A Race That I Deserve (Part 1)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Olympic Virgin in One Big Party

When I decided to do Subit, all I had in mind was to do the Olympic standard distance triathlon preparatory to Camsur Half-Ironman. I knew Subit was the longest running triathlon event in the country, and I had heard a couple of good feedbacks, but I never realized that my supposed training race was THAT big.

I only appreciated the magnitude of the race when I first set to do route recon on March 27-28 and April 24-25 with a couple of friends. Our merry group of nervous newbies were clearly there to befriend the open waters and steep hills of Subic. But why were members of established teams also there? We spotted the familiar colors of Polo Tri, Sunkist, Fitness First, Tri-Clark, Herbalife, etc. Clearly, everyone  - not just us newbies – were prepping for a race that I would later realize was used as some sort of ranking among local triathletes or teams.

Me? I just wanted to survive this race – specifically those curved downhills where I knew other athletes have fallen in the past. I could endure those long uphills, but those downhills I could only manage with some practice and tons of prayers. During breaks and downtimes our group would huddle and examine not only the route but also the splits of last year’s race. Just how do we compare to the 2009 finishers? I saw Fernando Zobel's time and holy cow, if he did 1:45 on bike and 1:03 on run, what about me!? Curiously, Maricar Reyes – feminine and frail-looking she may be – had a decent time (2:37:06). From my recollection of seeing her before in the gym and Nike Running Clinics, I deduced she is one feisty and fit lady underneath that pretty, delicate appearance. Me – I had weathered BLC 1 & 2, but I still needed BLC 3 and 4 to be in better fighting form. I glanced at the last page of the finishers and searched for some finish time or someone I could reasonably benchmark this fat Olympic virgin. I do not know and could not spot Gelo Arellano in a crowd, but I knew enough he is Drew’s older brother and I knew myself enough that his time seemed doable for me (swim 38:17, bike 1:53, run 1:10 for a total of 3:41:33). My realistic goal was to swim within 40 minutes, finish the bike leg with legs fresh enough to run (hopefully within the neighborhood of 1hr40min), and never walk nor cramp for all 10k of the run (and do it close to 1:10). Only exception allowed was walking while sipping water in front of aid stations. That last bit was my homage to marathoner Jeff Galloway.

Training Tapers, Pressures Pile Up

                                   Subic April Recon at Dungaree (photos by Zack)

I had my one last training hurrah on April 25, one week before the race. It was an 800-meter swim, 20K easy bike up-and-down the hills, 10K bike cruise down to Subic Boardwalk, and 2.5k easy run loop – all-done in the hot, burning sun. I was obviously fatigued by such effort, but I was not at all sore. Unfortunately, the combination of hot weather outside, cool air-conditioning, training fatigue and viral company of at least 4 triathletes with severe colds/flu-like symptoms took its toll on me. Monday morning after, the moment I felt something odd inside my sinus I remembered the slimy phlegm I saw floating on Dungaree waters and recalled the wheezing of my friends. Urrghhh….Bummer! There I was trying real hard not to overtrain so as to not to get sick, only to get the virus on the crucial taper week. I know from experience it was a nasty virus, but good thing I was healthy enough not to be completely downed by it. It was a cold or flu threatening to run its course but valiantly stopped on its tracks.

Monday was not only fight flu day but also bike check day. Just the day before my front brake locked onto my wheel after I sped through an unseen crack on  my way down to Ocean Adventure. Just coming off a gravity-pulled max speed of 56K about 300m earlier, I luckily managed to uncleat and dismount - safe and unscathed, but scared shitless when my bike suddenly stopped. WTF, I just had my bike thoroughly checked two weeks ago! Monday night I had it checked again in a more reputable shop. I was told the newly installed brake cables were trapped in their housing, my headset had busted bearings, and the new pulleys in my rear derailleurs were actually incompatible!

In the noontime heat I hied off to Cartimar to search for compatible pulleys. The better shop there told me that my replacement pulleys were actually good with its ceramic bearings. It was my bent dropset that was causing skips in my gears. Drenched in sweat in my office garb of long sleeves shirt and tie, and not knowing whom to believe anymore, I asked the mechanic to do just what needed to be done. I shall test ride it myself when I hopefully find time.

Work was not a refuge from bike stress as it was hellweek for me. On April 30 I was supposed to submit a vital document to regulators. With help with senior colleagues, I have been laboring on this document for weeks and my Subit taper week happened to be the work crunch time.

