I missed out on the inaugural edition of the Bataan International Triathlon last year, but glowing reviews plus the presence of three-time Ironman World Champion Mirinda Carfrae tipped the scales in its favor and I knew I wanted to be on the starting line.
I decided to be gentle to my body in this last quarter of the year, opting to do just the Rapido distance: 750-meter swim, 30-kilometer bike, 5.5-kilometer run. That turned out to be a really good decision as even Rinny described the Bataan International Triathlon as “a tough little race” even if she made it look easy over the Largo distance of 1.5-kilometer swim, 50-kilometer bike, and 12-kilometer run.
If you’re going to make participants drive a few hours to the race venue, it had better be worth it. The Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar Resort didn’t disappoint. After a leisurely three-hour journey from Manila, I drove past picturesque heritage houses on cobblestone streets and then got into plush accommodation in the hotel rooms. What a great spot for a three-day racecation!
Visitors can take a guided walking tour of the extensive grounds and learn all about these old houses and buildings that were rescued from demolition and reconstructed piece-by-piece here in Bagac, Bataan.
I walked around for a little bit and socialized with fellow triathletes before picking up my participant’s kit, checking my bike in, and attending the race briefing. Then it was off to dinner and bedtime.
I would be racing just this once in Thanyapura uniform, having been selected as one of its brand ambassadors in the Asia-Pacific region. It was my way of saying thanks for the support and help in training for the past two years!
I found myself a little disorganized setting up in the morning, needing to make several trips back and forth between the hotel room and the transition area in the parking lot around 400 meters away. But it was good warm-up and saved me from stuffing my face at the breakfast buffet. Instead, I had a Bonk Breaker bar and some electrolyte water and I was good to go.
My rear tire gave me some trouble with a pinch flat, so the race mechanic came over to help me replace the inner tube. A friend from Attack Tri lent me a valve extender so we could inflate the tire properly. Lifesaver! But I would now have to negotiate the course with no spares. Fingers crossed.
Rapido participants waited for the Largo category to finish their two-loop swim of the 750-meter swim course before we were let out to do just one loop. I used the time allocated for swim warm-up to get my arms turning over and see up until what point I could dolphin-dive the entry and exit. Because of the profile of the swim course and the morning tide, one could either walk for 100 meters before the water was deep enough to swim in, or one could use a series of dives to get out there faster. Additionally because the first few hundred meters had breaking waves, you could dive under them and avoid getting beaten up and pushed backwards.
Then we had to move back up onto the shore into a very narrow chute, which frustrated me a little because I was stuck in the middle behind some slower people. I wouldn’t be swimming out in clear water for sure, so I would have to watch out for kicks to the face and panicked pushing and shoving.
Gunstart! We rushed down to the water and true enough, most everyone in front started slowly walking into the waves. I found a small gap through which I could dive out, but that first three hundred meters to the first turn buoy was a battle. Once I’d gotten around the corner the field grew thin and I could either swim peacefully on my own or beside more experienced and faster swimmers. The second buoy came and I started swimming back to shore. I was thankful I didn’t have to do another loop!
I didn’t look at my watch as I came out of the water, but later discovered I had gone 16 minutes over 800 meters. Chalk up the extra distance to a current pulling us outward on the stretch parallel to shore.
Between the swim exit and the transition area was a good 300-meter run over cobblestone, so most participants slipped on flipflops or shoes. I went with shoes and jogged, trying to keep my heart rate low because I knew what kind of hills I had to face.
This whole year I haven’t been running as well as I ought to off the bike; having ridden these hills multiple times in the last two years I wanted to save what I could for a good run. At the same time, I knew the descents were tricky and technical. I pretty much climbed like a rock and descended like a grandma. Soon enough another female overtook me, but I didn’t let ego get the better of me. I just let her go, knowing that this was the best I could do and that she was the better cyclist. A few minutes later, Rinny rode past me on an uphill. It was awesome to watch those world champion legs in action firing like pistons especially when she went into a standing climb effort for a good two minutes.
Anyway, I made it back into town rubber side down in 1 hour 35 minutes. My tires had also both stayed inflated, whew!
I encountered two ambulances with their sirens on and later heard that a descending cyclist had overcooked a turn and struck two cyclists head-on. There but for the grace of God go I…
I made one of my fastest, smoothest transitions ever, leaving my shoes on the bike and slipping into my new favorite Under Armour Speedform Apollos.
Then it was out onto the run course, which undulated with the terrain. Luckily for the Rapido distance there was only one long climb on the way to the turnaround, and after that it would be a relatively easier run back toward the finish line.
I used the first kilometer to shake off the heavy feeling in my legs. After using two hydration stations dousing myself with water and chowing down on some rice cake, I came good and attacked everything I could after the U-turn. I was so happy to start overtaking people finally!
In the last 400-meter stretch through the resort we had to run again over cobblestones toward the finish line by the beach. I attempted to overtake some men, but it looked like they were racing each other to the finish. So I took my foot off the gas, let them cross the finish line side-by-side in front of me. Then I jogged to the line solo. Run split: 29 minutes 5 seconds.
I had no idea what my finish place was, but I was pleased with how I had done. I actually only had one goal, which was to finish the Rapido before Rinny could finish the Largo, and I had done so. I was also ready to eat everything in sight, so for the next few minutes I chowed down on the fruit platter spread and chugged down some taho. While I was busy stuffing my face, Rinny came across the finish line.
It was a festive atmosphere as I caught up on how my friends had done. My Endure teammate Jopet had gotten a flat, but it had been a slow leak and he was able to swap out his inner tube and still finish the race.
I was sorry to hear that one of the Attack Tri team members had been in that head-on collision. Get well soon, Lady!
Before the awarding ceremonies, I helped out my good friends at the Yurbuds booth where they held a 15-minute meet-and-greet with Rinny. I imagine she goes through an extended version of this while fulfilling sponsor commitments in Kona, but she was super accommodating and made everyone feel at ease.
My age group had been the most populated for the women, and so of course the strong cyclist who had overtaken me would most likely be in it. She came out on top not just for our age group, but overall as well! I was only too happy to find out I was second overall female in the Rapido race. Anyway we had to give up our age group award shortly after we had received them. 😀
I ended the day over sunset drinks and dinner with my friends from the TriSixFiv team. These guys from the Run365 running group had dipped their toes into triathlon and for most of them, this was their first complete triathlon outing!
Thanks to TriSixFiv and Attack Tri for adopting me this weekend and reminding me that the Philippine triathlon community is an amazing one to be part of. Also, thank you to all who have partnered with me on my triathlon journey so far: Team Endure, Thanyapura, Ceepo Bikes, yurbuds, Salice, Spyder, and Simple Hydration.
The sun has set on my triathlon calendar for the year and I am honestly thankful to be getting some rest! ‘Til next year.