Ironman Weekend: Behind the Scenes, Inside the Mind, and Under the Pants

March came in jam-packed for me as I spent the first weekend of this month in Subic Bay to cover back-to-back-to-back events: Alaska Ironkids, Century Tuna Superbods Underpants Run, and Century Tuna Ironman 70.3.  And that weekend started Friday lunchtime!  Here’s my behind the scenes account of this whirlwind weekend.

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My pass to an Ironman 70.3 weekend

We left for Subic Bay from Makati City around 1PM but for some reasons that were out of our controls, we actually arrived around 5PM—my longest ever trip to Subic Bay from Metro Manila!  And so there weren’t really anything else we could do but check in into our hotel.  3G signal was practically inexistent in our area so we had a forced day off from social media.

What the neighbors looked like from our hotel room 🙂

Our next day started quite early to cover Alaska Ironkids.  It was a cool morning and getting wet was the last thing on my mind so I really admired the dedication of the participants with the sport.  What’s more amazing is that some of these kids looked quite professional already despite their young age!  Interestingly, the parents seemed to be more excited with the event than the participants themselves!

A scene from the Alaska Ironkids

You may read about my full account on this event here.

Then came the more fun and revealing side of the Ironman event, the Century Tuna Superbods Underpants Run.  This is a simple 3K run around the vicinity of Subic Bay Yacht Club and Remy Field which by all means embodied the true essence of a fun run—there were no awards for finishing the race first but the members of the media got to pick two pairs (male and female, local and foreign) who stood out with their underpants.  Read more about this “tradition” here.

The participants in their underpants prior to gun start
The Pros are here of course
The Century Tuna Superbods finalists joined in as well
Caption this 🙂
But this little man stole the show

You may find more photos from this event here.

Afterwards, we were off to the expo at Subic Bay Convention Center.  I was surprised how many booths there were offering products and services for triathletes, from chiropractic treatment to apparel and swim accessories to really expensive bikes!  Best of all, a lot of these items were on huge discounts!  But the biggest surprise for me that came out of this expo is getting an LED TV.  And it really was the best place to buy a TV, I’m not kidding!  TVs were held for auction for charity and I guess there weren’t that many who thought of getting a TV prior to an Ironman so the winners got to take home those TVs in ridiculously low prices.

At the expo

Also presented at the expo were the finalists of Century Tuna Superbods competition and later on the press got to meet the Pros.  Afterwards in another hall, participants attended a short Q&A session with 15-time Ironman distance champion and member of the Australian Ironman Hall of Fame Belinda Granger where she also gave tips on the course.  I’m not a triathlete (yet) but I really took to heart her tips as they may one day prove useful to me.  And then the official race briefing started.

The Pros wearing the Visit Philippines Again 2016 shirt
Participants getting firsthand tips from Belinda Granger

The big day started still pretty early for us as we head to Acea Subic Bay for the main event, the Century Tuna Ironman 70.3 Subic Bay.  It was still dark when we arrived and one by one, the participants started trickling in.  As first light surrounded the area, some participants started their warmup swim.  As a first timer in the area, it was a challenge to find a good spot to take photos as my media ID have some restrictions on accessible areas, and the ones that were accessible were filled with spectators as well.  Good thing there weren’t any iPad photographers that day that blocks the view for everyone else behind them (as we experienced at the expo).

Rolling start of one of the age groups
The participants in their swim leg
The Pros coming out of the water

After the Pros were off the water, I headed towards the bike mounting area just a few hundred meters (uphill) away.  Here I was able to witness how the Pros start their bike leg.  Nothing short of impressive I should say.  And from here, we were off towards Subic Bay Convention Center where Transition 2 (bike to run) is located.  This is a few kilometers away so we were in a van, and as we progressed we saw some of the participants along the way.  The speed they achieve in their bikes is just mind-blowing!

At the bike mounting area
The bike route going through the airport

Transition 2 is actually much more relaxed than I had originally anticipated.  Lots of crowds were present, cheering for participants and occasionally blocking some of the path.  It’s also here where I got to see some relay teams exchanging their timing chips between teammates.  By the time the run leg started, it was really hot!

A hot day at T2 area
One of the relay teams passing on the timing chip to a teammate

We started waiting at the finish line around 10AM with the news of the leader just a few kilometers away.  Knowing how fast these Pros can burn through the road, I knew it’s just a matter of minutes until the champion crossed that line so I have to be ready and position myself for the photo.  And so under a tent in the middle of a hot day, I was rubbing elbows with professional photographers from the big media outlets who were also waiting for their money shot.  And surely enough, just a few minutes later we have Craig Alexander crossing the finish line.  And then Patrick Lange.  And then Tim Reed.  And so on…

This year’s champ, Craig Alexander

You may read about my full recap of this world-class event here.

Lunch was quite a feast and a sight to behold as we got to dine with the superstars of triathlon.  As a normal person, I may not be able to finish a triathlon in time to be eating with them at the same hall at the same time so it was quite a privilege.

Inside the Subic Bay Convention Center where lunch is served for the finishers

Later that afternoon, another meet the press session was conducted with the Pros.  You’d have to be amazed that none of them looked like they did a grueling Ironman 70.3 as they show absolutely no signs of being tired!

The Pros back together after the race

Then came the awarding ceremonies.  Aside from awarding the top male and female overall and Filipino Elites, there were many special awards from sponsors such as the fastest ones per leg, age group awards, etc.

The prizes for special awards

And at around 5PM, we were finally done with our coverage and were off back to Manila!  Fortunately, our journey back took much faster than the way we came in, but I just probably didn’t noticed as I was asleep for most of the time! 😀

Time to pack up… too bad these are not mine to take home 🙂

It was such a great weekend and witnessing a world-class event like this, from the Pros, to the kids, to the seniors—all of them inspired me to do an Ironman one day.  I’m not in a rush as I’ve a lot of things to learn.  So to Century Tuna via Ogilvy, thank you very much for this wonderful weekend!  It was definitely more than the usual media coverage for me.

To all the Ironman finishers, Congratulations!  I salute you and you inspire me to follow in your footsteps!  I hope to be one like you one day! 😀

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