Finally, I can say it, I am an Ironman 70.3 Finisher!
Crossing the finish line last Sunday was one of the most fulfilling finishes, a culmination of all the blood, sweat, and tears—not just during the almost 7-hours of the race—but throughout the past months of arduous training, juggling nine workouts a week with family and work. Looking back, I still can’t believe I survived!
My official results:
Swim – 00:43:26
Bike – 03:28:18
Run – 02:28:52
Total – 06:50:35
As most of you know, I had a 6:49 target time set by Specialized to win my Shiv. I missed the target time by 1 minute. If you want to be anal about it, I missed it by 36 seconds. I’ve said all the curse words in my head, thought about all the what ifs, but nothing is really gonna give me back those 36 seconds. Do I return my beloved Shiv? Read on and you’ll find out. (Yep, pang telenovela na ito)
SWIM: 1.9k at 43:26
Before the race even started, as triathletes made their way to the water start several meters from the shore, many had wounded themselves from the sharp corals and rocks underneath…including myself.
Even if I swam upon entry, I got huge scratches on my knee and several cuts on my hands and feet. Still, I don’t think it was an issue for many of us. We were going to be Ironmen—well, at least half of an Ironman!—in a few hours and nothing was gonna stop us!
Wave 1, with the pros, elite and majority of the men, went off at 6:15 am while Wave 2, where all women, relay teams, and men 18 to 29 or 50 and above, were to start at 6:25am. I had never joined a triathlon with a water start, but with buoys to cling to as we waited, it didn’t cause as much of a problem as I initially thought. Thank God we didn’t have to tread water as I probably would’ve bonked by the swim! Hah!
The gun went off, I started my Garmin, and swam ahead. I had swam the day before and, much to my pleasant surprise, I didn’t encounter any of the rumored “Twilight Zone” current nor jellyfish that scared me to death. I focused on my strokes, steady and strong, as advised by Coach Andy Leuterio, and enjoyed the pristine water while occasionally spotting sea life below.
The swim was a rectangular 1.9k course with majority of the route going against the current. Except for the time I got kicked in the chin, it turned out to be a wonderful swim. Most of the triathletes posted spectacular times. I finished my swim at 43 minutes, 6 minutes faster than I expected.
When I got out of the water, I discovered that my Garmin didn’t start at all! Without my swim time, I lost the chance to monitor my time. I was going to go into this race “blindly” which meant two things: 1) I would go by feel which is one of my favorite ways to race, and 2) I would have no idea if I was to make my target time to win my Shiv.
BIKE: 90k – 03:28:18
The bike is my weakest area. I only learned to ride in cleats in February and got the Shiv in April. I was confident about my bike skills and the distance, but when I heard that Cebu had nasty headwind and crosswind, I was concerned.
As soon as I exited the transition area, the wind enveloped me. They weren’t kidding when they said there would be crosswind and headwind. Most of the bikers ahead of me were comfortably in aero position while I tried to calm myself, focus, and gain confidence even if the sound of the wind was unnerving.
The 90k route took us through four cities of Cebu: Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue, Cebu and Talisay. We ascended Marcelo Fernan Bridge, heading toward a letter M route, then back up the bridge to end the bike at Shangrila hotel. Again, I was to maintain a steady ride paying little attention to time nor speed and ensuring my heart rate didn’t go above 155.
As I’ve experienced in the past, particularly during the inaugural Cebu Marathon, Cebuanos go all out when cheering for athletes. I was glad to see hundreds of spectators, mostly students, lining both sides of the road. They cheered with so much enthusiasm and sincerity that it energized us and even provided entertainment for the long road ahead. I can’t count how many times I heard “You go girl!” (mostly from the gays, hah!), “You can do it!,” and even “Iya Iya” or “Ann Ann” (not that I look like any of these celebs that are a dozen years younger than I am, but mainly because I was a female and they knew both were in Cebu!)
– On Marcelo Fernan Bridge (Photo: Michael Ocana) –
The climb up Fernan bridge was not as difficult as I expected, probably because my training at Nuvali provided hills that were far longer and steeper. As we ventured out towards the M loop, it was a battle against the headwind. This made the course tough and, needless to say, for me, slow. The wind at certain portions, by Radisson Blu hotel and at SRP, made me even more cautious. At certain points, I could see my speed (or the lack of it) and I had to remind myself to just go by my own pace. I maintained my heart rate and pushed forward.
The good thing with the headwind was that, on the way back along the M loop, we enjoyed the tailwind. And, boy did I enjoy it! I was thrilled with the ride back; it was fast and easy and it allowed me to forget, even for a while, about the time and to simply enjoy the experience.
