Monday, April 18, 2005


Star-Bulletin reporter Nelson Daranciang headed for the bike transition in yesterday's triathlon.

Hard to breathe,
but easy to think

Remember, just finish in the first half of all competitors.

First up, the swim. My weakest.

I start in the fourth group of the first wave of swimmers. The next wave starts a half-hour later. Perfect. Less likelihood of faster swimmers coming up from behind and swimming over me.

A race-day change. Instead of going counter-clockwise around the buoys, everybody is directed to swim clockwise. No big deal.

But If I'm still in the water when the second wave starts, I may have to fight my way past the new starters to make it to shore. I'll worry about that when it happens.

The coaches advised us to make a fast start to break away from the crowd. I'm the crowd. And if I go out too fast, I could burn out.

What a crazy start. As the race official is giving us instructions, he gives us the start command, mid-sentence.

Hands are hitting my legs and bodies swimming over them for about the first 100 meters. No need to panic. We practiced this. Just keep my head down and stay calm.

Must be low tide. There's only a foot of water underneath me on the way to the Natatorium. My defective stroke is good for something after all. Bend the elbows and cross the hand across the body. Cut my hand grabbing a piece of coral to propel myself.

Except for getting hit in the back of the head, the turns go off without a hitch. I have a spare set of goggles in my back pocket just in case.

WHAT'S THIS? On the second loop, a photographer is standing on the reef in the water taking pictures. Just as I turn to breathe, there he is, right next to me and FLASH. Again, stay calm.

Luckily I make it to shore without having to fight past the new swimmers.

I'm winded running to the bike corral. Ninth rack on the left. There's my bike, and two others. Everybody else is already on the road. Run the bike out of the corral, mount and go.

Man, I'm still winded, can't breathe.

The coaches said to fight hard against the wind on the way to Hawaii Kai and relax with the tailwind coming back. I'm still sucking for air and can't even break 20 mph. Some guy standing on his pedals on a cruiser bike beats me up heartbreak hill. He has some gears.

I only manage 21 mph coming back with the tailwind. And I'm still sucking for air.

Back to Queen's Beach, ditch the bike, don the running shoes, try to run out the wrong exit, get turned around to the other end of the bike corral.

Still can't get air into my lungs. I'm taking baby steps and it's only 2 kilometers into the run. I wonder if my one-piece suit is too tight. I had similar experiences the two other times I wore it from the water to the bike then run. One was in practice two weekends ago and the other a real event. No time to fret about it now. Just relax and try to get back to normal breathing.

I'm not tired, I just can't get enough air. I still have the presence to turn my head for all the pretty girls, on the sidewalk, crossing the street, on the course. Ooh, one just passed me. I'll get a better look at the turnaround.

Second lap, I'm still not feeling better. I'll stop at the next aid station. Walk about 20 steps then back to the plodding. Hey, I'm feeling better. Don't go too fast and burn out. Besides, the crowds are not on Paki Avenue, they're on Kalakaua.

Make the turn onto Kalakaua, pick up the pace. Not too fast, the finish line is still far away. Turn around at Kaiulani, pick it up a little more. Five stop lights to go and I can see the finish line. One more stop light, all right really pick it up. There's a girl 30 yards ahead, I think I can catch her. She's going faster too. Sprint. Five feet from the finish line, she turns and sees me. Too late, I nip her at the line.

Reporter Nelson Daranciang trained with the best for yesterday's Honolulu Triathlon.

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