Agnes from the Sri Chinmoy AC in Edinburgh recalls the amazing journey of her first Ironman Triathlon - completed in the debilitating heat and humidity of Malaysia!
"Taper, taper taper." I recalled Tarit's advice. Do you the meaning of the word taper? Rest for 3 weeks before the race. Believe me, your body will be grateful to you!
Here I am on the day before the race, muscles soft like a jelly. Where did all the countless hours of training disappear? I could not feel even one moment of the hard work in my legs any more. I guess the regular massage, healthy nutrition, Megabhuti's liver cleansing once a month, and a taper did the trick. My longest training ride was very easy - forty three miles along the race course on Sunday a week before the race. The beauty of the nature was stunning. Sandy beaches, Malay villages, palm trees, small islands, I was really lucky to be here in this heaven for more than two weeks with plenty of time to acclimatise and relax. Luckily for me, no big hills this year! The bike course has been changed. On Friday two days before the race, Andreas from Switzerland, Robert from Czech Republic, Linda from Hungary and myself moved to Kuah nearer the race start. I left behind my dear room-mate Julia from Oxford, who was very patiently sharing a room with me, my bike, and all the race gear which was lying just about everywhere.
After Neil almost crashed into me on the bike during the Portobello Sprint Triathlon, because I could not see him from my pony tail, I knew the biggest and only sacrifice had to be done - I had to cut my long hair for safety reasons. Julia was happy to do that.
So finally I was ready for the start. That day I was hundred percent sure that this race was nothing to do with me, but was 99% God's grace and 1% help from all my dear friends and family who coached, massaged, advised and encouraged me and who fixed my bike! All the credit goes to them.
As the party was on Friday afternoon I did not feel like going anywhere. Finally after Robert's third phone call I made it out from my room. Linda, Robert and myself arrived at the pasta party - once there I was really grateful for this. It was so inspiring to chat with all these great athletes. First we met Roger Price from Houston - it was his 27th Ironman. Diane and Debbie were excitement for my first race - we all exchanged really nice and kind words of encouragement during the race.
Next day. Finally we ended up at the same table as Zsuzsanna Harsanyi, Petr Vabrousek and famous Jason Shortis. Zsuzsanna is a Hungarian professional. She was second, her time 10:16:24. She is sweeter than the sweetest. And none of the photos is doing her any justice. She is much, much nicer. We spent hours together chatting about everything. Petr is a Czech professional. He was fourth in a time of 9:00:06. He is also extremely kind. He stopped during the race to asked a Danish guy who was struggling if he was ok. A real sportsman. We were all totally impressed by Jason - he was first in 8:36:33. He was racing at our Sri Chinmoy Triathlon Festival in Australia (He is Australian). Eventually all of them were holding the torch, smiling for the photos, it was a great evening.
The day before the race we had the bus tour on the course, the race briefing, and the bike and gear check-in. I managed to get myself together and concentrate on sorting out my stuff, and not forgetting anything from my cycling and running kit. I was a bit nervous but not for long. We went for a nice meal with Linda, who decided to stay longer and help on the race. That was absolutely terrific. While Linda was trying to get some bananas for me from the night market, I went to the race info once again - I was feeling OK. I read the "Spiritual meaning of the Triathlon" by Sri Chinmoy and a card from my dear friend Alison (Ironman New Zealand finisher) before I went to bed. Alison's message: "All this time training and waiting and now the moment is near. Put your foot on the accelarator and get into third gear. Good luck in Langkawi. Put all your training to good use. But most of all enjoy the experience, you will love it."
The Ironman Langkawi begins with a two lap swim in Kuah bay, which starts and finishes alongside a giant eagle statue. The three-loop bike course is fairly flat and is followed by the four lap run course. Total swim distance is 2.4 miles followed with bike ride of 112 miles and finished with a 26.2 mile marathon run.
Dawn. No thoughts. No feelings. No emotions. I just exist. I knew I am where I am supposed to be doing what I am supposed to do. First time in my life, I really trained for a race and I could feel why Sri Chinmoy puts such an emphasis on importance of physical fitness. I experience how does it feel being surrounded with healthy, fit bodies, focussed minds and determined vitals. It was an overwhelming, pure and powerful energy. I was all gratitude for the privilege to make it to the start line. All of us, the pros and the newcomers, had the same goal - to transcend our own limitations. The goal of Self-Transcendence.
Three hundred athletes from thirty six countries started together in the warm waters of the jetty. It was fantastic. I really enjoyed the swim. I had time to bask in the sunshine and send my greetings to Surya the Sun-God who would accompany me today, the whole day long. Well my first shocking experience was when after the second helf point turn I noticed that I needed 47 minutes for one quarter of the loop. God, I won't make it within the cut-off! I will have to stop the race! Cut-off time for the swim was two hours tenty minutes. In a pool my time was tragic, very slow, 1:36. Probably the current was the reason for my even slower swim in the open water. I was paddling as fast as I could. The way back took only 17 minutes with the help of the current. I was out in four hours three minutes, and very happy that the first task was over. I was still in the game.
