Before You Sign Up for that Long-Distance Triathlon…

This year, the major long-distance triathlon organizer in the country laid down some new ground rules. In order to sign up for their upcoming Ironman Philippines, one must have done a half or full-distance triathlon between January 2016 to March 2018.

I regret writing here that this would be a cheaper way to do an Ironman. Unless you’ve been caught in the yearly vicious cycle of signing up for 70.3’s come October, you probably weren’t counting on having to do another race on top of the one you really want to do. I know a few experienced triathletes who have been waiting for a full Ironman but only race Olympic distance because they don’t like the Cebu and Subic 70.3 courses, or it’s too expensive to race a 70.3 every year. They pounced on the Ironman registration, but are now caught in a bind. (I know someone who has quit triathlon for now on principle because of this requirement which was laid down after they had registered.)

If you’re in this situation, you can either spend more money and sign up for a half, have your registration transferred to another Ironman in the region, or ask for a full refund.

While the organizer has a right to lay these requirements down for newbies, it still rubs me the wrong way as an experienced triathlete and ironman finisher that my 2014 Challenge Roth finish and most recent 70.3 Cebu race in 2015 don’t fall within the timetable — especially since other races within the region don’t have a similar requirement, and it’s a requirement that was set in place post-hoc. Anyway, it seems people like me are a minority, with many of the athletes already completing the validation requirement or set to do so.

This is why it’s so important not to get swept up in the hype that comes during registration season. I always consider a few things before I sign up for longer distances because I now know very well that I can’t rush the preparation my body needs. At this point, it’ll be three years before I even consider signing up for another half-ironman. (You might need less or more time.)

Why? Because I had been running for two years before I did my first minisprint triathlon. The following year, I moved up to sprint. The year after that, I did my first Olympic. And then I decided I’d do a half. It took me seven years to build up to a full ironman, given my work and other physical commitments. By then I had laid down a very deep foundation of aerobic endurance fitness.

So, here are the things you should know before you sign up for a long-distance triathlon. Continue reading “Before You Sign Up for that Long-Distance Triathlon…”

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. Continue reading “So You Want to Be a Pinoy IRONMAN”

Road to Vietnam, Week #12: Final Preps

Last week was a bit of a blur as I battled jet lag, catching up on work, and making sure all systems are go for next week’s trip to Nha Trang for Challenge Vietnam.

Because I had my race registration transferred to a relay, I had to wait for my prospective relay teammates to register. With Challenge Vietnam, you can register as a relay with friends or indicate your interest to do one leg and the organizers match you up with potential teammates.

Initially only tapped to do the swim, I now also have to run the final half-marathon as our relay runner never got back to us. I don’t really mind though; my main issue is I’m not fit enough to be out on the entire course for what could take me longer than six-and-a-half hours to complete. With the bike leg taken care of, I’ll treat the swim as a morning warm-up and the run as my main workout for the day. At least I can still enjoy my hotel’s buffet breakfast after the swim!

Road to Vietnam Week #12
Bumping up swim mileage was easier than building long run fitness, though.

I felt a burden lift off my shoulders when I decided not to do the entire race as an individual competitor, which only confirms that it was the right choice. As a result, I found last week’s workouts much more enjoyable as well. It is after all the last two weeks leading into the race and nothing I do now will improve my fitness very much for what’s up ahead. All that matters is just keeping the engine turning over.

Road to Vietnam Week #12
Just keep moving.

Because I’m not doing the bike leg, I’ve done considerably less bike work. That doesn’t mean I’ve left my bike to rust, though. Thanks to the team at Primo Cycles as well as Jerry Santos of Ceepo, Aki is ride-ready.

This is Aki 2.0 because Jerry replaced my 2014 Katana frame with the 2015 edition. There’s no difference in the geometry, but it now includes two bosses on the top tube for easy installation of direct-mount bento boxes, as well as a CO2 cartridge holder on the chain stay. Glenn the master Retul fitter from Primo made sure the bike was set-up exactly as the previous one was so I could still have an optimized fit.

Road to Vietnam Week #12
Now all I need is to get on and actually ride the bike.

I’m not bringing the bike with me to Vietnam though; I’ll probably be back on it on the open road after the race. Until then it’ll just be me and my own two feet splashing in the water and hitting the pavement.

