Cobra Ironman 70.3 weekend came faster than I ever expected. It only seems like yesterday when I crossed the finish line of the 2013 edition, cried like a baby and felt so overwhelmingly happy that I fell even more in love with the world of multi-sport. The recently concluded IM 70.3 is officially my 10th triathlon after joining my first one in the year 2012. To say that I have gone a long long way from my first race is an understatement.
Coming into IM 70.3 2014, I felt a lot more confident about my swimming, biking and running skills. Thanks to my teammates who are my inspiration and my training buddies, I was able to put in months of hard work and dedication. We spent weekends doing long rides, long runs and brick sessions and weekdays doing our training on our own. We had fun, we bonded and we helped each other mentally (and emotionally) prepare for the big day. Somehow knowing that we are all in the same boat made everything less daunting.
Before we knew it, IM 70.3 weekend was here. Despite all the nervousness, the pre-race jitters, bouts of self-doubt and fear, we were ready to face “Graduation Day” head on.
Saturday, August 2, 2014, the day before race day, I prepared my gear for the bike check-in and drove with my brother/official photographer to the race venue at Shangri-la Mactan Island Resort and Spa.
Met up with the team, and hurriedly checked in our bikes under the awful sweltering heat of the sun. The place was brimming with triathletes who were just as excited as us. We made sure to look for landmarks so that tomorrow we will know exactly where our bikes were. Here’s an aerial view of how the transition area looked like after all the bikes have been checked in. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.
Right before the race briefing started, I got body-marked with the number 2550. That was the moment when I said “Hoo boy! This is it. This is REALLY is it. No turning back now, mickiego!
At the race briefing, one of the speakers, Coach Lance Watson gave us a beautiful pep talk that gave me goosebumps all over my body. Apart from several last minute tips on how to survive the race, he reminded all of us to have an attitude of gratitude. I began to think about all the people who have helped me get to where I am now, my family who has always had my back, my friends who have been my cheerleaders, and most especially my teammates who have given me the most valuable support throughout our training sessions and races. “Tomorrow when you get to the starting line, know that there is absolutely no other place that you would rather be than HERE.”
Before leaving the venue, I made sure to check once again the bike route. It’s only less than 24 hours before race day and I still had zero idea what the so-called “Double M Loop” is supposed to mean. I started feeling nervous, panicky and feverish at the same time. Knowing that the course is going to require multiple U-turns gave me knots in my stomach. L I have always been terrible at u-turns and I haven’t had the chance to master it. It was only during the drive back home from Mactan when I had a lightbulb moment. I closed my eyes, visualized the Talisay Fish Port and the exit of the tunnel and pictured a letter M on the lanes. Ah-hah! So that’s what a double M loop means! LOL!
On Sunday, August 3, 2014, for some reason I felt a wave of calmness rush over me. This is just another triathlon, mickiego. Except there will be 2,000 other athletes and it is an international event. You’ve done this before, you’ve trained hard for this, you’ve done several 90km bike rides, you’ve done several long distance runs and brick sessions to prepare for this. YOU ARE READY.
With my mom behind the wheel and my friend/rah-rah girl Mause at the back seat, we headed out to Shangri-la at 4:00am. They were proudly wearing their “I’m Supporting 2550” stickers too! I had a quickie breakfast of Jollibee Spaghetti and Chicken Joy meal but I could hardly finish the entire thing.
At the transition area, I busied myself with last minute checks on my bike. I had a marshal check my tire pressure, I arranged all my bike and run gear and positioned everything to make sure that they were all easily accessible.
The atmosphere at the transition area was incredibly festive. Loud music was blasting from the speakers and there was an air of excitement all over the place. All around me people were helping each other set up their respective areas, friends and teammates were hugging each other and taking pictures. The sky slowly brightened up and soon it was time to head to the beach.
The Swim Leg
With a few minutes before gun start, all of us participants headed down to Shangrila’s beach which was quite a long walk from the transition area. Us girls were to start at exactly 6:40am, the last wave to be released together with the relay swimmers.
While waiting, we did a short swim just to get our heart rates up. Just as the gun fired for the first wave, my teammates and I gathered in a small circle to hold hands and pray. I found myself in tears as our prayer leader Hannah said strong and powerful words to the heavens to keep us safe during the entire race. I said my own prayer too and asked my Dad to please keep a close watch over me from up above.
At gun start, I stuck close to 2 of my teammates Hannah and Dudin. We tried to navigate away from the pack to avoid getting run over. Thankfully the water condition was a LOT calmer this year. I didn’t have to contend with big burly men kicking me in the face and in the leg this time around because unlike last year, the 40 above guys were released 5 minutes ahead of us.
Thanks to 3 years of varsity swim training in high school, I’ve always considered the swim discipline my strongest. I felt calm and relaxed throughout the swim leg and tried to get away from the pack as fast as I could. Soon there were very few pink swim caps around me and they were replaced with more blue caps. I focused on my pulls, I rotated my body, and concentrated on my breathing. There were hardly any bodies swimming too near me allowing me to maintain a good form instead of just swimming for survival like I did last year.
