Find Your Strong

I was out jogging around the neighborhood when a thought struck me.  “What is that sport that I can do at my own time, at my own pace, and not so expensive?” Running was the answer.  Well, I thought it wasn’t expensive, but it turned out I was wrong. It was sometime in 2007.

From finishing a three-kilometer benefit run to marathons to ultramarathons—be they road or trail races—it made me move forward to continuously challenge myself.  To be honest, I did not know I could run more than 42 kilometers or even more than a hundred kilometers at the same time, exposed to the elements, or running under the scorching heat of the sun, or running in the rain.   But my first love was swimming.  I first learned to swim late in life. In fact, I was already in my 20s when I first learned the basics of swimming, but it was never too late to try something new.

Combined with my ability to run, I experienced my first aquathlon race, a 400m swim-7K run-400m swim, in Corregidor Island in 2009.  The following year, I had the chance meeting in person at an event, one of the living legends in the arena of ultramarathon running, Scott Jurek.  At some point that day, he signed autographs for the attendees.  What I received from Scott was, “Running Diva, dig deep!” he told me.  I was impressed, and began to think what it meant. In the end, it took me five years to fully understand the implications of the value of what he wrote.  For in mid-February of 2015, I got my first road bike from two great friends.  Yeah, it was a second-hand bike from owners who like me were also runners.  Let us anonymously named these two as Maui and Coach Ige.  Owning a bike now, I signed up for the first time a 40-kilometer bike race having no formal fitness training in cycling.  More about this crazy cycling story here.  Later that same year, I signed up for 2016 Cobra IRONMAN 70.3.   It’s IRONMAN 70.3, Running Diva! It was my way of testing my limits to bring me closer to what Scott wrote.  Dig deep.  You’re in.   Daunting!

A triathlon (tri) is a multiple-stage competition involving three disciplines of swimming, cycling, and running.  The format is always like that.  Swim, bike, and run.  A triathlete trains and devotes time for each discipline.  Another important aspect of triathlon includes two transitions. Transition one or T1 swings from swimming to cycling.  Transition two or T2 changes from cycling to running.  And the time accumulated to change in these two transitions are included in overall time of a triathlon.  The usual progression of a beginner triathlete is to usually transition from Sprint distance to Olympic distance to Half Ironman to long course triathlon, and finally, to Ironman. Or, to some athletes they progress by joining multisport events such as aquathlon (swim-run) and duathlon (bike-run) before attempting triathlon.

In 2016, I trained and completed my first Half Ironman distance triathlon in Cebu City.  Prior to this, I only had completed (and won third place in my Age Group) a Sprint and two-kilometer open water swimming. I believe my background in running really helped me complete the competition. It was not perfect, not really fast, but I finished strong.  That was my goal.  And, I achieved it.

The races that followed after finishing the Half Ironman distance were Sprint and Standard courses. Earlier this year, I have run a marathon in Cebu City, and raced in a cycling event in Indonesia, a UCI Gran Fondo World Series Tour de Bintan that included stand-alone events like the 17K Individual Time Trial and the 144K Gran Fondo Classic.  Both of these cycling events were geared to finishing an Ironman in the near future.  Crossing my fingers.

Now talking of tri, this brings me to the exciting part of this post about this upcoming event happening this month, the TRI-Factor Asian Championship Series.  The action will take place  on May 25 to 27 at the Camarines Sur Watersports Complex. It features various tri distances to test the mettle of the veteran triathletes, beginners, and enthusiasts. This is such a huge boost for this growing sport across the Asian region since most countries such as ours, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and China have the best beaches ideal for a tri race. In our country alone, with so many to choose from, the islands have hidden coves and beautiful sandy beaches for such a demanding sport that requires courses for swimming, biking, and running.  I have known some friends who will be doing this tri race.  And, I wish them all the best of luck!

With tri getting so much attention, is it the new strong?  Maybe.  Possibly. So what your strong? Swimming? Biking? Or, doing other fitness sports? To “find your strong” means whatever sport you are in and as long you put time, and is passionately pursuing it, not one sport is stronger than the other.  In my IMHO, what makes the sport strong is because of you.  Yes, you, the athlete.

Having the strong mindset, the willingness to appreciate mental preparation training (at the expense of losing your social life, well, temporarily, of course), striking the right work life balance, learning techniques to improve performance, and dealing with stressors, setbacks including losses are what makes you strong. Almost all sports have these elements. It will be like this: 90% mental and the other percentage is for physical.

You are strong when you put your heart to it. You are strong when you stay committed and focus. You are strong that even when you fail or lost or knock down (or you crash, or you are in a cast because of a fracture), you get right back up.

A real winner doesn’t have to be a title holder or a gold medalist.  I have had my share of going up on the podium and collecting medals and trophies. To me, the real winner is when you do whatever it takes to achieve your goal, and be the best you can be, the Best Version of Yourself.