There are really just two kinds of people: Those who say “I can’t”. And those who say “I CAN”.
Some of you must have heard about the story of Rick and Dick Hoyt. Rick is stricken with Cerebral Palsy and needed his father, Dick, to move him around in a wheelchair. Together, they have raced numerous marathons and Ironman Triathlon races and inspired an awful lot of people, including myself, around the world.
If a senior citizen and a wheelchair-strapped PWD could swim 3.8 kilometers, bike 180 kilometers and run a marathon ( 42.2 kms ) within 17 hours non-stop, what more a person who’s got younger sets of fully functioning limbs?
The next morning, I started wearing my running shoes and trained my ass off to my first triathlon.
That was in 2008.
Every triathlete’s dream is to finish an Ironman Triathlon. The 3.8K swim, 180K bike and 42.2K run is considered the toughest one day endurance race in the world and has attracted more and more people, who wanted to challenge themselves, over the years. Locally, we have the Ironman 70.3, half the distance of the Ironman, being organized annually since 2009. The first Ironman-distance race organized in the country was held in 2002, almost a decade ago, and was joined in by around 50 triathletes. Last December 3, in the shores of Anda Beach in Bohol, the same organizers gathered together 61 of the country’s qualified triathletes and fired the starting gun of the 2nd Ironman-Distance race in the Philippines, the Timex 226 Bohol Triathlon.
THE SWIM: 3.8 Kilometers
The race basically followed the Ironman rules and set-up. I have done about 10 triathlons but this was the first time I raced one with no buoy lines in the swim which meant nothing to hold on to in the water except the “bancas” which littered the swim course. It was both creepy and challenging for a slow swimmer like myself, especially if you’re nursing a lingering shoulder injury which restricts your right arm movement.
The battle to finish the swim started a few days before the race even started. It was all mental. I kept on worrying about the no buoy line swim course. It was a safety net for me as my right shoulder has chronic pains due to a bike crash I suffered more than 3 years ago. Good thing the organizers extended a dedicated “bankero” to me just in case I have problems during the swim. I was also allowed to wear a yellow swim cap instead of the red one they provided so my bankero could spot me easily.
Team prayer before the big show
At 7:00 am of December 3, 2011, at the shores of Anda Beach in Bohol, Congressman Art Yap fired the starting gun of the toughest race of the country.
And off we go!
The swim route was a 3-loop clockwise course of around 1.26kms each in clear ocean waters. It was entertaining to see the corals of Bohol which helped in taking the mind away from the depth of the water and the 3.8kms of swimming each of us had to do to complete the first leg of the 3-discipline race we insanely registered in.
The clear waters of Anda beach helped in taking away most of the anxieties the participants had during the swim
My right shoulder started getting sore in the middle of my 2nd lap. My neck also started becoming painful due to jellyfish stings and chaffing. When I turned around to start my 3rd lap, the 3rd and 4th toes of my right foot was in the verge of cramping up so I had to breaststroke a bit to prevent it from totally disabling me. The swim at the shallower part of the course became harder as the waves and currents became stronger. The sun was higher as well, which told me I was swimming for more than 1.5 hours already.
On the last 600 meters of my swim, low tide was setting in. The water became shallower around 5 meters from the buoys where I was. I could stand up if I stepped on the corals but decided against it when I saw sea urchins embedded in it.
After more than 2 hours, I completed the swim. My neck was burning and my right shoulder hurt like hell. I was helped by Cong. Art Yap in standing up. I held my right shoulder as I walked to the beach where I was asked by the organizer, Raul Cuevas of Bike King, if I was okay. I asked for liniment for my shoulder, which unfortunately, they didn’t have. Instead, they poured vinegar on my neck thinking that the swellings around it were all jellyfish stings. The vinegar “burned” the swellings and I screamed in pain shamelessly. Imagine getting burned around the neck with a hundred cigarettes, that’s how it felt like.
Completed the swim in more than 2 hours...
Asking for liniment to apply on my sore right shoulder.
Got doused with vinegar instead for my jellyfish stings. Man that hurt like hell!
