“Love is lovelier the second time around. Just as wonderful with both feet on the ground.”
Last Aug 13, 2017, the Chairman of the Board might just as well have sang, “Tri is lovelier the second time around. Just as wonderful with both feet on the ground.” That was the date I participated in my sophomore sprint triathlon. Admittedly, I am still very much a beginner in this endurance sport. Nonetheless, the event facilitated by Trisports Solutions at The Riviera, Silang, Cavite made me appreciate the sport further. Here are some wins worth celebrating in the context of the preceding.
Triathlon is both a mental and a physical endeavor. Unlike my first triathlon race, I was more conscious about what my mind was focusing on as I waited for my assigned wave to dive into the pool. In place of my past tendency of comparing my swim skill set with those who were clearly more comfortable at swimming, I concentrated on centering myself by repeating power phrases culled from the Bible. To wit: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13.) Instead of being threatened by the skill level of the more skillful swimmers, I spent more time thinking of how I would execute my strategy to complete my 750m swim within the target timing I targeted during training.
Despite the butterflies in my stomach as our wave started, I realized that Malcolm Gladwell’s The Rule of 10,000 continues to hold true. More pool time does translate to better endurance and improved technique. Despite the fact that the swim leg here was more challenging compared to my first sprint triathlon largely due to the cramped lanes, I realized as I pushed off that I was much more comfortable swimming. My head turning during the inhalation segment of the crawl has somehow improved although I’m still far from the one goggle in, one goggle out ideal. Ditto with my spear switch and my hip rotation.
Joy is the perfect word to describe my mood as I completed my 750m swim. Yes! I survived my swim leg. Things can only look better from hereon. Of the 3 events that comprise triathlon, it is the swim leg that continues to challenge me to deck more pool time even as I leverage the feedback provided by my two swim coaches. What made this doubly daunting last August 13 was the fact that while I have yet to approach the ideal streamline position advocated by TI founder Terry Laughlin, swimming with other triathletes in cramped lanes was quite a trying experience. Some athletes inadvertently got in my way. Still others unintentionally distracted my inhalation with either their arms or their legs while others hogged the lanes ahead of me forcing me to stop. There goes my target time.
The bike leg, like my first sprint tri, continues to be the most fun-filled. Thanks to the fact that the TurboSprint largely uses a flat course with lots of quasi-downhills. The fact that I have gotten comfortable gear shifting made the experience even more rewarding. The only miss that plagued my bike leg was my forgetting and foregoing hydration throughout the 20km race course. I think I could have flown faster had I taken care of this during the planning stage.
God bless, Jaymie Pizarro and her Bull Runner Dream Marathon co-founders for teaching me the Galloway technique. Also known as the run-walk technique, the Galloway method came in handy to me as I struggled to speed up coming from a bike leg where I committed the error of foregoing a single sip of hydration. What was I thinking? Thankfully, the Galloway method made it possible for me to speed up for 2 minutes and catch my breath for a minute.
Complementing the preceding wins are opportunities to further improve myself as I gear up for my third sprint triathlon in the coming months.
Practice makes perfect
This sophomore attempt, while successful to the extent that I met the cut-off requirements, further bolstered my earlier insight. Practice does make perfect. Hence, the need for me to keep up my regular swim classes as well as my own supplemental training on weekends. The ultimate goal is to be able to master the free style to a point where I no longer rest to bubbles 5x and catch my breath every 25m. The key is to master the head turn along with the hip rotation while maintaining the streamline position.
Master your transition
Swim workouts between 750m to 1,600m? Check. Bike rides that range from 30km to 60km on weekends? Check. Runs covering 5km to 10km? Check. T1 and T2 dry runs? Mayday, mayday!
Now I know better. It’s one thing to have a checklist. It’s an entirely different thing to actually execute the transition from swim to bike and from bike to run within the shortest possible window. What worsened it was the fact that I bought a bib belt the day before the race without bothering to practice using it prior to the race. Lesson learned!
Prepare your basket
Just as I thought I’ve covered everything by placing my T1 and T2 stuff in one basket, I realized to my dismay during T1 that I actually forgot my hydration bottle. Thankfully, I had the foresight of bringing a bottle of Gatorade which I placed on my bike’s hydration bottle rack. I completely forgot what the organizer warned us about prior to the race. There were lots of humps along the bike course. As I approached one of these humps, my Gatorade bottle flew into the air. For fear of ruining my pace and causing an accident, I continued racing and risked dehydration.
Gear shifting is not everything
The humps along the race course taught me that while gear shifting in anticipation of the terrain you are riding on is critical, it is not everything. Being a newbie, I hang on to every word that came from the race organizer. To wit: since there are lots of humps along the race course, it is best to slow down when approaching them. But then, there were a number of clearly more experienced riders who actually did not let the humps slow them down. On the contrary, the humps even became spring boards as it were for them to speed off. Not wanting to get left behind, I tried to imitate them. I am not certain though if I may have unnecessarily damaged my bike or worse, my back.
“Did you have fun?” My coach asked me after I filed my post-race report. Compared to the first one, I believe I did. There were more fun and happy moments in this sophomore attempt. While the swim leg continued to be an ordeal of sorts, the bike ride was exhilarating. Despite the Galloway technique, I’m just glad the run leg did not lead to me bonking out given my hydration routine errors. More importantly, I felt like I could still go on as I crossed the finish line.
All these combinations of hits and misses remind me of the start-up credo: “fail fast, fail often.” It is in committing these misses which are mostly errors that one learns best. And it is from what we learn best that we are able to improve on how we approach and execute the actionable.
And so I am so looking forward to my third sprint triathlon in the coming months to integrate the hard-earned lessons occasioned by my sophomore attempt. In the words of Edward William Hickson: “Tis a lesson you should heed. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and tri again.”