Category Archives: Ironman 70.3 Cebu

Post-race Reports of Cebu’s Ironmen (and Women)

CHRIS ALDEGUER: It was my first ever race that I got to smile and enjoy. I never have fun during a race, but this was different. The crowd was unbelievable. I couldn’t believe this magnitude of a race was happening in our hometown. Finish time: 5:30:52.

Photo by Catherine Israel-Angeles

ALAN CHOACHUY: It was very emotional; I broke down at the finish bringing the Biggest Loser flag. First thing that crossed my mind: for all the obese and unhealthy people who thought they have no chance to change. I’m living proof that you can be what you want to be as long as you put your heart in to it. (A year ago I was 309 lbs!) I never life imagined I can finish a 70.3 Ironman.

The race was really tough, my target time was 7 hours (finished in 7:58). I was surprised at my 40-min swim; very relaxing. The second discipline was my favorite but I had mechanical trouble in my bike’s rear tire around Km. 60. A spoke broke and the tire was wobbly. For 30kms, I pedaled harder and that caused my legs to be worn out. I had 4 hours to spare to finish the 21km. It was my longest 21K! At one point, I told myself I’m not going to do this again. But, seconds after crossing the finish, I said, “I will do this again next year!”

Photo by Mike Jo

AMALE JOPSON: Even with the crazy water start and the surprise of the gun about to go off when everyone was way beyond the supposed starting line, I enjoyed the swim leg. The water was clear and calm, which allowed me to maneuver around the slower swimmers from the first wave. Except for a slight current on the way back, swim conditions were great, helping me to clock 32:08 at the timing mat putting us in a good position for the overall win in the all women’s relay. The event was well-staged and made me feel proud that we had a world-class race in Cebu. It made me think that maybe I would like to participate in the individual race next year if I can find a way for my kids not to feel like orphans for a few months while training. 🙂

Amale, Lohriz Echavez-Lopez and Mary Joy Tabal

MENDEL LOPEZ, 3rd placer, Filipino elite. Of all my sporting achievements, this has to be the best ever. I was slow in the swim (34 mins), as I expected. In the bike, I recovered and timed 2:31. I suffered in the run (1:28) because of the biking effort. Triathlon training is not as painful as the marathon. My next target: the Timex 226 (full Ironman) in Bohol this December.

Photo by Jens Funk

JANE-JANE ONG. My 2nd IM 70.3 was very memorable. Of the 3 disciplines, swim is my weakest. However, water on race day was calm, no waves, no undercurrent, no jellyfish. YAY! I surprised myself by cutting my time by 14 min. Bike was very difficult with the strong winds from CICC to Talisay. And I thought Camsur was difficult when the rain poured… but this was worse. But the best part of it being held in Cebu, our homecourt, is that plenty of friends and fellow athletes cheered.

AYA GARCIA SHLACHTER. The most enjoyable part for me was swimming in the open water. It is challenging and you need to be mentally prepared, swimming with hundreds of people. The bike is my weakest but I managed to finish the course in one piece even though I crashed during one of the narrow U-turns. I knew I was going to crash so I decided to gracefully make a free fall to the right without resisting the crash. I picked myself up and continued the bike course injury-free. Most memorable part was when my dear friend Sen. Pia Cayetano was waiting for me in the finish. I will do this again and will recommend it to friends. 7:04:24 was my time.

BERNARD SIA, who replaced Jennylyn Mercado as biker for Team FHM (Fearless Hot Mammas), with swimmer Ripples Faelnar and runner MaiMai Hermosilla. Said Bernard, who clocked 3:06: The IM70.3 will be remembered for a long time. While I awaited for our swimmer my heart rate was already at 112, anxious & excited! During my whole ride I just remembered one tip: keep my heart rate at 150-155. We lost a cyclist, don’t know him personally but would like to dedicate that ride to him. Ramie Igaña, that was for you. Most fun: friends taking time to cheer especially Andy & Renee Ven who took nice picture and this ONCE IN A LIFETIME chance to bike the SRP & the tunnel! Most painful: Fernan bridge Mactan bound & strong headwinds to Talisay!

