Before anything else, I’m reminded by WordPress that I’ve had 11 revisions of this already. Reviewing them, I’m embarrassed to admit I started this last July 8, 2013. That’s almost three months to this day!
Again, I don’t pay enough attention to my documentation of myself. Every time I tend to start writing I end up having to do something else. But why blame it on me being busy? It’s more annoying than using traffic as excuse for being late. Sorry!
Confessions aside, this post is about my experience trying two races in two weeks, and how guilty I am of not doing enough to train for events. It’ll be my template for the future.
I. Century Tuna 5i50 – Standard Distance – Subic Bay, Olongapo
Swim: 1.5 kms
Bike: 40 kms
Run: 10 kms
Registration: $160.75 * 42.0966719= Php 6,767.04
Two weeks ago, June 23rd, 2013 (remember I said I started writing this July 8?) was D-day for me. The last race I had was more than three months ago already, where I tried my first Sprint Distance Triathlon at TriUnited 1. My experience back then was that it was a welcome effort on my part, as I had just learned to swim properly. Sir Norms and I had planned to compete almost every month on whatever race was available, with Pico De Loro, Subit, and Triman all part of our building up for Ironman 70.3. When tragedy struck us though, being robbed at TU1, we decided to forgo Pico De Loro, and we ended up losing our momentum. Our training became sporadic, and at times I felt as if we were just self training and going overboard self justifying our actions.
Sir Norms wasn’t really sure with 5i50, worried all along with his swimming skills. One training camp however at Subic where we tried the Subit swim and 5i50 bike route and I was finally able to persuade him to register, even if there were not many who’d go with us. In fact, come race day, we were the only Meralco participants to join, as Juanch was not able to make the deadline for the registration.
The week before the rest day, I remember eating a Crossini bun I brought as a pack. It was a Wednesday, if I recall correctly, and I was working overtime and it was all I had. What would seem dull and pedestrian ended up a disaster for me. I forgot to drink water and by that night, my throat was starting to get painful already.
I was scared, so I tried downing tabs of Vitamin C. It didn’t help stop the onset of infection, and by next day I realized I was again suffering from tonsilitis as fever has caught me already. I went to the doctor to ask for advice, only to be given antibiotics and other remedies for my colds, which has also reoccurred. Fearful that the medicine would make me lethargic, Sir Norms advised that I just take it after the race. So all I had for combating the tonsilitis was Paracetamol and Vitamin C. By Friday night, I was already considering options, like letting Hans take my slot. But for $150, it wasn’t easy to let go of the chance to do the race, which many consider the best race of the year.
By Saturday, while normally I stay up on the way to Subic on the car with Sir Norms, I just couldn’t and had to sleep. Breakfast at McDo however, helped up by energy. We then decided to buy at Duty Free first before registering. I loaded a ton of chocolates on my cart!
Registration was a breeze and was all that any would expect from top notch organizers. The body marking was unconventional and was done the day before the event. It was temporary tattoos instead of ink, and while it looked cool it however easily stuck to clothes and the bed.
By afternoon we only ate lunch and was soon preparing to go swimming. I had to see right away the video I saw during registration of people jumping from the pier straight to the water. It gave me chills, and even if I know I could swim, it was disconcerting thinking about it.
We did lunch and prepped our bikes. Soon we were at the bike deposit area. We had to be quick if we wanted to do a practice swim.
At the bike check-in
When we got to the pier, Coach was standing and wasn’t himself. I jumped and a few seconds under water felt like eternity. I easily got the hang of it and tried swimming to the next buoy with a few friends. It was a short experience though, as we had to go up just after a few minutes.
So without any place where we could rinse ourselves, we just headed straight to the Convention Center for the race briefing and carbo loading. I was thinking much of it but on the way to the center, I felt that the swim made me feel a lil better. I just couldn’t explain why.
At the brieifing, I gobbled up as much as I could, even if the food didn’t taste right. Sir Norms and I ate with Team Norman, and it was right there where I really felt the tension. It would seem that coach wasn’t prepared to see his core group coming to the race as a different team. They were not at all at ease with one another.
I wasn’t into issues, so I ignored whatever the ruckus was and socialized with both tables. I guess everyone didn’t like the food, but enjoyed the cupcakes by Sonja. We talked about the race and additional preparations, especially considering the conditions. Earlier, Kuya Kim was more than happy to present the weather forecast for the race the next day. The chance of rain was really high, so we were expected to exercise caution. A few minutes more and we were off to our hotels.
So Sir Norms and I came back to do our usual preparations. We were on our beds in no time. For me though, the challenge has already began. Faced with the excitement of the race and my condition, I was fighting for sleep to come to me. Suddenly, we had to get up already. I felt as if I just closed my eyes the whole time as I didn’t even remember dreaming. It did not matter, as race was near.
