I remembered what my mentor in Triathlon community I joined told me during our run-date few months back when I asked him whether I will be able to endure long distance Triathlon in Sungailiat, Bangka this April. He said: “it’s not a matter of whether you are able or you will suffer. It’s a matter of whether you can commit to your training schedules”.
I thought I can.
Just before my heart was broken and I got lost in almost everything, including following my proper training schedules.
You see, the thing about brokenhearted is not about laziness, but it’s about losing our self. Suddenly I lost all the things I had planned for the coming months. And I had to rearrange all the things I had in mind before all these. It was too late because the incident happened one and half to two months before the race day.
But I survived.
I had settled my heart and calm my mind two weeks before the race day. But I knew that I lacked of quality training for about three to four weeks. So, again, I isolated myself to gain my inner peace to face the race. I preferred to spend some time for myself, including last few training, not because I did not want to see anybody, but because I had to make peace for myself in facing the greatest obstacle: the mind. Some of my friends were nervous when it was only days approaching to the race day. I was the only one among them who took long distance. But I told them that I am so calm, so peaceful. “I hope this is a good sign”, as I told some of them.
I just wanted to finish the race. No expectation, just be strong enough to finish the course because I knew I lost few weeks of proper and quality training.
THE PREP DAY
One day before the race day, me and the group reached Bangka, setting up few things for tomorrow, the race day. We tried the water, swam few hundred meters to feel the ambiance. Right on that moment, I blended with the ocean. I knew that I would never be afraid of one thing: water. It calms my soul.
But I guessed my day was too tiring. Somehow I can feel my body was drop to almost zero. I just wanted to sleep, I just wanted to rest. The preparation day was too packed. I kept silent for the rest of the evening, telling myself that everything will be alright. “Just remember to aim for the finish line”, I kept remind myself.
THE RACE DAY
Woke up from five hours of sleep, I suffered a medium migraine pain. Took a painkiller, and thank God it worked.
Went to the race venue and made some preparation in the transition area. I could feel the participants were overwhelmed with so much burden of facing the race. And when I was in the long distance transition area, I saw there were lots of pro triathlete will be competing the same course as me. I kept telling myself: you are who you are with your own pace. I did not want to fill myself with the burden from some people who would tease me if I perform under them (who are much older than me).
The Swim – It was fun. I enjoyed the ocean, though many people swam in front of me (and of course faster than me). Swimming was my strength, I thought of finishing the 1.9k distance within 40-45 minutes, but it turned out I finished within 59 minutes. I realized after that the distance was 2.5k – 2.7k (my GPS was error so I could not get the accurate distance, the correct distance based on what I saw from other people’s GPS). Consider I finished 2.5k within 59 minutes, I was satisfied with the result.
So here where all the problems were started..
The Bike – I think I swam too fast (or too excited because I was so enjoying the water – the temp and the feel and the view).
At km 15 > my thighs started to stiff.
At km 20 > my thighs were cramps.
I kept going.. At km 30 > it got worse, I was thinking to stop and DNF at some point soon. But no. I kept going, when I was thinking of my second family in Jakarta, my DATE members, who had prayed for me the night before I flew to Bangka, prayed for my health, prayed for the event to run smoothly, and wishing me a very good luck. I kept going because they were the people who gave me hope when I was at my lowest during the six weeks healing process.
At km 40 > The back pain because of the broken bones dozen years ago, came.
At km 50 > I can’t feel half of my body. I felt the pins and needles on the left side of my body, I did not know why. I never felt this before, even during my longest ride. I was thinking maybe it was because of dehydration attack, it was around 9.30 in the morning and the sun was shining so bright. Like the sun was laughing at me. But while I was thinking when to stop, the distance marker showed I was at km 60. I had finished more than half of the bike distance.
I kept going, and I reached km 70.
I kept going, and I reached km 80.
Just another 10, and I will finish the bike part. But the course was getting harder. Hills after hills, and I could see some long distance participants pushed their bikes and walk. But I chose to keep pedaling even though I would go slow, I did not care. As long as I did not step on the ground.
I reached km 90 and entered the transition area to continue with the run.
I cried few times on the bike, because the cramps were too painful. Every time I passed the water station in every 12k, I poured one water aqua bottle to my body, it was very very very hot I could not stand the dehydration, and the migraine came back. I did not stop, I finished the bike within 3 hours 49 minutes. Not fast. The average speed dropped from 28kpj/h to 23.7kpj/h. But I finished.
