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I never thought this experience of covering a major triathlon event in the country would open another avenue by which my multisport proddings would be addressed – stalking triathletes!  Actually, I’ve had a couple near invites including the one held in Cebu but went pufft each time.  The mere fact that the traveling fare alone would tantamount to something makes such accommodation very stringent  In this inaugural edition of Century Tuna Ironman 70.3, though and the fact that it is very much nearer, all my wishes came into realization, at last!

 

How do they look like? How are they as persons? How do they treat stalkers like me or the fans in general?  Are they as celebrity-acting as your Hollywood denizens? Or simply as real as any athlete could be?  I found out that they were of the latter kind – humane and approachable – with neither snobbish air nor star complex.  Immediately, my apprehensions were allayed and  got into selfie mode level of interaction with them.

 

 

The Press Con

 

A press con was held in the afternoon the day before the race at Subic Bay Economic Convention Center, the major activity hub for the event housing the product exhibition booths, awarding stage, reception and catering areas.  Just around the vicinity are T2 and finish line locales.  Almost all of the pros listed to participate arrived.  But before they mounted the stage, I took some liberty in dragging them into the frame of my phablet.  I managed to sandwich myself betwixt 15x Ironman champion Belinda Granger, a local favorite as she exudes an ever present sunshiny beam for everybody, and Beth Gerdes who started racing barely four months out of childbirth.  Ironwomen both indeed!

 

Not all are brawny and scary, well an exaggeration as none of them actually are, just to drive my point that some are of the cutie variety!  I found two of the most promising Ironman 70.3 triathletes by the side stairs of the stage getting ready for the program to start.  They are the recently crowned Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific king Tim Reed and Safeguard 5i50 champion Josh Amberger. One look at them and you will never guess the multisport conquerors in them.  They can easily pass as members of a boy band!

 

The stage was set not only for the pros but for the one participant who lords over the rest in accomplishment, three time world champion Craig ” Crowie” Alexander.  It is evident from the way he carries himself that he is simply a cast above the rest.  Right after the press proceedings, he gracefully entertained those who availed his book for an autograph signing.

 

But where is Xena?  Where is my idol?  Due to intestinal flu the organizer reported, she will not able to attend the press con and neither will she figure in tomorrow’s contention.  Huhu…I had been wanting all along just to see her, have a selfie with her, and see her in action.  Any of the mentioned will suffice for me to call this stint fruitful.  As early as now, I am predicting total failure.  Well, on to my real purpose then which Oglvy, the PR handler for Century Tuna, commissioned me to – cover the event with or without Xena.
 
 

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Welcoming all participants and me also.

 

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Franchise owner Mr. Wilfred Uytengsu welcoming the participants.

 

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SBMA Chairman Roberto Garcia presenting the jeepney-designed trophy as Century Tuna’s Greg Banzon claps on.

 

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The first set of ladies pro: Emma Bilham, Emi Sakai, Ali Fitch and Parys Edwards.

 

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The second set of women’s pro field composed of Belinda Granger, Dimity Lee-Duke, Beth Gerdes and Katy Duffield.

 

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Good-lookers Matthias Knossalla and Christoph Schlagbauer took center-stage first for the Men’s Pro.

 

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Aussies Michael Murphy and Mitchell Robins were the second pair.

 

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Top seeded pros included Tim Reed, 3x Ironman World Champion Craig Alexander, Josh Amberger and Luke McKenzie.

 

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 All smiles was birthday boy Tim Reed as the audience sang him a Happy Birthday song.

 

 

The Race

 

Swim Leg

 

The swim leg was at the Sands of Triboa, one of the many resorts that line the shores of Subic Bay.  It was an L-shaped out and back swim loop amidst mermaids in shining, shimering colorful fish tails from Philippine Mermaid Academy, a water-jet rider doing aerial stunts, and two ships hosing water up into the air providing amusement to both the athletes and the audience.

 

In barely half an hour after the gunstart, pro athletes were already stomping the sands and alighting the stairs towards T1, a good 250 meters of running barefoot towards the Tarmac of Subic Bay airport.  Josh Amberger came out of the calm cove waters with a good 1:30 lead over the chase group composed of fellow Aussies Mike Murphy, Mitch Robins, Tim Reed, Tim Green and Luke McKenzie.

