Monday, May 23, 2011

Race Report #2: Bintan Triathlon - Sprint Distance

My first Sprint Triathlon! In hindsight it was probably unwise to go to Bintan to do my first ever Sprint, but well, I finished it nonetheless and despite finishing seventh from the bottom in my category, I actually feel really ...what's the word now...fulfilled? Satisfied?

I got to Bintan on Friday and missed my race pack collection. No idea why I thought I would have plenty of time after I got off the ferry, but well...evidently not. The organisers were nice enough to let me collect it first thing in the morning though. A part of me was disappointed. I really really didn't want to race.

So here's the back story. I signed up for the Bintan Triathlon for the heck of it. I knew nothing about it and I thought - well, I've never been to Bintan, might be interesting to do a sprint triathlon there. A couple of weeks after I signed up I bumped into a friend at church who, in his words, said 'Good luck with that. There are loads of hills in Bintan.' Yeah...that I didn't know. Which pretty much explains why despite everything being booked and all my shit being loaded from Singapore (Big thanks to R for helping me lug all my crap from Singapore!), I was still apprehensive (read: completely freaked out) about the triathlon, namely the bike leg.

I got to the race super early because I had to pick up my race kit. It's not really fun being alone and half asleep before a race in some foreign country. I half heartedly did some warm-up in the sea. Aside - Oh what a lovely change it is to swim in waters where you don't have a plastic bag hanging off your foot or a used condom floating in front of you - Yes, welcome to Singapore waters. It started drizzling 15 minutes from the start of the race and I prayed hard a storm would come at that moment. This was the general thought in my mind the whole start - First I hoped they wouldn't give me the race pack, then I hoped they'd call off the race on account of bad weather, then I hoped I'd be stung by a jelly fish or fall off my bike at the start so I wouldn't have to finish the race.

At the race start they asked if all of us girls were ready for the 750m swim. Wait? What? 750 metres? Yup, I assumed it was a 500m swim and was so darn proud of myself for swimming 600m the week before in the pool, 100m extra than I thought I had to swim. Only now at the race start, literally 2 minutes before I was going to jump into the sea, I realised I hadn't actually swum enough. Ah well, the aim for this race was just not to die. I didn't really care how I did, so I figured I'd just start at the back and take it easy.

Of course when the whistle went off I realised what a stupid idea that was. I was right smack in breast stroke territory. And being the lone front crawler, I took a lot of hits...or rather kicks. I got kicked a couple of times in the head and took one solid foot in the chest that really winded me. Finally I pulled away from the pack of breast-strokers and tucked myself behind some chick. Since I wasn't going to go mad at the swim leg, I figured I'd just follow behind someone. This way I didn't have to keep sighting where I was going (and winding up with a neck ache) and instead I could just follow the bubbles in front of me. In all I finished the swim leg comfortably and not all that worn out.

Now the bike leg, that's a whole other ball game. So in all the mini triathlons I've done in Singapore, there have been no hills. In fact most of Singapore is flat. So having to be on my bike and face a huge slope at the beginning of a leg that I was worst at was really daunting. So when I saw a girl in front hop off her bike and push it up the slope, I figured that gave me leeway to do the same. Yes, that was shameful. I decided not to do that for any other slopes and that was when the nightmare started.

Everyone overtook me on the bike leg. Okay I exaggerate, but I know for a fact at least 10 people must have overtaken me. I've always been a bit of a chicken shit, which meant I used to brake a lot going downhill on my bike...well, that all changed in Bintan. As I went downhill I was trying to get enough speed and momentum on the bike to go up the next hill - no brakes there! I just wished I had more gears to get through because halfway through the ride the gears on my chainwheel (haha, impressed that I know that? I just had to google 'what the hell are the gears on the left handlebar called?') stopped working. Still with sheer grit...or more likely the huge huge need and desire for all the torture to be over...I made it to the end (without pushing my bike up any hills...although I did come close to wanting to a few times).

The run leg, or walk leg for me, was pretty uneventful. I couldn't even get off my bike properly, much less run. I stumbled out from the transition area and then began a slow 5k run-walk. The run leg was pretty nice. I ran by a bunch of villas where people were cheering me on, and then there was a nice long stretch of a nature trail. And then back past another bunch of villas and then the home stretch and I was done!

I never felt as if I earned my finisher's medal as much as I did this one. I've always been rather unimpressed with finisher's medals...okay I've finished a race, big deal, we don't have to make a song and dance about it and frankly it feels like a bit of a joke with the whole 'okay so you didn't win, but here wear this medal as a consolation'. But this time around although I came in pretty much at the tail end of a race, had time to have long conversations with myself whilst cycling and running, I also made it to the end...without dying! And the thing about being one of the last few is that people are so nice! All the time I was running, people were yelling 'good work! keep going! keep it up!' and the sap in me really wanted to burst into tears because everyone was being so nice.

In all, I had good fun. Yes the hills were insane biking on and I don't really want to see a damn hill for another month, but people were nice and I actually enjoyed having 'long' (it's all relative) stretches cycling with nary a soul in sight. I realised I was a pretty damn good cheerleader for myself and I learnt that sometimes winning a race isn't everything (okay, I've never won a race, so I don't really have experience in that field). I learnt to hold back and take it easy...yes people kept overtaking me, but this was a race with myself and all my self-doubts rather than anything else.

I'd definitely come back for this. In fact, I've just signed up for next year's race. That's a whole year to ride up and down slopes in preparation!

Results: 2 hr 6 mins
Swim leg (750m): 21 mins 58 sec (27th of 37)
T1: 2mins 22 sec
Bike leg (20k): 1 hr 2 min (32nd)
T2: 53 sec
Run leg (5k): 39 mins 8 sec (34th)

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