I had such a good swim that I didn’t even realize I was already nearing the shore. Lol! When I surfaced I heard my brother yelling my name SO LOUDLY so I gave him a wave. I covered the 1.9km distance in 43 minutes and I felt good about myself. Yay me!
I made sure to walk carefully since the surface was extremely slippery. I grabbed a cup each of water and Gatorade, stopped by the shower for a bit then started doing a slight jog all the way to T1. Spectators and acquaintances shouted my name and cheered me on as I made my way to T1 and I felt like a superstar. :) Oooookay, mickiego! On to the bike leg!
The Bike Leg
At T1, I hurriedly wiped my feet off, put on my bike shoes, ate a GU power gel and put on the rest of my gear. As I exited T1 I saw my mom and my friend Mause by the bleachers, cheering me on saying GO GO GO MICKIEGO! The bike mount was a bit tricky as I had to make sure there was no one in front of me or directly behind me. The sun was starting to shine so hot at this time and I knew it was going to be a super hot 90km ride. Yikes.
I cruised along the Mactan roads carefully as I was still trying to adjust my body. I heard bikers around me saying “On the left!” so I focused on riding on the right side as I knew I was going to take this part of the bike leg slow and easy. I wanted to have fresh legs in preparation for the steep incline at the Marcelo Fernan Bridge. Surprisingly, I didn’t have much difficulty conquering the climb and I powered on going down all the way to the North Reclamation area.
I exerted extra caution at the bumpy roads near T. Padilla St. and slowed down even more when I saw a fellow participant lying by the side of the road. She was wearing a red tri-suit and medics were tending to her bloodied face. I prayed to the heavens and hoped she was okay. I also reminded myself to be EXTRA EXTRA careful lest I suffer the same fate. *shudder*
As I entered the tunnel, I panicked a little because I could hardly see a thing. I tried to bring my shades down to my nose so I could see properly but it only made breathing difficult. I said to myself “S**t, I’ll have to do this freakin’ 8 more times. Goodluck mickiego!” Upon exiting the tunnel, nothing could have prepared me for the crazy headwinds of the SRP. I mean, yes, I’ve practiced on that small strip of road on the SRP a few times but heck, this time it was just awful.
I shifted to the lightest gear and focused on spinning just to keep moving forward. I was going at a lousy speed of about 21 to 22 kph yet I was starting to feel some signs of fatigue on my legs. As I approached the first turning point, I de-cleated from both pedals, slowed down considerably and put all my concentration into turning without losing my balance. YESSS!!! One u-turn down, 7 more to go!
The rest of the bike leg went quite smoothly and I handled all the other u-turns beautifully. I hated the part where I had to enter and exit the tunnel because it made me awfully dizzy. From super bright light to extreme darkness to super bright light again. Ugh. Coming from the U-turn at Talisay, the tailwind helped me make up for the slower laps. I was going at 32 kph to 35 kph (yes, that’s fast for me! Lol!) and I absolutely loved those moments.
I also made sure to keep eating from my small front bag filled with gummy bears, cut-up Nutri-bars and dried bananas. I kept myself hydrated and made sure not to wait to feel thirsty before getting water into my body. I also yelled to my friends who I saw whiz past me. The good thing about a very “loopy” bike course is that it’s a lot less lonely. You’d still see a lot of triathletes all around so it feels like you have company all the way.
I also appreciated all the cheerers along the route. School children selflessly spent many hours under the heat of the sun to cheer on us saying “Girl power, girl power, GO GO GIRL POWER!”. The bike course became even livelier when celebrities whizzed by giving us good reason to feel entertained throughout the course.
At the last u-turn in Talisay, I got a drink of cold Gatorade from the water station and heard one guy behind me saying “We’re going hoooooome!” Wooohooo! Done with those crazy loops and its going to be tailwind all the way :) Let’sgoooooo Mickieeeeee!
The climb back up the Marcelo Fernan Bridge was a lot more difficult this time as my legs were already feeling worn out. I had to breathe through my mouth to get more air in and to keep myself sane. Some cyclists had gotten off their bikes just to get past the bridge but I knew that wasn’t an option for me. So I pushed, pushed and pushed and kept telling myself that this was the last major hurdle anyway and that I just had to suck it up.
I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I sped downhill but made sure to slow down knowing that there is a sharp curve right at the foot. I handled it quite well then focused on pedaling all the way back to Mactan Newtown. A friendly guy biked past me and said “Matatapos na rin natin to!!!” Yahoooooweeeeeeee!!! :D
As I dismounted from my bike, I sent a prayer of thanks to the heavens for keeping me safe and for not having any flats or technical difficulties. I patted my good old bike and thanked it for doing a great job. Another 90km ride done, dear Roadie J You have never let me down. I put my bike back on the rack and prepared for the last leg. Gaaaaaaahh! 21kms to go!
