Sunday, August 7, 2016

Cobra Ironman 70.3 Phillipines Cebu 2016

Cobra Ironman 70.3 Philppines Cebu 2016
[7 Aug 2016]
The gang:
[Front] Ann Kheen, Jason, PL, a friend, Gerard
[Back] Huimei, InnInn, me, Jacky, Francis, Charles, Rudin
[Still sleeping] KC Obama
[Still test-swimming] Moses
[Photo: Rudin Leong]

~ An Ironman 70.3 of Hospitality, Sun, Sea, Lechon and plenty of Pinoy Partying!

Landed in Cebu Mactan airport 4:45pm on Friday 5th Aug 2016

I must have been a tad out of my mind to want to do two 70.3 events within a short span of three weeks. But life is such. And circumstances presented the opportunities again and again for the very event. So when the second time round it happened, I thought it probably was my fate.

Fann grabbing her once in a lifetime chance at a podium finish at the Cebu airport.
"Early early asked you to sign up, you hung up and sell. See lah.. I told you already. You have to be here one," ngam-cham Francis.
Yeah lah. This Francis always had ways to connect with me, be it in the shower cubicle or wherever.
Thanks to the generosity of my another very good friend Meng, we ended on board Tiger Air TR2271 on a Friday morning 5th Aug 2016, a few days prior to National Day, headed towards the land where the Spanish first set foot on the beautiful island city of Lapu Lapu, off Cebu island, where Ironman was holding its 2016 Asia-Pacific Championship Ironman 70.3.
"This is the championship ok! Once in a lifetime one." declared Francis some time ago.
"Yah, the atmosphere is going to be fantastic," added Gerard.
Ann Kheen and Charles specially bought their spanking new hard bike cases to transport their equally spanking bikes for the race.
This event was so highly sought after that all the 2600 places were snapped up within 28mins after it was opened for registration on line.
Charles and KC Obama were killing each other over who was going to do which leg of their relay races that they had to resort to a coin toss for the coveted right to swim. KC Obama ended up gleefully the winner of the toss.

I was impressed by the efficiency of the organiser and the official hotel.  Our names were all in their list and their shuttle came in no time to bus us.  Although the short 5km journey took close to one hour along the ML Quezon Highway due to terribly congested traffic.
So the stage was set at the eleventh hour- Serene would be there as a supporter for me. And Fann would be in Cebu for two days of diving. She was so excited because Cebu WAS one of the places famous for scuba diving.

The Video

Here is the official video of the event.

Lapu Lapu City

Gerard, Ann Kheen, Francis and Charles were already in a feeding frenzy at the Carbo-loading festival, even as Serene, Fann and myself were stranded in traffic on our way to the hotel.
[Photo: PL]

We flew in via TigerAir the budget way, because the price was $452 per person, half the price of an SQ Ticket by the time we went online to book our flights.  And the take off time from Singapore 10:45am was about the same as those on the SQ Flight.  And the good thing was, Cebu was in the same time zone as Singapore.  So there was no time difference. Bravo!

Lapu Lapu City was a small little island. And the airport was smacked right on the northern edge of Lapu Lapu, about 5km away from the official event hotel Shangri-la Mactan Resort.
It was a rainy afternoon when we landed and the short distance to Shangri-la took almost one hour along the ML Quezon Highway, a narrow thoroughfare choked full of small tuk-tuks, cars and motorbikes, sharing the road with people strolling along the edge of the road, holding their toddlers hands and children running and having fun along the road.

The whole street was lined with Cobra banners and the Ironman 70.3 banners.  It was quite an event for the city.
By the time we arrived at the Resort, the sun had set. But Shangri-la was still shining brightly.  This resort was indeed world class. The rooms were beautiful and the sprawling compound was manned by knowledgeable and polite staff. This was my very first time to The Philippines and right from the moment we landed the hospitality and the genuine warmth of the people struck us. Every one, from the sales staff at the Globe booth at the airport, to the villagers along the roadside.

Click on the photo below for an even more MACHO view of Francis the IronChef.
Our good Francis had already done his Athlete registration as Silk Air touched down early
and they had no need to deal with flight delays and such.
Their spontaneity and willingness to help, and their smile from deep within were obviously something genetically programmed right from young.
"Be careful when you are in Cebu," warned some friends. "There are guns all over the place. And be careful about Abu Sayaf."

Another Iron Chef on the podium having his ink done. [Photo: Gerard]
 "When I was in Cebu, I saw more guns in a day than I ever saw elsewhere in a year," said another good friend.
Haha... we would keep an eye out for them.  But sincerely our minds were focussed on the event itself.
Big jam en route to hotel.

I guessed a huge international championship like this would have well-secured venues and the organizers would not dare take any risk, unless we wandered out on our own to the densely populated parts of the city.
Serene was given strict instructions to remain in the hotel while waiting for us on race day. And Fann was not going to be far away from the hotel, participating in the diving programe offered by an affiliated diving centre on Saturday and Sunday. Another diving centre that she originally corresponded with couldn't accommodate her because on both days the road closures around Shangrila made it impossible for their transport to fetch her.
So ok. The plan was all beautifully laid down. I would race. Serene would enjoy her massage in the spa. And Fann would go diving.

