March 7, 2015 by willeloo
Total: 1.59:17 (1st)
I know its been a little quiet but we’re back! The first big thing for 2015 was the qualifying trial for the SEA Games organised by TAS (Triathlon Association of Singapore). Well, first big triathlon-related thing anyway.
Meryl and I welcomed our baby boy, Oliver, at the beginning of the year! And as a good mate proceeded to tell me with a bit of an unsympathetic smirk, “Welcome to the Real World.” Becoming a father has been the single most amazing experience but as you can imagine, a new born baby and triathlon training do not go very well together.
However, with the trials holding the key to where I’d go with triathlon this year, we decided that if erratic training opportunities was all there was, we’d just have to roll with it! I learned to make do with the weird water jets at Queenstown Pool, I made my peace with my indoor bike training and accepted that any time of the day was a good time to go running. Training eventually settled into a bit of a rhythm and while the sessions were usually shorter & fewer than I’d like, I felt that things were progressing. Who needs quantity when there’s quality right? I tried to hold on to the belief that I was getting the work done, but I had little way of knowing.
Before I knew it, Ollie was 2 months old and the trials were here! The race being held at East Coast Park meant that the route would be one we knew well. With so few athletes (10 guys, 4 girls) racing, but each with so much on the line, the dynamics were going to be totally different. And even though I’ve raced often enough, this was going to be the most important one of them all. The rest of my season hinged on the next two hours of racing.
The swim has got to be the most stressful part of draft legal racing. All I’m concerned with is staying with the pack. I knew Bryce would take the swim out super fast, so my immediate goal was sticking with Clement, Ken and Jon. This way, even with Bryce getting a big lead, hopefully we’d have enough firepower to close him down on the bike. True enough, once the horn sounded, Bryce and Zach were gone! The rest of us were stringing out and I caught sight of Clement a couple of body lengths ahead. I was super paranoid about being left behind so I jumped right on his feet and resolved to stick to him like a bad suit!
Managing to stay with Clement through the first two loops gave me a lot of confidence. I don’t think he was pushing the swim as hard as he could, but I wasn’t going to complain! Jon and Ken were just behind us as we exited the water and headed to the bikes in T1. We were bleeding time in the water though, off to T1 and we were down by 1min40sec to Bryce.
I stole a couple of seconds on Clement out of T1 but by the time I rolled past carpark F2, Jon had joined us and now we were a group of three. Jon was driving the pace and we each rolled through to try to shut down the gap to the leaders. After the second lap, we had brought the gap down to a minute. Half way through lap three, we saw Bryce beginning to sit up and we knew it would come together. Jon, Clement and I have raced each other several times before so we sorta knew what the other was capable of. Bryce, on the other hand, was an unknown quantity. With his sprint distance speed, he was going to be a threat all day long.
Laps four and five were a bit more eventful with each of us putting in some surges to try to catch some one napping. Having one less person together on the run would be good for everyone (except the poor guy that gets dropped). Jon was the strongest rider on the day but without the bike course being particularly challenging, the four of us were never separated by more than a couple of seconds. And try as we might, there was no shaking Bryce. By the time we were on the last lap, I think all of us were already thining forward to the run. There would be no breakaway heroics on the bike today, this was going to end in a 10km showdown.
Bryce was the first out of T2, followed by myself, Jon then Clement. At this point, I was feeling pretty ordinary….Bryce was 10m ahead , Clement had just passed me and I could hear Jon’s footsteps behind me. Clement bridged up to Bryce and together, they started to pull away. I needed to limit the damage to have any hope of catching them. As we settled in, the good news was that I managed to hold them at a distance of about six lamp posts. The bad news was that even after the first lap, with me running at what must have been the speed of light (granted, it was probably a very slow, out of shape light), the gap to them was still 6 lamp posts!
As I made the u-turn to start the final lap of the run, I exclaimed how I was too old for this shit. I was tired, under trained and trailing two much younger athletes that also wanted those spots. In my mind, I had already started putting together my list of excuses and wondering how I could lobby the association to still send me to the SEA Games! But then it dawned on me that explaining why I failed to qualify was going to take much more effort than high-5ing people after a glorious victory. I had also just watched UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) 184 the weekend before – if you ever need tips on positive self-talk & self belief, look no further than mixed martial artists! So I gave myself a quick pep talk and took in the cheers from the supporters, which really lifted me. I still had 5km to get the job done!
There wasn’t much I could do except focus on holding my form and wait for an opening. About 7km into the run, Bryce suddenly lost a couple of meters to Clement. They had been inseperable since the early stages of the run but now a gap appeared. Counting the number of lamp posts, Clement was still six away, it was Bryce that was coming back to me. This was it! It was the opening I needed and I had to take it! I willed my legs to pick it up, closed in on him and made the pass just before the final u-turn. While I had put some space between Bryce and myself, Jon wasn’t far off either. With 2.5km to go, I sucked it up and tried to make the move stick.
At the Hong Kong Tri last year, Clement passed me early in the run and I was never able to shut the gap down. While I had moved into second place, this also felt like Hong Kong all over again. I’d take a few meters back, then Clement would wrestle them back – we remained seperated by three lamp posts! Coming into the last kilometer, I broke one of my rules and looked over my shoulder. Thankfully, there was no one there! Just like that I felt re-energized! As we ran down the slope towards the finish, I bridged up to Clement and we shook hands.
We pulled it off! Battling back (on the run of all things) to complete a one-two finish with a good friend, securing our spots for the SEA Games – surely it doesn’t get better than this! Okay, I hear you, one-two at the SEA Games is better, but for now, I’ll take this!
What a frickin’ amazing feeling! I think it wasn’t till I crossed the line that I realised how much making it to the SEA Games team meant to me. I had a long list of reasons that would have made it alright for me to have missed out – just had a baby, have to work, a little too old…They aren’t my excuses, just things said to me along the way by well-intentioned people offering me a way out. As much as this result was a big “Haha!” to the naysayers, it was validation to myself that I could do it. And now I know that I can, and I must, get better for the big one in June.
As always, its the support of family and friends that gets us to the line and makes us dig in when it starts to hurt. Without Meryl, my No.1 supporter, holding down the fort at home and pushing me to keep trying, I wouldn’t have made it this far. My dad, TJ, Uncle Robs & Uncle Charlie, Mr Tay, Don, Wai Mun, Vincent, Iron Project dudes, Journey Fitness guys and everyone that came to support someone, big thanks from me and the other athletes, I hope we put on an exciting show.
Congratulations to Clement, Zhiyun and Winona! The other countries are going to send their best, but we’ll be ready.
Work starts on Monday, 13 weeks to get it done! But just for this weekend, I’ll keep stuffing my face with junk.
See you out there (and at ECP on June 6/7)!