Just when you think you're tough enough

Tough Takes Triathlon

Teenage triathlete harnesses inner strength at the Putrajaya Perdana Triathlon 2017

Teenager Angie Liew raced at the Putrajaya Perdana Triathlon 2017

The strange feeling of doubt shrouded my mind as I stepped out of the car with my bike and gear. It had been quite a while since my last triathlon race, and the thought of it made me nervous and unsure. The sky was masked in a soft layer of painted blue cloud, and the sun was, at that time, still out of view. I stared out towards the lake as I closed my eyes and let the distant noise of chattering envelope me.

As I walked to the transition to set up my race gear, I recognized many of the marshalls from my club. Their friendly smiles and good-luck wishes made me feel a rush of relief. I loved the feeling of being part of a team – a community and it calms me in a way I cannot quite describe with words.

The races before mine were for the younger children, and it was adorable to watch so many eager children sprinting through the swim in the pool, and dashing all the way to their bikes as they pedalled furiously on.

Surprisingly, these youngsters were the ones who made me feel like if they could finish their race, I could push through my race too.

Swim start at the Putrajaya Perdana Triathlon 2017

My anxiousness grew in my stomach, and I felt my heart beat faster and faster with each growing moment. I knew that swimming was my worst of all the three principles in triathlon. At the sound of the horn, all the athletes jumped into the lake for the swim start. People were pushing everywhere, and it was so difficult to get a good starting position.

My mind whirled into a state of panic as I swam, following the chaotic crowd of swimmers ahead of me. The lukewarm water felt unnatural against my skin, but reaching the floating red buoys ahead of me were my only goals at that time.

I had to finish this. This was one of my last races this year in the under 15 category, and I had to push myself.

Emerging from the water, I tripped over the mossy stone rampas I ripped my goggles and swimming cap off. I was disappointed with my swim, and I knew that it would be difficult to even catch up with the competitors ahead. Still, I sprinted to the transition, slipped on my shoes, race belt, and clipped on my helmet.

The cycle was my big opportunity to catch up, so I changed to a low gear, and pedalled as quickly. I had practiced this route many times so I was confident, and I knew where I was going.

The slopes were gentle, but the headwind was relatively strong. I put my training to use, and pushed on, ignoring my painful, tired muscles. On the second lap, I caught sight of the two other girls ahead of me and I was overjoyed to have caught up despite the terrible swim. I forced myself to go faster up the hill, and passed them and I set my mind to stay in front of them, no matter what.

The last lap was the most difficult lap for me as I was exhausted, but I could not give up now. While nearing the last slope, I saw the figure of another girl ahead, just at the horizon. Again I sped up, using all my willpower to generate the speed to climb up the hill as quickly as possible before trying to recover a little before the last leg of the race: The run.

In the run, I managed to keep my position, but it was not easy. Three kilometers seemed daunting after a swim and a cycle. I had to finish this race, and I had to finish strong. I kept telling myself that I was getting closer, one step at a time, and before I knew it, the incredible sound of people cheering filled the air. With everyone watching, I couldn’t give up!

Sprinting all the way to the finish line at the grandstand, my mind was blinded with the adrenaline coursing through my body. I focused all my energy into my legs, and ran with all my might.

The feeling of finishing a race knowing that you pushed through it to the very end is so rewarding as the satisfaction, the pride and relief flooded in.

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More about the budding triathlete

Angie Liew, 14 is a petite girl who just loves the feeling of wind blowing through her hair. Introduced to sports and triathlon by her father, she enjoys playing football and rugby too. Angie started with Kids of Steel Triathlon and transitioned to train under Team M3X of TRI-AMAteur Triathlon Club, and is currently a Grade 10 student of Sunway International School, Malaysia.