This is one event where I DNF-S. It took me three full days to slowly recompose myself and to finally accept the fact that I’m not fast and strong enough. I initially did not want to blog about it at all. I was emotionally devastated. And no, I am not kidding. Luckily I changed my mind. I almost promised myself not to blog about it when I crossed the finish line last Sunday. That was how bad I felt on the overall picture. If you don’t like a sad ending story, then this is not for you.
Wah, first paragraph already sounded like one of those drama series on Saturday night on the TV lah.
Ok. This is my third time doing PD triathlon and I think the participation this year increased quite a lot as compared to before. Some say it was the largest ever. In the news, a total of 1200 contestants were reported to have taken part. A good point for me of having done triathlons here before is that I knew the race route and the challenges the race will put on your plate. It helps to keep the nervous attack below the radar. The swim will be ‘flat’ (if it is not windy as last year), the cycling course will only give a little bit of ticklish sensation of climbing here and there, and the running course will bring you sight seeing alongside the PD coastal road. Nothing to worry about if you do not fancy running uphill, because there will be none.
But, the bad thing about it is that, I took it slightly easy on the preparation and training. Not that I totally took training for granted. For me, training is still the paramount for any endurance events. But this time, it was partially because of improper planning between previous races (which were mainly running events) where I can’t find a good blend of time to mix up the swim, cycling and brick training sufficiently. Although I have the confidence that my current fitness level can pull me through this Olympic distance triathlon, I was humbled down by my own physical capacity. Or, maybe my expectation was too high.
Anyway, I made myself available at the race site around one hour before race start, which gave me enough time to prep up my bike and other stuffs at the transition area. I earlier took few slices of bread as breakfast. And once I was done arranging the gears at transition, I went for a quick run for a warm up before getting my self body marked. 475 was my race number for the day.
The 1.5km Swim
Soon, an announcement was made to call all triathletes to gather at the beach. I took the opportunity to do some swim warm up. Different from the previous years, I did not feel nervous getting into the sea this time.
The first wave was released at 7.30am, and my age group wave was released 5 minutes later. I positioned myself slightly towards the front, and slightly on the outside (right side) of the counter-clock-wise swim course. As I entered the water, I didn't even look behind. Seeing less swimmers at the front was much comforting than to be seeing the bigger number of them at the back. The swim start in triathlon is always chaotic. You must really be confident in the water, and must be able to compose yourself in anyway and not be panic. There were arms, legs, and bodies all trying to hit you from all directions. And when you tried to surface to grab some air to breath, splashes of sea water came into you mouth and nose.
All I tried to do during the swim was to move myself forward, in the straightest way possible. It was not so easy for me for obvious reason, that I'm not a fast swimmer. Many other swimmers were on my left and right, overtaking me. I know it was a race and the crowd was unavoidable, but all I was thinking was about my own safety, at which I tried my best not to hit other people, or get myself hit or kicked in the face.
For the first 500m I was feeling alright with my swim, although much earlier I did have the intention to quit the race. I could say my heart was not inside the race. I lost focus, I was thinking about some other things. I was questioning myself why did I took the risk by being there at the first place. And then, getting into 650m I started to feel a cramp trying to attack my right hamstring. I never cramped during a swim before and I was not sure why it came this time.
After making the turnaround, I guess somewhere around 800m, the cramp really hit my right hamstring so badly. I can't move my right leg at all. I sighted for the floating buoys to hang on but the nearest was about ten to fifteen meters away. And if I were to swim towards the buoys, I needed to cris-cross among the swimmers which may cause more harm to me since I might be hit or had to stop in the middle of the ocean to let others pass through. That’s something I didn’t want to do, especially with one leg cramped up. So, I finally decided to swim ahead with only single leg kicking. I didn't really know how I did it, but after another few hundred meters the cramp subsided a little bit. I continued swimming towards the shore, still not putting so much work on the cramped leg. It was such a relief sight to be seeing the shoreline once again.
As I exited the water, my stopwatch showed 35 minutes plus. I was so glad that I finished the swim. And since I still had a little bit of hamstring cramp, I couldn't really run all the way on the beach towards transition. The official timing for my swim leg was 37 minutes, which was much improved as compared to previous years. It is my best swimming time so far. Still, plenty of room for improvement.
The 40km Cycle
My transition went pretty smoothly. I quickly put on my race belt, helmet and cycling shoes, and headed my way out. I brought along two Powerbar gels for energy replenishment.
The training I lack the most was cycling. By lack, I mean I didn’t do any long distance rides of more than 80km or 100km for the past 9 months. I knew I won’t have that high endurance to push it on the bike, and I didn’t feel good about it. My legs felt heavy and irresponsive whenever I tried to put power into them. Every time I saw some cyclists passing by, I tried to give a chase but after ten seconds I gave up. I simply did not have the power to paddle hard or fast. When I glanced at my speedometer, I felt so embarrassed with my own self.
By the way, the cycling course was superb. The weather was very kind and headwind was non-existence. The undulating road gave me some chance to relax my tired quads as I went down the rolling bumps. Most of the times, I was just cruising by myself. I thought I’d better save some energy for the final 10km run.
Another new mishap of the day was that, I had a back and stomach cramp during cycling, on the right hand side. The cramp, although not as bad as the hamstring cramp during swimming, was ugly enough to force me to slow down even further. It was so frustrating.
