April 5, 2016 by willeloo
R: A really, really long time
I attempted my first 70.3 in four years and unfortunately, there was no fairy tale ending where I floated to the finish, fresh as a daisy. What unfolded on race day was more B-grade horror film – sort of like Piranha 3DD, but without the star power and comedy of David Hasselhoff.
Meryl, Ollie and I packed our bags and headed up to PJ with the fun-loving crew from IronProject.
In the weeks leading up to PJ, I was in a bit of a funk after news broke that triathlon was provisionally dropped from the 2017 SEA Games. Since the official decision about the SEA Games was only going to be out in June, I had to find something to keep myself occupied. So I dusted off the trusty (read: old) time trial bike and a few clicks of the mouse later, I was signed up!
As the weeks ticked by, my swim sort of came together. To help with my preparation for the PJ lake that I had heard so much about, the condo decided to stop cleaning the pool for a week.
I managed some solid weekends on the bike so I was carefully optimistic about having a decent ride. The one, huge, glaring hole in my preparation was my running (or the lack thereof). Whatever the case, I had done what I could and those massive 8 hour training weeks were going to have to do!
The rolling swim start was new to me and it didn’t seem to hold as much excitement as the mass start. I hung around with Andrew and Yang in the middle of the crowd. As we waddled down the start ramp, it was almost leisurely. I dived in on the outside of the mass of swimmers and off I went. The PJ swim is a straight forward out-and-back swim. The rolling start really spread the athletes out so there wasn’t too much drama as I skirted around most of the swimmers. An okay swim, I hopped out in 28min and change.
The bike course in PJ turned out to be far more challenging that I thought it would be. This was my mistake for not paying more attention to it, assuming that it would just be some rolling hills on the expressway. I settled in and rode the first 30km more or less on my own. Approaching the end of the first lap, I was joined by a couple of other athletes. The group would swell to 10+ athletes by the middle of the second lap. Most of us did our best to sit a legal distance behind each other but there were a couple of outliers. We had a technical official with us most of the way warning them, but I don’t think any penalties were handed out. As the sun started to heat things up, my legs were shot…I was struggling to follow the pace, especially on the downhill portions. The only thing I was doing well was climbing. On some of the longer ascents, I’d come by and pass half the pack, but that was where the heroics ended. Eventually, at 80km my legs had had enough. I was deflated. The pace wasn’t spectacular, but I should have been smarter to back it off earlier. My ambition was proving greater than my ability as I contemplated the long day ahead of me during my spin back to T2.
I wasn’t in a rush to get out on the run so I visited the portaloo and had a few drinks in T2. Of course, this was simply delaying the inevitable. I was cramping badly in the quads by the time I saw Arno before the 1km mark. I was unsuccessful in convincing him to take over. I hobbled, jogged, massaged and walked my way towards Meryl and Ollie at the 1.6km mark. It was a relief to see them, but I was feeling horrible. I knew this scenario had a very high percentage of playing out so I wasn’t surprised. But nothing prepares you for knowing you have 20km to walk-a-jog through when the temperature is nudging 40 degrees celcius.
I made the most of all the aid stations, which were manned by great volunteers – they were attentive and very enthusiastic. I even enjoyed a couple of cups of jelly beans towards the end. Making my way slowly around the course, I had a lot of time to appreciate the encouragement of fellow athletes that were also having a bad day. There is a real camaraderie that exists out on the course.
The miles really crawl by when you’re suffering. All I wanted to do was go home, but having a bad day wasn’t a reason to pull the pin. That leaves you with a lot of real estate to deal with self doubt, frustration, feeling sorry for yourself, being angry…and resolving to just keep trying. I’ve struggled to put in the hours of training that are required to be at the level I want to compete at. As disappointed as I am about this race, I know that I can be better.
So, 5:15:15 isn’t anything to write home about. It’s a terribly nice number though. The upside is I know that there are a million things I can work on to improve, the challenge is going to be finding the time to make it happen.
Big congratulations to the IronProject guys on some solid performances and Ling Er as well. It was a tough day and those magnums were well deserved!
As always, my thanks to Meryl for pulling double duty with Ollie while I went about my business all weekend and taking care of everything while I was in foetal position on the hotel room floor post-race. Thank you for believing in me when I don’t. Maximum Effort!
Haven’t decided what’s up next, but I’ll see you out there!