Last Saturday’s event (December 3rd) at Anda Beach Bohol was the first time in my career to attempt to race 2 iron distance races in 2 weeks. Having raced Ironman Arizona on Nov 20 less than 2 weeks before, I did not know what the condition of body would be esp having to travel thru several time zones and with the weather of Bohol being much warmer than NJ and Arizona. Nevertheless I toed the starting sands with 63 other brave souls (most of them 1st time iron virgins) of Anda Beach Saturday am.
Beautiful Anda Beach
The Starting gun was fired by Raul Cuevas, the race director and my very first friend in the Philippines from 1999. He was assisted in knee deep water by Avi from Timex and Congressman Art Yap the 2 principle sponsors of the race.
I had a pretty good swim start as I was the first to reach the first turn bouy but was quickly caught and passed by Guy Conception the head swim coach of LaSalle and I believe a former Olympic swimmer/SEA games medalist and a nice guy! No pun intended. So after Guy left me in his wake I swam with Neil Catiil the 2010 Cobra Ironman Philippines champ. I would take the lead, and then let Neil go ahead. Just as in cycling, I didn’t want to be the only one pulling for 2.4miles (3.8km) – so after stopping several times to adjust my cap which kept sliding off Neil and I finished the swim in about 1:04 – 4 min behind Guy. Neil beat me to the transition as he had been in Anda since Monday before the event and knew the beach like the back of his hand. For me there were a lot of coral and a few sea urchins I wanted to avoid stepping on as I had cut my foot pretty bad on a few other occasions exiting a swim.
I think this is me underwater (photo credit Jijo DeGuzman)
I did a full costume change in t1 as I was treating the event as a long training day so I got out of my wet speedo and got into my dry trisuit – this proved to be harder than I thought and I had to exit the changing tent and request the assistance of one of the volunteers to help me get my top on. Then I took a shot of Athlete Octane, got on my helmet and brand new Nathan Proton Hydration pack and I was off in pursuit of Neil. This was also my 2nd race with 145mm Cranks the first time at IMAZ.
By the first turn around, I had already overtaken Guy and Neil’s Gap was about 4-5 min and growing. The Bike course was 3 loops connected to the beach by an out and back. The course had a lot of really rough sections where it was basically the equivalent of riding on a sidewalk in the US. The majority of the course went along the Bohol 3rd district coastline and there were a few really scenic places where you riding right next to the water but it was also really hot!! In fact my skin just started peeling today from the sunburn I got last Saturday. Then biking back after the 2nd turnaround something totally unexpected happened – I hit a bump fairly hard and the clamp of my aerobar cracked! So basically my left aerobar was dangling and I only had my right to hold on to. This was about 30 miles less than 1/3rd into the bike course. For a split second I thought about dropping out. But then I thought about the injured Marines I coach back in the US in the Wounded Warrior Program. Especially one of my athletes Manny who had his left arm amputated but still races triathlon – I knew now I had to finish this race no matter what! But how was I supposed to ride another 80mi + on broken equipment? I tried to ride with just the right aerobar putting my left arm behind my back a la speedskating – but that only lasted for about 20 sec. Then I tried holding myself up with the left as I would ride aero on the right – also not a good way to go.
The only thing that felt ok was holding the hoods and climbing, so I started attacking the hills and then just tucking on the downhills. So coming back to the first turnaround I had actually made up time on Neil! With only 1 aerobar! I had yelled to the spectators at the T junction that I needed mechanical assistance but still did not get any help until right before the turn 2 at the end of the 2nd lap where we electric taped the left bar so it was a little more stable. But still, as a precaution I would hold the sides and get out of aero at the sign of any rough road. By the first turn around the start of the 3rd lap I had really closed the gap to Neil and after the turn, I saw Neil on the side of the road perhaps relieving himself – I had relieved myself on the bike the lap before. I was now in the lead of the race. I am pretty sure I was keeping my effort fairly constant, as I had my HR between 145-155bpm for most the race except for the hills, so I think Neil was fading, at the same time Augusto Benedicto – my old training partner was gaining time on me also with all my stops and mechanical issues he had ridden 8min min into what was close to a 23 min lead out of the water and my gift of a 4:37 T1 compared to his 0:59. So my lead to him was essentially halved!
