The 2012 Cobra 70.3 Ironman Philippines

2012 Cobra 70.3 Ironman Philippines Finisher’s Medal

It took me a long while to post my blog about the recently concluded Cobra 70.3 Ironman Philippines. I just posted this blog when everyone has already talked about, and raved about it. Well, they got their own stories, and I got mine.

It was drizzling that early morning of August 3, 2012 while on board a cab on my way to the Terminal 2 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. It has been raining on and off that week due to a low pressure area.  I got off the cab as soon as it pulled over by the ramp, and proceeded to the entrance to the main lobby.

I’m flying to Cebu to cover the much anticipated triathlon event of the year – the Cobra Energy Drink 70.3 Ironman Philippines.  I boarded the plane a quarter past 5 in the morning. Despite the not so good weather, the flight pushed through as scheduled. At an altitude of 30,000 feet, Philippine Airline’s Airbus A330-300 gave everyone on that flight a very good one and half hours of flying experiencing. And the roundtrip ticket was purchased at half the price!

Arriving at the Mactan International Airport, the sun was up, the weather was great, and there was not a single trace of a rain cloud.  Not so long after I checked out of the airport, the van picked me up along with other media people, who were apparently on that same flight. Since it was way too early in the morning, only a few business centers were open. The whole entourage decided to stop by Starbucks in Mactan for breakfast, and to discuss the events and itineraries for the day.

Looking out the window, one couldn’t deny the fact that in two days’ time, a grand multisport event is happening in the heart of Queen City of the South.  Cebu is hosting the 2012  Cobra 70.3 Ironman Philippines. The security was tight at the event’s venue – the Shangri – La Mactan Resort and Spa. We billeted at BE Hotel and Resorts, which was about a mile from Shangri – La.

BE Hotel and Resorts housed the creations of the Hollywood famous furniture designer Kenneth Cobonpue, who also designed this year’s Ironman Philippines’ finisher’s medal.

Call time was normally at 4am to us time for breakfast and to shuttle us to the venue. Lunches and dinners were at various restaurants in the city like SuTuKil, Chikaan, and Dimsum Break. We’d be back at the hotel around 8 or 9 the evening. And by that time, malls are already closed. And I could only think of getting some sleep to prepare for the following day’s string of activities.

On the day we arrived in Cebu, we had the opportunity to check the race course passing through the famous Marcelo Fernan Bridge which connects Mactan Island to the rest of the Cebu. At the Ironman Expo during the race bring and press con, I came across Coach Michelle Estuar and Belinda Granger.  And who can miss out the 2011 Cobra 70.3 Ironman Philippines Filipino Elite Champion Arland Macasieb? I took that opportunity to have the two copies of Runner’s Magazine (which I brough all the way from Manila) autographed! During our short conversation, the one thing he asked me was why is my name Supladong Runner. Well, almost everyone asked me that same question. I also had the opportunity to have my photo taken with Australia’s Hall of Famer Belinda Granger at the Expo Center.

Lounging on the Kenneth Cobonpue Creation

The following day, after the Alaska Ironkids Triathlon event, we visited the Cebu International Convention Center where 1 Cebu Expo was held. Locally made handicrafts were on sale – from accessories, delicacies to furniture.

On the event day, I woke up at 4:30 in the morning. It was pretty late. I haven’t had the chance to take my breakfast because we all need to be at the venue before they close the roads at 5am. But it was okay since the night before, our dinner was like a carboloading dinner. A short media briefing followed and some of us in the Alaska Press Corps were assigned a motorcycle rider.

The sun hasn’t risen up yet. The horizon was still dark lavender and some oranges. The sea was calm. Colorful vintas were spotted nearby. Triathletes and spectators have started to gather at the swim area. The early morning just got busy. I bumped into She Quimosing and some guys from A Runner’s Circle. I positioned myself at the bike transition area and while on my way, there’s Tessa Prieto – Valdez. Took a snap of Belinda Granger and Arland Mac with his Fil Am Tri buddies.

I knew that the race had already started when I saw one triathlete pedaling fast off the transition area.  Since I had to give live updates of the race, I proceeded to the parking area behind the Shangri – La resort for the motorcycle ride. I had to run towards the parking area to be on the lead. But the venue security people and even some of the race marshals weren’t really nice. They gave me a run around where I need to pass through. I was getting frustrated by their insensitivity, but I can’t get mad. Whew! Anger management.

