Sunday, May 21, 2017

12km Samui Channel Charity Swim

Swimming from Ko Pha Ngan to Ko Samui, this was the best swim event I have participated in and we have done Bali 10km twice, Oceanman Putrajaya 10km, Tanjong Rhu Langkawi 6km, Kapas Marang 6.5km, P.D., Pulau Perhentian Solo Swim 16km, Labuan 5.4km twice etc.
A close second best swim event ever, is the Pattaya 10km also organized by the same organisers, Thailand Swimathon.
The best news is that, the Samui swim will most probably be repeated next year from the mainland to Koh Samui (16km) with the same luxurious boat "The Escape" as support. Life doesn't get any better, believe me.
What made it the best event yet?
  1. Having The Escape as the support boat didn't hurt. One can immediately sense the big heart of the owner, Scandy Andy (Andreas Hvass) when he starts talking. His kindness oozes. THANK YOU kind Sir. The boat is especially important for our supporters and when you are swimming all alone and you see this huge monster boat shadowing you, well its was one of my best feelings ever.
    The Escape yacht provided luxurious support
  2. The Organisers Thailand Swimathon  / Sports Buddy. A large group of volunteers (unpaid) who worked very well together. I didn't see any dissent or disagreement amongst them. They worked hard and they knew how to party too. This event of such high quality could not have been done by a "for profit" organization. WELL DONE to the Organising Team. Some of them are Race Director Auttapon (Navy),  Anusit  (The Events person), Pook (the English MC), Chaiwat (photographer and speedboat support and good English speaker) and many more.
    The incredible organizing committee
  3. Full transparency with where the money went. A few days after the event full accounts were disclosed with photos of accompanying invoices showing where every Bhat went. The Committee were very aware of the need to make a profit to be remitted to Charity. At the end, THB 33,395 will be donated to the National Cancer Institute. WELL DONE COMMITTEE. Costs were minimized. A lot was provided free (The Escape, equipment, kayaks, SUP etc). The Organising Committee worked on a volunteer basis and were not paid but they were smiling all the time. What a big heart they have.
    Full transparency by the VOLUNTEER Committee. Next year I must do something for them.
  4. Free top quality photographs  providing cherished memories for a lifetime by Thailand Swimathon. The main photographer being Aniwat (Navy) supported by Chaiwat. I remember just average photos costing an arm and a leg at certain events a few years back.
    The Organisers provided numerous free quality pics
  5. The sunrise. We left the Samui Pier at about 4.30 am (woke up at 2.30 am) and there was this amazing sunrise as we approached the tip of Ko Pha Ngan. No such sunrise from where I come from ha ha. 
    The sunrise just before the swim start
  6. The swim course from Ko Pha Ngan to Thongson Bay, Ko Samui. I have never seen such a beautiful flat sea, again I have never seen such a beautiful flat sea. Its surface glistened. There was no wave or white surf. It made for such a super fast and safe swim course. I have been to Ko Samui twice before for  running holidays. Whilst I liked the cute airport, I wasn't quite sure what the fuss about Ko Samui was. Now I know, its the Sea, not what's on the land. The fuss with Ko Samui is the sea.
    Flat and calm sea
  7. Safety and medical support by the Thai Navy. Very visible in their yellow attire, they provided kayak and medical support. So good were they that everyone finished, a 100% success rate.
  8. Wonderful friends. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood, even me. The Thais are easy to smile. This rubs off on everyone. I know, I married a Thai.
Group pic of everyone after the swim
The Malaysian swimmers and supporters after the swim
The Malaysian swimmers (Ghazali, KL Tan, Chun, Philip, Me and Thong)
before the start
Happy swimmers about to jump in

Doctor / Professor Ghazali whom I have not met since more than 25 years ago at UM pool.

We have got closer to the family of Philip, Joey and Elysa
Wonderful people

Enjoying the beautiful gardens of Ibis Hotel upon arrival
Friday, 12 May 2017: 
  • Registration was from 2pm. Very well done in a nice function room at the official hotel (Ibis Hotel).
    Oops someone dropped the official soap bar during registration
  • 4pm. Official practice swim. It looked well done but I was tired from the travelling and gave it a miss.
  • 5pm. Race briefing with professional looking slides. I knew from the Pattaya 10km swim event that they would do a brilliant job. Swimmers would be released in three batches 5 minutes apart. The first batch would be for those swimming below 1:59 per 100m (not me). The second batch 5 minutes later, those swimming 2:00 to 2:30 per 100m (that would be me). Then everyone else would go another five minutes later. Two swimmers of similar speed had been paired (me and Khun Piak, we finished exactly the same at Pattaya 10km, so our pairing made sense) with a Navy Kayaker. We would keep our feed on the kayak. Good system, it made sense.
  • 6pm. Hotel buffet dinner.

