Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rookies aim for perfect debut

Point of no return: (From left) Quay joining the triathletes Looi, Juliana, Ng and Thiang in a stretching session.

Powering up: Quay (right) sharing a light moment with (from left) Thiang, Juliana, Looi and Ng.
THERE is no turning back for four rookie triathletes in their bid to complete the Ironman distance at the upcoming Langkawi Ironman on Feb 28.

For a perfect debut, the quartet of Jason Thiang, Raymond Ng, Nor Juliana Ali and Michelle Looi are aiming to complete the race, made up of a 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and 42km run, within 17 hours.

But, the team’s coach Tony Quay is optimistic that his charges are capable of accomplishing the task in 15 hours.“After the change from cycling to running, the first quarter of the 42km run is the most crucial part of the race. It is a difficult period because they need to get into the rhythm using different muscle groups in the lower body.

“It will determine whether they have set themselves in the right position to finish the race.“Their training routine over the weekends includes long rides between 100km and 120km before switching to running for 35 to 45 minutes on Saturday. On Sunday, they will be clocking the mileage ranging from 25km to 30km in the running segment,” he said.

The Great Eastern Pacesetters’ 30km run scheduled on Jan 18 will be a platform for them to gauge their ability to complete the final leg of the marathon distance run at the Ironman.
Juliana, who bagged the National Female Duathlete of the Year title, said it was a natural transition to step up to the next level.
The 26-year-old psychology student received the recognition based on her consistent performance at the three-leg Malakoof University Duathlon Series held at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Malaya and Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia.In the race for the Best Women Triathlete of the Year, she also settled for fourth spot behind Stephanie Chok, Carmen Leong and Looi.Juliana only featured in sprint races covering a distance of 500m swim, 20km cycle and 5km run at three meets at A-Farmosa, Port Dickson and Desaru in her first season competing in triathlon last year.“In fact, it happened by chance. Initially, I wanted to accompany a friend for the meet in A-Farmosa. But, I decided to sign up and took two weeks to prepare for it. It will be great to inspire other women to come out and have a go at it,” she added.In her stiffest test thus far, she clocked 6’25 over the half Ironman course of 2km swim, 90km cycle and 21km to finish 11th overall in the women’s 20 to 29 years category at Desaru this year.
“Running is my strongest discipline and I need to work on my technique in the swim to do better in Langkawi,” said Juliana.Looi acknowledged her training partners’ contributions in keeping her on the right track to shape up.A respectable performance at the Chin Woo Biathlon last year spurred the 29-year-old programme analyst to take up more demanding assignments in triathlon.“Although I’ve always been fond of outdoor activities, I did not start competing seriously until this year. I am pleased with my progress in four (A-Farmosa, Kenyir, Port Dickson and Desaru) of the five meets in the local competition calendar last year.“My training partners are pushing me in the right direction and I am determined to keep up with them during training,” she said.
In contrast, Ng is not going to let the pressure of achieving a specific target to ruin his outing.A year after recovering from brain aneurysm, Ng took up physical pursuit as an healthy way of life in 2006.The 33-year-old said he never thought he would have so much fun combining the three disciplines — swim, cycle and run — in triathlon.“Considering that I was fighting for survival in 2005, I just want to go out there and enjoy the occasion because I have been given a second chance to live,” he said.
After priming up with several races over the Olympic distance (1.5km swim, 40km cycle and 10km run) and half Ironman this year, team manager Thiang is also sharing the same aspiration for a memorable outing at the Ironman. Recently, the 50-year-old Thiang convinced PowerBar to support their quest with supply of the brand’s endurance and recovery supplements. Nestle Nutrition business development executive Shahrulniza Othman said they were impressed by the ordinary people taking up the challenge.“Completing the Ironman distance is a personal achievement. They might not be the top performers going for podium finish but they play an important role to influence others to take up a similar challenge,” he added.

- Star Metro, Friday 9 January 2009
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