Taking on triathlon, part IV: This is what race day looked like at Ironman 70.3 Goa

Months of training finally got SuYin to race day, where she swam, cycled, and ran in the humid October weather. Were her endeavours successful? Read on to know how she fared…
Ironman 70.3 Goa
SuYin with her husband after race day at Ironman 70.3 Goa. Image courtesy: SuYin Kalia-Ong
SuYin Kalia-Ong Updated: 23 Jan 2020, 15:50 pm IST
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This is the final feature in a four-part series, chronicling SuYin’s conquest at the Ironman 70.3 in Goa in 2019.

The biggest triathlon event in the world has come to India for the first time–the Ironman 70.3–to be held in Goa, on the 21st of October 2019. Participating tickets to the race were sold out months before, but both my husband and I were lucky to secure a spot. 

After months of training, the accommodations are set, flights are booked and we are on our way–first time to Goa! 

Two days to race day
Checking in our bikes for the flight is a nerve-wrecking event in itself. From the check-in counter (please, please, please don’t let the bikes be overweight), to the time we collected our bikes at the Goa airport (please, please, please arrive in one piece) till we got to our hotel. Even then, we didn’t breathe a sigh of relief before the bikes were assembled (please, please, please tell me I remembered to pack the wrench!). 

The town is abuzz, and there is a certain festive flair in the air. Close to Miramar beach, where the Ironman 70.3 commences, banners are splashed across the roads and newly-arrived athletes are lugging in their bike cases, while cyclists are whizzing past on their futuristic TT bikes and runners are jogging in packs. There were plenty of furtive glances (can I be faster than him? What running shoes are those?), mixed in with blatant ogling at the sleek bicycles, gadgets, and accessories! 

One day to race day
The pre-race jitters have truly set in. We spent the morning doing a swim trial at Miramar Beach. The water was a little choppy close to shore, and due to the gradual slope athletes had to wade out for a good 200 metres before the water was deep enough to swim. I overheard a few nodding in satisfaction: “That’s about 400 to 600 metres less for us to swim”. Trying out the swim course also boosted our confidence, knowing which way the current drifts, and taking note of sighting buoys. 

With less than 24 hours to go, we took this last day easy, mostly checking and double checking all the items we needed for race day. Energy gels, bars, bike computer displays, running shoes, bike pump, spare tubes, swimming cap and goggles… quite a list! Once satisfied with the preparation, it was time for an early night. 

Finally, race day!
Before the alarm buzzed at 4 am, I was already wide awake. Bleary-eyed, we applied the number decals on our arms and legs (early morning applications of decals have a consequence of being applied wrong side up, or/and in reverse, don’t ask how I know!), quietly chewed our breakfasts, and checked through our kit again. The toilet was given an unusually high number of visits during the hour–best to get it all out now instead of later during the race!

At the transition zone, the music was pumping. For some inexplicable reason, the loud, upbeat music helped to settle some nerves. The remaining hour before the race started had us setting up equipment and nutrition for subsequent transitions. 

And thus, months of preparation, early morning training in the heat and rain, and everything else brought us to this moment. 


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Also, read: Taking on triathlon, part III: Fresh veggies and homemade desserts–the diet for a triathlete

SWIM, 1.9 KM: Swim sections can be the least enjoyable. In fact, some compare it to a washing machine experience. Lots of flailing arms, getting kicked and whacked in the face, and being pushed underwater. The swim section is completed in two loops. Swimming further from the inner loop gets you away from thrashing limbs, but you’ll end up swimming a larger distance–which will jeopardise timing and waste energy. Swimming closer to the loop is more efficient, but this is also where saturation of human bodies is highest–there is nothing more annoying than getting into a swim rhythm and then having your goggles kicked. 

Swim done (actual distance exceeded by a few hundred meters!) and on to transition. Transitions are the fourth discipline of triathlon–if done efficiently, it can shave a few minutes off your total race time. This requires careful planning and zero fumbling around! 

BIKE, 90KM: The majority of nutrition happens on the bike, as the upper body is relatively static, making it easier to consume and digest food or gels. With 90 kilometres of approximately three hours of riding, there was a constant flurry of activity–drinking, tearing of gels, chewing and replenishing fluids from aid stations.

Ironman 70.3 Goa
Image courtesy: SuYin Kalia-Ong

The cycling portion of triathlon is easily my favourite–mainly, you get to enjoy the view with the wind playing on your face (I see why dogs love car rides!). The bike course is a scenic route circling by the river, with plenty of tree cover–it almost makes you forget about the race. Roads are closed for the event, making it safer for triathletes and participants are able to devote focus on riding, than on traffic. 

Three loops of 30 kilometres and onwards to T2 to rack the bike, and for the final event… 

RUN, 21.1 KM: By the start of the run, the heat has crept in. Parts of the run course lie on lovely, shaded trails but the humidity and heat transcends these pockets of respite. The crowd has grown and the cheering seems to give life to our legs. At the aid stations, the volunteers were fantastic, making sure athletes have what they need–water, cola, energy gels, crisps, and even iced sponge. 

The last few kilometres were the hardest. My legs started protesting and being uncooperative. It took all of my mental willpower to shut the whining and kept plodding on.

Ironman 70.3 Goa
Image courtesy: SuYin Kalia-Ong

The finish line couldn’t come soon enough–crossing it triggered a series of emotions, mostly relief and determination to never doing this again! (This thought flipped 180 degrees an hour later, as I basked fondly on the day’s highlights). 

Ironman 70.3 Goa
Image courtesy: SuYin Kalia-Ong

All in all, the Ironman 70.3 Goa was brilliantly organised. Top notch management and planning, everything went smoothly. This being my first half-Iron distance, I was extremely pleased to finish within my target time. As cherry on top, I won the Age Group, which meant I qualified for the 2020 World Championships in Lake Taupō in New Zealand. More training, and the opportunity to race with some of the world’s best beckons!

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About the Author

SuYin is a Malaysian ex-offshore geophysicist who met her husband while diving in the Andamans. Since then, she has called India her home. She is a triathlete, a pastry chef, and also a rescue scuba diver for DIVEIndia (in no particular order!).  ...Read More

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