Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Off to KL again

KLIA Concorde

Work sent me to Kuala Lumpur again for, but this time it was for 2 weeks. I got a 1 and half days off to get into the city proper. I got to wander around instead of just hanging within a 10 km radius of the airport. Otherwise it was 10-14 hours spent inside the control room at the under construction KLIA2 terminal.

Not a great day, but not the worst.
KL is experiencing a major drought and while I was there a forest and peat soil fueled fire that basically destroyed the air quality. Most days it was just a thick haze and we questioned if they could land a plane. I'm pretty sure visibility was less than 500 meters at some points. There was a couple downpours while we were there and it allowed me to have a nice Saturday in the city.
Massive park just outside of KL Sentral
I took the express train into the city, which took about 30 minutes and cost $35 for a one-way trip. The train gave you some cool views of the surrounding area moving from farm to city. Off in the distance were large hills. Before you knew it you were at the main station. KL didn't seem the most friendly city to walk in. It took me a while to find my way out from KL Sentral. I ended up walking like a local down the side of the street past a cabbie who pulled over for a bathroom break on the side of the road. Glad I was wearing my shoes as I was walking in the "water" in the street. Who knows what else lurks on the street. Most of my afternoon was spent wandering the parks, museums, and area around KL Sentral.

Planetarium recreations

A short walk away you'll find Lake Gardens, KL Bird Park, The National Planetarium, and National Museum of Malaysia. There is also a bike trail going through the park. The park had a sign for my arch-nemesis, the monkey. There was also a section of a zoo where you could see roosters and deer. Well those were the ones that I could see on my brief walk through the section. I also wandered through several museums and learned a lot about the area and the people.

Saturday night, my coworkers and I went into KL for dinner. We went to a section of town that reminded me of New Orleans. It was nothing but bars offering happy hours and people trying to get you in to drink. Once we sat down at one of the bars, the waitress tried to keep pushing the drinks on us. The street was lined by tourists looking to get loaded and watch either soccer or rugby. We ventured across the street to the Black Forest, where we had an very good meal. On our way back to the car, a woman whose affections were available for purchase wouldn't let one of the older gentlemen out of her site. She was like a dog with a bone, but he wasn't having any of it. We made it back to our car and our night just got a lot longer.
Tasted like Squirt

I don't recommend getting into a fender bender in a foreign country. We were hit on the highway by a young lady who tried to merge onto the highway and then cross 2 lanes. She smacked our front passenger tire and then we pulled over. Waited on the side of the road until her brother dropped another young lady off before driving to the police station to report the accident. We had to type our own incident report on the computer. Then we were given guff for not having an international license nor our passport on us. We had to go back to show the passport and then had another meeting scheduled to take photos of the damage. The photo meeting was canceled and the girl was found at fault.

Sunday, I went back into KL and wandered even more. I was in search of finding street food. I got off at KL Sentral again and made my way to the big pointy things in the sky. I found a market and ate with a bunch of locals. It was tasty fried chicken, coconut milk and artichoke hearts over rice, and hard boiled eggs and egg plant covered in chili pepper paste. After lunch, I was checking out more of the sites and I was approached by a guy who didn't speak english, but gave the international sign of take a photo. I assumed he wanted me to take a photo of him. Nope, he wanted to pose for a picture with me. I took off my sunglasses and he gave me a big hug as he snapped the photo. Afterward he gave me a big 2-tooth grin. I continued on my way and made it to the Petronas Towers, which I was shocked to find a large mall in the bottom several floors. I then happened upon a ramen shop a little way from there. Would a 95 degree day with tons of humidity stop me from indulging in a hot, spicy bowl? Nope.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Race Recap

Ironman New Zealand 30th Anniversary.

Laughing at my dad who was using the action mode on his camera.
So I've been nursing a foot injury for several weeks, but I wasn't going to let it stop me from doing the race. I started packing all my gear on Tuesday after our Takapuna swim session. Knowing it was going to be a long day, I wanted to make sure I was comfortable so I packed a different set of clothes for each event. I wasn't expecting blazing fast transition times as I was doing a full change for each event so I could be comfortable. Early Thursday morning we set out from Auckland to Taupo for the race on Saturday. We stopped by the airport shortly after 6 am to pick up my father. We have a new rule. Don't bring us anything from the States unless specifically asked or cash. All those with any sickness will be deported immediately. (Beth and I both got sick and someone else is alternating between coughing and snoring all night long). We made good time, but weren't allowed to check-in to the room until much later. We grabbed a bite to eat and then it was off to do race things. I had to dip my wetsuit in a cleaning solution, get my race packet, and get weighed. At the athlete's dinner and race meeting we, my co-worker Sebastian and I, found out that there were 52 different countries represented and close to 570 1st time racers. Of which we were 2. The dinner was a massive table of good eats followed by an entertaining segment of former winners and race legends talking about their experiences at Taupo over the past 30 years. We were greeted with a haka and other traditional song and dances as well. It would be an early night.
First race in a wetsuit

I woke up at 4:30 to start my long day. I had a big breakfast at the hotel while chatting with another racer and the waitress. She had come in early to make the food for us which was much appreciated. We were treated to another Maori ceremony prior to entering the water and those guys looked a little chilly. I think it was roughly 40-50 degrees and they weren't covered up much. Waiting for the swim to start we had the starting cannon roll past us. We were in for a treat as they shot it 3 times instead of the planned 2 times. The swim was up close and personal with my closet 1500 friends. We swam on and over each other for the better part of an hour. I was happy to have the layer of protection that my wetsuit provided or I would probably have some wicked bruises and scrapes. I tried to get distance, but people kept swarming around me. I was pretty relaxed during it all and just tried to find my rhythm. I'm glad my swim fitness hasn't totally left me as I haven't swam much since living in Thames. Beth and I have done a few races in a local swim series. It is in Takapuna and the swim consists of a 1500m ocean swim followed by our special event. Ice cream at Movenpick.

