Cobra Ironman 70.3 Cebu – Aug 2, 2015

For me as well as for many other fellow Pinoy and overseas triathletes, Cobra Ironman 70.3 Cebu is a yearly highlight on the triathlon calendar and I had been excited for this race for months.

I was happy that once again I had the chance to travel to Cebu one week in advance and to be hosted at the beach house of Chris Aldeguer in Danao. This has become some kind of tradition and I’m very thankful to Chris Aldeguer’s kind hospitality.

The week before the race is mostly tapering so I had rather short training sessions and lots of time to rest and relax. On Friday before the race I travelled to the race venue in Mactan. As usual the 2 days leading up to the race were filled with activities around the venue. It was exciting to go to the race expo and to meet up again with some of my supportive sponsors and so many other athletes and friends. I was especially happy that many of my friends from Thailand once again had come to the Philippines to race.

On race day I woke up after a good-night sleep and felt excited. I had breakfast and coffee and prepared myself for the race. It was my birthday and I just prayed to God to give me strength for this day. Before I left the room, Czar told me to count on my experience and he reminded me that it’s a long race. I kept that in my mind.

I went to transition to for a last check on my bike and then moved to the start area. With more than 2,000 athletes on the start line, it was a busy crowd on the beach. This year the Filipino Elite category was packed and included some really fast Olympic distance athletes, besides the usual serious and strong racers like Banjo Norte. Even though it seemed to be really hard, I was determined to fight and try to defend my title from last year.

We were asked to move to the start line together with the male Pros and gun start was at 6.28am. The race was on! As so often, I was not able to stay with the fast guys in the swim but swam alone most of the course. I tried not to worry too much about it and just did my best to run as fast as possible from the swim exit to T1. On the way some people shouting the splits, it seemed I was more than 6min behind the Filipino Elite leaders.

I just did my thing. Fast transition and then out on the bike, trying to push as hard as possible. But once on the bike I started to feel stomach cramps. “Where did this come from?” I ate and drank but it didn’t really help, instead I had to throw up. My bike ride was interrupted several times with vomiting but I just tried to stay on the bike and move forward, to eat a lot and stay hydrated as much as possible.

Finally in T2 and without being able to catch any of the other elites on the bike, I told myself not to worry and that everything would go better on the run. Only 2km out of T2 I had to throw up again and I started to get stressed. “Just run your pace”, I told myself. At about 4km I saw Anna telling me that I was 4min behind the leaders. I was not really sure what was going on at the front, but I knew I was in 6th or 7th position. I kept the pace and was not really able to catch anyone in the first loop. The guys in the front must be running really strong I thought and the first place seemed to drift away from my like a dream. But in my mind I kept telling myself to keep going, to never give up and I asked God for more strength.

It seemed He heard me as in the second lap I started slowly to recover and feel better. Nevertheless, the 3 times I saw Anna on the course at about km 4, 9 and 14 she always shouted “4min” so obviously I was not able to pick up my pace. I only was able to move up some positions as at the beginning of the second lap I passed Pol, Kristiane and my team mate Ben.

But at km 16 something new happened, John Philipp Duenas, another elite, caught up to me. He is a really strong runner, and I was impressed to see him next to me, so I said to myself, “you have to stay with him now, or you have no chance. Don’t think about your pain, just stay with him”. Philipp and I ran together and amazingly, we started to catch up to some of the other elites, my team mates Jonard Saim and John Chicano, but we knew that Banjo was still ahead of us.

Ok”, I thought, “so maybe you can finish 3rd place this time, just try to get on the podium”. Philipp and I ran steadily together at a good pace, when suddenly at about 1.5km from the finish we saw Banjo. “Let’s go, Philipp”, I said, “we can catch him”. So both of us passed Banjo, but he stay with us. I couldn’t believe what was happening, ”are Philipp and I in the leader pack now?” The 3 of us ran together and I thought, “wow, so probably Philipp will make 1st place, maybe I can get 2nd?” The last 500m I said to myself, “ok, that’s it, just try it, sprint to the finish line, let’s see what happens”. I started sprinting and never looked back. I can’t remember what happened in the last 200m and when I crossed the finish line. All I know is that I went all out.

It seemed I passed out for a couple of seconds and next thing I know is that Anna was there and some medical staff. They brought me to the medical tent and while I started to recover, we were guessing about who was the winner of the Filipino Elites. Anna had not got the result as it seemed everyone came in so close together. When she went out to get some drink she came back with the news: “You won!!!” I was amazed. How had this happened? I don’t know where the strength came from that pushed me the last 5km and especially the last metres to the finish line!!! This was the best birthday gift ever God gave me! I’m still puzzled and amazed by the race and endlessly grateful to God for the strength He gave me to achieve the Filipino Elite title for the third time.

I would like to thank again all my sponsors, the volunteers on the course and the organizers. Cobra Ironman 70.3 Cebu 2015 has been the most memorable race for me.