August 4, 2013. My first Ironman 70.3. Where do I even start with all the stories that I need to tell? With 1.9kms of swimming, 90kms of biking and 21kms of running, I went through so much I just don’t know how I’m going to put everything into words but I will try my best.
Weeks prior to race day I was an emotional wreck. IM was all that I could ever think about. When I found free time at work I scoured the internet for blogs and read articles just to help me get my mind into it. I assigned my mother to be my designated personal assistant for this race so we made sure to prepare everything logistics wise before the big day. On Saturday we packed all our stuff then headed to Mactan.
Thanks to the kindess of an old customer of ours who owns a retreat house very near Shangri-la who offered to let us stay in one of their rooms for the weekend. We checked in there first before heading to Shangri-la for the registration. Everything went smoothly from the race packet pick up to the body marking up to the bike check in.
I was super thrilled to see one of my running idols The Bull Runner Jaymie Pizzaro. I couldn’t help but ask to have a picture taken with her. She’s super nice!
We wished each other luck for tomorrow then off I went to hang out with my mom at the lobby for a bit. We checked out the expo where I bought some souvenirs then stayed there till the race briefing, up to the Catholic mass. During the mass the priest, also a participant, reminded us to be “triathletes for Christ” and that if ever we get tired during the race all that we have to do is to pray, pray and pray.
During this time the weather took a turn for the worse. Rain poured the entire night which kept me wondering what’s going to happen if it didn’t stop up to the next day. I could hardly sleep. I kept praying for the rain to stop, I kept visualizing what to do at T1 & T2, and I kept visualizing my finish line moment. ☺ At 3:00am my mom and I were up and about. Rain was still pouring but I knew that I had to get to the venue as fast as I could. It was about 4:30 when the organizers issued a text message that the race was going to push through on time despite the bad weather condition. Rain or shine the race is on!
I took all my stuff at the transition area, prepped up my bike and asked a marshall to pump air into my tire. I chatted with some triathletes there and everyone was just so excited. The rain tried but hey, some drizzle wouldn’t dampen our spirits. We kept positive that things were going to turn around in an hour or so. And it DID! By the time we started warming up at the beach the sky cleared up a little. I felt surprisingly calm and I just enjoyed watching all the people who I was going to race with. This is my first time to join an international event and my first time to see THIS many people and celebrities in a triathlon. Speaking of celebrities, I’m so happy I got to have a picture with Papa Piolo near the swim start. Weeeee! Thank you Tanya Sy for this pic! :D And Thank you also for that sip of Gatorade which I really needed at that time. Hehe.. :D
The swim started precisely on time with the pros, the Filipino elites and the CEO category going first at 6:25am followed by the 18 to 39 male and relay swimmers and lastly at 6:40, my wave, all female and the 40 above male. I was with Hannah Galo, Loriz Echavez and Tito Bong at the swim start and for some reason I lost all my nervousness. I just wanted to get it on. Hannah reminded me to follow the yellow buoy and to make sure that it was at my right at all times. We headed to the deep end of the water, treaded for a bit there then at gun start the last thing I heard was some guy saying “naku. Ma wa-washing machine tayo dito”
He was right. There was no better description for the swim start. I got kicked in my right eye right at the start and had to adjust my goggles. I knew I had to move away from the crowd as fast as I could. There were scary swells throughout the swim course which made it difficult to breathe. I got kicked and bumped into so many times but I managed to stay calm and composed. I just kept on telling myself “ You are a swimmer. You will have a strong swim finish.”
At 7:20am I exited the water and jogged my way to T1. I heard Tito Bong’s friend Julie (or should I say Tita Julie? Hahahah :p kidding) shout my name so loudly along with some people saying Go go go! I kept jogging until my swim coach Marlon Galo yelled so loudly “Ate Mitch! Ni lapas naka sa imong bike!” LOL!!! OMG! Major bloopers moment. I went back got all my bike gear as fast as I could, ate my GU gel and composed myself. THIS IS IT mickiego. I knew I had to take extra precaution on the bike route because the roads were slippery due to the yestrday’s downpour.
