Last Saturday 2/22 was probably one of the hardest half ironman courses in the world. With over 5,000 feet of vertical climbing on the bike alone, Challenge Philippines will soon become one of the epic races to mentioned with the likes of the legendary Wildflower Triathlon, St. Croix 70.3, the Savageman triathlon, and St. George 70.3
I came into the race, very undertrained coming back from a knee injury so I had no expectations except to finish in one piece. Last week I was contemplating dropping out on the run segment as I wasn't able to run pain free for the past 3 weeks.
With some help from Dr. Golberger, and Janice Morra back in NJ, Noriel Simsuangco in CA, and Nia from Peak Form here in the Philippines I was able to get my knee in working order and did a short test run on thursday. I felt some twinges but I was able to run relatively pain free so I knew I would be able to finish the race.
The swim at Camayan Beach next to Ocean Adventure was a very nice beach and venue for a swim start and transition/finish line. For those of you have never been to Subic, ocean adventure is our version of Sea World and a dolphin show was acually part of the pre-race activities. It was a point to point swim a la St Anthony's so you just have to prepare extra time to walk from transition to the swim start. The water quality was pretty clear with a slight current. It was my first swim since swimming with the FAT boys at BayShore so I was happy with my result. My new xterra velocity speedsuit also helped keep me hydrodynamic despite me losing my swim cap yet again. I think I am 0/10 in terms of keeping my swim cap on. I was also focusing on exhaling underwater and that seemed to keep my breathing in check but of course I still managed to have a couple gulps of saltwater.
So much has been said and will be said about this bike course. Basically it was up and down the entire time save for 1 section of about 5K of flat. I opted to go with a road bike having test ridden this course last december. BMC Philippines and the Brick Multisport store were kind enough to lend me a 14lb, 7kg climbing machine equipped with super light easton wheels and 11 speed Dura Ace Di2. I just put on my Rotor 160mm cranks with 53x39 Q rings. I believe I had an 11-25 in the back. Aside from my 1 week in St Croix, about 90% of of my riding has been on the computrainer so I knew I couldn't expect too much. The bike was great for the climbing as it was lighter than anything I've ridden in the past. On the descents I realized that counter-steering was the best way to negotiate all the switchbacks especially with such a stiff and responsive frame.
I have been experimenting with a new fueling strategy using Vitargo S2 as my primary fuel source supplemented with some gels. I think my plan basically worked except for the fact that I could have used more electrolytes. I normally race with a camel back but opted to just go with relying on the aid stations to keep my set up light. I think salt pills probably would have been the best solution. Having not ridden a bike in over a week probably didn't help me either, but I actually felt better as the ride went on, except for the very last climb back to subic where I ran out of gears and was passed by my friend Jong Salhuga who started behind me! I also got to have a short chat with Olympian Laura Bennett from the USA and talked about the diffculty of the bike course and she event admitted it was the toughest one she had ever raced.
Since I only had done recon on the bike course, I was completely surprised by the run course. The run was very hilly also and hard to get a steady rhythm. For the first time I used Cramp 911 roll on and it actually worked! My quads and calves started feeling the fatigue of not having been used for 3 weeks. But I basically was able to jog the entire run until 3K to go where the legs really started seizing up. Again salt pill here might have helped. Finally I got to the finish line and of course had to do my signature finish.
All in all it was great event and very well organized for a first year event. I think there were a few incidences of road rash out there, but nothing major. It was great to rub elbows with some of the best athletes in the world coming out for this event: my idol Chris Macca McCormack, World Time Trial Champion and Olympic Medalist Emma Pooley who stands perhaps just about 5 ft tall. I also finally got to meet the top Fil Am Female Triathlete Christina Jackson easily chicked me on the run. I was also "princed" by the prince of Behrain who caught me with about 6K to go on the run. It was also inspiring to see my old training partner August Benedicto take the Elite South East Asian Male title and top 10 overall. He is really setting the back for Philippine racing. Also special thanks to Monching Romano and Jonah Rivera from team Santa Barley for setting me up with a car, Raymund Magdaluyo, David Voth and the ChallengePh Team for giving me the honour to be a Challenge ambassador.
But easily the highlight of the weekend was seeing the Red Hot Chili Peppers play the 7107 Music Festival here in Clark. It's just so Ironic how they just played in the Super Bowl in Rutherford NJ just 5 miles away from my house but I have to fly halfway around the world to see them live! So now just time for more therapy for my knee and a short prep for Ironman Melbourne.