The Bataan International Triathlon (BI3) is definitely one of the most unique and memorable races in the tri calendar. By design, it has been scheduled as one of the very last races of the year. This gives all athletes something exciting to look forward to before their season closes. The unorthodox distance, challenging course, and unique landscape is reason enough to travel hundreds of kilometers.
The swim is triangular in shape. The Largo participants will do 2 loops (1.5km) while the Rapido participants will do one loop (750m). Based on tide forecasts, the lowest tide will occur at 6:35am which more or less coincides with the race start (between 6-7am). What does this mean? There will be a smaller chance of encountering tidal currents. You don’t have to worry about encountering very strong currents like the ones brought about by spring tide in Ironman 70.3 Cebu. However, since current is affected by various factors such as wind, water temperature difference etc., there is still a chance that you will encounter some currents albeit lesser in scale.
As for waves, forecasts show that wave height will gradually increase from today (Wednesday) until Saturday. Expect wave heights of up to 0.9m (or 3ft), spaced out 7 seconds apart. This isn’t so bad and is still quite manageable. Since the waves will be coming from the East/North-East, it will affect how one goes about the clockwise swim course. Initially, it will make the swim out relatively fast. Pace yourself well and don’t go too hard too early. After the first turn, waves will hit you from the right making right side breathing a bit more difficult. Aim to sight frequently to make sure you stay on course. Past the final turn, the swim back to shore will be a bit more challenging as one would need to swim against the waves. For this segment, make sure your stroke rate is high and powerful. Save your energy for the latter part of the swim course.
The bike course is definitely something to reckon with. Significantly longer than an Olympic distance bike leg (for the Largo) and a lot hillier than what most are used to, this is very challenging and needs proper pacing and nutrition. I would highly recommend using a road bike for this course because of the challenging hills, and many twists and turns. Consider using a compact crank and/or large cogs in the 28-32t range. Of course, a tri bike will still be okay but it will make shifting and maneuvering a bit more difficult; you will spend less time on your aerobars on this course anyway. Needless to say, leave the very deep time trial wheelsets at home.
Weather forecasts predict that there will be relatively strong winds coming from the East/North-East. There will be steady wind with a speed of 14kph and gusts of up to 25kph. Although it might make handling a bit more difficult, I don’t expect the wind to be a huge factor. The mountainous terrain and surrounding trees will probably block most of the wind.
(If you’re a Rapido participant, you will not be riding this part of the course. Skip the next few paragraphs and focus on the one about the Bataan Natural Park.)
For Largo participants, after making the first turn out of Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, one would encounter 3 hills. The first one is 1km long with an average grade of 3% (peaking at 5% early on). This grade is similar to the climb up Miriam in Nuvali. The next one is longer at 2km with an average grade of 1.5% (easy gradient). The last one is really tough at 2.5km long with an average grade of 4-5%. Again, this is similar to the steep hill going up towards the Republic Wakeboard Park from Avida (in Nuvali).
Bike Course Elevation Profile
After making the first U turn, expect to encounter the same set of hills again. Attacking it from the opposite side is a bit more difficult. All three hills are 1km long. The first two have a grade of 4.5% and the final one has a grade of 2.5%.
Pace yourself well for the aforementioned hills. If you’re using a power meter, limit spending time in Zone 4 (threshold). Choose a light gear (don’t mash) and keep your efforts well within Zone 3. Consider this part as a warm up since the more difficult part of the course is yet to come.
Once you enter the Bataan Natural Park, things will become a lot more difficult. You will need to traverse a long 4.5km climb which has an average grade of 5-6%. The grade peaks at 8-9% towards the end. This climb is quite similar to Sumulong highway going up Antipolo. It’s tough, relentless, and will sap you of your energy. Keep wattage well within Zone 3. After the descent, the hills you will encounter will seem insignificant. There will be short 500m hills with grades of 5%. The most challenging portion of the course is up next. This is the last climb before going into transition. It is 3km long and has relatively “mild” grade of 5%. However, because of the accumulation of fatigue, onset of heat stress and dehydration, it will feel a lot tougher than that. Pace yourself well but focus on mental toughness. Concentrate on the task at hand and remember that slowing down will only make the agony longer.
After the final climb, hydrate and recover well before going into transition.
The run follows the same path as the first part of the bike course. Expect running the hills to be a lot more difficult compared to riding them. Heat will be a huge factor; expect temperatures to soar up to the mid 30’s. Because of humidity, this will feel a lot worse.
Run Course Elevation Profile
Pace yourself intelligently, start off easy and expect the terrain to increase in difficulty as you go along. The course has a lot of small hills scattered around and this is culminated by a long 1.6km climb. The course is quite similar to doing hill repeats up St. Paul road near Ultra (Philsports Arena). It starts very steep at around 4-5% early on, flattens out to 2% then gradually increases until 4% again. Past the quick descent, be prepared to tackle another 1km hill with the same average grade of 4%. After making the U turn, the same hill is a lot more difficult coming from the other side. Running 1km with a similar grade of 4.5% seems even more challenging with the scorching heat. Aside from sheer will power and determination, I suggest focusing on a high stride rate with a short stride length. Some will decide to walk up some hills, there’s no shame in that. However, once you get to recover, try and pick up the pace once again. Needless to say, the last segment going back to Las Casas is again scattered with small hills. Things aren't over just yet; another challenge awaits: running on the cobblestones before reaching the finish line. The hard and uneven terrain jars your tired and sore legs making it harder and harder to run. Instead of focusing on how much your body hurts, keep your head high, maintain good form, and focus on the prize. Only a few hundred meters left and it will all be over. Once you cross that finish line, it will be pure bliss! Congratulations! Another race in the books and for most, a season wrapped up!