The weekend of April 30 to May 1 was such a major one for me this year, and not because of Labor Day. It was my first time to participate in the K-Swiss ITU Subic Bay International Triathlon (better known as SuBIT) and my first time ever to complete the Sprint distance (750-meter swim, 21-kilometer bike, 5.4-kilometer run).
My ENDURE teammates and I drove up to Subic on Friday, the day before the overall sprint, relay, and women’s standard distance races. Our hotel Pista sa Barrio was right on the race course, a perfect vantage point for watching people come out of T2 and complete their run loops.
T1 was outside Dungaree Beach, the location for our swim leg, so very early on that Saturday morning we Sh-ENDURE and our bikes were packed into our van. Even though I was seated calmly in there, my heart was pounding in my chest.
Dungaree is infested with small jellyfish, and during our recon there earlier in the year we had experienced their unpleasant sting. While others opted to warm up with a few laps in the water, I stayed dry. And then one of the women doing the standard distance walked right by me with a bandage on her arm, saying she’d just seen a large jellyfish with long tentacles. (!!!)
I was just thankful I only needed to do one long loop in Dungaree’s water before heading to T1 to start the bike leg. I didn’t really have time to work myself up into a nervous frenzy; before I knew it, the horn sounded and we were off!
Now I have to be honest, I did pretty well during the first 200 meters. And then, my swim cap started peeling off my head. My bangs started floating all over my face obscuring my vision, and mentally I was just scared of seeing a jellyfish float into view. So, I flipped over (same as I did during the NAGT Subic back in February) and backstroked to the 300-meter buoy. Then I breaststroked 50 meters around the U-shaped end before heading back for the last 300 meters. I was just about to start doing the freestyle crawl again when I heard someone next to me start retching into the water. Uh, no way am I putting my face into that!
Finally about 50 meters to shore, I tried to look dignified by freestyling up to the beach. I still looked like a bedraggled dog running up to T1, though. (Incidentally, Dungaree used to be called “Dog Beach”.)
Let Loose the Dogs of War
I knew I had my work cut out for me; though I didn’t know how much difference I had to make up in the bike and run legs, I knew my swim wasn’t stellar. So, I spent as little time in transition as possible. After a bit of difficulty finding my bike, I got out of there like I had dogs chasing me.
I knew the hill I’d be climbing out of Dungaree was steep, but it still took the wind out of my sails. Thankfully, the Sprint turnaround came quickly and I was back on flat roads pedaling to T2 at the Boardwalk area. I was so happy to hit 34 kph during that time, which meant all my training at MOA against headwinds was paying off.
Back in My Comfort Zone
Then came the part I was looking forward to the most: the run! After a quick dismount, tossing the helmet in favor of a visor, and a change of shoes, my legs still felt fresh. I wasn’t just jogging along; I felt I was flying!
The run route required two large loops around the Boardwalk area, plus a smaller loop that cut across to the finish chute. Even though I was panting like a dog on a summer’s day, on my first loop, I passed the woman who had beaten me during NAGT Subic. On the last small loop, I passed another woman in the Sprint category. Crossing that finish line felt really good. I knew I wasn’t in first place, but just to have leveled up to doing Sprint distance after two mini-sprints was already a huge achievement for me.
Still, my ENDURE teammates’ belief in me was so great that after waiting for all our Sh-ENDUREs to finish their Standard distance, we went to the awarding ceremonies at Travelers Hotel. They were awarding the top 5 finishers in each category. And then, my name was called for 3rd place!
“We’re So Sorry”
The officials hung the medal around my neck, I stood on the third place box, and there were numerous photo ops of all five of us finishers.
Five minutes after I stepped off the stage, the ITU official from Singapore approached our table looking very apologetic. He said, “We’re so sorry. There was a clerical error. You are actually in fourth place.”
It turns out, Tricia Chiongbian finished in third place ahead of me by two minutes, but since she had lost her timing chip during the run leg, she had timed in manually with the marshal. When they generated the provisional results using chip data, she wasn’t included in the finisher list because she had no run split.
As runners we have become so used to the rule “no chip, no time, no award”, but in the world of triathlon this isn’t the general rule. Since the ITU rules were codified before timing chips came to be used in competition, they remain silent about it. For the Ironman triathlons, they strictly use chip time. For SuBIT, however, they have a manual timing system that is the final word on deciding who places. So, I surrendered my third place medal and prize and they gave me the ones for fourth place.
I told the ITU official I would accept their ruling on the matter, but requested that next time, they verify with their manual results before proceeding with awarding to avoid the embarrassment of having to take back the awards.
We Are the Champions
Still there was much to be happy about. Sh-ENDURE relay team composed of Pepsi Gutierrez, Tracy Carpena, and Marga Baula won the top prize for being the only team to finish the all-women’s relay (there were two DNS, one DNF, and one DQ). Zinnia Villarin won first place in her age group.
The next day, H-ENDUREs all finished with respectable times improving from their previous SuBIT performances. The field was tougher due to the sheer number of participants, so we were just thankful our boys were not injured at all.
The team’s lone injury? Me, uncleating off my bike in the hotel parking lot.
I want to do the women’s standard distance before I hit 30, which means I need to level up next year. SuBIT 2012 preparation starts now!
ENDURE would like to thank our sponsors: BlackBerry, Vibram Five Fingers, and Mizuno.
* photos by Gerard Cinco
+ photos by Marvin Opulencia
^ photos by Timex Sports Philippines
» photo by Ellen Encinares
~ photo by Pio Sugay