To Start, To Finish

Saturday, March 4, 2017

(My race account of Tri United Exceed 2017 on Feb 26, 2017)

These days, I just take what I can get. For my first triathlon race of 2017, I would have wanted to begin with an easy sprint after my holiday season diet sabbatical, but alas, Tri United already dropped its sprint category and I would have to bite up to the standard distance so early in the year.

When I realized that the standard distance actually required riding up to Subic Ocean Adventure and back, I panicked. I had hoped for the flatter airport roads. I quickly resumed gym spinning, sneaked in a couple of outdoor hill repeats, and changed my bike set up from caliper brakes to manual disc brakes. The latter included heavier mountain bike wheel set compatible with the disc brakes. To boost my confidence further, I settled for flat mountain bike pedals so I can use running shoes instead of bike shoes. In case my lungs or hearts screamed "Enough" on those hills, I can get down faster and safer.

Up to a few days before the race, I contemplated on backing out as I feel my fitness is not yet up to par, but eventually I decided to at least start and do the swim leg, my most comfortable part of the race. I could stop at the bike leg at any point if I feel I am endangering myself.

The race atmosphere the day before and during actual race day never fails to energize at least, including the undertrained me. I knew I have only few swimming mileage, but I hoped my years of swimming would help me through. It did allow me to finish the 1.5km swim leg, albeit I was deadbeat and lagging in the last decile of swimmers. It was a career worst of 57 minutes for that distance, but I reallly just got back what I invested (which was little in terms of training).

The transition area was one long, uni-directional stretch. No wonder athletes were displaying long transition times. The carpet used this time was a little thin so it was relatively harder to walk. Add this to the fact that I was already exhausted.

Image may contain: 1 person, bicycle, mountain, outdoor and nature
Start of bike leg. Photo by Aldrin Galang

I was probably overly conservative on the bike. I was already conscious and cautious about not taxing the heart to start with. The fact that I heard a lady biker screaming while faltering on the bike, and then crashing with a metallic and body thud probably made me even more cautious. I thought it was just a moderate fall but I would eventually learn that she was brought to the hospital for bruise treatment probably and health check. Good thing there were marshals in the area, and along with them I warned down-speeding bikers about the accident and hazard.

Slowly but safely, I finished the bike ride, entertaining myself by looking at trees and birds when the going got tough. I actually spotted two hornbills perched low on a tree. It could get lonely trying to catch up with the rest of the athletes, and on the few times I come close, I actually forced myself to slow down on those blind, curved downhills. It was getting hotter the last 10kms. With only few remaining cyclists and myself way over my target time, it was a struggle to finish the ride. My energy was so sapped down at that point I actually thought of just giving up. The only thing that prevented me was the fact that nobody would really fetch me and my bike and bring me back to the transition area cum finish line. When I did reach the bike transition area, I half-joked and half-meant it to a teammate already done with the race:  Can you just sub for me on the run leg?

I was like a zombie through the long transition area into the run starting point. I only got my second wind when I saw the other athletes still on their loops of 4. I was too slow to partake of the grapes and oranges at the aid station, but I was still thankful for the chips that boosted me. The heat rose with each loop I made, but the cheers of teammates, fellow athletes and the crowd kept me going. I was glad I continued with the run; it turned out to be the most enjoyable part for me. I am particularly thankful for teammates who stayed behind to see me over and one Lakan supporter freely giving chips to the tired athletes.

Officially, this was my worst standard distance finish time (5hr23min), but I was still grateful I still get to do this sport, much slower but safe. Finishing near last, but with optimism and spirits still high. The ones who dare to start still wins over those who didn't; the one who never gives up, may surprise himself in the end.



daytripper1021 March 6, 2017 at 11:46 AM  

Still, finishing a tri is by no means a small feat. Congrats again for another tri finish!

Hang in there bud. The 2017 season has just begun. ;-)

Rico Villanueva March 8, 2017 at 7:26 AM  

Thanks Roelle. Doing my best to hang in there. Always nice to hear from you or see you!

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