Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The swimmer, the biker and the pogo stick runner

Ever wonder which is the best athlete at triathlons?

according to hearsay history, triathlons came about when a bunch of athletes, each an elite in their own discipline of swimming, cycling and running, were debating on who was the better athlete. as a result, they have decided to create a multi-sport that would challenge them at all three to see who came out best. Hence the birth of the glorious triathlons we love today.

being a competitive swimmer (read as i’ve been in many swim competitions, but never won any) from a young age, i found triathlons a breeze to pick up. "hey, it's just a really loooong swim, then a fun bike ride, then a run which i can walk when i'm tired" i thought to myself when the idea poped into my head.

after a year plus racing, i realise my race patterns are always the same. i come out of the swim in the mid pack (on good days one of the early birds), on the bike i maintain my position with the occasional passing better swimmers/less efficient riders, and then suffer on the run.


over time i developed a habit of counting the number of riders i pass on the opposite direction. this is only done when the bike leg is a loop or an out&back course (for loops, i start counting after the last turnaround point). i am always happy to know that i pass an average of 15 to 20 people each time. this is a shortlived happiness as i get dropped by 90-95% of these riders behind me on the run.

so, i finish the swim first-mid pack, the bike mid-lower mid pack depending on race terrain, and finish the run at the bottom 3. in fact! when the official times are uploaded, i often realise that the bottom 3 runners actually clocked faster run times than i did. my swim and bike were my saving grace.

take arif for example. his talent clearly lies in cycling, uphills at that. up until this year, he has never came out of the swim before me. our time difference range from 1 min to 20mins depending on swim course and distance. BUT! he has always finished well ahead of me, at least 30mins.

therefore, while i would say swimming is my strongest discipline, it's clearly not the talent that would make me finish strong. it is however, seen as the hardest discipline to master and the most daunting of the lot to pick up if one would like to attempt triathlons.

the bike leg is always the longest distance. this distance over a certain terrain can determine you progress in the race.

personally, i'm very much a rolling terrain expert. i am able to hold solid average speeds that, while not the fastest still, enables me to pass less efficient riders. and i am able to do this over very long distances.

however, i suffer immensely on hilly terrains. kenyir is an excellent example of a hilly race terrain.

going back to arif, his talent for climbing hills never fails to baffle me. he always catches up with me on the bike regardless of terrain and will always pass me as if i was standing still and i will never see him again until i return to transition, by which time he is saying hello to me while running his first loop.

verdict: i'm good on the bike but it ain't gonna make me finish strong either

ah! what a special breed.

anyone out there with a weak run will know what it feels like to think we're running faster than we normally train only to have a stronger runner pass us effortlessly. there's a light spring in their steps, and nice long relaxed strides.. kinda look like a gezelle in love, prancing in a meadow full of daisies!

and then you realise (for me at least) "hey, you're the one i passed on the bike!"

yup. strong runners always have an advantage towards the end of the race.

since i lack experience in this area apart from how it feels when they pass you, i shall proceed to the conclusion paragraph and leave this section with only one thing left to say:

"i too, will be a gezelle in love one day..."

we all start triathlons with a base discipline. something that we have been doing years before. some of us are made swimmers, some graduate from the neighbourhood cycling hobby, some are natural runners.

and while we can master these very well on their own, it really is a delicate balancing act when you put them together.

the fastest swimmer is not guaranteed a winning position because he may lack biking or running talent. the strongest biker is not guaranteed either because there's still a run after the bike. and the gezelle in love may take forever on the swim and the bike before getting to that meadow, by which time, he is so far behind he can't catch up. so his plans on coming in first may be screwed too.

the person that is able to master all three probably doesn't exist. there is always a slight skew to a single discipline. however, a person who is able to master the balancing act of the three legs most efficiently, do. he's normally the one who is able to control his performance throughout and ensure highest efficiency in all three discipline. he's also normally the one finishing first.

so i think it's quite safe to say that for those of us who aren't him (YET!), we'll just have to settle for being the jack of all trades, master of none...


Al-Ishsal said...

Never a swimmer, never owned a bike since childhood, and couldn't run 500m without stopping ... thats me, the antithesis, hah! but since starting tris this year, i've really enjoyed myself. definitely more for the off-race company with all of you! So, yes, the "gazelle in love, prancing in a meadow full of daisies!" remains a wet dream for me. But could we change the scene to lilies please? ROFL!

Inked and Skew'rd said...

dolphins, seals, gazelles, cheetahs, daisies, lilies....its all about getting out there, enjoying yourself and remembering the simple things in life....

The fulfilment of just being alive to do it...
Go pink diva, GO.....

sgloong said...

wow what a nice write up...... u can try to be a sports writer... very talented.... we Triathletes or Trytheltes (still cant tell the difference) need more ppl like you..... all the best yeah...

Eugene Loong

petitemeehoon said...

i love this entry, u go girl!

Sotong said...

Hee hee... I heard this comment in one of the 2006 Kona You-tube movie clip....

"You cannot win the IM in the swim, but you may lose it"

Strongest swimmer may not eventually win, but a weak swimmer will definitely not win it.

I enjoyed your postings!!! Well done!!! :)