Photo by Michael Ocana

GANDHI TRUYA, who finished 5:43:49. I enjoy it more than a full marathon, the latter is more painful. Recovery in 70.3 is faster… Cruising at the SRP coastal road getting hit by headwind and blown away by the tailwind is something a cyclist here does not experience often. Compared to Camsur? No offense to CWC but Shangri-La is definitely better. The Marcelo Fernan bridge, the tunnel, and the SRP road are some of the things Camsur can’t offer.

Biking 90 kms. of the Ironman 70.3

To our dear friend Ramie Igaña, may you rest in peace. Life is short and unexpected. Last night while scouring through Facebook, I saw a photo of Ramie together with Richard Ho (who also did the bike relay) on their bikes at the Talisay water pit stop—just minutes before Ramie fell off his bike (possibly due to a heart attack or pulmonary embolism). We pray for his wife, Dr. Humility “Mity,” and their daughter, Niña.

BIKE. I had a personal experience with the 90-km. route because I joined the relay team, doing the bike leg while Jessica Michibata swam and ran. Here’s my short story:

In Shangri-La, less than 40 minutes after the swim start and while waiting at the Transition Area, Jessica runs from the beach area towards the tent. As she arrived, she took off the timing chip from her ankle and handed it to me as I sprinted towards the bike. Less than a minute after pedaling, upon exiting Shangri-La, my chain came off. Oh no! Relax. Don’t panic, I told myself.

The thousands of cheerers–many of them students—along the route was a remarkable sight. Left and right, everybody was cheering. (Funny: in some portions, the children were screaming, “GO, PLAYERS, GO!” as if we were triathlon “players.”) It was hard not to feel excited. As their banners announced and following the DOT slogan, it was “Double the fun in Lapu-Lapu City.”

Biking while the roads were completely free of cars is exhilarating. The asphalted roads from Shangri-La towards the bridge, especially near the MEPZ area, was terrific.

Lohriz Echavez-Lopez, the wife of champ Mendel and a former triathlon star was near me. Climbing the Marcelo Fernan Bridge was easy — because of the adrenaline rush. But the portion after the bridge (Mandaue side) was bad. There were patches of newly-minted asphalt mixed with the old. It was a rough, rocky ride. Scary.

Passing through the Bridges mall (of Alegrado) along Plaridel St. with zero traffic, again, was a rare moment. We zoomed through the intersection (A.C. Cortes Ave.) at full speed. Wow. This is the only time when you can do this.

All was smooth and easy. Until we hit the reclamation area. That’s when the headwind said… not so fast! Pedaling towards CICC, then onwards towards Radisson Blu, you could feel the wind pressure battling your face and body.

The tunnel? Gliding downhill towards the dark zone, you’re in full speed. Then, as you enter, it’s dark. You have to be extra careful because, with the sunglasses on, visibility is minimal. Bikers screamed. Not in fear—but in joy. This was the chance of a lifetime—to bike the tunnel!

The South Road Properties (SRP) was the toughest. The headwind slowed everybody down. It was as if a rubber band was pulling you from behind. Or a giant Iwata fan was blowing in front of you. It was tough. Plus, the sun was out.

Reaching the U-turn point in Talisay City, you’re surrounded by thousands and thousands of residents, many cheering and watching. Again, another awesome sight.

After the U-turn (that’s the 30-km. mark), it was a fast return (often reaching 40kph) back to the CICC where, again, at the Parkmall area, thousands of cheerers congregated.  At the CICC U-turn point (45K), my watch read one hour, 30 minutes–I was on pace to finish in 3 hours.

Photo by Lemuel Arrogante

Then, back headed to Talisay, it was the headwind again. Painful. You just have to lower your head, pedal, think positive.

The return ride was difficult. Upon reaching the bridge (past 80K), your bodily resources are low. Some walked their bikes while climbing the bridge. Finally, it was back to Mactan and, beside Lohriz, a smiling finish at Shangri-La.

