Long distance sports have taught me more into characters development rather than gaining physical strength. For me, becoming strong is just a reward. The real journey is when you becoming someone better from the inside. That is the most valuable lesson I will always picked.
Every time I finish a long distance race, I always come back home learning a precious life-lesson.
Most people would’ve imagined what it takes for someone (or me) to reach certain level of strength. Or endurance. They would think it takes waking up early when the sun has not shined, or spare at least an hour of your schedule each day just to train, or going extra miles – keep improving your distance over time – which will be resulting gaining your endurance level.
But for me, I see it from different perspective and found much deeper meanings by being a long distance athlete.
I am becoming the better me because I have the best moments with myself during those long hours of exercise.
I just completed my second 70.3 Triathlon Race in Bintan last Sunday. My first at four months ago was not an official Ironman race, but they had a Half Ironman distance. And my second was an official Ironman race from The State. I improved my timing from 8:20 hours to 7:50-ish hours, with less training because of some incidents happened during my peak training weeks. I don’t say that you will do just good with less training. Of course proper training and preparations have high contribution on the performance. But I realized that my own mental readiness has higher contribution on the performance.
It is what keep me going..
THE SWIM LEG
Swimming open water has many challenges. And risks as well (for sure). Learn to do sighting while you also need to keep your body straight to maintain the buoyancy so the swimming won’t feel too draggy, is one of many challenges we all are facing during the Triathlon race. Otherwise, you will swim out of the race course lane which will contributes to the longer timing and a risk of not being able to continue to the next leg.
Bintan’s ocean is one of the most beautiful sea I’ve ever swam. The wave is calm, the water is warm (about 29 degrees Celsius), the bottom is quite clear so I can see line of reefs, and some small fishes swam next to me.
I was never feel alone 🙂
I knew I belong to the ocean, I did not need to take a while to blend with it. But not for some other participants. I can sensed their worries when it comes to swimming open water. And it is okay, it is okay to be scared of the water, of the ocean, of what it may happen.
The deeper the ocean, the cooler the temperature, the more we are formed to be stronger to conquer the roaring waves.
There were thousands participants were swimming on the same lane, even though we were divided by several waves, released every five minutes. But still, people were competing, and less likely we could find someone who can swim on the same pace as everybody else. They started kicking without caring whom would they hit around when people were trying to catch up with the front-liners.
But I cared.
At some point, I decided to look around, tried to find an empty spot where I could swim without hurting anybody. I might swam a little bit further because I was swimming almost at the outer lane line. But then again, I am here no to seek achievement, I am here to finish what I have started.
At that point, I learned to be less egocentric, thinking about other people than myself.
Maybe people were there to compete. But I realized I was there to find myself. They are not me, and I am not them.
I found my peace at the open water.
THE BIKE LEG
It was tough. The 90 kilometers distance was the toughest. And cycling has always been my weakest point. I heard that the bike course in Bintan is hilly. I never imagined how hilly Bintan was until I was sitting on the top of Aaron, conquering hills after hills.
It felt so long, it felt so far. “When will these hills end?”, as I looked down to see the road. I chose not to see how much further the hills I was facing.
At that point, I learned patience.
Because in the end, the hill itself has its limit, and we will reach at the peak of it eventually, within moments.
“Easy, Irene, easy. Go easy on yourself. Don’t push too hard. It’s a long journey, and you still have one more leg to finish”, I said that to myself every time I went into a hill that is too hard to climb.
“Don’t get off from Aaron. Just keep pedaling with your own pace. The hill(s) shall pass”, I said that to myself every time I saw a hill that is too far to pass.
At that point, I learned persistence.
Then I remember that most of the times I am being too hard on myself. I am an idealist. And a perfectionist. I would stress myself if things go sideways. I realize that I am being too hard on myself if I do that. In an ideal world of mine, everything does not come together with the things that we all are going through in the real world.
But I learned that each individuals are formed differently, and timing does not come the same between one and the others. It’s okay to take some time and go on with your own pace, my own pace ..
.. as long as you don’t stop.
I conquered hills after hills, without getting off from Aaron, survived the climb with extreme heat for about four hours.
THE RUN LEG
It was 11.30 AM when I started running, and it was extremely hot. I was too lazy to run. Both my legs were too heavy to run for another 21 kilometers, it was a long distance at this hour. Even it felt so long to run for just one kilometer.
The run was the longest journey.
But I kept running, slowly, with a small steps, and passed few people who started to walk in limps. When I was about to chose to walk along the run leg, I saw them and thought that I was not alone: everyone was in pain, everybody felt the same fatigue. So I kept my leaps small, and did not stop.
I learned that I am not alone in any kind of struggles ..
.. because everybody in this world are having the same struggles with their own capacities. The troubles I am facing right now, might seem easy or hard to someone else, and the troubles other people are facing right now, might seem easy or hard to me. I am not in the position to judge.
I learned to be more humble.
Because each of us are granted different kind of strength to face different kind of hardships and my existence around them are to be someone in times of need.
I was at my first out of second loop, when it felt so hot, and passed one of my friend that demotivated me with his negative words, telling me that I was suck. Tired, dehydrated, I realized my emotional state was at my lowest. I was hoping to hear some motivational cheers, but instead I got insulted. When I heard those words, I had the option to get angry or just let go and ignore what he had been thrown at me.
But I learned self-control, and chose to dwell in silence.
I cried for the next 3 kilometers and suddenly lost my energy to keep running under the sun. I was almost losing my confidence to finish the running part. “Am I that suck because I was way behind him?”, I was doubting myself.
But I learned to believe in myself, that no one has the right to define you but yourself.
I chose to cheer myself up by cheering other people, especially for those whom I know. Accompanied one of my injured friend for 3 kilometers when the rain came down heavily and chose to leave him because he asked so.
It felt great when you are there for someone in need.
I managed to finish all the legs with no injuries or pain.
I caught a light flu and a cough, I had my second day of period during the race day, I was not at my best physical condition, but I was able to finish the race, when the day before I almost gave up to start the race because I thought I could not bear everything. And every time I was about to give up, every several kilometers, I always remind myself why I do what I do: to finish what I have committed to begin.
At that point, I learned to be a person of my own words.
“Why I should I torture myself in this long distance race?” Should I give up? Can I finish the course?, I asked myself those questions every time I was going to put it an end.
But I am not the kind of person who would like to give up easily.
The thing to be a long distance race finisher is because I want to bring home a story to be told: nothing is impossible if you believe in yourself.
The greatest battle is not out there, on the course, but it is within you: yourself.
I could not thank God enough for His guidance in every seconds I was at each of the legs’ course. I can feel Him right next to me, giving me the energies I needed to keep my going, while He gently said: “You are not done yet, My child, keep going”.
I am not done yet, because I have not seen the finish line. The race is like a life-journey, you don’t give up just yet when things seem to be overwhelmed to handle. It makes you stronger, makes me stronger, creating a better you and I over time.
I found more of me.
And you will find more of you somewhere along the journey, just like how I found mine 🙂
I went back to the villa where I stayed, took a quick shower and joined my friends who were still around the race village with a big smile. I might not be a winner in the stage, but I am a winner of my own demons: fear and worry.
And that’s all that matter .. That is all that matter 🙂
Thanks for the togetherness, TriDear! It was an awesome journey with you guys!