Monday, August 12, 2013

Health Update & Cebu Race Report

After my recent 'near-death' heatstroke/rhabdo experience in Bintan, I was forced to spend four days in hospital (hate those places!) as my blood counts were all over the place, specifically showing really high iron levels and iron saturation. This was confusing the docs as I had some kidney and liver dmage due to the rhabdo. I ended up checking out of hospital before I should have and went on to see a few different specialists as an out-patient. They'd ordered all kinds of tests, including liver ultrasound and liver-stiffness test and finally, a liver biopsy under semi-general anaesthetic. I had been aware that myself and a few others in the family had this genetic condition called Haemachromotosis which may cause people with the gene to store too much iron. Apparently the gene comes from Northern Europe - was not even aware I had ancestry from there. High iron levels are very toxic to the body, causing damage to many major organs, via the pituitary gland including the Jatz Crackers! It's ironic as Vanessa's iron is off the charts low and I'm the opposite. We are the same blood type too I told her if I transfused a pint into her the night before Hawaii she would be on the podium for sure. The only treatment for high iron is to donate blood regularly, which fortunately is very effective and provided you do you should have normal life expectancy.
"You Are An........."

Fortunately my liver showed no damage related to alcohol, and was in very good nick, but it was soaked with iron. As I went through this process apart from the local docs I should mention a big thanks to Scott Gall and my coach Woody for helping me through it. Scott is Doctor working in the UK and also an IM triathlete, I'd met at some Euro IMs as he is also coached by Woody. We'd only met briefly at two races, but he was very kind with his time interpreting results and recommending course of action, offering good advice writing very long, thorough, prompt and helpful emails. He was very kind with his time, as was Woody with a few Skypes that meant a lot when I was struggling.

The treatment is pretty clear, keep monitoring iron levels and donating blood as often as is required. The problem is after donating a pint of blood  (about 15% of your blood volume) your performance in endurance sports is reduced for a 4-6 weeks afterwards, due to the reduced oxygen carrying red blood cells. So I have to time my blood donations with training and key races carefully. A bit of a conundrum, that I'm still working out how to manage. The govt only lets you donate every 3 months here (and they do accept blood high in iron) but I need to donate once every month or even two week is high, so some will be tipped down the drain, or stored carefully for pre IM re-infusion = ). Coming into a race I need to decide how close to donate, the bigger the race, the further before the race date for the last donation obviously. But having the iron in does damage, so it's a bit of a tough one.

And the donor's competitor

Anyway enough about me and my iron levels, let's go onto some more about me and triathlon, and more on me and me and me.

Philippines Half Ironman 70.3 Cebu

August 5, 2013

2nd overall amateur, 1st AG 40-44, Fastest AG bike split prize winner.

This was the fifth running of this event and the second in it's new location of Cebu. The first three years was at a resort in Cam Sur. I'd only ever heard good things about this race, and even better reports since it moved to Cebu.  The first year they had 500 starters and every year it's gotten bigger. This year it sold it's 2,100 capacity in three days and there was a 700+ long wait-list for an entry too. Next year it will sell out in minutes I reckon, as the word is out as to what a good race it is.

2,100 entered, these ladies are wait-lisingt but unfortunately missed out.
This race is the baby of Fred Uytengsu, an American- Filipino billionaire who made his fortune selling "Cobra' energy drinks and 'Alaska' Milk in the Philippines, and is a try-geek. He owns the company that puts the event on and spares no expense. There are very few 'Ironman' branded races left in Asia, this one Taiwan half and IM Japan in Hokkaido are about it.

30th richest guy in the world, but fortunately he is not as fast as he looks and finished an hour after me. You can't have everything mate!

Vanessa and I had signed up for this race knowing we'd be in Singapore, but due to some staffing shortages, and complications with the opening of the clinic in Singapore (nearly resolved) Vanessa was in Tokyo, so she couldn't make the start line. It was an easy 3.5 hour flight from Singapore, and me and Rich Wadders made the trip down together, he was going solo too. We were too late booking the convenient hotels, so ended up getting a slot in the Soto Grande a few kms out. After a few days we renamed the Notso Grande. The breakfast buffet had an uncanny knack of being totally devoid of any edible food at all times. My pre-race dinner of seafood had the rare honour of being one of the few dishes I could not eat. Frozen seafood with weird slop poured onto it served on a plate from a saucepan without so much as a garnish or a seconds thought.

It was worse than this. Really.
As soon as you arrive at the airport some girls were asking if you were racing and if you replied in the affirmative they put a beaded 'Cebu"necklace around you. Race posters were everywhere and the airport was modern, civilised and functional. A $20 cab ride took you to the hotel. The whole island of Cebu seemed to be really behind the event, with everyone wishing you well before race day everywhere you went. People would gather in groups around your bike whenever it was parked lifting it up to feel how light it was (I bit my tongue that wanted to say - it's about the aero, not the weight).  The expo is indoors and massive. A few Celebs were racing, Apl D Ap (the black guy with the dyed Mohawk from Black Eyed Peas) who even did a couple of songs at the press conference. Seems he has the bike bug. He has Fillipino background and doing 'The Voice' in Manilla, hence is in the hood. Next year he promised to do the whole event. Ironman CEO Andrew Messick raced. And of course Fred!

"Everybody, get into it...Let's get it started" Apl D freestylin'!
The weather update at the race briefing was given by Philippine's most famous weather guy who was racing and was very entertaining with his signature funny hat and live satellite chart. The announcer was Whit Raymond as usual.  Josh Rix's wife Jem who we'd met in Hawaii is a professional musician, starring in Wicked and she busted out some great songs at pre and post race parties to. There are kids everywhere in Cebu, catholicism doing its bit to keep the locals producing new donors of money.  They were handing out free chocolate milk and Krispy Kreme donuts at the welcome party too. Not the best message to be sending, but they take what they can get I guess.