At the Carbo-loading dinner on Friday night.

Party City

[Photo: Fann]

The Pinoys really knew how to party. Right from the moment we reached Shangri-la, the huge stage was already hosting flamboyantly dressed dancers and music was blasting at top decibels all around. The carbo loading dinner on Friday night resembled a disco, just that everyone was comfortably seated on cushions around low round tables, tucking into the famous Cebuano lechon, pork, pork and more pork. The banana cakes were also lovely.

A Video of the partying at the Carbo loading dinner.

Gerard, PL and Francis and Charles, who arrived earlier on Silk Air so kindly da-baoed dinner for us, worrying that we may miss the food. Very thoughtful of them.
"So do you want to assemble the bike tonight?" asked Francis.
"Aiyah, come lah. Let's do it tonight lah so that tomorrow we can go for an early morning test ride," I volunteered.
Assembling the Pink Monster in Room 7063.
I was glad that I had a chance to dissemble and assemble Francis's bike. Because his pedals were different from mine. And I learned how to strip them. With every race trip overseas, I learned something new.
"Ok so the plan is this," announced Gerard. "Tomorrow morning let's have breakfast at 6:30am. Then after that we will go for a test ride on our bikes. Then when they open the swim course at 9am we will do out test swim. And after lunch we can check in our bikes. What do you guys think?"
Of course we were happy. The boss of GTravel always had well-planned suggestions. Just follow. Won't go wrong one.
I remembered reading one of the articles posted by an Ironman coach, that one had to resist partying wildly and having oneself totally spent the day(s) leading up to the race, because Ironman events would invariably have pre-race parties, and exciting Expos and celebrities-studded performances. So I was determined to eat really clean and rest well for the two nights.  Alas, there wasn't such a thing as 'eating clean' in Cebu. Every meal was a feast, and the tables were heaped full of barbecued meat and Phillipino delicacies of all tastes and aroma. I simply couldn't escape gorging my stomach silly with crispy pork skin meal after meal. Secretly I worried if I had signed my own DNF.

Our first view of the huge room 1006.
Our hotel room was massive, and the balcony faced the oh-so-inviting swimming pool. Sadly till the very last day I hadn't the chance to dip in.
I had been frantically trying to recover from some muscle soreness over the quads and the calves. I needed to be as fresh as I could because this Cebu 70.3 was notorious for the strong headwind on an otherwise relatively flat cycling leg, not to forget the scorching heat. The Cebuano sea water was a totally different thing altogether. The water was crystal clear but depending on one's luck, the current could be daunting. In fact the Cebu Ironman 70.3 in 2015 had to have the swim leg cut-off extended by 15 minutes because strong waves slowed down everyone. In the end there were 120 participants who had to DNF on last year's swim leg.
Armed with these knowledge, I was prepared to face the inevitable should it come to that.

6th August 2016. Saturday.

"Extra cheese for my omelette please!"

Generous spread of buffet breakfast at 6:30am overwhelmed us. I succumbed to the fatty meat, and aromatic bacon. Boy, would I suffer later.
Serene couldn't conceal her delight upon meeting Viena again for breakfast.
We gathered at the lobby with our bikes at 7:30am.

[Photo: Serene]
"Ok let's try to cycle on the actual road of the cycle leg. Let's see if we can reach the bridge," suggested Gerard.
[Photo: Serene]

But the bridge didn't materialise because the moment we hit the road, we were swamped by vehicles from all directions. Charles was leading in front, but soon we decided to turn back cos even if we'd made it to the bridge it would had been a nightmare trying to negotiate the traffic coming back.

[Photo: Serene]

We took a detour, and met Jason, Jacky, Rudin, InnInn, HuiMei and gang walking from their hotel just next door.

The diver and the triathlete. [Photo: Serene]
Eventually we simply cycled on the route of the run leg. It turned out to be a short and slow ride.
But already I found that my head tube was loose and my power meter gave no readings.
I managed to tighten the head tube, at the expense of Ann Kheen's thumb (poor thing. Sorry, Ann Kheen). The problem was, I couldn't find the tiny screw driver needed to change the battery (which I brought) for my power meter. Even the bike mechanics didn't have that screw driver. Ann Kheen and Charles offered theirs but they wouldn't fit.
Click to enlarge.
[Photo: Rudin Leong]
"I changed all my batteries before I came," said Gerard.
Gerard, on brand new cadence sensor battery, heart rate monitor battery and power meter battery.
[Photo: Jason Tan]

Yah lor... I was really complacent this time round. The only battery I changed was the cadence sensor battery. The movement while being transported in the plane must have shifted the battery contacts or something.
"Bo bian," laughingly I told the guys as we had dinner later that evening. "I just have to follow Ann Kheen's time-tested advice - go by First Principle... ". Whatever that meant, Newtonian or what.

