The 2nd edition of the Century Tuna Ironman 70.3 is only a few days away! This is a course that’s unique, challenging, but fast! Yes, believe it or not, it’s a fast course. I’ll walk you through what you need watch out for this March 6.
THE UNDERPANTS RUN
Photo credit: Princess Galura
Before anything else, let me invite you to the Century Tuna Underpants run on March 5 (Saturday), the day before the race. This is a homage to the Kona Underpants run in Hawaii. It will start at 9:30am in Remy field. You’ll be joined by the Century Tuna Superbods Finalists so don’t miss it! (P.S. make sure you don’t use any underwear more than a year old!)
The swim once again takes place in Acea Beach Resort (a.k.a. Dungaree Beach). This year, it will follow a counterclockwise fashion along the L shaped course. It’s also the first time they’re going to use a rolling start for this race. This means you’ll be grouped according to your potential swim split times (see schedule below). Please don’t try and start in an incorrect wave. It will be more troublesome for you and the other swimmers. The goal is to minimize the washing machine effect. By grouping yourselves accordingly, untoward incidents may be avoided.
Last year, the swim was a bit short which obviously resulted in very fast times. It looks like they extended this time around it so it matches up nicely with the actual 1.9km distance. Nonetheless, it will generally be calm with minimal currents except after the first right hand turn. It gets slightly choppy here but it’s still quite manageable. Once you swim 200m out, pitch black darkness will greet you. You’ll barely be able to see the seabed. Don’t panic, just relax and concentrate on your stroke. Instead of focusing on what’s underneath, concentrate on what’s ahead of you and where you want to go. You’ll get used to it soon enough. After the turnaround, make sure to sight often to correct any deviance in your swim route. Be conscious of where the buoy line is so you don’t zigzag along the course.
The bike course is definitely the most notable part of this race. Out of T1, you’ll ride along the Subic airport runway! This is a flat stretch of road but don’t expect it to be very smooth. There are some rough patches that you need to navigate. Remember to anticipate where the turns are; I’ve seen a lot of athletes overshoot the chicanes.
After this adrenaline rush inducing segment, make your way down towards Argonaut highway. This is a long stretch where you can relax, get your HR down and recover from hammering the runway out of excitement and gigil. Make sure you’re well-hydrated and that you took in a bar or gel (whatever nutrition you prepared) before you reach Tipo toll gate.
The first climb towards Tipo starts out very gradual and relaxed (1-2% grade). It starts to steepen to a grade of 4-5% and peaks at around 7-8% near the middle. Afterwards, it starts to ease back to a grade of 4% towards the end. The long 2.5km climb is very difficult and challenging. A lot of athletes tend to hammer too hard at the start. This leaves them gassed out midway up the hill. Remember to pace yourself well. Keep your efforts close to zone 4 (minimize zone 5 efforts). There’s another minor hill after the long climb. Even if the grade is only 4-5%, still manage your efforts evenly.
1-2% = similar to the easy hill going to the rotunda from Solenad
4-5% = similar to the hills towards Miriam College in Nuvali
8-9% = similar to the hill in front of Republic wakeboard park in Nuvali
Catch your breath as you ride the descents and be cautious. It’s very fast and tricky even for seasoned riders. Remember to stay towards the right side of the road and be wary of cars/trucks trying to overtake.
As you make your way towards SCTEX, it starts to get windy. Be careful of the crosswinds near the SCTEX tollbooth. It can easily surprise you if you’re unaware.
Once you reach the flat portion of the course, relax and settle down into a moderate/sustainable effort. Based on current weather forecasts, there will be a mild 10-15kph wind coming from the North-East direction. This means that you will be riding into a headwind. Tuck into your aero position but don’t be tempted to hammer this section; it will cost you late in the game. Instead of pushing the pace, hydrate and take your nutrition properly. Efforts should be in the middle (or low) zone 3. Enjoy the scenery and the fresh air but still be cautious of your surroundings.
There will be some hills before/after the turnaround at Floridablanca. Select a lighter gear and spin up the hills. Don’t be tempted to mash too hard since it will cause unnecessary fatigue (or lower back pain). On the way back, it will be usually be faster thanks to the tailwind. Select a slightly heavier gear and enjoy the speed. Things will become more challenging once you ride past Dinalupihan.
The final climb back is often the most challenging. The fatigue, heat, and heavy legs will make the hill harder than it should be. This is where mental training and focus comes into play. A tip from elite athlete (and Century Tuna Poster boy) Nikko Huelgas comes in handy during such situations. He advises to relax and keep calm during very tough efforts. Focusing on how difficult it is will only make it tougher; instead, try to block out the pain.
