My Powerman Malaysia Story, by Mohd Azriq Matzalan
6th March, 2016 was drawing closer. “That’d be the date I will get to declare myself as a duathlete,” so I vowed. I visualised how the week would be. I knew it’ll be a busy one though – to run my first World Marathon Majors in Tokyo, and 6 days later to participate in Powerman Malaysia Asia Duathlon Championships. The preparation was like killing two birds with one stone – having to put the hours to train for the world major marathon and duathlon at the same time. Also, if it wasn’t because of Ammar Zakwan’s willingness to lend his red Fuji roadbike, I don’t think I’ll be able to train. Because of that, I’m forever grateful because the reason I signed up for Powerman Malaysia 2016 was a deep and personal one. I was going to do it for my new born, expected to be delivered to the world in May that year. One day he’ll grow up and hopefully will see me as his role model, and god willing, will follow my footsteps and be active in sports.
On 28th February 2016, I was excited to start my week right on that cold Sunday morning in Tokyo. I remember it clearly. I was approaching KM21 mark, on the opposite of Bank of Tokyo Mitsubhi-UFJ, and something was off with my right knee – the last thing I’d wish to happen on any race day. I had to muster a lot of courage, gather whatever I have left to finish the marathon and alhamdulillah completed it in 5 hours 58 minutes. I figured out eventually that it was Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS), so unfortunately, my Powerman Malaysia 2016 debut had to go down the drain.
Fast forward a year later. “March 5th will be madness!” I told myself.
Finally, it’s my duathlon debut!
After recovering and ‘hibernating’ for 6 months due to ITBS, I was back to the drawing board. Back to square one. This time around the preparation for Powerman Malaysia 2017 required a lot more discipline and focus. I followed the training plan which included running, brick training and core strengthening & conditioning. I learned that one of the contributing factors to ITBS is a weak core. Training wasn’t smooth sailing. I had to juggle between my work and taking care of little Rr as my wife was working in Penang. During brick training session, I struggled most of the time. Running after cycling felt like a disaster – easily cramped and jelly legs – but picking up some tips from the boys (Ziq the ‘Elite’, Amar the ‘Ironman’) to relieve the cramps were very helpful. Weekend was dedicated for a long ride with the crew – Adam, Min, Ziq, Amar, Muz, Nabila, Mak Nani, Arif and Dayat. To be honest, cycling is not my forte. To make matters worse, I never miss a fall in the early days whenever I attempted to unclip my cycling shoes from the pedal. However, I hold on dearly to “fall seven times, stand up eight”. A week before race day, we did a race simulation (5-20-5) in Putrajaya and I was quite happy with the outcome.
T – 1 day. Race kit collection and bike check-in day. My heart was pounding as I passed by the transition area, seeing the organised bike rack and the blue carpet while the technical officers were ensuring things go smoothly. I was greeted by volunteers who offered to look after my bike while I queue inside to obtain by bib. If you need to do last minute shopping, the race expo would be the best place to go. There was a bike corner for participants to have final tuning and to check tire pressure too. Under the scorching hot sun, at the bike check-in area, the technical officers did their routine checks on the bikes before giving green light to enter the area. I was then shown my bike rack according to my number and once done, “Tomorrow is the time to shine.”
Race day! My watch was showing 0530hr as I stepped out of the car. I fuelled myself slowly and began making my way to the transition area to check my bike and sort out my shoes, helmet, water and power gels. The transition area slowly became alive. Participants started to come in and out, volunteers with pump kept going back and forth offering their service. “Final check on the tire pressure,” I said.
I started feeling the jitter. The good kind. Race jitters they called it. While warming up with the crew (Kyserunkrew), we exchanged reminders and advice. After all it’s my duathlon debut and I wanted to do well. Things soon became real. Once the Elite and Classic categories were flagged, I walked to the starting line. “There’s no turning back,” my mind whispered. I ran the first 5km with Oggy, pacing each other to maintain 5’30”/km pace. The route was well marshalled with clear signage and had sufficient water stations. At T1, the first transition, I took 2 minutes to prepare myself for the cycling leg. I put on my helmet and cycling shoes, and ran slowly while pushing my bike out of the transition area. “Here comes the 30km ride of my life,” my mind whispered once again. I started slow but steady, finding my rhythm to catch up with the front pack. There was one long stretch of hill, which was the beginning of a cramp show of my calves. Ignoring it didn’t work, so when I felt the hard pull, I unclipped my shoes and parked by the road side. “Deep breath,” I told myself in the attempt to calm my mind and remain focused. I got on my bike again after a few minutes of sipping water and stretching. The traffic, water stations and marshals were all in order. The police controlled the incoming traffic well and the route was safe. No potholes, no gravel. Woohoo, I completed the bike leg in one piece!
I spent more than 5 minutes at T2! Oh God! The bike leg was really tiring. For a newbie like me, my aim was to finish the race without injuries, without drama. “So this is it. The final leg. The last 5 km.” Legs were like jelly and I had to make a few stops to relieve the cramps. The elites were still running strong. “How are they doing this?” yelled my inner self as I watched them passed by from the opposite direction. It was only after 4km that my legs were able to adapt to the pain. Maybe it was mental pain. So when I saw the finishing line a few hundred metres in front of me, I knew it was the time to speed up. In fact, I managed to overtake a few people and finished strong! Seeing Ziq and Nabila on the podium in their age categories was inspiring. The others did well too. A few personal bests were recorded on that day. For sure, 2017 edition was a very well organized event, no mishap during the race and we all had fun.
Clocking the best time possible wasn’t my ultimate goal. It was the end-to-end experience that I seek, the memory I wished to keep, and the stories I wanted to be able to tell to my kids. The journey to make my duathlon debut a reality was proven to be very valuable. Lessons were learnt – training is going to be hard; find a group to train with; and consistency is a must. Duathlon is a different discipline altogether, a different ballgame. But it starts with a belief that you can do it, followed by the hunger to improve and prepare physically and mentally. So for 2018, what say you?
You can follow Mohd Azriq Matzalan 2018 Powerman Putrajaya quest through his Instagram account (@slickryck)