Just 5 weeks back into training after the mid season break, I decided to back up Challenge Iceland with 70.3 Cebu as another "race into shape" race. Training was going pretty well between the races, although was quite stressful as we were also in the process of moving across town to a new place. So although not ideal, the training between races was not all that bad.
The travel to the race was uneventful and got in late on Thursday evening and was able to get a good night sleep. Was up nice and early to take part in my favorite part of the the race weekend, the Alaska Milk "Run Out", which took us to the local school a few K down the road from the race venue. The local school puts on a show for all of the athletes that attend, they do a skit and then they get all of us to dance to their "Milk Song", which promotes eating a healthy breakfast before school and ensuring that they are drinking their daily milk. Shortly after that we headed out on an escorted ride through part of the course and down to the city hall where we met with local community leaders, took a few pictures and then headed back.
Overall the lead up to this race is always a great experience interacting with the local community and giving back to the local youth, with the morning run out and the IRONKIDS Event, which attracts quite the spectacle of top end bikes and speedy kids racing around the 70.3 run course.
Now onto the race, this race always draws a strong field and I knew it wasn't going to be an easy one, but always enjoy lining up with top competition.
Testing out the new PZ4TX+ Swimskin prior to the race. Really impressed with the fit and quality of this swimskin. Hopefully going to do some actual testing of it in the near future and will keep everyone posted on how that goes. Initial impressions were REALLY good!
The swim has always been a non-wetsuit swim and is known to have a current along the back stretch of the course, which makes it a pretty tough swim. I lined up next to Cam Brown as last year he had out swam me by just under 2mins and I thought he would be a good person to key off of, and Brent McMahon was to my left, which wasn't really a factor as he is way out of my league on the swim, and well to be honest just overall. I somehow managed to stay on Brent's feet for the first ~150m and then somehow got pushed right with Cam and ended up on the wrong side of the buoy line. This race has "pool lane lines" basically along the whole course, except where we started they weren't there until ~150m mark, and then had to swim under/over them to get back on course.
Once that happened we lost the tail end of the lead pack and it was just a few of us off the back. A little after half way the women's leaders came by and was able to get on that group for a good while, but just before the last turn was off the back of that group as well. This was by far my worst swim this year (losing 6mins to the leaders, ~40secs to Cam Brown), and probably close to as bad as 70.3 Xiamen back in November, I was dead last out of the swim back in 15th place, not the way to start the race showing up to T1 and only your bike being in the rack.
Coming out of the water dead last, I knew it was going to be a long ride. I just put my head down and slowly started catching people throughout the whole ride. It was a long solo ride, but luckily the streets are lined with fans for basically the whole 90k. Although riding solo in the race, the fans were able to keep me motivated and was glad to make my way up through the field to come off the bike in 8th place.
Photo Credit: Jamil Buergo
HOT HOT HOT! No other way to describe the run, but like the bike course the fans are amazing. Without the amazing fans lined throughout the whole 21k, this run would be absolutely brutal. The aid stations are luckily well stocked with plenty of ice, cold water, and plenty of fluids. This race always comes down to a battle of survival, and you never know what can happen on the run.
Coming off in 8th I knew I just needed to keep moving forward and hoping that I could run down 2 guys to get into the money. I moved into 7th within the first few K of the run, but 6th was about 5mins up the road. I was able to take splits on a few spots of the course, and the gap wasn't coming back, it was actually getting bigger. But you never know what can happen on this course, so I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. By the end of the run I came across the line in 7th, one spot out of the money, just like 2016. Needless to say, I will be back in 2018 to give this race another shot and hopefully crack into the prize money, 3rd time is always a charm, right?
If you are looking for a destination race in the future, I would highly recommend Cebu 70.3, and for 2018 it will be the Asia Pacific 70.3 Championships. Sunrise Events has been putting on events going on 10 years now, and you can't beat the quality that you get racing their events, I have been impressed with every one of their events I have done, and that is why I will be going back for 2018 as well! You can watch the full race video HERE (45mins in total, but shows why this race is a great destination race!)
On top of the great events, they always focus on giving back to the local community, which I mentioned above. After the race a group of the pro athletes and VIPs (Belinda Granger & Lance Watson), all attended a tree planting ceremony at another local school. They put on a few dances / shows for us, and then we all helped plant trees. It was an amazing experience and the kids get really excited to see us and take pictures with us. Can't wait to get back for 2018 and be part of this great event and community.
The "tree" that I planted, looking forward to going back next year and seeing how much everything has grown over the year.
Selfies were a big hit, we must have taken over 100 with all of the kids that were there.