Charles on the test ride. [Photo: Jason Tan]

A happy Ann Kheen on the test ride. [Photo: Jason Tan]
"At least I still have my heart rate monitor," I was reassured. Can lah. I can still race with the HR strap.  Never mind lah.  Just suck it up.
"Charles, Francis, let's pull up at the side here.  Traffic is too heavy.  Shall we make a U-turn?" requested our athlete of the gentler gender, and rightfully so.
And here Gerard grabbed the chance to snap a wefie to remember this test ride.

Moses and I at the Athlete Registration
[Photo: Serene]

Those who were familiar with the Ironman scene would be pleased to find themselves pampered from head to toe in this Championship. After I did the athlete registration I was ushered to stand on a platform where a gentlest of male with immaculate eye makeup and powdered cheeks carefully applied the number tattoos on my arms and my calves. I felt like a King for the moment. We were lucky because next to us was a few celebrities, actors and actresses who were having their tattooing done, including a handsome mane called Ding Dong. Apparently they were going to be racing too. This event must have been really something big.

The moment KC Obama won Charles for the right to the Swim Leg on the toss of a coin.
[Photo: Serene]
Charles getting himself psyched up for the 1.5km test swim.
[Photo: Serene]

Swim course. 10am. Saturday.

This was the first time I ever seen such well laid-out swim lanes. The yellow ball-buoys were so closely lined up all the way along the swim route that we hardly needed to do any sighting. I was lucky. The buoys were on my right side, as the swim course meandered in a clockwise direction.
Meeting Jacky and Jason on their way back from their test swim.
[Click to enlarge]
The water was crystal crystal clear. And I could look right down and see rocks, corals, and what appeared to my untrained eyes as clown fishes of different hues. Some blue and white, some yellow and white and others just black and white. I even spotted a blue star fish on the sea bed. I was specially on the lookout for the ripples on the seabed, as instructed by Kong Wan, to aid me in my navigation during the race. But the whole floor was so scattered with rocks that I could find no ripples. So there went my plan to navigate the way of the divers.
The crystal clear water
[Click to enlarge. Photo: Serene]
Gerard was complaining that the sea water was very salty. Yea it was. But with the saltiness came an enhanced buoyancy. Francis loved the swim. He remarked that it was somehow effortless. Charles did a 1.5km swim, that champion of a guy.
A sunny morning for a test swim
[Click to enlarge]

The only one who complained was KC Obama.
"Wah it was so breathless," this KC Obama said to Serene after this short test swim.
With the right to the Swim leg upon him, KC Obama kao beh-ed that the swim was breathless.
He promptly went up to his room, emerging later with multiple urticarial rashes on his body from sea micro-organism kisses. Somehow The President and the sea weren't the best of friends.
For me, I enjoyed the test swim. The sea water was cool in the hot sun of late morning, and although I did shudder a little as I entered the water, the clarity with which I could make out the surrounding took out the apprehension. Out there was even a platform where many swimmers stood on for a breather. Interestingly I spied a huge school of tiny fishes just beneath this platform.

Ann Kheen with his positive demonstration how to do a SEA Games swim.
I wanted to test out the current. On the race day, it would be four days after the new moon, and the forecasted wind from the south west direction was estimated to be 20-25km/h. The swim leg towards the left right out of the rocky shore was quite comfortable. But further out to sea, once I made the u-turn, and headed to the right, I could feel the force of the current resisting my forward movement. The waves were choppy out there, and I was rocked from side to side, only falling slightly short of developing some vertigo. It was at this point that I regretted eating too much for breakfast for I could feel the regurgitation of acid and food as I was affected by that mild motion-sickness.

The boss of GTravel complaining the sea was too salty for his taste.
More eye-opening as an experience for me was the fact that when I turned to breathe, the passing wave formed a crest right in front of my face, blocking my view and hindered my breathing. That was really a first for me. Now I understood how it felt. In several ways this test swim prepared me for the next day's race.
I found it difficult to sight strangely, even through my de-fogged goggles. My sole reassurance was the omni-present yellow buoys on my right.

"You notice that everybody is swimming very close to the line of yellow buoys on the right side of the lane," pointed out our swimming coach Francis. Truly observant. But definitely this would be a strategy most right-breathers would adopt.
"The water is so salty," complained the boss of GTravel as he came out of the water.
"It's so hot out here!" kao-beh-ed Serene as usual.
Moses arrived at the swim site at that moment, after he finished his test ride.
"Aaron couldn't come for the race," Moses shared with us. "His wife is due to deliver any time."
The brothers were supermen in Ironman races, coming in usually around 5 hours plus, and would usually participate in all the events together.
After the Registration.
I was careful not to exert myself during my 800m test swim. But somehow I felt a twinge of soreness in my right biceps. I was determined to rest well for the remainder of the day. But not before visiting the Expo.
A gentle Pinoy(nay) helped me with registration. 

Browsing at the expos was always an exciting part of the race. There were plenty of representation - Oakly, Specialized, Rudy.. Many. This Expo was different from the one in Busselton where deeply discounted merchandise abound. The Pinays were gorgeously decked out in their elaborate traditional costumes.

