So, how exactly do you bounce back from a DNF? This is the story of age group athlete Eli Malicdem – a triathlete who we’ve watched grow and blossom into an Ironman right before our very eyes. Her journey from Sprint to Ironman distance was fast, and it thought her a huge lesson. Yep, respect the distance they say. So from getting a DNF last year at Ironman Langkawi where she missed the bike cut-off by minutes; she rebooted, reloaded, and joined this year’s Ironman Taiwan. The result? Not did she cross the finish line way well within the cut-off time, she responded to her DNF last year with a podium finish. How’s that for a comeback?
Sign of things to come? Elifinished top 3 overall as well at the 2016 Triman Triathlon. (sorry, shameless plug – CDG) :)
SBR.ph : Hi Eli! Welcome to T.A.G.G.E.D.! And a well deserved congratulations on your podium finish at IRONMAN Taiwan!
Eli : Thank you! The top 5 was just a plus. I was just glad to finish it this time. :) It was a tough course like Langkawi where there was a hill buffet from bike to run, and I’m glad to avenge in here.
I remember seeing 4 colleagues (who knew that I was DNFed at T2 last year) on the marathon route this year. “Eli, finally, andito ka na!!!” I am at my toughest mentally in the run, so I knew I would be able to finish it even if I had to roll or crawl that marathon with rolling hills. Indeed, my mental toughness was tested especially on the first 21Km when I had a GI the entire first out of 2 loops. :P Too much sports drink in the bike in lieu of the lack of water.
SBR.ph : Before we get to the juicy bits, can you let our readers know about your athletic background? How long have you been into the sport?
Eli : Took me 7 years to get into this Ironman finish line. 3 years of multisport, overlapped with 5 years of running.
I was a couch potato. As a kid, I never really liked any sport. I wanted a bike but then it was not ideal for a girl to get into more masculine sports during my time. I just lived that dream in the short stories I have written hehe.
Fast forward to 2009, plus 45 pounds ago, I started to run just to lose weight. 10, 20, 30 minute run-walk. Then a bit of tennis.
Came 2010, which was also the running boom. I was a water girl. The brand I handled was Summit Water and it sponsored many runs during that time. I realized as a spectator during ingress and the event itself that I can also run as strong as the participants. I just got up my seat and started running. More like Forrest Gump staring outside his porch and just started running.
Started with the 5ks, 10ks. then it was an eventual progression. I loved training for long distances because it allows me to zone out and meditate. Back then, I didn’t have a GPS watch yet to track my mileage. I asked people for the distance of my favorite loop one day; I realized that I was averaging around 35 kilometers a week. I was on my way to a series of marathons and my first ultramary.
After running from Tagaytay to Nasugbo, I had runner’s blues. What’s next? How can I prevent injuries without stopping running? I had to cross train.
That was 2013, the year when I ventured into multisport. I was never a natural swimmer, but I had PE swim lessons back in St Paul so I was at least not afraid of the water. The real challenge was biking. I learned how to balance a bike only in 2013 when I was 25 years old!
I went on and on with the sport, in terms of distance and improving endurance and speed. I’d say that I’m not the fastest, since my athletic roots started late already, at 25, but I’d take pride to say that I am probably one of the toughest mentally. That’s what happens when your first full race is cancelled, and when you get DNF 3/4s on the way in your second full. :P Defeats and disappointments are supposed to make you stronger. They are supposed to propel you to the finish line. ;)
SBR.ph : You DNF’d last year at IRONMAN Langkawi at T2. How did that DNF affect you?
Eli : In Langkawi, I DNFed at T2 after the 180km bike leg and was not allowed to run anymore.
I was heartbroken. It broke my ego. And even days before this Taiwan race, I was still thinking about it. It becomes disappointing when things go out of your plan.
It was a bad day for me. I was almost vomiting my breakfast; I was having anxiety attack. I was cramping up as early as 500m in the swim. Didn’t stop in the bike despite feeding myself. At km 55 at the second hill, my cramps worsened. It kept going up from my calves to my thighs. Ice, spray, banana, electrolytes weren’t making it better. My legs were both stiff by km 130. I was in deep pain by Km 155, but the thought of the marshall telling me that he’d catch up at me if I don’t see him by a certain time up there, made me just pedal my way through those last 3 hills.
The cliche of digging deep was needed. You then realize that human strength is limited. But when you dig deep, you are humble to realize that you need to borrow strength from Up Above. You are then able to do things in that grace.
“Never say die!” that’s what I told the sweeper. Deep inside, of course I wanted to blurt out for him to go away because he has been following me since 2PM hahaha. I knew by the flats at Km 170 that I was going to be cut off looking at the time of day. Crying with stiff legs which I don’t know just kept peddling anyway. Still managed to finish the enitre bike leg anyway, so I’d say that was still an achievement for that bad day. I could have just quitted at Km 55, but pushed it until Km 180.
I may not have finished last year, but it was through this Langkawi experience where I learned the essence of being an Ironman. Finishing fast and creating your PR was one story. But recognizing that you are a warrior and you are fighting all odds during a bad day was another.
There are good training days, and there are bad ones. You take the Ironman day for what it is. It was about the never-say-die attitude.
Furthermore, I looked at my own personal journey to reach that race day. I have gone far, why suddenly stop? I was there for a reason. I was there to enjoy the pain, enjoy how the journey has molded me into a different person.
