It was noon. I was lying around in my bed, shivering in cold and suffering through a headache. But more than that, I was bleeding inside. My mind slowed down, replaying all the moments and was thinking about what I could have done differently. Oceanman Thailand turned out to be a disaster and I was struggling to accept that outcome.
What is the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable? -John Green
Even when I woke up at 3:30 am in the morning, I was confident of a triumphant day. As usual, the night before the race day was restless. The welcome dinner ended pretty late on the night before hence the didn’t sleep much. Thankfully, the hostel owners were kind enough to arrange some breakfast for the Oceanman Thailand participants.
The final check-in time was at 5:30 am so I rushed out towards the swim start venue at 5:00 am. On the way, I made sure to take the safety buoy with me as, without the buoy, participants will be disqualified.
After reaching the swim start point, it was time to go through race day procedures like collecting timing chips, body marking, etc. I started looking for Mahbub bhai and Roman bhai, my fellow participants from Bangladesh in this Oceanman Thailand, among the sea of people but with no avail.
The good thing, caught up with Stephane and Siegfried, who was also representing Bangladesh. They are both fantastic swimmers, so I tried to take in as much advice from them before the start.
Oceanman Thailand course profile
The swim start was from Klong Muang Beach. We all were participating in the 10KM event. It was an out and back course, meaning we had to swim 5KM straight in the middle of the ocean and then come back. The course was pretty interesting as the turnaround point was around an island.
That also meant, there were rip currents as you go towards the island but that was least of my concern. A severe thunderstorm was predicted and I was just praying hard to avoid it at any cost for this Oceanman Thailand. Too many times I faced difficult situations in the sea and it was always a challenge fighting against the mighty sea for me.
A rocky start
6:30 am was the official start time of Oceanman Thailand and we all were off bang on schedule. I didn’t like the start though. There were plenty of sharp corals around the beach and it was very painful to walk over them not to mention the chance of cutting someone’s skin and bleeding. In fact, Stephane cut his legs and kept bleeding till the finish. More on that later.
Once past the sharp coral, I started to swim with a good rhythm but the thing I was hoping not to intervene became a nightmare. It started raining!! The waves were getting stronger and bigger. To add to that, there were also strong currents pushing me off the course. I could feel that I was slowing down and I constantly had to look up to adjust my direction.
As the rain increased, the visibility was getting poor. After an hour or so, all the swimmers left me and I had no other swimmer to follow. I tried to locate the island as my reference point but still, I wasn’t sure whether I was going in the right direction.
And the struggle intensified
There weren’t enough buoys on the course which was another bad feedback for me in terms of the organization of the event. To make the matter worse, strong winds moved the buoys in different directions which forced me to zip zag around and swim more than necessary.
The more I went towards the sea, the more it got difficult. At one point I wasn’t progressing much at all. When I crossed the 2.5KM mark, it was almost 1 hour 40 min, my slowest ever timing!! I started to feel sick and headaches after constant fighting with the sea.
Things got even more challenging after that point. There wasn’t any marshal visible, nor any buoys. The lack of volunteers and planning showed. To add to the woes, the volunteers had no English skills, so it was difficult to take help in the aid stations.
The dreaded DNF
After 2 hours of struggle, I only managed to cover 3 kilometers and then was forced to abandon the Oceanman Thailand due to not managing the cut off time. I needed to cover 3KM in 1 hour and 30 minutes to continue to the next checkpoint. It was a bitter end. I was shaking on the rescue boat due to the cold and sickness.
The rescue boat dropped me near the beach. I trudged off the beach and the volunteers took away the timing chip. I swiftly went to the bag collection tent, collected my stuff and started walking towards the hostel in the rain. It was such a disappointing moment for me. I knew I could do better but bad weather seems to follow me wherever I go.
Joyous day for Bangladesh
Later on, caught up with everyone to hear their stories. Stephane was doing great and finished half the course in only 1 hour and 30 minutes before getting sick and then slowed down considerably. And as I mentioned before, he cut himself at the start of the swim and he got weaker and weaker as the event progressed. He defined Oceanman Thailand as the hardest event he ever faced!!
Mahbub bhai and Roman bhai also struggled but finished the event. They raised the Bangladesh flag higher and made us proud. It was a show of grit and determination against all the odds by them. Siegfried was the best of the lot and he finished with a fantastic time overall.
Overall, if anyone asks, is Oceanman Thailand was the toughest race you ever faced, the answer will be YES, ABSOLUTELY!! It was even harder than crossing the Bangla Channel and it was a common consensus among all of us. All of us didn’t expect this course to be this punishing even though the distance wasn’t as long as the Bangla Channel.
The organization was pretty poor also. There weren’t enough volunteers throughout the course. Lack of planning, safety buoys, and other aspects was also evident. Reports of cheating and taking shortcuts were also heard but I’m not too sure about that.
For me, it was a bad experience but I know I have to overcome that. I hate failing but I also know I grow stronger every time when I fail. Maybe it would have been nice to finish off the Oceanman Thailand but now it also gives me more motivation to work hard and to come back with a fight. There’s some unfinished business to take care of.
So, what do you think? Want to join me for the next attempt? Are you bold enough to conquer the raging sea? If so, see you at the next event.