 The famous Phillipino hospitality was prominent when the pretty girl at the Cobra energy drink counter offered to fill up Serene's water bottle.

The Pinoy celebrity Ding Dong having
his tattoo inked.  A commotion started
when the handsome star walked in.

And Serene took the opportunity to
take a shot with him.

3pm plus. We strolled into the Transition for our bike checkin.

3pm. Bike check-in.
All the bikes were systematically slotted by their rear wheels into the individual boxes.

To beat the late check-in penalty fees of US$100, and yet to escape having our bike tyres exposed unnecessarily long to the midday sun, we chose to go in at 3pm. Apparently many had the same idea. So a long queue snaked. Surprisingly the check-in staffs were very strict and they checked our identities and made us say our names out loud as they took mug shots of us holding our bikes in the check-in tents.

Having his mugshot taken. [Photo: Gerard's handphone]
I was impressed by how well organized the transition area was. Each athlete was availed a generous boxed-up space. And instead of the usual railings to hang our bikes there was a slot beside the boxes to hold the bike with its rear wheel inserted.

6:30pm. Dinner at the Chinese restaurant

We managed to get a tablet at the Chinese restaurant and had a lovely pre-race dinner. [Photo: Ann Kheen]

A nice and quiet restaurant with duck and Chinese food to set our mood for tomorrow's event, this dinner was unforgettable as we all talked and joked, and Elaine and Viena shared many of their experiences.
I learned from experience that my dinner the night before must not be heavy, so that I wouldn't over load my digestive system.

8:30pm. Time to sleep.

As everybody retired to his room, I dragged my body, fully compressed with compression tight and calf sleeves, back to our really spacious room for my mandatory very early night's sleep. After Bintan last year, I realised how important it was to retire really early the night before an event.

Race day 
[7th Aug 2016] 

Early morning breakfast 4am.

4am. Athletes' breakfast at Tides Restaurant.

Half an hour was all it took for me to get washed up and dressed up in my Tri suit complete with HR strap and calf compression sleeves with the timer chip on my left ankle, and be seated having a nice easy carb breakfast, specially avoiding milk.

My breakfast for race day.
5am. Preparation of transition area.
This time round I continued to minimise my equipment, opting not to use cycling gloves. With each passing event, I gradually found myself using lesser and lesser amount of nutrition during the race.
This time I prepared three 750ml bottles of Elo water, two to be consumed during the bike leg and one to be carried off as I set off for the run and to be discarded after I finish off the bottle, 3-4km into the run.

My plan was to start off with one gel 15 minutes before the swim, and only start eating after 15 minutes on the bike when my heart rate started to slow down. I would take one Alpen muesli bar (each providing 123 Cal) every 15 minutes and a gel at the top of the hour, giving myself about 460 Cal an hour on the bike. The fueling plan for the run was to be more conservative as I didn't want to suffer stomach upset and diarrhoea on the run. I just hoped that the water stations during the run would have sufficient ice cubes left to cool me down.
Well, I have done all that I could. And as I made my way back to the room to relieve myself bowelly for the second time that morning, my thoughts drifted back to some time a couple of weeks ago, when I convinced myself to just enjoy the race and learn everything that I could from it.
Serene and Elaine joining the crowd right at the swim start. [Photo: Charles]
Yes, every race was a learning experience. And although I must admit that my ad-hoc kind of training was never in any way sufficiently structured to attain any discernible improvement in my results, but I had learned over time that this kind of event was all about endurance, and about knowing how to conserve and to avoid bonking by making stupid mistakes. Although having speed was a bonus, but speed in whichever discipline required two important aspects in addition to good techniques - strength of the relevant muscle groups, and enough mileage at aerobic zone as part of the training to stimulate mitochondrial development. With working long hours and being constantly tired and stressed by life and the demands of work, our modern lives didn't offer us the best ingredients for training. But many working adults just had to make do. I was no exception.

A fantastic shot of us by Charles.

My newly acquired GPS tracker was turned on, SIM card inserted and resting inside m helmet on the bike, ready to be worn once I was out from the water. This GPS tracker was tiny. Weighing about 50grams, it was bought online and it would send a signal via data every 30 seconds to allow any body with the handphone App to locate where I was. I did this because Serene had always complained that she didn't know exactly where I was on a race and she would worry for me. This GPS tracker could even allow me to call two pre-set phone numbers on the SOS buttons 1 and 2. So it was perfect.
Myself, Jason, HuiMei, InnInn and Rudin.
[Click to Enlarge]


Serene, I and Fann walked out to the swim start point. It was already full of people. The sky had lit up as Cebu's sunrise was always early. I saw Jason, Inn Inn and Rudin. And later found Francis, KC Obama, Gerard and PL. Ann Kheen was nowhere to be found. That fellow must have inserted himself way in front.

With my newly acquainted friend Ben (standing beside me) and his friends from Singapore. This Ben finished in 6 hour 30mins, damn fast.  And it was his first 70.3! Great job! [Click to enlarge]
[Can click]

Swim Leg
Click on the above to see my Strava for the swim.
Click here for the Flyby on Strava for a view of our swim.

