“To the brave, to the bold, to the finish.” The tagline of the toughest triathlon race in the country, and certainly it is. Since its debut last year, Timex 226 became a to-do race for me since doing a Full-Ironman distance triathlon is one of my so called ‘bucket list’. Coming in to the event, I can say that I’ve already done a full triathlon season having joined all the major triathlon races in the country including 2 Half-Ironman distance races, namely Cobra Ironman 70.3 Philippines in Cebu and Whiterock Triathlon in Zambales.
Being my first Full-Ironman triathlon, I knew before signing up that I will need to build a LOT of mileage especially with the bike. Though my strongest discipline, I haven’t really biked anywhere near 180km so I focused most of my training on the bike. One of the challenges for me during training is the boredom – the boredom of riding alone. During the first few weeks of my Ironman campaign, most guys from the team are already in their off-season and been riding only for about 50km during the weekend. During that time, I have not met my future Timex 226 brothers-in-arms, Orion and Altair Casareo. Until one fateful day, the whole team did a weekend ride at Nuvali, met with Orion and Altair (which was doing a 160km ride at the time) and the rest was history. Not just I only gained new training partners to do those long boring rides at Nuvali (dubbed NuBALIW), I also gained some buddies to do Timex 226! The team also gained new members to our ever growing list of Triathlon geeks. After weeks of hammering the pedal biking, pounding the road running and doing laps at the pool swimming, I feel I was ready for my first Full Ironman triathlon. Race week flew past by as I did my last short run and swim, got a full body massage, got my haircut and prepped up my nutrition and bike for travel.
The municipality of Anda is about 2 hours ride from Tagbilaran Airport, and right from the start you can see the roads are great and and perfect for cycling. Three of us from Greenhills Tri Team were staying at Flower Beach resort which is about 3km away from the Anda public beach. Upon arriving at the resort, I took a nap and met with my team mates later. Me and Doc Art did a recon of the event area and we found out there are still plenty of rooms for rent near Anda public beach. Staying around in this area is more convenient because transportation is somewhat a problem especially during night. The main mode of transportation in Anda is either by tricycle or by Habal-habal (motorcycle modified to seat more than two persons). There are also convenient stores to buy supplies like water and Gatorade. Friday morning, we joined the first Anda Underpants run which is a Timex 226 version of the Kona Underpants run and about 50+ participants joined the short fun run for a cause in their underwear. Did I say that it was fun?
After the Underpants run, we registered for the event and get our Timex 226 goodies, then did a short recon swim at the gorgeous white sand beach of Anda. It is well known that there are Sea Urchins along the beach and approaching the swim course with some precaution is a must to avoid stepping on these creatures needle like thorns. The swim course is great, one of the clearest beaches I have ever been, you can easily see the the coral reefs here which are thriving. The sea was calm before and after the short swim we did, so I gained confidence that the swim will be easy tomorrow… or is it?
We returned later that afternoon to check-in our bikes and to attend the race briefing/welcome dinner courtesy of the municipality of Anda. During bike check-in I was doing some adjustment with the position of my aerobar then suddenly I got the scare of my life as my headset became loose-threaded. We immediately brought it to the bike mechanic and good thing that though it became loose-thread, the headset is still OK and the mechanic assured me that it will hold during the race.
Finally, its race day and did all my usual morning rituals before eating a good breakfast courtesy of the resort were staying in. After travelling to the event area I immediately prepared my nutrition and made some final bike adjustments. You can feel the tension of the participants as everyone is making sure that all their gear is ready for the long day ahead. About 15 minutes before gun start and the participants were called to the swim start. Surprisingly, there were a lot more sea urchin at the beach and several participants were unlucky to stepped on these nasty creatures including me and Doc Art. Good thing that I wasn’t pierced by the sea urchins that deep as I approach the swim start area. The sea was calm and the sky was cloudy, but nobody expected the large waves that were waiting for us later. Among the three disciplines in triathlon, swimming is my weakest discipline. I didn’t focused that much on the swim during training thinking that the swim will be the ‘warm-up’ for the long bike leg and I paid dearly for it.
