7.30 am, Saturday, One day before raceday
We jumped into the ocean to acclimatise. The water was cold but calm. Comforting. We swam inwards, with a whole lot of triathletes, newbies like me as well as serious racers. After 30 mins I felt I could do this. I had to only keep my breathing under control and not panic. That’s it. Simple.
In open water.
The biggest challenge for me of the last 6 months…
We went on a bike ride to check out the bikes, and recce the course of the bike. We had to do 6 loops of the rolling hills of the Goa highway, around Goa University. This involved some serious strategizing and being familiar with the bike by optimizing the gears. Both of which I was clueless about.
On the rolling hills
Biking, now, emerged as an even more serious challenge.
I had literally jumped into this event.
Q: What was I thinking when I signed up for this!!!???
A: I want to save Rs.500!
Russa and I had been talking about doing a Triathlon for some time, but I knew that I wasn’t ready. I could barely swim 4 lengths of our 25m pool. So on 27th October, post a swim session, Russa sent me and email- to sign up for the Goa Olympic Triathlon…and save Rs. 500 before 31st October. That was a good reason I thought…and I signed up! (of course, I didn’t think about the Rs.3000 that I would lose if I didn’t learn how to swim by Feb 12th!)
I was juggling between training for TMM full marathon, in January, and this Goa tri only 3 weeks after. It was a constant tussle. As a strategy, I kept the mileage going with thrice a week running and the long run on Sunday sacrosanct, as was the swim drill session on Monday mornings. It was crazy. I tell you…there were many days when I wondered…why am I doing this to myself. None of it was easy. I couldn’t keep up with the boys on the long runs, due to lack of speed work, and in the Monday sessions I trailed behind the champion swimmers as they had been swimming for over 2-3 years now and I was just about making it across the pool. As regards the bike, at first I struggled to keep my balance, and once I started biking for over an hour, a new point would start paining in my back/shoulder/neck after an hour of biking.
Each day was a struggle.
There were times when I would train for 10 days straight and then on the 11th day would crash. Just sleep in and spend the day in a haze.
But, each day felt like an achievement.
I was pushing the bar with every swim and every ride.
I was at the bottom of the curve, and I could only get better.
Each day we set a new goal, a simple goal and it was a step forward.
Rohan Zaveri: My son-on the road and in-the sea
We ran our first TMM together in 2012 and he was the first one to nag me… “When are you getting on your bike?”
Hyun Joong: My real swim coach
He spent 2 long months, 2 years ago, cleaned up my breast stroke, making it strong and efficient, which I used for the race. He also taught me the fundamentals of free style, which I now need to work on.
Russa Mehta: My partner-in-crime.
We jumped into “Triathloning” together. Turned out that he was a natural…who had learned swimming as a kid and cycling came easy. So, well, there I was, huffing and puffing behind him, unable to keep up in everything.
To him I owe every minute of my training, when he would pace me on the bike, to ensure that I was safe, this is Bombay after all, and I am yet shaky on the bike. He has been very encouraging during the swim sessions, patiently pointing out my mistakes, and more importantly, ordering breakfast after his shower while I was yet finishing the distance!
Pulin Shroff: The Inspiration
He showed me the Dream. Told me, “It is possible, you can do it.”
He gave me courage to attempt this, and confidence, that I would finish it.
Sanjay Dalal: The Ironman
His hard work and discipline over all these years has been awe-inspiring. With time, his quiet words encouraged me to up the game, and challenge myself in ways I never imagined I ever could!
Forever grateful to them….<3
The Tri-house (10 of us staying together!) was buzzing. Tea, coffee, oats, Fast and Up activate, bananas all laid out amidst, bike helmets, swim caps, shoes and event bags, Yet, there was order in the chaos. The veterans worked with calm minds and skilled hands and the newbies ran helter-skelter, bordering on panic.
We checked in our T1/T2 bags (transition bags), racked our bags and were all set. All we had to do now was jump into the cold ocean!
Ok…seriously… What was I thinking!!!
As we lined up at the beach, the hierarchy was evident. Champs up front, every second mattered to them, us…right at the back- the aim was only to come out of the sea, safely, without getting kicked too many times!
I swam well, even if I say so myself. The key was to remain calm and keep my breathing under control. I managed that and got out of the water like I had won the war. Challenge 1 done!! I was thrilled to bits. The crowd awaiting us at the beach was encouraging us to run through Transition 1 to the bike, but I just had to spend a few seconds doing a little victory dance on the sand, take a few deep breaths find my balance before I moved into the next part. This was never ending. No time to rest.
Shower, shoes, glasses, helmet, gel and out.
There was a 800m climb right in the second Km, which I biked half and walked the rest. I had picked my battles. In the first loop, as I flew down the highway, I felt wonderful. This is what I had come to Goa for. To enjoy this Triathlon. And I was feeling on top of the world. By loop 3, I saw the others already running. And I thought to myself, when will this end? It was a great experience as everything was happening in that 12km loop, so we kept spotting each other as we biked and ran. Passed point B for the seventh time, and zoomed into T2. I need to rest. Stop. Sit. But no! No chance of that! Go, go, go!
Rack the bike, cap, gel, 2 sips of coke and out.
With gingerly legs, I strolled out and slowly picked up. Pace came surprisingly easily and for the first time in the race I relaxed. Shook out my shoulders and smiled. Only 9k to go! Great! I will be done soon. I ran easy, encouraged the walkers, just ran with rhythm, slow on the uphills and flew on the downs. I was in my comfort zone. And before I knew it, 2k to go, and that treacherous 800m bike uphill, became my fastest 800m downhill sprint. And then I saw the board… “Smile, only 500m to go”. And that did the trick. I pumped my arms up the last hill, flying past 2 triathletes along the way to blaze up to the finish.
3 push ups later, hugs, smiles and gratitude! What a wonderful feeling!
3:56:50…Sub 4. As Pulin had predicted before I had even started training.
This race was wayyyyy outside my comfort zone. And I did it.
If I can do it, anyone can! Keep challenging yourself, and discover a world without limits!
Blaise Pascal: “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”