*** many thanks to Ben Corby for this race report ***
It all started in May 2013 when I managed to get a late entry into the event as I couldn’t commit and enter earlier due to having an ITBS injury affecting my knee which meant i couldn’t run without pain from January 2013-May 2013 but after a lot of hard work performing stretching and strength exercises i seem to have cured this. Bike and swim training were ongoing with no problems but it was now time to ramp up the training as i had a goal for the upcoming distances involved. The training proved to be very challenging with the summer temperatures/humidity of the UAE almost upon us and me hating working out indoors in the gym. Swims were weekly in the early morning, in the sea off the open beach with TriDubai (thanks Guy and crew) these were very useful for my stroke, muscular endurance and confidence in open water. I was also backing these up with pool swims to further work on my endurance. The sea swims finished at the end of June due to the high sea temps and jelly fish and i missed these only being able to swim in a 20m pool. The bike training was all performed at the Meydan cycle track at various times to beat the heat/humidity some very early mornings and late nights and was both lonely and boring doing 8km loops of the track but again i knew this would help me as the event was non-drafting so was good practice fighting into the wind. The bike/run combo work was also performed there. Run training was mostly all around the streets of Zabeel as basically not a lot of traffic and access to free water coolers on route, these proved to be instrumental in keeping me cool enough to put in some distance work. The training outside really helped me acclimatize to the weather in the Philippines, which was also very humid.
A week leading up to event i also decided to try and get myself adjusted to the 4 hour (in front) time zone difference, which meant going to bed at 6pm and getting up at 2am, this wasn’t a big problem as my wife was away and gave me plenty of time in the morning for light runs/bikes/stretching but was very random having your lunch at 9am and dinner at 3pm.
Another job which i had to do was pack my bike and this was something i wasn’t experienced with, so after a few chats with TriDubai members and checking you tube, i managed to borrow some tools(thanks Henry) and finally it was all packed up ready to go. I put shoes, bottles, nutrition, helmet, pump etc all in too. When i got to airport i had packed one other small bag to check in only to find i had 26kg with bike box and 9kg with other bag, so after taking out all my luggage except my wash bag literally, i was carrying all i owned as hand luggage(but didn’t have to pay any excess).
So after usual delays and internal delay at Manila, i arrive at Cebu on the Friday 2nd afternoon. There i was greeted by race organizers and as i was in a race hotel for 3 nights they arranged transport, too easy! They also sorted transport to the official race hotel (Shangri La) so went straight away to register and toured the expo they had put on, which had a black eyed pea racing in the relay so some live tunes were being played by him before briefing which was a nice surprise. After buying some m dot gear it was to the carbo load lunch and got chatting with a few people, im guessing around 80-85% of the field were Pilipino and were all so friendly and welcoming so this was a nice comfort as i was on my own. I then managed to bump into Alex Bautista, a Pilipino who i also know from training with TriDubai and he managed to use his team’s mechanic to sort my bike out. Basically he put it all together, gave it a little service and chucked on two new tyres for a few thousand pesos, money well spent as gave me peace of mind. So thanks again Alex for the support it was much appreciated and you made my stay there most welcoming.
On the day before the race i got up and there was a full storm high winds and hammering it down with rain, thunder and lightning. It is rainy season in the Philippines so was to be expected but this storm also cancelled the ironkids event that morning for safety reasons. This did eventually settle down so i rode the 8-10km to the Shangri La, it was raining which was an experience im not used to especially around traffic everything from buses to trucks to motorbikes and jeepneys also stray dogs a plenty. When i got there I decided to venture into the sea and check out the swim course, i only did 10 mins as was a touch rough and few jelly stings but got a visual of the route and the temperature and clarity was perfect. I then cycled back to hotel and felt good. I then was put in touch with a friend of a friend Obet Yance who came picked me up and we went for a local lunch with Rowena and Brian and again this made me feel most welcome, so thanks guys! After this checked the bike in and noticed a lot were covered with bin bags etc. Then went back to hotel for a good buffet to fuel up and was in bed for 9pm for a 3am wake up.
I woke up before my alarm feeling like I’d had a good sleep but didn’t feel quite right and thought it was down to nerves as hit the toilet pretty quick. Went down for breakfast to try and eat as much as i could but again had toilet issues. Sorry for the detail but basically i had chronic diarrhea, which didn’t stop, in the bus on route to course, while sorting out my kit, warm up!!!! It was pissing it down so everything i had to leave in my race bags and started to prep my bike with hydration and nutrition, problem was when i bent over forward i felt dizzy and i also felt dehydrated, so i drunk ¾ of what i had planned to store on my bike by the time I went to warm up for the swim. I just felt drained, weak and dizzy and even felt cold i didn’t know what to do as never felt like this before and didn’t really know if i would even start but i went with it due to travelling all this way and not wanting to let anyone down, raising so much sponsorship and my training!
