I was pretty happy to come in 4th overall woman, among some very tough ladies out on race day. Massive fan of the women's champion, Emma Pooley, who was so far ahead on the bike last Saturday that she was practically in a different zip code! For those of you who don't know, Emma is a world cycling TT champion and Olympic silver medalist for cycling TT!!! #fangirlmodeON
As usual, I came out of the water at the tail end, in 8th place of 10 in the female pro/elite wave. But I was confident that I would make up some ground on the bike, as I had been training in Subic since December. Being familiar with the very hilly and technical bike course is definitely an advantage, especially for someone like myself, who is not the fastest at sharp corners and steep downhills. I overtook Filipina Elites Maria Hodges and LC Langit early on in the ride, with Carol Fuchs just a few meters behind me. I managed to drop Carol after the first hill section at BTPI, and picked up Katja Rabe and Louisa Rundqvist at the flat section around the 25km or so. I rode the rest of the race with Katja and Louisa, working hard to push the pace in front, as I knew Carol, a very solid runner, was just behind us by a couple of minutes.
The top three women were too far ahead to catch, and so I just concentrated on riding the last two hill sections as well as I could, and hopefully make Louisa and Katja a little tired for the run. Louisa got dropped somewhere before the last 15km, seeming to be struggling with the hills and heat. And I rode all the way to T2 with Katja, who seemed quite fresh as she even managed to talk to me as she overtook me on the last hill up to Morong gate.
I came out of T2 ahead of Katja, and heard Whit Raymond announcing Louisa just coming in. I forced myself not to look back, as I knew I had no control over how fast these ladies would run. I just focused on making it hurt for the last 21-km of the race, and entertained myself by trying to catch as many Filipino Elite and men age groupers up ahead as I could. I think I managed five??? :)
The run went through back roads and shaded trails in Subic, with some beautiful views of the beach and the forest. But when the hills are so steep, and the road surfaces change up so quickly from smooth to rough asphalt, from grass to compact soil and loose sand, and you see three other ladies running 3-4 minutes behind you on one of the little out and back loops, you lose sight of the scenery and all that remains is a voice screaming in your head saying, Do not slow down! Make it f***ing hurt!
In the end, the screaming voice, along with Filipino Elite Mervin Santiago, whom I ran with for the last 7km, and the wonderful support and loud cheering from the volunteers and SAF men on the course, helped me maintain my position all the way to the finish.
Big congratulations to all the finishers, volunteers, and especially organizers, for putting together a wonderfully unique and incredibly challenging course. I noticed many improvements from last year's inaugural race. The modified bike route, repaired roads, better signages, more volunteers and marshals, all contributed to a safer and more fun experience on the course. And off the course events such as registration, briefing, and post-race party, were all done with such attention to detail and care for the participants' experience. Hurray for balut, isaw, and sisig at the awards party! Challenge Philippines will be a definite mainstay in my race calendar for years to come!
Big thanks to Marvin Manalang and Jumbo Tayag of YellowCab/ Hubble Multisport. And of course, nothing but gratitude to my sponsors, family, and friends for all their support during training and racing.
See you all at Ironman 70.3 Subic Bay on March 8!