A recap of the Tagaman 2016 — I’ve been on many transports lately, including one not mentioned in the blog so suffice it to say, my time to get out and do things has been limited — but I signed up for the Tagaman nonetheless. See prior posts about my experience there on a relay team (usually as either the runner or the swimmer or both).
The Tagaman is an annual road triathlon with two distances (changed about 4 years ago to fit international distance benchmarks) — the Olympic distance (1.5 kilometer swim, 40 kilometer bike = approx 25 miles, and 10 km run = ~6.2 miles) and the half-Ironman distance (aka the ‘70.3’ (which refers to miles) = 1.9 km swim, 90 km bike, and 21.2 km run = aka a half marathon)).
There are professionals that come from all over to participate and this year there was a delegation that came from Japan as well as a group from Korea. This group included some reported Rio 2016 bound Olympians! I guess they kind of used it as a training run — a pretty nice place to train.
So, here goes my recollection of the events from yesterday..
I got up about an hour before I needed to get to the race to do last minute things and eat something. In general, triathlons need excessive amounts of ‘stuff.’ To name some essentials, bike helmet, bike shoes if you have them, bike shorts or other shorts, goggles, swim cap, defogger, towel, socks (if you use them.. some people don’t!), your bike, air pump, any extra accessories for the bike, etc. Whew, and you go over it about 10 times in your head to make sure you didn’t forget anything. For me, I also knew I had to get up early to get my hair in braids! These are the strange things you discover are necessary when you are doing practices. You will find me with a ponytail in about 80% of the time when I am awake but a ponytail is not compatible with a bike helmet so I had to change to two French braids that thankfully held up most of the competition.
When you arrived it was still dark and you setup your bikes in what is known as ‘T1’ or the first transition area.
(Above picture by Mike Ronesia photography)
They get nicely lined up with a little transition station in the shadow of the bike — usually that involves something to wipe off your feet or rinse yourself, your helmet, your shoes +/- socks for your bike and usually some type of gel or something to quickly eat after your swim. The people who have been doing this a long time can get on their bikes almost immediately and slip their pre-clipped in shoes onto their feet as they ride! I didn’t take too much time but did have to slip on shorts and put on shoes and socks on wet feet so that took a little bit of time.
But, from the beginning..
We gathered on the beach for a short briefing of the course and then all stood around waiting for a little amount of sunlight. Unfortunately, while the sun was scheduled to rise some clouds moved in and gave us a little start-line sprinkle.
You can see here how it looked a little gloomy. You can also see everyone jumping in. In the distance you can see a large orange cone shaped buoy. We swam around the orange buoys to mark our distances and for those that did the shorter course, we cut in to a yellow buoy before we made the second loop around the orange buoy. It was a bit of a hectic start as for some reason there was no blowhorn and just one guy shouting at us to start so people just dove in. Once we were off, it was fine though. As usual with a race, there were people jockeying around for position so in the beginning it can be a bit hectic. I, on the other hand, just wanted to settle into a medium pace in order to keep up with the crowd but not go all out and lose all my energy — there was lots to go!
As we swam, the sun came out and as usual, Saipan showed off its colors. The sky turned a pink/orange color and a full rainbow stretching from pot of gold to pot of gold showed up. I’m surprised no one got a picture of it, this was the best I found.
Obviously though I had to concentrate on swimming so was not ogling about the rainbow or sunrise.
When we got to shore, we ran from the beach to the bike transition area.
Here you can see some of the fast young boys coming in much earlier than me with the guy doing the timing quickly trying to make out their numbers.
From there, we hopped on our bikes and set off for the 40 km portion. As mentioned, I have been swimming and running fairly consistently since I’ve been in Saipan but have not really been biking — I borrowed a bike a friend wasn’t using about 2 months ago and have been going out on it. I had a good swim time but that also meant that just about everyone passed me on the bike. It was my weakest leg and I just knew I had to keep at it. I kept at it and even started to enjoy the bike ride part way through. It was a mostly beautiful bike ride with a strong head wind for most of it but was not excessively tiring. (It probably helped that I wasn’t pushing myself that hard). I think on the bike I have two speeds — either not moving or just.. biking. I don’t have ‘competition mode’ biking yet. Anyway, so we went from essentially the Southern most area of the island to the Northern most area and then turned around to about the center. (Sorry, didn’t bother to put on a GPS watch since that adds just another thing to the already complicated mix for me). At the Northernmost area I started to feel something was slightly wrong with the bike and by the time I was about 2 miles out from the bike finish, I knew one or both of my tires were flat. I had said before starting that if my tires went flat, I would just stop and not finish the race. I guess the competitive side in me said, no way jose! You are finishing this thing .. so fortunately my bike cooperated since there was clearly some air left in it and I made it to the bike finish line. It did take extra effort for me to get there though so don’t think I got the most out of the bike time that I could.
From there, volunteers were waiting with our transition bags. We had prepared these in advance since the place we went from biking to running was not the same place we started. We numbered the bags and it had in it whatever we needed. For me, I was already wearing my running shoes so just needed to put on a tank top with my number attached to it and I was ready to go.
Picture Courtesy of Mike Ronesia Photography
The volunteers waited for us to come in and then took our bikes from us and handed us our bags for us to transition and then we were off for the run.
I guess having swam about half an hour, then ridden on a bike for close to two hours (for me, most finished closer to the 1-1.5 hour mark), running which I usually consider pretty fun and relaxing wasn’t so much. I kept having to remind myself to try to lift my legs a little higher but the weather was okay with a cool breeze so I just kept pushing forwards — albeit extraordinarily slowly (and I am pretty slow at baseline). It was a little later in the morning so there were some cars on the road (they had closed one of the two lanes for this) so surprisingly a ton of people were on the road that recognized me.
The best part about doing sports here (I’ve talked about this before) is that the community is so small. We ran in an ‘out and back’ which means you basically run from point A to point B and back again — which is only fun because you get to see everyone out on the running course. I was near the back of the pack so got to see everyone coming back as I was going out.
I love this picture that someone captured of my back.
You can see me giving one of my friends a high five as we are running with another friend just behind him and a sign on the store behind that that says ‘Good luck Tagaman competitors, you can do it!’ — It’s the epitome of why I enjoy doing things like this in Saipan. Yes, the pros are great but I can’t imagine doing a race like this in a community that isn’t this supportive. I probably would barely have ever thought about joining all of this without the community. They are just supportive if you are first place as if you are last! (which is good for me!)
The run was along Beach Road and while I run that often, I don’t always enjoy the views. Yesterday, I was going a bit more slowly and tried to focus on something besides being tired so really had a great time seeing the ocean. Here’s a picture of a pro on the run with the beach behind.
I got back to the finish line to the cheers of friends and my name announced over head (another benefit of a small community) and some of my nurses from the hospital who had volunteered snapping photos. I finished in 3 hours and 47 minutes — which I have no idea how that compares to people back in the States — I consider it a normal weekend warrior type of time but that means I was out exercising for that long. Quite an accomplishment!
Unfortunately my bike tire was completely flat so I could not bike back to the start line to collect my car and stuff so a good friend went to retrieve it for me. I got to relax and stretch for about an hour under the shade as the professional athletes that were doing the half-Ironman came in. It was a good time without my cell phone, without anything but myself to enjoy being outside and smile at what I had done.
There was an award ceremony later in the afternoon with a buffet lunch and age group awards (more to come on that) and smiles all around. Very grateful I was able to do this and glad to have it on the books!
Here’s a picture of everyone that participated in Tagaman at the end of the award ceremony – a total of about 120+ people. Not bad a view either, right?