The long road continues
After 2 Olympic distance triathlons, training continued. More mileage, more speed workouts. Training was taking its toll on me. I was getting tired physically, emotionally, and mentally. I’ve never been on such a long training program before in order to prepare for a race. It felt like the training phase was taking forever, and race day felt like it was centuries away.
Meet Mr. Murphy
“…everything that can go wrong will go wrong…”
A month to race day, everything does go wrong…
First, 4 months prior, my ITB tightens up, which forces me to get it massaged (c/o Coach Salazar) and rest and recover from it the week after. And the once that recovered, I was diagnosed with Upper Respiratory Tract Infection, with a fever to make it worse.
I missed 2 weeks of training because of my ITB injury and had to recover from that. On the bright side though, I was able to focus on my swim. The fever though didn’t help, and I was practically bed ridden for several days, and forced to rest and recover from it. A lot of downtime, and a long break from training was another challenge that I just would have to deal with.
To make things worse, the weather starts to be uncooperative, making outdoor activities challenging.
Finally, while having my bike packed, I find out that a spoke on my rear tire broke! The silver lining to that though was thankfully Jami Ramirez of Dan’s bike shop was able to help me find a quick fix.
Lastly, I wasn’t able to request to reserve any CO2 cartridges, and ran out! Good thing Jaypee de Guzman was at Cebu, and brought a whole stash for their booth. I was able to reserve and secure myself a pair.
It was nice to arrive to a sunny Cebu, which was a welcomed change from the gloomy Manila weather. After checking in on Thursday, I needed to get a swim in. The lifeguard said though that weather hasn’t been that good earlier in the week, and the swim course has not been set up yet due to the strong waves. This added to my fear and made me more nervous.
After a quick swim, we visited the expo and had my bike unpacked c/o Trinity Cycle Shop. Was hoping to shop for some stuff, but I was too focused on the race that I only bought the essential CO2 cartridge.
I’m not normally a groupie, or one to have his picture taken with celebrities, but I just had to have my picture taken with F1 champ and triathlete Jenson Button (who, by the way, ripped through the course and finished 14th overall, and 3rd in his age group). I’m a huge F1 follower, and the opportunity to have my picture taken with a former champ was just too much to miss out on!
Being the huge event it was, there were more athletes that I had to have pictures with…Antsy… nervous… anxious
I was a nervous wreck on Friday and Saturday. Joined the ride out and swam on Thursday, did a short swim-bike-run workout with the team, yet I still had all this nervous energy built up! It was a mix of several thoughts and feelings coming together… I was excited for the race, it was something I’ve been looking forward to since last year… I was nervous and scared that all this training might all be for nothing and I might end up not finishing… What if I get a flat? What if I lose my goggles? What if I crash in the bike? What if I panic in the swim? What if I cramp up so bad in any of the 3?
I spent the rest of those days asking for advice. Long time friend, and experienced swimmer, Jijo de Guzman gave me some awesome tips for the swim! He taught me how to swim against the current, he taught me how to swim with and take advantage of the current, he also taught me how to best secure my goggles! The swim was all good.
For the bike, I joined the 2 rides organized by the event to get myself familiar with the course. I knew where there were rough patches where I could either lose my water bottle, or get a flat. I also got a taste of more or less how the gradient of the bridge was. I had 2 CO2 cartridges in my repair kit… So my bike felt solid.
Finally it was time to work on the run. The short swim-bike-run workout helped me see a small part of the run, and it helped me loosen up my legs.
Despite all of that, I was still nervous. There was nothing else I can do but relax and let the training take over. So the afternoon on Saturday, I lined up to check my bike in and attended the race briefing. This was it, there was no turning back.
I was up early on race morning. We were fortunate that the hotel offered breakfast at 4AM, so I was able to get some food in before the race. Still nervous, I had no choice then but to start putting on my gear.
After checking in our bikes, all participants started to make their way to the swim start.
