Suffering In Endurance
IRONMAN 70.3 DESARU 2022
Sunday, July 24, 2022, Race Day. It was a sunny morning, I was standing with beautiful people, excited but quite nervous. I felt different emotions in the air; people reminiscing about their experiences two years past, tapping them off their shoulders – the Covid-19 pandemic, leading to this very moment. I took a deep breath and reminded myself, "You only have one job: Cross that finish line"
As we charged into the sea, it seemed like I went to a trance. My body was on auto mode. No second thoughts. My mind was activated when the adrenaline rush hit so hard. It directed me to go out to this dangerous situation. It was like I’m in deep hypnosis.
Every stroke I hammered left, right, left, right, left, right. I noticed that at every stroke I made would come lots of tiny krill shrimp gushing to my body. Mother Nature’s surprise added to this already great experience. All this is while triathletes are getting pushed back and forth in the middle of the sea. Elbows and feet everywhere, kicking their way out and forward. It was scary.
During the last stretch of the swim leg, going back to shore, that was when the fun began. The tide is higher and the current stronger. Packs of swimmers had been pushed out to the left side. I found myself fighting the current, activating my core, focusing on sighting, and keeping my faith in my training I had with my coach. It was an absolute flawless swim. I completed the swim leg really happy with my performance.
I did not rush to transition to the next leg as other triathletes did. Many rushed towards their bike while I walked, waved, and smiled to the people supporting us. Once I prepped myself for the 90km bike leg and pedaled along, that feeling of being in a trance or what I call “the flow” came again. I didn’t really understand what was happening to me. It felt like the blood flow to my brain increased, bringing me more oxygen. All I know is that my body was in the flow and it is serving its purpose.
While I pushed on, focused not to draft, it was crucial that I monitor my speed, heart rate, and nutrition every 30 minutes. I believed that minding these would give me the best performance. When I saw from my GARMIN monitor that I hit the 70 km mark, I was blown away. I started talking to myself, more often as I approached the last 10 km for the 90 km requirement. “Just keep pushing – left, right, left, right, left right." It was like finding my song and rhythm, and it worked for me. Every race has its own unique landmarks. Seeing them as I cycled through, I was reminded to mind my surroundings, to feel and allow them to propel you forward with a renewed strength.
The hardest part was the last leg – the run. As I dropped my bike in the transition point, I got a sudden flash back of an injury I had three weeks before the race. It happened when I was on my way for a slow long distance run at a park when at 3 km I felt something off with my left ankle. I stopped and stretched it out, and then I heard a loud POP! I did not bother much thinking it was just normal. On I went and not even 500 meters away I found myself barely moving. I can no longer lay my left foot flat on the ground. I was in shock, talking to myself, "Don’t do this to me.." I started to get anxious and scared.
I went home limping without a shoe on my left foot. Negative things started to fill my thoughts. I researched about my injury, took note of how I can recover, and rested. I took the time off running and although still devastated, continued working out for cycling and swimming. I knew I just had to keep moving until my injury heals. Two weeks later, I started running again, slower and determined not to injure myself further. At this juncture, my strongest had become my weakest.
Back to the race, while running slow and being mindful of my injury, I felt my left foot having this pinch of discomfort. But every time I saw people cheering, the pain would just temporarily go away. The volunteers also played a crucial role in ensuring our safety and providing us hydration and nutrition. At 7 km of running I was in intense pain, but it somehow felt right. It was like the most spiritual moment I have ever had. It was like I hear GOD said, “You’re doing what I gave you and what you’re supposed to do, just keep going.”
So I continued running. This time not with my legs anymore but with my heart. I embraced the pain, celebrated, and learned to value it. It was an experience of the full range of human emotions. As I was getting closer to the finish line, thinking of all the hard work, my ups and downs, those sufferings, they were all translated to one big smile, with so much happiness and joy. I myself am surprised to realize how far I have gone and become.