It is with a deep sigh of relief that I can scream this at the top of my lungs: I did it! I finished my 2nd Ironman 70.3 Cebu!
The Ironman 70.3 Cebu 2013 medal was, by far, the toughest medal I had to earn. From day one of training until race day, I encountered several obstacles along the way—from my foot injury and bike crash during training to bad weather and a flat tire on race day. If I was cursed, I almost believed that there was only one thing to shoo all the bad vibes away: the medal that waited for me at the finish line.
RAINY RACE DAY EVE – AUGUST 3, 2013
Just the day before, Cebu’s sunny weather had turned to stormy in a blink of an eye. A portion of the Ironkids event on Saturday morning had to be drastically cancelled to ensure the children’s safety. We checked in our bikes with plastic bags to shield them from the rain, attended the race briefing with the Kuya Kim’s weather report as the most awaited portion, and had our last pre-race supper in Abaca underneath pouring rain.
– View from my balcony on Saturday morning scared me to death…-
– Good thing bumping into Piolo during breakfast calmed my nerves LOL –
– Checked in my bike in sunny weather, but by that evening it was pouring –
RACE DAY MORNING – AUGUST 4, 2013
I woke up at 4:00 am and uttered only two words when I heard the pitter-patter of the rain outside: Holy Crap. We received a text from the organizers that the race was still on and rain would be expected throughout the entire day.
As we headed down to check our bikes in the transition area and have a light breakfast, it was still raining. Most athletes we passed would utter the words: “Stay safe.” with a sincere look of concern for the other. I must admit I was scared to death. But, miraculously, by the time we walked out to the shore for the swim start, the sky had cleared. It was a cool, cloudy day. Just perfect for racing!
This reflected pretty much the entire journey towards Ironman 70.3 Cebu for me. There were a number of storms that hit me hard. I got into my first major bike crash in June, but got myself back on the bike and pool within 10 days. I suffered from a 3-month foot injury that prevented me from any decent run training. Three weeks prior to race day, still unable to run, I planned on a DNF after the bike portion, but after a chance visit to Miguel del Prado who, with one magical click of my foot, corrected what he said were misaligned bones, I was healed! I found myself cramming my 21k training in two weeks. From barely any running, I ran injury-free 10ks and a max of one 15k run as my training for Cebu. As a runner, I worried that I was undertrained for the run, but, at the same time, I reminded myself that I was blessed to even have the chance to run at all.
So, I did my best given the circumstances. I chose to see the storms as just that, storms that eventually dissipate and allow the sun to shine through. And so, armed with that knowledge and a newfound strength from overcoming all these obstacles thrown my way, I expected a mediocre performance for this race, but I felt like a winner just showing up at the starting line.
The voice of Coach Andy Leuterio echoed in my head. This is what he told me when I was close to giving up due to the injury: You will finish that race like a warrior!
– with my tri coach, Andy Leuterio –
SWIM: 1.9k – 44:18
The atmosphere at the shoreline of Shangrila Mactan was buzzing with excitement and positive energy. Triathletes were busy with swim warm ups, last minute preparations, or saying prayers huddled in groups.
– Walking alone towards my demise…I mean, swim start (Photo: Rizzo Tangan) –
The swim start was a deep water wave start done in three waves. As part of Wave 3, with a 6:40 AM race start, we watched all other athletes from the Pros, Elites, CEOS, and other age-groupers, begin the race. The course was a counter-clockwise rectangular 1.9k swim. It was for left-breathers which I was!
– Polo Tri huddled in prayer with me as dakilang extra (Photo: Anthony Kierulf) –
When it was our turn, we swam towards the starting line buoys around 50 meters from the shore, treaded water for 5 minutes (which felt like forever!) like sardines in a can, and we were off.
The entire course was quite confusing as the buoys were difficult to view. I simply followed the general direction all athletes were taking. It was crowded and chaotic and, females like me, were competing against stronger, bigger men. I was hit twice in the face which dislodged my goggles and got kicked hard in the chest. I focused on my strokes and pretended to be swimming in the pool with Coach Anthony Lozada by my side.
