A Learning Experience… Pune Tritheos 2016.
Pune Tritheos was my third triathlon this year and the toughest of it all. I had not planned to write a blog on it, but after the event I felt I had to write about it and it was a learning lesson for me and so it may be for those who read it too.
I was pretty cool about this event though I had not put in enough practice due to my hectic schedules and managing (remove “a”) home. Commuting to work in local trains used to tire me and my early morning workouts went in for a toss. I just did not feel like getting up in the mornings for my workouts. But I utilized my weekends to the maximum. I registered for Pune Tritheos on the strength of my previous two triathlons.
I don’t have a control over my cycle. My cycle tends to go its own way and I have a tendency to cycle in the middle road much to the chagrin of my team mates who keeps (keep) on yelling at me to cycle on the extreme left during my week-end rides with them. I dread cycling to the left side of the road as it is uneven and at times has gravel on it. I have a gravel phobia after I broke my teeth (tooth) at Goa Triathlon when my cycle skid (skidded) on the gravel and I fell down with a bang. For me seeing gravel on the road is like seeing a ghost in the dead of the night. FEAR…..
I planned to take my cycle for this event unlike the previous two triathlons where I had to rely on rented cycles. I called the cycle maintenance guy to have a last minute check on my cycle so that it behaves as I want it to. He gave an all clear signal that relaxed me to some extent. Next day early morning, saw me hooking my cycle behind my team mates car and leaving off to Pune with an injured left hand. I could not fully stretch my left hand. It had a swelling near the elbow joints. I twisted my hand while getting into the local train while commuting to work, three weeks before the event. I did not go to see a doctor as I knew I would be advised against participating in such an event. We reached the venue just in time for the briefing after wasting about 40 minutes following the wrong route. I deposited the cycle after tagging it and went in for the briefing. The transition points, the route, what to expect , what do they expect from us and the support along the route was explained in detail. Though the venue of the swim was just towards my right, I was least interested in it. Majority of the participants fear swimming. But for me it was cycling. Goa Triathlon was my first open water sea swim which put to rest my psychological fear of swimming in open waters.
The ups and downs of the cycling route played havoc in my mind. I visualized myself going off the roads and into the deep valley. I met Hiren (Patel) and was happy to meet him. He played a major role in my first triathlon swim in open waters and my switch from freestyle to breast-stroke. Seeing him bolstered my sagging spirits. I wished him luck and I was sure he would make it to the podium. As I was searching for my team mates, I heard someone saying hello. I tuned to face Gaurav Dutta Sir. An inspiration, a para-athlete. I met Sir during my first Goa Triathlon and always in awe of him. Like me , he too was a participant. Such people tend to encourage you, give you the much needed courage to overcome your difficulties and make you want to fare well at any given event. They are your lucky mascots. When they have the courage to venture out with their limited capabilities why can we not go full throttle? We wished each other luck and I went to have lunch with my team mates. I talked about the cycling route with my team mate to take my mind off it but to no avail. Tried to forget about it and decided to take it as it comes. We went to the hotel room, rested, went out in the evening, had a light dinner, returned and started packing my transition bag. Pinned the bib on to the tshirt, packed my tri-suit, kept the tag which had to be attached to the ankle ready and the swim cap which had my bib number written on it. The swim cap was provided by the organizers and it was mandatory to wear it as it was color marked for each even. Sprint – white, Olympic – Red and Half Iron man- Blue. Unlike Goa Triathlon where the bib number was written by marker on your arm for the swim, here it was a water proof tag to be attached to the ankle for the entire event.
Slept peacefully, got up early morning at 4 am. Went about my daily chores in a relaxed manner and got ready. I wore my tri-suit and a tshirt on top of it. As I stepped out of the hotel, realized how cold it is at Pune. I (was) literally shaking like a leaf. I reached the venue at 5 am. 530 am was the reporting time. All the participants had started streaming in. I went up to my cycle, removed my tshirt and kept my bag with the items required for the cycling and running event in the box provided by the organizers. Chatted with my team-mates, wished them luck and got ready for the line-up. A guy standing next to me asked me is this your first. I proudly told him..no, its my third. He too was from Mumbai, staying near me and has seen me during my early morning runs. Previously I used to run at the Borivali National Park, a haven for runners , amidst the greenery. But due to time constraint, I do my morning runs in my locality. After few seconds of warm-up, we were ready for the swim. I crossed the timing mat. I had decided to take the first few meters slowly as during my Chennai Triathlon, within a few meters, I was breathless. I ventured into the lake and was surprised as the waters were warm. I had expected freezing cold waters. I swam leisurely. I saw other participants splashing their way, passing me by but I was least bothered. Yes..I was competing but the competition was with myself.