Warm up

This swim leg was that of a wave start, and participants would start according to their own estimated timing for completion of the 1.9km swim route. We positioned ourselves in the 46 minutes pent.
"Better to start a little in front right?" said Gerard. "Not so demoralising mah, right?"
What he said made sense.
"Francis, I am just going to draft you all the way," KC Obama was determined.
Charles catching our attention as we waved to him, walking slowly to the start on this rolling start.
[Photo: Charles]

For me, I'd just follow them. But knowing myself, I had never ever successfully drafted any of these fellows in the water. I never was fast enough.


One Ang Moh just in front of us pointed out how slowly and carefully the swimmers ahead were gingerly walking into the water.
"There are plenty of rocks on the sea bed," he warned. "Better don't run in. We'd better just walk slowly."
[Photo: Charles' camera]

And slowly walked I did, treading carefully on the rocky surfaces. 7:47am. Francis, Gerard, PL and KC Obama have all started swimming in front of me. But I was still carefully walking on the rocky floor. Some of the rocks were jutting out with sharp edges. I kept losing my balance and I finally fell kneeling onto a rock, grazing the right knee. Silly.
By the time the thousand odd athletes walked through the starting line, the water was no longer as clear.

Me running out at 48 mins. Slow in every respect, but I'm happy because I still had petrol in the tank.
[Photo: FinisherPix official photo]
I didn't care, and after about 10-20 metres out, I launched myself into the water, with Serene's favourite Kit Chan song humming in my head.  I'd totally lost the boys and girl by then. Jason, Inn Inn, Huei Mei, Rudin and Jacky must have been way ahead because I totally didn't see any of them.
All around me were brightly coloured tri-suits hugging tanned and lean bodies. This was the most congested swim I'd ever had. I was swimming body to body on my left and right, and with each stroke I couldn't help but ended up slapping the body on each side of me, several times catching the elbow of the front swimers and kicking the one behind me. I felt so apologetic and tried saying sorry to some of them. As this was a free for all rolling start, the men and women were mixed together. A few of the unfortunate ones who I slapped and molested in the swim turned out to be ladies. I only found out after I spied their full bosoms when I turned my face to breathe. Poor girls. They must've been traumatised.

[Photo: FinisherPix official photo]
Francis later on remarked that he was being shoved and was fighting for space right from the beginning of the swim even right up to the end, a sentiment that I shared exactly.  Along the way I tried to keep very close to the yellow buoys on my right side and had to fight with many swimmers for the right to be next to the buoys as everyone had the same idea. Keeping to the line meant I only had to sight ONCE throughout the whole swim. What a luxury.
Many of the swimmers were holding on to the ropes and resting on the side, reminiscent of what happened to me on my first race in Putrajaya.

​Out of nowhere came a feet smacked right onto my face and my goggle got kicked silly and began leaking. I was quietly cursing my luck while reaching out for the rope to steady myself and do a goggle adjustment drill. It took me twice before the leakage was sorted out. Haha.. Now I knew why so many swimmers were holding on to the ropes.
"Wow, someone kicked on my watch during the swim and accidentally hit the PAUSE button, that was why my swim leg wasn't recorded completely!" kao beh-ed Francis after the swim.
The current was still strong on race day 400m out to sea. The reminder rang in my head to conserve conserve and conserve on the swim, paying attention to not over-rotate, which was an oft-committed mistake on my part.
A quick glimpse at my 920XT as I ran out of the water revealed 48 minutes. I was personally happy with that as I was never a strong swimmer. But I was smiling as I emerged. And I was actually running that long carpeted path towards the transition. This was the most comfortable run out of the water. I must have been successful in conserving my tank.

Jason happily making his way into T1. [Photo: Serene]

Transition 1
Francis coming out of the water very quickly. [Photo: Serene]

Sunglasses on, helmet straped, GPS tracker hung, I stuffed three gels into my right rear pocket and ran off with the bike. It was a fast transition for me. But imagine my surprise when I had to queue up to exit the transition. Francis was just beside me as we both queued up. And it wasn't a short queue. Some parts of the path were not properly covered by the carpet and my bare feet took the brunt of the rocky ground beneath. This was shocking. An Asia-Pacific Championship and all had to queue to leave T1! My T1 ended up more than 7 minutes. Not that it made any difference to me. But for some of those who were racing seriously this was something that the organisers needed to look into.
KC Obama  showing how to do it without donning a Tri suit. [Photo: Seerene]

Me very happy to see my Dar as she called out for me en route to T1.

Bike leg
Click to go into the Strava for my cycling leg

Click here for the Flyby on Strava for an animated view of our ride.

