My first Olympic distance tri – Beijing Sanfo International Triathlon

 

IMG_4708
All lined up, waiting for the race to start. The guys got white caps, gals pink and relays orange.

A week after my first Sprint distance tri, I did my first Olympic distance tri race at the very scenic Jinhai lake in the outskirts of Bejing. With lessons freshly learnt from doing the Wuxi tri, I threw myself into the preparations for the Sanfo tri, which I perceived to be harder not just from the perspective of distance, but also elevation of the ride and run courses.

302285084897857695
Unlike P, I wasn’t looking forward to this much elevation straight after swimming 1.5k.

On Friday evening, my tri girl friends and I drove up to the race venue straight after work to pick up our race bags and check out the race course. My hopes of cutting my swim-bike transition time were dashed when I saw the long transition area and the long flight of steps we had to climb straight after swimming 1500 m.

On Saturday morning, we woke up at 4 am to get ready (while grumbling about why we do this to ourselves) and got to the race venue at 5 am to set up our transition area. I was surprised to see nothing set up around quite a few of the bikes before the transition area closing time of 6 am. I later found out we’d get 5 minutes to go back to the transition area before the start of the race, and that’s when the others will be doing their set-up. I take my hat off to them.

JAY_0347
The organisers required all racers to wear orange buoys for ‘safety’ reasons.

After waiting for what seemed like ages, we were finally sent off in waves for the swim. All the men were sent off in age group waves, then all the women were sent off in one wave (there were only 55 of us in total) and then the relay guys went in. Compared to Wuxi, swimming in Jinhai Lake was a dream. The water was cool and clear, the swim course was a simple out-and-back, and there were practically no waves. I enjoyed the swim so much, I was a little sad when I got to the deck and was pulled out of the water.

I surprised myself by recovering from the swim within 30 seconds of getting out of the water, and jogged at a steady pace up  the steps (past others who could only manage to walk) and along the long transition path to where my bike was parked.

Sanfo tri t1
Helmet – check. Sunnies -check. Shoes – check. Ready to ride.

The cycling route was a 20-km loop that we had to do twice over. It was fun riding up to friends, calling out their names and riding parts of the way with them. I found it even more amusing passing racers with TT bikes on slopes, who obviously thought just riding a fast bike will make up for minimal or no time spent in training. My assumptions were confirmed when I read fellow racers’ WeChat posts about their experience doing this triathlon. More on that later.

After completing my favourite parts of the race, it was time for the run, an activity I neither enjoyed nor looked forward to. For the first 3 km, I ran in the company of a rather loud, talkative American man who kept asking me questions on physics and biochemistry in between huffing and puffing up the slopes. After humouring him with my thoughtless answers, I told him I had to push ahead and did just that, thankful that I could focus all my energy on running.

Sanfo tri finish

The run was the hardest part for me not just because of the elevation but also the relentless heat. Kudos to the organisers who had drinks and cooling stations every 2 km. For such a short distance, I went through my own packet of coconut water, drank water and Pocari at every second station and took a cold sponge at every station I passed. I was thankful for volunteers who sprayed water on us along the way and the organisers who put out an ice bath at the finish line, especially after reading about a 37-year-old female relay runner who collapsed and later died from heatstroke about 50 meters from the finish line. Discussing this incident with my friends who did the race, it made me realise how fortunate I’ve been to have athlete friends who’s generously offered advice on how to prep and survive a triathlon in different weather conditions, and helped me the newbie enjoy the process of racing.

As an added bonus, I came in 8th in my tiny age group, smack bang in the middle of the pack. I’m happy with this result for my first Olympic distance race, but am motivated to work hard on improving my performance for the Beijing International Triathlon in September.

 

why the Devil wears Prada

Cover shoot off Wudaoying Hutong
Cover shoot off Wudaoying Hutong

I had no idea what I got myself into when I decided to join a Big Four accounting firm as a marketing consultant. I didn’t quite understand the job description I read online, nor the job description verbally provided by HR and the subsequent two interviewers. Because my first manager was such a laid back guy, it took me almost a month after I started work to understand my role and responsibilities.

One of the things I had not anticipated doing was organising an internal magazine cover photoshoot. Anyone who knows me for more than an hour will tell you I’m all about substance and almost zero about appearance. So when I was told to organise this photoshoot, I had to do the one thing that went against every fibre of my being — I had to scrutinise people’s appearance.

