I’ve done a few triathlons in the past couple of years, and I enjoy the competition and feeling of accomplishment at the finish line. When I decided to come to Taiwan to teach, I added “Triathlon in a foreign country” to my Bucket List.
So, when my boss told me about an annual event right here in Wugu, I was stoked. The 2011 National Wugu Highway Biathlon Invitational is an event that includes biking 22km along the 64 East Expressway through New Taipei City (they closed the freeway!) and running 8km through the streets of Wugu (they did NOT close the streets....). I signed up, paid my $25US (only $25!!!!), borrowed a bike and helmet, and started getting ready.
My 5:30am alarm was more than a little painful -- I’m used to sleeping until AT LEAST 9am these days. But up and at ‘em! My two roommates, Abi and Muni, came along to be my cheerleaders, along with several other friends from their church. I was an official member of the Wugu Church team, matching jerseys and all!
|My cheerleaders: Nick, Abi, Muni, and Oscar|
|Team Wugu Church|
I was bib number 914, and I was in the last heat to start biking. As I rounded the corner to start my ascent up the freeway onramp, I quickly realized that the mountain bike I borrowed from my landlord was not going to be quite as fast as my beloved road bike at home. I also realized that the view from this bike ride was going to be amazing, and perhaps speed was not what I really wanted. The 64 East Expressway is an elevated highway, so I could see out over the skyline of Taipei and wonderful Wugu below.
As I cycled on down the 22km bike course, I looked out over the mountains of Taiwan, temples tucked into the valleys, cemeteries built on the mountainsides, and low-hanging clouds covering the mountaintops. Beautiful! I peddled harder and harder on that Giant mountain bike, and still people passed me on their speedy bikes. But I didn’t care that I wasn’t making good time; all I could think was, “I should have brought my camera!”
At one point, the expressway tunneled through a mountain. How many people can say they’ve ridden their bike through a mountain in Taiwan? Well, I guess all the people in the biathlon can..... but I’m one of them!! As I biked back towards the transition area, I got another view of the Taipei skyline. There I was, doing one of my favorite activities -- biking -- on an elevated freeway in Taiwan, looking out at Taipei 101 in the distance. It was decided: This was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life!
I rolled down the exit ramp in my best tuck form that I could muster, and there were my cheerleaders shouting encouragement and taking pictures! If I wasn’t already on a biking high, that would have given me all the motivation I needed to get ready to run!
The weather was perfect for running. It was cool, overcast, with a slight breeze. Did I mention that this race was in November? Couldn’t ask for this weather in Wisconsin and expect not to be laughed at. The running course took us on a couple of loops through the streets of Wugu. Not the most exciting or picturesque course, but the streets were lively and lined with people cheering on the racers! I set my pace with a woman just ahead of me, who I kept calling wo de pao bu pengyou. That probably doesn’t translate exactly, but in my head, in my own version of broken Chinese, it means “my running friend.”
|Run, Forrest! Run!|
I ran the course, only walking through the water stations, and when I noticed that I was nearing the finish line, I realized that this was the farthest I had ever run in my entire life! I’ve done 5k races without walking, but not 8k. Maybe it’s not that impressive, but I was happy with that little accomplishment. I looked at my watch and saw that if I gave it an extra kick, I could finish the race in under 2 hours. I gave it all my effort and beelined towards the finish line.
|The end is near!|
|Ha! Look, my feet don't even leave the ground at the same time! I'm basically walking.|
My cheerleaders were waiting for me at the end, and they were so supportive and happy for me! I crossed the line and was handed a card telling me I was finisher number 341. Now, I’m not sure how they decided that because I started at number 914 and I know for sure I did not pass 600 people. But oh well, I’ll take it!
|Winner, winner! Chicken dinner!|
The race wasn’t chip timed, but I had my watch and kept up with the splits. My “official” time was 2:00:56, with splits 1:04:21 bike, 0:03:39 transition, and 0:52:35 run.
My exercise high was in full effect the rest of the day. Funny how that exhilaration can last far beyond the finish line.
The race was a biathlon, not a triathlon, but I’m going to take some personal liberties and go ahead and check that off my Bucket List.