Singapore Biathlon 2012 – My First Attempt

I have always wanted to try Singapore Biathlon. Yet, I daunted the idea of swimming 1.5km in the open sea, especially when I have no confidence in using frontcrawl. Not only I am horribly slow, I got breathless even just swimming a couple of hundred metres. Though it is not exactly the fastest swimming style, breaststroke certainly works better for me.

 This year, just for the fun of it and to see how far I could push myself, I sign up for my maiden Singapore Biathlon together with Jiahui, Weisian, Yanghao and David. With the company of my frens from Jurong Safra, suddenly swimming 1.5km in the open sea seems less daunting and possible.
As it was our first attempt at Sing Bi, we were required to attend a swim trial at Sembawang Yatch Club in early Feb. Participants need to complete a 1.5 km open water swim within 50min to be able to compete in the race. The weather was perfect that day, sea was calm and currents were to our advantage. We all passed the swim trial without much difficulty.
Race day. Jiahui and I did some light swimming at the warm-up area before we gathered at the starting point with all other female participants. Many of them professionally dressed in tri suits and swim suits, looking somewhat intimidating and very determined. Soon, the horn sounded and off we went, splashing into the sea. I was in the middle pack. The moment I hit the water, all I could feel were arms and legs. It was pretty chaotic. Swimmers ahead of me were kicking hard, swimmers behind me were pushing hard. Trapped, I struggled to find my own space in the water.
Finally, at the first buoy where we were to turn left, I found myself slowly pulling away from the pack (or rather the swimmers in my pack had pulled away from me). By then, there were fewer pink caps around me. I could still see Jiahui in front of me. I guess the front pack must be way ahead, swimming their lungs out. Continued my swim at my own pace using breaststroke. Once in a while, a couple of female swimmers would cut in front of me, heading in the wrong direction. I was glad that I was using breaststroke then because I had no idea how to do sighting and would have gone off-course too.
Reached the u-turn point, and I finally get to see more pink caps ahead of me. However, this time round the swim was not as good. Immediately after I u-turn, I was swept to the right side near the string of buoys. It seemed like I was not moving at all despite kicking hard and telling myself to keep my head down and body streamlined. I was swimming slowly and could only watch in awe as the first male participant swam effortlessly past me. His strokes were efficient and strong and he faded into the distance just as quickly as he appeared. A few minutes later, more and more male participants started overtaking me and I gave way to them. Some got carried by the waves and for a while I was stuck in between swimmers on my left, and the buoys on my right. As I approached the shore, I could hear the emcee counting down to flag off the third wave. It was then I realised I have already taken 45mins for my swim! And, I had not even reached the shore yet. My heart sank. Having done about 34mins for my swim trial, I was hoping to complete under 40min for my swim during race day. Now, it would be hard to make up for the time difference during the run.

Finally done with swim leg!
*Photo credits to Trevor Chua*

As I emerged from the sea, I checked my time – 47mins. Disappointed, I could only hope to do a decent run and try to catch up with some of participants ahead. There were many supporters on the beach cheering hard for participants. It was heartening to hear Jackie and Andy cheering loudly for me when I ran up the beach towards the transition area. But I was too dazed to search for them in the crowd. Practically jumped into the tray of water meant to wash off the sand from our feet before entering the transition area. A silly and dangerous act as I could have easily slipped and hurt myself. I was lucky no mishap happened.
At the transition area, I drank some water to wash away the salty taste in my mouth, dry my feet and changed into my shoes. I was ready to start my run leg after putting on my race belt. But somehow, I lost focus and got indecisive. Random thoughts that were running through my head as the clock continued ticking away: “Should I take my gel with me?” “It’s not sunny, should I still wear my Oakleys?”
By the time I decided not to take my gel, to wear my shades and was prepared to exit, I retreated a few steps to take some more water again. Took me close to 2min to transit eventually. And as I looked through the Sing Bi’s results, it’s amazing how some participants could transit in less than 30 seconds. Superman in disguise, maybe.
Run leg, finally something I’m more comfortable with. Started at a conservative pace as it took me some time to get into momentum. As I ran and caught up with a few runners ahead, I saw many familar faces along the way, Jiahui (poor girl twisted her ankle and was trying her best to run). Kim Lai was there taking photos. Spotted a few speedy ones like, Sumiko, Shuwen at the other side of the route. They were already on their way back to the finishing line. Grabbed a cup of water at the 4km point and I saw Gen dashing past in lightning speed. Continued my run and finally u-turn at 5km mark. Saw more familar faces on the way back, Darren (who doesn’t seems to recognise me), Diana (who seems like she’s enjoying every bit of the race), Jimmy Wong (tired but still going strong).
Last 4 km to go. I decided it was time to increase my pace since I had dropped behind too much. I had no idea how fast I was going then. I was just running with an aim to close up the gap with the runners ahead, and if I could, overtake them. The last 1.5km was pure mental and I could hardly wait to see the “Finish” banner soon. And finally, I spotted it from a distance. Sprinted towards the finishing line and completed my 10km run in 46″36 min. Total time taken for Sing Bi: 1hr 35m 36s. Not exactly fantastic, but I can live with it.=)

One of my favourite running pictures from the event.
*Photo credits to Key Power International*

The best part was to catch up with friends at the finishing line and share about our experiences. I realised many of them faced difficulties during the swim too as we were swimming against the currents on the return. Yet, their eyes shone when they talked abt their race experiences and I knew, like me, they had enjoyed the race tremendously. Indeed, the sense of achievement for completing a biathlon was so strong that fatigue was all but forgotten.
All in all, I had fun and an awesome first-time race experience of a biathlon. I wouldn’t mind trying again next year but I really got to work harder on my swim the next time round.
Thank you Jiahui, Weisian, David and Yanghao (not in picture) for taking the plunge with me!
And also the supportive boyfriend who stayed throughout the event and cheered for me as I crossed the finishing line.

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