Ironman Malaysia » Langkawi is stunning and tough!

ironman malaysia feature

The Ironman Malaysia in Langkawi is truly beautiful! And all the rumours 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. For sure a competition that I will remember forever.

Two years ago I would never thought about racing the Ironman Malaysia. For several reasons: 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 on 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 be racing the Ironman Malaysia in Langkawi!

ironman malaysia sunset

 

Training for the Ironman Malaysia

I spoke with my Brazilian friend [and coach to be], Lucas Helal from Luquitri, 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.

 

ironman malaysia training bulgaria

» July – Malak Izvor, Bulgaria [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 a great 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.

ironman malaysia training in bangkok

» August & September – Bangkok, Thailand

Training in Bangkok was ok. We were living in the north of the city, about 20km 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 on my recovery and training.

Ironman malaysia training bangkok

» 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.

ironman malaysia training langkawi

» 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 overall course

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.

ironman malaysia swim

» 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 helped a lot with orientation. I didn’t push much on my swim, 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 [I forgot to say I´m a travel blogger, Ironman and start wannabe 🙂 ]. 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 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.

ironman malaysia bike

» Bike Course – 180 km

The bike course is 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 fun to 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. Banana & 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 on the scenery.

Equipment used: Bike Volt. But have a look at this stunning bike from Kestrel.

» 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 cool to see a lot of supporters and music on the T2 area. I did a quick stop to kiss Natalie before heading to my run. 🙂

ironman malaysia run rob

» Run Course – 42 km

The run course consisted in 2,5 laps. The course was 100% flat, which really helps after the cycling and with that 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 and water and then start running to the next one. I met Natalie on the T2 and in front of Smiling Buffalo Cafe. Near the cafe I walked with her for about 1 km to give her an update on 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 was 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`m very happy with this result.

Equipment used: Garmin Forerunner 310XT & my trainers New Balance M890.

ironman malaysia medal

ironman malaysia kiss

» Finishing area

The medical staff promptly came ask if I was fine, 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 medal found Natalie and got my finisher kiss. There was 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 cool to meet and say goodbye to some athletes that I met on the race such as 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 on this article for the lovebirds and on this one for the adventurous people

ironman malaysia berjaya resort


» Hotels in Langkawi we recommend:

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. 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.

Meritus Pelangi Resort – The official hotel of Ironman Malaysia. The finish line is inside the hotel premises.

To complete the Ironman Langkawi was only possible with the support of LADA, Ironman  and Berjaya Resort. A HUGE thank you to all involved in this great competition!

Would you race a tough competition like this? Or Ironman Malaysia is too much for you? Leave your thoughts!

37 Comments

  1. Have heard amazing things about the Danna… You crazy and extremely inspiring man! Just reading what the Ironman challenge involves made me choke on my morning coffee. Nice one. But also, I bet you’ve seen more of the island then any tourist will ever do. We love keeping fit during our travels, but this takes things to a whole new level!

    How did you find out about the Ironman challenge in Langkawi?

    1. Hi Stefan,
      The Danna is a piece of art 😉
      On our first trip to Langkawi on March, I heard about the Ironman, a few months later I was racing it. We never know what might happen in the future!
      Cheers!

  2. Well done, congratulations! I’m not a contender for an ironman or even a mini triathlon to be honest but its fantastic to hear the story of someone who did achieve the goal, especially when it only started out as a chance conversation in March and to realise it that same year.

  3. Wow Rob you are truly amazing! We try our best to stay fit as we travel so I know hard that can be. To actually train for an elite event like this while travelling full time is just unbelievable. You rock!!

  4. WOW you are incredible! To do an ironman first of all is an achievement but then to do it in the tropics….WOW! It is certainly something to be incredibly proud of. No way in the world could I ever achieve so much. Thank you so much for sharing your story!

  5. Hey Nat, you told me about rob beeing athletic and all at TBEX, but that guy of yours is one tuff mother fu$*er! 😉 Rob, we haven’t met in person yet, but just one word: RESPECT!
    Running in 37 degrees wouldn’t be my cup of tea (I passed out from the heat at a concert a couple of years ago) and the furthest I ran so far has been the 20 miles of Brussels so I can only dream to finish an Ironman some day…Nah! Who am I kidding, that will NEVER happen! 😉

  6. A big congratulations to you, Rob! You are truly made of iron, my friend. I had trouble just walking around in the heat in S.E. Asia, let alone running, swimming at high speed and biking, I’m really impressed, well done.

  7. First of all, great for you to have achieved this 🙂 I am not into running. I can’t get the hang of it. BUT, I love biking and to me there is no better training than swimming. I would actually like to have a try at triathlon. You never know we may race against each other one day!

  8. What an amazing experience. I have such admiration that you accomplished the Iron Man in Malaysia. I can just imagine the heat!! As for me, I would not want to do an Ironman or even a marathon. I am adventurous and like to try and do new things, but my body would not tolerate this type of stress. Bravo for you!

  9. Another great accomplishment Rob, CONGRATS!
    I usually read how hectic the schedule is for long term travelers and how bad they eat. You just showed that with a bit of discipline and goal in mind, you could be an elite athlete. That’s awesome! Take care.

  10. Congrats on this amazing achievement! I love it how things like these are being organized more and more to encourage people to get moving. I imagine the circumstances would be hard so extra thumbs up for you!

  11. I am a great admirer of your blog posts. I am planning for a 2016 Ironaman challenge in Malaysia on 12th November . Can you please let me know if there are bike rentals for the same. Carrying my bike from India will be very expensive affair. Any leads to bike rental would help a lot .

  12. just read your blog, great read I am going to Langkawi in November for my 5 Ironman and I am very worried about the heat. I am a big sweater and will have to be really carful but I am looking forward to it I am staying at the start line for 6 days and the finish line for 8 days so I think I will have fun ,anyway thanks for the story,more info on the bike course would be great

    1. Hi Paul,
      5th Ironman? Wow!
      The heat is tough indeed but there are plenty of aid stations with ice and huge tins with water to cool down a bit.
      The first 20k on the bike course were my favourite, rolling hills not that steep and you could manage to keep a steady speed. Overall is a great circuit, just take care on the crossings & intersections in some of them there are potholes and sand.
      Enjoy your race!
      ps. Have a look on these articles to enjoy your time pre/after the race:
      https://loveandroad.com/top-things-to-do-in-langkawi-malaysia/
      https://loveandroad.com/reasons-langkawi-malaysia-romantic-getaway/

  13. Hi, awesome blog post. Im doing the IM Langkawi in Nov this year. What can I expect from the steep hills (15% gradient?)? What gearing were you using? Cheers. Sam

    1. Hi Sam!

      The hills near Kuah town are really hard, on the second lap I pushed my bike for a while because of cramps.
      I raced with a road bike and added aero bars, worked like a charm.
      Enjoy your race!!!

  14. Thanks for sharing your story! This was my maiden IM and it brought back a lot of memories reading this. I live in Malaysia, been here 10 years now so it was kind of mandatory to do the first IM in Langkawi. And even though we train in this heat and humidity, but we still suffer in the races. I guess we simply weren’t built to exert ourselves in these kind of conditions. On the bright side, when you go to race almost anywhere else afterwards it feels so much easier 🙂

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