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Living through my dream - first Triathlon

Living through dream - My first Triathlon

publicmsidby publicmsidMar 9th 2014
I did not know about triathlon as a child. I actually did not know about it till my late youth.
But I was indulging in the three sport of triathlon since early youth. The first two sports were introduced to me by my father.
Living on an island, swimming was a regular father-son activity. Cycling was a way of commuting during final years of high school.
Relatively, running came quite late. During my early years of professional life, running became a way to let the steam out.
I could never choose one sport over the other. Each of the sport has a different charm. I love water and the act of swimming is enjoyable.
Doesn't matter where or how long do I swim, I love it. Cycling is exploration. It is connecting with surrounding. The child in me loves cycling.
Running is the toughest of the three, at least to me. Takes maximum toll on your body. But more the pain, more the gain.
The high of covering distance by running is comparable. So I went on doing the three sport based on my mood and availability.

I don't remember exactly how or when I bumped on to triathlon and Ironman, but I connect with the sport right away.
Yes, I am the greedy, confused, over ambitious athlete the world calls triathlete.

My initial attempts of finding an avenue to participate were around the end of last decade (around 2007). To my disappointment did not find anything in India. I neither had the cash nor will to spend such large sum to participate abroad. I knew the sport would gradually pick up in India and wanted to be ready for it. Gradually there were groups coming up in south of India conducting triathlon. Family obligations were hard to ignore and was unable to travel. But I knew my dream of triathlon was around the corner.

I had dropped out of Mumbai 2014 marathon chapter due to knee injury during training.
I had gone through rest phase was working on strengthening when I got to know about Mii Olympic distance Triathlon.
First response - super excited. Then came reality check. I had about 4 weeks left. I had not entered the pool for two months due to cold whether. I had not cycled beyond 25-30km in last three-four months. But there was no way on face of earth that I would miss an opportunity this close. My confidence came from the fact that I have done much longer distance in all the 3 sport in recent past.

Training

I needed to work on transition, especially T2 (cycle to run). I create a quick plan ramping distance faster than normal and focused on brick training.
Given the short period, I had one week tapering. My training plan looked something like this.
Living through dream - My first Triathlon
The training went fine, as per plan. It ended with the practice swim that Mii had organized in the lake. I always knew I had trouble swimming straight in the water. I came to know how big the trouble was during the practice session. I went completely off route. The organizers had to send boat out to warn me!!
With just a week left I knew there was not much I could do to correct it but try to look for directions more often in the actual race.
I had planned a longish cycle workout along the proposed route before the swim, which in retrospective was a bad idea. Since I started in dark, I took some bad pot holes on my road bike. The front wheel alignment went wrong which I could not get fixed in time for the event and had to use MTB. The last week was tapering which ended on 1st March with 15 mins of swim, 25 mins of cycling, 15 mins of running, followed by 10 mins walk and stretching.

Preparation night

I will admit, that I was a bit anxious on the night before the event. I used the neat bags and tags supplied by Mii to pack things. The T2 bag contained just my running shoes. I used an PuneRunning sling bag to keep T1 material - A cycling top, socks, two nutrition bar. I also kept my swimming goggles along with the white swimming cap with my bib number on it in T1 back. I had a 3rd bag with stuff that I need before and after race. Few other things that I would leave in my car. Packed hydration bottle that would go along in the bike. I was ready to go to sleep.

Getting to the venue

Slept well through the night. Got up few minutes before the alarm time. Always love the extra sleep even if it is few minutes. Finally got up when the alarm rang. Loaded things in the car and was ready to go. One last check at home to make sure I have not missed anything. A quick good luck wish from wife and I was off. The destination was an easy 40 mins drive from my home.
During the drive I remember that I missed toothpaste treatment of swimming googles to prevent fogging. For my general swimming session I use saliva - spitting. Disgusting but it works.
While spitting works fine for pool session, it does not works if you want to see outside water. The wet surface distorts the vision outside water. Something that I realized during the trial swim. It was too late, I had gone too far to turn back. I decided to take things as it happens.

