So I’m writing this recap waaaay after the race. So many things have been going on since the race in Cebu, which I will probably write about at a later date, but not to worry, this race is still very fresh in my mind.
We spent the night at Crimson Resort and Spa, which was one of the official hotel partners for the race. The resort was absolutely beautiful and peaceful. It was almost a shame that we did not get more time to enjoy this beautiful resort. However, I was here to race not relax so the relaxing would have to wait. We woke up at 3am to prepare for the 4am shuttle ride to Shangri La.
A side rant here. I was disappointed that Crimson and other hotels were advertised as being official partner hotels for the race and that there would be shuttles going from those hotels to Shangri La…what was not advertised was that the shuttles were an additional fee, per person. I paid it, only because I had no other choice. Anyways, rant ended
There was a 4am shuttle to Shangri La and a 5am shuttle. Thank Goodness we got on the 4am shuttle! The traffic going into the hotel and transition was crazy! I can’t imagine the people(if any) that took the 5am shuttle were able to setup transition properly before it closed. I must say, the transition area made me feel really pro! We had our own box and transition mats already prepared for us. We had dedicated spots for our bikes, not a pole to hang our bikes off. The set up was really incredible. This was my first race where I used my disc wheel and I struggled a little bit airing up my tire. As is the theme of this event, people around me were extremely helpful and nice and offered to assist me in airing up my tires. Thank you for all the kindness and hospitality displayed by everyone! Transition was setup as best as it could…off to the swim!
The swim was off the beach of the resort. It was a little sad that they prevented spectators from following to view the swim. I separated from my wife and went off to the beach. Also disappointing that once I got to the beach that I saw a lot of spectators. I don’t know how they got past the blockade, but I wish more people were able to see the swim. This race was a mass start so the flow of people into the water was consistent and quick. The first few meters of the swim where athletes were running into the water were full of sharp corals. Once we got past the corals the swim was really beautiful. My wife had joked with me before that I need to be careful not to get distracted by all the fish and corals and not finish the race. It honestly was difficult not getting distracted. There were so many pretty corals I wanted to dive deeper and take a closer look at, but alas I had a race to finish. The first 400 meters was pretty nice since it was going with the waves. There were so many people that I was constantly getting kicked and pushed up against and at times it was difficult keeping a steady pace. As we rounded the first buoy the water quickly got deeper and waves larger. Several times after this buoy I got stung by a couple of jellyfish. They weren’t bad stings, really just enough to keep my mind off of the monotony of swimming. After rounding the second buoy to the long 850 meter stretch the swim felt scary. The water turned to a dark deep blue and the large crowd of people that were constantly kicking me seemed to disappear. The open ocean seemed to open up and swallow everyone and I found myself alone swimming into large waves. The waves were really large at this point. They kept pushing me out further into the deeper water. I knew there were boats lining the race course and I couldn’t get too far away, but I really felt alone at this point in the race. I tried to spot one or two people and headed straight for them so I could watch them and keep on course. It was a struggle, but I worked through the long 850 meter stretch. I checked my Suunto Ambit 3 and was pleasantly surprised to see despite the waves and ending up in the deep ocean I was still on target for my swim time. I was most worried coming into the event that I hadn’t practiced my swim at all and that the waves would kill me. Making my time, I felt nothing could stop me on this race now! I rounded the last buoys and headed out of the water into transition.
Transition felt forever away. I jogged over to my area and pulled my CEP bike socks on, my cycling shoes and helmet and was ready to dart out onto the bike course, except I ran into a long line. There was a long line for athletes to mount their bikes. So I took the time to collect myself, make sure everything was prepared and ready once it was my turn to mount and take off. Finally it was my turn time to take Zeko the Orbea Ordu out for a ride!
I personally feel that the bike is my strongest leg. After several strong training rides, I felt confident I could push hard on the bike and turn out a good time and still have some for the run. Bike started off pretty good. One of the parts that concerned me was climbing the Marcelo Fernan Bridge. I actually have ridden the course a few times using Cycleops Virtual Trainer. I knew a big climb was coming and I had climbed it several times on the trainer. The road to the bridge was a sharp right turn which eliminated any forward momentum so climbing the bridge started off tough. I popped out of the saddle and climbed the bridge fairly quickly and felt strong. As I started to descend my bike hit an expansion joint and popped up. When I came back down my handlebars collapsed and I was suddenly staring at the ground instead of forward. I was freaked out, but I was able to manage getting to the bottom without crashing. I was able to pop my handlebars back up and worked my way to the first aid station. I was incredibly impressed with the assistance I was able to receive at the aid station. There was not a mechanic present, but several volunteers went out and found an allen wrench for me and we were able to get my handlebars tightened up. Thanks support team!! The bike course went through several cities throughout Cebu. We rode through Mactan, Cebu City, Mandaue, and Talisay. One of the allures of this race was traveling through all of these cities. My mom, wife, and many family members are from Cebu. Traveling through these cities felt significant. I was in Cebu several weeks before the race so I traveled the roads often. Riding through the roads that were so packed and busy a day ago was such a cool feeling. Even better was seeing those roads completely lined with locals cheering on the athletes. I’ve never seen an event with that much support! It really was exhilarating. One of the details I noticed about the race course as we drove on the roads the previous weeks was that there were a lot more hills and climbs than I was expecting!! I recalled reading that the course would be fast and flat, that’s why I opted to bring my Zipp Super 9 disc wheel. Clearly if I did read that correctly, whoever described that course as being flat had never been to Houston.