The Run – 4 loops of 5k. I was so sure to stop after I finished the first loop. Because I can feel the cramps on both thighs. The course was clearly exposed to the sunlight. At 12.30pm I started run, when the sun at his highest.
At the second loop, I cannot feel both my palms. And they were in pain. Then I realized that they were swollen. I knew, I was dehydrated. No matter how many water I flushed to my body, no matter how many bottles I drank during the run, I was still dehydrated because that was the doctors told me about my body: fluid imbalance. So if my body demands for 2 liters of water per day, I need to add at least one more liter to my daily consumption.
I stopped running on the third loop, until I finally reached the finished line. I kept walking. I can also feel the pain on my lower stomach. I also knew the kidneys were screaming. That was why I did not want to force myself to run. I finished my run within 3 hours 19 minutes, and that was the longest half marathon run I ever had in my life. I finished the whole course under cut of time: 8 hours 23 minutes (of total cut of time 8 hours 30 minutes).
What kept me going, especially when I was so certain to DNF during the run? The people around me.
- At the start line, I met a guy (cute one though :p) handed me over his Salonpas spray (for cramps) as he had finished the race (short distance). “Bring this with you, you may need it. And don’t give up!”. I brought the can until it finished at third loops.
- Some of my friends passed me by when I was still running, and they shout at me: “Irene, don’t give up! Keep going, you’re almost there” (even though at that time it was still a long way to go).
- My roommates and travelmates approached me on my second loop to cheer me up: “Irene, run! So we can get a good shoot at you” (read: photograph). One of them tapped my shoulder while saying: “you can!”.
- Two of my friends looked for me with their bikes at my last loop. I cried when I saw them because I was touched. “We looked for you”, they said. And then I told them that it was almost cut of time, I think I will just give up. “At least finish the race as a tribute to two of our friends that did not even started the bike because the marshal closed the first transition area”, one of them informed me. Then I started running, with a very slow pace, chasing the time so I can finish under the cut of time, for two of my girl friends who devastated because they were unintentionally DNF.
Overall, the course was depressing, because mostly you are racing on your own (less people joined the long distance course, compare to the shorter ones).
When you read this, maybe you will conclude that it was a miserable race. Perhaps it was. But perhaps it was not. And if you ask me whether I want to do another 70.3 in the future – the half ironman distance, I would definitely say “yes”. But maybe with a better planning: from months before, weeks before, to one day before the race: drink lots of water (I knew I missed this because of the tight schedule) to “save” the liquid inside of my body. And of course, to avoid any brokenhearted or hurting feelings few months before the race :p
But I did ask God, again, about why He let me experienced something I am so longing for from long time ago. He said: “be patience as you need to be patient with yourself when you are going for a long distance race. Beautiful things dwell in time”. He is right. I kept going by telling myself: “no need to be in a rush, you are with your own pace”. If I feel the pain, I slow down. If I think I can push just a little bit more, I push myself to the limit.
I knew that I have several physical limitations, and I cannot escape from the calcium dependencies. Normally I take calcium once in two days, but two weeks before the race, I took twice in a day. It helped a lot. Not only we need to take care of our nutrition intake, but vitamin intake as well (depends on in which area you are lacking of ). It did not mean that I was too forcing myself, I knew I still can hold the pain. So I kept going, slowly, but to reach one destination: the finish line.
I thank God I am free from injury. I thank God I finished the race safe. The difficulties I faced during the race turned out because the relapsing hormonal imbalance that affects so badly to all my metabolism. Doctors told me to shorten the distance of my outdoor activities. But I want to be a living proof that if you train your mind and body, anything is possible. But don’t forget to listen to your body as well. Understand your own body, what he/she wants and needs.
No. Never give up. Being an inspiration is not only about standing on the stage, holding a title as a winner, but it is also about not giving up. So, winners are winners, but finishers are also winners.
This race is dedicated for the people around me – who really wish to be as active as me, but they say that they couldn’t, or they are too lazy to start, or they are too difficult to commit at least half an hour everyday, or cannot manage their time well enough – I want to tell you all that nothing is impossible if you believe you can. Nothing is impossible if you are willing to sacrifice your time. Nothing is impossible if you are patient with yourself.
I am a singing writer (three books in progress) who do long distance Tri. If I can, why can’t you?
Train yourself to be dedicated to something that will make you live.