I wrote this in January 2008, A month before my first WTC Ironman Race in Langkawi:
Confessions of a Triathlon Drama Queen
Ani Karina S. de Leon
Preparing for an Ironman* can be a bit tricky. I remember, among many of the jampacked days that I have, one such night wherein this thought crossed my mind. It was the last week of December. It was almost 9:30pm and I had yet to start my designated workout for the day, which was a 2 and half hour run. I wasn’t very happy about having to do it so late, but it was the only opportunity I had. Ironman Malaysia, the race I had set out to do, was going to be in February, so I had to train through the holidays (not a simple feat if your social life is high on your priorities—luckily for me, it isn’t).
I had efficiently and consistently stayed away from most of the Christmas parties and reunions, but I couldn’t miss the ones my own family was celebrating. Normally, I enjoyed prolonged gatherings with them and would even volunteer to shuttle my nieces and cousins around, but at that moment I was just agitated at having so little time to fit in anything else aside from my work and training, which I could barely put together as it was. As I drove to the safest place I could run alone in at such a late hour, I dwelled on having to run till midnight and successfully built up a foul mood in the process. I knew that it was nobody’s fault though, and couldn’t really get mad at anybody in particular.
As I got out of the car, I saw a lone runner just finishing his own workout. Well, somebody else trained late today, I thought, but still earlier than me! He walked to the parking lot and we recognized each other. It was an athlete that I had trained when he just a beginner. We chatted for a bit. He was also preparing for another Ironman race, later in the year. I was happy that he was so excited about it. He asked me for advice and kept marveling at the fact that I was still trying to carry out my run even though it seemed absurd to do so given the circumstances. I secretly worried that I was setting such a bad example with my stubbornness, but it seemed to have a positive effect on him. He continued on to praise me and said nice things, like, “you inspire us with your determination and perseverance,” and “you make us proud with your accomplishments.”
He finally left and I set out on my route. Amazingly, I felt very light and my disposition became sunnier in spite of the dark night sky. My friend’s words had reminded me of how far I had gone and how blessed I had been to be given the opportunity at all to do such things. My whole life, I had been gifted with excellent health and a fitness level which enabled me to do diverse challenges, sometimes on a whim. I suddenly felt ashamed at having been such a drama queen. I had nothing to complain about.
Earlier in the day, some of my teammates also did the same 2.5 hour run, but at different times and in different places. Ige, similarly, had high aspirations and the accompanying pressures and expectations to do well, but also had a lot of work commitments. He ran in between his appointments. Maiqui ran while his family was vacationing in an inconvenient training venue—through sand, hills, and hard terrain. Mark had to run in the sweltering heat, and because he was Caucasian and suffered more than us Asians in these conditions, had almost given up but didn’t. Joel, who has two lovely daughters, had to run tired as he was constantly looking over various architectural projects and seldom had enough room to recover. Doray, who always had to juggle between a highly demanding job and her family aside from focused training, actually had the flu and hadn’t been able to run at all, but did so the next day, as soon as she could get out of bed. I didn’t really have to look far for inspiration. All around me were my friends, still trudging on, still completing their task without much hype and hesitation.
All the same, I guess I will always allow myself to have a bit of drama in my life. I was raised by my parents to be an artist anyway, and that’s my excuse. Like most people, I listen to upbeat tunes in my iPod, but I do insert some sentimental or operatic tracks too, and wholeheartedly let Sarah Brightman’s or Maria Callas’ mournful singing take over my emotions as I bike along the rice fields and watch the sun rise. On some occasions, I missed JJ, my old training partner who is now based in France, and wished that he were still here. We trained for our first Ironman distance race together more than 5 years ago, when we didn’t really know what we were doing, and now that I’m racing it for the second time, it would’ve been nice for him to be there as well. Plus he would’ve kicked ass.
My mini bouts of sappiness are not a genuine cause of concern though. Recently, I gained even more motivation to do well in the Ironman. Joan Cadelina, a woman I met through another multiple Ironman finisher, Geraldine Santiago, is going through her treatment for breast cancer as I write this piece and needs to generate funds because of this. I have decided to help her in my own little way by dedicating my race to her and women just like her, and will gather pledges for their benefit through our Pinay In Action** Network. There is no more room for whining on my end, because Joan’s sickness is as real as it can get. Where the acting up stops, random acts of kindness begin.
I’m aware that true-to-life stories don’t always turn out to be comedies or chick flicks. But I believe there are always heroes and heroines out there who have personal tragedies to contend with but demonstrate courage nonetheless. And like a typical girl, I always hope that everyone will eventually have the happy ending they deserve.
*An individual long distance race covering 3.8km of swimming, 180km of cycling, and 42.2km of running.
**Visit pinayinaction.com for more info.
**Mark Ellis, one of the athletes mentioned above, is also gathering pledges from friends for Gabriel’s Symphony Foundation, which continuously supports deaf, mute and cleft-lipped children. Visit gabrielsymphony.com for more info.