Davao has been a booming triathlon venue/market and a lot of this is thanks to the very popular Alveo Ironman 70.3. On its second year now, it is largely anticipated by triathletes from all over the globe. Aside from giving us a change of scenery, Ironman 70.3 Davao also offers new yet somewhat familiar challenges. Read on to learn more about what to expect in a week’s time.
The swim, I would say is very similar to what one would experience in Mactan, Cebu. As with most places, tides influence the strength and direction of water current. The rush of water in and out (during high tide and low tide) is usually what we experience when we “feel the force of the water.” However, take this a step further with the way the course is designed. Despite being called Azuela Cove, like Cebu, the swim course is mainly situated along a channel. This means water gets funneled through the channel thereby increasing the force we would normally feel. Think of the geography concentrating the force and direction along a narrow path.
Luckily, last year, we were lucky with the swim conditions and most people didn’t struggle with their swim times. This year, (knock on wood), it looks like it’s going to be very similar. High tide is going to be at 7:39am with a height of 1.74m. What does this mean? It means, on race morning, there won’t be strong currents due to tidal movement (particularly when athletes are released into the course). Of course, a host of factors also come into play when it comes to current and direction so we can’t always be sure. My advice is to relax yet be observant. Don’t get too agitated such that it messes with your confidence and your race plan. Don’t be too complacent as well; you need to know when you’re “swimming upstream” and swim faster/better when this happens.
On another note, the swim course is very simple, it consists of one loop and again very similar to the way Ironman 70.3 Cebu was drawn up. As with all sunrise events, you can be sure there will be lots of support along the course (boats, divers, marshals etc.).
The bike is where the fun happens. Davao is touted as a very fast and PR-worthy course. They even improved on the road conditions compared to last year which means that PRs will continue to fall for this segment. Although it’s too early to predict wind conditions (one week out), you can safely assume that some segments will have a little bit of headwinds or crosswinds. If you’re planning to race with deep aero wheels and/or a disc, make sure you’re confident with your handling. It’s definitely not as bad as the kona-esque wind conditions in the SRP roads of Cebu but still be prepared.
It consists of an elegant out and back course which I’m sure is a headache for organizers but it’s definitely enjoyable for us athletes. You won’t get bored going around the same loop over and over again however the challenge here is the topic of pacing. Loops can allow you to manage your intensity wisely, out and back courses, not so much. My tip here is again, very simple: stay aerobic! Maintain a manageable yet strong pace. If you’re suffering this early, chances are, it’s going to be a very long day for you. Depending on your experience and fitness level, there are some segments that you can push harder than normal but the key here is to remain steady and consistent.
Also, don’t forget about the RED ZONE on the bike course. Lots of accidents happen here so make sure you take caution. No overtaking, ride safely, stay alert.
One very interesting development here is the availability of Vitargo on the course. I’ve been such a huge fan of Vitargo the past half-decade and I really believe it’s one of the best race fuels out there. The main problem with Vitargo is its inability to mix. It’s hard to prepare it midway into the race since it would take a lot of shaking (which you obviously cannot do). Luckily, we can enjoy the benefits of Vitargo minus this small problem; aid stations will pre mix Vitargo into water bottles and serve it along the entire race course. This means, you only need to practice your “bottle grab” abilities and you’re set! Make sure you continue to hydrate with water while you’re taking nutrition (even vitargo). This will allow you to stay hydrated and will allow for easier absorption in your gut.
As with most races, the run is where the fight happens. You’ve probably been racing for around 4 hours already and fatigue has gotten to you. To add fuel to the fire, the sun is radiating scorching heat and humidity saps every ounce of fight left. There will be limited areas with shade and the dilemma gets exacerbated further. Bonking, burn out, and dehydration are your main villains (aside from yourself). What’s the best way to conquer them? Focus on proper nutrition/hydration, and dig deep. I’ve always said that nutrition is the fourth discipline of triathlon. It doesn’t matter how fit you are, if you run out of gas, you’re done! Yes there are some situations where you can recover but we want to prevent us from digging a hole too deep. Managing your intake and expenditure are done throughout the race but become crucial towards the end.
There will be several times during the race where you want to quit or call it a day. There will be moments when you want to just walk (or crawl) to the finish line. Remember, the more you slow down, the longer you will have to bake yourself in the sun. Again, my advice is to approach the run course intelligently. Don’t get caught up with cheers and hype as you make your way out of T2. Manage your efforts wisely; run strong but don’t run too hard. It’s going to be a long morning; 21km feels like 42km. Pace yourself well but dig deep during the last few kilometers. There’s no feeling greater than to know that you’ve given your all during a race!
Good luck to all participants! Race safe, race hard, finish strong!