Life in the Fast Lane

A TRIATHLETE'S MULTISPORT ADVENTURES, TRAVELS, RANDOM MUSINGS, AND CHRONICLES OF HER OTHERWISE ORDINARY LIFE

Conquering My Impossible

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Pretty much everyone who knows me, and/or follows my social media accounts, knows that not only am a triathlete, I am a triathlon enthusiast. I tend to geek out over certain athletes, about triathlon gear and equipment, and I will talk endlessly about races that excite me. And given that I am coming off from a setback last year, I was so ready to start this new triathlon season with a bang.

Since January rolled around, I really hit the ground running. I've since joined three virtual races (explanation here), a 10K on my birthday, two aquathlons (one of which saw me on the podium for 2nd place), and an Ironman 70.3 relay (I was the swimmer, of course). This means that as of this writing, I've already garnered 8 medals for these various multisport events — and we haven't even reached the halfway mark of this year yet.

(Yes, you could say that I am seriously making up for whatever I wasn't able/allowed to do the other half of last year.)

Needless to say, I was so stoked to start training again; so stoked to be part of a race setting with teammates and friends; and so stoked to actually be racing once more. If I could've joined a race every weekend — time and money permitting — I probably would have. HAHA!

But one of my bestest friends, Laurie, who is an obstacle course racer, informed me months back that she and some of her friends/teammates would be mounting a race sometime in May.

And of course, she invited me to give it a try.

To be honest, I was really hesitant — for many reasons. The primary one being I was terribly intimidated. I would see Laurie and other common friends posting their workouts and races, knowing I couldn't even do half the stuff they did. Not only were they able to perform and achieve things I never thought I could, but as a triathlete who uses very different muscle groups, I wondered where I would even begin. At this point, I certainly couldn't even dead hang from my brother CJ's pull-up bar for 10 seconds without losing my grip.

However, after much hemming and hawing and "You'll like it!"-type of words of encouragement, I eventually signed up for this race almost as soon as the registration form was up. I even got CJ to join the race (since he does weightlifting as his form of exercise).

How did I prepare for it?

I first learned about the upcoming Allianz Conquer Challenge race back in February. At the time, I was back in the pool to do my usual swim workouts, and I was also back on the road to bring back my running speed and endurance. I knew at this point that I had to start incorporating some strength training into my workouts.

I had three months to work on my practically nonexistent upper body strength. In all honesty, around this time, the only upper body strength I had was thanks to swimming. Oh, and swinging my arms while running.

In other words, I had a lot to do.

I started adding strength training to my weekly routines 2x a week. I had to get some gear to use at home, since I didn't have time to hit the gym. I first used 5 lb. dumbbells, a 25 lb. kettlebell that CJ no longer used, and resistance bands that he gave me last Christmas (whodduthunk that they would come in handy?).

I would follow YouTube workouts, and on Sundays, CJ and I would exercise together. He would watch my form, give me a "program" of sorts, and we would do our own workouts side by side.

Eventually, as I got stronger, I started buying heavier dumbbells and other pieces of home gym equipment. I would follow other kinds of workouts, do more complex moves, add more reps to my regular ones, or hold my poses (i.e. planks or dead hangs) for longer.

And when I crossed the finish line of my last multisport race (my aquathlon in April), my weekly workouts changed; I dropped swimming and upped the number of strength/core/conditioning workouts in a week, coupled with running still.

For fun (and also with the intention of a good upper body workout), towards the end of April, CJ and I also hit a rock climbing gym.

How was the race?

When it comes to the multisport events I'm used to — an aquathlon, duathlon, triathlon, or a running event — I pretty much know the drill. I know what time I need to be up, what I need to wear and bring, and I know what time I need to get to the starting line. I can predict more or less what time I will finish, how my body will react to the weather and to certain nutrition elements, and how I will more or less perform. After all, I've been training for and racing in these kinds of things for around 5 years now.

However, with my first obstacle race ever, I was pretty much clueless.

May 13, the day of the Allianz Conquer Challenge, finally rolled around. Wearing the official race shirt (though I cut off the sleeves, since I'm not used to racing in T-shirts; all my trisuits and running tops are sleeveless), compression calf sleeves, grips, and trail shoes, I looked around the race course in the recently opened Vermosa Sports Hub in Daang Hari, Cavite.

Racing siblings!

I was trying not to appear nervous, but I kind of was. Those in the earlier heats had already taken off, and I could see some of the obstacles that they were tackling. In fact, I hadn't set off and some of the elite racers had already crossed the finish line!

It helped, though, to see some familiar faces.

With Karen, one of my close friends from my high school class, who also happens to be a plyometrics junkie.

First time to see Cathy and Micca in years, compared to seeing them almost every Saturday in our church's youth group back in the day.