Middle of the week on Wednesday I managed to squeeze in a relaxing swim after a strenuous work day, only to come home to a Pomeranian litter delivered while I was swimming. I would normally watch through the first night whenever there is a new litter, especially for breeds as tiny and delicate as Pomeranians. Mentally drained and physically tired, I reluctantly asked my kennel hands to check on the pups at least once during the night. I woke up next morning to the news that one of the pups managed to slip out of the already narrow grills of the whelping cage and fell one-foot onto the floor. My helper found the poor pup at early dawn. It looked okay before I left Manila on Friday, only to weaken and die before midnight. Sigh.

Thursday night I tried to get home early to test ride my bike at least once. It rained the moment I left our house gate. Not exactly well, I went back and prayed that the last mechanic did well his job.

Friday I submitted the work document, sat through a very important meeting trying my best to recall things and sound intelligent, left the office at lunch, did last minute supplies shopping, and packed my bags for Subic. By 4pm I was off driving to join the traffic rush out of the city. Before dusk while cruising through SCTEX I received message that what was supposed to be a simple hemmorhoid operation for my 73-year old dad had to be postponed to make way for another, more critical, high-risk, expensive disease and procedure. It was hell week indeed and my world was fast crumbling. There goes my tri-bike budget I told my ride buddy as I tried vainly to make light of the situation. That lone female pup that died, it could have fetched a big sum to help defray the medical bills of my dad.

Unsettling Calm
Race day morning (May 2) I was more quiet than usual. Just the previous morning I found myself suddenly and uncontrollaby sobbing inside the bathroom. It must be pressures and myriad of concerns trying to express themselves. I only have one train of thought that moment: God, I am already here in Subic. I trained hard for this. I have been a helpful athlete and a good son. Please give me a race that I deserve.

I snapped out of the doldrums immediately and immersed myself in the spectacle that was Subit. I cheered friends doing the Sprint on Saturday and celebrated their personal victories. But Sunday morning I was back to reality. What I felt was eerie silence - a calm that neither soothes nor relaxes. I did not know if I was worried about my bike, my father, our nascent team. I dunno really. I just remembered drinking litters of water preparatory to the swim and hying off to the deeper part of the waters to unload what I drank.

After a long wait our age group finally hit the waters. I mechanically walked towards the waters and dove only when the water was waist deep. There was physically commotion, but nothing compared to the silent turmoil in my mind. Used to mass starts in our regular wednesday night swims, I was oblivious to the swimming crowd. I got hit in the face causing water to seep a little into my goggles, but I could not care less. It was good that just a week ago I was forced to swim  blindly 750m of the same beach when I left my goggles. God is still good; He prepares me well.

Just like in the past, swimming worked its magic on my troubled mind and body. Eventually I got my rhythm. Long and steady strokes, whoever was ahead, behind or beside me. I used to be timid in the pool, often giving way to others. But that morning I claimed my right to be there. I swam  my pace and raced with myself in that sea of athletes. I have been told about the trench but when I first saw it, what I felt was awe, not fear. Fascination, not trepidation. Gone were the week's woes. It was all green - calm, clear and comfortably cool. I was in my element. I was at peace. Long steady strokes. I haven't had my fill yet when it was time to turn around already.

My swim was two loops of nirvana. Best swim I've had in my short 2-year multi-sports history. As I completed the second round I noticed the swim crowd was thinning. I knew we were the last wave, but had I been left behind in my joyous swim? Eventually I reached the shore. Sweet Jesus I made it in 37 minutes! The best I recorded in the pool was 39 minutes. I was ecstatic, moreso when I saw friends cheering me on as I ran my way to the transition. Go Sheerwill I heard my friends. Thank you, thank you was all I mustered. That and a big smile on my face.

      Wow, there are others behind me =)
              Photo by Jonas' wife

   The only thing better than a good swim 
were friends cheering you on. Thanks!
        Photo by Carina



gerard May 12, 2010 at 9:53 AM  

That was an amazing swim rico!

Mikes May 12, 2010 at 2:50 PM  

Can't wait for part 2! Now I know why you were not your jolly old self when I saw you guys Saturday,

ronald May 12, 2010 at 7:27 PM  

ang dami mo palang pinagdadaanan aside from the tri itself. grabe! astig ka boss rico! you really deserve this race!

Unknown May 13, 2010 at 3:40 PM  

Good job man. I knew that you will do well with the dedication that you put in the sport.

Ian May 16, 2010 at 8:39 PM  

great job Rix... what more if you were focused... i myself had a good swim.. no hassles or anything... i attribute this to the group swims that you organized.. thanks bro!

Julie @ HotlegsRunner May 20, 2010 at 1:51 PM  

idol commissioner!!!

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