Saturday, 13 May 2017 (Race Day)
  • 2.30 am, Saturday, 13 May 2017 everyone woke up. Luckily I had a good short sleep.
  • 3.30 am left hotel for pier.
  • 4.30 am. "The Escape" yacht left the pier for Ko Pha Ngan.
  • 5.30 am. Final race briefing by Scandy Andy (boat owner and twice Samui Channel swimmer). He told us to sight for the highest mountain tip on Ko Samui. That was easy, to have a mountain for sighting.
  • 6.05 am. Swimmers jumped into the sea.
  • 6.15 am. The first batch of swimmers left.
  • 6.20 am. The middle batch (me),  left.
  • 6.25 am. The last batch left.
  • 9.09 am. The first team of two swimmers (Tim from Bangkok and Lauren from Samui) and their kayak finished 2 hrs 54 mins.
  • 9.14 am. The second team finished. 2 hrs 59 mins. Ghazali from Malaysia (this guy is going places, specifically the Straits of Malacca solo is his target) and his swim partner, a Thai Air Asia Pilot.
  • 9.20 am. I finished alone 3 hours 0 mins. It was too easy ha ha. I quickly drank a most delicious coconut drink, ate tuna sandwich and swam back to "The Escape" as my wife was on it and it was our wedding anniversary. Had a great chat with Tip's new friend, Kamma from Canada. Everyone on the boat was worried for me as I was swimming alone and apparently a big cargo ship was nearby, ha ha I didn't see it.
  • 11.45 am. Everyone (100%) had finished and swam back to the boat. More soap dropping during the shower ha ha.
  • 12.00 Simple lunch on boat. I think I will sponsor a better lunch next year.
  • 12.15 pm. Finisher's T Shirt presentation by Scandy Andy. A wonderful moment for everyone.
    Scandy Andy (Andreas Hvass from Sweden)
  • 2 pm. Arrived back at Pier on Ko Samui. Back to hotel.
  • 6 pm. Dinner and presentation to all swimmers by their respective kayaker.
    The specially engraved award was already ready

    Party time but it was bed time for me

The Malaysian swimmers with the Race Director
(In the real world, he is a Chief in the Navy)

Sunday, 14 May 2017, last official day
  • 7 a.m. Breakfast and goodbyes (though we stayed another night).

The swim format was that one kayak would accompany two swimmers of similar speed. Swimmers' nutrition would be placed on the kayak. It would be up to the swimmers and kayak, how frequent the feed stop would be. I specifically chose Khun Piak as my swim buddy as we finished roughly the same times at Pattaya 10km and Putrajaya 10km.
Swimmers would go off in three batches 5 minutes apart. Fast swimmers (below 2min per 100m), medium swimmers (2:00 to 2:30 per 100m) and the slowest swimmers. Cut off was 5 hours 45 mins. All swimmers had been pre-selected by the Organising Committee.
The Escape yacht would shadow the swimmers from a safe distance. Medical personnel would be on The Escape yacht. There would be roving speedboats, a catamaran, SUPs etc for the safety of the 33 swimmers.
The roving speedboat which actually became my feeding boat
The swim route was from the tip of Ko Pha Ngan (Haad Rin Pier) to Thongson Bay (12km). The water was completely flat. An outgoing current pushed the swimmers along. The highest mountain tip on Ko Samui was the sighting target. Ship traffic would be minimal. It was the most perfect conditions possible for open water swimming.

First 5 minutes
I started at 6.20 a.m. with my swim buddy and paddler somewhere in the middle of the 33 swimmers. I noticed straight away that my swim buddy wasn't swimming right. He was swimming with his head down like in a swimming pool. You know, in open water swimming we have to sight all the time, as frequent as every other stroke. We don't have a natural sense of direction in the water and if we don't sight, we will very quickly go at a tangent. The kayak also was not heading for the mountain tip. So I realized very quickly I had to do my own swim going in the direction of the mountain tip.

The start
Soon after the start, I decided to go for it
After 30 mins
The roving speedboat told me to go back to my swim team. I couldn't even see them. Anyway I swam backwards and found them. Again I noticed they were not going in the direction of the mountain tip. What the heck, I left them again and went off on my own.

Me and Khun Piak. Similar speed and swimming style
I then just swam on my own. I couldn't see any other swim team, its possible I was in front. Its lonely when you are on your own in the big empty sea. The mind starts playing games.

