Alarm went off at 4AM. I got about 4 hours of sleep the night before, which was pleasant because I couldn’t get my nerves down and was expecting to get maybe an hour or two of sleep. Breakfast consisted of a banana and water upon waking up and a dose of two eggs, a cup of rice at the hotel lobby. A kiss and an I love you from my girlfriend helped me waken my senses. I packed the helmet, bike shoes and all of my water bottles in my gym bag. I thought about drinking an espresso but that would make me piss en route the transition area and I was already pissing myself with elevated anxiousness. They then had us get on to the shuttle buses that took us a kilometer down the road to Shangri-La Mactan’s outside parking area and walked the rest up to T1. I got to my bike that I checked the day before at around 5AM, 1 hour before transition closed. First issue of the day: some dimwit decided that my transition box was his. I quickly pointed out to him that I was in box 747, where his gear was laid out. Bloody idiot can’t discern numbers. I laid out my gear and gym bag and loaded nutrition onto the bike using an electrical tape. 6 GU gels I figured was enough. I can pocket more later onto my race bib if I felt I wasted energy during the swim. I felt the tires on my bike and decided the pressure felt fine and I wouldn’t need to go get air. I also decided to ditch the gear bag I was provided to check at the swim start. I didn’t make any trip to the porta potty before heading to the swim start as a result of not being well hydrated the day before. I went through one last mental checklist to make sure everything was in its correct place, grabbed my goggles, cap and wetsuit, and then left to head down to the beach to the swim start.
The T-shaped swim course appeared bigger than it would and the number of swimmers at the start only gave me more reason to be anxious as I’ve never had any open water experience before. The course wasn’t protected by a breaker, so it was very susceptible to the effects of weather. I was very happy to see the water very calm as I walked along the course to the start. Decided to test the water. The open sea became my porta potty. Chill down my spine as I peed in my suit.
6th step in the water. Placed feet on something squishy. Tried on my swim cap. It ripped into two. A string of bad luck to come? Please, please no. Went to a nearby marshall and asked for help. They didn’t have any spare but was quickly to seek help from a nearby swim officer. Back to the warmup beach. Bloody fucking hell I stepped on a jelly fish or something. Ignored the fact and did a 100m warm up at the Shangri-La beach front. Water felt really nice, it was warmer than the air at the time. I mostly waded in the water but did swim out to one of the buoys they had in the warm up area. Nerves now feeling jelly. At this point my lack of open water swim experience is slowly creeping up to me. Death was by my side as I walked to the swim start. I was digging the music selection they had playing at the time and my adrenaline started to get pumping. First timer dibs on the swim buoys and lines. Loaded on the beach and stayed at the back. This was a costly move.
Swim (1.9 kilometers, 1 hour 1 minute 5 seconds)
This was my first beach start. I was expecting a “machine gun run” type approach to the start, which it wasn’t. Everyone found their place at the water. I decided to just stay at the shore and calm myself down. Swim start. Don’t expect a loud boom. Rely on the announcer on this one. As per the plan, I stuck to the swimming close to the support lines in case things go south. A good portion of the swimmers decided to go the same route I did. A lot of leg grabbing, as expected. Trying to get away from the chaos by swimming harder, but not too much. Dehydration the day before will lead to cramps. And my left leg was feeling it. Sighting in lap pools helped me a lot here and see where I was going. I stayed along the outside close to where volunteers in kayaks and boats marked the outside boundary of the course. Water was opening up and I developed a good rhythm and stuck with it for about 10 minutes until I quickly checked my Garmin to see my progress. 2nd turn. Everyone’s taking the short road and rendezvousing at the buoy. Drank a lot of salt water. Checked Garmin again. Less than standard. Kept on swimming. Now the long stretch. At this point my rhythm was good. Breathing was okay and arms didn’t show any signs of fatigue. Swells getting big around 2 feet. Not gigantic, but I was getting quite a mouthful on occasion. Took a break and latching on to the swim line. Assessed myself and telling my mind to shut up thinking on what the hell am I doing a triathlon. A lot of the faster guys got ahead of me in the beginning, but very few people passed me after that. I started passing struggling swimmers in the last kilometer. Ran some numbers on popular swim strokes. Freestyle gets the most. There were some doing breaststrokes. Didn’t see anyone doing backstrokes. Doggie paddle? Say bye bye. Got out of the swim. Salt water in my mouth. Drank gatorade out of the water. My watch indicated a 2km swim instead of 1.9kms.