check out broken aerobar
check out broken aerobar
As I arrived 1st into T2 – I knew I had some GI issues and rushed to the bathroom right after racking my bike and putting on my run gear although I did use the changing tent again and for the 2nd ironman I just tied laces instead of using speed laces – I was going for comfort in this race, not speed. The only problem was that the bartender was in the john at the exact moment I needed it! So I had to wait a few minutes for him to finish!!! This was really frustrating! So after a bit of time I was finally off and running; but in that time, Neil had already come in from the bike and was leading the run. I caught Neil before the run turn around – we were doing 4 x a circuit of 10.5km. He was definitely hurting but so was I! The Sun was still in full force and I was getting dizzy, definitely not the feeling of my first run lap in Arizona when I was running most of it under 7min/mi. I knew It could have been bonking also as I did not take in as many calories the last lap of the bike as I was getting GI distress. Nevertheless, I took an energy and I instantly felt better. I got into my stride although not the 90spm rate I had wanted but it was better than walking and I took breaks only at the aid stations where I kept dousing myself with water and taking in sports drink. I tried to keep on the schedule of having 1 gel every 30 min but by the last lap I was getting sick of gel and was just going for the coke a la Chris McCormack in his autobiography. I had already received news that Neil had dropped out but I saw august at every turn around and he was not fading! I kept telling myself that just wait, it’s his first ironman his first marathon he’ll blow – we all blow our first time! August never did!! He actually put an additional 3 min into me, but it was still my lead from the swim that kept me in front. Many of the spectators and fellow racers tried to high five me along the way and I also heard “smile” several times – but I was pretty focused the entire day and really only started smiling on the last lap where I was able to sparingly give out high 5s. Finally I let myself enjoy the last 1.5Km and was giving high 5s generously especially at the finish line where I did my patented handstand finish the clock read 10:18 to the elation of one of the participants wives who had guessed my time and received a free timex watch. It was a tough good steady effort and I was very pleased to get my first ever ironman win (my closest prior was coming in 3rd place in the Chesepeakeman in 2009) and to do it on Philippine soil made it even more special!
celebration at the finish line
celebration at the finish line
Swim 3.8km- 1:06:19
Transition 1- 4:37
Bike 180km- 5:20:05
Transition 2- :38
Run 42km- 3:47:17 (including toilet break)
Total Finish Time: 10:18:57
9 minutes later I greeted an emotional August who crossed in second in his ironman debut but who later like Neil had passed out and had to be taken to medical! But later on both were released and in stable condition and were good enough to party with us the next day. All in all it was a great event and great because it was a small intimate affair such a big juxtaposition to ironman AZ where there were 2500 finishers! I reminded the 63 racers that this is how the first ironman races were – very few participants – like the Marines – the few, the proud luckily I was able to be the first of them across the line and cap off one of my best long distance racing seasons ever especially on Philippine soil I had been able to replicate what my idol and fellow Newton Running Endorser Craig Alexander had done this year win both the 70.3 and Ironman. I realized just a few weeks ago that 2011 is the year of the rabbit my birth year in the Chinese Zodiac no wonder it has been such a great year! Thanks to all my sponsors who helped make this year happen: Toby and Tin from RUNNR, Newton Running esp Danny Abshire who changed my stride just last month, Dave and Max from Elite Bicycles, Miguel Garcia from 1st Endurance, Kervin from Rotor, Computrainer and Erg Video for all my indoor bike sessions, Bill Andy and Rob and Heidi from Athlete Octane and of course my Fil Am Tri Family. And alas I can finally start the off season! Happy Holidays everyone thanks for reading!