Race Report: Borja Franco at Ironman Malaysia

November 21, 2017

IRONMAN Malaysia 🇲🇾 Race Report:

Ironman Malaysia a truly unique and beautiful adventure on the Island of Langkawi! 🦅 All the rumors about this race being one of the toughest of the Ironman circuit are true. The heat and humidity played a big role on the race day. Great memories that I will never forget.

I left Sydney on the 8th November just two days before the race. A 9 hours overnight flight plus 4 hours transfer at Kuala Lumpur Airport. Not really much time to acclimate to the heat and humidity. I landed in Langkawi around 10am on the 9th of November, with no bike and little and uncomfortable sleep, a great way to start the Malaysian adventure!

When people say that Malaysia is hot and humid, that is a true fact, it is stinking hot. When the sun is out you don’t have to move to be able to sweat, it feels like a sauna and the heat pounding on the back of your neck it just burns 🔥.

I stayed in Pantai Cenang a busy beach town not far away from the Airport and the Finish Line at the Meritus Pelangi Hotel. The local ambience and people were great and very welcoming to the Ironman event.

On Thursday after landing I filled at the airport a quick report for my lost bike and head straight to the hotel to get some rest (luckily I did not check-in my backpack). Apparently the bike did not board the plane at Kuala Lumpur as there was not enough space in the plane; it was full of Ironman and 70.3 athletes. Malaysian Airlines told me that the bike would come in the next flight and would be delivered directly to my hotel, so I tried not to worry too much, although it was hard not to be thinking about it just a day before the bike check-in. This is always the biggest fear of any athlete travelling to a race, so as a lesson learned better to get there a few more days in advance.

Around 3pm on Thursday I decided to go for a slow 6km run on a section of the marathon course just to test the conditions that I would have to stand at this time of the day on Saturday, f*** is hot. Back to the hotel 4pm in the afternoon, still no news about my bike, so I decided to go to the Mahsuri International Exhibition Centre for athlete check-in and welcome dinner. Had a good dinner with Charles Buxton and other friends and at the end of it he gave a lift back on his scooter to the hotel to, guess what…9pm and still no bike! I started worrying and decided to start calling Malaysian Airlines at the Langkawi airport but I was getting nowhere. Then at around 10pm I decided to head back to the Airport to find out any news about my bike, finally the bike was there and got it back 🙂.

I did not have time to get in any bike rides except when I went to the T2 at the Mahsuri International Exhibition Centre to drop by run gear bag. A similar race to Ironman Cairns with 2 separate T1 and T2.

The remainder of pre-race day was just around the clock, gear and bike check-in, some rest, eating and hydration.

IRONMAN Malaysia is probably the hardest race I have ever done; no doubt the climate conditions caused most of the trouble.

The Swim course 🏊🏻 and T1 was located at the Dana Langkawi in Pantai-Kok around 10km and 15km far away from the T2 and Finish Line respectively. It was a non-wetsuit swim, the water temperature was pretty warm and calm, a total of 2 laps swim where athletes have to come out of the water and run a few meters along the beach before re-entering the ocean again for the second lap. I started in the first Age Group wave (1h – 1h10 swim) and was able to enjoy a very good and proper swim exiting the water in 57'43, with the fastest time in my age group and beating some of the professional field.

The bike course 🚴🏻 a two loop course around the whole island, a mix of rolling hills, flats and some decent climbs, road conditions were mostly ok except some sections of very rough asphalt. Watch out for the monkeys 🐒🐒🐒 everywhere on the roads!! Since the start of the first climb I experienced some mechanical issues with my lower gears, so had to push big gears all the way on all the hills, I did not want to stop for mechanical help as long as I could keep going. The Aid Stations were great with really cold ❄️ electrolytes and water bottles. Along the bike course you get to see and appreciate the amazing scenery going through small villages full of happy Malaysian kids screaming for empty bottles of water and electrolytes! I experienced some heavy rain in the final stages of the bike and showers followed on the run which despite the discomfort was great to fight the heat. I finished the bike in 5h16m with the best 8th time of my Age Group and after a freezing transition at the T2 Air Conditioned hanger I started the run in 5th place.

A long way to go 🏃🏻, 42km of real pain, 2.5 laps course between the Airport and Pantai Cenang. The turnaround is in this Air Conditioning hanger so you actually run through it three times during the marathon, what a bad idea from the IRONMAN Organization, (John Hill would have died of cold). With little kms on my legs in the last 4 weeks due to a foot injury, I was a bit worried but I guess I had to try my best to chase any of the Age Groupers in front of me. The aid stations were very well equipped to fight the heat, including cold drinks, huge buckets full of water, ice and sponges to be poured over your head and a few shower and splash tents. At the start of the run, I set a good pace for the first half, it was good to see that despite of my little run load I was able to execute some good times and jump from 5th to 2nd position, when suddenly my legs started to feel heavier and heavier. I knew looking at the gap with the guys behind me that the difference was actually increasing and everyone was suffering badly so I pushed as much as I could to maintain the second place.

I finished the run in 3h21 with the fastest run split on my Age Group beating some of the pro field, placing 2nd 🥈 on my Age Group and 20th overall with a total time of 9h43.

My first podium 🏆on an Ironman Race and direct qualification for 🌺KONA🌸






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