In the last few meters, the crowd had reduced and we could swim freely towards the shore with the finish line in clear sight. This was my favorite portion of the entire race. I loved every minute of it. I found my rhythm and felt relaxed. I was probably smiling the entire time.
BIKE: 90K – 3:25
I hopped on my bike feeling on top of the world after a great swim. While I did have worries due to the slippery road, I just had that feeling that everything would go well.
The 90k route was the same as last year. It 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 at Shangrila hotel.
– Bike route from my Garmin –
I felt more confident on the bike compared to last year. Now, I felt more comfortable in aero position despite the winds and the slippery roads. Every now and then, I would glance at my speed and I was thrilled to be going much faster than I did the previous year. My average speed was 29 kph for the first 30k and I thought I would finish at around 3:10 which, for me, was a huge feat!
Then, the flat tire happened. Shortly after Km 30, I slowed to a stop and discovered that my rear tire was flat. Thankfully, good friend and teammate Drew Arellano (I will forever be indebted to you Drew!) had given me his Pitstop the night before. With a marshal and a bunch of kids watching in amusement, I spent over 5 minutes fixing the problem. When I was done, I asked the marshal: Sa tingin mo, safe na ito? He shrugged his shoulders and replied: Di ko alam, Maam. I didn’t know if I was going to laugh or cry.
It was all pretty much downhill from there. My speed during the next 10k after the flat tire had slowed to 25 kph. I lost my momentum. I also worried if I was actually safe riding on a flat tire I fixed by myself (No way I trust myself with these things! LOL) so I rode with more caution.
I rode the next 60k steady but at an average pace. I finished the bike portion simply thrilled to be safe and alive.
– Done with the bike! (Photo: LeStSky) –
RUN: 21k – 2:28
This was the portion that I always looked forward to in every triathlon. But, this year, I feared it the most. I know my body so well that, based on my limited training, I was sure it was going to be a slow, painful run.
Plan was to just run safe and conservative. I didn’t want to push hard because I could risk cramping (I only did one long brick during training!) or, worse, re-injury.
Well, turns out I couldn’t even run hard even if I wanted to! The first half for me was tough already. I tried to keep a positive outlook and followed the advice of my teammate Jake de Guzman right before I left for Cebu: “Take energy from the community.”
Friends who passed would utter words of encouragement or, even better, empowerment: “You can do it!” or “Go, go, go!” and all of these helped to keep me putting one foot in front of the other.
– Managing a smile as I ended the 1st loop heading for the 2nd (Photo: Anthony Kierulf) –
The second half was worse. I was trudging along with only my will pulling me forward. I replayed my last marathon in my mind and told myself over and over “I am a marathoner!” reminding myself that this was only half of what I’ve run before. That last 4k felt like forever.
I completed the race at 6:50, exactly the same as my time last year. All that hard worked seemed wasted when one thinks there was no improvement based on the results of the race (although I suffered a flat this year and didn’t train for the run.) I won’t lie to you, the competitive athlete in me felt disappointed and frustrated. But, as I ran towards the finish line of my 2nd Ironman 70.3 completely spent and drained, I also had never felt more alive. Sen. Pia Cayetano, who was once my boss and became my running inspiration and friend, put the special Kenneth Cobonpue medal around my neck and I swear: I felt I had left the negativity and bad luck on the race course and a feeling of strength, empowerment, and renewal had taken over.
– with Apl.de.Ap and good friend Ton post race –
To all those who finished Ironman 70.3 Cebu, congratulations! To Sunrise Events, Events King, Race Mechanics, and to everyone who helped to make this event a success, thank you and well done!
Thank you to the following:
– My team Unilab Active Health. Love you guys!
– My triathlon coach, Coach Andy Leuterio. Raaawr! LOL
– My swim coach, Coach Anthony Lozada. Thanks for making me love the swim even more
– My sponsors: Enervon Activ, Sun Broadband, Gatorade, Specialized, Oakley, Otterbox, Rocktape, Peak Form, and Quaker Oats. Huge thanks for always being there!
Read about my Ironman 70.3 Cebu 2012 by clicking HERE