I was racing with time just to get to the parking lot where the motorbike riders were stationed.  I felt like sprinting to the finish line.  As soon as I got to the parking lot, I took the back ride and we left off. We were already behind the racers so we took the short cut to the Marcelo Fernan Bridge. When we got there, the police officers didn’t let us in. So, we took another detour passing through the old M. Fernan Bridge towards the tunnel. Soon I was getting calls and text messages from the Media Center for updates. I was caught off guard.

The bike course was technical. Racers had to pass through a tunnel and take the Marcelo Fernan Bridge. Both sides of the streets were filled with spectators – men, women, young and old, and students. Loud cheers emanate from groups of students as the racers pass them by.

As soon as the triathlete pros have made their third U – turn, I asked the driver to take me to the run course, driving at approximately 60 – 80kph. Perhaps a quarter of an hour or so had passed, and I was expecting to catch up with Pete Jacobs and Cameron Brown. But I didn’t see any trace of them in the bike course. Though we ran past Matt O’Halloran on his way towards to the transition area.

It was only in the run course that I was able to catch up with Pete and Cameron. The run course has a festive mood. Elementary students were lined up along the streets, chanting and cheering as the runners pass by.

When I got to the Discovery turn around point, three groups of cheer dancers perked up the area. Their dance moves and the pumped up sound system brought life to the hot and humid environment. Runners were even asking them to keep on with the grooves!

Since the run course was the last leg of the race, I was able to spot a lot of familiar triathletes. There’s Pete Jacobs and Cameron Brown who were racing shoulder to shoulder, Matt O’Halloran, Caroline ‘Xena’ Steffen, Bree Wee, Michelle Wu, Belinda Granger, Monica Torres, Alaska Team TBB’s Banjo Norte and Marc Altura, Coach Ige Lopez, Fil Am Tri’s Arland Macasieb, and a whole lot more! At 11 in the morning, more and more runners were already making their second loop to complete the 21k run course, and down to the finish line.

I proceeded to the finish line when I got back to the race venue. The activity area was jam packed with participants and spectators. Some participants were getting their much needed massage and taking a dip in the Intex pools, sharing their respective story about the race.

At around 1pm, we took our lunch. And it was a sumptuous lunch. The waiters were very courteous as they served our food. Then by 4pm, the awarding started. Special Awards such as the Century Tuna SuperBods Award was given to Drew Arellano. Arland Macasieb placed second in this special award. Banjo Norte of received the Alaska Swim Bonus for finishing the swimming out of the water first; and so was Marion Kim Mangrobang. Monica Torres received her fourth Filipino Elite Champion trophy. It’s unfortunate that Arland Mac didn’t win in this year’s elite category. He got a couple of flats in the bike leg. Nonetheless, as a true athlete, he still made every inch of an effort to finish the race.

Pete Jacobs and Caroline Steffen both topped the Pro category. Cameron Brown and Bree Wee filled the second spot, while Matt O’Halloran and Belinda Granger took the third spot. It was a back to back victory for Steffen who, earlier that week, placed first in the World Triathlon Championships.

The 2012 Cobra 70.3 Ironman Philippines Race Route

Having been exposed to the sport, I became a fan of these triatletes, to the point that I had my media ID and my singlet signed by them! When everything was all set, we headed back to the hotel for a much needed rest. It was then that I just realized how burnt my skin was. I was red all over! When evening came, we had our dinner in a restaurant in Park Mall. After which, we had coffee at Bo’s Coffee shop.

The event is over. No more call time. I was able to sleep well that night. It was already past 5 in the morning when I woke up. I took a bath and went down to the buffet area for breakfast.

As soon as everyone was ready, we took our things down to the lobby to head for the airport. I bumped into Coach Z at the hotel.  And I can’t afford to miss that opportunity for a photo ops with her.

It was a sunny morning when got to the airport. There was a long line of passengers waiting to be checked in. And as the saying goes, patience is a virtue. We had to wait for our turn. Good thing the airport manager prioritized all PAL passengers taking the 9am flight. So, we were able to check in our baggage ahead of the other passengers. It didn’t take much longer after we settled in our seats before the plane took off. Soon enough, we were already landing at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. While the sun was everywhere in Cebu, rain was all over the metro. How ironic!

Finally, I’m back home. I gathered my things, proceeded to the airport lobby and took a cab. As the rain poured, I was thinking about the three days that I spent in Cebu.  The experience and the lessons learned were all worth my time and effort. It was non – negotiable. I had fun. And had so much of it.  There were downsides to it, but they’re so trivial to think about. Yet, they still formed part of what is called ‘the experience’. I’m fortunate to have been given this opportunity to be part of a great event. I thank God for the wonderful things that He never failed to show me, and for the blessings that He provided me.

This is all about the Cobra 70.3 Ironman Philippines. And this is my story.

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