Breakfast was late again at Poco, but it wasn’t unexpected. Sir Norms and I ate at 430 and had our gears packed. I wasn’t bringing my phone this time.
Upon arrival at the site, we just fixed our stuff and lined up for the jeep to the swim jump off. Those competing for Team Norman were me, Sir Norms, Eric, Neli, Johanna, Ted and Adi.
At the jump off, I jumped before the time for my wave and swam near the starting line, resting on a raft. I had to save all the strength I would need. A few minutes went by, and then it became one. And then seconds, and my adrenaline was rushing. At a little below 5, I started swimming. I didn’t hear the gunstart. Everyone was off! And I was in a washing machine.
I swam aggressively at the start, but knowing my sighting problems and the fact that I was a left breather, I was zigzagging early. I readily knew my problem when I touched the far right and far left buoy lines several times! I’ve never swam anything that long continuously – 1.5 kms, so it was a real test. By the time I got to the turning point, I ran into more problems. There was no buoy line to the left anymore so I kept on getting lost. By the time I got to the finish line, I looked at my watch. The official results confirmed my time. I swam the 1.5 kms in a pitiful 41:50 minutes. Hurriedly, I raced to the bike racks and found still a few bikes around. Luckily, I wasn’t the slowest, I guess.
Just got out of the water!
Ready for my fave leg
I’m not much of a biker, but everyone knows that biking is the leg I enjoy most. I’ve covered some of the tracks in Subic around three times already (or more?) so some of the course wasn’t really new to me. I was also excited that I had aero bars this time for the race. My last race was also in Subic and it was there where I felt that I really needed them. The course at the airport runway confirmed by decision. Easily, I was killing lots of riders who looked tougher but couldn’t stand the windy terrain. I had fun, but it would be short, because the real killer was coming fast.
I pedaled as hard as I could on the course going to Kamana. It was a steady incline of around 10% at times I think. I’ve done it before so I was prepared. At a few kms before the turnaround, I though I caused a commotion when I veered to the right due to my unsteady riding. Someone shouted “Watch it!” and I could only respond “Sorry!” in return. I let the rider pass.
At the Kamana roundabout, I encountered the first hydration point. I realized I wasn’t all that thirsty, too thankful for the weather, but it was a welcome spot for a rest. I was more than too happy that they were giving away Gatorade bottles filled with water, not sweet Gatorade. It was a sorry sight though seeing all those bottles thrown away by the riders, as most would be actually willing to buy them for a few pesos. Remembering it, I gave mine to Che after the race.
By the time I was back from this part of the course, I was more than ready to face the boss. I got a handful of deep breathes and proceeded attacking Tarlac road.
I was originally planning on doing this out of the saddle, but I was too tired to do that in my condition. I could only thank Coach Norman though. Slowly, and patiently, I drew strength from the fact that I had done it before, and the supportive crowd. It was one of the hardest ascents I have taken, only beaten by ridiculous Timberland. Where I stopped twice before, I did it this time non-stop til the top, and stopped at the hydration station to rest. From then on, I knew that I had the race covered.
Making it look easy at Tarlac
And really, I did. It was mostly flats and downhills, so I just enjoyed the ride. I tried several positions where I felt the most comfortable and aero. I was able to overtake a lot in my ecstasy, including some foreigners and the girl who shouted at me. By the time I was back at the Convention, most have their bikes back already. It wasn’t that I was slow at the bike – I was so slow at the swim and my bike couldn’t make up for it. I finished the 40km bike in 1 hour and 42 minutes. No worries aside, I took a few minutes to freshen up and down an energy gel. I was off, with Coach Norman at the start of the run to wish me luck.
Immediately, someone talked to me while running at a pace of 6 min/km. It was the girl, and I was surprised she talked to me at all. Her race bib says Lai. She asked me if I wanted to have a pacing partner, to which I just smiled and did not reply. In a little while, we both recognized that I was running faster than her own pace and she let me go. I did not utter a word. I ran to the highway and was immediately on the road headed for the Golf course.
At the 2km mark, I felt tired and started walking. I felt familiar voices coming fast and soon, the girl, talking to someone else, overtook me. I tried running again, faster this time and was finally able to catch up at the next hydration station. I said my first words, and asked that she pace me. Surprisingly, she was actually more than willing and I would find out soon that she enjoys teaching.
Running was my bane for the longest time. I don’t even consider swimming my waterloo. I know that I’m new to swimming, and I could improve it a lot with the proper training and practice. Running though, hates me, and in return, I hate it back. I find it embarrassing whenever Coach catches me walking on our running practices, but it was just me hating it and nothing else. Whenever I walk, I feel that I could still run, but I just don’t get the right motivation to fend off the fatigue to continue running. There must be always something that will force me, or I’ll be forever tempted to walk the run legs.