Before Race

I reached venue early along with few other participants. There was no queue at the multiple registration desk set-up by Mii. The registration formality was quickly completed by the volunteer. Handed over the T1 and T2 bags to another volunteer. Looked up a good spot to place my cycle. It was cold outside - by Pune standards. I took shelter in my car to wait for the next 20 mins listening to music, before the event actually starts. The last minute instruction was given after we assembled to get into water. This meant that everyone took the instruction topless with temperature between 10 to 15 degree. I totally understand there was no other way to get everyone attention together at that point. The occasion was graced by people who related to the sport which was very mindful of the organizers.

Swim

Finally my first triathlon started with a countdown. We had to go around a square route, marked at corner, twice to complete the 1.5k distance. Knowing what had happened during the practice I had to keep looking up to ensure I was going straight.
Fogging happened quite quickly. I had to stop to wash the goggles. I tried to flow the trail of other swimmers and had limited success.
I kept going zig-zag. I am sure someone viewing my swimming line from above would think that I was drunk. At about 42 min I was coming out of water, receiving my first band. Mii had this nice/simple way to tracking completion by giving different coloured band at important stage. I headed into the transition zone about 10 mins late from what I would have liked

T1 (Swim to Cycle Transition)

Practical lesson 1 - use bags that are different. It is easy to identify at transition points. Mine was not - punerunning sling bag. It took me a bit extra to locate it. The delay set a bit of panic and I struggled to find stuff (e.g. socks) in the small bag. In about 4 mins I completed the transition and got my bum on the saddle.

Cycle

The cycling route started with a short climb. Cycling in and around Pune, I had become use to climbing. The route did not have any "too hard" climbs. I crossed the T2 transition area located at 20 km in 45 mins. I counted about ten cyclist who had taken the U-turn before I could. I received my second wrist band at the U-turn. I kept hydrating myself and also took few bits from the nutrition bar that I was carrying.
Apart from a bit of company, a banker from Mumbai, an ex-pat enjoying the nature, most of the ride was solo. I entered the T2 area as per plan, 1 hr 30 mins after the start of cycling leg.

T2 (Cycle to Run transition)

The cycle and helmet were collected by Mii volunteers. I really felt like a pro at this point. I also received my 3rd band. The T2 bags were laid neatly, but again I had a bit of trouble locating mine. I had used the T2 bag supplied by the organizers. Not that there is anything wrong with it. In fact lot of people used it. Which made it hard to locate. T2 was lot smoother and quicker. By now I was so much into race, that I forgot to note the time.

Run

The run started with a quick descend and by the time it ended I could see the climb in front. With experience, I fear downhill more than uphill. I had injured my knees on downhill routes. This was the time to deploy all that I had learnt about running on the hill. While I was able to apply the technique on the downhill, I could not apply them on the uphill. Because I could not run up the steep uphill gradient. The only chance I had of completing was by walking through the climbs. The run-walk pattern continued till the first U-turn meant for Sprint distance. The number of people on the route dropped quite drastically after this point. The route flattened out a bit after this. I picked up some speed. The run was lonely than cycle. I went past 2 fellow triathletes and saw probably an equal number returning. The sight of the final U was such a relief. I received the final wrist band. The return had sun shining from the front, but the breeze would not let sun become painful. I enjoyed the return run. I could see the T2 transition and assumed that this was where it all ends. Only one small climb separated me and I was feeling happy. I ran through the climb hoping to finish strong. My happy feeling was a little premature. To my surprise, the volunteers asked me to continue further, pointing in a direction towards a hill. Hoping this to be the last climb, I tried running through it. But walked half of it. As I started to run at the end of climb, I saw the finish area, no confusion this time. I ran harder to complete the event.
Living through dream - My first Triathlon

After Event

A simple but tasty breakfast was set by Mii organizers. I enjoyed the idly, chicken nuggets, toast, eggs, juice.
I posed in front of the finisher poster, which was again very thoughtful of the organizers.
Little chit chat continued while more people gathered. The only point where I felt a bit sad was when I refused to part with my four wrist bands to a little village boy. I was too attached to give it away. Initially when Mii organizers mentioned about the band the imagined black rubber bands. But they had lot more character. I could not give it away at that point.
The very stylish, completion medals were distributed. We cheered the winners of various categories.
The ceremony ended with distribution of completion certificates.
I had lived through my long time dream. I know this is the beginning. There are more to come. But 1st one is always special.

(Special thanks to Mii for organizing the event)
 
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