SBR.ph : What lessons did you learn from IRONMAN Langkawi?
Eli : Ironman training should be looked at a comprehensive level. It is not just about training. It is also about recovery and nutrition. I needed to get plenty of sleep. How can my body absorb the hard work if I only slept for 4 hours?
I needed the right foods in. I can’t deprive myself of the nutrients, especially when nearing a race.
It is comprehensive in such a way that it exceeds the physical aspect. Mentally and spiritually, one has to be ready as well. On race day, all negativities should be gone. Just enjoy it, be thankful for the experience, and have inner peace. Dig deep especially when you go through the hours.
-Last but not the least, I developed my iron will and iron heart more after failing it in Langkawi.
SBR.ph : How soon did you register for your next IRONMAN after IRONMAN Langkawi?
Eli : Last week of January, literally on the last minute before the early bird closed. Right after Langkawi, I had my fists clenched to avenge.
SBR.ph : What made you choose IRONMAN Taiwan?
Eli : I factored in the travel time, cost, and the time of the year.
It was the nearest next to Malaysia in terms of travel distance. I dread the long hours in the airplane for a race.
I did this instead of MY because I wanted to see another country. Racecation factor. On a budget. :D
Time of the year. It was feasible for me to train for it since it was in Q3. I had a year to improve.
SBR.ph : Most of the PHL IRONMAN contingent were expecting a COLD and COMFY race. Turns out IRONMAN Taiwan was a damn microwave! Were you prepared for it?
Eli : It was not easy but I think my outdoor long bikes in Rizal, Cavite, Laguna prepared me for it. I think that is the beauty of biking outside. The experience teaches you to have better handling, and know how your body reacts to different situations whether it is hot, windy, on bumpy roads, with vehicular traffic.
I was not prepared though with the inadequacy of water. The water station marshalls told me at around 11AM that there was only sports drink but no more water. I got the Centuple then and poured the around 750ml of sports drink on my head then hahaha. I did this twice to fight the heat.
SBR.ph : We also noticed that you were rocking a new bike and an IM Langkawi tri top during the race.
Eli : Yes, it’s my Wilier GTR size 45! For several months, I had a hard time finding a small bike for my petite size. Had lunch one day near Brick with my training buddies and it clicked with the measurements my fitter indicated. Size, weight, price– the stars collided for that fateful afternoon :P
Maybe finding the bike with the right size is similar to finding “the one” :P
SBR.ph : May HUGOT pa ah. :) How did you prepare for IRONMAN Taiwan? What’s the difference between your training last year (DNF) compared to this year (PODIUM). You must be doing something right!
Eli : Quality over quantity. I focused on improving my speed, rather just looking at the mileage. Prevented junk miles this time.
-Focused on putting more speed on my bike since that is 80% of the game. I realized that knowing my poor handling skills, I cannot win it with just indoor training. The only way to improve was to ride my bike outside.
-I love the trainer, but I learned to love biking outside more. It was risky and I am still afraid to weave through traffic; fear doesn’t go away. I just learn to live with it. I did this because I had to seriously address my biking skills. With this, I also learned the beauty of cycling which I cannot simply learn on the trainer. It also gave me that feeling of achievement every ride, similar to crossing the finish line :P I get that, “Wow, I never thought I would be able to go to these places with 2 wheels, and with my own hard work.”
-I revised my training plan as I go through the days, taking recovery more seriously this time. It was an interesting process of self-discovery and we have to continuously learn what works for us.
SBR.ph : What’s next after this? Is it off season already?
Eli : I’d still want to finish TU3 Long distance. Then I’ll prepare for 2017 already in a tapered manner for the meantime. :D
SBR.ph : What does your 2017 race season look like? Are you going to do another IRONMAN?
Eli : A couple of half, then a full Ironman by Q3. I hope the Universe will allow me to train and have a stronger finish next time. :)
SBR.ph : A lot of athletes DNF’d at IRONMAN Taiwan. What’s your message to them?
Eli : DNF is not a defeat. It is just a delayed success. Fight back hard. One single day cannot bring you down. Treat it as part of a bigger journey. And I am sure that every Ironman triathlete knows this: the essence of the Ironman experience is about digging deep, defying the odds, learning the never-say-die attitude.
SBR.ph : What does Eli do when she’s not training?
Eli : Just some marketing strategist :P Another weekend warrior.
SBR.ph : Got any Sponsors, Training Buddies, Coaches to thank? :)
Eli : I’ll go back to my triathlon journey and thank people chronologicially:
Team Xycos : shoutout to Arlo, Neil, Taddy, Rickyled, Ron;
Czai, Jose De Vera for my very first swim lessons;
Coach Norman for being my first triathlon coach. He taught me how to love this sport;
Team Norman Intellicare : special shoutout to Neli, Francis, Rommel, Jerome;
My Langkawi batchmates Reujen, Nylah, Gilbert, Felix;
Coach Gian Espiritu, Rayzon Galdonez, Tritech Fitters, Brick, for frequently giving me tips;
last but not the least, Retzel Orquiza and Quito San Agustin for being my tough training friends for this season and for life :D
SBR.ph : Complete the sentence. Eli Malicdem from the PHILIPPINES…. YOU ARE??
Eli : an Ironwoman ;)
SBR.ph : Awesome :) Thanks for the time!
Eli : Thank you for the opportunity as well! :)