IM Malaysia 2010
Well this was my 4th trip to Langkawi and IM Malaysia. I first raced there in 2003 and finished 2nd in what was the hardest race I had ever entered at that stage of my career. Move forward seven years and it is definitely still one of the hardest races on my calendar. It is not the course that makes it difficult, it is purely the conditions- the heat and humidity are like no other- not even the big one in Kona compares with this race. But funnily enough, it is the reason I continue to return to this beautiful island- the tougher the better for me.
I really wanted to win the race this year as it would be my first 'hat trick'. I had never won three IM races back to back. I have won three IM Koreas but not consecutively. I also wanted to notch up my 12th IM Distance win of my career. Well I am happy to report that I was able to win and I am very happy with the way the day panned out for me.
Justin and I arrived on Langkawi on the Monday before the race- I like to get to this race a little early just so I am settled and 'semi-acclimatised' to the conditions if that is at all possible. I am from Noosa in Queensland so the weather isn't dissimilar but I am not sure if anything really gets you used to the extreme weather. I also get to stay at the Westin hotel and they look after me like no other place in the world.
The week leading into the race went really quickly. I was so happy to see my good friend and fellow K-Swiss athlete- Hillary Biscay. I got to do some great little training sessions with her and of course got up to speed with everything that had been going on in her world. We used to train together every day, but now I only get to see her every few months so that first ride together turns into a hypoxic session as we barely take a breath between sentences.
Race day came and I woke up feeling calm and ready to race hard all day…..and I say all day because we don't start until 7.30- a late start as far as Ironman goes but it is too dark to start any earlier. My last IM race was Kona and it was nothing short of a disaster so I was eager to get out there and make amends. In fact the whole of my 2009 season was a roller-coaster ride. I would have one great race followed by one horror race. After my surgery back in March last year I just could not find the consistency that I am renown for so I was eager to start my 2010 campaign on the right foot .
I had a great swim. I knew things were looking good when Hillary and Justin swam past me at around the 200m mark. I jumped on their feet and thought to myself 'now you just have to stay here'. Well I did manage to stay there but I was red-lining it for most of the swim. I exited the water right behind them and quickly made my way through transition. I jumped on my bike and remembered thinking to myself 'ok now it is time to go hard'. I love my Ceepo Katana- it really is the perfect bike for me- so small and compact and it had been decked out with a brand new SRAM Red group-set. It was my first race using SRAM and it was just perfect. I am just so comfortable on this bike and it loves going fast. I was controlled for the first 20kms and then I decided to start picking things up a bit. After about 45mins I really started to feel good and concentrated on putting as much time as I could between myself and the other girls.
It is a four loop bike course with some fairly challenging hills thrown in there on every loop. They feel fine for the first couple of loops but by loop four they feel like mountains from the Swiss Alps. I definitely felt them on my last loop and suffered through the last 40kms but entered T2 with a good lead- around 17 minutes, and it really is a nice way to start the marathon. By no means did I think that I 'had it in the bag'- I still had to get through the entire marathon and in this heat it is easier said than done. I have seen athletes literally melt in this heat and it is not a pretty sight.
The marathon is a 5 loop course- it almost does your head in but it also makes it very easy to keep pace and to see where your competition is. I took the first lap out nice and steady and concentrated on getting in a much liquid as I could. The aid stations are great and the water is icy cold- it makes such a difference. I was pouring water over my head from the get go . The most important thing is to try and keep your body temperature down as much as you can. Honestly I expected my shoes to fill with water and feel like cement bricks but I was wearing the new KOna C's and they are by far the best IM shoe I have ever worn- not one blister and they were as light as a feather as they have this amazing drainage system that gets ride of the water as quickly as you pour it on. I wasn't feeling great but then I didn't expect to have 'that fresh out of the shower' feeling happening-it is Malaysia and it is the middle of the day= crazy hot!
By lap two I was feeling better and started to get a great rhythm going. Edith, who was in 2nd place was not making up much time on me and I was actually happy to see that we were crossing in the same position. That spurred me on and lap 3 was also solid. By the 4th lap I was definitely staring to feel the effects of the heat and humidity. You know this feeling is only just around the corner but you just try and hold it off for as long as possible. I think by the time I turned to complete lap 4 I had really started to slow. But this marathon is not about running super fast times, it is all about maintaining a good rhythm throughout and trying to stay cool and hydrated for as long as you can. I knew the last lap was going to hurt but I also knew it was only 8kms- I could do that in my sleep so I set out on the last loop and just concentrated on making it to each aid station. It is amazing just how good cold water feels on your head and shoulders and how it can bring you back to life even if it is only for a couple of kms. I continued to do this all the way to the last turn-a-round and then I knew that I was on my way home to the finish.
I started to relax and soak up the atmosphere with about 3kms to go. I still felt in control and I knew that I could take some time and really enjoy this finish. I ran back past the host hotel and there were so many people there and the music was pumping- it was a really satisfying feeling. I had a about 1km to go until the finish and I couldn't wait to get there. I wanted to put the horror of Hawaii 09 behind me and move forward. Winning this race was like a new beginning and hopefully the start of a successful 2010.
Whit Raymond was there at the finish calling me in- just like he was back in 2003 when I first did this race. He has called me across the finish line of so many IM races now. He gives off so much positive energy.
I crossed the finish line in 9hrs23 and was just so happy and relieved to have made it and couldn't wait to see Justin as I knew he had had a fantastic race as well and I was eager to see where he had finished. He was there waiting for me and when he told me he had placed 4th, it made my win even better still- it was a great day out for both of us.
Next up is China 70.3 this weekend. I am looking forward to the shorter distance that is for sure. Lets hope I can make it two from two.
Thanks to all of my wonderful sponsors, friends and supporters- 2010 is going to be a good year.