I got up before the sun did. The smell of fresh air was never so menacing before. As I made my way to the race site, little chatters in my head went on about how would I complete the race, despite adequate preparation for it. No, not enough, it was never enough. The trainings skipped all came back into my mind, and repeatedly the sound of regret for skipping them were driven constantly into my ears.
Isotonic drinks, plastic bags, gels, tapes, shoes, swimming cap, goggles, helmet, race belt and shades. All laid out, checked and re-checked time and again until the area closed. The biggest fear was a puncture in the tire halfway the bike leg, and no I did not want that to happen. The area began to brighten up slowly, as the sun rose and by some funny time, the place was bright, filled with a thousand others who looked ever ready to complete the race; all with their tri suits, fancy gear, goggles, heading towards the swim start.
The horn was blown and the wave rushed into the water. In an instant it looked like a school of fish being released into the water, gaining its freedom once again. For the point of view of a third party, it looked calm and a stream of humans swimming towards a destination, changing their direction and swam towards another, just to complete a square. No. It was not calm. It was chaotic. Poor visuals, hard thumping on head and shoulders, constant struggle between you and the person next, legs were pulled, bodies were pushed. It was a war zone out there.
The run out was disorientating. Perhaps the tightness of my cap left gave me a little headache and felt disillusioned. I struggled to stand upright for a second or two, then continued running to my bike barefooted, calmly celebrating for the worse to be over… or is it?
Humidity rose, the heat increased. But those were the least of my concerns. As I tried to warm my legs up by spinning at a good pace, constant bikers sped past me. I was dropped behind, and I did not have the choice but to increase my cadence, little by little. Familiar ground I suppose, for it did not take me a long to be adapted to the route in aero position. Profile wheels whished past, disc wheels brought the sound across by slicing through the wind, and I leaned down on my bars, listening to my pair of wheels spinning through the distance. The occasional bumps, the uneven but relatively flat roads gave me a personal best on the bike leg.
Perhaps, just perhaps it was the adrenaline that brought me to complete the bike in less than 3 hours.
The sweltering heat drained my energy at the start of the run. Nonetheless I persevered on increasing my pace to a good 5min/km. No. It was too hard to maintain, and my calves gave way. The sudden electrical shock demoralized me, for I had this experience before; once the cramp comes, it is all over. I had to stop and walk and from then onwards, I knew I was not going to hit my targeted timing.
As I ran across the park, dozens of supporters cheered. I dragged my legs down the run leg, occasionally stopped to walk away the cramps. All the trainings once again came back, and it was too late to regret. Completing is only the main aim for now, for every small step I took I was further away from my finishing time. I told myself “there is always another day”.
In the end over 6 hours of mental and physical torture seem to be of nothing anymore. As I crossed the finishing line limping, thousands of others had already did. A few others were still struggling and deep down inside me, I wished them all the best. I smiled to every competitor I saw along the way, sending a subtle “well done” message to them. As for myself, I think I’ll just make do of what I have on that day itself.
0:57. 2:46. 2:30. Still a long way to go.
Aviva Ironman 70.3 Finisher 2011