Riding the waves
The swim leg was surprisingly relatively easy. It was a swim start where we had to tread. The water start was actually a great way to warm up. We had to swim to the start area, the try to stay afloat while waiting the race to start. Once the signal was given, the swimmers started the 1.9km swim. Funny thing was I was totally disoriented at the start. I did not know exactly where the start line was, I just knew the general area. I also did not hear the official start signal go off! I just heard fellow participants from behind telling us to start swimming since the race already started.
Being in the first wave I guess had its advantages. The current was not as bad when we started so we did not have much resistance when we swam in the direction against where the current would come from. I started to feel the current when we were on our way back, when we were swimming with the current! Bonus! We not only started with a flat and not have to swim against the current at the start, but we had the current with us in the finish! That has got to be my fastest swim to date, and I don’t expect to replicate that time anytime soon.
Ride with – and against the wind
Transition was fairly quick, and I was soon on my bike. Those experience and practice of the flying start paid off. Once on my bike, I was blazing! Averaging speeds of 33kph-34kph! I was amazed at my speed, and was praying that I don’t get a flat. That speed though would only last for the first half of the bike. My weakness of learning how to properly pace got the best of me again. I started to drastically slow down at the 2nd half of the bike. I started to feel the headwinds and cross winds more, I was drinking more than I planned, and I was sucking on gel just to help me get through.
Everybody was talking about the headwind and cross winds. Sure the headwind turns into a tailwind, but you still have to go against again at some point. This made the bike route even more challenging. Some even went to say it was Kona-like. The cross winds were also challenging. My front wheel kept on twitching whenever a gust of wind would cut across. This made the ride quite scary.
The bike route was lined with awesome spectators cheering us on. Those cheers were actually stronger than any gels out there. They made me smile a lot in the bike ride, and helped me get through the 2nd half. Such awesome support from the city! Kudos!
Some people were bothered by the rough patches, but I actually saw it as a new variable to challenge us and for us to deal with. A number of athletes got flats, while others lost their water bottles. I understand that these are factors that should not determine a race, but it’s like being spoiled and not wanting to deal with challenges. Remember when Chrissie Wellington came back from a flat where she spent about 10 minutes trying to fix it? She won that year! And that year where she had a bad crash in training, she swam, rode, and ran through that pain which I’m sure stung her practically the entire time. All I’m saying is that, it’s all part of the race. Just like jelly fish stings are annoying and undesirable, but uncontrollable.
But, this does not excuse Cebu from repairing these rough patches, and making next year’s bike route much smoother.
Another quick transition, then I was off to the run. That has got to be the toughest run I’ve ever done! The heat was fine. Running through ultramarathons, I was used to dealing with the sun at its worst. But the miscalculated bike effort was starting to make its presence felt. At around the 5th or 6th kilometer, both quads were starting to cramp. By the 10th kilometer, my hamstring was starting to go. And a few kilometers after, my calves started to make themselves felt. I walked most of that 21km run part. Not only was I fearing more cramps to come up and totally stop my race, I started to feel nauseous as well. From the 5th kilometer onward, it was all mental… I kept picturing myself finishing regardless of the time. As early as the first on set of cramps, I knew that I would definitely not hit my target time.
The loops of the run were a psychological battle for me. After barely getting through the first loop, I knew that I had to go through another grueling one. A lot of nasty thoughts came to mind, but never to quit. Thoughts more on my lack of long runs, my terrible last month leading up to the race, thoughts of a disappointing finish despite the structured program I went through. I felt I’ve wasted a lot of the efforts I’ve put in to prepare for this.
Then the mental toughness built by the BDM 100-mile Ultramarathon kicked in. I went through tougher conditions on the run. I went through tougher physical states than this. What’s another 10 kilometers compared to the 160 that I did? No, this story does not end with me getting a second wind and running the entire 2nd loop. Rather it gave me the motivation to carry on no matter how long it takes.