Once you reach the summit of the climb, enjoy the downhill but ride it cautiously. I find it quite tricky especially towards the end where there are some gusts coming from the sides. Keep your hands on the bullhorns and avoid going on your aerobars. Better be safe than sorry.
As you make your way towards the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center (SBECC), spin those legs and stretch out those cramped up muscles. You’ve still got a long way to go.
After you rack your bike in T2, try and get some proper hydration and nutrition in. The run course is hot, tough, and a bit hilly. It has a very rocky/sandy off road segment right after exiting SBECC. The course goes through the back door of SBECC and under the Subic-Tipo Expressway. It’s quite challenging to run such rough terrain especially when your legs are cramping from the bike leg. Be careful and make sure you don’t step on any big rocks or holes. The run course will also traverse the areas where trucks and delivery tankers park. Expect the road to be uneven as well in these areas.
After these harsh segments, the road conditions improve but heat becomes a huge factor. There’s barely any shade for the rest of the run course. In addition to that, the run course ascends gradually all the way until the turnaround near T1. Expect 2-3% grade hills scattered along the run course (i.e. the hills near the Airport). Make sure you’re well hydrated and that you don’t neglect taking your nutrition.
Image sources: http://www.ironman703subicbay.com
The run back towards SBECC is still quite difficult. From my experience, I had to run into the wind going back. Hence, the supposedly easy descent is negated by the headwind. The good side to it is that it’s a lot cooler than what most would experience in Cebu or Porac.
Since the course is out and back, the other challenge is running through the rough patches of road and dirt towards the end. Managing this part of the course the second time around is a lot more difficult. Stiff legs and cramping muscles make the journey seem longer.
Once you reach the SBECC compound, you’ll definitely feel a huge sigh of relief! With less than a kilometer to go, it will only take a few minutes before all this is over. In a few hundred meters, you can finally relish completing such a challenging course! The months of training have paid off. Enjoy the moment!
Once you cross the line, it helps to take a quick shower but remember to hydrate well. Get a massage, do some stretching, and jump into the ice bath. Enjoy the giveaways and freebies that the sponsors have prepared for you! You deserve it! :-)
Now that you know what to do, here are a few things that will make your job a lot easier.
The bike course is still generally flat and fast even with the long climbs at the start and towards the end. Since drag plays a larger role compared to weight as speed increases, minimizing wind resistance is very important. A tribike will be very useful since it allows you to slice the wind easily. My weapon of choice is the Trek Speed Concept 7.5. It uses the same mold (even the same integrated cockpit) as the SC9.5 at almost half the price.
If a tribike reduces wind resistance, a speedsuit reduces hydrodynamic drag. The suit’s fabric prevents water molecules from “sticking” to its surface. Results will vary from person to person (depending on technique and power); however, it’s guaranteed to shave off some time as well as make you more buoyant. I like the TYR Elite Torque speed suit. Its thick fabric is very effective and durable.
3. Race socks
I prefer to wear socks for events longer than 10km. Don’t assume that you’ll save time in transition by going sockless. After an hour or so, blisters and chafing tend to worsen. This is aggravated by profuse sweating and by dousing yourself with water at the aid stations. Socks will help wick away sweat and keep a barrier between your feet and the abrasive parts of the shoe. I use the Vamos Rapido for such occasions. The designs look good and the material is arguably the best I’ve tried. They’re relatively cheap as well.
I always use sunglasses whenever I race (for obvious reasons). However, not all pairs are made alike. I prefer sunglasses that are rimless like the Catlike Fusion. Aside from looking good, they’re very light and comfortable. The lens are also interchangeable to suit any weather condition
5. Aerodynamic Hydration
Since most athletes are using tri bikes or road bikes with aerobars, a good hydration option is a BTA (Between The Arms) hydration solution. My favorite is the Speedfil A2 partnered with a Z4+ cage. The cage holds the bottle and straw firmly and it also has the added benefit of having a Garmin mount for your ride metrics. The A2 bottle has a bite valve that you can close when you’re not drinking. It also has a lid that you can open during refilling and close to avoid spilling.
My nutrition/hydration source for a lot of my races (especially the long distance ones) is Vitargo. It’s a complex carb mix that’s sugar free yet easily absorbed by the body. This means that there’s almost no gas or bloating. You’ll also avoid the energy spikes (and crashes) brought about dextrose/fructose/maltodextrin based drinks. Just remember to choose the proper dosage based on your weight.
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– Don V.