Congressman Art Yap who was in the swim start finally signaled the start of the race and everyone immediately fought for position. Since I’m not really a strong swimmer, my strategy for the swim is to find a good group to follow. I got a good position and was in the middle of the pack together with a group of 4 during the first loop. It was a fast one for us and didn’t have any trouble finishing the first loop. After the first loop things started to look bad as the waves became larger and larger, and after the 2nd loop the it became really ugly. The waves swelled so much you can barely see the yellow buoys along the swim course, and there are times that I was barely moving with my freestyle swim. The waves battered us from both sides that a lot of swimmers switched on doing breast strokes. Seems logical since you’ll have a hard time breathing from the side. My 3rd loop was probably the worse swim I ever did, I even doubt myself if I’m going to finish the swim leg since I was so disoriented from the large waves hitting me from both sides. I hanged on for several minutes to a large boat’s rope anchor at the turn around point of the course, assessing the situation. I checked the time on my Timex watch and got surprised that my watch stopped functioning. I remember telling myself: “Are the waves that bad that even my watched stropped working?” Still clinging on the rope, I knew I was f*@#^* after seeing a participant quit as he climb aboard a small boat. The last stretch of the 3rd swim loop is probably the hardest part of the whole race for me, good thing a nice boat man assisted me in navigating through the swim all the way to the shore. Disoriented and dehydrated, I walked all the way though the transition area and immediately saw my teammate, Doc Art who DNF’ed (Did not finish) along with several participants who weren’t able to handle the large waves of the sea. I felt really weak in the transition area, so I immediately ate one GU Roctane gel and a Saltstick capsule, drank one bottle of water before heading out for the bike leg.
Still disoriented, the first 13km heading out of Anda was a time for me to get my act together and recover from the swim. I was having a hard time to pedal past 25km/hr though cycling is my strongest discipline and were the focus of my training during the past month. Good thing it was lightly raining so I don’t need to worry about the heat at that time, and my watch somewhat started functioning again. My strategy was to take the first 45km easy and priority is to take in nutrition that I lost during the swim. A few hours later, the sun started to shine and the heat made the bike leg more difficult. The bike course is a mix of rolling parts with sections of flats as well, 2 to 3 short but steep hills, but far from the so called ‘Pancake Flat’ course from the description of the event organizers. After the first loop I was doing great and got a good pace, making sure to take in all the solid foods I brought with me. I’m sticking to my general plan for the race: Get off the bike full and strong. After 90km I immediately picked up the pace and started gaining on several participants who had a significant gap over me during the first half of the bike. I was hammering the 3rd and last loop of the bike especially the last 13km back to Anda.
Got off the bike around the 8:40:00 mark and it seemed that my strategy is working since I feel I still have the legs to do the marathon. Upon arriving at the transition area, I immediately switched to a new pair of socks and got in my running shoes, put my visor and immediately took off to do my first loop. It seems my nutrition is paying off as I’m was overtaking a lot of participants though I was just running in a moderate pace during the first 5km. Seeing my team mates along the run course, Altair and Orion was a welcome sight, which got off the bike about 45 minutes earlier. The first 5km out is uphill, with the local townsfolks cheering every participant. The heat was still there but it didn’t affected me that much as most of my run training was under the heat. Going back for my 3rd loop, the sun was already setting and we were told by the race marshals to wear the head lamps that they provided us. As night falls, the local folks who cheered us earlier started to dwindle and the roads became quieter. About an hour later, I was on my final loop and I decided to take the take the last loop easy until the last 2km. About 3km out I met a fellow participant named Ray who at that time is doing his 3rd loop. I followed his pace and we chatted as we do a run-walk going out of Anda. Having someone to chat along the dark and quiet run course really helped to fight the loneliness of being alone in the quiet roads of Anda. I remember telling Ray about how it feels like running in the dark, just like what I watched in Youtube about the Ironman World Championship in Kona - “So this is how it feels”. As we passed the final 2km, I quickly picked up my pace and Ray told me to go on ahead and we both exchanged our farewells. As soon as I reached the final turn towards Anda Plaza, I finally told myself that its finally over, all the long and hard training paid off. Yes, I can finally say that I’m an Ironman! Or dubbed by the Emcee Tricia Chiongbian-Concepcion, Timex Anda Man!
I planned to proposed to my long time girlfriend, Ghia, after crossing the finish line but I forgot to bring the ring on my final loop. During the last kilometer I keep of thinking if I should pick it up first before crossing or after crossing the finish line. I decided to go with the latter and immediately after crossing the finish line, I sprinted back to the transition area to get my ring, while Ghia was totally clueless of what is going on. I ran back and dragged her all the way to the finish line and finally proposed to her. Everyone was cheering for us and she was totally speechless during few seconds, Tricia even shouted at her and asked her what is her answer. As soon as Ghia said ‘YES!’ I immediately put the ring on her fingers and kissed her. We’re officially engaged! What a great way to end my 2012 Triathlon season! Finally looking forward to the off-season and just eat, eat and eat!
Two thumbs up to Bike King and Timex for organizing this great event, definitely a must do if you’re looking to do a Full Ironman distance event.
You can quit, and they won’t care, but you will always know