One hour
I looked at my watch, slightly more than one hour but going at a very fast pace. It would take me slightly more than 3 hours at this pace. I did many 9km swims the last week, one of them without stopping at all. It wasn't a hot day, the sea was flat, I felt strong and I have my safety float. I can do this 12km, all on my own without any feeding, I thought.
The massive looking boat, The Escape came close to me and seemed to shadow me for such a long time. It was an incredible feeling to have this huge monster checking up on you. I'm sure my wife was watching.
1.5 to 2 hours
After 1.5 hours the roving speedboat came again and this time accepted I wasn't going to swim backwards. They said I was doing well and gave me some water.
At 2 hours another boat came and I gobbled down two bananas. This time I saw other swim teams. Heck I'm going to go as fast as I can since I'm now full of bananas.
2.5 to 3 hours
At 2.5 hours another roving boat came and told me to head for "the red house", which actually was a red roof. I had to adjust my direction. The red roof was very visible though and there was no problems heading for it.
Pretty straight, only 10.5km for me.
A slight curve at the end as we were told to head for the "red house"

Finished 3 hours flat
Finish at Thongson Bay. The lady recorded it Live on FB.
I thanked the Organisers for another amazing swim event.
I finished in 5th place. It was quite an easy swim, not really what I expected from a 12km swim. There was delicious coconut water and tuna sandwich. I had them quickly, said hello / goodbye to everyone and swam back the 700m to The Escape yacht as my wife was waiting and it was our Fourteenth Wedding Anniversary.
Our Fourteenth Wedding Anniversary

Everyone finished. The kind Scandy Andy presented the Finisher's T shirts to everyone. We made great new friends, Tim and Kamma from Bangkok. Everyone was in a good mood.
Kamma and Tim

Some of the comments on the Thailand Swimathon page included:
  • "You guys are the best. Thanks for an amazing event".
  • "It was a perfect event. We enjoyed it very much. Thank you".
  • "Best team yet".
  • "How can I help next time".
I think we are all tingling with excitement eagerly waiting for the next event.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH TO THE TEAM OF VOLUNTEERS FROM Thailand Swimathon, you have given us our best swim event ever. Thank you.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Labuan International Sea Challenge 2017 / Cross Channel Swim (5.4km)

This was our travelling group
Coach Jose, Eric Tan, Tip, Me, Iskandar from Melaka, Rupert Tan, George Lim (Labuan), Ru Yan Tan (Labuan) and Jill
The Labuan International Sea Challenge is organized every year over the last two weekends of April by the Labuan local government (Labuan Corporation) and Labuan Tourism. The activities organized includes Cross Channel Swim, duck catching, Round Island Kayak (50km), fishing, boat tug of war, taxi boat race and many others. All events offer good prize money, except perhaps for duck catching where there is no prize money and winners only get to keep the ducks.
The actual Cross Channel Swim is held on the last Sunday of April, every year. In 2017, Juniors (below 12 years) and veterans (above 45 years) only swam from Labuan shore to the island of Papan (2.7km). The other categories swam to Papan Island and back (5.4km).

Overall Assessment
I would say its really a wonderful weekend of sea sports and well organized. Only a local government authority would be able to pull this off and  they have done a very good job. There was a gripe that the swim finishing chute was unclear (which is true), but what do you expect? Its not the Olympic Games.
My only complaint  would be, that only locals or those who had participated before, were aware of this event. Participants from West Malaysia were not many and our coach Jose Larossa was one of only a few westerners participating (the TV gave him VIP treatment). Its a shame that hardly anyone knows of this wonderful sporting weekend.
The best place to check for information is the Labuan Tourism Facebook page. It has details of the event, official hotels and the results of this year's event.
Air Asia has many daily flights. We made the mistake of taking the very early flight there and a late night flight back. This wreaked havoc on our internal body clock. So I would suggest, staying two nights there and you can do a bit of sight seeing too. There are many hotels centrally located and close to the event. We found that our hotel was actually an official event hotel (Labuan Point) and we got a discount. Other hotels are Billion Waterfront, Tiara and many others. Just be careful you don't get a room close to loud music as its Saturday night. Car rental at the airport is very cheap, the airport is only about two minutes from town. For me the main attractions are the duty free chocolates and drinks, WWII Memorial Park, Japanese Surrender Point and that's about it.

Held on sunday at 7 a.m. on 30 April 2017. All categories started at the same time this year for the T.V.
Juniors (below 12 years) and veterans (above 45 years) swim one lap (2.7km). Taken back to Labuan by speedboat. Prize money goes five places deep.
The 13 - 17 years (boys / girls) and 18 - 44 years (men / women) categories swim two laps to Pulau Papan and back (5.4 km). Prize money goes ten places deep.
With the Organiser's permission, I joined the Men category as I wasn't going to win anyway.

