Ever since I met Dan, one of the things he would never stop talking about is how much he loves the Challenge events he has done (3 in Roth and 3 in Wanaka) and how amazingly warm the organizers are. I must admit that before then, even though I had heard of the race series before, I did not really know much about it. All I knew about it was that the pros loved going to Roth to post their fast times (sub 8s for the men and sub 9s for the women) there.
Anyway, I told myself that if I ever had the opportunity to join one of their races I would jump on it. When they announced late last year that they were staging a full and a half distance in Taiwan, virtually our next-door neighbor—Dan and I were ecstatic!
We were quite lucky that in this particular race, we did not have to adapt to a new time zone. It was just like flying to another part of the Philippines! The flight was less than 2hours. I needed to spend the least time away from our son Dash as possible, so I flew in with Eric Wang two days before. Dan had taken a flight two days before ours. Eric and his friends took me out for a quick lunch in Taipei before my domestic flight to Taitung. We went to a really simple but delicious hotpot place. I always trust Eric and his Taiwanese friends when it comes to food and drink!!!
I was on my own when I landed in Taitung, and all I had was a text message from Dan with the name of our quaint B&B in Chinese characters. I showed my phone to the taxi driver, and what do you know, I was there in less than 10min. This was where all the pros were staying, including our very own Monica Torres, who was racing the half distance.
I was desperate for a massage too so Dan arranged for me to go to the massage place with Petr Vabrousek (yes, the one and only Petr- 120+ Ironman races, always placing in the top 10). I had not assembled my bike yet so I chased him around the side streets using one of the inn’s old rusty bikes fitted with a matching rusty basket. I am not sure exactly how Petr discovered this place but the masseuse was a genius. I felt much better afterwards.
The next day was pretty straightforward—coffee in the morning at the nearest 7-11 with Dan and Michal Bucek (who eventually won the half distance race), organized our transition bags, checked in our bikes with Monica, walked back to the hotel and rested. It was going to be a loooong day tomorrow (sigh).
On race morning I had to do some extra work which I highly doubt any of the other racers did…I needed to express milk. Fast. I was still breastfeeding Dash, and I needed to keep my milk supply up. Thankfully I brought my Philips Avent Pump with me!
I always ask myself, why am I doing this again??? But it is useless to find the proper answer. Sometimes, I really can’t figure it out. I know I am going to go through pain for about 12 hours. I know that I don’t have to do it, goodness knows nobody has ever forced me to do it. BUT HERE I AM. AT THE START LINE OF ANOTHER IRONMAN DISTANCE TRIATHLON. THIS IS RIDICULOUS, ANI, ARE YOU SERIOUSLY DOING THIS AGAIN!!!– SWIM 3.8km, BIKE 180km, RUN 42.2km. But for some reason, when it comes to racing, I prefer not to over think things. And yes, I believe I really enjoy this stuff.
Moving on… the lake swim was slow for most, but my total disregard for my swim training had finally caught up with me. I knew I swam slow when Dan shouted at me from the sidelines (they were getting ready for the half distance which started 2hrs later) “Don’t worry, everyone is swimming slow!” Haha. Thanks.
I had a tea party at T1, I even chatted with Monica who was also waiting for her race start. I guess that was the theme of the day, as I had a very solitary long ride on my own, and a pretty relaxed pace on the run as well. The one thing I did right was keep my pace even, and that served me well cause I still made it to the finish line smiling. But of course I teared up just a few seconds before the bright lights. I don’t think I can help it even if I tried—an Ironman distance event is always hard work no matter what.
Awarding for the half distance was a couple of hours after I crossed, so I stayed on to cheer for Dan (who was 8th overall male and 3rd in his Age Group) and Monica (who was 2nd overall female and 1st in her Age Group). We then trooped to the McDonalds across the road, and I can tell you one thing: triathletes are generally very healthy eaters, but after an Ironman, all hell breaks loose. Our group consisted of some of the top finishers in the full distance, including champion Dylan McNeice.
The awarding for the full distance was the next day, and I was surprised to hear that I came in 1st overall Female Age Grouper—for some reason I thought I was 2nd. What happy news!
That same afternoon we took the slow train back to Taipei (by slow, I mean, 6hrs) with some help from our lovely B&B friends. They accompanied us all the way to the train station! Unfortunately it was chaos when we finally arrived at the Taipei station at rush hour. After lugging our bike cases and all our other bags from one platform to another amongst the sea of commuters, we eventually made it outside. Daryl Carrey, the official race photographer pointed us to a nice hotel and a delicious New Zealand burger joint, KGB, or Kiwi Gourmet Burgers. Lamb burgers, what a brilliant way to cap the trip off!
On the flight back home, a tiny thought entered my mind, and I smiled to myself…I am now part of the Challenge Family, yay!!! And thanks to the organizers, it really feels like a family: Felix, Michael, Kent, Roman, and the rest of the crew go out of their way to talk to every single participant. I am officially hooked.
*A big shoutout to our sponsors who are always there to support us: Timex, Unilab Active Health, Gatorade, Enervon Activ, Hamilo Coast/ Pico de Loro, Rudy Project, Adidas, Quintana Roo, Shimano, Yurbuds, our friends from LightNUp Marketing, Retul. Thanks to our family especially my Nanay and Ate, Gwen and Norma, who looked after Dash while we were racing, and special thanks to Noelle for covering for us at work :)