Finally, at the last kilometer, I was able to start a jog, which turned into a harder effort. I was able to finish running, and with a smile. I was also aware enough to commemorate my other cause for doing the race… I was able to do my Blazeman roll. It was a roll started by a finisher of the Ironman World Championship in Kona. A finisher with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Someone who was determined to finish the race no matter what. Even if someone had to roll him over the line… and he finished the race… and rolled… on his own effort. That’s the kind of spirit that inspired me to get into this. Jon “Blazeman” Blais is an inspiration, and the Blazeman roll is my way of promoting awareness of this illness. This is my way of helping
As I mentioned earlier, the beauty of the sport is that there are so many variables, so many things that could be changed to get a different outcome. A small tweak on how I raced, a slight change in my training plan, or a different decision would have made a significant impact to my time. So much to learn, and so much to be learned. This was an awesome experience, and I’m excited to start my next season!
For now, it’s time for me to catch up with friends that I’ve missed, family that have supported me, and make up for invitations I’ve declined. I need a few good bottles of beer, maybe a glass or even a bottle of merlot. I’d like to get in a pool, or a beach for recreation and not to train, I’d like get on the bike and enjoy the view and not worry about my cadence or speed, I’d like to run again and maybe revisit my ultramarathon roots.
This does not mean the end for me; rather it’s the first step in my quest for my 6-year plan… The machine has been set in motion, and I’m ready to start this journey. From my decision to take on the sport, to my commitment to a long term goal, I will make sure that I follow through…This is more than just a sport, it’s a change in lifestyle, it’s a commitment, it’s a passion…
To quote the ALS Warrior Poet John “Blazeman” Blais…:
“Decision Must Be Instant…
Commitment Must Be Total.”
I’ve made my decision, have you?
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
There are a lot that have contributed to this accomplishment that I would like to thank…
Kevin Fule, my swim and strength and conditioning coach. Thank you for being extra patient with me, even if it took me 6 months just to understand how to swim. You’ve motivated me to get through the tough training, which all paid off in the end. Excited to start the next sessions to improve my weakest of the 3 disciplines!
Ige Lopez, my bike and run coach. Thank you for the motivation, and the crazy tough workouts. They all were worth it and helped me finish the race. I’m looking forward to those epic long rides, crazy tempo runs, and wild interval workouts. Looking forward to another exciting season with you.
My awesome team mates – Kim, Erwan, Gilbert, Mark, Kevin, Isabelle. Thank you for the motivation, thank you for the challenging training sessions. Those easy turned tempo, turned race pace runs helped me improve and get even better! Thank you for inviting me to join and being so welcoming. You made it easy for me to fit in.
Luis Arcangel for helping me build my first bike!
A special mention to our sponsors… New Balance, Garmin, CEP Compression, Smith Optics, Island Cove, Karat World, and TYR. Thank you for your awesome support!
Glenn Colendrino of Primo Cycles. That Retul session was amazing! Those tweaks we made sure helped a lot! Thank you as well for the bike tips.
Leroy Enriquez of The Brick Multisport store. The place where my the race bike was born!
Jaypee de Guzman, an old college buddy and owner of Trinity Cycleshop. Those CO2 cartridges were not used at all, but it gave me the peace of mind that I needed! Thank you as well for calming me down.
Jami Ramirez from Dan’s bike shop. That spare spoke is a lifesaver! Thank you!
Jijo de Guzman, a friend from way back. It was awesome to see you in Cebu! Those swim techniques and goggles tip were smart and helped a lot!
And finally, to my awesome wife. Thank you for being patient with me after a long, hard training session. Thank you for motivating me after a bad day, and when things were getting crazy. Thank you for sticking with me through everything. Thank you for allowing me to go on my long rides, and my long runs. Thank you also for lending me the Picanto. Everyone is still amazed at how a bike could fit! Thank you for being the calm one whenever I was rattled and a nervous wreck before a race.