7 September 2016—Today marks one month since Cobra IRONMAN (IM) 70.3 in Cebu, and the event is still fresh in my mind. I tried to write about it these last few weeks and even promised myself to finish it ASAP, but being creative can also be difficult and challenging at times.
My recent stint in triathlon (tri), to other tri friends, came as a bit of a surprise. I was surprised myself. My initiation to open-water racing happened in 2009 during an aquathlon 400m swim-7K run-400m swim event in Corregidor. Fast forward seven years in June 2016, and I just completed my first sprint tri—the inaugural S2 Sprint Triathlon 750m open water swim-20K bike-5K run, a side event of Regent 5150 Triathlon in Subic Bay, Zambales. It was to just experience transition, open water swimming again, and have a good time. Never expected it would end up as a podium finish ranking third in my age group. Big thanks to my Endure Multisport teammates Raffy, Clark, and Dido including TriTaft member and good friend Jerome for encouraging me to register for a sprint tri. Their valiant efforts egged me to go out and try it to familiarize myself especially at transition points where change from one discipline to another is crucial for tri success.
What Triggered My Getting Into Tri?
Here are my reasons. First, I only wished for a simple folding bike to use around town for errands, city touring or perhaps commuting or appointments. However, my friend Maui offered her road bike for sale. It was delivered at my doorstep on a Chinese New Year so my friend Maui named “my” bike Lucky, nicknamed Luke. My first road racing happened during the Alaska Cycling Philippines. Having my own road bike, finally, made me want to try a tri race. Second, this tri was long overdue. Obviously, the love for running took precedence over biking or tri these past years. I just picked up where I left off then. I have joined multisport events from 2009 until 2014, mostly aquathlon or SwimRun events where, luckily, I also had some podium finishes. Third, the advert about the upcoming Asia Pacific Championship really sparked my interest. IM 70.3 posed a new challenge for the serious recreational athlete in me.
Last year, I have asked myself many times, “When are you going to do it?” And my answer was, “It’s now or never.” The NOW was signing up for Cobra Energy Drink IRONMAN 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship Philippines Presented by Ford tri event in October 2015.
How Did I Prepare for IM 70.3?
The first thing I did was unlearning what I have learned years before, and relearn a new stroke to improve my swimming technique. It was a struggle at first, but over time it made the swim seemed effortless, while at the same time enjoyable. Meanwhile, a teammate shared the training program he used during his IM 70.3 preparations. Another experienced athlete shared her expertise and proposed another training plan to compliment what I had. After comparing both, I decided to tweak the two programs based on my current level of fitness.
I have also included extra activities and workouts—more swimming time, completing essential bike accessories, joining races tailored fit to endurance training such as The North Face 100K Trail Run, Salomon X-Trail Pilipinas, some half marathon races, attending a cycling class, and learning the ropes of biking from identifying parts, bike handling, road safety, gear shifting, using bike shoes and cleats to having a bike fit prior to start of an Eighteen-week Plan for my IM 70.3 training. I had to be more careful during my workouts after suffering bike crash related injury during the initial stage of my training. The program commenced in March 2016, peaked in weeks 13-16, and tapered during weeks 17-18 before the big day.
I have maintained a journal to daily record my progress and track my workouts. Training would start as early as 5:30 AM for my swim and as late as 11 PM for my bike and run on weekdays while on an eight-hour day job. I joined ride outs as well, more for endurance and to get comfortable conquering hills and practice gear shifting. Venues for these workouts vary.
Weekends were used to do either a three to four-hour cycling or long slow distance (LSD) even if it was raining. Early this year, together with teammates Clark, Noelle and Marga, we practiced sighting drills and swim start-exit techniques in one of the resorts in Subic Bay. And, exactly two weeks prior to Race Day, I joined a two-kilometer swim at the Open Water Challenge event in Punta Fuego, Nasugbu, Batangas. With much thanks for the support and compliments from former teammate Hanna Sanchez of SwimFit. Not all days though were spent to do workouts. I made sure that some of the activities did not overshadow my weekly exercises by including cross-training and rest days to balance the demand of my workouts.