It’s been an interesting racing season with an unexpected conclusion, but I’m back and I’m still loving the lifestyle of being a recreational endurance athlete.

Road to Vietnam Week #12
Catch you on the road.

Road to Vietnam, Week #7: Bit by Bit

I’m finally returning to some proper training this week. Two weeks is a LONG time to miss training, but I’m trying to resist the temptation to cram as much as possible into this last month before Challenge Vietnam.

Road to Vietnam Week 7

I’m heading off to Cebu by Friday this week for the Ironman 70.3 Asia Pacific Championship. No, I’m not racing, but I have friends who are. I’m also covering the race again for and doing the IronGirl event as well as a Ceepo ride out. The entire triathlon community in the country converges in Cebu every year and I just didn’t want to miss it.

I do miss the local racing scene. That’s why I’ve signed up for the Aboitiz Tri which is a week before Challenge Vietnam. Perfect lead-in and will help me sharpen up my racing. If I can’t race fast in Nha Trang, at least I can minimize mistakes by treating the Aboitiz Tri as a rehearsal. Also Aboitiz Tri will have some of the coolest people around. Will write about that later this week!

I had a 10K race kit for Milo Marathon yesterday, but made the wise decision not to start. I’ve been tracking resting heart rate through my Fitbit Charge HR. My usual RHR hovers around 58 beats per minute, but starting from when I got sick it’s risen and peaked at 76 bpm. It’s been on a downward trend starting midway last week, but was still above 70 bpm by Saturday — not a great sign since it meant I would be straining my heart if I raced. In my state, it’s still better to DNS than to DNF. 

Did you know endurance athletes like marathoners and triathletes tend to develop cardiomyopathy — a disease of the heart muscle where it becomes enlarged, thick, or rigid, reducing its capacity to work. This happens when you put yourself through grueling workouts even when sick! That’s what I am trying to avoid.
So what’s on the training schedule this week? I did a few crosstraining sessions last week and my legs are still sore, haha! But I’m starting to feel like myself again and will ease back today with a short jog.

I’ll try not to worry about the races on the horizon and just focus on putting one foot in front of the other. For now.

Road to Vietnam, Week #5: Why, Body, Why?

Lying in bed sick can make you re-evaluate what you spend a lot of time working on and thinking about.

I’ve got a sore throat and splitting headache bedeviling me after last week’s training schedule. This is what happens when your mind gets ahead of your body and you think you should be doing more than you can actually handle.

With my disordered sleeping patterns lately, I probably did it to myself. This week was the last straw with not getting anywhere close to seven hours of sleep any night. Training proceeded as usual in between bouts of driving through horrendous traffic to get to a few events.

Friday I knew I had pushed too hard when I had trouble regulating my temperature and heart rate during a long run. It didn’t help that I’d forgotten my Flipbelt and had to carry phone and car keys in my hands. After 30 minutes I cut out, drove to the gym, and completed the remaining time and mileage there. And then went for a swim.

Road to Vietnam #5
Ticking off the sessions.

It was still too much. On Saturday I got on my bike and rode out in Nuvali. I suppose I was already feeling out of sorts, but three near misses from cars just compounded my foul mood. Thankfully I had a bit of company riding around with Gail the last few 20 kilometers before I was done.

Road to Vietnam #5
Was a brilliant day but I hated life.

After a quick shower at a gym in Alabang and a pizza lunch, I headed back to Nuvali for the Nike Epic Run event. I had no idea we would be running on trails on loaner Nike Epic Flyknits, which definitely spiked my heart rate and stress levels. I’ll tell you more about this later this week, especially how nice those shoes were. But I cut out midway through the run.

Road to Vietnam #5
with the awesome 5:30 pace group

The next day I had a race kit for the RunFest, but despite setting a really loud alarm I slept right through it and woke up 30 minutes before scheduled gunstart. Good thing I missed it, though; I went back to sleep and when I woke up I was nursing a sore throat and body pains.

It was Challenge Roth weekend and I was glued to Twitter and the official website for live results. I remember being crazy strong and never getting sick in the lead up to when I raced there in 2014, but since then my body has just been saying “Nope” to everything.