The first hurdle was choosing models. My colleague gave me a list of requirements and insisted on seeing pictures of all the good-looking people in the Beijing office. After deciding on the male model (a tanned, buff audit senior manager), we moved onto the arduous task of selecting the female model. All ladies with anything shorter than shoulder-length hair were eliminated. Ladies who sported a summer tan, dyed their hair an unnatural colour (maroon and purple) were eliminated. By the time we got rid of the ladies who looked awkward before the camera, we were left with 2 choices. And out of the two, I was only able to track down one. I wished my work ended here but it was not to be.

The second hurdle was selecting clothing for the shoot. Having been told we didn’t have the budget to buy clothing, I begged the models to send me pictures of both their professional and casual clothing. Again, we quickly decided what clothing the male model should bring and struggled with the lady. We said no to spaghetti strap jumpsuits, polka dot and other patterned dresses in bright pink, purple and electric blue and frilly tops and hotpants. I was almost in tears when my colleague in Hong Kong vetoed the fifth batch of clothing pictures sent over by the female model. I ended up wandering around in Zara after work, snapping pictures of clothing and wondering if I could just let the model wear it once and return it after the shoot. Such was the extent of my desperation. Eventually (I thought) I resolved my dilemma by sending my Zara pictures to the female model and asking her if she could produce similar clothing. We decided on the clothing she should bring for the shoot literally days before the shoot.

The third hurdle was appeasing the graphics guys who were forced to be professional photographers for an afternoon. The senior guy complained like a dripping tap that the female model was not good-looking and her make-up (which I did) was not up to scratch, and that it was tough taking pictures at the two outdoor locations I chose. I blame it on the hot weather when I eventually blew up at him, telling him off for not giving me clear prior instructions and for assuming I knew what went on on a photoshoot. To this day, I’m surprised by the quality of the end product. For copyright reasons, I can’t post their work here, but it was the work of pros.

Ever since completing this harrowing project, I’ve begun paying special attention to pretty ladies in the office, often refraining from asking for their names and extension numbers. I’ve also acquired a newfound respect for magazine editors who have to organise photoshoots on a daily basis. Last but not least, I now understand why fashion editors become the Devil Who Wears Prada.

in the beginning…

 

Image

I’ve always considered myself a late bloomer.

It started even when I was in my mother’s womb, almost four decades ago in Sarawak.  I was the third child my mother conceived and instead of becoming the youngest spoilt princess I was meant to be, I ended up becoming the firstborn. I never met my two elder brothers. The first was miscarried. The second lived 10 days before breathing his last.

My father’s mother and siblings were naturally loudly concerned when my mother found out she was pregnant for the third time. By hook or by crook, the third baby had to be born healthy and live past 10 days. My mother quit her job and was forced to lie in bed and be waited upon hand and food for the remaining 8 months while I grew in her belly.

My grandmother made chicken soup everyday for my mother. My mother told me after 3 months of drinking chicken soup everyday, she got nauseous whenever she smelt chicken soup brewing in the kitchen.  In the end, she told my grandmother she couldn’t drink any more of it.  My father began buying turtle eggs so my grandmother could make turtle eggs soup for my mother instead.

I’m pretty sure I ingested something from those turtle eggs that’s resulted in what I’ve become. But I digress.

After 10 months of drinking chicken and turtle eggs soup and lying in bed, my mother realised I was quite comfy floating in her watery, warm womb and had no intention of seeing the outside world. My aunt and uncle took her to see the midwife after I was a month past my due date, and the midwife gave my mother an injection. I kicked my mother’s belly in protest as if I knew everyone outside was telling me to hurry up and come out. I wanted to float in my comfort zone for just a little while longer.

I held on for as long as I could, I did.  It took only a few days before the waters broke so suddenly, my mother didn’t see it coming. My uncle had left for work that morning on his motorbike, so my aunt had to run down the dirt road to the neighbours to ask for a ride to the midwife’s for my mother and me.

My mother told me I was born right before lunchtime.  She was disappointed I turned out to be a girl, but my father and grandmother was just happy to have a healthy grandchild to cherish and to hold. My birth was the happiest event after the death of my grandmother and my elder brothers.

To the joy of my family and the dear friends I’ve accumulated over the years, I not only survived past 10 days, I made it to a month, to adolescence and to full-blown adulthood. 

My life’s been full of false starts and delays. I often feel like I get to everything a little later than others. Sometimes I’ve been grateful for this, but more often than not, I’ve been more than a little frustrated at why I seem to come to every party so…… late. I blame it on the turtle genes/hormones I ingested while floating in my mother’s womb.

The I remember that the turtle won in that rabbit and turtle race story. And I can’t help but smile.