How was the Competition?
Overall, it was a remarkable experience being it my first IM 70.3 distance and one for the books I would say. It was not easy since Cobra IM 70.3 Cebu is considered as the toughest tri event in the country. The remaining weeks leading up to race day brought stress and anxiety. I think I have cried a couple of times while thinking of the magnitude of this race. My only solace was looking at everything through the eyes of faith and grateful to persons who showed support and encouragement.
With almost 3,000 registered participants, it made the race more challenging especially in the swim part. Each athlete was given only 70 minutes or one hour and ten minutes to complete the 1.9-kilometer swim. This is a standard rule. Otherwise, race marshals would not allow the athlete to continue with the BikeRun part and be declared as either disqualified or did not finish. I seeded myself in the back or in the wave of my predicted finish time and waited for the race to begin. I was feeling a bit scared when the pros were started. I believe I battled the same nerves as everyone else at the starting line.
While the sea showcased spectacular scenery, the swim was a bit rough with waves pushing swimmers into each other. I was hit in the face and felt as if my goggles were going to push my eyeballs out of its sockets. Sea lice stung my upper lip. I saw an orange starfish floating. I was kicked a number of times, and at one point, pushed by someone under the water. Thankfully, I didn’t panic when it happened. It did not even deter me to keep on moving. Plus seeing a couple of divers in the deep end was a huge comfort. As it turned out, I had an excellent and breakthrough swim—just within the goal I set for myself.
In the cycle leg, I did say to my bike, “This is your time to shine. No flat tyre, please. Let’s do this!” Crazy as it may sound, I talk to to my bike as if it’s a living entity everytime we go for a ride. The scenery towards Talisay City was quite nice and the headwinds certainly slowed me down. A headwind would significantly increase your pedaling effort and affect your cycling time. Think of it as a form of hill climbing at slower speed. In my case, I had to get down and used my drop bar to get into an aero riding position since I didn’t train using aero bars. At times, I could feel my bike rattled by crosswinds. The tailwinds, however, made up for a fast and strong ride back. Climbing the Marcelo Fernan Bridge highlighted my biking experience in Cebu. Looking ahead, I saw some bikers walked their bikes up the steep bridge. As I was about to ascend, I told my bike, “No way would I walk that bridge. We trained for this. We can do this, Luke!” I experienced headwinds again as I slowly pedaled my way up Fernan Bridge past another biker who was massaging his leg cramp by the side of the bridge road . Cruising down the bridge, I almost forgot about the sharp downward turn at the end of it. Thankfully, I managed the bike break well and completed the 90-kilometer bike course without any mishaps—no flat tyre or crash.
The whole time I was biking on my way back to the transition area, having no idea how fast or slow I was going or what distance I was travelling since my odometer did not function plus I didn’t wear my GPS watch, it was a bike by feel motion. Also, not seeing any of the fast bikers along the route, I was entertaining these thoughts, “I would probably be stopped by race marshals at the transition area and they would tell me not to proceed with the run.” But to my surprise, as I reached the transition area, the marshals were shouting, “Go, go, go Ma’am, you have enough time to run!” It was, to my estimate, almost noon by the time I was dismounting from my bike to park and to quickly change into my running gear, I could not just start running because leg muscles were still in bike mode.
The sun was high in the sky and it was a humid and a hot twenty one-kilometer run made up of two loops on a flat terrain of mixed asphalt and concrete roads before finishing. I did a power walk in the next two or three kilometers. I had to slow down as I felt the cramp coming on. At the hydration station, I asked for ice to treat my quads. After this was done, I knew I could now run slowly. Seeing Team Boring Jet (thanks Jet for the words of encouragement) and Endure teammates Ziggy and Noelle at the race course cheering and encouraging the runners, I had no choice but to run. Besides my bib’s name was telling me “silently” to run no matter what! Then it rained suddenly. After a few minutes, the sun shone bright again.
