Allow me to share herewith the journey of Romeo Puncia, a Filipino nurse based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates in his recent back-to-back tough triathlon in Germany and France. Here’s what he wrote:
Typically, recovery time after completing an Ironman Distance (3.8km swim, 180km bike, 42.2km run) is around 21 days plus, but how about doing 2 Ironman distance in a week and little bit sick?
Last year, I should be doing the 2018 Ironman European Championships in Frankfurt, Germany (my 3nd full Ironman) but due to some prior commitment in other races and mission trip I decided to move the race for 2019.
After the successful finish of the Ultraman Florida race last February 2019 (10 km swim, 423 km bike, 84.4 km run) I realized that crazy challenges such as super long distances and extreme triathlons is what I want.
In May 2019, when one of my friends and supporter knew that I will be doing the Ironman EU Champs this June 30, he challenged me to do another Ironman-distance race in Europe and in return offered me P50,000 as his support for my #racewithapurpose advocacy and this will help me buy sport equipment for the Indigenous and Tribal Communities of Palawan, Philippines upcoming Tribal Sports Festival which will be held this coming October 27 to 31, 2019. Do you know what kind of race is this? It is the ALTRIMAN EXTREME TRIATHLON, and I never thought that it is one of the toughest triathlon in the Planet which held in Les Angles, France. The funny thing was the race date is July 06, 2019 which is just 6 days after the Ironman Frankfurt race.
After I said “yes” for this challenge, I immediately spoke to my coach to arrange and adjust my training plans for this double Ironman race. Since the Altriman registration was confirmed, my coach Jeremy Howard decided to make my Ironman Frankfurt race just a warm up and preparation for the next one. It will all be an easy and relax pace swim, bike, and run.
Two days before the Ironman European Championship we were informed at the race briefing that the sea temp might be more than 23 degrees celcius and prepare for a non-wetsuit swim, bike and run course will be hot as the temperature will be around 35 to 38 degrees celcius. As what we should expect, the prediction was right, it was really a hot race.
As what we planned, the body has been warmed up and I finished the Ironman EU Champ in a relax pace at the time of 14:22Hrs. Two days later day I flew to Barcelona, Spain and drive 150 minutes to Les Angles, France.
What I have learned from this Ironman EU race are discipline, patience, self control, and focus because honestly I know I can finish that race in less than 12 hours, but that was not the goal, recovery should be immediate so I can regain the strength that I need for the next tough race.
Altriman event is located in Pyrenees Orinetales, on the heights of the plateau of Capcir, the city of Angles is at the crossraods of Spain, Andorra and the Mediterranean.
Les Angles is so beautiful and has a breath-taking views and nature. Cold and foggy during the morning and evening, and heat in the afternoon. The accommodation where I was staying has an altitude of 1200m and that is why I am quite uncomfortable coz ears are little bit blocked at high altitude and it caused me mild dizziness and lost of coordination 2 days before the race.
As I reviewed the athlete’s pdf guide and previous race videos, blogs, interviews, and report, I knew that it will be really a tough one especially the 200km mountain bike course where 25-50% of the athletes gave up or unable to finish. I was really worries because the bicycle (time trial bike) that I brought was not ideal for that race. Few days before I went to France, I was informed that there are bicycle shops in the city where I can rent a road bike but unfortunately the only available for rentals was the electric bicycle. Really disappointed! but the show must go on and use my TT bike.
The day before this toughest event, at the race briefing they gave us all the final infos.
A 3800M wetsuit swim course which has a sea temp of 18-20 degrees celcius in Lac de Matermale in the dark lake at 1600m altitude followed by a cold and hot 200KM BIKE ride with 5300m of climbing, 2900m altitude, super scary downhills, tight turns, a few gravels, winding and narrow roads, and no bike tech. In case you haven’t had enough you can enjoy a 42.2KM RUN with another 720m of ascent.
After hearing how scary and dangerous the bicycle course would be plus the previous years DNFs (Did Not Finish) rate and report, it was the first time I really felt uncomfortable and worried for my healthy, safety, and the IFs in my head. I spoke with my coach and supporters about what I feel on that day, even posted in my social media that if I feel unsafe on the race day I will not be afraid to call for DNF.
