The Aboitiz Tri 2016 is a welcome break from the usual races held in Subic in Zambales, Clark in Pampanga, and Nuvali, Laguna. Situated roughly 100 km from Metro Manila, Hamilo Coast (Pico de Loro Cove) in Nasugbu, Batangas is a secluded paradise engulfed by lush foliage, scenic mountains, and a breathtaking view of the West Philippine Sea. Not only is it a unique race for veteran and newbie triathletes, it’s got fun for family and friends too. Here’s what triathletes can expect on September 3.
Thanks to the cove, the swim leg is usually calm and trouble-free. However, expect some waves and a slight current because of the afternoon start. The course is simple, with a rectangular clockwise orientation. With a running beach start, don’t forget to pace yourself as you dive into the water. For the average age grouper, it doesn’t really matter who goes in first so don’t push and shove and gas yourself out in the process. Remember that you need to do two loops! A word of caution, you’ll have to run a few meters over hot sand as you finish your swim. I’ve also seen several athletes slip on the concrete slabs leading towards T1. Make sure to watch your step!
The bike consists of two main parts: a short but steep climb and a flat, looping course. Most people get intimidated by the climb but believe it or not, it’s not as difficult as it seems. First and foremost, you need to select the proper gear (literally). You could do this by preparing a large cogset (12-27t, 11-28t, or 12-32t) that will work with your derailleur. Ask your local bike shop what would work with your setup. Short-cage derailleurs are more common hence using a very large cog would be out of the question. You can also opt to use a compact crankset. A compact crank has less teeth for both the big and small chainrings. Both options allow you to distribute the workload over a longer distance (remember high school physics? Work = Force * Distance. This means, if a certain increase in work is necessary, you can either use more force over the same distance, or increase the distance while maintaining the same force. The latter is a better option if you want to save your legs for the run!
Once the infamous climb is done, it’s time to switch to your big chain ring and go aero! The second part of the course consists of 3 loops and is almost pancake flat. With narrow roads, blind corners, and imperfect roads, you won’t be able to reach a high top speed. In fact, I urge everyone to take caution during the cycling leg. In previous editions of this race, there have been some bad accidents and near misses. Just remember to have respect for your fellow competitor, the residents, the marshals and the volunteers:
1. Don’t draft or block.
Keep a legal distance from the person ahead of you and stay on the right side of the road. This will allow others to pass safely and it will prevent and pileups from happening.
2. Don’t cut corners.
There are lots of blind corners in this course and I’ve seen a handful of athletes recklessly navigate these turns. A head-on collision between two riders going at 20-30kph is not something anyone wants! Please take caution.
3. Keep an eye out for pedestrians, stray dogs and cats.
People (and animals) aren’t used to having races like this so err on the side of caution. Safety comes first! And don’t scream or yell at the residents. Be polite. This is their turf. Remember we’re just borrowing their roads.
4. Do not throw your gel wrappers or trash along the race course.
Respect the community and the local government who are giving us the privilege to use their roads. Littering is also grounds for DQ (disqualification) from the race. Do not yell at the volunteers in the aid stations. Say “please” and “thank you.” Being a triathlete suffering on the course does not excuse you from good manners.
The run, in my opinion, is the most challenging part of this course. After spending a couple of hours racing in the sun, your body is already overheating, tired, and dehydrated. This is a recipe for cramps! Make sure you hydrate properly in T2! A kilometer or so out of the Marina, you’ll be greeted by rolling hills that are a definitely something to reckon with. Most, if not all, cramp up after attacking the first hill. Remember to pace yourself! Be conservative during the first part of the run. Cramping down a 16-20% grade is never fun.
Like the bike, the second part of the run consists of 3 loops and is pancake flat. Since this race is eco-friendly, all racers are advised to bring their own means of storing/holding water. Bring your own bottle or cup as aid stations will only refill them. Cups and bottles won’t be handed out to participants. Dispose of your gel wrappers in trash receptacles or aid stations!
Finishing this race is a very different experience: the sun is almost setting, there’s a cooler breeze, you hear the sound of waves crashing, and happy drumbeats to welcome you as you cross the finish line.
With the day over, there’s the night to celebrate! This event is well known for its post-race party! Great food, music, and drinks greet the tired yet ironically energetic participants! It’s one of those races where the vibe of the venue and crowd make you want to celebrate and enjoy. In the past Aboitiz races I’ve joined, we’d always be one of the last to leave. Exchanging stories about the race, training, and future events is always best over a drink or two. Thankfully, with rooms at Pico de Loro available to all participants, we can worry about the drive home the next day!
Take note that T1 and T2 are different. You will need to prepare your run gear in a small bag provided by the organizers. Make sure to give this bag to organizers before 1:30pm so they can place it in your T2 slot. You also have the option of leaving it there yourself as early as 10am. Make sure you place your hydration, gels, visor, socks, and running shoes in this package. Remember to bring your own bottles (BYOB) as cups won't be provided by race organizers. This is an eco-friendly race and we want to minimize littering!
1. A Large Cassette
The Pico de Loro course is almost pancake flat; it is, however, well known for one very steep climb. Most athletes would rather push their bikes up this hill but having the proper gearing will allow you to ascend with less effort. Choose a cassette with a 12-27t or 11-28t combination. The former is my choice as it will give you a large enough cog for climbing but the gears are still closely bunched together for the flatter sections of the course. If you still aren’t confident with your climbing abilities, consider getting a compact crank as well. Remember, a bigger gear ratio will distribute work over a longer distance. This means you’ll use less force to achieve the same work.
2. Mirrorized Goggles
Swimming in the bright afternoon sun is very difficult because of the glare and intense brightness. Compared to tinted goggles, mirrorized goggles will allow you to view your surroundings better. Your eyesight won’t be washed out by direct sunlight or by bouncing sunrays. You could think of these as sunglasses for swimming.
3. Your Own Bottle
This is an eco-friendly race, bottles, cups, and other plastic containers won’t be given out by aid stations. Instead, you will need to bring your own bottle or container. The staff and volunteers will refill this during the run course. It may take a bit more time but we’ll be keeping our surroundings clean!
4. Electrolyte Tablets
Expect to sweat a lot during the bike and run course. Excessive sweating may lead to electrolyte depletion. The best way to combat this is to top up your stores through proper supplementation. Take a tablet every hour (with water) to make sure you don’t run out of electrolytes.
5. A Cap or Visor
A quick and easy way to protect yourself from overheating is to wear proper head gear. This not only shields your head and face from the intense sun, wearing one would also help lower your perceived exertion. This “tricks” your body into thinking that the heat isn’t as bad as it seems. It also has the added benefit of wicking sweat away from your eyes and sunglasses.