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Coming Full Circle – My Tri Comeback Story

“Never forget your beginner’s spirit”

– Yoshitomo Nara

I must admit. Last 2010, I lost it.

I lost any kind of motivation to train, I lost the fulfillment a racer gets everytime they cross the finish line. In other words, I flamed out.

Lance Armstrong’s 2010 TDF bike

Here’s the post that I made on FB about it.

I’m finally free. No more Sat am rides,i can finally stay up late every Fri & just rest on Sundays,no more long run! No more swimming, & long pain in the ass trainer rides! Now Im making good of my promise. Im quitting triathlon. Puputi na kaya ako?:) Camsur is the perfect curtain call. Fuc*in hot! Tnx to my team u guys r d best! Tnx to our sponsors Timex,GoldsGym,Canon &to everyone who supported me d whole way

If I look back now, the saddest thing about that status is I really meant it. Every single word of the line “I’m quitting triathlon.”

Triathlon can be a very selfish and self absorbing sport. You spend so many hours training that you tend to forget the other important things in life. The little things that, unknown to you, keeps your motor running.

The quote above is what probably saved me from quitting the sport of Triathlon completely. It reminded me why I’m doing this, and learn to have fun while doing it.

Since we have a YOUR SBR section where we feature amazing age-group stories, I figured I might as well kick off the editorial with my so-called triathlon career journey too.

Usual beginnings.

I never had any sport growing up. I biked yes, but my bike back then was just the usual BMX bike.

I started doing triathlons around 2007. Before that, I went thru the entire process. Doing 5k runs, then 10k’s (I almost died on my first 10k! If I remember correctly, my finish time was 1h43m!), then I hopped on to the next challenge which is the 21k, and then of course, the full marathon.

Just like the usual runner who got fixated on the highs of training and racing, I looked for the next challenge.

It didn’t help that I belonged to two clubs (AMCI Mountaineering Club and Philippine Underwater Hockey Confederation) which has a lot of members who are triathletes. Seeing them doing and finishing triathlons sparked a fire inside me. Yes, I’ve  already done a marathon, but those guys were doing it AFTER swimming 4kms and biking for 180k! That thought killed me!

My first ever 70.3 distance race. Even my toenails cramped!

Just like in running,  I became a triathlete by going thru the entire multisport ladder. I started by doing aquathlons, then joined a duathlon, and then of course, the inevitable.  My first triathlon was one of those Speedo Alabang Sprint Tris.

I LOVED every minute of it. In fact, I still have my first triathlon souvenir shirt. I wore that shirt everytime I got the chance to. I was so proud to finally finish a triathlon. The best part about the shirt is the huge “Triathlete” print at the back.

The Big Run..

As with most newbie triathletes, finishing was my only goal. P.R.? How can you set a P.R. if you haven’t done the event yet?

As I raced more and more, I got hooked and got addicted to the sport.

I trained and raced non-stop for almost 3 years. I joined every single event on the multisport calendar.

Just like in running, triathlon has its own hierarchy. There’s the sprint, the olympic distance, the 70.3, and then of course the full iron distance.  I didn’t stop ’till I reached the pinnacle of the sport. The Ironman.

I really prepared for Whiterock 2008. I trained for it for about 6 months and after that, I made training my life.

Won my first ever age-group podium

I joined a barrage of races after that and then finally did my first Ironman (2009 Ironman Langkawi). I then signed up for its 2010 edition the moment registration opened. I made it my “A” race. The plan was to DESTROY my first Ironman time. I zoned in and put my focus on it 110%.

10th Anniversary of Ironman Langkawi

It didn’t help that some of my teammates, after downing several bottles of San Mig Light, decided to join 2009 Ironman Western Australia. Not about to be left behind, I also signed up for it.

Ironman Western Australia. Having a blast at one of the tourist spots

In a span of a year, I did three full Ironmans and all the shorter races in between. The first and second Ironman 70.3 Philippines, the major tris, duas, and run races. Not to mention I was also training for the Asian Underwater Hockey Championships in Singapore for my underwater hockey club. After training for triathlon I’d jump in the pool to train for underwater hockey. Every saturday after a 6 hour bike ride I’d train and play underwater hockey for roughly around 5 hours again. The tournaments were so close together that that weekend, after a week of my underwater hockey tournament in Singapore I immediately headed off to Australia.

I wanted to do well in Ironman Western Australia (IMWA) even if I didn’t consider it as my A race. I finished IMWA with a time of 12:06:24. My fastest I.M. so far. Two months after that, I did Ironman Langkawi, the one I prepared for.. my “A” race.

The result? It turned out to be my worst Ironman. Things just really didn’t click that day. It didn’t help that it was probably the most poorly Ironman organized raced in history (ran out of water!).

Survival

And then it happened…

The big KABOOM..

After IMWA I was already getting burned out. I was starting to hate swimming, biking, and running. For 2 years straight, I was spending Christmas and Noche Buena on the trainer! It was getting into me.

What made it worse is that I was doing most of my workouts alone. Only a few signed up for Langkawi as everyone else was already on off season mode. The final nail in the coffin was when Drew, as I was training with Javy on the bike asked me, “Mag I-Ironman ka ulit? Nag eenjoy ka pa ba niyan?”.  (Drew also did 2009 Ironman Western Australia). That statement ABSOLUTELY destroyed me.

At the 2010 Ironman 70.3 Philippines, after crossing the finish line, I wasn’t glad that I finished the race or finished it in a decent time.  I was glad training is FINALLY over. “HINDI NA AKO MAG-TETRAIN!” were the exact words that I shouted as I crossed the line.  I still remember that clearly. I can finally rest.

Training is over!

It took me close to 2 months before I even considered opening my bike box again. My bike and trainer collected dust. Finally, I was on off-season mode.

