Oh man, where do I begin?
Junie Santos became a colleague of mine at SALIGAN. When I heard that she was into triathlon, I knew it was time to check “Triathlon” off my bucket list. Back then, a workout for me consisted of jogging for 20 minutes, 3 times a week, plus the occasional swim. Junie invited me to do the swim portion of her relay team for Whiterock that year, I readily agreed. I still remember the race like it was yesterday. I nearly puked in the ocean just 15 minutes into the swim. What kept me going was the prohibitive registration fee and how Junie (bike leg) and Dionne (run leg) will be pissed for not even racing only because I gave up on the swim. Eventually, I finished the 2k swim in 54 minutes and then I ran off to Pancake House and devoured pancakes/waffles galore. After getting my bearings, I went back to the race venue and watched the proceedings.
The scenes at the finish line were a sight to behold. There was Rey Agapay breaking into tears as he crossed the finish. Ge Santiago raising her arms in triumph after completing her first long distance triathlon. Jenny Guerrero immersing herself in a bucket full of ice to cool herself down. Ige Lopez still having the energy to dance at the sidelines. Jojo Macalintal barely able to catch his breath as he related his difficulties at the finish.
Little did I know that almost three years down the road, it was my turn to try the distance. I was hooked.
Team PMI left for Camsur the night of 20 August. When we arrived early morning Ninoy Aquino Day, I could already feel the buzz the moment I stepped out of the bus. There was a tarpaulin welcoming the participants and a huge Timex watch counting the hours to the big race. I bunked in with Rizz at her wooden cabin and we had breakfast soon thereafter. Participants were trickling in by the minute and even then, we were already commenting/complaining about the heat slowly building up. And it was only 7am then.
On our way back to the cabin, we spotted Cameron Brown going out for his run. While starstruck at the beginning, it turned out that this was going to be regular occurrence at the venue – them pros/elites going out for their training and mixing with the locals when the latter would ask for either pictures or autographs.
The team agreed to join the bike out at 10am. It was supposed to be a slow and easy ride but I guess the adrenalin was already pumping as the pros out in front sped away. On my part, I was too busy checking the road condition and making a mental note of cracks in the pavement. Right about the 16km juncture, I turned back and that was my ride for the day.
I officially registered in the afternoon and became participant number 221. I was asked if this was my first Ironman and giddily said Yes, which led me to Doc Kit’s medical booth to obtain the necessary clearance. I couldn’t stop laughing at how Doc Kit was interviewing my teammate Czar who also had to get clearance even though he’s already a veteran of many triathlon races. Doc Kit mentioned that he could easily tell I was a first-timer because I had a handycam with me. Of course, I want to document everything. I ran around the big lake in the afternoon and that was it for the day.
Swam at the big lake the next morning just to get the feel of the water and sight possible landmarks. I immediately noticed that the water felt warm. The swim leg was divided into 2 parts. First part, around 1.2K in the big lake, then run a bit to the 2nd lake for the last 600 meters. I was not apprehensive about the swim since it’s not possible to veer off course. There’s always either a ramp or an island to guide you to the right path. Needless to state, it was another hot day again at Camsur that 22nd day of August and I was getting worried about the race conditions the next day. But then, the wifey arrived by way of Cebu Pacific right around lunch time and everything was right again in the world. Checked-in my bags and bike at around 5pm and I was just awed by the organization of the whole race. From the time that we checked-in to registering the athletes and then racking our bikes the day before the race – there was a smooth flow to the whole process. I remember thinking, “So, this is how an Ironman race is staged.”
As expected, I can see the stars clearly in the sky when I went out of the room at 4am. Not a single cloud to hide them stars. It was going to be a hot day. Downed two powerbars and a gatorade by the time I had myself numbered and made last minute checks on the bike and the transition bags. The vibe and energy of the participants under the starting chute was unbelievable. Everybody was gearing up for the race and waving to the helicopters hovering above us. I tried my best to keep still and concentrate on the task at hand. My teammates were already kidding me about how I tend to shut out the world just before a race. I guess they would have to blame Philip (Foreignrunner) for that as my days of enjoying triathlons ended when he came into the picture. Kidding aside, I knew from the onset that it was going to be a long and hot race. Have to save every ounce of energy and I guess that includes abstaining from the usual banter at the start of the race. Different strokes for different folks. I am weird that way.
I thought I should mention that it was great that the organizers gave the participants the option to join the mass start as is customary with Ironman races or to wait 10 minutes after and join the wave of the relay teams instead. It was a good gesture on account of numerous beginners who toed the starting line. The pros/elites were introduced and they were lined up a good 20 meters ahead of the age-groupers. What can I say? Triathlons imitate life. The rich get richer🙂 Before I knew it, the starting horn sounded and the frenzy began.
Now, I don’t know if it was a result of proper positioning at the start. But I didn’t feel as crowded during the swim as before. Subit was way worse and it only had half the number of participants than this one. Well, I wasn’t about to complain. Have to count my blessings when they do come. When I came out at the end of the first loop, I glanced at my watch and it said 24 minutes and change. I was on target.
The water on the 2nd lake was murkier than the first one. The route was counter clockwise which meant that sighting was easier for swimmers like me who breathe on the left because we have the island as our reference point. I came out of the water in 39 minutes.
Since this was a long-distance race. I wasn’t planning on using one gear throughout. I planned on using my cycling jersey for the bike portion and another top for the run part. I took quite a time here because I have to make sure tire levers and a spare tube were in my pockets as well as adequate nutrition. Probably took me 4 minutes to get things all set before heading out to bike.
