Ironman Malaysia
Members Race Review
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Picture 1
A finishers medal & post race cocktails

Reviewer:  Wolfgang Amman
Race Name: Ironman Malaysia
Age Group: 45-49
Location: Langkawi Island
Date: October 26th, 2019
Website link:
Triathlon Experience:  Langkawi was my fourth full Ironman race after nine 70.3 distance ones.


  • Scenic course across the lavishly green Langkawi Island
  • Predictable swim course and weather 

Rationale for Choosing this Race

The race usually takes place at the end of October. It is a perfect opportunity for one more race at the end of the season. I had done the IM 70.3 the year before to explore the location, course, and logistics. It is a fantastic course with perfectly predictable hot weather. Having experienced Weymouth’s heavy rain and cold before, knowing what to expect was definitely a plus. As it was at the end of the season, and as I had done three other full Ironman races in the three preceding months, this race for me was all about enjoying the experience. There was no intention to break any record or to qualify for anything. It was about living the very moment again when I wake up in the morning realizing it is race day. It was about swimming, biking, and running; enjoying every second, and of course, about that moment when being welcomed to the finish line with the famous “You are an Ironman”.

Travel to the Race

There are frequent connections via Kuala Lumpur and the transit time is rather short. Qatar Airways has direct flights to Langkawi, but they did not suit my schedule. As the island is not big, and taxi rides as well as Uber work smoothly, I decided to stay away from the official race hotels where the race would start or finish later that day. I found the prices to be 75% cheaper this way. 


Like this is frequently the case, there was a practice swim the days before, which I went to the two days prior to the race. The water was and would continue to be very calm and warm. Having experienced crazy waves at the Ironman 70.3 races in Peloponnese and Weymouth, swimming in Langkawi was one very predictable factor. Pre-race logistics are somewhat more challenging as hundreds of athletes simultaneously attempt to scout the swim location, which is different from the transition 1 location, which again is different from where the race would end. The mechanics next to the registration booths were extremely helpful for a final bike check and post-race packing. The most challenging factor for me in Malaysia was the time difference. Being based in Qatar, the alarm basically goes off at midnight of my internal clock. This is very different from racing in Europe where, due to the time difference, there is more time to start into the day. 

Race Gear

After a number of race starts, I had my gear all sorted out. I started with a compression suit for the swim. I changed completely for the bike. For such a sun intensive location, the choice was clearly in favor of an aero helmet. A closed helmet protecting from the sun was more important than a somewhat cooler, open one. Like in the races before, I changed into full, new run gear, giving up a minute or two during transition 2. As it turned out, nobody seemed in a hurry. After hours in the brutal hot sun, I saw numerous athletes lying on the floor for minutes in the air-conditioned hall for transition 2. 


Getting to the Start Line

The full Ironman race started after the 70.3 participants. This allowed for seeing the fellow athletes more often during the day. Not uncommon for Ironman races, taxis or buses would drop athletes a few hundred meters away from the beach, as the roads would be closed. 

Swim Leg

The swim course was a triangle with an Australian exit. I appreciated the water served before round 2 very much. The water was crystal clear. There were clear demarcations, better than what I have seen anywhere else, which helped prevent swimming detours. The water was rather warm. Wetsuits would never be allowed here, which would in colder water enable faster times. Of course, salt water helps with faster swim times, too. 

Bike Leg

T1 gave me a challenge as my bike shirt broke when putting it on. It had all my food stored in the back pockets. Fortunately, I could organize a substitute, yet without the pockets. I had to leave my food behind. Such situations require pragmatism, so I took off without my prepared food supply. While the food and drink stations served wonderfully cold drinks, they left the bananas out in the sun all day. Thinking positively, this day was about full enjoyment, not any PB. I would learn though to pack an extra bike shirt with food supplies in the future. The sun was absolutely brutal, not a single cloud during the entire day. The usual rain in the middle of the day (as this was the case the days before as well as during the 70.3 race in 2018) would not fall until later in the evening after sunset. Two rounds through the rainforest and along a scenic route more than made up for the lack of food. It was a wonderful experience. Total climb was less than 1600 meters, and no individual climb was more than 100 meters. Supporters gathered at the steepest climb, which was nice. 

Run Leg

Transition 2 was in the Mahsuri International Exhibition Center, a huge air-conditioned exhibition hall. Entering it, athletes would go from 40 °C+ degrees down to 20. Never before have I seen that many athletes resting on the floor after the biking. The heat had clearly taken its toll. Refueled and changed into my running gear, I was off to two rounds leading past the Langkawi International Airport runway, through a town to the Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort and Spa, where the finish line would await. The lighting near the airport was rather poor in the evening, but the cheering crowd in the town helped. Warm rain set in, which was refreshing. For the first time ever, I got a one-minute penalty as a drinking cup just missed the trash can. To the referee’s surprise, I very much welcomed a short break for stretching after 27 km!

Finish Line / Finisher Area

The finish line on the beach, with the usual crowed cheering, loud music and the “You are an Ironman” announcement were the perfect finish of a wonderful day. No cramps, no sunburns, not flat tires, no overly ambitious cyclist pushing others off the road, no wet roads in the rainforest causing slippery roads, and making new friends during the cycling and running, a good day came to its wonderful end. Cold, wet towels awaited the finishers after collecting the medals. The medals are the biggest and most beautiful amongst all the races I have seen. Finisher area food was functional, but there would be plenty of opportunities to catch up over the next days and the off-season to compensate for a day with probably too little food. 

Evaluation of my Race 

The race was the perfect finish for a long season in which I had a number of triathlon and marathon race starts. I think it is of utmost importance to have a clear purpose for each race. This race was clearly in the category of “simply finish it”. With this stance, the day becomes substantially more fun. I saw a number of athletes breaking down with cramps or getting frustrated with the weather. This does not mean to be unnecessarily slow. But so many things can happen that pursuing PBs in such hot conditions is not easily possible. 

Evaluation of the Race Organization

Food supply was rather limited during the bike ride. A few power bars and salt tablets could have helped the athletes. Overall, though, a great, highly professional race organization from the local registration to the finisher party. Ironman races are usually organized extremely well, leaving little room for criticism.

Recommendations/Lessons Learned

I would organize for a plan B next time when it comes to clothing (one extra bike shirt with food in the back pockets). Roads were somewhat bumpy, so I would secure the drinking bottles more firmly. Living and training in Doha has the advantage of getting used to the warmer and more humid weather. Exploring training in warmer condition surely make the race day in hot Langkawi easier to manage. This might not necessarily be the best race for someone’s first Ironman, but surely one that should go on the bucket list.