“It ain’t over, until it is over” by Joseph Ong

STC – We had the pleasure of meeting the ever jovial Joseph Ong in Solvang in March earlier this year. He arrived at camp with a clear goal for his season, to race 70.3 Astana in Kazakhstan. Below he shares his story of how his summer panned out and the repeated mantra that has got him to the start line of the Ironman 70.3 World Championships. Joseph – thank you for sharing, we are rooting for you!!

Written by Joseph Ong – Solvang Camp Athlete 2018, 70.3 Ironman World Championship Competitor!

Joseph training in Solvang last March

I remember Peter, in a short talk at the Solvang Camp, saying “It ain’t over, until it is over”.

Three-time World Ironman Champion, Peter Reid, must certainly know a thing or two how to win.

I raised my eyes up from an aerobar crouch and, too late, slammed into the back of a truck that should never have been there. Recovering from the painful shock and a quick feel about the body concluded that I was alive, but the left shoulder hurt like mad.  A broken collarbone again, damned.

Some helpful cyclists behind me stopped to examine the carnage.  One offered to call the ambulance or an Uber taxi. I instinctively knew a trip in an ambulance to the hospital would put a stop to plans for Kazakhstan IM. 

No ambulance then, but what at S$17/- for an Uber ride? I would rather cycle back 20 km, and that’s what I did.

Arriving home, I pretended that it was a minor incident – no need to alarm the wife! From previous experience if could raise the right arm however painfully and slowly very likely I broke no collar bones – that’s the good news. After the adrenaline wore off, two Panadols masked the pain.

Strangely my Dimond triathlon bike was unscathed.

So next morning resumed biking on the Wahoo trainer – what else – any further shirking would have the wife suggest a stop to Kazakhstan IM.

Had to give up that evening swim training – did not want to specialize on one arm stroke work.

Luckily it rained on Tuesday so had a decent excuse not to run in Botanic Gardens. Detuned all further training as the body had to rid the cortisol before feeling ready to be up to any kind of effort.

Start a limp walk and jog in the following weeks and however I disliked it, it was a one-handed swim heading into week 4. The bruising was as ugly as hell and did not want to swim in trunks – a trisuit with sleeves covered up the scars of my misadventure.

Hey it is not that bad if you don’t think about it too much. IM 70.3 Astana Kazakhstan I have not given up yet.

More limp, walk, jog and finally a slow two arms swim was finding its rhythm. Not fast but being a bit dogged about it saw some progress.

Trump and Kim had just finished their tete-a-tete in Singapore and with the uncertainty  over traffic conditions we arrived four hours early in Changi Airport for a quick hop to Bangkok and an overnight sojourn  before an unearthly 4 am morning flight to Astana.

After 8 exhausting hours we land in Astana.

The airport is clean and modern – the taxis were another matter! Luckily IM Astana had a booth at the airport and they bargained our taxi fare and sent us on our way – bike box and all.

Alana Hotel had a retro-chic Russian style. Not spanking modern but good enough. Astana is a city built over the last twenty years.

The Kazakhstan National Museum

A restaurant that serves traditional Horse meat sausages and steaks. Tasted pretty good if you convince yourself it helps in speeding the healing process of my injuries!

The race is an Inaugural IM 70.3 in the Central Asia states, so you can expect the organizer to pull out all the stops to make sure it was going to be a great event. And it was. They made sure that even little Singapore, was not forgotten – I was the only competitor from there!

The swim was in 19 degrees water so wetsuit legal, but I swear there were Polar bears there who swam in swimming trunks for a quick transition. The rolling start was formed but it seems every competitor did not know their times, so slow swimmer mixed with the fast in an untidy melee. There were no waves and only a slight current so the fastest emerged in 26 minutes. It took me 45 minutes in comparison – the fragile left arm held up and was I glad!   

Transition 1 proved troublesome as my lack of left arm mobility made changing a bit laborious and it took me all of 10 minutes – even my granddaughter changes faster than that and she is only a year and a half old.

The bike course was flat – pancake flat – and absolutely traffic free but the winds played tricks with your pacing. I was passed by just about everybody for which my lack of fitness was the excuse. Hey, but I am in ironman and I will run you down – later. Plod, plod , plod , pedal, pedal, pedal – it ain’t over until the finish line I repeated this mantra.

Off the bike and a simple change to running shoes saw me off running.  This is my weakest segment – a persistent right knee pain saw me start cautiously. But the pace was off – I do this kind of speeds only on my recovery runs and this is race day.  Carefully nurse the pain in case the knee packed up completely. Then there was the finish line almost after three hours. I will finish with a flourish since “It ain’t over until it is over”.  And it was over, I finished.

But as the triathlon gods would have it, in the luck of the draw I won and took a slot for the 70.3 Ironman World Championships in South Africa in September. With two more months training I will be back – minus the crash, I hope.

My third world Championship in a decade.  Thanks Lil for believing that I can race and enjoy it. I did.

The ticket for the 70.3 Ironman World Championships 2018 in South Africa, Port Elizabeth.

The old uncle strikes again!!!