Somewhere at KM15 or 18, I noticed the riders at the front rose up their hands and started to slow down. There were palm oil plantations on the sides of the road. Suddenly, a big group of more than fifty cows emerged from the right side, crossing the road into the other side of the plantation. Cyclists from both directions had to stop as it would be suicidal to cycle into the panicky cows. I wish I had a camera with me at that time, as it was one-in-a-million chance that it will happen again, in a triathlon race.
After I made it to the turnaround point at KM20, I slowed down to grab the icy cold water they served there. I wanted to grab one cup of it to cool down my body, but the volunteer dropped the cup even before I manage to hold a grab onto it. No time to waste and I proceeded with my paddling, feeling a little bit angry.
Nothing worth mentioning on my way back to transition, other than seeing more and more cyclist overtaking me on the flats, inclines or declines. I did say hi and cheered for the riders I know on the other side of the road, which shows how not properly focused I was during the ride.
If there was one moment where I really put an effort to cycle properly, was when I saw the photographer from Snap Attack (www.snap-attack.com) by the roadside. I went down to my aero-position, put on my focus-race face and tried to look as I was paddling strong. And below is the awesome result.
Yup, and if you noticed, I forgot to shave my legs. Sungguh kurang enak mata memandang.
I finally arrived back at transition with a group of cyclists, with an official timing of 1hr19min. It was very shabby indeed. All I was thinking was that, “If only I could train much harder before the race”. Another disappointment.
The 10km Run
I really don’t get it. Every time I raced in triathlon, this is the time where my quads will surely get stiff and finally cramp. This time was no exception either. As I hooked my bike on the rack and took my helmet off, I bent down to change from cycling shoes to running shoes. I started to feel the cramping sensation and tried to stretch it out a little bit. I took a sip of water and made my way out from the transition for the final 10km of the race.
Jumbled up with the ITB pain I already felt during cycling, the painful quads cramp forced me to slow down and walk just 300m after exiting the transition area. It was a bit humiliating to have started walking that soon, especially when there were plenty of spectators by the sides of the road.
When I arrived at the first water station, I poured the icy cold water onto my thighs but the pain didn’t diminish. I tried to continue running but not after long, I had to walk again and stretch my quads. Even after pouring the cold water at the consecutive water stations, the cramp and pain still persist. At one point, I even sat down by the road side and squatted for almost a minute, with the hope that the cramp would disappear, but it didn’t. I finally lost hope.
It was the most painful and longest run I’ve ever had. Along the way, I guess 80% of runners overtook me, while I only overtook 20% of those who were on my running course at that time. When I reached the turnaround point at KM5, I only had 15minutes to go if I were to clock a new PB. And with that situation, it was time to say goodbye to a PB which I clocked last year (3hrs).
On the way back to the finish line, I walked even more. I knew I’ve ruined my time. I even felt like giving up and just sit down by the road side. I cannot focus on my run anymore. I was focusing on the pain I had. I just looked down and kept on moving forward. I didn’t realize who were coming on the opposite side, and I didn’t realize who overtook me. Never did I felt this bad in a race.
And never did I shower myself with 100Plus before, except for this time. Similar to the other water station stops I made, I was more looking forward to pour the icy cold water on my thighs rather than to drink them. At one of the water stations, I didn’t realize it was 100Plus filling up the cups. I grabbed few of them and poured them on my thighs, over my head and body to cool down. Just as I was about to finish with my ‘shower’, the volunteer said, “Errr, that’s 100Plus lah, not water”.
On normal circumstances, I would be laughing at myself for that silly act. But on that particular moment, I was emotionless. I was in full pain, and was feeling at my lowest.
Another moment of prominence was when I saw the Snap-Attack photographer again. I shouted to him from afar, trying to notify him that I was coming into his frame. I gathered all the strength to look like I was in a strong running form for the shot. Before I saw him, I was walking and was actually begging for a life. Oh, what a poser I was.
When I ran towards the finishing chute, I just wanted to have the finisher medal, the cold towel, and whatever they wanted to give me. I stopped my watch at 3hrs12min, with an official running time of 1hr14min. It was not my best overall time, and not my worst time either. However I felt so devastated with myself. I was angry and disappointed with my legs, with my ITB, with my training effort, and with myself.
That why I said this was the race where I DNF-S (Did Not Feel Satisfied).
I didn’t even mingle around after the race. I was not in the mood. I grabbed two or three cups of Milo, returned the timing chip, went to grab my bike and other stuffs at the transition area and quietly made my way out for a quick shower before I headed back to my car. You don’t want to know what I was thinking while I was driving back home.
On a retrospect, perhaps I put too high expectation to myself for the race, when in fact my training was not really up to it. And perhaps, I was trying to deny that I was racing with an injury. But, I’m all OK now, emotionally and physically. The DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) which I had on my thighs for three days has finally subsided. So does the ITB pain. The pain in my heart should heal as the time goes by. It’s the reality of life I should be strong to face, not only for this time. Sometimes we are at the top, and some other times we fall to be at the bottom. We just need to bring ourselves up once again.
A big congratulations to other triathlete friends who most of them, managed to get their PB's. Some other first timers were doing amazingly well too. I love to see their happy faces and good sportmanship spirits. Triathlon is actually not that difficult, provided you are well prepared for it. Many first timers have proven it that even normal people like us can become a triathlete. When you prepare well, you'll be able to race well.
If they can do it, so can you.