My Garmin
 I went all over the place 
The sea was more choppy this year. It took me 20 minutes more (1 hr 13 mins) to reach Pulau Papan compared to the time taken (53 mins) to return. Total time was 2 hours 6 mins. I think the safety aspect was o.k. 20 kayaks escorted us. As the safety buoy helped saved me when I had my heart attack on 16 Dec 2016, I now use it for all open water swims (races and practices) and I recommend everyone to always use the safety buoy.
We swam in between large stationary rusty ships which was quite interesting. At Pulau Papan they gave us a rubber band for evidence and water. The buoys were actually in a straight line but it didn't seemed straight to me whilst swimming out to Pulau Papan. Its not the first time my mind was tricked. We don't trust the buoy's position and end up swimming all over the place. So trust the buoy and always keep sight of it. One person I know did get minor jelly fish stings but I would classify this Channel as "no jelly fish".

This is Ahmad Fathi Junaidi from Brunei.
 I think his accomplishments in endurance sports exceeds any Malaysian.
Marathon Des Sables, Numerous Ironmans, Ultra runs (the toughest ones), Ultraman Australia etc
And Brunei is not known for its sports

First timers George Lim and Ru Yan Tan were for me the stars.
It was their first time but they finished exhilarated and with a smile
 If that was not enough, they then went duck catching.

OK that's it. Next event is the 12km Samui Channel Charity Swim on 13 May 2017.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Oceanman Putrajaya (18 and 19 March 2017). 10km


What is Oceanman?
Oceanman is an international open water swim race franchise from Spain. Its first race was in 2016 and for 2017, seven races have been confirmed starting with Putrajaya and ending with the Oceanman World Championships on 15 October 2017 at the Spanish tourist town of Benidorm on the Mediterranean. Ten other races are also on the way.
Anyone may organize an Oceanman under franchise / licence by contacting Oceanman headquarters.
Thus it is similar to Ironman, PowerMan etc They are not part of the Olympic movement or FINA (which oversees swimming and related events for the Olympic Games).
Oceanman  has its own rules and World Championship just like Ironman. Each Oceanman event will have to maintain a minimum standard. There will always be things like a Race Book (similar to Athlete's Guide), Rule Book, large buoys, medals etc and a very easy chance to qualify for the Oceanman World Championship (Top Ten Male and Female in each ten year age group category for both 5km and 10km).

So Oceanman came to Putrajaya Lake, Malaysia during the weekend of 18 March (1.5km, Kids Race and Relay) and 19 March (5km and 10km). The "real" Oceanman events are the 5km (Half Oceanman) and 10km (Oceanman).

Practice Swim at Putrajaya Lake on 11 March 2017
The race organisers (Swimon), had a practice swim at the Putrajaya Lake on 11 March 2017. Registration for Oceanman could be made until 16 March 2017, thus I used the practice swim as the acid test on whether to register, bearing in mind my angiogram and angioplasty was quite recent on  8 Feb 2017. The cleanliness of the Lake was in doubt and my training (100% with a pull buoy because of arthritis) was not geared towards lake swimming.
The practice swim was actually well organized with monster buoys (the biggest I have seen) marking out the 500m loops and shorter laps for new swimmers. I started to feel good about the Oceanman. The organisers showed me the water test results taken at 3 locations (passed with flying colours actually).
I managed to put in 3.5km (7 laps) over the 1 hour 25 mins available. There was no skin irritation at all from the black lake, so what the heck, lets register for the 1.5km on 18 March and 10km on 19 March, you only live once. 
Saturday, 18 March 2017
There were three events:
  1. "Popular" 1.5km
  2. Kids race
  3. Relay
I started to notice minor hiccups. The 3.30 p.m. briefing for the 5km and 10km events the following day was cancelled, goodie bags were  not ready etc (participants were updated by e-mail). Small things,  the 1.5km event that I was participating in was pulled off successfully though.  It wasn't so easy swimming in the lake without my customary pull buoy, so I knew the 10km the following day was going to be seriously challenging.
I got a cut on my elbow finishing the 1.5km as I didn't see the embankment due to the blackness of the lake. The same medical team that took care of me at P.D., again took care of me and applied some stuff on my scrapped elbow. Small matter, I then went off to the airport to pick up my wife.

