Trying to Tri (with fries on the side): a 2016 TU1 Race Report
A triathlete with a love for French fries decides to vindicate himself in Tri United 1
On February 28, 2016, I joined my second Tri-United 1 race. Same venue as a year ago, but the organisers shook things up. Gone was the flat bike course that could make a sub 3-hour finish attainable for average triathletes like myself. Not that I did a sub-3 last year. That was my first ever-Olympic-distance triathlon. After a horrible 1.5-km swim of 48 minutes I vowed to return with a vengeance; with fries on the side. Turns out these promises fade, especially when life gets in the way. Scarfing the fries was easy though.
So I found myself at the race expo in Subic the Saturday before race day. I held out my phone and I thought it could start charging on its own as it fed off triathletes’ energy at race kit claiming.
Triathletes can be the nicest people in the world (OK, fine, some of them are full of themselves), but they’re hard-wired to be competitive. Hours of pushing yourself to the limit can do that to you.
I was in lust as my eyes scanned hundreds of different bikes with state-of-the-art technology promising the cyclist a faster and more efficient ride. That super-light wheel set? I’m sure it’ll make me faster. So will not gobbling down cheeseburgers thrice a week.
That night, as I put together my race essentials, I had moments of panic: Did I pack my socks? Where are my sunglasses? Why did I pack too much underwear? Just as I feared, I forgot my tinted swim goggles. Luckily, my clear ones were in the bag. The pair that I never trained with. The pair that will render me blind during the swim as the morning sun hits my face causing me to swim off into the South China Sea. The pair I will be wearing when a Chinese vessel fishes me out of the water. Time to sleep and mentally run through what could probably go wrong:
- Flat tire? Tire-change kit packed. Calm down.
- Run nutrition? Gel stuffed inside the shoe. Must remember to take it out first before stuffing my foot in.
- Goggles? I may swim off course. Google Mandarin translation for “Give me food,” just in case.
Morning has broken. I’m in transition, envying the other guy wearing a head lamp. He goes through his last-minute preparations with ease while I put things together by feel. Why do i have two pairs of socks? Oh. It’s extra underwear. Maybe I’ll use it to wipe sand off my feet later.
As I stood on the beach waiting for gunstart, I didn’t know if I was shivering from the cold or the pre-race jitters. I did pretty well hiding my anxiety when a photographer asked for a shot. It’s a given that photos show up in social media, so looking like Beaker from “The Muppet Show” may not get me a lot of “likes.” As the gun went off for my wave, I prayed to Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, Ben Affleck, or whoever played the role of Batman—as I made my way into the water.
Memories of my disastrous TU 1 swim a year ago came back. I was clearly panicking and held on to the buoy line and starting pulling myself forward. Called “rosaryo” because it’s like doing the rosary, I knew it was a form of cheating.
The presence of drones overhead and the possibility of panic-stricken me with nostrils flaring being captured on cam made me let go of the line and resume swimming as expected of a triathlete.
I was better prepared for this swim, though. I was merrily gliding along, when I got a kick in the face that dislodged the goggles on my left eye. So that I could keep on swimming, I just grunted through it and made a series of facial contortions to return it to its original position on my face. I kid you not. Swim time: 33 mins 02 secs.
My bike leg was a disaster. I am aware of the saying “Never try anything new on race day,” but I couldn’t help putting my new acquisition, a Cannondale Slice to use. It was my third time on my tri bike; and I first rode it just a week before the race. I suffered during the climbs and got chicked plenty of times. The descents were terrifying, as I wasn’t used to the brakes being too far from the shifters. By the time I was on the flat course I was spent, and my back was in agony from the aero position. Bike time: 1 hour 37 minutes 43 seconds.
Getting into the run leg of a triathlon must be what limbo feels like. You’re bursting with elation at the thought of having made it through the swim and bike, while dreading the idea of running in intense heat, when your body has already tanked out from the adrenaline, the lack of sleep, the hotel bill that you have to settle later, the traffic back home… Wait that’s thinking too far ahead. Before TU 1, a ran a half-marathon, then hiked Mt. Pulag the day after, succumbing to all sorts of injury in the process along with a bout of flu. I am convinced that my body is only equipped for a life of luxury. Scratch that. My bank account says otherwise.
But there’s no time for excuses. I did what any runner worth his salt would do: try to outrun or try not to be outrun. I picked a target, hoped that he’d take his time at the potato chips station, which is pretty much what I ended up doing because c’mon man, chips. On each of the 2.5-km run loops, I heard fellow-triathletes cheer each other on:“Go, go, go,” which actually sounded more like a hypnotic suggestion to “Go, go…slow!”
No matter how good or how difficult, everything comes to an end. The race marshal giving the bands away gave a hearty “Finally, you’re on the last loop!” and urged me on. That’s when I felt my heart open up, my feet regaining that spring in their steps.. Run time: 1 hour, 8 minutes, 10 seconds.
As I saw the finish line from a distance, I contemplated my finish-line pose: Should I fall on my knees and break down in tears? Fist-pump while looking heavenward? Hold up the banner and show off my armpit hair?
I made my way to the finish thinking about the races I signed up for for the rest of the year. This race wasn’t as bad as I imagined it to be. Or maybe I’ve forgotten how I’ve suffered earlier. My finish time: 3 hours 31 minutes 38 seconds. As I crossed the finish line I simply held on to the finish line banner and smiled for the camera. I made a silent vow to return to TU 1 2017 with a vengeance, preferably with fries on the side. And you know what goes best with fries? Cheeseburgers.