A view from up atop the Marcelo Feman Bridge across the Mactan Channel.
[Photo: FinisherPix official photo]
The road condition along the single laned M.L. Quezon National Highway from Transition to the Mercelo Feman Bridge linking the island of Lapu Lapu City to Cebu island was not exactly the best. Uneven cement surfaces and small pot holes had to be avoided. Apparently many of the holes have been covered up as preparation to the race, but still I had to be careful along the whole route.
Ann Kheen climbing up Marcelo Feman Bridge. [Photo: Running Photographers]
The Marcelo Feman bridge was the first steep climb of the route, 10km into the ride. Thankfully this crossing over the MacTan Channel wasn't too bad, with about 6-7% gradient. But what hit me hard as I made the left turn, was the first hint of the notorioius headwind.
Yours truly spinning up. [Photo: Running Photographers]
A couple of days ago Gerard did a check and shared with us the information that the forecasted wind speed to be about 20km/hr on the race day. I confirmed later that the wind was indeed 25km/hr. The route was generally flat, with just a few small gentle climbs. However, coupled with the headwind, my speed dropped to 20-21km/hr, despite keeping myself small on the aerobar. I was sorely aware of my lack of strength training on the bike. But the Ang Mohs were flying still despite the headwind with average speed of 40-42km/hr.
Charles cheonging up. [Photo: Running Photographers]
It was later that Charles told me that he kinda cheong-ed at the start of the cycling leg, then realised a little later that he had to slow down a bit to pace himself. But looking at the Strava Flyby, I couldn't find any signs that he was slowing down after he overtook me right at the end of Marcelo Feman Bridge.
Francis as cool as a cucumber. [Photo: Running Photographers]
Not having any readings from my power meter, I kept a close eye on my heart rate. But as Murphy's Law would have things, about 15km into the ride, my Garmin warned that the battery on my heart rate monitor was low! Before long, my HR went from 130+ to 160 and then to 170, 190 and 200+. It was going bonkers liao. Without my power meter reading I had to resort to First Principle with my conservation strategies based on HR. But now with the HR readings going down the drain, I had no principles what-so-ever to follow. It was so funny, in retrospect, as I just went by feeling from that point onward.
The outward leg towards Talisay City was plagued by headwind all the way, as around me cyclists were panting and struggling to fight against the gusts. I tried to dart behind some passing cyclists as I overtook others on their left, hoping to gain a few seconds of relief. My average speed was about 24.8km/hr. I desperately spinned just to keep myself from over-exerting.
I must admit that I was guilty of the crime of drafting, albeit about 3-4 metres, behind some faster riders, but always mindful of being caught by the marshalls, thus only for a couple of tens of seconds and I was back in the slow lane.
The marshalls were pretty strict on this race, and a couple of our friends were pulled to one side for drafting penalties. I was really surprised to hear at the end of the race.

Making the U-turn at the proximal end, to start another stretch of headwind-gusts.  [Photo: FinisherPix official photo]

Once I made the U turn at Talisay, the tail wind lifted my speed and I was effortlessly going at late 30's and 40's km/hr. That was the nicest part of the ride, I found.
The CSCR (Cebu South Coastal Roade) Tunnel right after the 20km point was a down slope into a really dark surrounding. The descent meant my speed shot up to more than 50km/hr, speeding rapidly downward in darkness with cyclists not far from me. Thankfully my transition lenses adjusted very rapidly and my eyes adapted to the darkness quickly.
Francis kao-beh-ed about this tunnel, complaining that he couldn't see a thing once he entered the tunnel.
In addition, Ann Kheen had a scary encountered in the tunnel. A female athlete walked across the road as he sped down the slope within the dar tunnel and Ann Kheen had to skid to avoid hitting the lady, after which he had to steady and collect himself.
What a tunnel it was.

My limited neck flexibility meant that being on the aero-position, I couldn't look too far ahead. So I ended up having my sight tuned on the cyclist ahead of me. Sadly, my initial intention of wanting to enjoy the nice view around failed to materialise. And I couldn't see any of my friends on the bike ride, although Goh Inn Inn did say after the race she spotted me over-taking her. I think she was being modest, for on the bike ride, I was being over-taken more than I was over-taking.
I was quite confident that the two bottles of Elo water mixed with BCAA on my bike helped me tremendously. I wasn't overly breathless, partly due to the oxygenated water, and also due to the fact that I diligently consumed the Alpen Raspberry Muesli bars every 15 minutes, and a gel at the top of the hour. My failed attempt at consuming rolled oats and protein powder for my first race in Putrajaya, and the watery stools 16 packets of gel gave me on my Busselton race, had forced me to streamline my nutrition to this. A replacement of 469 Cal an hour on the bike, and 223 Cal an hour on the run, would give me a total in excess of 2000 Cal. Enough lah.
Ann Kheen was the champion. For the whole race, he only needed four gels. Four gels! Unfathomable. Compared with him, I would have looked like lugging a whole lorryload of food and drinks along with me.
"The Tri bike was a definite positive for this race," said Ann Kheen after everything.
He was dead correct. And many Filippinos shared the same sentiment as apparent from their stylish high-end Tri bikes. I personally hadn't seen so many Tri bikes before in all the races I'd been.
It was hot. But the wind blowing in my hair made it much more endurable on the ride. With 80km behind me, I think my conservation had worked.
Coming into the Transition at the end of the cycling leg. [Photo: FinisherPix official photo]

The last 10km I decided to blast the pedals a little faster and I went with the feel. Looking at the Strava Flyby subsequently, I thought that was the correct strategy for me moving forward. And as mentioned by some coaching articles, this stretch was also the time to cycle out of the saddle for short distances to activate the running muscles in getting ready for T2. I threw my empty bottle to the excited children by the road side, and coasted back into Transition. Not a fast ride. But given the wind conditions, I could not do any better lah.

