Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Triathlete not setting targets for her Ironman debut there

From The Star - view the original article here.

IT TOOK six weeks for triathlete Carmen Leong to recuperate from her debut at the Ironman Western Australia Triathlon held in Busselton, Australia in December.

The gutsy 38-year-old nurse said she felt really exhausted after her outing.

“I was physically drained after the race and my muscles were sore. But, following the event, we had a good time with a week's vacation in Australia. Apart from accomplishing a respectable result in the race, the wine tasting at the renowned vineyard at Margaret River was the defining moment of the Down Under trip,” said Leong, who went there with five other triahletes from Malaysia.

In Australia, Leong clocked a creditable 12'30 on the gruelling course comprising a 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and 42.2km run.

Training partners: Pritchard (left) encouraging Leong to do well.

She finished 21st in the women's 35 to 39 years age-group and 99th in the overall women's standings.

“Honestly, I was surprised with my own performance because I was only hoping to cross the finish line in 13 hours. I felt strong after the cycling leg and was all pumped up to take on the marathon distance in the run,” said Leong, who was the winner in the women's above 35 years category at the Desaru Half Ironman last year.

After having taken part in shorter-distance triathlon events such as the Olympic (1.5km swim, 40km cycle and 10km run) and Half Ironman (1.6km swim, 90km cycle and 21km run) routes since 2004, Leong was persuaded by her training partner Sam Pritchard to take up the challenge and feature in the Ironman distance.

“Initially, she was unsure of her condition and readiness to step up to the challenge and only wanted to go as a spectator. But, I managed to convince her to sign up and train for the event.

“It was a serious decision to graduate from Half Ironman to the Ironman event. She displayed very strong character and tough mental strength to achieve a fantastic result at Busselton,” said Pritchard, who has been residing here for the past eight years.

According to Pritchard, they trained for three and a half months, chalking up between 12 and 15 hours of training in a week when they were gearing up for the event in Australia.

Gutsy nurse: Leong stretching before her workout.

“Training with a group of friends who share the same interest has been a great way to stay focused on the task ahead because we encourage each other to achieve our individual goals,” said Leong, who finds time to work out in between her work commitments.

In fact, Pritchard, a 57-year-old retired Englishman, spurred Leong to do well when he supplied her with a Cervelo P2 Carbon bicycle specially designed for triathlon, worth RM14,000.

“I realised she needed proper equipment to achieve good results. I wanted her to feel good about her chances of doing well,” said Pritchard.

Come Feb 23, Leong will be eyeing another good run in her first appearance at the Langkawi Ironman.

“I have been there three times as a spectator. I have not set any specific target – I am aiming only to finish the race. The hot and humid weather has always been a major concern for the competitors. In addition, the cycling leg is also very demanding because of the hilly terrain,” Leong said, adding that she pocketed RM7,000 in prize money in her best season racing on the triathlon circuit.

Ahead of the race in Langkawi, Pritchard and Leong are planning to cycle to Port Dickson to join Leong's family for the Chinese New Year celebration in her hometown of Lukut before tapering down in their training regime.

“It is important that we get to the starting line injury-free and in good condition to endure the full distance,” said Pritchard, who will be competing in the men's 55 to 59 years section.

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