Upon exiting Shangri-la the raods were very narrow. I took it very slow knowing that there were very many bikers infront, at my back and beside me. I waited till we got to the wider roads to start gaining speed and momentum. It felt so incredibly liberating to bike without the fear of jeepneys or cars suddenly stopping infront of you or having to worry about weaving through heavy traffic. Weeeeee! I was one happy biker throughout the first half of the bike route. Even the ascent towards the Marcelo Fernan bridge felt like a walk in the park. It was going to be a 90km ride so I tried my best to pace myself even if I felt very excited. The roads near the SM and pier area were awfully bumpy, I saw some bikers on the side of the road with flat tires and I just kept on praying that it wouldn’t happen to me.
I loved how all the people I’ve gotten acquainted with throughout my triathlons always cheered me on when we came across each other on the bike route. Special mention to Fiona Tudtud, loudest cheerer sa bike ever. Hahah :p thank you Fiona! I was forewarned about how the strong the winds were going to be in SRP and I did feel it hit me so hard on my last loop. My legs felt heavy from exhaustion already, the weather sort of looked worse and the wind came in all different directions. No matter how hard I pedaled I couldn’t get my pace higher than 18kph. It was the most awful feeling in the world. There were very few bikers left, the clouds were getting darker and I was feeling lonely. This time I kept singing songs of praise in my head and I kept on thinking about the priest’s reminder during the mass yesterday “Be a triathlete for Christ”.
The bike cut off was at 12:00 I knew I was still doing good with my time even my pace kept going slower. I just didn’t have the strength in me anymore to go faster I didn’t care that bikers from behind me were overtaking me one by one. I was going to finish this race at my own pace. I felt my spirits getting uplifted a little when I saw the students at the Talisay area cheering so loudly and happily for all the participants. When you are all spent already even little things start to matter. Thank you kids!
I entered the tunnel one last time and managed to pick up my pace there. Upon exiting the SRP I knew I will have to give it one last push. About 20kms to go to T2 and my quads were already hurting so much. I kept thinking about the steep incline at the bridge again and made a promise to myself. No matter what I will NOT DISMOUNT from my bike. NO way! So at the foot of the bridge, I took one swig of water, one deep breath, gathered all my strength and pedaled for my life. The onlookers cheered me on saying go go go! “Kaya na nimo miss! Gamay nalang!”
It was such an amazing feeling when I got to the top of the bridge knowing that I’d gotten through the most difficult hurdle. This is the home stretch, baby! :D woohoo! I picked up my speed again and somewhere along Big Foot there was this Singaporean guy who paced me for a bit. We made chika2x about the race and since he was the veteran IM’er he told me “Hey, you’re doing a great job. We’re almost there! Just a few KMs to go!” Thank you race bib number 1411 for the words of encouragement! ☺
With about 500m away from Shangri-la I was starting to feel anxious again. The 21km run was looming in front of me and I felt like I had exhausted all the energy I had left in the bike leg, my back and legs were aching and my hands were so numb from gripping the handlebars. Climbing up the last small hill, I suddenly heard the loudest of all cheers and saw the familiar faces of my girl friends. I went “OH MY GOD!!! Helllooooo!!!”
They were bringing banners that said “GO MICKIE!!!” The Images Camera Club guys were there too with their own banner. And they cheered sooo loud.” I felt my heart swell with so much happiness. Just look at that happy face. That’s the face of someone who didn’t just go through a grueling 90km ride. Haha! :p
I even saw Mause Tan-Gaw there who I totally didn’t expect to go. She said, “Go Mickie! You’re almost done! Run nalang!” Yes, run nalang gyud. The worst part is over. I’m going to finish this race no matter what it takes. THANK YOU EVER SO MUCH friends!
