Since I ran the Boston Marathon in April 2017 I have been at a bit of a loose end. I didn’t know what to do with myself. Come September I started swimming lessons. As if running and swimming was less, one day, a road bike, along with the trainer showed up at home. I really didn’t have a choice but to start cycling, as well. How I have cursed Pulin (our inspiration for this Tri- a 70.3IM finisher) for this! I have no room left in my room to walk around, with the piano on one side and the bike on the other!
Q: What was I thinking when I signed up for the Enduro Sports goa Olympic Tri!!!???
A: I want to save Rs.500!
Russa, my partner-in-crime, and I had been talking about doing a Triathlon for some time, but I knew that I wasn’t ready. I could barely swim 4 lengths of our 25m pool. So on 27th October, post a swim session, Russa sent me and email to sign up for the Goa Olympic Triathlon…and save Rs. 500 before 31st October. That was a good reason I thought…and I signed up! (of course, I didn’t think about the Rs.3000 that I would lose if I didn’t manage to stay afloat by Feb 12th!)
Life became a constant juggling act between training for TMM full marathon, in January 2018, and this Goa tri only 3 weeks after. As a strategy, I kept the mileage going with thrice a week running and the long run on Sunday sacrosanct, as was the swim drill session on Monday mornings. It was crazy. I tell you…there were many days when I wondered…why am I doing this to myself. None of it was easy. I couldn’t keep up with the boys on the long runs, due to lack of speed work, and in the Monday sessions I trailed behind the champion swimmers as they had been swimming for over 2-3 years now and I was just about making it across the pool. As regards the bike, at first I struggled to keep my balance, and once I started biking for over an hour, a new point would start paining in my back/shoulder/neck after an hour of biking.
Each day was a struggle.
There were times when I would train for 10 days straight and then on the 11th day would crash. Just sleep in and spend the day in a haze.
But, each day felt like an achievement.
I was pushing the bar with every swim and every ride.
I was at the bottom of the curve, and I could only get better.
Each day we set a new goal, a simple goal and it was a step forward.
And then, in a flash, the Race weekend was upon us!
My first Olympic Triathlon: The Story
We jumped into the ocean to acclimatise. The water was cold but calm. Comforting. We swam inwards, with a whole lot of triathletes, newbies like me as well as serious racers. After 30 mins I felt I could do this not panic.
In open water.
The biggest challenge for me of the last 6 months…
We went on a bike ride to check out the bikes, and recce the course of the bike. We had to do 6 loops of the rolling hills of the Goa highway, around Goa University. This involved some serious strategizing and being familiar with the bike by optimizing the gears. Both of which I was clueless about.
40km Bike on rolling hills.
Biking, now, emerged as an even more serious challenge.
Bambolim Beach resort: At the expo. Such a wonderful atmosphere. Like a family they said, and that’s exactly how it was. It felt safe. Seeing the legends Lucia and Pablo was a thrill. I had heard so much about them. I couldn’t wait for the race to begin!
The Tri-house (10 of us staying together!) was buzzing. Tea, coffee, oats, Fast and Up activate, bananas all laid out amidst, bike helmets, swim caps, shoes and event bags, Yet, there was order in the chaos. The veterans worked with calm minds and skilled hands and the newbies ran helter-skelter, bordering on panic.
We checked in our T1/T2 bags, racked our bags and were all set. It was so well organised, with friendly, smiling volunteers. Got my number tattooed and felt like a real triathlete! All we had to do now was jump into the cold ocean! Ok…seriously… What was I thinking!!!
As we lined up at the beach, the hierarchy was evident. Champs up front, every second mattered to them, us…right at the back- the aim was only to come out of the sea, safely, without getting kicked too many times!
I swam well, even if I say so myself. The key was to remain calm and keep my breathing under control. I managed that and got out of the water like I had won the war. Challenge 1 done!! I was thrilled to bits. The wonderful volunteers awaiting us at the beach were encouraging us to run through Transition 1 to the bike, but I just had to spend a few seconds doing a little victory dance on the sand, take a few deep breaths find my balance before I moved into the next part. This was never ending. No time to rest.
Shower, shoes, glasses, helmet, gel and out.
There was a 800m climb right in the second Km, which I biked half and walked the rest. I had picked my battles. In the first loop, as I flew down the highway, I felt wonderful. This is what I had come to Goa for. To enjoy this Triathlon. And I was feeling on top of the world. Seeing the world athelets zip past me was a thrill! Oh, they were a blur! By loop 3, I saw the others already running. And I thought to myself, when will this end? It was a great experience as everything was happening in that 12km loop, so we kept spotting each other as we biked and ran. Passed point B for the seventh time, and zoomed into T2. I need to rest. Stop. Sit. But no! No chance of that! Go, go, go said the volunteers!
Rack the bike, cap, gel, 2 sips of coke and out.
With gingerly legs, I strolled out and slowly picked up. Pace came surprisingly easily and for the first time in the race I relaxed. Shook out my shoulders and smiled. Only 9k to go! Great! I will be done soon. I ran easy, encouraged the walkers, just ran with rhythm, slow on the uphills and flew on the downs. I was in my comfort zone. And before I knew it, 2k to go, and that treacherous 800m bike uphill, became my fastest 800m downhill sprint. And then I saw the board…” Smile, only 500m to go”. And that did the trick. I pumped my arms up the last hill, flying past 2 triathletes along the way to blaze up to the finish.
3 push ups later, hugs, smiles and gratitude! What a wonderful feeling.
This race was wayyyyy outside my comfort zone. And I did it.
A Novice Swimmer
An Average Runner
A Complete Triathlete!!!
If I can do it, anyone can!
Blaise Pascal: “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”