As 2016’s Asia Pacific Championships was when I first dipped my toes in an ironman event by doing the bike part of the race, 2 months ago for this year’s event, I faced the challenge of racing all 113kms of swim, bike and run all by myself.
They told me that Cebu was always unpredictable and it would always have that once curveball during the race… what we didn’t see coming was that this year, there were two curveballs.
Everything was going smoothly…. I was nervous yet excited for the race to to begin. I have a penchant for starting beside my friends/teammates and this race was no different. After finding them by the shore, we all warmed up together and planned to run into the water together and swim side by side. (I still have a lingering fear of swimming so my teammates are nice enough to always let me stay with them as much as I can just til I get comfortable)
But sometimes, things don’t go as planned… and as the rollingstart begun, I found myself being pulled by a marshal to the front and having had to start all by myself. I remember running in, looking back to my teammate, and gave him an “oh sh-t” look. I was alone. Suffice to say that I ended up getting lost (people were hanging onto the buoyline so I swam past it and ended up in the deep, really black part of the sea already… faaaar from where the racers were) and ended up swimming around 3km.
The current was so strong and we were swimming against it. At some point, when I had realized that it was pitch black and there were no other swimmers next to me (I got lost in my thoughts that I didn’t realize it early on – swimming is very meditative), I looked up to find myself in the middle of the sea… I screamed for help and a nice marshal on a kayak went up next to me to tell me that I was far off course already. I asked him if I should just ride his boat and call it a day but he said he believed I could still make it to the cut off. Kuya Manong kayak, whoever you were…. thank you for that.
So I swam back. Or at least tried to. Once I got back to the pack, everyone was swimming violently. I remember being punched and kicked countless times. I was frustrated. I was screaming as I exhaled in the water. I just wanted this to be over. The moment I found myself lost in the deep blue was when it stopped being a race for me and became all about survival. Screwy target time. I just wanna live. Maybe finish… but I told myself already that if I get cut off, then so be it.
When I finally got out of the water, I checked my watch only to realize that I had still ample time before the cut off. “Great” I thought. As I got to the transistor area, I was surprised to see quite a number of bikes still there. Wow. There were still plenty of people swimming then…
For those of you who have read my other entires, you probably already know that biking is my favored leg of the 3. So despite everything that happened on the swim, I was glad to finally be able to ride my bike.
Biking 90km in Cebu under the heat, with crosswinds and headwinds was harder than I had remembered. I pushed and pedaled and got lost in my thoughts… I wanted to save my legs for the half marathon that would come after. But at the same time, I wanted to make up for the horrible swim time that I clocked in.My quads and hamstrings started to cramp but I kept telling myself that I should keep going. Now is not the time to dnf. The will to survive. I was thinking.. hey, I’m already in pain, might as well keep going and get a medal for it!
When I finally got back to transition, that’s where the mental game started. I didn’t want to run anymore. My legs were giving up on me. I started pacing by my box, debating with myself if I should go on… I was feeling weak. It was too hot. But a voice in my head said “come on, it’s just 21k… you do that for fun every week today is when it matters.” So I put on my shoes and attempted to run.
It was a scorcher out there. I found myself getting as much sponge, ice, water, sports drink and bananas I could get my hands on in all the hydration stations. I was taking my gels. I was strict with my nutrition. But the heat was stronger than my body. The people of Cebu were lined up in the streets cheering, screaming our names… it was a nice reprieve from all the suffering we were enduring. I was smiling through the pain.. their energies lifted me up.
I was smiling when I crossed that finish line. It was a sense of relief. It was A sense of accomplishment. And as I found my teammates by the ice baths…. I suddenly felt the adrenaline wear off and I let out a loud cry.. “kuya that was so painful” and I was hugged as I cried…. cried because it was painful. Cried because it was finally over. Cried because I survived. It was a roller coaster of emotions for me, and everyone else who joined. Cebu was a tough one. That was one hard earned hardware. Will I do it again next year? We’ll see…