I could not have asked for a better start to 2017. Before the start of the new year I had recently taken the next step in my career which led me to relocate from San Francisco to Long Beach, California. On that note I also took the next step with my triathlon training and this will be my 5th year in the sport! I started off in 2012 by training and racing in long distance triathlons commonly known as Ironman. However, during 2015 and 2016 I decided to focus on the shorter triathlon formats such as the Sprint and Olympic distances to have a change in pace with my training. Reflecting on my performances and experiences, I decided to venture back into long distance triathlons for 2017 to assess how my performance will compare to those in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
In the past I was very focused on accumulating the number of hours I trained each week. I paid very little attention to rest and recovery, and often trained with a fatigued body just to meet my required weekly training hours. It was all part of the learning curve for me in 2012 and 2013 as I was self-coached. In 2014 I decided to work with a coach who could hold me accountable for my training sessions and ensure I approach my training with the right intensity and volume. Again, this was a whole new learning curve as I was taught that ‘quality is better than quantity’. My coach emphasised that a well-balanced training schedule includes adequate time for rest and recovery to ensure I can go into my training session with the right frame of mind and a healthy body. Therefore, at the start of 2017 I knew I had to follow the basic principles of endurance training that I had learnt from my coach. I did exactly that and the ‘proof is in the pudding’!
I had my first race of the year on Sunday 5th February at the Surf City Half Marathon in Huntington Beach, California, where I broke four personal records in one race! I had good faith in my training and was accumulating between 55-65km per week of running in addition to my swimming and cycling training. I had my race plan dialled into my head and all I had to do was be strategic and control my effort over the entirety of the race.
The weather on the morning of the race was as forecasted. Overcast with a slight chill in the air due to the light sea breeze coming from the west. It was the perfect temperature once I got warmed up! I dropped off my bag and began my warm up with some light easy jogging and progressively building up the intensity over 20 minutes. I felt good during the warm up and had a good feeling that I would be in contention of breaking my personal record from the previous year of 1 hour 24mins, which I did in Ahmedabad, India.
With a few minutes to go, I made my way to the start line and used the ambiance to pump myself up! The gun blew and I set off at a slightly faster pace before settling into my race pace. The field of runners slowly thinned out and I began leading the second group of runners. My legs felt very strong but my heart rate was unusually high due to the anxiety. It was affecting my breathing and I had to control it to focus on my pacing. The first 5km flew by and I looked down at my watch only to find I had ran my fastest 5km! Although it served as a confidence booster, I was apprehensive to maintain the same pace in case I ran out of gas towards the latter stage of the race. Similarly, I crossed the 10km and 10mile markers and again found myself setting personal records along the way! Deep down I was ecstatic of what I had achieved so far but knew that the game wasn’t over.
The course was simply an ‘out and back’ with a slight detour on the way out. I therefore had the course mapped out in my head and began strategizing when to go for the final burst. There was a junction along the final stretch where I made a mental note to begin my final sprint. I began swinging my arms faster with the hope that my legs would follow suit. The finish line was in sight and so was the clock! I could see the timer and it was getting closer to 1hr 21min. Would I cross the finish line in under 1hr 21mins? I literally shut my eyes and began sprinting as if I was being chased by a wolf! With about 20 metres to go, I glanced up to the clock and knew I had made it! Just before the finish line I threw my hands in the air and waved a sigh of relief! With my heart pounding as fast as a hummingbird’s wings, I was able to soak in the moment and cherish the achievement. Not only had I ran my fastest half marathon in 1 hr 20 mins and 58 seconds, I had also run my fastest 5km, 10km and 10 miles! My performance ranked 8th in the 25-29 Age Group and 27th overall – I couldn’t have asked for a better result!
I hope I can imitate similar performances later in the year when the triathlon season kicks in but until then, I’ll take some time off to recover before getting back into the full swing of training.
I must thank my sponsors, Topo Athletic, Stryd, Nuun Hydration and Rocket Science Sports for supporting me in my ventures and I look forward to representing my sponsors and Gibraltar in many more races this year!