Running with friends
And so I was forced. For the next several kms, I did not walk, no matter how tired I was. All I heard was, “Chest out!” Swing your arms!” “Don’t drag your legs!” “Takbong mayabang!” And lo and behold, it worked! The walks I had were limited to the hydration stations. It was exhilarating. Coupled with the cheering crowd, children and bands (this must be how Sunrise organizes their races), outrunning and overtaking a lot of people including those I know, and it was the first time I really enjoyed running. When we got to the last km marker, I felt refreshed. A quick burst near the finish and I was even able to overtake Alvin! I had to let Lai cross the finish line though. We were huddled in line.
I crossed the finish line in 3 hours and 42 minutes, and was just happy!
What went next went fast. I grabbed a lot of my remaining freebies and waited for Sir Norms to finish. We biked the way back to the hotel and packed. We ended our Subic experience with something new – a lunch at Meat Plus. It was only our hundredth time at the restaurant.
Me and Sir Norms: 5i50 finishers!
So for everything that I loved about the race, here are the things which I really got it wrong:
- Being sick, as if it wasn’t established for the nth time. If I’m not finding any long term to tonsilitis soon, I’d better steer clear of sweets from now on.
- No training for more than a week before the race.
- Antibiotics. These drugs really get my energy down.
II. TriUnited 2 – Long Distance – Laiya, Batangas
Swim: 2 kms
Bike: 60 kms
Run: 15 kms
Registration: (Early Bird) Php 3,500
Only a week before TriUnited 2, I was worried of what I had again gotten myself into. For the second straight time, I was again down with tonsilitis, fever, and this time, with a severe case of cough and colds. Just a week after 5i50, I went swimming once and I came home not feeling okay. Maybe it’s really the water in Camp Aguinaldo. Before the race, it would have been my third straight week on antibiotics. My doctor had already cautioned me to stop with the excess activities, but how could I? I had to take a day of leave just to rest and it was not enough. Every day, I was hoping that the heavy does of antibiotics, vitamin C and anti cough/colds would at least make me livelier, but every day there was no sign of my greenish mucus going away. Worse, it smelled as horrible as the antibiotics.
But who was I to quit? TriUnited 2 was the defacto preparatory race for Ironman, given its distance, and Juanch has done it with flu, so I could also do it no matter what. While at first doubtful, Sir Bong and Eric were also confident enough that they could finish.
We hired the services of Jerome to take our photos, as we didn’t really get that much and had to rely on the official photos for 5i50. Dona was also there to see me race for the first time. I had a lot to prove!
So on the morning of July 2nd, we went down south to Laiya. The roads weren’t as nice as those to Subic and worse, everything was more expensive in Laiya for less the quality/service anywhere else. It felt like everything I’ve ever read about the place was blown out of proportion. Tourist destination? Really? People would be much better off elsewhere. We stayed at Residencia Laiya and we were shocked to see the accommodation, considering the price we paid. But then, we didn’t go there for vacation but at least, we shouldn’t have been thinking of these in the first place. Still, the place is a rip off. Laiya is a rip off. The beach is a rip off. I hate rip offs.
Okay, one thing that’s better in TriUnited 2 is seeing more friends than in 5i50. We were early at registration at Playa Laiya and there weren’t a lot of people around. The race marked the launch of Monching’s triathlon magazine, Race Day, competing directly with Multisports. first left to eat lunch. A couple of hours later, we came back to deposit our bikes. And we finally met up with the rest of the Meralco contingent. It’s funny how spread up we were. Sir Norms and I are both competing for Team Norman. Hans, Cath, Lya and Sir Juanch are Team Trangkaso. Mike A is Team Secondwind. The rest are Team Meralco-Lightspeed.
With the Meralco team!
We checked in our bikes together and went around the place. The place was calm and the sea water was low. Had the event included a Saturday race like last year, it would have been impossible to do the swim, unless running would be a considerable substitute.
I could only imagine how wrecked the place would be the next day. I wasn’t yet at my best, but still, worrying should be the last thing on my mind. We checked out the routes and explored more before going back to have dinner and much needed sleep.
Checking Playa Laiya!
There wasn’t much about Laiya itself. Apart from very few selections for food, we encountered power shortages while eating. We went back finally with Sir Bong and prepared for the race. I downed a heavier dosage of paracetamol and vitamin C. While agitated, I didn’t have as much problems sleeping this time. And I’m not thankful that it’s because I was sick.