THE BIKE: 180 Kilometers
I felt good upon completing the swim san the jellyfish stings and chaffing. Unlike Camsur 70.3, I wore cycling gloves and socks and changed to my cycling jersey for more storage space for the nutrition I planned on bringing with me during the whole 180 kms. Earlier in the day, I stuffed my “special needs” bag with 6 aluminum foil-wrapped rice and adobo which I intended to eat one by one whenever I reach the turn-around points. It was a tip shared to me by Coach Normal Pascual of Team Herbalife. I would be cycling for 6 hours+ straight and there’s no way I’d survive with just energy gels. I needed solid food!
Leaving the transition area, I eased into the bike leg fully relaxed, doing around 25kph. After about 5 kms, I thought I was holding back too much and pushed the pedal to about 30kph. In no time, I was about 15 meters behind my teammate, Col. Bong Patrimonio. Col. Bong was my training buddy for this race. I knew what he is capable of and among all the members of Quest 825, we were the ones whose performances are almost similar in most races we joined, so prior to this race we had an agreement that we would be pacing each other throughout the whole race.
The 180 kms bike course took us to 4 towns: Candijay, Guindulman, Duero and Jagna. The first 13kms out of the Anda transition area was jarring and if you put in too much air pressure on your tires, your body would take the beating early on. It was a relief when we reached the national highway and turned right towards the Candijay turn-around, though we were greeted with a steep short climb of about 200 meters before the road “eased up” on us. From that point on we were on automatic mode: We slowed down on ascents, burned the road on the descents and recovered on the flats.
The first 60 kms of my bike ride went on smoothly. All I took was one energy gel during the whole stretch in fear of getting bloated should I eat even if I was feeling full. However, after passing the road going to Anda and seeing the 200m climb going to Candijay again, I regretted not sticking to my nutrition plan. That short, steep climb slowed me down to about 8kph, almost standing still. It burned my quads to ashes that even if I stood up on the bike, there was just no acceleration.
Reaching the Candijay turn around for the 2nd time, I stuck to my nutrition plan and took in the adobo rice I kept in there. I also emptied one sachet of Glucolyte Hydration Salt in my mouth to keep myself hydrated. In between Candijay and Jagna, I would take one energy gel in both directions.
Staying hydrated over the entire 180K bike course. The heat was oppressive but still managed to smile for the camera.
The longest bike ride I did during my training for this race was 120kms. Beyond that was “twilight zone” for me already. I knew I could ride 120kms, but not sure with 180kms. So anything that I would feel after my 2nd 60kms would be new, and I hoped I’d be able to address it correctly.
At the 145th kilometer of my ride, I cramped. I could feel the cramps creeping up the hamstring of my left leg. I did not stop. I remember Macca saying during the 2009 Ironman World Championships, when he was cramping up on the bike, “You gotta love it!”…and those words resonated in my head over and over as I rode through the cramps. Then an amazing thing happened…when I thought that the cramps would aggravate, it went away at the 150th kilometer. I rode as if nothing happened.
Turning right going to the Anda transition area was the best part of the bike. It meant I only had 13 kms to go to complete the bike leg. Again, it was jarring. The roads were not as smooth as we wanted it to be but just the same, it was refreshing. Runners were already on the run course as I made my way to transition 2. My nutrition plan worked. At 8:45 mark of the race and after biking for about 6hrs, 30mins non-stop, I felt great upon dismounting from my bike and didn’t feel wasted. It was a good sign.
Completed the bike leg in around 6 hours, 30 minutes. A good 30mins faster than my target time.
THE RUN: 42.2 Kilometers
I was done with 2 of the 3 legs of this race and felt good leading to the marathon. The night before, I asked my wife to get me one cup of rice plus viand and leave this at the transition area. I felt I’d bonk if I didn’t eat a full meal before I run the final 42.2 kilometers.
Having a full meal before the marathon
While resting and eating at T2, Col. Bong Patrimonio arrived. The two of us would start running together at the 9th hour of the race. We walked the first 300 meters as I was still full with the meal I just had and started the run with a jog. Both of us still had good legs but we didn’t want to burn those out early on. We ran 8 minutes then walked 2 minutes until we completed the first 10K lap. Upon starting the 2nd lap, we wore our headlamps provided by Energizer as it was getting dark already.