Creating quite a few dead people too. Damn they taste good though!

On the negative side for the event (and I am struggling for them in this race) the area is pretty rough outside the resorts, with very dangerous riding and not a place for a training holiday.

SWIM 1.9kms 28mins

The swim is a simple non-wetsuit rectangle floating start in 3 waves, pros, then 5 minutes later under 40s, then ten minutes later over 40's and women. I had forgotten my speed suit in the hotel (again!) so decided to race topless and put my tri top on in T1 - I hung it over the bars as it was raining and planned to put it on skirt-style - feet first, which is much faster for the tight tops. And, much more masculine of course. The air was pretty cool before the race so I spent most of the waiting time wading in the warm water. Finally we made our way out to the floating start and I was wading right next to the start cans. Unfortunately about 200 others were not so aware of where the start line was and were wading in the 50m in front of me. I was shouting and beckoning them to come back to the start line, but they were counting down to the start (always a mistake) so with 2 Min's to go I gave up and swam out to the front line of the 'creepers'.  If you can't beat 'em join 'em! Controlling the crowd before a start is always difficult. I got a good start and did the whole swim with some guy and Fen Ng from HK who is an ex top swimmer. She later told me she'd swum 4 times all year! Not fair when I do 14kms a week just to keep up! On the bright side, I felt strong the whole time and got out feeling fresh too.

It was a congested swim with wave start

Bike 90kms 2.20

The bike course goes out of town for 10kms then up and back twice  down a freeway (M shape with each lap having it's own lane), and then back into town. The crowd support was amazing; three deep on the bike through town with screaming/shrieking kids for almost the whole ten kilometres.  I kept thinking Apl D Ap or the weather man with the funny hat was behind me and looked around a few times to see no one there. I was riding pretty strongly and the 280-300 watts felt easy enough, I'd been biking weakly recently but I think that was due to the blood donations and now I'd not donated in more than a month, my levels were getting back towards normal. I can only imagine how strong the pro cyclist feel when they put the pint of blood back in the night before a race.

A wet first hour on the bike.

Coach Woody told me to ride easy for the first 45kms and I thought I was but was passing lots of people and was not passed once. I guessed I was first in my AG. The rest of the bike went through pretty uneventfully. I passed a few more from the group ten minutes ahead, then was in no-man's land behind the fast guys from that group for the rest of the ride.

Keep it upright.

RUN 21kms 1.37

The run is a 2 x out and back along a quiet road to a peninsula with a few turn offs into resorts. There were people lining the course the entire way, lots of groups of school kids singing their local song, that was a very lively little ditty and you almost got to know the words by the end of the run. The crowd support rivals Roth, and maybe even surpasses it because there are so many kids with that innocent unbridled excitement. It was mostly flat and after blowing up in my last half in Taiwan (and in many races) I was very careful to make sure I did not to go out too quickly.

I was surprised to see my ol' mate Bucek walking already 1km into the run, but didn't say anything as I went by. I started at 4.20-30min k and drifted to 4.30-40 in the last 10kms.  I was pretty sure I was winning my AG so was very happy in the last 500m, then a guy sprinted past me at 3min k pace, I matched him for a few seconds and even dropped him, but realised he was not in my AG and had started 10mins ahead of me, so I slowed and let him go by. I wanted to enjoy the chute. It was a big relief to cross the line without incident.


The post race had ice baths, a gelato stall, fresh fruits, Asahi beer, chocolate milk, Krispy Kreme donuts, croissants, massage salon, private salon with a range of cleaning products etc etc all free. I didn't want to leave. Probably the best post-race area I've ever been in. The trophies and finisher's medal were designed and made by a local jewellery designer. Both were original and really special.

Rich Waddington had a good day. One determined and inspirational mofo

They announced before the race that there were a bonuses for the fastest swim, K-Swiss run split (shoes) and on the bike, "Timex Watches" $300USD cash prize for the fastest age group rider through the first 45kms of the bike, but I never really thought about it during the race. Chatting with my old mate Bucek after the race I asked him why he was walking on the run only 1km in as he's normally a good runner. He said he'd pushed too hard for the bike bonus and had nothing left. I asked him if he got it and he said he did, no doubt was sprinting to be first in the under 40's over the 45km mark. I wondered if he did a big air punch as he want by the 45km marker. I'd started after him and that reminded me of the prize and thought I was in with a chance, but just said, 'congrats mate'. When they were announcing the winner, he was tightening his pony-tail and dusting himself down to go up and then my name was called. It was pretty funny moment (for me, maybe not so funny for him). Still he was a good sport about it but got his revenge by piling me with too many vodka shots at the after party when I was in a vulnerable state, 'tired and emotional' and it did not end well. Rich said it was easier to look after me when I was in a coma.

 Next up is the big one. IM Canada in Whitler. As they have 100 slots there, it makes it a lot easier to qualify in the most populated age groups. For example if all the Ironmans I'd done had 100 slots, this year would be my 4th consecutive Hawaii. So, all things being equal, I really should get the long elusive slot there, but my ability to fail is well honed, so one more would be no big surprise either! Will give it a crack on Aug 25.

Vat a mess!

1 comment:

  1. So THAT explains why you're an Ironman. It's in your blood. :) Great race Bevan. You and Vanessa continue to inspire.