Race Report: 2017 SEA Games Selection Race

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January 18, 2017 by willeloo

The Skinny

S: 21.45
B: 57.14 (36km bike)
R: 41.07
T: 2:00.07 – 2nd (Splits are approximate; no timing chip)

The Fat

I’m going to try my best to not be long-winded with this report.  Those of you that have read this blog before will know that that is easier said than done, but given that Second Wind Magazine already published a detailed race recap as well as my post race comments, I should manage!

The Triathlon Association of Singapore (TAS) had initially announced that the SEA Games selection would take place over two races – the Belitung ASTC race in November 2016 and a local trial in Jan 2017.  However, with the unfortunate cancellation of the Belitung race, we were left with the single selection on 14 Jan in Singapore.  It was simple – the first two men and women over the line would represent Team Singapore in Kuala Lumpur in August.

14 men would contest the 2 spots up for grabs Photo: Matt Lee

14 men and 4 women would contest the 4 spots up for grabs
Photo: Matt Lee

It was encouraging to see that a fairly good crowd had gathered by the time the guys lined up on the start line at 7.30am for the two lap swim.  As expected, Bryce and Zac took off once the horn sounded and we were strung out within the first 200m.  The aim for the swim was very straight forward – don’t give up too much time to the two boys.  As we approached the first turning buoy, I was on Zac’s feet and feeling quite pleased.  I had expected to lose time pretty much from the get-go, but with each buoy that we passed together on the first lap, my confidence grew.  Bryce pulled away on the second lap, but I was still there with Zac and we entered T1 side by side, about 20sec behind.  Clemmie put in a big second lap in the swim so he was only a couple of seconds back as we all mounted our bikes.

My shoes and I were not on the same page Photo: Matt Lee

My shoes and I were not on the same page
Photo: Matt Lee

Much of my pre-race anxiety centred around how far back I would be after the swim.  I thought that if I gave up 45-60sec by the time we hit the bikes, that would be an acceptable situation.  So when we were a group of four less than 2km into the bike, it was time to race!  Unfortunately, a technological glitch left me with no reading from my power meter.  I fiddled with my Garmin for about half the lap, trying to get it to detect the power meter, but had to tell myself to forget about it and focus.  (I found out later that the battery in my power meter had decided it wasn’t going to work on a Saturday morning).  The four of us swapped some turns with Clement and I taking slightly longer pulls, but it was early days and we were working alright together.

Out on my own Photo: Joey Lu

Out on my own
Photo: Joey Lu

I was sitting behind Bryce as we hit the incline approaching transition to finish the first lap.  The pace started to drop a little before we reached the top of the small hill so I moved out to the side to make sure we didn’t touch wheels.  As I pulled across the lane, I passed Bryce and got a bike length pretty quickly.  As I crested the hill, one bike length turned into two or three, so I thought to myself, “Sure, why not?”  I dropped a gear and took a speculative dig as I descended towards the skate park.  I dove into the two 90 degree turns in quick succession and tried to lay down the power for the next 2-3 minutes to see if the gap would hold.

Keep on riding, keep on riding Photo: Joey Lu

Keep on riding, keep on riding
Photo: Joey Lu

Through the second and third laps, the gap to Bryce, Zac and Clemmie seemed to hover at around 20-30sec.  You’d be surprised by how much time you seem to have to talk to yourself during a race…a lot of the conversation I was having with myself was about how this was such a bad idea…why would you try to go alone from 30km out??  I watch enough Eurosport and ITU videos to know that while the solo breakaway looks spectacular and can be a thing of beauty, it often ends very poorly for the protagonist.  However, buoyed by a growing lead to the chasers and having already committed so much, I knew I had to put my head down and just go for it.  Go big, or go home.

Heading to T2 with a bit of breathing room Photo: Matt Lee

Heading to T2 with a bit of breathing room
Photo: Matt Lee

By the time I racked my bike in T2, I heard that I had just over 60sec on the chase group.  It was a great buffer to have as I headed out on the run, but with the effort I put in on the bike, I knew that I was going to need every one of those seconds.  Sure enough, the wheels threatened to fall off very early into the run.  By the time I hit the first kilometer, I was already fighting off cramps in both quads.  I knew that I was going to bleed time to the boys behind and I really had to be smart about this.  My big push for glory had now turned into an exercise in resource management…10km can be a very long way and I was feeling every single step today.

Just keep moving Photo: Joey Lu

Just keep moving
Photo: Joey Lu

At the 2.5km u-turn, I had my first look at my pursuers.  Most of my lead had evaporated.  Bryce was really going for it in second with Clemmie holding steady a bit further back.  Zac had fallen off the pace behind.  With my quads still debating whether to go full-blown-cramp-mode, I decided to play it cool and just keep plugging along.  I resisted the urge to make a suicidal attempt to open up my stride and tried to be mentally prepared for the inevitable pass.  I made it back to the u-turn at 5km for the second lap, clinging to a lead of about 10sec over Bryce.  Heading back out, I continued to expect to be caught and dropped like a bad habit.  6km…7km…the pass didn’t come.  Finally, as I passed the drink station near the far u-turn, I heard the footsteps that I’d been running from for so long.  But as I turned to offer a congratulatory comment, it was Clement that pulled up on my shoulder!

Many bottles of cold water were sacrificed to get me to the finish Photo: Joey Lu

Many bottles of cold water were sacrificed to get me to the finish
Photo: Joey Lu

The complexion of the race had suddenly changed – could we really pull off the 1-2 finish again?  I was pretty much toast and dug deep to hold onto him as we rounded the u-turn and headed for home.  It was then that we saw Bryce lying on the footpath outside the sailing centre, being attended to by the medic.  We were all fighting for selection, but you never want to see one of your competitors in that position.  I told Clement to go for it as my cramps weren’t going away and I needed to protect my position.  With about 1.5km to go, Clemmie had 10m on me.   However, with the tantalising possibility of a dramatic finishing photograph together, I had to get back on his shoulder.

Playing it cool Photo: Matt Lee

Playing it cool
Photo: Matt Lee

As we ran the final few hundred meters, we coolly exchanged a few words but I was super stoked!  Despite what might have been said, most would have said the odds of both of us making it back on the SEA Games team together prior to the selection race were slim to none.  But here we were, right where we wanted to be after two hours of hard fought racing.  We raced bravely and intelligently, taking our chances.  More importantly, I think we made sure we took qualification into our own hands.  Neither of us was willing to consider not making the team.

A huge thank you to Meryl, my family and friends that always believed, even when I had my doubts.  I’ve got a lot of work left to do if I’m going to fight for the medals in KL, but I’ll be ready.  It was cool to have more athletes on the start this year (than 2015) as well as a boisterous crowd that came to watch us race.  Hopefully this will spark off a sustained interest in our sport.  Congratulations to Clemmie, Winona and Denise!  Team Singapore will bring it in KL.

Couple of days off then it’s back to business.  In the mean time, no baked goods of any kind or chocolate is safe from me.

See you out there!


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