For all of you interested in training in Southeast Asia, here's a quickie guide to my home court, plus a few tips and tricks to getting the most out of racing Thailand Tri-League, Powerman Malaysia, and Ironman 70.3 Subic Bay.
My soon-to-be husband Artur (we are getting married on the 25th of March!!!) lives in Singapore, so I am often in and out of there between races. It's a small but beautiful, modern, and diverse city, and is a frequent layover spot for athletes coming in/out from Europe or Australia.
The Sports Hub is a 35-hectare area that is home to the national stadium, an 888m covered running track, gym, tennis courts, volleyball courts, basketball courts, skateparks, sports museum, sports library, and the beautiful OCBC Aquatic Center, with the absolute best pools/locker/shower facilities I've ever seen. The Hub is also accessible via bus and MRT and is connected to the Kallang Wave Mall, which is perfect for post training eats and shopping for athletic gear. For more info on schedules and ticket prices, click here.
Riding outdoors is not as easy because of traffic. Most athletes start at 5 - 5:30am on weekends. I recommend contacting and meeting up with a cycling or triathlon team, as it is safer to ride in groups. My favorite would have to be the RTI (round-the-island) route. You literally cycle around the whole of Singapore in just about 130 km.
Travel: There are several low-cost airlines that fly into Phuket from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Australia (sadly, they cancelled the one direct flight from Manila to Phuket).
Accommodation: For me, the best place to live in Phuket is Bang Tao. This area has a good number of options for housing and food, has great beaches and good roads, and is close to the the Cherngtalay 25-m pool, and about 11-km from the Thanyapura running track and 50-m pool.
For 1-week stay or less: Any of the Laguna resorts/hotels would be great
For 1-month stay: I recommend renting a fully furnished apartment in Z-cape condominium or any other apartments close to this area.
Z-Cape prices start around THB 15,000/mo.
Rent can be as cheap as THB 8000/mo in smaller, simpler apartments.
For longer term: Securing a 3, 6, or 12-month contract for an apartment or stand alone house will often be available at discounted rates.
Training Facilities: Cherngtalay pool fee is THB 100, Thanyapura pool fee THB 150, and track fee THB 100.
Food: It's actually cheaper to eat out than cook. How good is that?!
Coaching: Z-Coaching crew under Jurgen Zack is based in Bang Tao. With athletes from beginner to professional level training year round under Jurgen's supervision, it's a great training camp option for triathletes of all levels. Fees and services listed on their Facebook page here.
Subic is home to several international and local triathlons. Ironman 70.3, 5150, the longest running triathlon in the Philippines - the ITU Subic Bay International Triathlon (SubiT), the Tri United series, Ironkids, and a host of open water swim and running races. It's a convenient little spot for triathlon training, with easy access to warm, flat beaches, 50-m pool, 400-m running track, a 6-km flat time trial loop for riding, and access to both hilly and flat routes for longer rides. No secret as to why I've made Subic my home for almost three years now.
Travel: Subic is about 170km drive from Manila international airport. From the airport to the North Luzon Expressway is only a bit over 20 km, but can easily take 90-120 minutes because of traffic. Once on the expressway though, the ride should only take about 2 hours. Clark International airport is 70-km from Subic and is accessible via SCTEX expressway, about an hour's drive with zero traffic. There are international flights landing in Clark from Hong Kong, Singapore, Doha, Dubai, Incheon, Pusan and Macau.
Accommodation: There are many hotels at various price ranges inside Subic, and should be easy enough to book online. If you are traveling with a group or staying for a few weeks, you can also opt to rent out fully furnished houses in Subic Homes, Forest View, or just check airbnb for listings.
Food: There's a lot of western food options in the malls and restaurants in town. For healthier options, it would be better to buy your groceries at any of the large supermarkets and cook at home.
Ironman 70.3 Subic Bay
This is a world-class race attracting world champions and olympian athletes. This 2017 brought in Craig Alexander, Tim Reed, Ruedi Wild, Sven Riederen, Radka Vodickova, Caroline Steffen, and many more top athletes from around the world. Swims in the Philippines are always non-wetsuit, and water conditions in Subic are almost always calm and flat for the early 6AM starts. The bike has some rollers on the SCTEX expressway, and can get windy as it gets later in the day. It's always a good idea to scout the bike route on your drive into Subic, as you are not allowed to ride there except on race day. The run is flat and completely exposed, and can get very hot midday. If you're looking for an early season hit out against some of the best athletes in the world, this is a must-race for you.
It's also a very family-friendly event. There is a 3-km underpants run for charity, and the Ironkids race on the Saturday before the race. This year I suffered some mechanical problems on the bike and had to pull out around the 10-km mark. Sucks ballz, but there's plenty more races to choose from in this booming Asian tri community.
Powerman Malaysia (ASTC Asian Middle Distance Duathlon Championships)
This is the biggest duathlon in the world with close to 3,500 participants for the 10km run - 60km cycle - 10km classic, and the 5km - 30km - 5km sprint, in Putrajaya, Malaysia. Putrajaya is a 30-minute drive from Kuala Lumpur international airport, and taxi fares are quite reasonable if you are sharing with another person. I opted to take the train to Putrajaya direct from the airport, and found myself pleasantly surprised at the ease and comfort of traveling by train. It cost only RM9, with wifi and TVs on the train, and I was able to lug my bike bag along next to me with no problem at all. From Putrajaya station it was just a quick RM10 taxi ride to the host hotel Dorsett.
Props to the organizers for managing such a smooth race for 3,500 athletes. Happy to have been awarded 1st place Asian Middle Distance Duathlon champion in a separate awarding ceremony for Asian athletes, and receiving 2nd place in the overall female category, behind Anna Eberhardt-Halasz of Hungary, with Alexandra McDougall of Australia in 3rd.
Thailand Tri-League Series (Bangsaen Triathlon)
I've been a big supporter of the Thailand Tri-League Series, as they always put on a very professional race, and manage to infuse it with so much fun, energy, and the very unique Thai culture. The series has distances ranging from sprint to standard, and a little bit over that, and takes you to beautiful locations around Thailand. They also hold open water swim, run races, and duathlons as side events to complete the multisport festival weekend each race has. Bangsaen is an hour drive from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport, and is a 20-min drive from another popular tourist destination, Pattaya.
This year's edition of Bangsaen Triathlon was far from the well-organized event that I had become accustomed to. With rerouting on the bike course due to unexpected roadworks, and the lack of signage and proper training for the marshals, almost every single pro got lost on the bike and went in different directions.
In the end all the pros sat with the technical director and organizers to discuss a ranking system that was more or less amenable to all. It was decided by the majority that the bike split be taken out completely for the women's race, and we were ranked according to our swim + run times. Instead of finishing 5th then, I finished 6th. Weird and stressful day altogether, but I was happy to see a big group of athletes come together and try to sort an otherwise impossible situation with sportsmanship and respect for all.
Up next is Ironman 70.3 in Danang in May. Looking forward to going back to Vietnam! I absolutely love their street food, palpitation-inducing coffees, and long, beautiful beaches.
Hope you can share some of your favorite things about training and racing in Southeast Asia in the comments below. Feel free to post any questions you may have as well. See you all at the next finishline!