The 3rd 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 12.
THE UNDERPANTS RUN
Before anything else, let me invite you to the Century Tuna Underpants run on March 11 (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. Use it as an opportunity to loosen up the legs but make sure to tighten up your midsection while you do so!
To make sure you have a hassle-free experience, here are a few reminders you should take note of:
Athlete registration is from 9am to 3pm at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center (SBECC). Make sure you bring a valid ID.Bike check in will only be allowed on Saturday (10am-4pm). Late bike check in and registration will incur a penalty fee.Timing chips need to be claimed in T1 as you check in your bike.You will need to drop off your T2 bag. Since T1 and T2 are separate, you need to put your run gear in a designated bag and drop these off in SBECC on Saturday (10am-4pm).You also have bags for your other gear Swim, T2, change of clothes, and a number for your bike pump. Please use them as this ensures your gear doesn’t get lost or misplaced.You cannot leave your gear together with your bike as you check it in. Bring your stuff on race morning. Take note that there will be a helmet check as well.Make sure you entrust your car keys to a supporter. Don’t bring it along with you during the race or leave it in your T1 bags. Better safe than sorry!Attend race briefing to make sure you don’t miss out on important reminders or pointers (4:30 and 5pm batches).Transition closes at 6am sharp on Sunday! So make sure you arrive early.Make sure you put all your stuff in your basket. Especially if you don’t want to lose them.
The swim venue is the all too familiar Acea Beach Resort (formerly known as Dungaree Beach). Unlike other races held here, you’ll follow a unique course. The path is L-shaped and traverses shore leading up to the airport runway. The water is usually very calm with the occasional current. Definitely nothing to be worried about; however, if the current is stronger than normal, just be prepared to do a lot of sighting and course correction.
Once you swim 200m out, pitch black darkness will greet you. You won’t 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. Once you make the turn, it gets slightly choppy. Keep the shore and the buoys in sight to make sure you’re not veering off course. After the turnaround, make sure to keep sighting and start picking up the pace.
Like last year, there will be a rolling start for the swim. This means you’ll be grouped according to your potential swim split times (see schedule above) and released by groups of 6-10 a few seconds apart. 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 and to facilitate a better experience for everyone. By grouping yourselves accordingly, untoward incidents may be avoided.
There are a few minor modifications to this year’s bike course. Unfortunately, the airport runway is being rehabilitated. This forced the organizers to omit the airport runway segment and instead place T1 on San Bernardino road. This might actually be a good thing because you’ll have more time to warm up as you ride through airport road. Use this time to hydrate, refuel, and get the legs going. Once you descend down to Argonaut Highway, stay tucked, aero and keep the cadence high. Don’t attempt to hammer this segment too much. Aim to stay fresh and ready for the difficult climb up to Tipo.
The first climb 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. Enjoy the scenery but also stay focused and alert. Don’t be surprised that there are a lot of rough patches along SCTEX. Make sure all your gels, bottles, and gear are properly secured. It’s easy for them to fall off when you hit a bad bump. Since it’s too early to actually predict weather conditions, stay tuned for any updates on our facebook page: fb.me/FlyingDonVCoaching.
There will be a lot of rolling hills along the course. Pre-select a lighter gear and spin up the hills. Don’t be tempted to mash since it will cause unnecessary fatigue and lower back pain. You’ll make a U-turn a past the Floridablanca exit. On the way back, it’s usually faster because of some tailwind and a lot of momentum from the descents. Stay tucked, select a slightly bigger 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. Use a lighter gear and spin up the hills. Remember to keep yourself relatively fresh for the run.
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. Right after exiting SBECC, the run course will traverse the areas where trucks and delivery tankers park. This means you’ll be running on bumpy roads. The uneven road surface exacerbates the onset of cramps so attack it cautiously. Just make sure you don’t step on any big rocks or into any holes.
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; however, it’s there’s often a cool and strong breeze to offset the heat. Take note that the run course ascends gradually; expect a slight gradient all the way until the turnaround near T1. These 2-3% grade hills are scattered along the run course (i.e. the hills near the Airport). Stay well hydrated and don’t neglect taking your nutrition.
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! :-)