My time? 3:09. Slow compared to Pete Jacobs’ 2:15 split but not bad. It was only my fifth time ever on a road bike. Though I’ve been mountain-biking for years, it wasn’t until last week, when I got word that I wouldn’t run and when Chris Aldeguer convinced me and lent me his bike, that I first sat on a racer.

London’s Olympics and Cebu’s Ironman

Only nine days remain before the Ironman 70.3 begins at the Shangri-La Mactan Resort. Cebu has hosted plenty of big-time sporting events before. Last year’s Davis Cup tennis events against Japan and Taiwan were huge. So have been the ALA Promotions-organized boxing fights. I recall watching Dennis Rodman slamming a dunk in Mandaue. We struck gold in Dancesport during the SEA Games of 2005. And last week, the World Eskrima Kali Arnis championships were held at the CICC.

But there’s never been as much excitement as the August 5, 2012 swim-bike-run spectacle. Over 1,700 triathletes—including Jenson Button and his sexy supermodel girlfriend, Jessica Michibata—are landing in the shores of Mactan next weekend. In swimming pools all over Cebu—from Casino Español to Abellana to Holiday Gym—the waves are splashing with freestyle strokes. Everyone’s practicing.

Yesterday, together with Neil Montesclaros, I biked 72 kms. from Consolacion to Catmon. Along the route, dozens of cyclists—on a Wednesday—are cramming their pedaling rotations.

Runners? Wake up at 5:15 A.M. and you’ll encounter sweaty, sleeveless-wearing athletes pounding our newly-asphalted streets.

Why does this Ironman have an accompanying “70.3” number? That’s because the race totals 70.3 miles. In our usual kilometer readings, that’s 1.9 + 90 + 21. That’s a swim of 1.9 kms., a 90K bike ride and a half-marathon run.

Cebu awaits—and welcomes—our triathlete visitors.

DONDI. Gordon Alan “Dondi” Joseph, my fellow Rotarian from the RC Cebu West and a top civic leader (he’s the president of the Cebu Business Club), is now in London, England.

“Not really to watch, John!” was his reply when I asked if he was there to witness the Olympic Games. Dondi, whose brother, Mark Joseph, is the head of Philippine swimming, emailed me yesterday a few observations…

“There is a palpable buzz in the air and while many Londoners with their usual aplomb consider the Games a a bit of a bother, the city is gleaming, literally and figuratively. Signs of last-minute preparations are everywhere as Olympic-related event venues are being spruced up and constructed.

“The weather is beautiful with temperatures ranging from 17 to 31 with only the sun to greet you. People are in shorts and T-shirts and around parks, large and small. All have people sunbathing in Olympic-marked sun chairs.

“I didn’t plan to get involved in any event but am now determined to try and watch the torch along its route to the stadium. It’s simply contagious and I want to be part of the greatest show on earth!

“Tickets to the Opening are over 5000usd. Yup 5,000. Too rich for me. But everything else is going on and there are concerts galore! This is just fantastic!!!

“And by the way, with the end of the rains and the entry of the beautiful sun, the skirts are really shorter! Beautiful… ;-)”

PHL OLYMPICS. What time is the Opening Ceremony? It will be (Philippine time) two days from now… at 4:30 A.M. on Saturday. It is expected to be shown on both Solar Sports and Star Sports.

With our Philippine delegation, did you know that our 11 Olympians will be the smallest contingent we’ve sent—if my research is correct—in 80 years (during the 1932 Los Angeles Games).

Back in 1924, we were the first Southeast Asian country to join the Olympics. Excluding the 1980 Olympics (when we boycotted Moscow), we have never missed participating in the Summer Games. Thus far, we’ve accumulated two silver medals and seven bronze medals. Of these nine medals, we won five in boxing and two apiece in athletics and swimming.

Our last medal? It was Onyok Velasco’s silver in Atlanta, 1996. Gold? Nah. Even if there’s a P5 million bounty (Sports Incentive Act, RA 9064) offered by the government, there are no takers. Or, rather, no one’s good enough to take gold.

And here’s one more trivia: After Mongolia won their first gold medal in 2008, we now hold the infamous record as the nation with the most medals… but no gold medal.