For me, this was the best part of the race. Think Tour de France where the crowds lined up the streets cheering the competitors on. In Camsur, school children were all lined up in the streets shouting, “Go, go Ironman” and holding out their hands for high fives. I’m telling you this went on for the entire out and back course with just a few gaps in between. What a sight🙂 I still get goosebumps when I think about it. August Benedicto passed me at about the 5 km mark and I wondered how he must feel to pass almost the ENTIRE field (except for the pros) during the bike and run portions. I bet that feels AWESOME. I was telling him after the race that he should do a Contador (Tour de France champion known as ‘Pistolero’, his trademark of shooting an imaginary gun at the finish) after every pass he makes, hahaha. That would psych out the competition. But seriously, if August works on his swim, he’ll KILL the competition. But I digress.
I was feeling good going out to the turnaround at 45K mark. Plan was to take a salt tablet and a gel every hour and get hydrated as much as possible. The plan was going great until I felt the initial twitches of a cramp coming along. First, it was left quads and then my right one as well. This happened somewhere along 50 to 60K mark and it was the first time my quads cramped up during a ride. Good thing there were salt tablets to the rescue. The organizers said that this was a flat course. They lied🙂 It was tougher coming back to CWC as there were gradual uphills on the route. Not as steep as Subic but a bit of a climb nonetheless. And all this time I thought I was riding strong until the turnaround. Yeah, right.
It was getting warm as the ride went along and the cramps didn’t help at all as I was making more of an effort to mash the gears. And I guess this was where the race went downhill for me. Because you see, I have decided long ago that when it comes to cycling, I’m no Lance Armstrong disciple (fast cadence). I think I’m built more to mash gears like Jan Ulrich (slow cadence). That strategy has served me well, particularly in short-distance races. But then Coach Jomak has been telling me to spin at a faster cadence during races so that I can run better afterwards. That has been his advice ever since the Larazabal race in April and in Subit last May. But I guess nothing like experience to serve a good lesson for a bull-headed person like me😦
Pretty soon, I saw Ge Santiago and when she asked me how I was, I told her that I didn’t think I’ll be able to finish the race. I wasn’t feeling strong coming into T2 which meant I spent way too much effort on the bike. Certainly doesn’t augur well for a half-marathon run at 10:30 am huh?
Changed into my original trisuit. Put on the Ironman visor and went out on a prayer.
Do I really have to do this? Tell you guys about the run? I mean what run? What happened was more like sightseeing and taking a stroll along Luneta🙂 Even at the very beginning of the supposed run….yes, that portion where every triathlon race is won or lost….all the things/advice that Coach Jomak told me? Out of the window….. I was running/shuffling like when I first started in this darn sport. The run course consisted of 2 loops that will take the competitors to the countryside and people were cheering heartily like the school children during the bike leg. But all I can think of is how can I bonk in a race of this magnitude? At this point, I saw the easy spirit of Makoy and all the other participants enjoying the atmosphere of what really was an awesome, world-class race held at our shores and I wished I had the same attitude. But I cannot help it. All I wanted in this race was to run decent off the bike and perhaps a sub-6 may be within reach. But now that I couldn’t even muster a decent push-off with every step, it was tearing me up inside. I was so ashamed I couldn’t even acknowledge the cheers and words of encouragement of my friends. I was a goner when the 2nd loop began. Just looking forward to the next aid station to get a sip of gatorade and douse myself with cold water. Right around the bend just before entering the big lake loop. I just said to myself to have some pride and try to make an effort to run. By then, sub-6 was long out of the window. Yeah, back to the original wishlist of every Ironman wannabe “to finish and finish strong”. So, right at the bend, before entering the big lake loop, I decided to just run and whatever happens, to not walk again. Yup, I did run. Nope, still no push-off. Maybe the speed of a jog. But a run nonetheless. And buoyed by the signs lined up beside the route signaling that the finish was within reach, mustered even a bit of a sprint until I finally finished at around 6:11 according to the Timex clock at the finish line.
So there you have it. My first half-ironman. I could not recall if the announcer said, “Levy Ang, You are an Ironman.” But I really hope not because (1) the race was a half-ironman; and (2) I didn’t particularly feel like an Ironman finisher that day. I feel that such a greeting is only reserved for finishers of an Ironman race. At any rate, I was relieved that the race was over and was so glad my wife was with me on this trip. She made a lot of sacrifices just so I can pursue this insane sport and this journey is every bit about her as it is about me. I just don’t talk about her much because this is my blog😉 hahahaha.
Just want to thank the Extribe team for organizing out this wonderful race. I expect a lot out of Extribe and I dare say they have exceeded my expectations. Also would want to thank Mr. Uytengsu and Mr. Tan for bringing the WTC event here and making all of this possible. All the volunteers, staff, school children, your support before, during and after the race were all invaluable, I can never thank you guys enough. MARAMING, MARAMING SALAMAT.
Of course, I would want to personally thank my teammates at PMI for the friendship and camaraderie. I mean why else would I hang out with you guys even though I live at the other end of EDSA. Thank you for putting up with my idiosyncrasies. Special thanks to Coach Jomak and Moni for all the advice/tips along the way. BTW, Jomak placed 3rd in his age group while Monica bagged the No. 1 Female finisher in the local category. WAY TO GO TEAM PMI!!! or Team Herbalife….whatever🙂
Cheers! On to WRT!!!