So You Want to Be a Pinoy IRONMAN

    

Yesterday, the Philippine triathlon community got the confirmation to all the rumors that have been circulating (founded and unfounded): yes, a branded IRONMAN race would finally be held in this IRONMAN-crazy country. In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the first IRONMAN 70.3 race ever held here, the Century Tuna IRONMAN Philippines will be held in Subic Bay on June 3, 2018.

While registration is yet to open — it’s scheduled for August 1, or Ironman 70.3 Philippines weekend — my Facebook feed was abuzz with people already planning to take on a full IRONMAN for the very first time in the country. Others may have already become an Ironman in other countries, but this race is special, they say.

In the past I may have said I’d want to do a full Ironman in the Philippines, but as my health and desires now stand, I’m going to take a pass. (Lately I have little to no FOMO – Fear of Missing Out.) For people with Ironman dreams though, this is an opportunity not to be missed. Why?

It’s cheaper to race on home soil.

$650 early bird entry fee notwithstanding, there are even more hidden costs to doing an Ironman. Training expenses — food, transport, massage/recovery — and travel plus accommodation outside the country for a race can blow costs up to $2,000 or more. (And that’s not even counting equipment upgrades you might be tempted to purchase.) Subic Bay is relatively cheaper; for one thing, pricing is in Philippine pesos! Also there’s not much need to acclimate even if you’re coming from different parts of the country.

It’s historic.

In 2018, instead of the Century Tuna Ironman 70.3 Subic Bay, that race will be replaced by the full Ironman. But there are no long-term plans to keep holding the full Ironman in the country. So aside from being the first IRONMAN-branded full distance triathlon, it may be the only time this will happen. (Fingers crossed it’s successful enough to warrant a repeat?) This race has been hyped as a one-time chance to earn the M-dot on home soil.

Finish surrounded by friends and family.

I have mentioned that during my one (and only) full distance triathlon it felt very lonely to cross the finish line and not have my family and friends there to share the moment. When racing in the Philippines, not only can you bring your family along, but you’ll also finish among like-minded individuals in the local triathlon community. I have always found the post-race chats with fellow triathletes such a joy.

These three reasons aside though, you will need your own strong personal reason to sign up for a full Ironman, especially if it’s your first one. I wrote at length about what you need to know before your first Ironman (read that blog post here), but let me sum it up in a few points below:

Have a clear purpose for doing an ironman.

Why are you doing this race? What would it mean for you to finish it? Definite answers to these questions will motivate you through training all the way to the finish line and enable you to battle past strong feelings and thoughts about quitting — and trust me, those thoughts WILL come.

Training will require lots of time, commitment, and hard work.

An ironman is a 3.8-kilometer swim, 180-kilometer bike ride, and 42-kilometer run rolled up into one very long day — but that’s just race day. Leading into it will be months of training almost daily, sometimes twice or thrice a day. If you’re holding down a full-time job, have a family, and participate in a busy social scene, something will have to give way. Training for an ironman will require a commitment not just from you, but also from your family and friends, so it’s important they understand what you and they will be getting into during this time. And the training will not always be as glamorous as gorgeous photos hashtagged #ironman on Instagram may make them look.

Get a plan and a coach — especially if this is your first time.

You’ll want to make use of your limited time the most efficient and effective way possible, and that comes with a training plan designed by an expert coach. Remove the guesswork by following a tried-and-tested plan with proper build-up and recovery. A coach can take other factors into consideration when customizing a plan for you, like whether you’re a strong cyclist or need more work in the run, or have a work schedule that won’t allow you to get to a pool on a certain day of the week.

Enjoy the training.

Training hours will be long and on some days you just won’t feel like doing it. Maintaining consistency is key to successful training, so you need to find ways to enjoy and love the work you’re putting in. Training partners help ease the monotony and loneliness of training; the social aspect provides additional motivation to show up to a session. Traveling to camps where you can focus simply on training, especially with a like-minded group, can also help you get through the grind of a big week.

Don’t get caught up in what others are doing.

This happens a lot when a big group of people are training for the same race. You see that someone is doing a 200-kilometer ride this weekend, so you’re going to try to match it. You see that two weeks before the race, another guy is still hitting the big miles and sessions so you start to think that what you’ve done may not be enough. Trust in your training plan and your coach. Everyone is different and no one absorbs workloads the same. One person may recover well from runs, while another may not.

Nutrition is key to survival.

If you’ve previously been doing shorter triathlons, you may have committed some mistakes in your race-day nutrition but were still able to finish well. An ironman exposes the flaws in your fueling strategy. The best time to work on your nutrition strategy is during your long rides and runs. You can test different gels, bars, and alternate nutrition like sandwiches and rice balls, determine whether your body absorbs calories better in liquid or solid form, and find out if you have difficulty absorbing fructose, lactose, or maltodextrin among other things. The key here is finding a nutrition solution you are comfortable consuming.

There is no such thing as an “easy” ironman, but you won’t regret crossing the finish line.

On race day, you will be tired physically, mentally, emotionally; it will hurt, and you will be tempted to pull the plug at various points. Because the race itself is so long, there’s plenty of time and opportunity for disaster to strike. But there’s also plenty of time and opportunity to recover and keep going until the finish line.

So, you want to be a Pinoy Ironman? Go for it — but go in with both eyes open, train well, and you will be well on your way to stepping across that finish line and be told, “You are an IRONMAN!”

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