Jeff Lau Completed His First-ever Triathlon Race – Ironman in Langkawi after Months of Intense Training and Preparation
Jeff, also known as Lau Jun Tean, is a Malaysian boy who graduated from RMIT in Melbourne and is currently working as a freelance graphic designer and a barista in Kuala Lumpur. But what made him different compared to others is his will and passion to always challenge himself in doing various tasks, such as competing in the Ironman race!
Six months after Sahara Run & three months of preparation, Jeff Lau completed his first-ever triathlon race – Ironman 2016 Triathlon in Langkawi on 12 November with amazing results. Ironman is known as one of the world’s toughest races where participants are required to complete 3.8km swimming, 180km cycling and 42km running! How did he managed to complete the whole race? And, what are his tips and advices to beginners? Read the exclusive interview with Jeff Lau below.
You are an avid runner. How long have you been running?
J: I started running about 5 years ago because I was quite chubby back then, so running was what I did to manage my body weight. I started running once a week, 5km each time for about three months. Then it slowly went up to 7km a week.
What inspired you take up the challenge in participating in the world’s toughest race – Ironman?
J: Actually, competing in the Ironman Triathlon has been my long time personal. What was stopping me was the fact that I always thought that I was not ready, so I did not register myself in the race. It’s tough, you know what I mean? After my graduation last year, I thought to myself “Okay, this is the time! I have more time to train now, so it is NOW or NEVER!” So I signed up, and the rest is history.
Tell us a little about your weekly training schedule for the Ironman.
J: Currently I am working as a barista in a café, so I managed my time according to my working schedule. I swim twice a week, every Tuesday and Thursday, starting at 7am. I would usually swim 3km each time. I cycle every Saturday and Sunday from 50km to 180km, depending on my body condition. As for running, I did not run that much since I know that I must improve on cycling and swimming, so to replace my running, I workout my lower body using Sanctband Active Super Loop band. I will do several exercises with the Super Loop band which focuses on increasing my lower body strength and to avoid injury during my training and race. I only ran once before the Ironman.
It must have been a very tough journey. What is the toughest challenge that you encountered before the race?
J: To me, there are two aspects of it – mental and physical part. The hardest physical part was definitely the cycling part. I usually cycles at Batu 8, near Ampang Park, and there is this part called Bukit Hantu where you have to cycling uphill for around 10km. That part kills! It’s crazy. Living in a tropical country, the heat is another obstacle since we cycle from around 8am to 1pm and the Malaysian sun seems very unforgiving at those hours. I was really burnt every weekend.
As for the mental part, it was more towards body fatigue. I worked as a barista during the day so if I was given the morning shift, I need to wake up at 5am to start swimming until 7am before heading to work and ending my job at 10pm at night. It was the waking up part that really got to me and that was one of the biggest mental challenges I faced, pulling myself off the bed. It was really torturing, being so sleepy and having to work. It was so frustrating that I asked myself why am I doing this!
Are there times when you think “Why am I doing this?”
J: Yeah! Especially when I have to wake up so early during the weekends! I keep asking myself why do I put myself through this!
What and who is your source of motivation when you are training for the race?
J: I would say my dad. He’s the one that asked me constantly about my training. In fact, just so you know, he followed me for my cycling training! If I did 100km, he did 100km, all the way with me. And let me tell you that he is not an athlete. He works 6 days a week but he trained with me. He wakes up earlier than me to train with me so I have no excuse at all. None. All thanks to my dad.
Race Day – IRONMAN Triathlon
You completed the Ironman race in 16 hours 58 minutes. What are your thoughts on this?
J: I feel so glad that I trained. Honestly, 17 hours is the official cut off time and if I skip ONE day of training, I wouldn’t have made it within the cut-off time already.
What is your favourite part of the race?
J: I enjoyed the last part – the running part. I had only 6 hours left to cover 42km of running. Of course, I know that 6 hours is my usual time for marathon but in this case, I have to run a full marathon after swimming and cycling – this is very challenging. Good thing was I met a guy on the road while running and we were pacing each other all the way to the end. There were parts when I was tired and he led me. There were times when I led him when he was tired. That part was really fun and memorable for me, to be honest. We just kept encouraging each other!
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you cross the finish line?
J: My first thought? “Oh my god!! I finished in time!!” I had some problems with my watch and I thought I didn’t make it in time. But when I saw the time when I was nearing the ending line, I was estatic to find out that I was at 16 hours 58 minutes! Everything paid off!!!!
Have you ever thought of giving up in the middle of the race?
J: Nope, never. I am fully focused on making it through and there was no way I am going to disappoint my family. I was determined all the way.
What is the biggest obstacle you faced during the race?
J: Definitely the cycling part! It is 180km of cycling and the route is very hilly! For each uphill, it will be 5km, and maybe around 50km of uphill in total. That was torturing for me and you have to go back around the same route! You keep asking yourself when is it going to end, really.
How does your post-race recovery workout look like? (Do you rest completely? Or still doing some simple exercises? Kindly share the exercise that uses any Sanctband products, if any.)
J: My whole body ache after the race. Of course, I went for a therapy massage after the run. Upon coming back from Langkawi, I went for a swim to loosen the body muscles up. I got used to using Sanctband products for my warmups nowadays, before my swim, run or cycle. I would use the Super Loop band for my lower body – with squats, lunges etc. And to improve my swim stroke, I would use the mini loop to workout both my arms and shoulders. It helped me a lot! My arms are much lighter after warming up with Mini Loop band. It’s easy to bring around as well! These two bands are always in my workout bag.
What advice do you have to give to anyone who wants to try to become an Ironman?
J: KEEP TRAINING! Do not believe those who tells you that Ironman is easy and no training is needed. TRAIN, TRAIN and TRAIN. Mental strength itself is not enough. Physical strength is of essence. I wouldn’t have made it if I did not train. On top of that, diet is crucial as well. Eat well and eat clean. During my 3 months of training, I had healthy meals that kept me strong. Ample of rest, always warm up and train!