It would be my third triathlon race, and my first long distance. Compared with 5i50, I was fearful of what might happen. I’ve been practicing standard distances with Team Norman prior to 5i50, but I’ve never done anything at this distance. I knew I could finish, I just don’t know how I’ll end up. Six months ago, I recall Alvin telling us how his TU2 experience ultimately made him decide to let go of Iroman. I wasn’t letting anything get into my head.
With Team Norman!
Everything was a blur for me prior to the swim. My physical self wasn’t with me, so I had to save my mental strength. I remember Coach asking my to lead the prayer but asking him that I couldn’t. I was still deaf at my right ear for weeks already, so fearful of the risk of infection, I borrowed Sir Norms ear plug to shut it off. And shut off completely my right hearing it did.
I was in the first wave this time.
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!
Everyone run. I was near the middle and far from the shore, we were still running. The water wasn’t going any deep. The running made the knee deep water muddy, so no one dared to swim. At last, when it was deep enough, I swam with all my might.
It was a three loop swim to complete the 2km leg. I was fearful that the second leg with the ladies would start soon. It wasn’t as packed as my experience in 5i50, but it was full of sorry cheaters, using the buoy line to pull their way the entire length of the swim. It was a sore sight, and I would’ve banned them right on the spot if I could.
I always have to remove my goggles whenever I could
My first leg ended soon enough but the ladies have caught up. What I hate about swimming is how my heart rate rises whenever someone tries overtaking me. While my sighting has been improved this time, I still sucked at swimming straight. Luckily, the guides on their canoes are closer this time, so I could correct myself faster.
Compared with a straight swim course, all Tri United events feature loops for the swim. For some like Juanch, it helps them rest. It does nothing good to me though as it stiffens my arms and makes my swim restarts harder. After my third loop, I finished the swim in 56 minutes, and was just tied with Meralco’s fastest runner, Chris Iblan. If it wasn’t clear yet, we both suck at swimming, but compared to him, I would appear lame in biking and running too. I quickly grabbed on my helmet and decided for a few seconds whether to leave the extra liter of hydration on my bike, and decided to just leave it for emergency. Chris and I both left the bike transition area, but in a few moments, it would be the last I’d be able to catch him.
The bike leg featured 3 loops of 20 kms around Laiya. It was fairly flat, apart from the incline at start and the slightly graded elevation after the loop at the pier. I quickly noticed after 5 kms how rough and untreated the roads are compared to Subic. The scenery is fairly rural too. It quickly also dawned on me how lethargic I was feeling. I panicked when I recalled I haven’t taken any energy gel all day. I always down one before the swim and before the bike. Quickly, I ate two, and monitored the time to ensure I’d be always taking every 45.
All along the bike course, I wasn’t feeling any fast. I’ve never experienced hearing “Bike, bike, bike!” over and over. Tri bikes kept zooming past me, and riders I know kept on increasing their distance. I caught up with the likes of Dennis, but it was embarrassing not to considering him twice my age. By the time Kat overtook me, I was feeling anxious and desperate. I caught up with her and for three times, we changed leads. By the last loop, I had to let her go. Fatigue was starting to set in. Overall, I finished the bike leg at 2:10.
At the start of the run, I grabbed extra energy gels to help me get through. I had not run anything more than 10 kms, and I knew coach would kill me if he knew about that. I had 15 kms left to cover.
The run featured three loops of 5 kms each, and I hadn’t completed my first half loop, when I felt that sinking feeling of walking. Worse, there was no one to pace me, so the temptation to walk was all there with no one to stop it but my weary self. And so I started my walk-run cycle. And then one by one, Meralco and Team Norman friends, save for those really slow, caught and overtook me.
Tough gets going
At the end of the 5km loop, Dona was there to cheer me up. 10 kms left and it felt like hell already. For the run, instead of cheering locals, rural children flocked and ran with the runners asking for food. I found it amusing. I kept chugging energy gels and at one point felt too full.
By my third loop, Bianca overtook me. There were fewer runners too. I tried to keep a steady pace and by the time at was at the last half-loop, I saw Sir Romy quickly catching in. It was the moment I was waiting for. I had been dragging myself slowly for so long I just needed one final push to get to the end. At the last 100 meters, I was even able to overtake 3 runners, but I was too tired even for Alvin.
Complete the race I did. I did not expect to go past 5 hours, and I could blame all the legs, especially my 2 hour 15km run. But still, I did it on a battered and drugged up body, and I couldn’t be more proud.
I for sure wasn’t the only one happy that I finished.
I went to get my legs and muscles stretched immediately and waited for all others to arrive. Everyone finished before the cut off time.
We all left with me feeling better than pre-race. I had a lot to celebrate. Lessons for this race:
- Don’t get sick!
- Rest, rest, rest when sick!
- Extra hydration adds weight and slows you down on the bike course. One bottle is enough.
- And the most important of all: I was ready for Ironman!