea at which position I was, wished there would have been a display informing people coming out from the water about their position. This would be helpful to strategize the run.
So I started to run, quickly stabilized myself at a 4:30 pace. I felt still very strange, not knowing how much the swim would impact my run over 21km. The signage and marshalls at the beginning of the run were good and sufficient as promised during the briefing the day before. I overtook those participants that came out of the water just before or after me and transitioned faster. After a bit more than 2km the next water station appeared, very good! I continued and eventually Jarand appeared at the “horizon”, he ran together with another competitor in our Ultra category. A few km later I overtook both. I still could maintain a pace of around 4:30.

Then the potential turning point in the race happened, the water station at km 6 was not setup yet. It was now the part of the run with less shade and more sun/heat. I was really angry about this, with the committed water stations every 2km I was confident to push and have milestones every 2 km providing the refreshment that I personally really need. After all, my German built engine was not specifically designed for this climate plus my weight contributed to an overheating engine when going fast.


What to do, cursing the organizer at this moment didn’t really help, so had to drag my 89kg to the next water station at km 8. Luckily it was there. Then we came to the end of the 10.x km loop around the island. Another water station was supposed to be there for the Ultra category runners, having to endure 2 loops. But you can guess, no water station on the route for the looping Ultra category runners.
Now consider this as the moment that broke me at this particular point. The missing water stations at km6 and km 10 meant that I had to run from km4 to km 12 with only one water station in between. By now it was 9am or so and really hot.
Can you see the pain? (photo courtesy Eddie Wls)

Can you see the pain? (photo courtesy Eddie Wls)

The run to the next available water station at km 12 now really dragged. I couldn’t manage my anger about 2 missing water stations affecting my spirit. I started to feel tired and my pace dropped, slowly creeping to a 5 minutes pace. I switched to survival mode. Jarand, who ran enviously consistent overtook me. For a while I could keep up with him but not for long and until the finish line he was maybe 250m ahead of me.
Luckily the water station at km 6 of the loop was now up and running for my 2nd loop. The heat and fatigue made the last 4km really hard and painful. A mental game that as an endurance runner you experience so often. Didn’t really like the loop that much, so it was difficult to define landmarks, splitting the run in smaller easier digestable pieces.
I was more than happy to reach the finish line, hoping for a good placing at least, as during the 2nd loop I overtook many other competitors from my category, some of them maybe on their first loop but some strong triathletes that completed their swimming way ahead of me. That speaking for my running performance, despite I felt it was not that great.
My running performance

Running Leg – Ultra Aquathlon Malaysia


The finish (photo courtesy Eddie Wls)

The finish (photo courtesy Eddie Wls)

The finishing area was very small and by that time crowded. There was a queue of people, turned out they queued up either for the results slip that was printed out right there (unfortunate placing for that purpose) or the finisher shirts for the Standard category. I got my medal, somebody pulled my leg to retrieve the timing chip but not water. People that know me, know how agitated I get if there is no water given at the finishing line. I shouted, I asked for water. As at some many other times the organiser fails to provide the most obvious at the finishing line, water, other runners jump in, somebody gave me water from his hydration bottle, soon after Jarand came with a bottle of water that grabbed from somewhere – thank you all for helping me.


The finish area was really badly managed. There was no clear flow to move along to quickly collect medal, shirt, get hydrated. Why putting the timing slip printing right after the finishing line? Later people queued up in a long line, incoming runners looked very lost. The queue eventually blocked the 100Plus booth, the only place to hydrate. Guess quite a few people missed that.


Anyway, great to meet many friendly faces at the finishing area. Also got myself a quick hamstring massage offered by the people from APPLE Physiotherapy Centre. The massage was strong and really reached deep muscle tissue – appreciate that.

Medal and Timing slip

Medal and Timing slip

Eventually I also got hold of my timing slip. A lot of numbers that are not too clear. It states I am 7th out of 14 in my category, whereas I was running in the Open Men category with around 80 participants. I knew I finished before the 3rd finisher of the Veteran category (starting 46 years of age) and obviously one lady was faster than me. Stiff competition, so I am OK with the result I guess, I finished right after Jarand (6) and Rupert Chen (5). Both top triathletes with Jarand being worldwide 25th in the age group ranking 😀


Overall decent event with unnecessary shortcomings of missing water stations. Don’t you guys have a simple check list confirming with the water station leader or team that delivers the table/water to the respective location that all is OK? It is a simple course of a 10km loop, shame it happened. Another feedback from my side would be the signage and number of marshalls between km 5 and 10. More signage needed with all the turnings and corners, as well as there were hardly marshalls on that stretch.


As for me I got to see how to continue with my swimming. I am at a good level and continuous training would bring me to new heights. Unfortunately there are not many such events available. I would like to see another organiser or even the same to have this event happening 2 or 3 times a year at the same location, meaning in Putrajaya. Other locations are less attractive as that would mean involve longer travel and even overnight stays, which I can’t afford timewise.

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