 

The pro women swim leaders were Emma Bilham proving she is a class all her own in swimming followed closely by local elite star LC Langit, a national swimmer before taking in triathlon and Beth Gerdes whom I saw removing her skin suit while alighting the stairs as only the pros can!  Later back is Belinda Granger whom I almost missed as by now, a lot of elite males and females were already scrambling for the exit.

 

We waited on for the very last of swimmers, which meant a good 1 hour and 10 minutes into the race, the cut off time.  Among those barely making it was one visibly pained and cramping triathlete.  With the help of a compatriot though he persevered to the bike leg. It was sad to know though that a participant was not allowed to continue on after he missed the cut off.  There goes one registration go puffttt!

 

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The passage-way leading to T1 near the airport from the Sands of Triboa beach area.

 

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Mermaids strewn all over the beach!

 

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Even celebrity triathlete Matteo Guidicelli cannot resist the mermaids!

 

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The fireworks accompanying the gun start.

 

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Triathlete couple Beth Gerdes and Luke McKenzie before the race.

 

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Off went the pros a-dashing!

 

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The majority of the field belongs to the red cap category or those age groups below 40 years old.

 

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The expectant yellow-capped group of 40 and above age groups.

 

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It’s the women’s turn in pink caps and the relay swimmers in green cap after the rest had left the shore.

 

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Some of the lead pro males alighting the steps. (Tim Green)

 

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Mike Murphy behind Tim Reed.

 

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Luke McKenzie was 2 minutes off the lead swimmer’s pace.

 

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Beth Gerdes doing the multitasking of running the stairs and taking her swim suit off.  The thing mothers are excellent at!

 

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Parys Edwards was so fast my camera almost did not catch her.

 

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Dimity Lee-Duke trying her best to stay with the top swimmers.

 

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Matthias Knossalla arrived at the heels of some pro females.

 

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The rest of the age groupers arriving in trickles.

 

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The group of female triathletes are not to be outdone by the males.

 

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This I believe was the 3rd to the last swimmer who arrived barely around the cut off time.

 
 

Transition 2

 
On foot and even with a service van at our disposal, still it would be impossible to cover every aspect of the race. How much more the fast-paced bike leg where top of the line (and value) tri bikes as light as air and as fast as motorized vehicles were exclusively utilized to blaze the main highway of Subic up towards SCTEX and back?  Moreover, we were not permitted to leave the beach premises not after the swim leg is through.

 

In pro caliber, 90 km of bike ride distance is somewhere around the time of the entire swim leg, no more than 1hr 30mins!  So by the time we reached T2, the top 4 males – Josh Amberger (by this time doubling his lead to 3 minutes), Luke McKenzie, Tim Reed and Mitch Robins were already on their running shoes in intense competition for the next 21K.  And not even the scorching heat can stop them!  Such was not the case though for Mike Murphy who called it quits right after the swim leg. Tim Green almost succumbed to its unforgiving heat spells but eventually finishing at 9th place.  The remainder of the male pro in contention was the determined German Matthias Knossalla, Cedric Lassonde of France, and the very young and lanky Christoph Schlagbauer from Austria.

 

Unlike with the males, I totally witnessed how the female pros race unfolded right from my T2 exit vantage point.  Going out first was Parys Edwards whom, being a first time Ironman 70.3 entree was left out of the radar for pre-race podium placing.  And here she was with a commendable lead over her pursuer Beth Gerdes of USA!  Defending the last podium position from this point on was the petite but a powerhouse of an athlete Dimity Lee-Duke of Australia going out of T2 with Filipino elite Banjo Norte, the first in his division followed very closely by August Benedicto.  On pursuit were Emma Bilham who was not able to maintain her swim lead and Belinda Grander who obviously was not in her best condition.
 
 

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Over-heating Christoph Schlagbauer.

 

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The DJ Cedric Lassonde intense in concetration.

 

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A member of Filipino elite Alaska Tri team among the leaders.

 

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Tim Green looking spent.

 

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Again too fast for my camera phone.

 

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The female pro lead after the bike and after the race Parys Edwards.

 

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Still being able to smile, Beth Gerdes is.

 

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Dimity Lee-Duke exiting with another Alaska Tri Team member.

 

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Emma Bilham looking ahead.

 

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Belinda Granger looking hurt.