The bike course was difficult. And the head wind was brutal. The course was a double loop for the majority of the course. So twice we had to fight the headwind and twice we got to take advantage of the tail wind. The tail wind was nice at least! However, the wind was gusting so strongly there were times I was afraid I was going to blow over. After completing the first loop I started to feel my thighs cramping as I climbed out of the SRP tunnel. I knew the day was going to be a long one since I was already beginning to cramp. My muscles just weren’t prepared to deal with the head wind and climbs. I fought and made my way to Talisay again and rode the tail wind back. I was dreading climbing over the Marcelo Fernan bridge again. I wondered if my legs could make it up without cramping. I made the familiar turn onto the road leading to the bridge and prepared myself to make it over the bridge. As I started to climb I tried to will my legs to generate some momentum to carry me over the top. Instead, as soon as I hit the bridge both my thighs completely straightened and cramped. Somehow I was able to unclip from my pedals. Again, locals came to my rescue. A few people nearby saw I was in trouble and came to hold my bike as I struggled to dismount and wait out my cramps. The cramps were intense. I wasn’t sure I would be able to make it over the bridge, but I was so close to finishing the bike! It took a while but the cramping finally stopped. I shamefully walked my bike to the top of the bridge and then mounted and slowly worked my way to the finish. The ride was slow and my thighs started cramping again but I was able to spin my legs. I was extremely happy to be off the bike…but still had a half marathon to go.
By the time I started the run it was almost Noon. The forecast had been for windy and a good chance of rain. I would have welcomed the rain…at the moment it was sunny and HOT! I attempted to run and very quickly my thighs cramped up on me. I walked it off and tried again. I made it a little further before my thighs cramped again. I wasn’t sure how I was going to survive this run! The heat was intense and my pace was so slow I started to panic and feel frustrated. This wasn’t how I expected this race to go. This wasn’t the race I was supposed to have! I kept walking forward though. I turned onto the main road. This road is filled with resorts and was packed with supporters. Loud music was playing, school kids were dancing and singing songs. This gave me a little motivation to keep pushing. I hit mile 1 and decided my goal will be to at least try and make each mile split a little faster than the last. It wasn’t TOO hard since I was walking so much. The next 3 miles I was able to negative split. I started to feel pretty good! I thought yeah! I can do this! I just needed to move my legs a bit and walk off the cramping. It was around this point the course turned into a condo subdivision. The area was not shaded and very hot. I felt my momentum leaving me and the following mile was slower than my previous mile. I walk/jog/cramped around the tip of the island to turnaround 1. It was mixed feelings once I reached this point. I still had a long way to go, but at least I made it this far. 10k left to go. The trip back to the starting area was brutal. The heat was still intense and it was a bit deflating to see so many people on their last lap and finishing up when I still had to do one more loop. I continued fighting forward, but my times were getting slower. It was on this first trip back to turnaround 2 that I had the saddest moment of the race. Along the run course, many children lined the road asking for chocolates and money. On one particular stretch of the course a little girl followed me the entire time I was walking with hands out asking for money. It was heart breaking to see, and there were so many. Many kids were so eager to collect bottles or whatever they could that athletes were discarding so they could get some kind of money in return. It is somewhat eye opening that at this race there are 3000 or so people who have enough money to travel to other countries, buy expensive bikes, stay at expensive hotels, etc. and also so many poor and unfortunate kids in the world. Well these were my thoughts as I worked my way to turnaround 2. As I hit turnaround 2 I saw my wife and family cheering me on. It was uplifting and a bit embarrassing to be performing so poorly in front of them. But I just had to make it one more time around and I would finally be done!
At this point I was doing a mix of run walk…the run would be in between shadows and I would walk the shadows. It was nice that the main part of the run course was pretty protected from the hot afternoon sun. I made it back to the subdivision that drained me last time. I stopped at the rest stop, dumped water over me, sucked down a GU and attempted to push through this hot section. I was really walking the majority of the course by now. I started to panic some more in my head when I started to calculate my current pace and how much further I still had to go. I calculated if I maintained my pace I would finish in just over 8 hours. I couldn’t remember…Do I have 8 hours to finish or 8 hours and 30 minutes?? If it’s only 8 hours I need to pick up the pace! I tried to jog a bit, but my thighs quickly shut that down as they cramped some more. I continued to walk it off. Time seemed to move at a snails pace. Miles took forever to count down. Clouds started to appear and while that was helpful I also felt bad for my family that was waiting for me. I made it around the turnaround point, verified I did have 8 and a half hours and was determined to keep moving. As I started to head back to the finish line the rain started. I pushed a bit harder thinking of my poor family getting soaked while waiting for me.
The run seemed to last forever…I think actually according to my time I spent the most time on the run so it really did last a long time. As I got closer to the finish line I saw my mom and several cousins at the entrance to Shangri-la. My mom came out and hugged me and said she was proud of me which gave me a little surge of energy. I kept pushing to the finish line. My muscles were cramping and locking up again, but it was too close to the finish line to quit. I finally crossed that finish line and the race was finally over!
It was a wonderful feeling to be done and to be greeted by my wife and cousin. Looking back, as much as I thought I was preparing properly for this event…I really wasn’t. This race was amazing and fun, but also incredibly humbling. I know running is really my weakness and I intend to really work on that. No more triathlons for me until my running has improved. So stay tuned for running posts!