I started running in mid 2015. My goal was to get “extremely fit” to undertake some personal challenges that would bring me to my knees; physically, mentally and emotionally. I thought if I could train for and do the Ironman triathlon – hardest single day endurance event – which, I hoped, would ultimately prepare me well to undertake what I had in mind. That’s when it all started.

Ironman is a multi sport race which consists of a 3.8 km open-water swim, followed by a 180 km bike ride, to finish with a full marathon (42.195km run). Well, at the time, I could hardly imagine the distance of the run (8 laps around Male’) – not to mention the unimaginable swim and the long bike ride.

Soon after I started running, I quickly escalated to racing a half marathon which I was able to finish in a respectable time, just 2 weeks before my first triathlon. I had registered for 100Plus Thinvaru Triathlon (400m swim, 10km bike and 5km run) which is quite a short distance in triathlon racing. Though I did not train particularly for this race, I did a fair amount of swimming on my own – my weakest discipline of all – and was pretty sure that I would be able to cover the race distance.

12030501_10153120695025849_5019907260989982398_oFew days before the race, I participated in a 400 swim event (16 laps in a saltwater pool), just to get comfortable with the swim. To say the least, I put on a terrible performance and was totally devastated. I was the last to jump in the water ( I was expecting 1..2..3..GO! and didn’t hear the whistle), my goggle came off during the dive, and when I finished the swim and tried to get out of the water, I was told that I still had 2 more laps to complete the 400m swim. Quite embarrassed, trying my best not to show it, I struggled with the last 2 laps, finishing barely under 10 minutes. I don’t need to tell you that I was the last.

100Plus Thinvaru Triathlon wasn’t a big race, but the only race of its kind here in decades. There were a few dozen competitors in 2 categories; individual (one athlete doing three events) and team (where a team of 3 athletes each doing swim, bike or run). 400 meter swim is in the open water, in a 200m loop. I wasn’t comfortable breathing with my face in the water. I had recently learnt that you are supposed to swim with face in the water and just barely turning your head to breath to a side.

Well, never too late to learn a new sport. 10 km of cycling – 2 loops around Male’ city. I didn’t know much about cycling or road bikes. The only thing I knew for sure is that road bikes had narrower tires. I used a mountain bike borrowed from a friend, with suspension – not the right tool for a road race.

Photo: @rushhphotos
Photo: @rushhphotos

Race day is here and I have got the shivers. It’s the swim that scares me. 90 minutes after the expected start time, at around 07:30am, we were just getting ready to start, and I was at the front of the pack. I knew it was a bad decision. I had people trying to swim over me, people pushing me in all directions. I felt like there was no space for me in the water. Barely 100 meters into the swim, I was exhausted. No more could I keep calm and swim with my face in the water. You should’ve seen my panic-stricken contorted face. I was forced to change to my normal way of swimming, with my head above the water, just to make sure I get enough air. In under 10 minutes, I was out of the water. The hardest part of the race was over now. I was the last to finish the swim. But, where was my bike?

Photo: nadheem
Photo: nadheem

There were no competitors in the transition area. Everyone was gone! I quickly put on my shoes and got on the bike. This was my first time racing on a bike of any kind. I pushed hard and pedalled as fast as I could, overtaking a few guys. The race leader was nowhere to be seen. Before the end of the first loop, I caught up with the guy on second place (Shameem, who had quite a bit of triathlon experience). At the time, I didn’t know a thing about drafting/slipstreaming. Or else I would’ve stayed on his rear wheel :). He was on a road bike, and I was on a mountain bike. I had to work much harder to maintain the same speed. At the time, I didn’t know that either. So much I didn’t know. LoL.

In the second lap, overtaking Shameem, I had to roll so hard to maintain the lead. My legs were crying out loud, but I had no intention of giving up the few second lead I had. I knew it was going to affect the run. It’s just a 5k anyway. Using the lowest possible gear ratios, I had no more gears left. It was a never ending ride, under the heat of the morning sun, to the transition area. I knew that it would affect my run. I was on second place.

Photo: Nadheem

I racked the bike, and started running. The last lap to the finish line – a 5k run. The sun was up higher, and it was a very hot and humid day. Few hundred meters into the run, my legs started to cramp. I couldn’t have been more wrong on the bike! My legs were hard and solid with so much pain in every step. A result of having pushed too hard on the bike, and not having the right training, where you run after bike sessions to get used to running on fatigued legs. That’s not an excuse for today. At this point, Shameem and I were running almost together, just seconds apart. I am not giving up the second place. I kept running as well as I could, trying to maintain good posture.

Back then, I didn’t own a Garmin. So I had no idea what pace I was going, or what my heart rate was. One thing I was sure was that my heart rate would have been up through the roof. Coach Naseer and Coach Nadheem were following me on a motorbike. If not for them, I am pretty sure I would’ve slowed down. It was a huge motivation to have them push me at my lowest point in the race. Finally, finish line was in sight!

Taking second place in individual category, I finished in one-piece, with a total time if 56 minutes 33 seconds. Split timings (not entirely sure of its accuracy): Swim 9:30, Bike 20:30, Run 21:30, and time in transition 5:30. That was one hell of a race. Times were quite slow. But I was so glad and excited after my first triathlon. It was a good race, where I was on the tip of my toes most of the time. Huge accomplishment!

Looks like I have train really hard to be able to finish the Ironman distance triathlon. Thinking about the 3.8 km swim alone makes my blood freeze.

12087162_10153155195950849_5675404667738670541_oAfter this short triathlon, Ironman was put on hold, and I started training for my first marathon which was 8 weeks away. Then later on I got more serious into running, doing a couple of ultra marathons. Almost a year gone by, and here I am training for Ironman. I can swim the distance quite alright now. I’m yet to do a 180km training ride. But, I don’t think training alone would prepare anyone to run a marathon after all that. I suppose, it’s true grit and determination that takes you to the finish line in Ironman. I’m going to find out if I have it in me. Three weeks to race day – 7th May 2017, Ironman Australia in Port Macquarie, New South Wales!

It took me almost 18 months to write this race recap. Better late than never eh? 🙂

Hope you liked it. Cheers!