The formula for conquering such an outdoor challenge is 50% physical preparation and 50% mental conditioning, at least for a newbie like me who didn’t have enough time to train for a duathlon. It took me a few days to deliberate on joining this event or not, as I only found out about the duathlon a week before the actual event. But as a Nike ad says: Just do it.
It’d been raining in Laguna for days prior to race day. My father even said that if the rain continues on Sunday morning, I would have to back out. I almost threw my tantrums that Saturday, but kept quiet instead and prayed for the sun to come out the following day.
The heavens answered my prayer and we woke up Sunday to find out Mr. Sun still sleeping (as it was 4am), but no droplets of drizzle.
On Sunday morning, the cocoons in my stomach skipped the caterpillar stage and suddenly turned into butterflies. I drank a half bottle of sports drink for my breakfast and ate a sandwich. On the way to Nuvali, which was just a short drive from home, no drop of rain touched the windshield. Perfect, I thought. At least I wouldn’t have a second shower.
During the short drive to Nuvali, the butterflies induced acidic reaction in my tummy. I kept drinking from my water bottle, which could only hold 500ml. Upon arrival, I took my race kit and shirt, pinned the race bib and “bibbed” my bike. I parked the bike. Take note: I parked it. I didn’t hang it because I thought the bike was too heavy for me to lift later on. Little did I know that I would not only need to lift it, but carry it through the mud. I put my water bottle, which then held only about 125ml of water. Yikes. I wore my running wallet.
Since I didn’t have any running friends with me, I warmed up alone. My father just dropped me off. He would be back later for the Nuvali’s open house for visitors.
It was past the gun start, and the organizers hadn’t started gathering the elite duathletes yet. Fidgety and almost ready to throw up from being restless, I took a bathroom break twice.
The start/finish line began on a pavement. As my habit, I don’t stay in the front pack. I stay somewhere in the middle or at the back. After the anxious wait for the gunstart, the Sport category participants were finally signaled to begin their race. I felt at home on the road, and started outpacing the other participants, who looked a bit dancy when they run. I was comfortable with my Bowerman, and I focused on my form, relaxing my shoulders, which tend to stiffen.
I overheard someone telling her friend “The bikers–they don’t know how to run.” That’s when I realized that the dancy guys were probably bikers. They move their torso too much when they run. I gained confidence knowing that not everyone in the pack is a duathlete.
But several other participants outpaced me when the roads ended. Bowerman couldn’t grip the mud the way trail shoes could. I’ve posted the picture and that gives an inkling of how muddy the terrain was. I wasn’t wearing trail shoes, so I almost had myself covered in mud had I slipped. I took extra care in conquering the muddy part of Nuvali. “Poise over pace,” I told myself. I don’t want to look like I just got out of a pig pen—it’s an outdoor challenge, not a pig pen challenge.
I clocked in 30:30 mins of the 5K run, way out of league of the PMA-ers who sped past. But it was much better than my Greenfield City Run time the previous week.
When I got to my bike, I drank water from my bottle and left just a few milliliters later on, then hurriedly pushed my bike to the mounting area, only to find one participant overtake me, with him riding his bike. I almost protested, but no sound came from me when I looked at the marshal. Anyway, I thought I had 23km to go.
I got onto the bike and pedaled. Just a few pedals and I felt pure bliss. The cool wind blowing my face and the feeling that you keep accelerating with minimal effort were like some form of happiness pill. I couldn’t describe it. I just loved it.
Just before I could relish the speed, the road ended, and I was facing a fire road. The butterflies returned. But thankfully, they didn’t let me fly off my bike and the ride went smoothly. Haha.
Then, came the uphill. After conquering the uphill, then came the real challenge–the muddy trail. One biker yelled to us, the incoming participants, “Wag kayong dumaan dito. Masisira bike n’yo.”
Uh-oh. Big trouble. The guy said his derailleur gave up on him. But where else do we go?
