11.4 kilometers swim, 540 kilometers bike and 126.6 kilometers run – we were taken aback by simply looking at the numbers. Having to complete an ultra-marathon already sounds bizarre and far-fetched, let alone an ultra-triple triathlon. Eddy Lim has proven to us that anything’s feasible, if you’re determined, to attempt the craziest sporting event in the world.
Last July, Eddy completed the most incredible task of Ultra Triple Lensahn Race for three days straight, totaling 58 hours. “I took four years to decide on the participation,” he recalled. Reasonably enough, any ordinary human being could never simply decide to take this. “What I knew was I had to do a lot of swimming, cycling, and running in Triple Ultra Triathlon. It definitely took me a long time to decide whether or not I should go for it,” Eddy said.
- Why did you decide to take part in Ultra Triple Lensahn Race?
I work at Sauer Compressors. It happened when I traveled to Germany for a job training. The race had already been registered at the beginning of the year. When I confirmed with my counterpart in Germany, they took the responsibility of my registration fees, local lodging, and expenses. I only had to take care of my training programs within 6 months prior to the trip.
- What’s so special about Ultra Triple Lensahn Race?
The challenge. I did my first Ironman in 2001, in Langkawi Island but completely stopped as I wanted to give full-time attention to my family and job. In 2014, I heard of Lensahn when a German told me that there’s something more interesting than Ironman. The next time I did was checking it out on the website.
The qualification to take part in Ultra Triple Lensahn Race is that the athletes need to have completed an Ironman either in 2016 or 2017. The courses included 228 swimming lengths in an open-air pool, 67 laps of the cycling circuit for a total of 540km, and 96 laps of the running circuit 1.32 meters for 126.6km.
This was more challenging because the race only allowed a very tight time for transition and recovery.
- What challenges have you faced?
After laying off from the triathlon for many years, I took it up again in 2016 and participated in Ironman Langkawi in 2017, however, the timing was bad. If I were to nail in Lensahn, I had to pick up a lot of skills. Therefore, I invested in better equipment, upgraded my bicycle gears, and found a private swim coach to collect my stroke.
- You must have a very intense training program for the race, how was it like?
I spent a lot of money on my bike trainer. During my training period, the least I did was running but focused on swimming to strengthen my fitness. Fortunately, I have a group of friends who do ultra-marathons and triathlons, so we trained together. However, most of the time I was on my trainer. Most importantly, it’s all about mental training.
- What was the more difficult aspect of preparing for the race, the physical or the mental?
Ultra Triple Lensahn Race was more of a mental race than a physical. The reason being was inadequate sleep.
- How did you overcome it?
Since I have bought an expensive trainer, I thought I should fully utilize it. The longest time I was on my trainer was 8 hours except taking a short break for dinner. After that, I would jump on the trainer again.
On a trainer, it is very difficult. It’s only you and your trainer. 3 hours on a trainer might sound okay, but the remaining hours were just torturing, even with a TV show being played in front of me. Training on a trainer helped to develop my mental toughness.
- Which discipline is your strongest?
The longest distance I have swum in a pool was 8 kilometers. So, I am more confident in swimming. During my training, I also practiced wearing a wetsuit for the first time.
Eddy was the first Malaysian participating in the race, among 46 participants from all around the world. Having gone through hell and high water, he became the last participant who completed the race before the cut-off time.
- Did you go early to acclimatize to the environment?
Before the race, I traveled to the race venue to get ready. I was arranged to stay in a primary school, which was dedicated to providing accommodation to the participants every year. However, food was prepared individually. Coincidentally, there was an Indian participant whose supporting crew is a Malaysian. So, I have got to taste some Malaysian food. I also found Maggie (a type of instant noodles) from the local supermarket.
- Did you encounter a culture shock?
My experience was nothing short of amazing. During the race, my supporting crews prepared cheese, instant noodles, pasta, pizzas, rice, and soup for me. I did not carry food along as I had my support team set up the support tents at certain areas. So, I could take a break and access my food in the midst of racing.
- What were the mental tricks to complete the race?
I had to go through the “tunnels” which were full of anxieties and fears. There were several times I felt like giving up. I faced three “tunnels” in my mind, where I was forced to give up. The first “tunnel” was riding on the bike in the midnight. It was a windy course. I caught a cold, despite wearing two layers of shirts and windbreakers. That was when I was fighting the battle.
Towards the end of biking, I entered another “tunnel”. The temperature increased, and the air was dry. When I started the first leg of running, I hit the third “tunnel” where I felt wet and cold due to a sudden change in the weather. My supporting crew had to take out the emergency blanket to make me feel warm. Feeling slightly better, I thought I had to walk out from the “tunnel”.
The fourth one came in on the second night. I was very exhausted and restless. It was 3 in the morning alone, I knew I truly had to come out of the “tunnel”. When the sun rose, I eventually gained my confidence and continued running.
- How did you cope with discomfort and pain in racing?
After overcoming the “tunnels”, I ran pretty well. The UV was very strong. The climate increased and turned really hot, which was extremely dry especially without air pollution. I was determined to push myself and run faster for a few more laps to better my timing.
I was very glad to go through the penultimate lap and got all of my crews to run through the last lap with me.
It’s a tradition in Germany, where participants run clockwise with their crews as the spectators cheer for them.
- What went on inside your head during the race?
Why am I doing this stupid thing?
Planning is the key.
- What’s your advice for people who plan to go ultra?
It’s of course not the hardest thing to do it. Firstly, you have to dream it. If you have decided to do it, you must plan thoroughly. You must know how your planning goes. For instance, training and recovery have a close relationship. In order to train effectively, you must also optimize post-training recovery.
- What’s next for you?
Currently, I am planning to participate in Ultra Triple Lensahn Race 2019. There must be something when a race makes the past participants come back again. Triple Ultra Triathlon is grueling, but it eventually becomes something you will miss it. For now, I will focus on training for speed, but endurance.
- What’re the greatest lessons you’ve learned?
After the race, I have got blisters and swollen feet which were two times bigger than my normal size, but this was what you’re expecting after standing for more than 50 hours. It was all mental game to overcome the pain.
Despite the difficulties, distances, and consequences, I am not regretting. The environment of Lensahn was unique, especially having the opportunity to race in a countryside with breath-taking scenery. I raced along the windmill power generators. People were friendly.
Imagine, having to run a total of 96 laps, I had to be mentally strong. This year also happened to be the World Championship, so it was something more special. An ultra-triathlon is designed to test mental toughness, and this is the art of it.
As daunting as it sounds, I’ve learned to stay focused on the goal even when the going gets tough. The organizer would not disqualify you until you decide to give up. So, why should I, right?