LANGKAWI: For the past 10 years, Izham Che Abdul Hamid and Khazali Harun were just passive on-lookers as the Malaysian Ironman Triathlon athletes raced by their village in Ulu Melaka, Langkawi.
This year, they have taken a brave plunge by entering their names for the gruelling race – which involves a 3.8km swim, 180km cycling and 42.2km marathon run. The 11th edition of the Malaysian Ironman Triathlon will be held in Langkawi tomorrow.
The duo, who are regular competitors in local half and full marathon competitions, are nervous ahead of their Ironman debut.
“Every year, without fail, we would come out to watch the Ironman race. The idea to compete ourselves came up a few years ago, but we only started preparing for it in 2008,” said the 34-year-old Izham.
“The cycling course for the race cuts through our village and I am sure our families and friends will turn up in full force to cheer us on.”
They would need all the support they can get as Izham and Khazali admit that cycling is their weakest link.
Said Khazali: “We are regular marathon runners and, since we were born and bred on the Langkawi island, swimming is second nature to us. But it is the cycling leg of the triathlon that worries me. Although we have trained for it, cycling in the hot mid-day weather is not for the faint-hearted.”
Both Izham and Khazali, who are hotel employees in Langkawi, thanked regular Malaysian Ironman competitor and former marine police Mansor Khamis for helping them prepare for the race.
“We owe it to Mansor, who will compete in his 11th Langkawi Ironman on Saturday, for taking us under his wings. He has been showing us the right training techniques and eating habits to prepare for the event,” said Khazali.
“We have been averaging slightly more than 15 hours to complete the course during training. We hope to maintain our form and dip below the stipulated 17 hours during the race proper.”
A participant will only receive recognition as an Ironman if he or she manages to complete the course inside the 17-hour time frame.
This year’s Langkawi Ironman has attracted about 700 triathletes, including a record 225 Malaysians. Among those who have confirmed their participation are Australians Luke McKenzie and Belinda Granger, the men’s and women’s defending champions.
The triathlon in Langkawi will offer 35 slots, including to the best-placed Malaysian man and woman finishers, for the World Ironman Grand Finals in Kona, Hawaii, later this year.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Ironman Triathlon organisers presented RM2,000 to a local mosque in Langkawi yesterday. They also pledged to donate an undisclosed sum to a Hindu temple on the island.
“As the race organisers, we make this small but thoughtful gesture annually to the local community in Langkawi,” said race director Datuk A. Chandrankumanan.