[7 Aug 2016]
[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.
"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.
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.|
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.
|The whole street was lined with Cobra banners and the Ironman 70.3 banners. It was quite an event for the city.|
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.
"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.
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.
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.|
"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?"
|Our first view of the huge room 1006.|
|"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.|
"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.
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.
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]|
|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]
"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|
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.|
|Charles getting himself psyched up for the 1.5km test swim.|
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 crystal clear water|
[Click to enlarge. Photo: Serene]
"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.|
|Ann Kheen with his positive demonstration how to do a SEA Games swim.|
|The boss of GTravel complaining the sea was too salty for his taste.|
"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.
"Aaron couldn't come for the race," Moses shared with us. "His wife is due to deliver any time."
|After the Registration.|
|A gentle Pinoy(nay) helped me with registration.|
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.|
|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]|
|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.
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.
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.|
|Serene and Elaine joining the crowd right at the swim start. [Photo: Charles]|
|A fantastic shot of us by Charles.|
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]|
|Click on the above to see my Strava for the swim.|
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?"
"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.|
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.
"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.
|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]
|[Photo: FinisherPix official photo]|
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.
|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.|
|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]
|Ann Kheen climbing up Marcelo Feman Bridge. [Photo: Running Photographers]|
|Yours truly spinning up. [Photo: Running Photographers]|
|Charles cheonging up. [Photo: Running Photographers]|
|Francis as cool as a cucumber. [Photo: Running Photographers]|
|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.
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.
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."The Tri bike was a definite positive for this race," said Ann Kheen after everything.
|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.
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.
|Click on the above to go into the Strava for my slow run leg.|
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.
|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]|
|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.
|I was so inspired when I saw this physically challenged athlete on the run.|
[Photo: Running Photographers]
"Dar I am at 5km now. Still going. Feeling good!" I announced.
"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.|
|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.)
"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.
|Jason going for the line. [Photo: Serene]|
"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.
"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.
"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.
|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]
|Charles and KC Obama crossed the finishing line hand in hand, Charles probably done his 21km in slippers.|
[Photo: FinisherPix official photo]
|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.
|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.|
Gerard specially arranged a lechon feast in a local restaurant not far from the hotel to celebrate the completion of the race.
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!"It's a lechon feast. My ex-staff Donna highly recommended this restaurant. And also the fresh mango. " he said.
|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.
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.