Transition 2

Carefully slotting the rear wheel into the wooden box, I ripped the helmet off, slapped on my Orca net cap, pulled up my WM socks, slipped on my Hoka One One Conquest 2, and grabbed a bottle of BCAA fortified Elo water. Finally I was able to race without cycling gloves. Perhaps that might just saved me a few insignificant seconds, but still, one item less wass one item less to worry about.

Run leg
Click on the above to go into the Strava for my slow run leg.
Click here to view an animated Flyby on Strava of our run.

Indeed, by the time I started my run, it was already 11:31am, and man was it getting hotter! The Cebuano sun smiled at me as I shuffled across the timer belt. The only difference between Cebu and my previous race in Busselton was, my thighs were thankfully not screaming in cramps this time round.
"See beh heng ah!" I quietly muttered to myself.
My hope was all on that one bottle of 650ml BCAA-ed Elo water in my right hand. My other hope was on that the water stations would still have sufficient ice cubes by the time slow runners like me arrive at each aid station. Putrajaya had ice cubes, Bintan ran out of ice cubes. I was banging on this being a Championship race for their ice cubes.

The Run Out.... hot, hot and hot. [Photo: Jason Tan]

A short distance out of Transition the run route turned right along Punta Engano Road. This little single-laned road was a delightful thoroughfare, taking us through the little shops and houses on both sides all the way to the tip of the peninsula. The Fillippino children and town people were out in full forces cheering and actually screaming. Many groups of school students still in their uniforms were dancing and cheering in cheer-leading fashion with synchronised choruses and dance steps. Boy, was I impressed.

Francis right out of T2. [Photo: Somebody, can't remember who took the shot]
Many houses and guesthouses had powerful beats blasting from their compounds and people on the streets were dancing to them. My heart was in synchrony but my feet hadn't enough stength to follow. Still, step by step I went.
My friend Ian qualifying for Chattanooga, Tennessee with his fantastic timing.
[Photo: Running Photographers]

3km into the run, I spotted Ann Kheen running back in the opposite direction. I thought to myself he must be finishing already. I waved to him and he waved back, a dead serious expression on his face.
There were stretches of shades which were relief from the beating sun. The water stations were also very close together and the warmth of the volunteers coupled with the coldness of the ice cubes and chilled drinks were much welcomed.

I was so inspired when I saw this physically challenged athlete on the run.
[Photo: Running Photographers]
5km into the run, I lifted up my GPS tracker and called Serene on her handphone.
"Dar I am at 5km now. Still going. Feeling good!" I announced.
I remembered at 8km I called Fann.
"Keep running, Uncle!" she said over the phone.
On my second round, with one thread around my neck.
[Photo: FinisherPix official photo]

I really loved this GPS tracker. It allowed everybody to track me on a handphone App, and the two SOS buttons on the gadget allowed me to call just by pressing the number, literally speaking over the tiny box like a walkie talkie.
Serene tracking me on the iPhone App.
Along the way, I saw Jason, Rudin, Jacky running back and happily waved to them. These guys had always been fast runners and Cebu was a playground for them.

Jacky euphoric as he crossed the finishing line. [Photo: Running Photographers]

Many of the racers were amateurs like myself, amateurs of all shapes and sizes, physically challenged athletes, huge size men and women giving their all on the run leg. Seeing them gave me the motivation to keep going. I wasn't going to stop, no matter how slow I was running. My heart rate was at zone 2, but leg fatigue was setting in. The volunteers helped me dropped ice cubes into the back of my tri suit, and gave me ice cubes to cap over my head. The cold was so freezing that at some point it caused the skin to be painful. But I didn't care. The cold kept me going.

Ann Kheen on the home run. [Photo: Serene]

I was reaching the round-about at the tip of the peninsula, and an official handed me a pink rafia thread. I was puzzled.
"How many of these do I need to collect?" I asked one runner next to me.
"Three." he said (which, in retrospect, was an absolutely wrong answer.  I was supposed to collect only two.)
Now that got me worried. I was lazy and didn't attend the pre-race briefing so I didn't know the route and all. I kept looking for the U-turn to bring myself back to the round about but the signboards kept bringing me further and further away.
"Where is the turn-around ah?" I asked another Pinoy.
"It's the same route," he replied. I really didn't understand.
"How many of the pink thread do we need to collect?" I asked this man.
"Two," he said, correctly.
Now reality begun to dawn. We needed to do two loops of this. Shucks. I wasn't even half way through. Served me right for not attending the briefing lah.