The Run Leg
I took my own sweet time at T2 and even asked a fellow triathlete for some Vaseline. I was having some serious chafing on my armpits (sorry overshare!) and I had left my tub in my backpack which was already w/ my mom. Thank you so much Lilia of Team LakanTri for saving me! :)
Heading out of T2, I munched on my Peanut Butter sandwich but only managed to swallow half of it. My body was in total disarray at this moment and my stomach felt queasy. Plus, the heat was just INTENSE. I had serious doubts about surviving the 21km run. Here I am with my photographer brother who waited at one of the tents at the transition area. Quick selfie first while my mouth was filled with bread. Lol!
My game plan for the run was to run-walk the first 2kms then to slow jog the rest of the way. I was dying from the heat and my entire body just felt so weird. I chanced upon Maricel of Team TTB and chit-chatted w/ her for a bit. I was so grateful for her company for a while because it was exactly what I needed to get my head back in the game. By this time my legs started to cooperate, I felt it power up again and I managed to put one foot in front of the other.
Each water station was filled with ice, water and Gatorade and I was ever so grateful for each chance to shower. The run route was filled with spectators from the running community who cheered me on, little kids with their arms outstretched for high-fives and it was enjoyable to say the least. :) I was so thankful for having put in run mileage in the last month leading up to race day.
As I approached the 10km marker, the sun miraculously started to ease up a little. Hooray for clouds! J Without the heat, I knew that finishing the last half of the run was going to be a breeze. At this point I also realized that I had left my Nutri-Bar at the T2 and I was HUNGRY. My hydration belt only had GU Gels in it and I knew that they just wouldn’t suffice. I was so thankful for the Team SHUFA support crew. They had exactly what I needed, PUTO! A little past 10km, I had a short break for a photo op with Bernie, Chai, Regie and Janice. Plus a nice little leg massage using the Omego Pro bottle that I kept in my pack.
With my legs and stomach feeling a lot better, I proceeded on with the run. I knew I was still making good time. I picked up my pace and focused on breathing steadily as I high-fived and cheered on friends from the Cebu tri community who were already making their way back to the finish line. I said to myself, I will get there soon too!
As I entered the second to the last subdivision, I saw a familiar figure a few feet ahead of me. Oh my gosh! It was Tito Bonggo a.k.a Coach K! Am I really going to finish faster than my so-called “coach” this time around??? I guess I will! Hah! So I caught up w/ him, we chatted for a bit, and jogged in unison for a few kms. At 4kms more to go, my thighs had stiffened up so bad I knew I had to take more walk breaks if I wanted to finish in one piece.
With less than 3kms more to go, marshals were calling on us to say “Pick it up guys! Cut off is at 3:15pm!” I looked at my watch, it was around 2:40pm already. I still had all the time in the world but I knew I wasn’t going to break last year’s time. Boo! With 1km to go, I bid Tito Bong goodbye and literally FLEW all the way to the finish line.
My legs felt great, my heart was pumping, and I was grinning from ear to ear as I entered the finish line chute. People were cheering, photographers were snapping their cameras and I felt like I was on top of the world.
After 8 hours and 6 minutes of swimming, biking and running, I triumphantly crossed the finish line of my second Cobra Ironman 70.3 triathlon and I let out the loudest scream as seen in this photo.
Yessssssss!!! DONE DONE DONE! :D No crying this time around! Just the feeling of pure unadulterated joy and of immense pride in myself for conquering this feat all over again.
Cameras flashed all around me, the medal ladies hung the bamboo medal around my neck, and I was awash with overwhelming happiness.
As icing on the cake, I am officially 9 minutes faster than this guy called Tito Bong. None other than the guy who took me under his wing as his “project” way back in 2012. The project has surpassed the “coach”! Nyahahahhaha!!!!
Here’s a finish line selfie with my documentation team James Go and Kurt Fick of Ficktures.
After some picture taking, I suddenly felt light headed and dizzy. Oh god. I thought I was going to faint. The world was turning and I was seeing bright spots all over. Gaaaaaah! Medic! Medic! I asked for white flower or any type of inhaler to clear my head and to help me breathe better but they had none. So I lied down on the medic station as they massaged and tried to relieve me the best way they can. Whew! Thank you docs!
Then I saw my mom, my number one support crew since the beginning of time. Thank you motheroo! This medal is for you and Fatheroo! :)
To my gorgeous rah-rah girl and ever supportive friend Mause, thank you for your presence. :)
To everyone I’ve ever trained with and helped me throughout this IM 70.3 journey, you know who you are. I am ever so grateful for your love and support. (Feeling artista lang ko! Lol!)
Whew! That was one extremely tiring but fulfilling race :) Congratulations to all the winners and finishers! Congratulations to the organizers, volunteers and marshals for a job so awesomely done! I will be back next year! (Please come back to Cebu PLEASE!)