Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mind Games - The PD Triathlon Report

The mind lost the PD Tri way before the race even started. It lost the battle when I signed up thinking, "Yeah, let's just do this for fun. Forget the PB, forget the timing even."

So, going into the race with that mindset, it was no wonder the mind gave up early in the race. In all fairness, it wasn't too bad a race. I was outside my PB here by about 12 minutes so, really, it's all good.

I've always maintained that having good mental strength is the key to finishing any race strong. And this race just proved my point for me. Had I gone into this race with a different goal, then possibly the outcome would have been different. Looking back now, a PB was definitely possible with the right mindset.

But anyway, what's done is done. The important thing was my goal of "just do this for fun" was achieved. And that's all that matters.

So how did the race go?

The usual cam-whoring pre-race

As usual, I started off in the second wave. The BeyondTransition Racer's Guide to PD (which I wrote, incidentally) said to start the swim as far right as possible to avoid the crowds by the bouyline. What did I do? I started on the left, right where everyone was. Practicing what I preach much?

Anyway, by the time I realized I was by the bouyline, it was too late. Commence the kicking and punching. Got a solid breast stroke kick in the chin early on. But for once, I wasn't timid. I was aggressive but fair in the swim, not wanting to give up my space and it paid off. Got to the first bouy in no time and once in the marina, I had some space, save for the occasional swimmer zigzagging.

Was quite surprised to see the turnaround bouy so soon. Turned around and had no contact with anyone whatsoever. After the right turn towards the beach it got a little messy. By then I had caught up with the the mass of slower swimmers breaststroking their way to shore. Frustrating, but managed to sprint past them.

When the water was shallow enough, I stood up and looked at the watch. It said 28-something. PB! First time I broke 30 minutes! But I wasn't out of the water yet, there was about 50m or so to go in knee deep water. Too shallow to swim, but deep enough to wreck your calves running through it.

See how far we had to wade in knee-deep water

So I waddled my way to shore and already I could hear my calves protesting. And this is when the legs said, "OK the race is over. I'm wrecked." And the mind agreed. After about a minute, I finally got out of the water and onto the soft sand for that long run to T1.

Finally, out of the water. Already exhausted from all that wading.

This time, the heart and lungs protested. And the mind went along. Game over. But I didn't come all the way to quit at the swim, so on I went. Into T1, sunglasses on, helmet on, race belt on and off I went.

Out on the bike, I pushed hard early on, trying to maintain a 30+km/h pace. I thought when the fast train from the next wave caught up, I'd be ready to hop on. Just under 10k in, they caught me but I was struggling up a hill, and failed to latch on. The legs said, "You're wasting your time. We'll never catch them." The mind said, "Shaddup!" On the other side of the hill, I tried to get some guys to work together to catch the train. We pushed and pushed, but that train was getting smaller and smaller. The legs said, "I told you so!" The mind tried to ignore it but couldn't.

I knew there would be another train coming along and just after the turnaround, Japanese Sam's train caught up. I jumped on and managed to stay on. While enjoying the free speed, the mind teased the legs, "Nyeh nyeh!".

Legs said "Just you wait!"

And sure enough, with about 12k to go, we headed up a hill. And I got spat out the back. "Told you so :p" said the legs. Damn you, legs!!!

Luckily, there was a guy in a Garmin Cervelo jersey with me and without saying a word, we worked together to get home, each taking a turn at the front.

Relieved that the bike leg is almost ending.

I was quite surprised to see the time when I got to T2. The 40k was done in about 1:16. I thought it would have been at least in the 1:20s. It could have been quicker if I had managed to hang on to the packs but I'm pretty happy with the time considering there was not that much drafting.


Now it was off for the run. But the legs said, "Dude, I had to work extra hard on the bike, now you want me to run?" I said, "Uh huh, let's go!" But the legs refused. Ended up walking the first 500m. When I got to the main road, the legs relented and we went running.

Up until the new section of the course, that is. "The new section took us on to the beach, across a little bridge to an island then back on the beach before joining up with the old course again.

This is when the legs just said "Forget it, dude. I ain't running on that sandy shit! Remember how much pain I was in at the swim exit?" And the mind complied. So it was about 3km of trying to coax legs and mind into running but to no avail. We would run a bit and then walk. It was like this all the way till we got back to the main road.

Once we got the the main road, the mind simply said, "Ok, we're on the road now, can we go?" Reluctantly, the legs agreed. Got to the turnaround, over the hill and, according to the Racer's Guide, hit the gas. And promptly ran out of gas. But I knew we had 2km to go, so we ran on fumes for the last 1.5km.

Run form going off. Just wanted to get back to the finish.

Never was I so glad to cross the finish line. Couldn't even muster a sprint at the end. Just an easy jog back to the finish. Crossed the line in 2:52 which was only possible thanks to the short run course. If the course was 10k like it should have been, I wouldn't have been able to break 3 hours.

Finally over. Just a few more meters...

See how important it is to go into a race with the right mindset? Without it, the mind will easily give in to the legs' requests to give up. I knew this was going to happen and I let it happen, so it's all good. And most importantly, I did have fun during this race. And that, ultimately, was the goal.

Pictures courtesy of Paul Lee, Maybel Chung, Hsing Ling, Reza Ali, Leong Kwan Weng, and Janice Chan.