Sunday, October 16, 2011

Journey to Ironhood II: Week 24

Week 24: 10-16 Oct

A humbling experience in my first North Face trail race on 15 Oct, where   I encountered the first of many incidences never before experienced in previous races:

I started out strong and fast on a lovely Saturday morn, but barely 8km into the run, I threw up by the side path, emptying my stomach of fuel necessary for my run.

10km into the run, an excruciating pain shot through my right knee. Unwilling to give up and walk, I limped and hobbled the remaining 15km to the finish line, despite the pain that refused to subside.

Weaknesses humble us. It humbled me for sure. I hobbled in dejection as runner after runner overtook me on the trail - some looked back in sympathy and asked if I was alright; some zoomed past in a flash.

Still, I kept moving, focused on putting one foot in front of the other, fueled by a fire that wouldn't stop burning in my heart.

In the midst of my personal struggle,  a guy struggling with both cramped legs dropped onto the side path and asked for help. I stopped to massaged his legs; before long another runner came along and gave aid. We didn't care much about lost time; in moments of struggle, human compassion overtakes it all.

As I ran/limped/hobbled along to the finish, I greatly appreciated the camaraderie among runners that day - the ones who kept moving forward despite their bodily struggle and pain, the encouragement from fellow runners to keep on keeping on, those who share of their supplies with others,  and those who stopped to help others in need.

As my pain increased and my pace decreased, a group of guys ran alongside me and encouraged me to keep pushing - "only 1km to go" - they shouted. Like a turn of a switch, I ignored my legs, opened up my stride and increased pace.

I must have looked comical attempting to run with a limping right leg, and was half piqued that it wasn't 1 km to the finish line - it was about 2.5km. But I was thankful for those guys nonetheless - had it not been for them, I wouldn't have pushed myself to sprint to the end, and finished in a decent time, considering all the mishaps and stops during the run.

As I complete my first North Face 50km Duo Trail Race, I learnt that it's not always about winning or running the fastest split, but a humility in loving the sport and building camaraderie between fellow runners to overcome each of our own weaknesses and achieve our personal goals.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Journey to Ironhood II: Week 25

Week 25: 3-9 Oct

I like staying in hotel rooms, not because of the comfort it offers, but because it is sparse, save for the essentials of a bed, table, hot shower and air con (nope, I don't care much for TV). Hotel rooms are bare and simple, unlike the clutter at home - furnitures, stacks of stuff, piles of items, layers of dust.

I dislike having and owning many things; things frustrate me. They appear as clutter that cramps my world and agitate the spatial part of me. I'd love to give away and dispose of many things that I own. I've even contemplated listing down all the brand new and charming things that I have; tucked away, forgotten and neglected; that I would like to put into hands that have better use of them.

In the same vein, I like triathlons because it takes me away from clutter; from the limitations that plague the mind and body. Triathlons demand so much from the athlete that it leaves little room for attachment to other matters while you're at it - be it during training or on the course on race day. I love waking up in the stillness of the morn at 4am to run or bike, and inflicting pain and discipline onto a tired but keen body, while most people are still fast asleep.

I love long runs where I'm alone by myself, my thoughts and aspirations. Running is my meditation time. I set goals for myself, visualize myself working at it and achieving it, overcoming obstacles and locking the door to can't dos and limitations.

I love long bikes because it takes me far away, speedily, from things that tie me down - the worries of each day, housework that I dread, bills to pay. On my bike, things are simple - I have only one goal - to go as fast for as long as possible and aim to complete 180km in under 6 hours. It takes a lot of me to accomplish that - I haven't quite gotten near, so I'm always chasing the wind and pushing the speed, and in the process, distancing myself even more from anything that I wanna detach myself from. It's the perfect, healthy escape!

I love swimming because it forces me to face my fear of not getting it right and fight the unseen force that limits my ability to swim efficiently and speedily. Of all the 3 disciplines, I perform the least satisfactory in the swim, and even more so, I am determined to hold a tight rein and master my weakness.

In a nutshell, tri-ing demands so much of me I have learnt to live with little, particularly possessions. And because it demands so much of me, it makes me appreciate, even more, things that really matter - my loved ones, family, my Master. The more I tri, the more I'm aware of my mortality, and the need to fully cherish life for its short breath.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Journey to Ironhood II: Week 26

Week 26: 26 Sep - 2 Oct

I tri because it makes me feel heroic. It's a magnificent feeling to be doing what's uncomfortable and painful to the general masses. I'm easily inspired and spurred, and seeing people attempting and accomplishing extraordinary feat on TV or reading about them in books, the news - well, that always leave me with a grinding feeling in my guts that I too, wanna attempt something bigger than myself. Attempting the IronMan with little base training under my belt is my way of spreading my wings and fly when I haven't quite learnt how.

I tri because I hope it would bring me places - so when I travel, it's not just all eating and sight seeing, but seeing the landscape the hard, grueling, challenging and sweaty way - swimming, biking and running. I dislike overt comfort, and the idea of a nice holiday. My idea of a holiday is to earn it - I gotta first sweat it out before I deserve that good meal; and I gotta explore the place not in a cushy vehicle, but in as natural a way as possible - on foot, on two wheels, with no carbon emission...

So back to tri-ing because it makes me feel heroic. Saturday morning saw me running my second ever trail run - an agonizing 29k. I ran my first trail just 3 weeks ago, and was over the moon to find myself accomplishing 21k feeling strong. Now 3 weeks later, I'm not feeling altogether that great. It was painful and I wanted to stop in my tracks over a hundred times. But pride got the better of me, and I kept up with the pace of the group (which was rather fast). I've always considered running as my stronger discipline, and have never quite injured myself on a run. But I did this time round. My legs were hurting all over but I kept pushing on, because I didn't wanna quit on myself.

During training, when the going gets tough and often times I feel like stopping and cutting short my work out, I keep going because that, for me, is mental training - in the real race, the desire to quit would come knocking too many a times. If I don't learn to persist through my agony in training, how would I grit my teeth and bash through the wall on race day? Of course, I have to be careful not to over push myself to the point of injury - it's a fine line between persisting and injuring.

Well, all's good - my legs are fine after a good rub and stretch, and boy, am I excited to train through Week 25!