127 swimmers completed the 1.5km. No age group categories, just Males and Females. Results here. I didn't do well, 31 mins, never mind.
Sunday, 19 March 2017
This was it, 10 freaking km in a black lake, in the heat. I genuinely wasn't sure whether I could finish. There were not many participants as the very popular 6.5 km Kapas Marang swim was held the same day. But the usual race day adrenalin  was still there for me. Heck its only three months after my heart attack. Am I going to live? Will I finish?
My wife was with me, I knew the race organisers very well (Jose, Amir and Sumai), very good friends Eric Tan (Dad) and Rupert Tan (swimmer) were there, my swim buddies from overseas (Ahmad Fathi Junaidi from Brunei and Khun Priak from Bangkok) were also taking part, many swimmers I've not seen before were there, so I was set.
The Thai Group
45 swimmers started the 10 km at 8.50 a.m. The 10km swimmers do 2 laps of 5km. The 5km swimmers (about ninety of them) started a bit later. At about the 2.5km mark, the 5km swimmers came speeding by. They were very fast and I felt such a lousy swimmer. In spite of my recent heart attack, I was still swimming regularly. The mileage was there but it was all with a pull buoy. I found swimming in the lake very tough. I thought I was sinking all the time and Putrajaya was a very hot swim. By 2.5km, I was already felt in trouble.
It was compulsory for all 5 km and 10 km swimmers to wear a safety buoy. This was a good requirement. So one could either sight against the large buoys or the safety buoy of the swimmer in front.
I did see a boat at about the 2.5km which I presumed was the feed boat. But it wasn't positioned exactly on the race route, even a quick sip of water would take a good few precious minutes, so I skipped it. I didn't see anyone else going for the water at 2.5km, maybe no one knew about it.

Between 3km and 5km, was very tough going for me. I seriously considered to stop at 5km. I will tell everyone I have a heart attack coming, I'm sure they will  understand. But as soon as I arrived at the 5km feed, I received so much support from my wife, Eric Tan and Sumai. I guess I couldn't give my "heart attack" excuse, no one was listening.

5km Feeding
The start pontoon was also the 5km feeding point. This was essentially the only feeding point for the 10km race. No one knew where the 2.5km feeding point was. So we had to get everything in at the 5km point. Eric was recording everything on my GoPro (bless that guy), Tip was giving encouragement, Sumai gave me a banana, the "superfood" for long distance sports. I then gulped down a gel and a full 1.5L bottle of cold Carbo Pro.
Carbo Pro is the best sports aid I have come across in more than 30 years of endurance sports. It doesn't have a taste, doesn't smell and doesn't upset the tummy. Unfortunately I can only find ones that expired in Dec 2016.
Coincidentally, fellow participants Fauzi Othman and Ridzwan were also at the 5km feeding point.

2nd 5km lap
Having adequately refueled, the second lap went much better for me. I overtook a number of participants during the second lap. Again I skipped the 7.5km feeding boat. For the second lap I was swimming alone for such long stretches. I could see the huge buoys so I didn't think I was lost. Just lonely.

The Finish
Because it was such a  tough swim for me and I had a heart attack not that long ago, I felt immense satisfaction approaching the Finish Line. The two gentlemen helped me out the lake, I was very disoriented, my wife and a swimmer friend from Thailand (Khun Piak) held the finish banner, OP Advance Tan (the MC) announced my finish. So all in all it was a wonderful finish line moment.

So how did I do?
4 hours 24 mins versus 2 hours 12 min by Malaysia's No.1 Kevin Yeap and 2 hours 31 min by Rupert Tan. So I am really really slow compared to the best swimmers. The performance was also my worst ever 10km time.
20% (9) of swimmers that started dnf. This is  very high dnf rate because of the heat I suppose.
The full 10km results.

Lets look on the bright side though, I didn't get a heart attack, I came in second in the 50 - 59 age group and I have qualified for the Ocean World Championships at Benidorm Spain on 15 Oct 2017.

Oceanman World Championships.
As ten males and females per group qualifies, all 45 finishers for the 10km have qualified except for one person in the 40 - 49 age group. He was eleventh ha ha. The results by category.

Will I go?
To be frank, at this moment I am still undecided as I might go to another event held on the same day, 14 Oct 2017. We'll see.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

2km P.D. Open Water Swim Race (18 December 2016). The day I got a Heart Attack

It was supposed to be a short simple race, just 2km long and only 1.5 hours drive from home. The previous two weekends I had raced 10km and 6km at Pattaya and Langkawi respectively, combating jelly fishes and huge waves at Langkawi. So how difficult could this short 2km race, organized by my good friends, at nearby Port Dickson, be? Well I got a real Heart Attack mid way through the race and I'm lucky to be still here.
 I couldn't breathe
Many Heart Attack victims don't even make it to the hospital and some don't get out of hospital alive. Heart related issues (Coronary Heart Disease) is the biggest killer of men and women in Malaysia, more than cancer, more than anything else. It is a very real issue.
My thoughts are:
  • How did it happen?
  • What caused it?
  • How come I'm still alive?
  • What can we do to reduce the likelihood of a heart attack happening?
  • What can race organisers do?
  • What can we do to survive a heart attack?
  • What can we do to aid our recovery?
Well it would be nice if I could answer these thoughts accurately for all to benefit, but I'm only a dumb person. 
Very good professional information on heart attacks (Myocardial Infarction) is available from The American Heart Association, WebMDMedicineNet,   British NHS, amongst many other sources.
For the Malaysian context, we have:

Western articles tend to say that smoking is a big culprit. I think for Malaysia the main culprit is the oily food and if you add no exercise, smoking, drinking and being overweight, then you've got no chance baby.
Well I woke up a bit late, which created unnecessary anxiety (which causes Blood Pressure to rise). There was a minor accident on the highway, the car had no petrol, the race parking lot was  full, not a good start at all. Then for the first time my wife was not with me. So my mind set was not its usual self. My wife evens puts on my swim compression top for me.  I'm quite useless at doing things by myself. Then I drank a full can of red bull, which was a change from my normal morning routine.

The race registration seemed to take ages. The queue didn't seem to move. Then before we knew it, it was the Race Briefing and the Safety Briefing. The Safety Briefing seemed to be more serious, taking longer than the Race Briefing.

I didn't do any warm up (which was the actual cause of the Heart Attack I think) and took my starting spot away from everyone, beside the deeper start buoy. This was a straighter line to the red turnaround buoy and I meant business that morning. I haven't been doing any warm ups for my training or races because all my workouts are long and at a constant pace, lasting for more than two hours. I just go slow for the first thirty minutes and then pick up the ante. But that tactic didn't work for a sprint race and I paid for my oversight.

I sprinted right from the off because it was clear water in front of me. I knew very well from my Triathlon days that it was of paramount importance to get clear water in front of you. So I took my opportunity and went off helter skelter. My heart was pumping but who cares, this was a sprint race.

I reached the first buoy quite ok in front of my normal rivals. Then at about 1.2km I realized that I was slowing down for no apparent reason. People were passing me by and I couldn't seem to respond. Maybe I should slow down to catch my breath? Tried that for a while but the heart beat was still soaring. I needed to stop outright I thought to catch my breath. So I held on to my swim safety buoy, completely stopping. But I wasn't catching my breath back. I couldn't breathe. My chest felt tight. I was in trouble. Swimmers passing me by were concerned for me. I looked at the safety boat nearby and they were intently looking at me, already sensing something was amiss. So I bit the bullet and held up my hand to be rescued.

Cherish Chin and Amat quickly arrived in the rescue boat. But I was semi conscious and they initially couldn't pull me head first into the boat. My chest was rubbing hard against the side of the boat and I had to tell the rescuers to stop. They advised me to hook my feet over the boat whilst Amat wrapped the safety tube around my body. This worked, in no time my whole body was in the boat. The rescuers communicated with the shore using a walkie talkie they had. Race Number 184, I was able to blurt out.
Being brought ashore

Placed on the stretcher
Once on the beach they placed me on the ambulance's stretcher. They took off my compression top as I complained it affected my breathing. I could sense the utmost urgency by the rescuers and the ambulance personnel (EMS Medic). They are all good people, at full concentration trying to save the life of this stranger. The four medical personnel were very competent. The dedicated medical personnel placed a pill under my tongue. They tried to make me breathe in oxygen but nothing was going in. "To the hospital" someone shouted and off I went sirens blazing.
Total professionalism by everyone (thank you)

The ambulance reached the P.D. Hospital only 4km away in seconds. I was on the emergency bed and masses of medical people surrounded me. The sense of urgency was very high and everyone was working as one to save this stranger. I am very impressed and grateful.

The Young Indian Doctor
The person calling the shots was a very young Indian Doctor. He was barking out instructions "monitor his pulse", "monitor his BP", "give him morphine", "give him more morphine". Everyone followed his instructions, I was very impressed.
 I basically couldn't breath. The oxygen wasn't going in and  I felt very uncomfortable.  I thought I was going to go (die) anytime. The young Indian Doctor was staring intently into my face for tell tale signs. "You are having a heart attack" the young Doctor said. A heart specialist did an ultrasound of my heart. "Very bad", he whispered to the young Doctor. Oh blimey, I can't be going now. Don't sleep, don't go unconscious I told myself. "We are giving you something which has a risk ok", the young Doctor said.
I understand the Hospital gave me a blood thinner to clear the clot / blockage at a heart artery. This is called thrombolysis. It is imperative that the heart attack victim is brought to a Hospital with Emergency Cardiac Care immediately to improve chances of recovery.