After exiting the water at 1:06, we had to run about 400m to the transition up a hill. My toe was killing me, but I kept running for fear of being trampled by other racers. I ended up seeing a lot of friends on the short hill up to transition. There was a small crew from Tauranga and a larger crew from Thames. From there it was off to my 1st personal assistant. I got my wetsuit stripped off and all my gear dropped on the ground. I did a quick change and the guy helped by handing me what I asked for and then put the remaining stuff back in my back and I was off to get my bike. I walked through the transition opposed to running as my foot was throbbing. I started off easy through town and waved at Beth as I rode past our hotel.  I heard more than a few comments about my litespeed. I cruised out of town trying to keep my heart rate low as it was a bit of a hill. Then it was time for the fun. A downhill and a tailwind out to the turn around point. I felt like I wasn't even riding that hard, but I was flying. On the way back it was fighting up against the wind and up the hill. I also played a bit of leap frog with Paulie from the Thames crew on the bike leg as someone didn't have a bike computer. I on the other hand tried to keep my heart rate down all day long and I watched the speed on the computer.

There were numerous flats and a few crashes on the bike course, but I wasn't not among them. I did see a lot of illegal behavior which is hard to police with so few course officials. There was drafting here and there, but the rule most often broke was the biker only passing one in a group of legally spaced riders forcing the passed rider to either ride in the draft area or slow down. I lost count of how many times it happened to me. Its not to say people weren't caught doing wrong as the penalty box always seemed to have someone in it. I'm just glad that I had my flats during my training rides leaving my ride unblemished.

I changed up my nutrition since the Port of Tauranga. I started to consume baby food (apple and banana oatmeal porridge) and a mix of coconut water and cranberry juice. I also suffered a bee sting to the palm while drinking out of my bottle. I yelled at Beth that I was stung by a bee when I passed her at the beginning of my 2nd lap. With 50km to go my foot started to kill me with all the vibrations. I knew that I wouldn't be running any portion of the marathon. With 2 bathroom breaks I finished the bike in 6:03, not too shabby as I've only been doing 60 miles for my long rides.

Once again I had an assistant to help with getting changed into my running stuff. After changing, I got sprayed with some sunscreen and was out on the course at a quick walking pace. People were egging me on to run through the pain. I quickly tired of trying to explain that I came to the race injured, but I was aiming to finish regardless. My friends told me to enjoy the day and make the most of it. I was in a sour mood the first lap as I really wanted to run, but even the walking got to be painful as the laps progressed. Beth got a couple phone calls from the race organizers as my timing chip evidently wasn't being picked up at the outbound mat. They asked if I was still on the course. She replied of course he is. She got a little worried and ran against the flow of the race and spotted me walking along the waterfront. I must have gone over the mat so slow that it didn't register.

I had a lot of friendly volunteers that walked beside me and chatted for a bit not mention all the food stops where I gabbed with the volunteers. Much like food challenges, Greg ended his 1st race heavier than when he started. I took this as a challenge. I ate cookies, chips, pretzels, moro bars, lollies, oranges, bananas, and some baby food while drinking water, coke, and an electrolyte mix.  I also used the bathroom at every stop by the end of the day. There were times that I saw guys from the Thames crew on the course and I wished them well. I ran into a friend of a friend from Tauranga who I climbed and mountain biked with while I lived down there on my last lap. I stopped and talked to him for a few minutes. Both Beth and my pops walked next to me during the final leg. It was great to have such encouragement for my family but the strangers were good too as it gets lonely on the course as the day progresses. There were some awesome supporters out there blaring all sorts of music throughout the day and even a guy who left his bbq open and I grabbed a sausage as I "blitzed" past. During the marathon, I told Beth I wouldn't be happy only doing one Ironman as I didn't really race it. I just finished it. She had already said something to that effect to my dad back at the hotel. I guess I'm a little predictable in that capacity. I walked down the finishers chute roughly 14:43 hrs after I started to a bunch of cheering supporters. Hands started popping out for high-fives and I just walked down the chute trying to slap them all. It was cool feeling. Beth said I should do a little dance as I crossed the finish line as I walked past her. After crossing the line I was escorted into the med/recovery tent where I was given my finishers metal, t-shirt, and towel. I had my timing chip removed and my weight taken. I had only lost 2 kgs during the day's event.

Following the race, I realized that I had 2 popped blisters on the back of my heels, my left foot was swollen, my bee sting swelling went down, I chafed my thighs, and I was starving. I ate some food and took a hot shower. I tried to sleep but I was boiling up then I was freezing. It was hard to sleep on the bed so I ended up on the floor with my legs up in the air against the wall. I was back to riding to work on Tuesday so any soreness didn't last very long.