We were joined by another teammate, Arbs Portugal, on our 2nd lap and the 3 of us soldiered on in completing the first 21K of the run.
Everything was dark and lonely on our 3rd lap. We would never leave each other alone as there was, literally, strength in numbers in that condition. We stopped at every aid station, which unfortunately, was down to 2 from an initial of 3. The aid station at the 1.5K mark ran out of fluids and only the ones at the 3K and 5K were left.
Just before our final 10K, Col. Bong, Arbs and I on our last banana stop.
On our 4th and final lap, we were joined by Jojo Bonnin of Team TRAIN ( Bacolod triathletes ). The four of us ran through the dark with only our headlamps keeping us on track. Once we turned around at the final 5kms for the last time, we congratulated each other already.
On the final 1.5 kms, we agreed to cross the finish line one by one. This race was so important that having our photo taken at the finish line, alone, would be something to cherish the rest of our lives.
As I enter the finishing chute of the race lined up with people on the right side, I looked up to the sky and blew a kiss to God while thanking Him endlessly. A few meters to the tape, I pumped my fist in triumph.
At exactly 10:49:36 p.m. of December 3, 2011, after having been in motion for 15hours, 49 minutes and 36 seconds, at the Anda Plaza Beach, Anda, Bohol, I crossed the line to become one of the first 60 triathletes to finish the toughest one day endurance race in the Philippines, the Timex 226 Iron Distance Bohol Triathlon. With that finish comes my membership into the exclusive club of Ironman Distance finishers, a dream I had since late 2008.
A victorious Ironman crossing the finish line!
My world stopped and my mind emptied. I looked for my wife, Carol, who has been waiting for me for more than 15hours. I have done it!
All the muscles in my body got beaten up. I could hardly bend my knees and even seating on a chair was a chore. The soles of my feet were all blistered and burning. One thing that found its way back to me was my smile. No amount of pain and suffering would equal to the victory I felt. It was surreal.
A big THANK YOU to all the people who helped me achieve this dream most especially to my Quest 825 brothers and FB friends, and to the organizers for extending assistance to me during the swim.
Thank you to my sponsors: Potencee, Immuvit, Provigor, BikeZilla, The Batis Project, Ridley, Lazer, SH+ Eyewear, Hutchinson’s, Token, C-Joist, FDRC, Sportspray and Trident Logistics.
Thank you to the mayor and people of Anda, Bohol and Congressman Art Yap for the warm reception.
A big thanks to Jijo De Guzman for the photos.
Thank you as well to the organizers, Bike King ( Raul C., RickyLed, Ting J., etc. ) and Timex Philippines for putting up one great event. I’m sure a lot of athletes will join this event next year and most of the 61 who started will come back.
To the most important person in my life and my number one supporter, my wife Carol, who has been keeping up with my early morning trainings and long weekend absence from home, I love you very much…
Thank you Lord for giving us the strength and providing us with your hedge of protection as we raced in the open streets of Bohol and deep, clear waters of Anda. To YOU be the glory!
Some, if not most, of who will read this report will ask why we, triathletes, do what we do. Believe you me, we have asked ourselves the same question over and over again a few days after finishing a race, when our bodies are stiff and bruised. How much more comfortable and relaxing is it to just sleep in in the morning and drink coffee instead of waking up when everyone else is still asleep, to train.
What some people don’t understand though, and probably never will, is the undescribable feeling of breaking the tape at the finish line. The adrenalin rush that makes you pump your fist when your body has nothing to give anymore. The realization that you are capable of things you yourself had never imagined. The idea of pushing your body to its utmost limit until all that drives you is the thought of your family waiting at the very end of the race. The angst and the gritting of the teeth that says, “yeah, I’ve done it!” when your name is called when you enter the finishing chute. That’s what we crave for…that’s what we live for.
We are IRONMEN.
I won’t be racing long distance in 2012. I will let my body heal and recover. 3 years of continuous grinding must have taken its toll on me. God willing, once I get back to the scene, I have moved up to the next age group. Whew! I’m getting old!
Til the next race guys!