Then miraculously after about one hour, I felt the blockage clear and I was able breathe deeply. I knew then that I was going to make it. The young Indian Doctor and the Government Hospital saved me. I thanked him "for saving my life" and he said he was just doing his job.
High Dependency Ward
My first night was in the HDW. Here we are monitored continuously 24/7 by various medical equipment and dedicated nurses. The nurses are sweet and pleasant. I was enjoying my  stay at the Government Hospital.
Third Class Ward
After the first night, I was transferred to a normal ward for three nights. I shared the room with seven other patients. To be frank, we were all normal poor patients. One was a drug addict, many had no jobs. I have never stayed in  a Government Hospital but this was probably my most enjoyable time in a hospital.
The room was a hive of activity with a constant stream of visitors, student nurses regularly doing their rounds checking patients' key indicators, regular nurses doing higher level stuff, cleaners, student Doctors, junior Doctors, the Specialist (Dr Siti, whom I feel is the most impressive Doctor I've seen). Its an incredible training ground for Doctors. They have to think on their feet and assess many patients at the same. The Doctors at private hospitals by comparison only say "how are you" and clear their throat.
Dr Siti advised me to stay the full five days at the Hospital and complete my medication. Well I'm not arguing with the Hospital that saved my life.
The total bill came to RM 183. My perception of Government Hospitals has done a complete turnaround.

My all time favorite Hospital. Port Dickson General Hospital. They saved my life. THANK YOU
Eric Tan is the dad of champion 16 year old swimmer Rupert Tan. The swimming community is very small and we see each other all the time either at the Kampong Pandan swimming pool or at races. We have become very good friends.
Eric was helping with distributing finishers' medals when he heard a swimmer (me) had been rescued from the sea. So Eric dropped everything and gathered all my things and followed the ambulance to the Hospital.
He was intently observing me at the Hospital as he had to update my wife. Ha ha Thank you for everything Eric.

My good friends (Amir - Race Director, Rupert Tan and his Dad, Eric Tan). Thank you everyone
I off course was very impressed by my experience with the Port Dickson Hospital, third class and all. I accepted their referral to the National Heart Institute even though the first meeting with the Consultant was only on 24 Jan 2017. That was just the consultation, the Angiogram was only carried out on 8 Feb 2017. Quite a huge gap in between.
Prescribed medication
The medicine prescribed I took religiously:
  1. Something for gastric to be taken on an empty stomach (Omeprazole)
  2. A blood thinner after breakfast (Plavix)
  3. Aspirin, also a blood thinner after lunch (Glyprin)
  4. A statin for cholesterol taken after dinner at night (Lipitor. RM 5 a pill, ouch).
At the time of the heart attack I had stopped taking all medicine. The statins, even fish oil. It might have been a mistake.
Resumption of swimming
I received a lot of advice through social media to take things very easy, after all, I just had a heart attack.
I resumed swimming on 25 Dec one week after the heart attack with a 3 km swim. Initially there were many dizzy spells and the heart felt stressed. But the body adapted and swimming soon felt easier than walking.
I swim right outside my apartment window, the pool is shallow, I take all my medicines and I  don't go fast.
My standard swim is a straight 7.5km swim using a pull buoy completed in 2.5 hours. So I do about 40 km to more than 50km per week unless I'm sick. I guess I am addicted to exercise.

I'd thought the medicines might have cleared my blockage but the angiogram revealed I had a key artery that was 99% blocked.

IJN - 24 JAN 2017:
24 Jan 2017 was the earliest date available to see the Cardiologist. This appointment was made by P.D. Hospital and IJN. IJN is very popular, its not easy to get an early date. If something happens to the patient before the appointment, you have to go to their Emergency.

7 Government Hospitals can do heart surgeries for minimal charges but there would be a long queue. But IJN comes very highly recommended, so I opted to use IJN. No regrets, it is a top place.

IJN sees itself as a Private Hospital but its free for Government Servants, their dependents and Government Pensioners. The public can appeal at their Unit Taksiran and I think if you are really poor, financial assistance will be given by the Government. I didn't receive any.

The visit on 24 Jan 2017 was a nightmare. Was there from 8 a.m. until 3.30 p.m. just to see the Cardiologist and get some medicine. Awful experience.

Checking in on 7 Feb 2017 was much more smoother than my previous experience on 24 Jan. I accepted a six bedded room (Third Class) at RM 50 per night. Nothing wrong, the room was new and huge. Many empty beds. Started fasting from 9 p.m.

8 Feb 2017
The problem was that the timing of the Angiogram was anytime on 8 Feb 2017. I was finally called at 4 p.m. and had been fasting since 9 p.m. the previous night with only a Milo at around noon.
More waiting at the Angiogram room. The room, equipment and everything looked so modern and new. I knew I had come to the right place.
The whole Procedure lasts more than an hour. I hated it, I was hungry, dizzy, couldn't breathe, painful, very painful at times. I hated it.
The technology behind an angiogram is truly amazing. That they only need to make a small incision near your wrist at a vein or artery and then insert a tube, dye, camera device and wire to find the blockage near your heart or examine whether it is diseased is just amazing.
The angiogram is the "gold standard"  test to determine if you have coronary heart disease.