Finally on my bike, everything went along very well in the first lap. I was fascinated with Chris Lieto's speed - Bryan Rhodes and Jason were far behind him on the bike. Rebecca Preston was the first girl - it was amazing to watch the pros in action. I saw Robert who was going very fast - Andreas was enjoying himself, smiling and asking how am I, it was nice to get some extra encouragement.
The disaster struck in the second lap - there was no water at the aid stations - my mind was in a state of complete panic. On the next aid station I wasked for water, they said "it's water". Great! Relieved. I poured so called water on my head - it was an energy drink. My hair, glasses, jersey, bike, everything was sticky. I would need to pedal for five or six more hours in 40 degrees heat without water. On top of all this my gear shifter refused to move. LAter on Sean in the bike shop told me that the cable probably got stuck. I felt totally helpless. The ambulance was passing with the fastest speed past me with the sirens on. I saw a few athletes lying on the grass. My body was fine but I started feeling dizzy from heat and lack of water. Suddenly I remembered Scott Balfour's advice - "stay calm whatever happens" - so I kept on repeating this. I was so grateful to him for all the advice, coaching, inspiration. He did Kone and other Ironmans - he's world champion in his agegroup, and Scott shared his top secrets with me - "stay calm whatever happens".
A few tears were rolling down my cheeks when I reached the Kali Temple - Kali is my favourite Goddess. I prayed to her, "Mother..... please don't let me die here, please save me". Mother Kali listened to my prayers - from that moment on my gearshift was working. then we had water at all the water stations.
I was pacing myself on 14 miles per hour on the bike, so finally I finished the bike just before the cut off time in 10 hours 24 minutes. Cutoff was 10 hours 30 minutes. I was delighted that I could walk after more than eight hours in the saddle. At this moment I knew I would finish - I had six and a half hours for the marathon. One and a half hours each lap and thats it. I changed slowly , realising that my legs and arms were completely sunburnt. I guess the girls did not put enough sunblock on me after the swim. Soon I had a high fever, but kept on running. I did not want to end up in medical in case they told me to stop. I was so happy to see the others who were struggling on the run - some of them were already finishing. It was just great to have all these people running there on the running loop. I was just copying others - they all had ice cold sponges on their neck, chest, shoulders - so I soon looked like a body builder with all the sponges under my jersey. I was soaked but still I felt I had a really high fever. I started getting well-known muscle pain in my quads. Bioplasma, arnica and energy gels; I stuffed all these in my face with hope to get over it. And then I remember the verse from Sri Chinmoy's triathlon song - "I run with the smile of the beyond" - the whole song is:
"I love my great triathlon, it shows my heart-gold-vision-dawn, I swim in the sea of silver light, I cycle along the road of gold delight, I run with the smile of the beyond, my inner cry God-treasure-diamond"
So I started smiling even more, I started chatting with everybody. In the fourth, final leg I had my own team - we were all running together it was just great. How I wished that everybody would finish.
I had the greatest cheering crew - many Hungarians like Linda stayed over in Langkawi: Piroska, Tamas, Andrea, Jozsi, Laci and the Ironman finishers Andreas from Switzerland and others who waited for me at the end.
Just before the finish, Linda gave me the Harmony Torch (see www.worldharmonyrun.org - Ed.) it was great to run with the torch through all the crowd, it was so beautiful. The flame was really nice, big, and you could really see the flame from far away in the dark night. I was just so happy. A few athletes came to me after the race and thanked me for the moral support. I felt really honestly privileged to be a member of the new world - the world of Ironman and Ironwoman. People with iron bodies, oneness hearts, sweet smiles.
My family had a most exciting day, waiting for the news, results and pictures on the web site. They were all so happy to see me smiling in the first picture of the second bike lap. My mum wrote: "Daughter, you know very well that I don't fancy all these stupid races, but this was really something special, I am really proud of you."
I would never even make it to the start without the help and inspiration of all these people. Tom Chambers, representing GB in Olympic Distance Triathlons, was one of those who gave me the starting kick. At that time, in the months after my dearest cousin's passing, I didn't want to run or swim, didn't even dare to buy a bike, and at that time one day he came to the shop and reminded me that I said at the beginning of January that I would like to do a triathlon. He said "I bought three pairs of shoes - and you didn't do any triathlon?". So at that moment something just clicked in me - I knew that I had to do something with my life and I knew that Milan (my cousin) would be proud. The very same day I bought a trainging diary and the very same night I wrote my training schedule and on Monday I bought my bike and this is how I started - very, very, slowly and steadily - crawled - all the way to the finish line in Langkawi!
Thanks to you all without whom this dream would never come true, and most importantly gratitude to my teacher Sri Chinmoy for his blessing and his smile - full of joy and pride.
Agnes finished the Langkawi International Ironman Triathlon in a time of 16 hours 28 minutes, the cut-off time was 17 hours.