Ironman 70.3 Cebu: All ready except for….

… Potholes on the road.

I met Guy Concepcion yesterday. After he landed in Cebu from Manila, he traveled straight to Marriott Hotel and partook of their lavish buffet. We sat down after breakfast at 9:10 A.M.

Rene “Guy” Concepcion is no ordinary guy. Next to Fred Uytengsu, Jr., he’s the man behind the Ironman 70.3 in Mactan. He’s also an Olympian, having joined the 1988 Seoul Olympics as a swimmer together with Akiko Thomson and Eric Buhain.

“We have 1,700 participants for Cebu, all excited,” said Guy. “This compares to the 500 participants in the first year in Camarines Sur. In the second year in Camsur, we had 700. Last year, we had 1,100.”

If you think 1,700 is plenty—think again. Hundreds more wanted to participate. (This, despite the hefty $275 fee.) That number could easily have ballooned to 2,500 had all the waiting list and interested first-timers been accepted.

“We want to limit the number this year,” he said. “Next year, if all goes well, we’ll accommodate more.”

Guy is in-charge of the race operations. And since two of the country’s biggest triathlon races are held in Cebu this 2012—the XTERRA last March and the Ironman 70.3 in August—then he’s been to Cebu dozens of times thus far.

“Welcome back!” I told him. Welcome back? he asked. “I’ve been here too many times!”

Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa is ready. So are the cities of Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu and Cebu—the threesome co-hosts. So is, happy for Guy to report, the Marcelo Fernan Bridge. “We’re glad to hear that the bridge repairs are nearly finished,” he said. “At first, reports came out that it won’t be done before August. This is good news.”

Thanks to the active participation of Gov. Gwen Garcia, all preparations are in place. Last week in Manila, Gov. Gwen sat beside Mr. Uytengsu and Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza in a glitzy launching at the Shangri-La Hotel in Makati.

Guy’s only concerns? Potholes. No, not the ones in SRP. “When I saw those huge holes at the SRP a few months back, we were concerned. Imagine the cyclists traveling at 45-kph passing through those? That would be scary. But thanks to the DPWH and other agencies, they’ve been asphalted.”

Guy is troubled with the remaining potholes in certain sections of the reclamation area: The road leading to the tunnel; the road leading to the CICC. He hopes, in a couple of weeks’ time, for these to be fixed. (Paging, DPWH!)

As to the rest of the Cebuano public, those who won’t be joining but are interested to join the revelry?

“Please cheer! This is such a huge event for Cebu and for sports and it’s exciting to watch,” he said. “Spectators can line up the roads along the reclamation area. If one leaves very early, one can be in Mactan to watch the bike and run portions.”

Inconveniences? Plenty of areas will be closed to traffic—half of the M. Fernan Bridge, the entire SRP, portions of the Reclamation Area, most of Punta Engaño—from 6 to 11 A.M. on race day. (Proper advisories will be posted soon.) Access to Mactan and the airport, though, will still be open.

“We ask for patience and for the Cebuanos to come out this August 5 to support and cheer,” said Guy. “Cheering means a lot to the participants, many of whom are foreign athletes.”

Apart from the Cobra Energy Drink Ironman race—which will fire off 32 days from now—Guy and I talked a lot about other sports stuff.

Like swimming. Guy joined the 10K Fina Marathon Swimming World Cup in Israel last April. He timed two hours, 40 minutes. (In most local triathlon races, Guy is the first one off the swim portion. At the XTERRA race last March in Liloan, he clocked five minutes in the 500-meter swim!)

We talked about Michael Phelps vs. Ryan Lochte. “Phelps has a way to elevate himself during the big occasions,” said Guy. “Expect him to win again in London.”

Finally, in one of those you-won’t-believe-who’s-joining moments, Guy revealed that one international superstar will be joining our Ironman.

The celebrity? (Hint: Not Lance.) Soon, Guy will announce that guy’s name.

