The morning was perfect. It was sunny, but wasn’t that hot because clouds graced the wide open skies of Matabungkay, Batangas. My triathlon day stood before me.
I had a relatively light meal an hour ago. I was making my way toward the transition area to ready my gear along with my supportive clan, who volunteered to be my support crew for my very first triathlon. Heck, I might as well call it a “tryathlon” since, compared to the triathlon gods and goddesses of my mountaineering org, I felt I am not even worthy of being in this competition, as I just wanted to know my strengths, my limitations, and up to what point I can endure. Only a mere mortal, I am. Not like the Olympics-level triathletes who are also in the roster, as I researched days before.
The gunshot marked the start of the epic race. Three hundred swimmer-biker-runners dashed toward the beach, scrambling and pouring all their energies to start swimming toward the buoy, 500 meters away from shore. I told myself, take your time, lest you get unexpected cramps and encounter worse problems later. I trained my best anyway, and thanks to supplements care of some office colleagues and half-day leaves for swim training during weekdays, this leg should be a cinch.
My thoughts flashed back to two years ago, when a mountaineer-friend and I swam from the shores of Candelaria, Zambales to Potipot Island, a full kilometer away. It took us forty-five minutes to do so on very calm waters, save for a couple of slow-moving sea waves that caused a minor bit of panic on the two of us. Back then, I brought with me my snorkeling gear. This time, I had no other gear other than my goggles. No fins to easily stay afloat. No sandy seafloor to rest my feet onto if I wanted to.
Two hours later, I was transitioning toward the bike leg. Sixty kilometers of it. A bit hungry after two kilometers’ worth of paddling, I took a quick snack bite, courtesy of one given by my cousin. I then took off for the bike ride. Most of the participants were already well on their way.
Several months ago, I was hard-headed on insisting in front of my cousins that I will use my Dahon Vitesse D7 folding bike for the race. They were offering their mountain bikes for me to use, but to no avail. I was adamant; I wanted to use my trusty foldie for this race which I had been wanting for so long. But then, a post in Facebook had me change my mind and reassess things.
Dahon Vector X27.
“X27” because it was 27-speed. Almost four times than the maximum my current bike can give me. And cost a lot. A hell lot. Which, in any case, made me think things through – if I were to join this, my very first triathlon, I should at least make up for my inexperience to compete by having a decent finish, and do away with insisting using a folding bike for the time being. So finally, on the week before my triathlon, I asked my other cousin if I can borrow his bike. He quickly obliged. He must have been thinking, it would have only been a matter of time before I reconsidered.
Thankfully, I got through most of the parts easily. I guess my daily routine of bike commuting along hilly routes helped. The only difficulty was on the inclines, as I never, ever really got to experience using my cousin’s bike at any point prior to the race. It was foolish, yes, but at least I had the backing of my training to get me through the rough spots.
The sun was getting higher and higher. Running under blistering heat and sunlight was not a good thought. That however was a good motivator for me to carry on despite the blisters I was beginning to feel.
Last remaining fifteen kilometers. It was like I was back to my training for the induction climb in our mountaineering org. An hour and 45 minutes is the cutoff. My arms and leg muscles were somewhat weary already, but I have to keep going. Three laps along the beach of Batangas. Of Lian.
Run, jog, run.
Heave a sigh. Breathe inwards, outwards, and inwards again to let go of the lingering stitches on my side.
The noise from the awarding ceremonies can be heard from a distance.
Keep going. I told myself.
Finally, flashes of light from photographers! Loud, party music coming from beyond the finish line. A lady approached me, congratulating me for finally reaching the end of the race as she hung the prized medal around my neck. Amidst the crowd at the finish line, I can see my family and clan waving and approaching me from across the stage. My moment of glory is upon me!!
Despite not being on the list of guests with flying colors, I managed to complete what I have dreamt of doing for the longest time. This is just the beginning. The day will come when I will get better, and I will become “one of them”.
(From my Archives: 18 July 2011)