Updated on August 2020 – Please note that the 2020 edition was postponed to October 30th, 2021
The Ironman Malaysia in Langkawi is truly beautiful! And all the rumors about this race being one of the toughest of the Ironman circuit are true. The heat and humidity played a big role on the race day. Here you will find tips about the Ironman Malaysia course, how was my race, best hotels in Langkawi and how to get to Langkawi.
Back in 2014 I would never think about racing the Ironman Malaysia. For several reasons: I was recovering from a hip surgery, we were planning our trip around the world, and I was a bit tired of the training routine. One day before we left Brazil I got an email informing that I got a slot on the 2015 Paris Marathon. So I need to get back to my training and “test” if the surgery was a success.
On March 2015, one month before the Paris Marathon, we traveled to Langkawi in Malaysia. Langkawi Tourism Department invited us to explore the island’s nature, food, and people, we spent 7 wonderful days there. Yussuf Azman, who works for LADA, noticed my Ironman tattoo and mentioned that Langkawi hosts one race of the Ironman Malaysia calendar. I turned to him and with a sparkle in my eyes, I asked for more details. On the following day, there was an Ironman Langkawi T-shirt in my hotel and an invitation: “Come to race Ironman Malaysia in Langkawi!”
At that time, I didn’t have a clue where I would be in November. Our travels were planned only till July, summer in Europe. After that no idea. A few days later we were back in Europe, Paris Marathon, Eurotrip with friends, TBEX in Spain, Italy, and France with my parents… When June started we were already missing Asia so bad! Decision made, we would return to Asia and I would race the Ironman Malaysia in Langkawi! Now let’s get down to business.
Where to stay in Langkawi
There are many hotels in Langkawi but they tend to be fully booked for the Ironman. Our advice is to book your hotel in Langkawi the soonest. Here it goes our recommendations:
Berjaya Langkawi Resort – 5 stars service with private chalets. This hotel has the best breakfast I ever ate! It’s located less than 10 min. from T1 and swim in Pantai Kok.
Langkawi Chantique – A small and cute hotel in Cenang Beach. A great option if you don’t like big hotels.
The Danna Langkawi – Luxury right in front of the Pantai Kok beach. Great views from the starting line. Stay here if you want to walk from your room to the starting line 😉
Meritus Pelangi Resort – The official hotel of Ironman Malaysia. The finish line is inside the hotel premises.
How to travel to Langkawi
You can travel to Langkawi easily. there are direct flights from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou to name a few. We always compare the prices on Skyscanner, 12GoAsia, and Kiwi.com. If you want to drive you can take a ferry from continental Malaysia to Langkawi.
Training for the Ironman Malaysia
I spoke with my Brazilian friend [and coach to be], Lucas Helal, about the Ironman, my travels and training conditions. He accepted the challenge and sent me the training schedule and the fun began. Here is a sum-up of my worldwide training for Ironman Malaysia Langkawi.
» July – Malak Izvor, Bulgaria [a tiny village in the mountains]
No swimming at all, running was great and cycling was done with a Mountain Bike. The Bulgarian mountains are beautiful, fresh air, empty roads and a lot of wildlife. It was an amazing month to build a base and to get my body used to the training routine. I climbed a lot of hills while there, it helped a lot for the Ironman Malaysia. The downside was the temperature, I don’t remember a day that we got over 26ºC.
» August & September – Bangkok, Thailand
Training in Bangkok was ok. We were living in the north of the city, about 20km far from downtown. The weather was warm, nice places to run, but the air quality was awful. Also to cycle in Bangkok is quite dangerous, the drivers don’t respect bikers at all. I had a swimming pool in the condo but went for swim less than 5 times, lazy boy. On September, I could train only one week due to health issues. My coach was a bit worried and we had to find a balance between my recovery and training.
» October – Bangkok, Koh Phangan & Phuket, Thailand
During October, we went to two travel conferences and a trip to Phuket, my training schedule was a mess. The good thing is that I could swim in open waters, the sea in Koh Phangan was great, warm and crystal clear. I did a couple of good runs in Koh Phangan, very hilly & hot.
» November – Langkawi, Malaysia
We arrived in Langkawi 10 days before the Ironman Malaysia to get used to the weather and food. During those days, I only run and swim. I decided not to take my cheap bike from Bangkok to Langkawi, my friends from LADA helped me to get a bike in Langkawi. Changing the bike a few days before the race was a bit risky but I don’t regret.
Pre- Ironman Organization
» All the action happened in 3 places:
Danna Hotel – Bike Check, Start Point & T1
MIEC – Athlete Check-In, T2 & Dinner.
Meritus Pelangi – Finish Line & After Party
I did the Athlete Check-In on the first day and got everything sorted out in less than 10 min. The volunteers and Ironman staff were all very friendly and helpful. There was a shuttle bus service between Meritus Pelangi Hotel, MIEC, Kuah town, and Danna hotel. This was quite handy because the venues were far from each other. The bike Check-In was very fast too, plenty of staff helping on the process.