Top - my diseased heart (15% - 20%). Not treated
Middle and Bottom - on the left is my 99% blocked artery. Right - with stent
The angioplasty was done at the same time, as the 99% blockage in  a key artery was detected. In  angioplasty, a ballooning device which has a stent (fixed tube) is placed through the blocked artery. The balloon is inflated opening the artery, then deflated and removed. The stent remains, permanently opening the artery.
The only problem was that I didn't enjoy the angiogram and angioplasty it at all.
The name of my official Doctor was Consultant Cardiologist Dr Surinder Kaur, but I never met her. The name of my actual Doctor was Doctor Navin. A young chap, he is a Fellow Cardiologist (under training I think).
My bill (for two nights and one stent insertion) came to RM13,486. I should think this is cheaper than a real Private Hospital.
Recovery from an angioplasty has to be done slowly. Dizzy spells and chest pains are common. It takes several weeks, be patient. Full recovery will come, as Dr Navin told me.
So for fun, lets try to answer my initial thoughts.
In the year 2016, Port Dickson  had two deaths at its races, as far as I know.
  1. Port Dickson International Triathlon. Sprint Event. Yes only a Sprint Event. One person died. No one died at the long distance P.D. Swimathon (5km) which had many beginners. The PDIT at the P.D. Marina was only half a km from the P.D. Hospital. I don't know what happened.
  2. 3.5 km Island to Island swim held at Bagan Pinang (same location as the 2km race that I am now writing about). One person died.

So Race Organisers could:
  • Couple up with very competent Lifeguards.  Aquaputra Putrajaya are very professional.
  • Have Lifeguards on a powered boat or jet ski with a rescue tube, walkie talkie for quick communication with the ambulance crew.
  • Require swimmers to use the open water safety swim buoy as swimmers could hang on to it even when semi-conscious.
  • Engage EMS Medic or a Government ambulance on standby.
The above were all done. That's why I survived the heart attack. Well done Swimon, Aquaputra Putrajaya.

The very competent Aquaputra guys (thank you)
The underlying cause I think, was my high cholesterol,  "high borderline" since I first did tests more than 20 years ago.
Most heart attacks are caused by coronary heart disease due to heavy plaque formation narrowing the arteries. The plaque breaks, a clot forms to stop the bleeding. The clot also stops blood flow to the heart. Wham Heart Attack. 
The specific cause that morning was not warming up. This was the actual trigger.
The symptoms I had at the time of rescue were:
  • Sudden loss in stamina for no reason.
  • Cold sweat.
  • Unable to breathe / chest pains.
All sportspeople must be very weary of these classic symptoms ok.

I was able to resume training one week after my heart attack, even though we later found one artery was 99% blocked. I think I got away with it because I was religiously taking my blood thinners and statins. Plus my workouts were all at a slow constant pace. 
General risk factors are smoking, sedentary lifestyle, over weight, high blood pressure, family history, diabetes etc.
It is considered easier to prevent than to cure a heart attack.
In general there's only four things to do:
  1. Don't smoke
  2. Healthy diet, fruits and vegetables
  3. Exercise
  4. Reduce Body Mass Index
Anyway, Dr Navin was perplexed as to why I got a heart attack.
  1. Get them to Hospital with emergency cardiac care immediately.  I vouch for our Government Hospitals. Any delay can permanently damage the heart, delay recovery or worse, the victim goes to heaven.
  2. Place an aspirin under the tongue. An aspirin (only 50 cents each) is a blood thinner which means it prevents blood clots from forming.
  3. If the victim is unconscious, perform CPR.

It might be bad luck to talk about this as now the chances of another heart attack for me will always be there.
The critical period is the first 24 hours, then one week, then one month. Well, I'm still here.
Whilst swimming may have been my downfall, its also the road to recovery. I started swimming about one month after my total hip replacement in May 2016. Two months after the surgery I completed the Bali 10km Ocean Swim. Then swam Pulau Perhentian Besar solo (16km) in Sept 2016, Pattaya 10km on 4 Dec 2016, Langkawi 6km on 10 Dec 2016 before that fateful day on 18 Dec 2016.
One week after the heart attack I started swimming 3km (one hour). I even had a 10km swim day on 7 Jan 2017, but my standard workout was 7.5km over 2.5 hours (baring sickness) right until the day before my angiogram / angioplasty on 8 Feb 2017.
So whilst swimming may have caused my heart attack, it was very critical for my fast recovery from the Total Hip Replacement surgery and Heart Attack.
Swimming is the way to go for me now. Its soothing and relaxes the body and mind. I like to hear the sound of water cascading outside my window, I like its clear blue appearance, its heavenly ha ha.
Have a nice day.