Competing in an Ironman event requires discipline, determination and commitment.
These traits are cultivated over time and carried by every Ironman athlete through a 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride and 42.195km run.
When Alfred Cheong made the decision to compete in an Ironman event, he knew it would be a life-changing one. Little did he realise he would be turning his family of five into a group of triathlon disciples.
“I started in 2017 after reading articles about Yee Sze Mun, who is the oldest Ironman (age 82). I visited him at his home and he showed me all his medals. I was truly inspired!” says Alfred, the managing director at his engineering firm.
At 55, Alfred puts many of his contemporaries to shame with his slender and toned physique. Despite starting his journey in his early 50s, he went straight for the full distance at his first event.
“I was introduced to Karen Siah who was my first coach. She initially asked me to go for the Ironman 70.3, but age was catching up and I feared of missing out, so I signed up for the full event! To kick-start my training, I joined the Olympic Distance event and signed up for the Penang Cross Channel swim. It all began from there.”
This year, Alfred will be accompanying his wife, Christine Loh, 52, and their two eldest children, Joanne and Samuel on their maiden attempt of the Ironman 70.3 Langkawi. They will take on the challenge to swim 1.9km along the beaches of Pantai Kok, bike 90km on hilly terrains of Langkawi Island, and finish off with a 21.1km run towards Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort & Spa.
So, how did he inspire his whole family to take part?
“At first, we only accompanied him,” said Christine.
“Then we figured since we were all following him to all these beautiful places and treating it like a vacation, why not join competitions too!”
Not only did Christine remain as Alfred’s biggest supporter, but she also began to develop a passion for triathlon.
Seeing dad embark on this journey was a motivation for the 27-year-old Joanne to join in the family adventure.
“Dad has so much energy at his age, and it is an inspiration for us kids too. I started by running in 2011, before turning to swimming and cycling. It was a challenge at first, but I am glad I gave it a shot,” said Joanne.
“You never know if you can do it until you actually start it.”
For Samuel, 24, starting out on this challenging routine was a chore at first, but the middle child in the family was also inspired by Alfred.
The Cheong family has another triathlete son, Bryan,17, who completes this Ironman family.
With everyone except Bryan (underage) preparing for Ironman 70.3 Langkawi, almost all their conversations have been triathlon-related.
“Even our family dinner is Ironman-related!” joked Alfred.
Everyone has individual training regimes, mainly comprising a six-day week training.
This includes 12-14 hours per week of training, with weekdays training taking up to two hours and weekends around five hours of running, cycling and swimming.
“Diet is also important, and I stay away from fast food and processed food. I consume protein shakes and supplements to boost my energy levels,” explained Alfred, who wakes up at 5am daily for training.
Will all the time, money and sacrifice to prepare for an Ironman 70.3 event pay off?
“Working out as a family has made us closer. It builds character, helps you cultivate a stronger mind, and most importantly you feel great after exercising. I would recommend it to anyone.”