What would I do differently:
Swimming is the least of my strengths out of the three disciplines and the one that needs improvement the most. Someone said as long as I finish the swim, I’ll be okay. But I’ve suffered time-wise in the bike and run. Stamina will play a huge key so a swim coach and a legit swim plan might be in order so technique will be prioritized. Might have to move closer to the beach or at least plan it weekly to visit the open water or at least replicate it.
T1 (4 minutes, 47 seconds):
The walk back to transition was on a beach and I had a good amount of sand cling to my feet and legs when I got back to my bike. I was recommended to pack a bottle of water specific to splash off the sand, which I found to be a very good idea. The water was not enough and sand still clinged on. I haven’t bothered to learn running mounts yet so I jogged to the start line in my bike shoes. The transition path was painful though. Rocks everywhere. Some of them even protruding which I imagined were lego bricks. Ouch. Ate a packed banana to get things going and a GU Gel to ramp up energy a bit. Downed a few gulps of water and unclinged the bike from the box.
What would I do differently:
Content with my T1 time. Transition isn’t too critical I think in comparison to shorter courses.
Maybe take some time to learn running mounts. I guess that’ll be for the next race.
Bike (90 kms, 3 hours 21 minutes 24 seconds):
2 things I wanted to make sure when I was on the bike:
1) Eat. My nutrition plan was eat GU Gels at least every 30 minutes. I originally thought of every 15 kms (optimum bike pace every 30 minutes), but figured time was more applicable to a beginner like me. Kept thinking about the salt pill I took before the swim and at this point a few minutes after riding the bike, I relied on the salt pill to help me push through the day.
2) Don’t push myself too hard. In an effort to try to save myself for the run, I aimed to keep my heart rate under 140 bpm. This is easier said than done. Being competitive with myself, I would continually be tempted to improve my 10 km split time which contradicts my pacing goal. My watch indicated my average heart rate for the whole bike course came out to be 152 bpm which I’m ok with. Head winds were coming out of the tunnel, so the first half of the course (and that dreaded repeat M loop) we were experiencing a headwind and the second half of the course got a tailwind. Glad it was this way instead of the other way around. Much more enjoyable getting faster speeds to close the bike portion of the race. Winds weren’t too strong. My Garmin indicated 27.4kph for the whole ride. The uphill from the tunnel going to the M loop was a killer. It’s good that my training ground had a huge uphill obstacle. I just wasn’t anticipating the amount of gear shifting I was going to be doing.
What would you do differently:
I’m happy with my bike time. I was expecting a time slightly longer than 3 hours 30 minutes, but I still think there’s a lot of room for improvement. As I start to get more into the sport and hopefully bump up to a full 140.6 race sometime, throwing a few bills at a solid training plan. I did not hydrate properly when I was on the bike. The effects of this would spill over into my run. I drank 2 bottles and a half which is was about 72 ounces of fluid over the course of 3 hours. Not enough. I think I should of taken in at least twice that amount.
T2 (7 minutes, 56 seconds):
I was very surprised how my legs felt getting off the bike but I wasn’t surprised to see a lot of bikes already gone. Dude next to me fell over immediately after dismounting from what appeared to be the jelly legs. Walked with my bike shoes on from bike exit to my transition area. Changed my socks (good idea), put on my running shoes, race belt and visor and sunglasses. Didn’t bother to stop by a porta potty and peed while transitioning. Harder than I thought. Didn’t care people were there. At this point I didn’t care how fast I went on the bike. It was the run that worried me. Ate another GU Gel from my gym bag and a couple of swigs from my transition water bottle. All set. Welcoming myself to hell in a bit.
