Monday, August 10, 2015

Cebu 70.3 - 5 reasons it's more fun in the Philippines

As you fly into Manila, you begin to see the billboards reading:

This is no propaganda. It's the truth.

Me & Belinda Granger on a jog & local kids walking home from school

5 reasons it's more fun in the Philippines, Cebu 70.3 version:

1) Rockstar status.
Not just the pros (but especially the pros), every athlete is treated like a rockstar in the Philippines. I think at most races you get one T-shirt. At Cebu 70.3 every racer got 3 or 4 I think. Along with a race backpack FILLED with goodies. And custom cupcakes. And a pre-race extravaganza party with hundreds of festival dances, And And And And.... As a pro, you are treated like a celebrity. In the land of the selfie, we must have taken hundreds of selfies with avid triathletes. The press conference and post-race  "meet the champs" are packed full of media and athletes.

One of the several press conferences that were held over the weekend

Everywhere you go, many smiling shining faces are there to greet you.
2) Cebu is incredibly beautiful. Who wouldn't want to swim here?

As Luke & I swam out for our pre-race warmup, we looked back on shore and it looked almost exactly like race morning at Ironman Hawaii. Except possibly with more athletes and more spectators and more music and more everything... The atmosphere was incredible. Then, the gun goes off and you swim into crystal clear warm water among the fishies.

I had a decent non-wetsuit swim, just under 28 minutes. I came out of the water in about 5th place.

3) The sensory & cultural experience of a lifetime & opportunities to give back to or connect with the community.

It's possible that there were hundreds of thousands of spectators lining the bike and run course. Most places, 3 or four deep with countless cheerleaders, school groups and bands all cheering at the top of their lungs. The noise, the energy, the sights, the smells, a complete sensory party for 4 and a half hours of racing.

Caroline Steffen running her way through the lined streets. Photo: Asia Tri

Tim Berkel getting some cheers from local school girls. Photo: Asia Tri

Leading up to the race, the race organizers really get the pros and the event involved in the local community. I think it is always important to see life beyond the resort you may be staying at and the Cebu 70.3 crew makes this a priority. We got to run over to a local school and help serve ALASKA milk & breakfast to promote a healthy lifestyle and the importance of starting the day with the most important meal. Having a connection with the community definitely makes it more fun in the Philippines.

Good times at the ALASKA breakfast. How many pro triathletes can you spot in this picture? I spy several Ironman champs and a couple of world champs too. 

Directly after the race, there was another chance to make an impact- by running the Cobra Energy "Extra Mile". For every race finisher who ran an additional mile at the end of the race, Cobra donated a certain amount of money and I believe they raised over $6,000 for local schools.
Several pros here running (ok, walking- we were smashed!) the extra mile right after the race

4) The best aid stations in the world.
ICE. COLD. EVERYTHING!!!! Aid stations were very close together and had SO much ice cold water, Gatorade (my personal favorite), ice, sponges..... It was amazing, not to mention the local kids handing out the drinks and being amazing in general.

As for the rest of my race....
I had a pretty solid bike ride. I ended up riding alone at mostly Ironman pace, a product of being still a bit tired from Ironman Switzerland two weeks prior. Instead of getting down on myself, I focused on staying steady, even if my top end was lacking. I limited my losses and came off the bike in 5th place about 5 minutes down from the lead of the race (Caroline Steffen).
This is Luke. Photo: Asia Tri

After starting the run in 5th, I ran steady into 2nd place. Honestly, it was a struggle and had it not been for those aid stations I would have totally crumbled. I only managed my Ironman pace as I was tired, my heart rate was sky high, and it was SO HOT, but I (barely) got the job done. Caroline was out of reach for the win, but Dimity Lee Duke made me work extra hard to get that 2nd place. I finished in 4:29.

please excuse my awkward "hands-behind-the-back-don't-know-what-to-do-with-finishers-tape-because-I-didn't-win" (I think it's bad luck to raise the tape if you're not the winner, so I avoid it. 

5) The finishers medals and trophies

All the awards at Philippines 70.3 are handcrafted by locally renowned artist who takes incredible pride in outdoing himself year-after-year. They are truly works of art and lusted after by anyone who has raced in Cebu. Yet another thing that puts these races above the rest

my second place trophy- if you look, you can see the swimmer, cyclist, and runner all in one work of art.

So, most certainly, definitely, absolutely:

Thank you to Fred, Princess, and the crew at Sunrise Events for another spectacular race. Thank you also to my sponsors and supporters for helping me to another podium finish this year!