Swim start was out in open water and i was in the second wave with the biggest age group category of 19-39s, it came around so quick by the time i swam out to the start point they were already counting down so didnt even tread water just kept swimming it wasnt long before it just became a kicking/boxing match the whole way with kicks and punches coming from everywhere! People were sprinting then stopping, changing stokes and I was literally climbing over people and getting pulled back/pushed under myself. Luckily i managed to keep my nose clip on and only had a small leak on my goggles from a hit from a breast stroker. Usually the start or at least to the first buoy you expect this but it was for around 1,2k-1,5k. I was on the racing line (shortest route) next to the guide rope and i looked across some time into the swim and people were pulling themselves along and nipping the buoys at the turns which did make me smile inside. The swim course was basically a big rectangle and the long length on the outside seemed to be never ending(they had boats out there with local bands/music on) so you could see and hear these and you never seemed to get away from them, finally the turn came and i knew from the day before to head diagonally to cut the corner but this meant crossing traffic and if i had my time again will prop just go with the flow but i came through then eventually clear water and someone decided to tail me as felt them every second stroke on the toes and couldn’t shake them as was running out of steam, eventually got out the water result! But came out feeling even more drained and with no toilets and i mean no toilets the whole course it was again behind the signboard in the transition area and in a tri suit not a pretty sight! I took plenty of time ate and drank and just stood there contemplating how i felt and could i carry on, then my initial strategy(sub 6hour) changed i was determined to at least finish.
I went out on the bike and coasted which was even more gutting having all the older age groupers etc come hurtling past. But i also had another problem as the computer on my bike decided not to work due to all the rain messing with the electrics (maybe should have covered my bike) but i did have my Garmin gps so at least some back up. I ate as much as I could and drank as much water and Gatorade I could get my hands on at every aid station, still the diarrhea coming, the problem was the streets were lined with thousands I couldn't believe it and it was a four loop course there was nowhere to stop but after 5 stops 4 behind the same bush with not much cover and with kids running over asking if you ok and for water bottles/GU. The course in general was ok, the rain had stopped and it was overcast with some great views, 80% of the road surface was good and there was one biggish climb over a bridge and a few minor bridges but in general pretty flat. I did witness quite a few punctures and few illegal pelotons though. My legs felt good and I managed to push on at an ok pace but slower than i predicted for obvious reasons but finished the bike. I probably wouldn’t have been able to if it wasn’t for the support by the locals, phenomenal!!! Riding along giving high 5s, think my hand still sore now. Then into transition and again i took my time as i didn’t know how i was going to feel but guess what my favourite sign board got a visiting. Ate and drank some more and set off armed with a bottle of gatorade.
The run started and it was still overcast so no beating sun but you could still feel the heat and humidity. I set off just thinking again lets finish this but for some reason I felt stronger??? At this point i was so happy to be running free at my pace, i didn’t have a clue what the overall time was just knew i had a rough 40 min swim, 3.10 bike and long transitions, so again my strategy changed and i went back into what i had planned (sub 6 hr) so after letting so many people pass me on the bike i started picking people off, every station 3-4km or so I stopped at for food, water/gatorade and ice shower and this kept me going sort off apart from the soaking wet feet, which did lead to a blister on my sole but luckily nothing to slow me down. The course was a 2 looper so on my first loop a few people past me (i could tell they were the stronger guys/girls on their second loop as the colour of their band) after picking up my first rubber band no one past me and i was still pushing on trying to keep my speed below 5.30/km and as soon as i got my second band i knew i was homeward bound so at around 3km left i decided to throw my bottle and really gas it and gave it everything i had. This was fine the till last couple of hundred metres where I got a stitch but still finished strong even taking people on the carpet. But to see the overall time at below 6 hours and to know i was in second wave meant it was job done and final time of 5hrs 53mins under the circumstances, over the moon would be an understatement and collecting that medal felt even more deserved.
I was very emotional after but 30 mins later to say I nearly died would be a bit over exaggerated but it certainly felt like it! 2 hours in medical a shivering and faint mess and flat out with an oxygen mask for half that saying they want to take us to hospital for IV drip, anyway finally managed to sort myself out and they said it was down to severe dehydration due to the diarrhea. Anyway I'm here to tell you "I'm an Ironman"(at least a half one anyway) I'm so emotional I finished and in under 6 hours especially how the day went and it wasn't for nothing, the great cause BLESMA(British Limbless Ex Service Men’s Association) i managed to raise 1,334 pounds, with the help of so many generous people.
I couldn’t have done this without the support of Desert Group and Hult International Business School. Also TriDubai and the Philippines crowd who were truly awesome!!! A special thanks must go out to my amazing wife Rajji for supporting my idea to do this and also the sometimes crazy training schedule.
Back again next year??? yes please Rajji :) raring to do another hopefully this time fully fit!