So off I pedaled to the muddy trail, and soon found myself stuck in the mud. I had to get off and Bowerman got full coverage of mud. I pushed the bike forward, but the wheels couldn’t take in more mud. So I carried the bike to the other side of the trail, where a bed of rocks lay, thus adding a layer of rocks to the layer of mud on my tires. Why didn’t I think that it would cause any good? So I transferred to the muddy side again. I kept getting off the bike to clear the tires of the mud.
I overheard one participant said out loud that he wouldn’t finish the race anymore because “it’s not worth my bike.”
I thought, what the heck am I doing here anyway? I can quit right now and spare myself from the mud, the trouble, the hassle of bringing home a destroyed bike and enduring a lecture from my father. But then, I thought, I signed up for this: there’s no way I’m quitting, well, unless the bike would give up on me. Of course, I prayed hard for the bike to stay in shape, as I don’t want to spend the next few pay days repaying my father the bike. With the determination to finish the race and finish it with the bike in one piece, my last resort was transfer to the other side, which was about as high as two staircases up. I tried to carry the bike up, but couldn’t. Still maneuvering on soft ground, I climbed up then pulled my bike up. Whew. Finally, I was escaped the muddy terrain. Had I known that this should be the way to go, I could’ve cut my time.
I caught up with the other participants. Some of their bikes have broken down. The worst was over, I thought. But then I overheard other participants conversing that there’s still a long way to go. I would need to brave another 15km of dirt that may eventually bog down the bike. It made me think again: how can I quit my job if I would have to repay this bike that might give up at any point within the 15km? Then I thought again of the thought of getting myself into a duathlon and quitting for such a lame reason. Do not quit, another voice whispered in my ear. The bike’s just muddy; it’s not giving up yet, is it? With the scorching heat of the sun and only a few milliliters of water left and the water station still in far-away-land, temptation was strong: Even if I make it out of this duathlon alive, my father’ll kill me anyway for whatever damage I’d do to this bike. Those are professional bikers who just quit, and you–a newbie–is braving this trail! You must be crazy.
Well, I must be out of my mind then. I decided to finish the entire course and told myself I’d worry about everything else later: First off, finish the duathlon. Everything else comes second.
I clocked in a bad time. But my simple goals were accomplished: I wasn’t the last (well, not the very last) finisher, and I didn’t fall off the bike. After the 3km running (and last) leg and finishing the course, my father had already inspected the bike. He reported that the reflectors on the pedals were missing. Uh-oh.
I apologized and admitted that I didn’t notice them falling off.
“Ok lang yun,” he said.
Are my ears playing trick on me? I wondered. Ok lang?
He then told me that he thought I had destroyed the bike altogether.
“I was about to call you on the phone to tell you to quit, but I don’t know your Sun number,” my father told me. “I saw about three or four guys crossing the finish line with their dirty bikes–broken. They didn’t do the last running leg, so they probably stopped because of their bikes.”
He even enumerated the specific “high-end” bike parts and their cost, and compared them with mine, which cost about half of those that broke down.
“So I was there thinking that you’ve probably soaked the bike in mud and destroyed it,” he said. “But you didn’t. Reflectors lang nawala. Pano nangyari ‘yun?”
I told him what I knew: Nothing.
What do I know about bikes? All I know is that I can ride them and I’m still struggling with my biking form.
As I narrated why it took me eons to finish the biking leg, my father identified the one glib thing that I did right: not forcing the bike through the mud. “Tama yung ginawa mo. Masisira talaga yun pag pinilit mo.”
In conclusion: It was fun! And oh, I had no means of communication during the entire duathlon; I didn’t have a phone with me, as the running wallet, which normally held my Sun mobile phone, held a pack of Orange Sport Beans. Haha.
My recommendations: Raise the bar: New duathlon goals, please. Hence, seek help with duathlon training, keep training and get ready for another “dirty” (read: cross country) adventure.