Enjoying my Second Triathlon

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I enlisted in the Animo Sprint Triathlon (mini-sprint category) with only two goals in mind. First is to have a better finish (I finished last in my first triathlon!) and second is not to have cramps during the race. (My hamstrings and ankles ached during the bike and run legs in my first triathlon). My miserable performance is my triathlon debut is attributed to lack of preparation. A week after doing my first Milo 5K race in Baguio where I sprained my ankle from race start due to lack of warm-up, I wanted to redeem myself and do the next first challenge that came along - the 2003 UP Los Baños Triathlon. With crazy egging from my group of rowing friends who did the Baguio Milo race, I enlisted in my first triathlon.

I was better prepared in my second triathlon. I knew that biking and running are my weak points so I hit the gym almost daily for exercises on the cycling machine and treadmill. I also did the bike race route for two consecutive weekends prior to the race. I of course made sure that I could still swim the 350m required.

I was bent on enjoying the whole race that I took my sweet time for most of the course. I forget it was competition and acted like I was doing leisure sports. For starters, I arrived relatively late at 6:30am. I calmly got my race back and had myself number-marked. I very slowly unpacked and laid out the stuff I would need for transition to biking. Finally I proceeded to the pool area to wait.

I believe I was too successful in calming my nerves before the race that I became too relaxed. I took my sweet time cooling myself by showering. Because I was not hurrying, I lost the opportunity to do practice swims before the race. I was a bit jolted when the signal for swim start was given and a swarm of guys swam through me as I was still navigating myself toward the starting wall. I tried to get my bearings in the first 2 laps, and then I relaxed again. I did the same meditative strokes I use to do when I swim alone. I do not know if I was fast or slow, but I did leave behind some people. Towards the middle of the swim course, I felt the lanes were mine alone. I suppose the good swimmers went ahead, while the new ones were left behind. I was there in the middle concentrating on form and conserving energy for the next legs.

In an attempt to get into my swim zone, I zoned off all the chaos and commotion. Very calmly, I climbed out of the pool and headed to the bike transition area. Only after the swim did I realize that my watch chrono was off. In the transition area, I leisurely put on bike clothes and shoes and chewed through half of a powerbar. I just realised I needed to hurry up when a friend arrived from the swim leg. The transition from pool to bike mount took me six leisurely minutes!

The bike leg is my Achilles heel. In my first and crazy triathlon attempt 5 years ago, my thigh muscles hurt like hell from lack of previous use. For my second triathlon, I was better prepared. I pushed the effort level on the cycling machine to 10 (with 12 being the highest) to prepare for the arduous uphill segments. On race day, I purposedly did not exert much effort on the level surfaces so I could have energy stocks for the uphill. The ascends worked my upper leg muscles but not really to the point of pain or exhaustion. Confident that I managed the first ascend, I relaxed even further. It was then that I turned the sprint into a bike tour of the village. I admired the nice houses and beautiful dogs from my road vantage point. I saw labrador retrievers, a German shepherd and a pug. After my village tour, I dismounted from my bike with the urgency of a vacationer. One of the race organizers was yelling "Finish strong, brother" but it took him two friendly yells for me to realise that they were addressed to me. I was still calm in my second transition phase, but was faster.

The running leg for me was most uneventful. For one, many others have already finished that there were less people to race with. More importantly, for an overweight person like me, running puts so much stress on the knees and ankles. My wide flat feet does not help either. I cannot run fast for instance. I am just jogging really. So I I have not reached that point where running is pure bliss, where you have long, effortless strides fully supported by adequate heart and lung capacities. I would like to believe that swimming has developed my heart and lung, but my weight is really killing my legs. I have shed 15 lbs since I started training again in August, but I need to shed more! I enjoy this kind of bliss in swimming; soon, I hope to have the same feeling in running.

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