I pushed myself to run steadily the last final kilometers and managed to pass a few runners heading towards the finish line. Teammate Noelle was telling me that emcees have just announced cut-off time. Organizing team member, a foreigner, was clapping his hands, “Don’t stop. Just keep on running. You’re almost there!” A few kilometers to go then I heard my chip beeped as I crossed the timing mat. I looked ahead while running towards the finish arch and was almost overwhelmed with emotion again by the excitement of spectators and some friends watching who cheered. I saw some of them running towards the side of the finish arch shouting my moniker and name. Super thanks Mike Miras aka Mananakbo Ako, newfound friend Martin, and Endure teammate Tracy for the cheers! Big thanks to my good friend and former classmate Meggy who couldn’t be there yet still tracked my race log and progress online.
Incredible experience upon hearing my name announced by event host Chiqui, and finally passing under the IRONMAN finish arch in 8 hours 5 minutes 17 seconds! I raised my arms in victory, looked to the sky to give thanks, dropped to my knees, and kissed the ground for finishing the race unscathed before accepting the iron heart finisher’s medal.
Congratulations to all finishers and winners and the organizing team of this year’s Cobra Energy Drink IM 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship Philippines Presented by Ford!
Believe in yourself. Take on challenges. Dig deep to conquer your fears. Nothing is impossible if you keep a positive mindset and put your heart into it. That being said, I would like to convey my heartfelt gratitude and sincere thanks to all wonderful people who supported me so I can successfully complete my first IM 70.3 tri race.
Special shout-out to swimmate and choirmate Jez Derramas for facilitating the registration process; swim coaches Bernard San Juan and Brian for the swimming lessons and drills; coach John Lozada for my running drills and workouts; Mabelle Lozada for accompanying me during my oval or park running workouts; fellow Happy Feet and now Greenhills Tri Team member James Rosca who helped me with my bike needs; teammates Ziggy and Noelle for tri tips, and for the cheer during the race; TriTaft friend Jerome and swimmate Ilyfish for facilitating the airfare booking; Team Gotta Mark Hernandez for the bike bag; my fellow participants/former classmates Manny Hermoso and Jerome Salvador who finished strong in this race; Primo Cycles Bike Shop owner Glenn Colendrino for my bike fit and bike maintenance; Share the Road advocate Pat Joson for conducting a Cycling 101 session; Mike Miras for sharing his tri experience as well as recommending bike accessories to keep; Ziggy, Raffy, Jerome, and Clark for accompanying me in my tri journey; Jemai for designing the Endure participants send-off poster; coach Andy Leuterio of Maximus Cycling Cafe for additional tri tips and cake treat; Cristy’s Bike Shop for my other bike needs/accessories; bike mechanic Ricky, JR, and Jeff of Primo Cycles for the assistance with a smile; fellow running bloggers Franc, Jared, Banjo, Vimz, and Bee for the support; my colleagues and bosses for supporting this endeavor; F.O.M. Choir; Endure team; and, my family (nieces Kating and Janiel), and friends.
About IM 70.3 Cebu
Hailed as the Hollywood of Triathlon, the province of Cebu hosted the Cobra Energy Drink IM 70.3 Philippines for the past four years. Race venue was at Shangri- La Mactan Resort and Spa in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu.
Cobra Energy Drink IM 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship Philippines Presented by Ford was held in the country outside New Zealand and Australia, a first time for the Philippines. Almost 3,000 or 2,978 slots to be exact for 2016 were sold out in just 28 minutes when online registration opened in 2015, and still with 400 hundred people in the waitlist. Almost 3,000 athletes from 43 countries represented all over the world, pro and elite triathletes competed for the $75,000 grand prize plus 50 age group qualifying slots for the 2017 IM 70.3 World Championship in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
IM 70.3 triathlon is a continuous endurance challenge which involved three disciplines in one event—1.9K swim, 90Km bike, 21K run with cut-off time of 8 hours and 30 minutes. IM 70.3 (70.3 miles = 113.1369K) is only half of the distance of a full IRONMAN.