I swam comfortably for about 200 meters, then sped up. Took the U turn for Olympic category triathletes at 750 meters and thereafter I lost my sense of direction. I wasted a few minutes in trying to search it and asking the volunteers manning the lake for direction and finally made it to the finish point in one hour flat. It was a PB for me. One hour including the time taken in searching my way back. Climbed on to the shore, entered the venue, used the toilet and went running to my cycle. I wore my tshirt on top of my tri-suit, put on my cycling shorts though my tri-suit was padded for extra padding, laced up my shoes, fastened my helmet, took my cycle of the rack and there I was running with my cycle for the second part of the event. I crossed the timing mat and pushed my cycle up the slope and rode it when I reached the flat area. I had to go a few distance and take a U turn for the main cycling route. I went off the U turn and had to return to the U turn, pushing my cycle. I did not bother riding my cycle as there was traffic . At the U-turn, I rode my cycle and followed the route. The roads were good and I was happy about it. I thought…I was unnecessarily tensed about the route. I was beginning to enjoy the ride on the Lavasa Road when there in front of my I saw an incline. As I neared, realized it was a small one…O this….this I can manage…I climbed the incline and ahead was inclines all the way. The Mutha Ghat, the inclines at Watunde, Kolawade etc. I put the gears of my cycle to use, managed one or two inclines and thereafter my gears got jammed. The inclines were tough and torturous . My cycle would just not move. As I got down from cycle and started pushing it, it dawned on me that I would not make it to the cut-off time. I pushed my cycle, talked to it to get it working but nothing happened. Finally I saw an aid station. I stopped my cycle. As told at the briefing , this event was self supported. There would be no cycle support. You had to manage on your own. I asked the boys to hold my cycle. While one lifted the cycle, the other one rotated the wheel, I started fidgeting with the gears. After few seconds, it got moving. I thanked the guys and rode on my cycle once again. So much was my fear of the gears jamming up , that I did not use my gears at all for the rest of the cycling route. I stepped down from my cycle on all the major inclines..Now if you see it, all the inclines were major ones…pushed my cycle. It was then I realised that without proper training, attempting this route was sheer madness. To cycle on this route, you needed hours of practice. I was the only woman pushing my cycle on the steep slopes in relentless sun. There was no one else in sight. The frustration and the thought that I am nowhere near the turning point which meant that I have still a lot more to go, got to me so much that when the vehicles stopped by me to asking if everything was ok, I had half the mind to throw my cycle in the vehicle and go back to the venue. 😢The Half Ironman participants passed me by and cheered and encouraged me which somewhat relaxed me. Hiren passed me by multiple times, each time asking me to push up.
Then came the slopes, the declines. While majority of the participants make good use to the slopes, as it enables them to make up the lost time, for me the slopes are a nightmare. I coaxed my cycle, talked to it to take it easy and not go on a full throttle and trot away into the ravines down below. OMG..my teammates would think I vanished into thin air.. just like that. 😃I held on to my cycle for dear life, my fingers clutching the breaks and down I went the slopes. My cycles rattling as the roads were not smooth. All the nuts, bolts and screws in my cycle were crying in protest. Anyhow managed to reach the U-turn for the Olympic participants in one piece.😓
I was half done and the thought of running 10k after this was weighing heavily on my mind. The return lap was the same. Getting down from my cycle then climbing up..repeated the process multiple times. I was exhausted, drained but I went on. Even in the face of adversity, I have never known to have quit. Surprisingly, I did a negative split. My return lap was faster. As I reached the finishing line of my cycling event, I thought about my run. It was then that the volunteer standing there shouted out to me to come for the running leg of the event. She appreciated that I managed to finish the cycling event. I deposited my cycle and went for the run. Thoroughly exhausted and tired, I started my run. Were the inclines on the cycling route not enough that the running route also had to have inclines? 😰Walked, ran, walked the two loops of 5 kms and finally managed to finish my run. Run too was done in negative splits. I was not happy with my performance as I was way behind my cut-off time. But that I completed it lifted my spirits and the encouraging words of the organizer that I finished it is what counts, lifted my spirits higher up.
Yes, I am glad that I took part in it and had the courage to finish it. I self trained for it. I did not seek professional help. I did not have sufficient training for riding those killer inclines but yet I did not give up on those killer inclines. Though my legs were tired and drained of energy, I ran the 10 kms after cycling in negative split. Yes…I did it and Boy!!! Am I glad!!!🙃🙃🙃
Consulted the doctor who told me its a muscle pull. She was surprised that I did the event with that hand and as predicted by me she told me she would not have allowed me to participate. I too told her that is exactly why I did not come for consultation before the event. She put me on medication for two days and complete rest of my hand. 😀