I ate, slept late, and enjoyed life. Everything that was taken away from me when I was training.

One of the things that I really looked forward to was staying up late every Friday night not worrying about not waking up at 4:30 in the morning and miss the scheduled 6am bike ride. Every Sunday, I also just relaxed and watched TV the whole day. No more 2 hour run!

In short, I got fat and lazy.

Comeback of sorts.

Trying to prepare for the 2011 season was harder than I expected.

I suffered HUGE setbacks.

I planned my  comeback by signing up for Ironman China 2011. I figured that if I sign up for it, I’ll be forced to train again. I was right.

So I cleaned my bike, my gear, and prepared my old training programs.

And just as I was  starting to get in the groove, the first setback hit me, I got sick with Dengue.

Damn you mosquito!

Getting infected with Dengue is such a surreal experience. Your mind is active but your body is just so weak. I spent almost 2 weeks in the hospital. Not to mention spending Christmas there too!

If I’m not spending Christmas on the trainer, I’m in the hospital! Just great.

The whole time I was there, I kept thinking about what every triathlete that has an Ironman event coming up is thinking. “What’s going to happen to my training?”

Already in panic mode, two days after I got out of the hospital I hit the pool for a short swim and played underwater hockey. Then on the weekend did my bike workout. HUGE MISTAKE.

I got engaged in a sort of a setback spiral. I’ll get sick and weak, then go back in training as soon as I feel better. That went on and on for as long as I can remember. For me, I NEED to get my workouts in if I want to survive IM China.  But my body is just not ready yet for the load. Later I read that it usually takes a month or two to fully recover from the effects of dengue!

Here comes setback #2.

The spiral continues. I’ll train and then I’ll get sick. I’ll rest for a bit, feel better, train my butt off, and get sick again.  For some reason I knew this couldn’t be from Dengue anymore.

As with most male species, I always try to self-medicate.  But it just got worse and worse. It got to the point that I threw up after a run workout. In one training session, while doing an interval ride on the trainer, I had to hop off and slump my ass on the floor. I jammed my face in front of the fan because I couldn’t breathe anymore. I was feeling really lightheaded and was breaking out into a cold sweat.

That’s when I finally decided to go to the doctor. After a series of checkups and xrays, I found out that right sinus is infected and filled to the brim with pus (sorry if you’re eating).  No wonder I kept getting sick. I was literally breathing on one nostril! I was scheduled for a Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery (FESS). But before that, I was asked to take a couple of medicines, including a nasal spray, and undergo a 2 week break from training. Thank God that worked and I managed to avoid surgery. But of course…

BAM. Bye bye Ironman China. 5 weeks to train for an Ironman with ZERO base is suicide.

Finding your beginner’s spirit.

Since I know it’s no longer possible to get a good result for China, I decided to back out (thank God it was cancelled and I was able to get my full refund) and changed my game plan for 2011.

I followed the quote written on top of Lance Armstrong’s bike and relived my beginners spirit.

I  decided to just enjoy every race, not worry about setting a p.r., and race with no pressure at all.

The result? I slowly got my motivation back. I’m treating this year as a chance to build a huge base for the next season.

The toughest thing about coming back is realizing that you’re not that fit anymore. You have to start from scratch. Just like in training, you need to go slow first before you can go fast.

Racing with this mindset gave me a renewed sense of fulfillment. Once again, I found out the reason why I got addicted to this sport.

Let’s admit it, one of the best things about triathlon is the community right? Ever had a flat and have a totally unknown fellow triathlete help you out?

In a race, everyone cheers for each other. Triathlon has such a unique way of forging friendships and it’s not hard to find out why. Everyone knows the pain and suffering you all go thru during training and race day.

So what’s the point of all this?

Honestly I dont know. =)  Seriously, I wrote this not because I want everyone to know what I’ve accomplished in the sport.  I haven’t done anything newsworthy. I’m proud of being a M-O-P (middle of the pack) racer.

This is for the couch potatoes who spent most of their teen years drinking beer, sleeping late, and eating sisig. If I can do it, you guys definitely can.

This is for all those struggling to get back in the game. Don’t worry guys because it happens. Even for a year now, I’m still trying to get my focus back up to 100%. .

And sometimes, we triathletes get so focused with training that we tend to forget the world outside triathlon. It’s not always about podiums, results, or p.r.’s.

It’s also about the journey that takes us there.

As my favorite saying goes, whenever you’re at the finish line you always have two choices.. sprint and let everything be a blur, or slow down and cherish that scene for the rest of your life.

Not to mention you get to prep yourself properly for that awesome finisher pic too =)

The fun continues..

This December, I’ll try and conquer my 4th Iron-distance race, the Timex 226.

TIMEX 226 Iron-distance race

I’ll go there and race with the same mindset. I don’t care if I set a p.r. or finish it with a minute to go before the cut off.

The plan is just to finish and have fun. More importantly, learn to love the pain again.

I’ll see you soon dead toenails!

Wish me luck

–cdg–

Next post I’ll share to everyone my training, race gear, and nutrition plan for an Ironman.

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A triathlete making a comeback and a true blue Scorpio. That sums it up quite nicely :)

4 Comments

  1. interesting read, if not inspiring. I can relate to your story as I had the same experience as well (sans the IM burnout and the dengue!). Got hooked in running and did one season of tri in 2010. Was motivated to have a better 2011 season, then some series of unfortunate events: got sick in January; had a nagging injury through March; wife got retrenched; finances was in disarray; and yes, work got in the way. kinda hard to get back when you lost the motivation (and the precious base training!!) to go on. I guess its important really not to take thing seriously; just go out and have fun! bonus na lang pag naka-PR ka siguro!! anyway, starting to train again and hope to join the races in 2012.

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