Jason going for the line. [Photo: Serene]
I had little choice but to keep running, back towards the direction of the Transition, hoping to see the U-turn. But this U-turn proved to be elusive.
"This U-turn is the longest one. I kept running but it just won't appear," complained Ann Kheen after the race. I knew what he meant.
Gerard and PL came running in the opposite direction, and boy was I glad to see them.
"Going strong!" called out Gerard, ever so encouraging. Thanks to his recommendation of Elo Water, without which I don't think I'd have made it.
Somewhere further down I spotted Francis in the opposite direction.
"Last round already!" shouted Francis to me.
"Nope. One more round," I replied.
Inn Inn had always been a strong runner. [Photo: Serene]

My watch said 10km. I had been neglecting my nutrition. I only took one muesli bar and one gel so far. At every water station, I'd grab at least two cups of water. I surprised myself this round for not going for the isotonic gatorade but mostly just plain water.
By now I'd come to accept that my pace was to be a slow one. But I was ready to complete the whole distance. With every step I was closer to the end. One kilometre by one kilometre I drew nearer. I gave up looking straight but just kept my line of vision glued to the ground a couple of metres in front of me, as if by doing so, I'd reduce the pain and kept my mind away from how far the distance was in front.

President Obama must have learned the 'Look at the ground, not in front' strategy
from yours truly, when you are really shagged but still needed to keep going.
[Photo: FinisherPix official photo]
5km left, I grabbed one gel and gulped it down. By now, some of the water stations had run out of ice. But water would do just fine. I kept washing bottles of plain water down my head, desperate to cool my core temperature.

Charles and KC Obama crossed the finishing line hand in hand, Charles probably done his 21km in slippers.
[Photo: FinisherPix official photo]
3km left. The third and final gel. I remembered a recent article I read that said at 18km one could just let go and give all out. Tried as I was, I could muster no more speed out of the tired muscle fibres in my legs. It was the home run. The side of the road was lined by excited children asking for 'chocolate'. I grinned and threw my last two muesli bars into the squealing group.
At the line. [Photo: Charles]

Then it came. The carpeted ground. The supporters shouted: "200m more!" and I took off.  Rounding the corner, I saw Serene on the right side of the railing waving to me.
"Dar I run with you!" called out Serene.
But I couldn't stop to run in with her. It was just too close to the end, I just had to keep going.
Crossing the line was really euphoric.

The Pinays very warmly put on my medals for me. [Photo: Charles]
"Dar, I finished!" I called out to Serene.
A jubilant me. [Photo: FinisherPix official photo]
"Take a wefie here!" I told Serene right after the finishing line.

And then I started limping. It really didn't matter any more, even if my legs gave way now. The job was done. And I was just glad that the transition wasn't far from the finishing line, and thankfully our room was just within a short limping distance.

Happy to see Jason, Inn Inn and Rudin relaxing at the end.  But too bad by the time I came in the Ice creams had all run out.
Too bad.  The ice creams were specially for fast finishers. Hahaha!

KC Obama had showered and changed by the time I came in. This man was fast.

Post race lechon feast

Gerard specially arranged a lechon feast in a local restaurant not far from the hotel to celebrate the completion of the race.
"It's a lechon feast. My ex-staff Donna highly recommended this restaurant. And also the fresh mango. " he said.
In fact it turned out that Gerard's ex-staff Donna actually sponsored the freshly peng-kanged lechon for our whole group! Wow... many many thanks to Donna!

And 6pm the transport came and we all were shuttled, in a short 30 minutes drive, to a cosy little eating place.

The big gang. [Photo: Charles camera]

We gobbled and relished the crunchy skin of the pig and had a great time with beer and whisky, courtesy of Charles. Even Jacky was enticed with quite a few glasses of the good stuff.
"Langkawi!" Said Jacky when asked what was his next event. Wah that one would be out of my league. In fact Rudin and Jacky were going to be doing that together. My respect!
Me congratulating Rudin and Jacky on jobs well done. [Photo: Charles]

Inn Inn would be going for the Bintan 70.3 and Hui Mei targeting to conquer the FIM Busselton in December.
This dinner was fruitful in many other ways. Ann Kheen, Francis and Gerard were at their utmost best forms and somehow at the end of the night Charles found himself ready to click on the 'Register' button for the Bintan 70.3 in three weeks' time. We had ourselves another fellow shower cubicle sharer!
We sat and ate, ate and talked, talked and drank, and didn't realise that the time flew by like the headwind in Cebu.  By the time we returned to the hotel, most of us dragged our shagged bodies to dissemble our bikes and pack for the flight the next day back home.

The race ended.
The lechon devoured.
The fresh mangoes boxed up and carted home.
I looked back at the whole event with plenty of fond memories. This was my first time to the colourful land of The Phillippines, experiencing the genuine warmth of the Fillippinos. It gave me a totally different perspective of the country and her people.
Once again, an experience I would never have the luxury of enjoying had it not been for the generosity and kindness of my good friend Meng.
I enjoyed the hospitality.
I enjoyed the race.
And most importantly I enjoyed the company of all my friends.
And Fann, lucky girl her, had the chance to leech on us for a two-day dive in the spectacular coral coastline of Cebu with her good friend Lilian.

Till the next race!

Me enjoying the post race food. [Photo: Serene]