– was not a triathlete’s experience! I was there just as a mere spectator but it was a fun, fun, fun experience nevertheless! In addition, I was lucky to have, together with a number of my friends, to have been given media accreditation and thus have easy access to the event’s venue/s.
The Cobra Ironman 70.3 Philippines 2012, which was held for the first time in Mactan City, Cebu (the past editions were held at the CamSur Water Sports Complex in Camarines Sur), was not just an event but also was a celebration – a celebration of the Filipinos’ growing love for Triathlon as a sport and also a celebration of the Filipino’s knack for hospitality.
The following chronicles my three-day experience in Cebu for the pre-race, actual race and post-race experiences. I do not have a technical feedback about the conduct of the race though as I believe that the best people to provide these are the participants themselves.
AUGUST 3, 2012, Friday:
Upon entering the lobby of Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 on Friday morning, participants and guests travelling from Manila to Cebu already had a taste of the Cobra IM70.3 Philippines fever! Pretty ladies clad in native-costumes hold banners welcoming participants to the event. Signages are also clearly visible around the area making sure that participants are guided in what they should do prior to boarding. Best of all, an information desk was also setup right beside the entrance to the airline check-in counters. Clearly, all participants can ask for help or support inside the airport. My thought was – “Yey, this is it! I am definitely going back to Cebu to finally witness how an Ironman event is being held!” – I was uber excited!
Our delayed flight to Cebu only coupled this excitement with anxiousness especially upon arriving at the Mactan International Airport. If the welcoming team at the Manila’s NAIA did generate excitement, it will be more so at the Mactan Cebu airport. Here, Filipiniana-clad ladies together with Barong Tagalog wearing-men are there at the airport, welcoming each participants and guests with a memento from Cebu – a handcrafted necklace which has the name Cebu on it. I was to later discover that we just missed a cultural dance presentation which is being held in intervals at the airport. The price a delayed flight makes…
After checking-in at the hotel and dropping off most of our things, Jenny and I went to the Shangri-la Mactan Resort Hotel to meet friends and of course, start our “IM70.3 experience”. The hotel’s sprawling area was converted into an Ironman haven! Everywhere you look, there is something that will make you remember that both the IronKids and IM70.3 races are just a few days away!
The following activities were simultaneously on-going when we arrived at the Shang:
- Athlete Registration for both IM70.3 and IronKids
- Bike Service
- Meet the PROs PressCon
- Selling at the Ironman Store
- Sponsors Expo
We were only able to catch the last part of the Meet the PROs presscon but what struck me the most was that most of the PROs are one in saying that the reason that they keep coming back to participate in the Philippines’ IM70.3 was because this was where they felt that they are best taken-cared of not just by the organizers but also the hospitable Filipinos.
We were also able to get a glimpse of the Alaska IronKids’s Carbo-Loading party that was then about to start. Yes folks, the Alaska IronKids, a side mini-event to the IM70.3 which was held a day before the actual race, also had their own version of a Carbo-Loading dinner. It was actually a children’s party of sorts, complete with kiddie treats such as a cotton candy cart, hotdogs, chocolate fondue/fountain and not to forget, a Magic Show. It was a kiddie Carbo-Loading feast with all the ingredients of fun in it!
The last activity for the day was the Carbo-Loading Dinner held at the Cebu International Convention Center. Shuttle service were provided to both participants, organizers and media as the venue is considerably far from the Shang. The carbo-loading dinner is presented in such a grand manner. Not only were the food the finest (with of course Cebu’s famous lechon prominently included in the menu!), the program that comes with it was also grand! It was a presentation of Cebu’s beautiful culture through dance. It was just simply fantastic!
As I have said the Carbo-Loading Dinner was the last activity to cap that day which I think was the day which kicked-off all activities leading to the actual races – for the kids and adults alike.
We came back to our hotel rooms tired but really happy. If this is a portent of things to come, then we are truly in for a lot of exciting and fun experience!
AUGUST 4, 2012 – Saturday:
Saturday found us awake very early as this was the day that the Alaska IronKids race is to be held. Being a parent myself, I so look forward to seeing the kids do their mini-version of a triathlon. For the most part, I truly would like to cheer and hug all of them as they are even better than most of us adults! These kids were truly full of courage as they have taken on the open swim course. Oh look at me, I can’t even do a decent swim at the pool!
The Alaska IronKids event showed everyone how kids can overcome such daunting tasks given enough training and of course support and love from their parents and the people around them. During the awarding ceremonies, the mother’s heart in me got filled with so much awe and joy that I got teary-eyed just by watching these kids come up the podium!
The rest of the day was meant for participant’s bike check-in and race briefing. Me and my friends opted to be out of the scene to do some “pasalubong” shopping. It was a great surprise to learn that discount privileges are being given to IronMan 70.3 delegates in some of the stores within Mactan. Non-participants such as us were extended this benefit by virtue of our bearing Ironman 70.3 Media passes.
The last activity for everyone on that day was the Anticipated Mass. I went alone as my friend is non-catholic but was lucky to have met-up with friend Gemma. We heard mass together which was to say the least was great. It was so overwhelming to see a ballroom-full of triathletes hearing Holy Mass together, praying for a good and blessed race day. Afterwards, it was a dinner treat from my good friend P where I again saw my favorite PJ.
Day 2 was done with full of anticipation for the would-be happenings of Day 3.
AUGUST 5, 2012 – Sunday, IM70.3 Race Day:
This is it! Race Day Sunday. We were up so early in the morning, taking careful note that we should be able to leave the hotel early so that we can reach the Shang before the roads are closed.