Finally, it was time for us to make our way to the starting line. I was slightly worried about all the sand and dust around us since I also happen to have asthma. 

With less than 3 minutes to go before gunstart.

And finally, we were off!

Our first obstacle of 12 involved crawling under wires. My technique was off, since my knees would hit the ground. I finished that obstacle with multiple scratches on my knees. Haha!

After that, the rest of the race was pretty much a blur. I don't remember every single obstacle, but these were the skills we had to do (not necessarily in order):
  • Crawl (two different obstacles, meaning my knees were — and still are! — really beat up now)
  • Carry (60 lbs. worth of sandbags)
  • Climb (different hurdles as well as walls of different heights)
  • Go under and over (several walls and even a pool filled with murky water)
  • Balance
The ones that really challenged me were the following:
  • Bucket carry: I didn't realize that 60 lbs. on one's back, while walking about 200-300m, would be such a challenge
  • Balancing: we had to walk across Z-shaped wooden planks, which were not even half of the width of a gymnastics balance beam
  • Climbing: since I have acrophobia, I would panic whenever I was high up and wouldn't know how to turn around to start my descent
Thankfully, I would see CJ do some of the obstacles first, so I would know how to do them myself. CJ did very well throughout the race and I was really proud of him. All his strength work definitely paid off. Now he just has to improve on his cardio, which he hates! Haha!

I am also thankful that out of all 12 obstacles, I only took the penalty twice. (Yes, if you can't complete an obstacle, you are usually penalized; in Spartan races, this usually means 30 burpees, but for this race, it meant a 20-meter lunge walk while carrying a 15 lb. sandbag).

I am also thankful that towards the end of the race, Laurie saw and caught up with me. She and her teammates, since they organized this race, were the marshals. So she would coach me and shout words of encouragement, especially when I would start to panic. She even took some pictures while I was racing.




The absolute last obstacle was the Warped Wall. It was something I'd only ever watched on American Ninja Warrior (which happens to be one of my favorite things to watch). I'd obviously never tried this obstacle in my life, prior to this race. So I had no idea if I could jump high enough to reach the top of the wall, and if I could run fast enough and be explosive enough for it. CJ easily nailed it, so it would be embarrassing if I couldn't and would have to take the penalty for this last obstacle.

Boy, was I glad I made it up. It didn't look pretty (my legs were dangling for a few seconds), but I did get up there!


And I was felt really fulfilled after crossing the finish line and receiving my finisher medal — my first-ever for an obstacle course race!

Congratulations to CJ, who seems to have found a sport he can really pursue!

Kudos to all the organizers of this race, particularly the Conquer Challenge Team, for pulling off such a well-organized homegrown race. I am looking forward to the second installment of this in August, and to the succeeding ones! 

With one of my BFFs since the 5th grade, Laurie.

Nice to see you at the finish line, Ria!

With Jeff Lo of Pinoy Fitness, and Tring and Laurie from the Conquer Challenge/POSF Team. (Clearly, my brain was elsewhere when this shot was taken. Haha!)

It was definitely a memorable race for first-timers like my brother and me. Thank you, Lord, for giving us the strength to train for and join this race; to You be all the glory!

Thank you to our family who woke up early and exposed themselves to the sun's intense rays as we raced. Thanks to Mom who spent the first few hours of Mother's Day cheering for two of her children, to Dad for being really excited for us (he also geeks out over American Ninja Warrior and Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge on TV), and thank you to our sister, Cooks, for being on the race course and taking pictures and videos!


What lessons did I learn?

For potential first-time OCR racers, these tips might come in handy. Or maybe these will serve as reminders to myself in the future, for any other races I might decide to join.

  1. Practice, practice, practice! It's not enough to work on your strength. You actually might have to try some of these obstacles before race day.
  2. Do more fartleks. Intervals will really help a lot.
  3. Incorporate "obstacle"-esque workouts into your run workouts. It's different if you're just sustaining your run pace in a run-only event (which I'm more used to). But to cut up your run to do several intense obstacles can throw you off your game. So in the future, insert some strength/core/conditioning workouts in the middle of your run workout to simulate what you will actually do on race day.
  4. Bring a scarf or face mask-type of accessory. You will never know when you might need to cover half of your face, i.e. while crawling through sand.
  5. It's not a bad idea to bring gloves. But make sure that these gloves can help you, not be a hindrance to you, even if they have mud and dirt all over them.
  6. Have fun! Whether you know which obstacles will be part of the race or not, just go with it. It's pointless to have all of that nervous energy which will only drain you, when you can be channeling it towards running or actually doing the obstacles!
On another note, even if I still have acrophobia, I am proud to say that I was able to #conquermyimpossible and actually finish the race. Yay!

Interested to try an obstacle course race? Sign up for Tough Mudder in July, Conquer Challenge's second installment of this race in August, or Spartan Race Philippines in June or in September!

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