Only 48 days to go before Ironman 70.3

Barely a month and a half is left before triathletes from all over the globe converge at Shangri-La’s Mactan Island Resort for the first Ironman 70.3 race in Cebu. Exciting! I know plenty, many of whom are first-timers, who are joining. All have programmed their schedules and minds on the biggest race that they’ll join. Cebu is honored and proud to be chosen as the host. To all participants, good luck with the training!

Lance Armstrong joining Cebu’s XTERRA or Ironman?

Yes. I mean, yes, there’s a possibility. The 7-time Tour de France champion joined two XTERRA races last year.

What’s XTERRA? It’s an off-road triathlon with an open-sea swim, a mountain-bike ride, and an off-road trail run. Lance joined the XTERRA USA Championship in Utah last September—his first—and he placed an impressive 5th place. “At 40 years old, I guess I could have gone home and drank beer and played golf all day long,” Armstrong said. “But it’s cool to come out here and test yourself, and also just support a sport that I think is really cool.” He joined another XTERRA race in Maui, Hawaii last October; this time, the World Championship. He placed 23rd—despite crashing head-on with one mile to go on his MTB.

Will Lance join the March 18 edition of the XTERRA here in Cebu? That’s the dream scenario envisioned by the organizers, led by Fred Uytengsu, Jr., who extended his invitation for LA to visit the Philippines for the first time.

If Lance does land in Mactan and joins the 1500m swim, 30K bike and 10K run that will start/end at Amara in Liloan, it will mark the grandest-ever visit of any athlete to Cebu. Dennis Rodman played basketball in Mandaue. Ken Griffey, Jr. threw baseballs at the Aboitiz Sports Field. Davis Cup tennis stars have swatted forehands here; PBA heroes have rebounded balls on dozens of occasions. But Lance is the superstar of super-athletes.

IRONMAN. This weekend, thanks to the recent email from Lance’s lookalike in Cebu—that’s Chris Aldeguer—Mr. Armstrong will be joining Ironman Panama 70.3. This is the same Ironman race that will kickoff at Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa this August 5.

Why this shift to triathlon for Lance? Prior to riding his Trek bike, he raced in triathlons. Says Wikipedia: “At the age of 12, he began his sporting career as a swimmer… and finished fourth in Texas state 1,500-meter freestyle. He abandoned swimming-only competition after seeing a poster for a junior triathlon called the Iron Kids Triathlon, which he entered and won at age 13.” Lance soon became America’s No.1 ranked triathlete in the 19-and-under group.

So, there. This is a comeback. This also means two chances for Armstrong to visit Cebu: XTERRA or Ironman.

CONTADOR. Speaking of his arch-rival Alberto Contador, what a contrast of fates. Just days ago, the cycling champ’s appeal of his two-year ban due to drugs was upheld by the sport’s highest ruling body, the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Contador was stripped of his 2010 Tour de France title.

Lance? The opposite. After a two-year-long federal investigation into his alleged drug use, the case was dropped and he’s declared innocent. This is huge news. One, Lance is a worldwide symbol of hope and sporting greatness. Had he been convicted, this would have told the world, “Nobody in sports can be trusted.” Two, Lance is a symbol of cancer survival. His image—and that of his good works against the Big C—would have been forever tarnished. Third, the investigators are the best. Named the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, they’re led by America’s sharpest lawyers and they’ve convicted the likes of Marion Jones and Tyler Hamilton.

And so, in this Armstrong vs. Contador “drugs” battle, the American beats the Spaniard.

CANCER. If you recall, Lance was given a 40% survival chance after testicular cancer had spread to his lungs, abdomen and brain. He lived. He biked. He won 7 TdFs. And, despite having surgery down there and retaining only “one ball,” this Superman beats me and so many others by rearing five children!

The latest good news on LA’s cancer fight? I call it the “Big C vs. the Evil C.” Lance is spearheading a campaign in California that will add an additional $1 tax (per pack) on cigarettes. Called the California Cancer Research Act, once approved, this will bring in nearly $1 billion in support of cancer research.

I call it the 4 Cs: Cycling Champ in Cancer vs. Cigarettes fight. Will Lance visit another “C” this 2012? Cebu? Let’s C.