When I reached the transition area, I was extremely thankful for a safe ride without any flat tire or road mishaps. Even better, I knew I had enough left in the tank for a steady run.
Without my time, the only plan I had in mind was to run a negative split: run easy on the first 10k and go faster in the second half.
The run was a two-loop course via Punta Engano starting and ending at Shangri-la hotel.
I was fortunate to start my run feeling strong. I found my rhythm by the first few kilometers and repeated a single line over and over: “I am a runner!” reminding myself that this was my strength and I was going to kill it.
By the second half though, the body and mind were tired. We were also running under the afternoon heat. I had a race belt carrying my own hydration, but I would stop at every station to pour cold, murky water (who cared where it came from?!) all over my body. I ran with soaked socks and shoes and this caused my feet to blister. At one point, I stopped by a medic station to ask for petroleum jelly. They had no clue what this was. Even when I asked for powder, they frantically went into the house searching for this. With the clock ticking, I decided not to wait and went ahead despite the pain employing a strategy I’ve used in past races: mind over blisters.
It was great to see other triathletes, especially my teammates from Unilab Active Health, along the course, supporting each other by exchanging high fives or yelling “Looking good!” or “Go! Go! Go!”
When I passed one teammate, Jake de Guzman, his simple gesture of pointing at me then beating his fist against his chest, made me dig deeper and push harder. This was no time to slow down or give up. It reminded me of the months of training together when I shared with him the sacrifices I had to make as a working Mom, when we compared notes on workouts and nutrition, when he told me, as we ended our training: “The Shiv is yours. The time will just confirm it.”
As I neared the end, a marshal yelled: “Malapit na. 800 meters nalang!” It was at this point when I decided to make a go of it. After 200 meters, much to my horror, the next marshal yelled: “Malapit ka na. 1km nalang!” Gasp! I didn’t know if I was going to laugh or cry!
When we made our way into Shangrila, I thought that the race would soon be over, but, oh no, it wasn’t! With each turn, I would search for the finish line only to discover that there would be more meters to run. Where was the finish line?!!
After what felt like forever, I did cross the finish. I glanced at the clock ahead of me: 6:59. Since I started with Wave 2, 10 minutes after Wave 1, this meant I came in at 6:49. 6:49!!! Holy Shiv, I hit my target on the dot! I crossed the finish beaming with pride, I finished! Not just that, I won my bike!
– My close friends in running…and now in triathlon: Jay Nacino and Jun Cruz. Jun and I trained for IM 70.3 together from the roads of Nuvali to Ultra. Couldn’t have done this without him! His key role was to lift me up from my bike every time I crashed! (Photo: Jun Cruz)-
– with good friend Hector Yuzon of Secondwind. Hec analyzed my past races and prepared a target pace and time for IM 70.3! Aaaw, don’t you just love having OC triathlete friends?! Thanks Hec! (Photo: Andy Leuterio) –
– with JaneJane Ong and world-renowned designer Kenneth Cobonpue with the IM 70.3 Cebu medal that he designed. Unfortunately, my medal fell apart as soon as I crossed the finish (Photo: JaneJane Ong) –
– Teammate August Benedicto (in white with the trophy) is the Top Filipino Elite finisher with a time of 4:27! Here he is with my teammates from Team Unilab Active Health. I was probably sleeping or eating when this photo was taken. Thanks to Team ULAH, especially Clinton Hess, Pot, and Vida for the great support! (Photo: Pia Panlilio) –
Later in the evening, I checked the Ironman 70.3 Cebu official results and discovered that I finished at 6:50:35. I missed my target time for the Shiv by 36 seconds. 36 seconds!!!
What if I didn’t stop during the swim to ask the marshal which way to the finish? What if I practiced a quicker transition? (My total transition time exceeded 10 minutes much to my Coach’s shock.) What if I had pushed just a wee bit faster on the bike? What if I didn’t wait at the medic station for the petroleum jelly? What if I didn’t pee six times?! (Seriously, I did! haha!)
So many what ifs. Sigh.
Thankfully, the good people at Specialized, Joey Ramirez and my Coach, Andy Leuterio, decided that they’ll still award me the Shiv. As Coach Andy texted: “Time targets are good but we shouldn’t attach too much fulfillment to them. What matters is how you finish the race.”
I’m blessed. I really am thankful for finishing the race safely, for being surrounded by such positive and supportive coaches, friends, and family, and for having the opportunity to participate in the race that pushes you so hard you feel so alive.
I really have no right to complain or to regret.
So, here’s my last what if: What if I just sign up for Ironman 70.3 next year and prove to myself that I can cut more than 36 seconds off of my time? Hmmm…let’s see!
NEXT: It Takes a Village to Raise a Triathlete – the coaches and friends who helped me train for Ironman 70.3