Before any race, every triathlete you ask will tell you that they harbor a feeling that they haven’t trained enough. It’s because this sport is like a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, with each part shaped differently for each participant. You can practice putting together certain parts, but it’s only on race day when everything comes together: your swim, bike, run, transitions, nutrition, plus race-day adrenaline, conditions, and interacting with fellow competitors.
Especially in an inaugural race like Challenge Philippines, there are so many unknown factors. Stepping onto the starting line ready to give it your all is already something to celebrate.
For age groupers like myself it’s about finishing this course to the best of our abilities. Hardship reveals character. Lord, for You…
— Noelle De Guzman (@KikayRunner) February 21, 2014
I will mince no words. That race was unbelievably tough. Training for it cost me blood (from blisters), sweat (from workouts), and tears (from frustration) — and doing the race itself made me feel like I still hadn’t given enough in training!
Here are some of the lessons I learned from this particular race.
Lesson #1: Transition strategy and practice pays off. One thing I am very satisfied about for this race is my fast transition times. 1:32 for T1, and 1:15 for T2. The only reason T1 took so long is I put on gloves to help me brake better.
I’ve been practicing flying mounts and dismounts since Tri United 3, when all that separated me from first place was a few minutes I could have shaved off from transitions. I’d scouted the entry point to transition the day before the race, so I knew when to take my feet out of my bike shoes and coast to the dismount line. I had memorized where my transition area was so I didn’t waste precious moments being lost. So even if transition didn’t make or break my position at Challenge Philippines, it certainly made my race a lot smoother, and I didn’t lose focus.
Lesson #2: Don’t let your ego determine your pacing. The eventual second-placer in my age group was leapfrogging me throughout the ride towards the turnaround point. I’m not sure if it was deliberate mind games in play when she was being all social and friendly, saying, “You’re going up these hills way too fast!” and talking to the guy behind me saying, “I’d like to put a towline on her so she can pull me up.” But I bought into it, allowed myself to be flattered and goaded into riding up too fast. By the time I realized I was burning too many matches, it was too late and I’d overbiked myself to the point of cramping. Thankfully I caught myself just in time and was able to pull my effort back to save something for the run, albeit a painful run.
Lesson #3: Learn to pee on the fly. Or pee standing up. Well, I’m not quite sure that if I hadn’t stopped and sat to pee, I wouldn’t have gotten cramps in my quads. But it could have saved me precious time, and it’s a useful skill for when I attempt a full ironman. Then again, who wants to smell like pee?!
Lesson #4: Always offer encouragement to your fellow athletes. I didn’t realize how much a word of encouragement meant until I found myself struggling that day, and Mamita came by and we pushed each other to the finish line. And today I received a text message from a friend I’d passed on the run course. “Thank you for being supportive throughout the race especially when you caught me [on the] run. I appreciated the push.”
The rush of being first across the finish line fades, and soon enough your fellow athletes will forget that little fact. What they won’t forget is how you made them feel.
Challenge Philippines was warmly received by the Philippine triathlon community and looks poised to be a must-do race simply for the bragging rights to finishing one of the toughest half-ironman courses in the world.
I want to thank the people who worked hard to bring this to fruition. Granted there were some birthing pains, but I know these people have moved heaven and earth to make this race experience possible for the athletes. Roman Floesser, Laurence Hebel, Anna Stroh, Michael Dhulst, Dave Voth, Raymund Magdaluyo, a big thank you for the heroic effort and gamble. It paid off.
Thank you, fellow athletes, for braving this race. You are very much part of its success.
Chris “Macca” McCormack, thank you for gracing the inaugural race. You’re a great ambassador for the sport and you inspire everyone you meet and mentor. Thanks for spending so much time and energy with us at MaccaX. And thank you for being such a genuine person and friend.
Thank you to my sponsors Mizuno, Ceepo, Spyder, Salice, and yurbuds. Thank you to my ENDURE teammates — you are all warriors for getting out there on the course! Thank you to my parents and family for always being there for me.
Thank you, Lord, for a safe race. That’s all I asked for and You gave me more than that. :)