Run (3 hours, 1 minute, 27 seconds):
I started off the run feeling fine. Legs were a little numb, but I started the first km doing a nice 6:30/km pace. I got to the first few minutes and pushed forward. I noticed most of the other guys on the course were walking.
About the time I got the first aid station it hit me like a ton of bricks. The “bonk” as they call it. Time seemed to slow down. The 1/2 marathon I was running quickly turned into a death march. My attitude changed for the worse and I quickly realized the next 18 or so kilometers were going to be brutal.
I walked through the first aid station and drank some water. Had a volunteer douse me with ice-cold water. Shock to the system. It was around noon with the sun directly overhead. It was hot and it was humid. Throughout the morning there was some decent cloud cover, but the sky really started to open up in the afternoon. I assumed the course would have decent shade. I assumed wrong. Anytime I saw shade on the road/path I would get over to it. Other people had the same idea. Shade was a hot commodity.
What was aggravating to me was my actual ability to run. A typical run pace for me is 7:00/km. I couldn’t get myself to go faster than 6:30/km even if I was trying to sprint. My legs just weren’t having it. My heart rate was also sky rocketing to 175 bpm. This was getting me concerned about potentially overheating. When I would slow down to get my heart rate under control it would immediately shoot back up if I were to start running again. I couldn’t go even a 1/3 km without looking down at my watch to see how far I’ve gone since the last time I checked it.
No porta potties. Every water station would be a peeing station. Volunteer douse = permission to pee. I walked through every aid station and drank 1 or 2 cups of water every time. I brought 6 gels with me on the run and I spaced them every 30 minutes. They provided temporary 10 minute energy boosts, but at the time felt more like relief. I forced myself to take them, but the sugary goo tasted unpleasant after baking in the sun on my race belt.
Seeing the gf was a boost of energy. I needed to see her again. My attitude started to improve on the second lap of the around km 11 knowing I was relatively close to the end. I was chronically checking my watch. It’s so easy to accomplish running on any other day, but 5 hours into an Ironman it’s a different story. I said to myself that I was only going to only walk aid stations and will walk-run the remainder of the way. I really didn’t have a good sense of distance on the last mile. The distance markers were also confusing. Every turn I made I was somehow expecting the final straight away to the finish line, nope. I was really struggling and the road seemed like it was never ending.
I finally turned into the final straight away and saw the finish line. I picked up my pace and attempted to finish in a sprint. I didn’t want to get passed by someone in the final 100 meters of the race.
What would you do differently:
Hydration. I should’ve hydrated more on the bike. I probably should’ve picked a conservative pace to stay at. I was running quick out of the start and really slowed down as I got into the run. I probably should’ve started out slower. Would’ve improved my time. Ehh not a bad 21 km run considering that I didn’t do it before. I guess I have high expectations.
Glucose index. At the end of the race, my tummy was nothing but air. Must look for alternatives, if any. Maybe also look at pre-race nutrition.
Saw my gf right pass the finish line. Deep inside I was so happy to see her, but my face was lying. But the worst is over. I wanted to just sit down and do nothing for 10 minutes.
What limited your ability to perform faster:
Hydration was probably what hurt me the most. Left out 2 weeks of training from a travel to India. I approached the run a little too aggressively and probably should of been more conservative in pacing myself.
I graded myself as follows: Swim: C, T1: B, Bike: A-, T2: B-, Run: C. I beat my goal time of 7 hours 30 minutes, so I’m definitely happy about that. Very well organized event. Ironman branded events have a reputation of being very well put together and this being my first, lived up to my expectation.