 

 
 

The Finishline

Mentally I was already estimating that from the time the lead pack left T2, it would take no more than 1hour 30minutes for the to reach the finish line just around the other street flanking SBECC.  This means we had barely any time to wait for the remainder of the top age groupers and female elites.  And we needed to get a good vantage point!  So onwards the booth of the timer and medals we went and lingered about until the very moment of the victor’s arrival.

 

While on the waiting mode, the emcee was giving us some updates on the pro standings.  Barely out of T2 and not yet halfway through their half marathon duel and I learned that Tim Reed had already erased the 3 minute padding Josh Amberger tactically created knowing how fast Tim and Mitch Robins are on the run. He just cannot sustain his pursuers pacing given the effort he spent on the swim and bike leg.  Though the run course itself was characteristically flat, the blazing sun was scorchingly unforgiving.

 

The finish line area was beginning to get busy, the medal girls hurriedly putting on the final touches to their already melting make-ups, the brand representatives exchanging notes on the whereabouts of their ward and making sure their camera phones are on hand to take the shot, the race coordinators making sure the area is cleared and everything in place, the TV, media crews and photographers all braving sun exposure high up in their make shift platform excitedly awaiting to capture every finishing moments.

 

3 hours and 51 minutes after gun start and a petite form in purplish speedos can be seen approaching the finish line tape like an apparition of Flash.  Tim Reed is it!  The 2015 Ironman 70.3 Asia Pacific champion, Tim Reed, is once again king!  Raising the tape, Tim was steaming hot, literally and figuratively, amidst almost noon tropical sun and being the latest toast of the triathlon world.

 

Looking spent, Mitchell Robins arrived 4 minutes later having proven the fleet in his legs over the advantage of Josh early in the competition.  The Safeguard 5i50 champ and another young force to reckon with, Josh Amberger, looking like a cutie rockstar in his dishevelled blonde bob, was 5 minutes off the leader.  Luke Mckenzie was not able to put in some time in the run though he came out of T2 a minute and a half off Josh’s heels and finished just outside the podium.

 

Parys Edwards proved a class all her own as she blazed through the bike and the run in unequalled fashion finishing a good 6 minutes from the closest pursuer Beth Gerdes.  She was quoted as saying during the post-race press presentation that her initial goal was just to finish within 15 minutes of Caroline Steffen.  Upon learning of her unfortunate condition, she recalibrated her goals into aiming for the top podium place, which she did in field stomping fashion.

 

Completing the podium spot for the ladies pro was Dmity Lee-Duke, herself a growing force to reckon with on road and off road (coming off 3rd in 2015 Xterra Albay).  Emma Bilham was not able to reclaim her swim lead and fell off the podium slot.  The winner of the Century Tuna Superbod Award Foreigner Category during the Underpants Run held the previous day, Katy Duffield, rounded the top 5.

 

 

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Meet your champ, the hottest Ironman 70.3 triathlete of this moment, Tim Reed!

 

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Barely covered!

 

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Mitchell Robins in 2nd place still looking back for pursuers even at the finish line.

 

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Another promising young triathlete, Josh Amberger.

 

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Matthias Knossalla recovering from the heat and the race.

 

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Top Ladies Pro triathlete Parys Edwards savoring the moment.

 

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And being interviewed right after.

 

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Luke and Beth for their last pix in this race together.

 

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Dimity Lee-Duke posing for my cam while being helped with her timing chip.

 

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The 1st placer in Filipino Male Elite Category being interviewed.

 

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  Of course, I would not let this opportunity pass.

 

 

Final Thoughts

 

It was action filled 3-day coverage of this inaugural Century Tuna Ironman 70.3, my very first too!  And oh boy did I had a blast!  Special thanks go to the efficient and dynamic Ogilvy Team lead by Lhen Hasal for making our stay in Subic enjoyable and memorable.  And did I mention that I got my wish of a lifetime of having a selfie with Xena?  Yes I did! She showed up during post-race press presentation and did the honors of giving out awards in the awarding ceremony.  Not only that, I also got a souvenir pix with Crowie!  So all my wishes came true and more!

 

So many firsts happened to me during this 3-day stint that I simply cannot help but promise myself a new blog solely for triathlon.  Therefore, TriStalkerPh was born.  This will just be the beginning of more exciting triathlon and triathlete stalking adventures to come for me.  So stay tuned!

 

RACE RESULT:     http://ironman703subicbay.com/ct703/results/

 
 

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Here it is!

 

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Need I say more?