We arrived at the Shang at aroun 4AM, with already a lot of bustling and hurried movements happening about. My friend P is nowhere in sight but I took mental note of letting her be as of course she is busy being on top of all this.
Security was tight, errr may I just say SOOOOOOO TIGHT and sometimes TOOOO TIGHT FOR COMFORT. But as I have been a part of run race organizing for most of the part, I tried to obey and just try to use the power of persuasion without losing my cool. Tight security has its reasons, after all.
The transition area/relay team’s area was strictly off-limits to non-participants so by then I don’t have any idea as to how the body marking activity was being carried-out. But in my plain eye-sight, I got to see what a true “bike porn” really means! There lots and lots and lots of bikes – triathlon, road bikes at the transition area that is enough for those who bike to salivate! Heck, some of the bikes I saw practically costs as much as a car’s downpayment!
The swim leg was kinda chilling. No it wasn’t cold, the sun in fact is up. It just brings me chills to see a lot of people in the open waters taking on the swim course. It was actually supposed to be a 1.9km swim that each participant has to finish within a maximum time of 1 hour 25 minutes. Seeing them all, made me add another item to my bucket list: “Learn how to swim”.
Defending IM70.3 Philippines Champion, Pete Jacobs was first out of the swim course with a very fast time of 21 minutes and 26seconds! He almost also dominated the bike leg but was eventually over-taken by Cameron Brown.
The bike leg is where I felt all the excitement and electricity. Maybe because this was where we spectators get to see the participants up-close. At the bike mounting area, you can basically “feel” them triathletes – there were those who are really strong and fast, those who are tense, those who were unlucky to have crashed a few seconds after mounting and of course, those who were trying to be cool and focused, those who are basically part of the tail-end of the pack. But there is one thing that defines everyone of them – their HEART. I am sure everyone of, not just me who came by to watch will agree with me when I say that each and everyone who participated in this race all has the heart of an Ironman. And each and everyone of them deserves my utmost admiration.
The bike leg was supposed to be the longest and the hardest to finish among the three legs of the ironman race. Participants are expected to complete the whole 90.1km bike course within 4 hours with head wind and the heat of the sun as a challenge on their way to the half of the course and exciting tail wind to propel them to finish most of the last part.
I positioned myself outside the Shangrila Mactan perimeter and saw the electricity of the crwod leveled-up. Here I have learned that the bike course was lined by spectators, mostly students wearing uniform-in-color shirts and bearing flags. They have untirelessly cheered on each passing bikers giving the participants that much needed extra boost to finish strong.
It was basically fiesta along the bike course especially when the likes of Piolo Pascual (who btw elicited the loudest cheers!), Matteo Gudicelli, Sen. Pia Cayetano and other celebrities are recognized as they pass by.
Again, I suddenly miss the feel of riding a bike!
According to the PROs, the bike course of this year’s Ironman race in Cebu is by far one of the toughest IM70.3 bike courses. They even went on to say that if you have successful completed it, you can take on other IM70.3 races in the other parts of the world.
As the intense heat of the sun was starting to become really uncomfortable, I opted not to check on the run leg activities and instead went on to go check out the Finish line area. It was a long walk from the transition area to the finish area as most of the area lining the run path to the finish has either been cordoned-off or barricaded. Even my media pass did not provide me any privilege since again, only organizers and finishers/participants were allowed to go in.
There I was able to check out what are in store for finishers once they cross the finish line:
Apart from this, the participants has the option to have a post-race massage c/o David’s Salon, Magnum Ice Cream and refreshments from Alaska and Viva Mineral Water.
I luckily was able to catch the top finishers cross the finish and also get to catch up with my friend P who by this time is sneaking up some precious time to sit and have a break. Top PRO winners were Pete Jacobs (over-all and PRO male) who nails his three-peat (they now call it three-”Pete”) in the IM70.3 Philippines as this is his third straight win while Caroline Steffen gets the top place for the the PRO female. For the local elites, August Beendicto finishes as the top male while Monica Torres bags her fourth straight top spot win for the Local Women Elite. Complete race results for both the relay and individual categories can be found at the Cobra IM70.3 official website: http://www.ironman703phil.com/. Official photos and videos can also be viewed from the said site.
The atmosphere post-race almost resembles a feast or even a school fair where most of the people – supporters, spectators and participants themselves were sprawled in the vast grass-covered area on what is originally the resort-hotel’s helipad and golf course area, whiling the time resting, eating, sharing stories or even checking out the various on-going activities. As PROs and celebrities abound, many took the opportunity for numerous photo sessions with the stars (me included!)
I am sure a lot of those who were there have their own version of Ironman stories to tell, many will have varied feedback and opinion. But for a first-time spectator/witness such as I, I would have to say that hands-down the Cobra Ironman 70.3 Philippines did not disappoint. It was a grand “production number” that have been worthy of my trip back to the South. And if I will be given the chance to decide on my schedule for the next two years, I will continue to have this trip to the South in time for the staging of the said race. I might after all be finally consent to participating in the relay race with friends to at least have a m”mini-feel” of how it is to be a participant to this awesome event.
I would like to thank the people of Sunrise Events (Mr. Uytengsu, P), Alaska Milk (Ms Belle, Ms. Ching, Ms. CK) and Event King (Mikko and staff), Fa, Bebang, Kyn, Guia for allowing us to roam around the area as accredited media and for being such good hosts. We truly had a wonderful experience.
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