Ironman Malaysia Langkawi » Race day
On the race day I left my hotel, Berjaya Resort around 5:45am and in less than 10 min I was in the starting area. I took my time to check if everything was fine with my bike, to visualize for the last time the T1 area and to relax on the beach. The T1 area closed at 7am and the pros started the race at 7:10am. A few minutes later the age groupers started, the rolling start was good, more space to run and hit the water.
» Swim Course – 3,8km
The swim was done at Pantai Kok, in front of Danna Hotel. A 2 leg course on a sheltered bay, after the first buoy I felt a slight current, this same current helped a bit when swimming towards the beach. Flags between the buoys were great for orientation. I didn’t push much on my swim, instead did it on a steady pace. I lost a few minutes trying to find Nat and the video crew, they want to record part of my swim. Since I don’t wear contact lenses it was hard to find them, one staff on the kayak came to ask if I needed help, I grab the kayak and then could see them on the island. I yelled for a while until they found me. After that I kept going more relaxed.
Equipment used: Aqua Sphere Goggles
» Transition 1
Very well marked and again with a lot of helpful staff. We ran about 300m between the beach and the T1. Showers on the way and a carpet made the run smooth. I spent more time than I expect on the T1, 11 min. I blame the sunblock, I believe I used half of the bottle.
» Bike Course – 180 km
The bike course was absolutely spectacular, 2 laps around the island. I was worried that I might not cope with the hills and the heat. The hills were not a problem but the heat slowed me down. I stopped in every single aid station to get a bag of ice. Between km 5 -21 on the first lap and Km 103-121 we cycled on rolling hills, not that steep and it was a fun ride. Between Km 50-60 & km 150-160 there were 3 steep hills, those were tough, but the downhill was crazy! Reached 68 km/h 🙂 I was glad that in every station the water & isotonic were refreshingly cold. Bananas & carb gels were available too. On the way I crossed mountains, beaches, villages, paddy fields… Langkawi landscape is gorgeous. When my legs were already tired I found extra power just looking at the scenery.
» Transition 2
My T2 time was way better than the T1, did it in only 4 min. I wish I stayed a bit more in the T2, because we had air con there. It was SO GOOD! Really nice to see a lot of supporters and music in the T2 area. I did a quick stop to kiss Natalie before heading to my run. 🙂
» Run Course – 42 km
The run course consisted of 2,5 laps. The course was 100% flat, which really helps after the cycling, not to mention the heat. I saw a thermometer showing 37ºC when I started my run. It was insanely hot! My plan was to run between the aid stations that were roughly 2km far from each other. When arriving in the aid stations I would sip a coke, cool down with sponges/water and then start running to the next one. I met Natalie on the T2 and in front of Smiling Buffalo Cafe. At the cafe I gave her an updated about my conditions, I was feeling sick, after km 17 I could not even think about a carb gel, or anything to eat. I kept going just sipping coke and ice.
After the sunset, the weather was better. The downside, it was dark [obvious!], all the way between the T2 to Cenang beach there were no lights. I assume the airport did not allow to put any lights for the airplane’s safety. Near to the end, on Km 40 I found that last strength and pushed a bit. When I started to hear the music and saw all the flags all the pain vanished and I was fulfilled with joy. Before crossing the finishing line I did my moonwalk, the same way I celebrated in 2012 Ironman`s Brazil. My time? 13 hours and 45 minutes. I was very happy with my result.
» Finishing area
The medical staff promptly came to ask if I was fine or if I need any help. I was high on adrenaline, just got a towel and water, I thought that I was ok. I grabbed my finisher medal, found Natalie and got my finisher kiss. There were ice pools, massages, medical support, a restaurant serving pasta, pizza, ice cream, fruits… It was a heck of a finishing area, I ate a bit, took a shower and decided to go back to the hotel.
Off course that my legs were sore and I was wrecked. The taxi dropped us and I rushed to one corner of the garden to throw up. I almost fainted and the hotel staff helped me to jump on the shuttle to our room. Nat gave me a shower and put me on bed. I collapsed, woke up around 2 am and drank 1 liter of water.
On the following day, I woke up fine and went to T2 area to collect my bags and check out the bike. It was great to meet and say goodbye to some athletes that I met on the race such as the pros Saleta Castro Nogueira and Thiago Vinhal.
Our journey in Langkawi came to an end. After months of training, I completed the Ironman Malaysia Langkawi. I did only 2 Ironman races but watched several others and this competition was spectacular. It is also a good place to try your slot for Kona Championship in Hawaii. With a messy training schedule, a lot of travels, without a proper bike for training, and some health issues I got to the 45 position on my category. If you want to go to Kona, train a lot, get ready to beat the heat and go race in Langkawi!
If you are planning to race the Ironman Langkawi and want more info I wrote another guide with all the tips on where to stay and how to get to Langkawi. If you just wanna go to Langkawi and explore the island have a look at this article for the lovebirds and on this one for the adventurous people.