Breaking the Jinx

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Race account:  UPLB National Age Group Triathlon, December 14, 2013

The UPLB triathlon is a sentimental favorite. It was my first triathlon in 2003. That was a decade ago! Has it been that long? I also hail from Los Banos - born inside the former university hospital (now CMT building) about 200m from the race start/finish, schooled in its womb till college, with the University as my childhood and adulthood playground.

You would think that such familiarity with the locale gives me race advantage, but for some strange reason, my race performance almost always suffers when I am in my hometown. I rarely cramp during the swim leg, but I somehow did in my first triathlon race and several years after when I sought some revenge. On those freak cramping incidents, the debilitating cramp happens when I pull a calf muscle as I haul myself off the pool in the first round of the swim. It was the type that remained lock despite all efforts to relax and would hound me till the finish line. In short, on multiple occasions, I would finish the swim without kicking, bike with a single leg and basically walk off the run leg. The jinx was so bad that for this nth try I decided not to inform family members who live nearby.

 On my nth try:  Athlete #147
I was also there to accompany an officemate doing his first triathlon. I would have wanted to do the sprint distance which was my first race, but I opted for the mini-sprint so I can guide my friend. It turns out I have other friends joining for the first time, also accompanied by mutual friend. Great. That kind of support environment makes for memorable triathlon, and a lot of teams have been founded on this helping out spirit, my team Endure included.

Officemate Kazu in his first triathlon

My race plan was simple:  Enjoy and try not to cramp. I swam just two notches above leisurely, practicing what I preach to my newbie friend that there is no point in exhausting oneself in the swim when that means gaining only a minute or two at the expense of labored effort in the last two legs of the race. I was extra careful going up the pool in my first leg. Success, no pulled muscle. Three rounds more and I finally finished my stroll in the pool. I was so conservative in the swim I probably finished near the bottom of my swim wave.

The funny truth is, we are only three males in our age group. Half-Ironman finishers James and myself, and first timer Noy. There was supposed to be a fourth person, but he could not make it. The three of us joked it was just a matter of determining the ranking. All I wanted really is to break my UPLB jinx. I came in to help and enjoy, not race for myself. But we did jokingly admonish the perky youths 13-19 in our swim wave to respect their elders :)

I really intended to catch up in the bike leg. With the hilly Challenge Half Distance looming large in my mind, I have been spending more time on the bike. I hope to harvest some pay-off. In my assessment, I did reasonably well on the bike for the current fitness and training level I have. I tried to narrow the yawning gap between James and myself, but he was just way ahead in the swim and bike. I was expecting my friend Kazu who started a wave later than me would catch up with me on the bike, but we basically maintained our bike distance. In our assessments, we both enjoyed and met our expectations on the bike. By some miracle, the bike gap between Noy and myself narrowed down to as close as 400m, but I would learn from Noy later that he had cramps on the bike leg. Noy has not fully recovered from a recent illness.

I was surprised to catch Noy on the transition area. We left the area just seconds in interval. While I was not yet spent, I knew then that I haven't gotten back my previous running speed. I was still on the jogging phase of my training so there was no way I could outran Noy. All I wanted is to run after Noy as much as my training will permit. A newbie can pull up an overweight half-ironman. Overall I was happy with my run. For the first time, I was running on Baker Field grounds without cramps! My steady jog was interrupted only by short walks on inclines near the auditorium.

Eventually, I crossed the finish line: running, challenged but not spent. Just how I imagine perfect race should be. For the kind of excess weight I am carrying, it was a perfect effort. I was extremely happy to break the jinx. I made a mental note though that I can be faster and happier if I just lose at least ten pounds. I have the experience and maturity, but these qualities can only partially offset excess baggage.

Breaking the race jinx was my chief reward, but the sweet icing on the cake was getting a foot-tall trophy for simply showing up and finishing. James, Noy and myself, we had a dozen laughs on the happy accident that put us three on the podium. Newbie Gail, wife of Noy also ended up first place in her age group. Sometimes, the stars align, allowing ordinary blokes like us our moment in the sun.

Thank you God for the happy memories.

Noy, Gail and James


daytripper1021 December 16, 2013 at 4:49 PM  

wow podium! hehehe.

congrats pards!

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