This year’s TriUnited Exceed Long Distance event is very similar to last year’s race. This might actually be a good thing since I’m sure there are a lot of athletes racing this with a chip on their shoulders. Having raced the course for the first time last year, everyone had a really tough time conquering the challenges each leg brought. Now, armed with better information, experience, and motivation, we can finally conquer this event with conviction!
The swim consists of one loop; however, instead of going out perpendicularly from the shore, the buoy line will have right hand bend. This allows for a long swim path without venturing too far out to sea. This gives us a chance to stay within arm’s reach of the shore throughout the race. However, because of the rocky shoreline adjacent to the course, expect swim conditions to be a bit choppier than usual. This often occurs once you’ve made the turn and are swimming to/from the turnaround point. Nothing to be scared about really as current is usually pretty tame in this area. Also, the course will have a clockwise direction which means right side breathers will have an easier time.
We will be experiencing high tide at 5:46 and the gun start is from 6:00-6:20am. This roughly coincides with “slack water” - a timeframe where there is relatively little current movement due to tides. You can expect pretty calm conditions except if wind starts to pick up.
Take note that Blue=Swim, Green=Bike, Red=Run
The bike course is difficult if you don’t know how to pace it properly. Most people want to attack the course early; however, this can pose huge problems later on in the race. Be conservative on the climbs especially for the one up to Tipo (the road going in/out of Subic). The climb starts out at around 2-3% grade then gradually increases until you reach around 6-8%. That’s rather steep so choose the small chainring early in the climb while you can still shift. I’d compare this to the climb up towards Antipolo along Sumulong highway. Albeit shorter, it’s still quite challenging.
Remember to stay on the right as you make your way towards SCTEx. The roads aren’t completely closed to traffic yet so be careful and keep an eye out for passing cars. Once you pass the toll booth, the roads are yours. However, be conscious of race rules. This means do not draft (tailgate another rider), block (ride in the middle of the road), or litter. Be respectful to volunteers, marshals, and other participants as well.
Take note despite the recent improvements to the roads, it will still be rather rough and bumpy. There are quite a lot of rough patches. Make sure you secure your tools and water bottles properly as I’ve seen a few pop out during these segments. Also choose the right kind of tire and pump it to the right air pressure. Most triathletes overinflate tires such that its dampening effect becomes negated. This will lead to speed loss as your tires will be struggling for grip.
Take note that there will be aid stations every 15km (from the very start of the course). Water will be handed to you in mineral water bottles. Remember to practice how to do a proper bottle grab without stopping. It would help if you have a hydration system that will allow you to dump water without opening its lid. If you only have traditional bottles on board, you’d need to stop, unscrew the lid, pour the water in, and screw the lid back on. This takes a lot of effort and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to waste precious time. If you’re not confident with your handling abilities, play it safe and stop. When you do so, make sure you move to the side and stay out of the way of other riders. Don’t make any abrupt speed or direction changes as well; make your intentions known.
After the turnaround in Dinalupihan, the return trip is actually quite easier. The climb is gradual with a grade ranging from 3-5%. It’s long and steady. Take note that the toughest section is the second part of the ascent. After a quick downhill segment, you’ll need to switch back to the small chainring and mash your way up for 800m or so. The final downhill is long, fast, and actually quite scary. Avoid using your aerobars since it gets bit windy on this part of the course. Remember to be aware of where traffic is and always ride on the right side of the road.
The final part of the course is relatively flat (going back to Acea). Save for the steady ascent going towards NCT Road, the only hill you’ll encounter is the one adjacent to the airport. It’s short yet tough especially on tired legs so don’t underestimate it. Make sure to spin those legs out during the final kilometer leading to Acea.
New Course Map
The run is where the real fight happens. It gets tough real quick. Out of T2, you will make a right towards airport road. Past the intersection, the climb begins. The infamous Zambales road shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s a 2km climb that feels like an eternity. Considering it has an average grade of 4% it’s already quite tough but when you factor in the fact that it peaks at 11% (quite similar to the climb up Teresa in Antipolo), it becomes a somewhat insurmountable challenge. Don’t be shy to walk during the tougher portions of the course. Running (or jogging) uphill takes exponentially more energy with minimal gains in speed.
Aid stations will be scattered along the run course 1-1.5km apart. Make sure to keep yourself hydrated. Don’t block the table as you take a sip. Grab a cup then move out of the way to give others access to the drinks.
Once you reach the top, you’ll have a short breather when the roads flatten out. Remember that you've just started the run leg; you've got a long way to go. As with any uphill challenge, cramps will be a huge problem. Just keep moving and don't stop.
Going back to Acea, you’ll have to manage the steep downhill portions. Contrary to what some people may think, this isn’t “free speed.” Descending is a challenge on its own. It takes good balance, excellent muscular endurance, and proper technique to take advantage of the negative grade. Remember to use a shorter stride, swing your arms more rapidly, and try to keep your turnover rate high. The goal isn’t to fly downhill; instead, make sure your feet aren’t absorbing the impact by “braking”.
After Zambales road is done, make your way past T2 and begin the "fast part" of the run. You will be doing 3 loops on the flat stretch of road adjacent to the shore. This is very similar to the TU1 run course. Remember to stay cool and hydrated. It's all about proper pacing here.
As you make your way to the finish line, give it what you’ve got! Push hard towards the finish line. Forget about pacing, HR, and zones. Give it what you’ve got left in the tank. Make sure to savor the moment as you cross the tape, you completely deserve it!