The race day has come, I got only 5 hours of sleep, and still have some mild cough. We are 206 athletes on the startlist for the Altriman XXL. Swim started at 5:30am as what we expected from the briefing it was a dark lake swim course in a 20 degress celcius sea temp, so dark and cold! It was a good warm up and ranked 174.
Now in the part of toughest triathlon, I never had a chance to visited the bike course, what I remember from the race briefing was there will be like around 7 mountains to cross, the last 2 was the toughest ones, some part of the road wound be winding, narrow, and quite dangerous especially during the downhill part.
Honestly, during the first 3 mountains most especially the downhill part I wanted to quit, it was really hard and scary. I’ve been to many challenges and much longer distances, but it was the first time that I was just thinking about my safety and and wanted to go back alive with my family. Cycling like more than 50km/hr beside a scary cliff and tight turns are not a joke, and to be safe I need to carefully control the break for more than 10km while eye focused on the road and on and off coughing persist. Based on the initial and unofficial live race tracking on that day, during the first 100km I was in the top 30 overall and top 10 in my age group.
As the course are getting tough, especially the 2 difficult mountains ahead of me which I will be spending another 6 hours or more sitting in my saddle, and seeing a lot of athletes who gave up already standing on the road waiting for the bus to pick them up, I felt exhausted and scared, so I stopped in a moment to internalize and reassess myself about my goal, safety, and my purpose why I am doing all these.
Yes, it will be an honor and a great achievement to finish and get the medal, to give pride to what you represent, but is it really worth it? to give your whole life and strength in the race where you don’t feel safe, where it might cause you your life if you make a small mistake during the fast descent. I know people from around the world especially my Ultraman supporters are monitoring my Altriman race, and waiting for the new achievement to finish the toughest triathlon in the planet.
But honestly, I no longer think about the fame and what people might say, I realized during the bike course, I am a father of a 6-month old boy, a husband to a loving wife, a breadwinner of the family, a brother of the tribal youth and kids of my charity org, and a friend of many. I stopped and declare a safe DNF (did not finish) between KM 135-137, I am at peace and happy when I made this decision.
Total of 206 Athletes in Altriman XXL:
- 92 Finishers
- 97 DNF (Did Not Finish)
- 17 DNS (Did Not Show)
Everyone that I met in this Altriman event who knew that I did an Ironman race few days before the Altriman said that “I am crazy” and everyone who loved my TT bike said “I am stupid” because I brought and rode a wrong type of bicycle.
You know what made me happy aside from getting the Finisher Medal from the Ironman EU Champs and even I did not finish the Altriman race? The overall experience and tour, and I will still get P50,000 for my charity organization’s project and this help the indigenous and tribal communities of Palawan, Philippines to get sport equipment for their upcoming tribal sports festival this October 27-31, 2019.
I never thought when I shared to my family, friends, supporters, sponsors, and even I posted in social media about what happened to my Altriman race, I got a lot of support, encouragement, praises, and beautiful words from different people around the globe. It is overwhelming and it brings so much joy to my heart.
Now I realized why a lot of athletes even the professional ones that I followed sometimes declare DNF during their race event, they are just being wise and brave. As a 32-year-old man who just started triathlon last 2016, I know there are more races and challenges to come, the Altriman Extreme is just the beginning of my career as an Extreme Triathlon (Xtri) World Athlete advocating #RACEwithaPURPOSE Campaign”
Read Romeo’s story in the book “Greater Sense of Power” (2019), a compilation of inspiring stories about influential Filipinos in the United Arab Emirates. Visit his website www.romeopuncia.com to check his upcoming races and project.
o0o —————– o0o
THE BLOGGER. Ulysses Espartero is a journalist, historian and book author who traces his roots from two Philippine jewels – Laguna and Antique. While in Dubai, he enjoyed his expat life documenting the struggles and victories of migrant workers in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). In 2014, he released Precious Gems in a Desert of Gold, the first and only coffee table book about Filipino achievers in the United Arab Emirates. Connect with him on facebook.