I entered T2 together with second time IM’er and marathoner Pam Apuhin who asked me “mag sige pa ta ani mick??” hahaha! Mag sige pa ta ani kay ni enter naman gyud ta! LOL! So there I was looking for my bike rack again trying to make sure that I don’t miss it this time. But when I saw my rack it was already occupied by another bike. I went what?????!!! I was lucky there was a marshall around who assisted me. I left him to do the necessary moving of the bikes and trusted him to just put my bike back in for me. I left by bike gear and grabbed my running stuff including my lunch, a peanut butter and banana sandwich. I ate it while walking out of T2 but my stomach suddenly felt tight and queasy. I had to leave half of it on the side of the road and prayed that my stomach wouldn’t act up on the run leg.
Upon exiting Shangri-la again I saw my friends and my mom and heard Maureen say “Mick, ni kaon naka sa imong lunch?” I heard my mom say “Go chi! Love you! Go go go!” I checked my watch. It was about half past 11:00 and I just had about enough time to finish 21kms if I didn’t walk too much. It took a little time for me to recover because of my stomach. I was careful about not drinking too much from the stations for fear that it might worsen things so I jog-walked until I reached the 2km marker. My tummy started to settle down after a lot of burping (and farting! TMI I know! Hahahah!) so I proceeded to a slow jog pace and walked a bit when I felt tired.
It was fun seeing all the athletes at the point going back for their second loop while I was still doing my first. Many friends and acquaintances cheered me on all the way towards the last subdivision that we had to enter. When Hannah Galo over took me on her second loop she told me “keep going Ate Mitch, just keep going” I remember her telling me before during our simulation as much as possible do not stop jogging for the entire first half of the run. I entered the last subdivision and found that there was a huge party there for us. Lively music was playing, people cheering. I was re-energized somehow and I soon got my black band at the 6km marker. I made sure to hydrate well, I ate my GU, ate bananas, and gummy bears, drank Gatorade and doused myself with water at the hydration stations. I was so thankful that the support was consistent throughout the run course.
Back near Blue Coast, the onlookers told me, “Go mam!! 10kms to go!” Woaaah! 10kms still felt like an entire mountain to climb. So I continued on putting one foot infront of the other and took more walk breaks to relax my tired legs. At this point I started semi pacing with a guy who kept taking breaks because his legs were cramping up. I forgot to get his name but he kept on saying “po” to me. LOL. Do I look that old? We made chika2x for a while sometimes he’d over take me sometimes I’d over take him. I just kept on pushing till I finally went back for my orange band. Yessss!!!! At this point the marshall told me 6kms to go nalang mam! I checked my watch. A little to go before 2:00pm. If I picked up my speed I will finish way before the 3:10 cut off. Since I felt like I had enough time, I paused for a while to look at the breathtaking view in front of me. I sent a little prayer to God because at this point I know I am surely going to finish the race. I didn’t ask for Him to help me anymore. I knew I could do it on my own from here on out. This time I just THANKED Him. I thanked Him for the opportunity to join IM 70.3, for giving me a sound mind and body to do all this, for keeping me safe throughout the bike leg, and most importantly for giving me the most supportive set of family and friends who I was going to see again at the finish line.
Going back to Shangri-la all that I pictured on my head was my finish line moment. I couldn’t wait to hold the banner above me because I was going to do it even if I’m not too confident about showing my armpits like that. LOL! I couldn’t wait to have that medal around my neck and to see my friends again. I kept my slow jog-walk pace for the next few minutes till another marshall on a bike came across us. “How many kms to go?” I asked. “Less than 2kms” she said. Haaay I’m super near. The banner near BE Resorts that said “CONGRATULATIONS IRONMAN, YOU’RE ALMOST THERE!” gave me the final push that I needed to go on.
By this time a lot of people who have finished the race cheered me on and showed me their medals. “You can do it!!!” They said. Going inside Shangri-la I saw my friends again. Mick 150m nalang! I’m like huh? I’m sure layo pa! haha :p I told them go to the finish line I’ll see you there.
I saw Tim & Yves of Team Convergys who gave me high fives and told me shower first pang last before you go to the finish line.
