Monday, November 17, 2014

Resort World Langkawi for Ironman Langkawi 2014

I had a tough time choosing my hotel for Langkawi 2014, I had two options: to stay at some hotel close to the race venue along with other athletes, or choose one which is a little more comfortable like a resort away from the center of the city. I was happy that I chose the latter, against conventional wisdom, and decided on Resort World Langkawi, based on the recommendation of my sponsors Malaysia Tourism.

Unlike marathon races where one gets in on a Friday evening or Saturday morning for a Sunday morning race, Ironman Triathlon is a little more elaborate, organizers conduct practice swims and tours of the race, to orient athletes about the race, and conduct elaborate post race events for athletes, all of this means one has to stay in race city for at least 6nights. This extended duration also helps with practice rides and getting used to race environment and conditions, especially if the weather is very humid and hot or very cold. Given the 30degress+ temperature and high relative humidity, this advance preparation helped me plan my race better.

At 20 minutes driving distance from the airport, the resort is pretty accessible for those visiting Langkawi. Perhaps one of the largest resorts on the island, Resort World Langkawi comprises gigantic rooms facing the blue-green ocean and the resort’s very own jetty.

The staff at Resort World Langkawi was more than helpful to my special requests, including allowing me to keep my race bike in my room, helping me with setup of the bike, in addition to organizing a hotel maxicab for transporting the bike to race venue and airport, regular city cabs can't accommodate the bike. Given the long duration of my stay a regular hotel can get quite boring, and a resort and its recreation facilities on location made things a lot easier, especially after a long day of training. They can organize a private cruise dinner if you are traveling with a special someone, and offer sightseeing tours as well. Other activities include water sports like scuba diving, snorkeling, Jet-skiing, Canoeing and kayaking, and even Fishing trips and Island hopping.

The range of water sport activity can keep one very busy and make the trip very enjoyable. Staying at resort also tends to be a lot more self-sustaining, especially if one is traveling for the race with family or friends. There are interesting facilities for everyone, especially the spa and water sport facilities within the resort.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Giant SCR zero bike review

Over the last few years, I have used a variety of bikes, from folders to carbon road bikes. But after my half Iron distance at Hyderabad in 2013, I was convinced that a basic entry-level road bike like the Fomas was just not enough for the full iron. So, when I registered for my first full Ironman, I wanted to be sure I had the right set of wheels.

Once I signed up Giant Starkenn bikes as my sponsors for the Langkawi Ironman 2014 race, I discussed my requirements with them in great detail, before choosing the bike that I could train on as well as use as my race bike. Though I would have ideally gone in for a full carbon bike—at least 2kgs lighter—for the race, it would be really tough to train with, given the severely potholed monsoon roads of Mumbai and the fact that I was not left with much time to train elsewhere. After a lot of deliberation, we zeroed in on the aluminium alloy body SCR Zero.

Having trained on it for a few months, and having used the SCR Zero during the race, I would definitely say that it is well-suited for the first time Ironman enthusiast. However, if money is not a constraint, then the SCR Zero would be the idea training bike, while a full carbon bike would be perfect for the race, assuming you have at least one year to train with both the bikes. Unfortunately, I did not have this luxury.

The SCR Zero performed well both during the training as well as the actual race. The only thing issue was the lack of choice to use different tyres. Kenda, the default OE Tyres, just do not cut it for the Mumbai monsoons and eroded roads, even though they performed well during the actual race. So, it would be a good idea to have another set of spare specialist tyres for Indian roads. Alternately, use tyre liners—like I did—from Mr Tuffy, making those tyres pothole-proof! And I have to thank my runner and cyclist friend Srini (@srini091) for coming up with this recommendation. It worked like magic!

Like most of you, I have been pampered with easy access to affordable roadside mechanics. But, thanks to the Ironman, another important learning for me was to learn changing, repairing and replacing tyres in addition to assembling and disassembling of the road bike, with reasonable ease. I remember shelling out Rs 800 for assembling the pre-fabricated semi-knocked bike (only saddle, handle bars and front tyre needs to be installed) at a specialist bike shop in the Mumbai. I can now put a bike together with minimal effort in 30 minutes flat, with the help of my Allen key set and a spanner. Trust me, putting that bike together is not as difficult as it appears (refer attached pictures). I was able to perfectly set up my set of wheels before the race at my hotel (Resort World Langkawi) in Malaysia so perfectly that I did not even bother to get my bike double checked by race mechanics at the Ironman expo. I learned that the maximum time is spent aligning and fine tuning the bike and not actually putting it together. I strongly recommend giving it a shot by yourself. Just be patient and meticulous, and it will all fall in place (quite literally).

 My bike parted in the Ironman Langkawi race transition parking lot