70.3 Cebu 2014 & 2015
Background: Not so much of a specific race report, more of an information piece on this big, loud and very well-supported race. Triathlon is booming in the Philippines and this race was pretty much the big one on the calendar for a number of years. Now joined by other 70.3 races in Davao and Subic as well as the full-distance race every two years, it doesn't quite have the aura about it, but it's still a big one. I've raced here twice as well as joining a relay, and as Cebu is my semi-hometown of sorts having spent over 5 years there with countless other visits, I know the course and the logistics pretty well.
Travel: It's a direct flight into Mactan from many Asian countries including Hong Kong. The race is held at Shangri-La Mactan - just 15-20 minutes from the airport. If you can, stay at Shangri-La as logistics around the island are not always great - taxis are usually plentiful, but not always in great condition and drivers can be unscrupulous. Other options are the Movenpick next door as well as some smaller properties around the Shangri-La. The pre-race Pasta Party on the Friday night is a great occasion - outdoors and plenty of great food.
The Race: The climate in Cebu is always going to be hot, so be ready for that. The run is especially hot and although there is some shade, there are several long stretches with no shade at all. The Bike is hot and dusty, while the Swim will always be non-wetsuit. Looking back, I didn't train properly for these races and it showed!
Swim: The swim layout is pretty straightforward, but can be affected by strong currents if the timing is wrong. The currents shift in the morning, so if it shifts as you are about to enter the water, your whole swim can be affected. Cebu is notorious for attracting first-timers which of course is great, but many don't prepare properly. So although the swim can be tough, many more people missed the cut-off in 2015 as the current was especially strong that year. I got through in around 55-minutes but that was not a fun swim and somewhat aided by the guide ropes where you could rest. The water is clear and you get a great look at the coral throughout your swim.
Bike: The bike course changes from year to year, but generally follows the same pattern - out of the resort, along the road to, and over the new bridge, then through hot, dusty and windy cities. The roads are generally closed and thousands of spectators line the streets which is great to see. The route actually passes through four cities - Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue, Cebu and Consolacion so each city tries to out-do each-other by getting the most support out onto the streets. There are usually loops at some point and if the headwind is strong, you get alternate fast and slow loops. I used to train in Cebu and would come off the long rides caked in pollution-caused grime. With the roads generally closed, it's not as bad in the race, but you're definitely not going to be clean when you get off the bike. I've never broken three hours in my attempts here, but it's a fast course for good bikers. Be warned though, take your repair kit - I knew of one guy who took two spare tubes but had to DNF (Did Not Finish) after his third puncture.
Run: You race in Asia, you get cooked on the run. I should be used to it by now, but as a bigger guy, it always seems to get to me. The great thing about this run course is that it's very well-supported - literally lined with people. The first 5 km is mostly shaded and probably around 15km of the course is fine. The other 6km though, is pretty exposed and given the heat, be ready. Make sure you have your sun lotion as it's easy to get burned out there. Needless to say, I got burned out there and generally shuffled home in the 2:20 hour range.
Finish line: As with the Pasta Party, they put on a great show at the Shangri-La. Regular IM-Asia MC Whit Raymond brings you home, then it's ice baths, massages, coconuts, great food and beer if you want it. Always a great time, although the heat hangs around, so hydrate fast. If you're staying at the Shangri-La, there is less rush to collect your bike, so you can have a dip in the pool and relax with family.
Post-race thoughts: A big, brash race with upwards of 2000 racers. It's a Philippine-wide community event, with people flying in from all corners and as stated, the host cities and the Shangri-La all put on a great show. It can be a little too busy at times, with a tight transition, packed swim, draft-friendly bike course and a busy shuffle-fest of a run. But definitely worth doing at least once - the people are amazing and the support is second to none in the region.