There is a Filipino exhortation that goes: “Wag kang magsasalita nang tapos.” Roughly translated in English, it means, never speak with finality. Back in the day when I was starting to run, my dreams were a lot simpler. From completing my first 5k, I wanted to eventually do a 10k, a 21k and ultimately, a 42k. Whenever someone would bring up the subject of trying out multi-sport or triathlon, I would often say, I would never get into that. My reasons were quite iron-clad or so I thought at that time.
First, I was happy to simply work towards increasing my mileage progressively. Second, I was intimidated by the attendant costs of investing in triathlon equipment and training. Third, I could not picture how in the world, training for one could possibly fit my already demanding schedule as a husband, a father and a senior manager in a multinational company.
All that changed when I got injured and I stumbled onto several well-researched readings about how triathlon is positioned as a perfect way to actually improve your running. Even more compelling was the assertion of experts about the therapeutic impact of multi-sport training to injuries sustained in the course of running.
Three pivotal moments eventually convinced me to seriously consider the possibility of giving tri a try.
The first one was when I first completed my 21k race in 2015 by way of the Manila leg of the Milo Marathon. I bumped into an actual triathlete who did his 21k with an impressive finishing time. He enthusiastically encouraged me to give multi-sport a try because it’s more enjoyable than running. He also credited it for his improved 21k finishing time. I remember him saying, “now that you’ve completed your 21k, you can easily transition to triathlon because you have a good foundation in running. Forget about marathons,” he said with conviction. “They’re too long and boring. Triathlons are more fun and fulfilling.” When I countered that I did not have the time to get into the sport, he reasoned that you can do the bike rides at home on weekdays and just do the long rides on weekends. The swim part is what I need to carve out time for. The feasibility of actually following a triathlon training routine intrigued me. But at that time, it was not enough to distract me from targeting my first 42k.
And then I got injured several times. From shin splints to runners knee, from ITB Syndrome to plantar fasciitis, I experienced them all. Somehow through practice and training, I eventually overcame all of these injuries but it was my bout with Achilles tendonitis that had the most adverse impact on my recent races. Even worse, I started experiencing cramping during the last 2 kilometers of my 21k races. After I overcame cramping in the course of my 22-week marathon training, it surfaced anew during the 33k segment of my second marathon. It was in the course of reading about injury prevention and management while preparing for my second marathon that I started to ask the question: what if I actually gave triathlon a try? Who knows, these experts might just be right all along?
The final clincher came by way of the Nike commercial that featured the Iron Nun Madonna Buder. If she could do over 40 triathlons within her lifetime and she started late running, perhaps I can do, too. Within a few weeks after chancing upon Sister Madonna’s Nike ad, I stumbled onto a book that explained triathlon from a philosophical and inspirational standpoint. I am, of course, referring here to Scott Tinley’s very engaging Finding Triathlon. Each of the chapters that comprised Tinley’s book progressively convinced me that this was indeed one life project worth investing serious resources on.
And so here I am gearing up for my first sprint distance triathlon happening in June. I’m quite confident I can nail the 5km run segment. The 900 meter swim is where I’m having a lot of struggle visualizing. Although I’m now able to complete a variety of swim drills, I continue to experience serious problems integrating the breathing part. Related to this, I also need a lot of improvement in kicking more efficiently and twisting my hips enough to allow me to inhale more efficiently. Without a doubt, swimming is my weakest link as an aspiring triathlete. This is precisely why at this point, I’ve practically invested a lot in it in terms of training.
As for cycling, given my growing up years biking, I was not surprised when a cycling veteran complimented me on my good sense of balance during our cycling drills. It is the mastery of gear shifting and the confident use of cleats that I know I need to work on. I also have no idea yet with regard to the efficient use of a bike trainer at home. This should allow me to achieve the target mileages I should go for to prepare for my first sprint distance triathlon.
Alas, the fact that I’m still reeling from the frustration that accompanied my second marathon got in the way of my plunging headlong into my triathlon training. That, along with my realization that I owe my body some serious rest, made me distance myself from running for practically a month.
And so even as I find myself at the starting point of a full-blown sprint distance triathlon training, questions and doubts hound me. Am I an April fool in the making? Will I make it in June? Can I actually swim free style by then? Will I master gear shifting and pedaling with cleats in time? Will I have enough left to complete the 5km run after the swim and bike segments of the race?
If I go by Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s exhortation, the outcome need not be belabored. “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” Let us begin.