Road to Vietnam #5
Maybe sheer willpower drove me to do the things I did then.

I watched as Jan Frodeno set a new world record over the iron distance, as Daniela Ryf whipped the women’s field and came so close to breaking the world record for women, as the Filipinos who had signed up for this race crossed the finish line. And I really felt no urge to do another Roth. Maybe spectate, sure (it is EUROPE, after all!). Maybe do the marathon in a relay. But one finisher medal is just as good as another for my body, at this point.

As for half distance triathlons, I have been futilely chasing faster times for the last six years, but it’s not fun anymore. Especially when my body rebels like this — and when I look at my training and racing trends, it has been rebelling for quite a while. I just haven’t been listening.

I took a breath, and looked at my baby nephew who wasn’t around when I had raced in 2013 and 2014. He was wearing a Challenge Family t-shirt. The FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) receded, and I felt very glad to be right where I am.

Road to Vietnam #5
It’s about the athlete and the family.

At the end of the day, it’s all just exercise. I am so thankful I don’t need to make a living from racing, because it is a tough gig! At this point, training should be about taking care of myself and ensuring I am healthy, regardless of how fast or slow I can go. When I do that, then I can get from start to finish happy. The times are just a bonus.

Daniela Ryf said after she won Challenge Roth: “I’m just a girl who likes to swim, bike and run and that’s what I did today!” I’ll take that to heart as I continue my preparations for Challenge Vietnam.

Road to Vietnam, Week #4: Great Indoors

I finally feel I’m hitting my groove training for Challenge Vietnam. Last week I ran my first sub-30 minute 5K since marathon recovery, so I know I can now start pushing the intensity again. Some post-marathon chub has also dropped off, which is a good sign considering how much I’ve been eating.

I feel the struggle the most on the bike. My cardio fitness is great; it’s my legs that have a hard time coping. I did a long trainer session this weekend in lieu of riding outdoors in potential rain, and I literally could not push the pedals hard enough to spike my heart rate into the right zones. This was exactly how I felt in 2013 when I first started using these indoor bike sessions.

Road to Vietnam #4
getting a great session out of the rain

Pretty much I’m trying to duplicate the success I had in 2013 in Cebu, except I’m about four weeks behind everyone else currently preparing for that race.

Speakig of Cebu, Cobra and Sunrise Events held the press launch for the Ironman 70.3 Asia Pacific Championship last week at Shangri-la The Fort. While feasting on Cebu delicacies like lechon and mango we went down memory lane with the history of the event. It’s amazing how the race and this sport has grown in the Philippines. Imagine: from a field of 500 athletes for the first edition of 70.3 Philippines in Camsur, this year there will be more than 3,000 in Cebu!

(The final frontier is in boosting women’s participation in triathlon in the country. I’m doing my part by covering the inspiring pro women in Cebu for

Road to Vietnam #4
Cobra Ironman 70.3 Asia Pacific Championship: sketch of the 2016 medal by Kenneth Cobonpue

Unlike 2013 though, this body has been through a few more battles and is just a little more reluctant to “go to the well”. That’s okay; it just means the will and mind have to be that much stronger.

I had two of those willpower exercises this week: locking myself down onto the bike trainer and treadmill indoors, and running in the pouring rain. My mentality was just to GET IT DONE. No more whining; suck it up, princess.

Road to Vietnam #4
rain or shine

Hopefully this attitude pays off. I got my new passport back last week and will be booking my flights to Nha Trang finally. After that, there’s no turning back.

Road to Vietnam, Week #2: Not All There

So first, the good news: my passport issues have been solved. But I’ve learned a big lesson, and that is Renew your passport a year in advance! At the very least you’ll save yourself a headache by always having a useable passport (one that has more than six months’ validity when you want to travel).

Road to Vietnam, Week 2
at least the bike Aki doesn’t need a passport or a visa to travel!

Now the bad news. After every big race I experience a huge dip in motivation, as well as a period of lethargy. I may be able to stay on the peak of fitness and race hard for a few weeks, but then my body crashes and burns and I’m taken out for weeks by illness. (This is what happened to me post-Challenge Philippines 2014.) Continue reading “Road to Vietnam, Week #2: Not All There”