NUS Biathlon 2016

Two Saturdays ago, Bertrand and I raced in the open category of NUS Biathlon 2016. This was the second consecutive year that we had taken part in the NUS Biathlon. Last year’s edition of the race was held at Siloso Beach; if you’re familiar with Sentosa you would know that there’s an artificial island a couple of hundred metres offshore that acts as a breakwater, shielding the beach from the backwash generated by the ferries sailing past. Despite the supposedly controlled environment, the waters off Siloso beach proved to be very disorientating – I recall that the visibility was so poor we couldn’t keep our heads down for more than 5 strokes because it was nearly impossible to follow the rope.

Here’s a photo taken at last year’s biathlon:

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(Photo Credit: Loh Chi Jie)

This year’s edition of the biathlon was held at NSRCC (Changi Beach), where no breakwater exists to dissipate the relentless wave action of the South China Sea. We knew we were in for a bumpy ride. The less than ideal conditions were further exacerbated by the lack of a guide rope to follow – the 800m (equivalent of 16 laps) route was marked out by just three tiny yellow buoys that formed a triangle in the sea.

After attending a safety briefing that had convinced Bertrand he might die that morning, we were flagged off for the swim segment. I started very fast and hard, sprint kayak style, and got ahead of the pack swiftly. As I transited to maintenance pace, I realised how difficult it was to maintain my bearing on the first buoy. At times, the buoy could not even be seen – I had to wait for a swell to propel me high enough so that I could locate it and adjust my heading accordingly. I immediately regretted the aggressive starts as being the lead swimmer was really tiring. Then, I felt splashes and taps on the side of my feet and realised someone was tailing me closely. I quickly slowed down and allowed him take the lead. Thereafter, I followed him very closely, riding his wash (no idea if that actually worked in the choppy conditions) and letting him do the dirty work of maintaining the correct heading. My strokes were more efficient but the visibility was hopelessly bad so I took extra care to ensure I stayed within 0.5m of him.

While the incessant bobbing had been burdensome at the start, it felt rather hypnotic after a while. I settled into a comfortable rhythm and powered through the swells. The final approach to Changi Beach after the turn round the second buoy proved to be the most challenging leg of the swim, as there was absolutely no way I could pick out the third buoy along the cluttered shoreline of Changi; I had no idea how the lead swimmer was doing it. Nevertheless, I had faith he wasn’t leading me to Indonesia and stuck close to him. Turned out we had been on the right track as I soon found myself closing in on the launch ramp where we started. The transition was smooth and the run segment of the race was rather uneventful. I finished with an overall timing of 45:23 (15th) while Bertrand managed a timing of 47:56 (17th). We aren’t sure what’s a good timing for an 800m open water swim + 5km run but 40 min flat sounds just about right. I guess we will be back next year to do this again, or maybe, something more exciting like the Bintan Triathlon.

Here are some photos:

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(Photo Credit: Tan Yuan Hong)

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(Photo Credit: NUS Biathlon FB Page)

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(Photo Credit: NUS Biathlon FB Page)


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