I felt a wave of nostalgia when I reached the area where Tito Bong and I stayed last year to take pictures of the participants. We were one of those who cheered for just about anyone entering the area. Back then we were mere spectators now we’re one of the participants. What a difference a year makes. A huge wave of emotions suddenly overwhelmed me and I started to feel all choked up. Months of hard work, of waking up early every weekend, of almost not having any form of social life because of training, of working out almost any chance I get, they’re all finally going to pay off when I cross the line. As I was running, people all over cheered me on. “You can do it, IRONWOMAN! GO GO GO! Few meters to go!” Familiar and unfamiliar faces smiled at me and clapped for me giving me the push to go all the way. I was so touched by it all I just knew won’t be able to hold myself back anymore.
And when I finally stepped on the podium, a huge wave of relief, of happiness, of exhaustion came over me all at once. I made the sign of the cross and sent a prayer of thanks to the heavens. I AM A 70.3 COBRA IRONMAN FINISHER. I held up the banner above me, saw my brother in front and tried to smile through my quivering lips.
Going down the podium I couldn’t hold it in anymore.
I bawled like a baby as one of the organizers put the medal around my neck. I heard people all over me “Giver her water first” then somebody doused me with water from the back. So many things were going on at once I still couldn’t stop crying!
When I saw Tito Bong (who finished way before me! Woohoo!) I said “omg Bong. Why am I crying??” He only told me “Bai, unsa man ka? There’s no crying in triathlons!” hahahah! :p I’ am now an official graduate of Coach K’s training program. Thank you for planting the seed in me Bonggo. You deserve a pat on the back even despite all the NO CLEAR moments during training. LOL! To more triathlons soon!
When I saw my mom and friends another round of crying began and I guess na emotional pud sila so well, we had our little crying fest right there. Waaaaaah! Are we crazy or what?
Thank you girls for coming out for me today. Despite the heavy rain, the traffic, and your busy schedules. Thank you for the super touching messages your wrote for me too. I’m one lucky girl ☺ I truly am ☺
I saw one of my idols Noelle De Guzman aka Kikay Runner too ☺ So happy I got to have a picture with her!
Whew. IM 70.3 is DONE. Official time 8 hours and 3 minutes. Just a few minutes off my target sub 8 finish but still, I’m very happy to finish within cut off. It was an incredible experience that I will never forget. Finishing a 70.3 is a true test of the mind, body and spirit. In the end, when your body has ran out of energy it will just be your will and determination that will carry you through to the finish line. Today God made me a half IronWOman. Today He also made me realize that hey, my heart is made of Iron as well. Strong, brave and resilient.
For my THANK YOUs:
1.) My mom = for being my personal assistant and driver, for taking care of logistics and basically for taking care of me over the weekend.
2.) Papa = for always watching over me, making sure that I am safe and injury-free through all my trainings and races.
3.) Dich = for giving me money to buy souvenirs at the IM store. Hehe :D
4.) James = for the support and for my photos.
5.) The friendships = for coming out for me today. For showing me all the love and support ☺ for the prayers, the well-wishes.
6.) Tim Abellana & Fiona Tudtud = for assisting me at the bike check in this morning.
7.) For the cheerers (Fiona, Tim, Yves, Merly, Juliet, Pam, The SHUFA girls Dudin, Wow, The TTB guys Bernard, Rowena, Brian)
8.) Lindon the cyclist = for coaching me well and for cheering so loudly at the bridge
9.) Hannah Galo = for the fun training sessions and for the cheers too
10.) Jason Yap = for sharing your triathlon training plan with me, for all the tips, and for seeing me at the finish line. :)
11.) All the marshalls, organizers and medics = for taking care of all of us during the race.
12.) To all the photographers = for giving us tangible memories of this special day. :) special shout outs to my friends from the Images Camera Club Erwin Lim, Dan Ong, Ryan Go, Rolando Pascua, Michael Jo, Kurt Fick; to Reynan Opada, John Domingo and all the shutterbugs on the road who took my pic. THANK YOU!
13.) To Tiny, Karina and Doc Wyben = for cheering for me so loudly on the long lonely roads of SRP.
14.) The people of my hometown = for cooperating with the traffic rules and being patient about not being able to pass through the major high ways today.
15.) To all my friends who prayed for me, who wished me well through FB, through text, etc. THANK YOU :D
‘Till next year guys! :)