Racecation review – Cairns 70.3 2014

This is a long post and doesn’t get to the details of the race until halfway thru the story. But, this was an adventure I have to write from arrival at Queensland till I crossed that finish line, so I will not forget the memories of a great journey!

Let me share another road I took, Cairns 70.3.

On June 2, our group of four left for Cairns via Sydney. All of them (my husband, Nino and Mayan) will be doing the full Ironman, I alone will conquer the 70.3. We decided to arrive earlier, though Australia is just two hours ahead of Philippine time to be able to adjust to the cooler weather and have a good basis on how the course would look like. So, with an itinerary of how our week will be, we started the journey.

 I often thought before the trip that I was going on a vacation, but the welcome banner made me realise I will race in five days!

I often thought before the trip that I was going on a vacation, but the welcome banner made me realise I will race in five days!


First stop – Find Nemo at The Great Barrier Reef – Yes, we started the week with a tour because we might not have the energy to do this after the race! And of course one should not miss to see The Great Barrier Reef when in Cairns!


Yes, this is the signage at Palm Cove, where the swim  for Cairns Ironman and Cairns 70.3 was held! Terrifying!

Yes, this is the signage at Palm Cove, where the swim for Cairns Ironman and Cairns 70.3 was held! Terrifying!

According to the athletes guide provided to us prior to the race, the waters of Australia could be infested - one of which is the crocodile. Thus, since we had some swim workouts to do, The Great Barrier Reef was the best place to try on our wetsuits and get used to swimming with it in open water.

The tour took one whole day, unfortunately in very choppy waters which was uncommon according to Scotty, one of the tour’s friendly staff. He also mentioned that if it’s choppy in The Great Barrier Reef, our swim course at Palm cove will be choppy too! That day, the water temperature for practicing our wetsuits was perfect. We snorkeled several times and met a huge tortoise, mean looking barracudas, a vast of coral plantations and some fishes that I’ve never seen before. I got extremely dizzy though on several occasions so please do not do try this prior to a race. One needs time to recover from this type of day tour if you get nausea easily like me. So did I meet Nemo? Oh yes, and I saw Dory too!

 Only group photo at Great Barrier Reef

Only group photo at Great Barrier Reef


 This is Laila, our ships's Captain, feeding some huge fishes!

This is Laila, our ships’s Captain, feeding some huge fishes!


 A shot with the Ocean Freedom tour crew

A shot with the Ocean Freedom tour crew


On Thursday we registered and picked up our race kits. We did some biking and running too along the Esplanade, an area in Cairns Central where the T2 and the run course will be. Weather was great except for some strong winds which was forecasted to last until the weekend.

 This is it! 2424!

This is it! 2424!


The long que for the race packet pick up at The Esplanade

The long que for the race packet pick up at The Esplanade


Friday came and as decided, we will check the swim course at Palm Cove and drive till Port Douglas where the turnaround of the bike course for the full IM will be. When we got there, we were very surprised!

 Yes this was the view of our swim course at Palm Cove

Yes this was the view of our swim course at Palm Cove :(


 ...and another view of the choppy waters!

…and another view of the choppy waters!


The turn around for the 70.3 was at Thala Beach, a few kilometers after Rex Lookout, the highest point of the bike course where the view was magnificent! As described on the athletes guide and some past race reviews I read, the bike course was truly undulating and winding. It was comparable to Subic but with with longer climbs. The winding descents were fast but designed to be cyclist friendly. The roads were wide and of great conditions too but could be bumpy on several areas especially near the shore. So, to those who will try next years race, it is wise to rent a car and check the course. Then stop by Port Douglas for some snacks. It was a great stop for a quick meal and some shopping.

 This was the view from Rex Lookout the highest part of the bike course

This was the view from Rex Lookout the highest part of the bike course


So on to race day…

As predicted by Accuweather, there will be 100% chance of rain during the race! Oh boy! Accuweather was indeed accurate! It was raining when we got up at 3 A.M.! Good thing we had on our wetsuits cause it was extremely cold for one who has been used to hot and sunny Manila!

Swim 1.9k – After a quick bye bye to my husband and Rommel, a Filipino residing in Australia and a participant of Cairns 70.3 too, I braved myself to the swim start.

This is the best way I can describe the swim course – If you are a Filipino triathlete and witnessed the Tri United Matabungkay swim of 2011, the Tri United race in Laiya Batangas in 2013 where the waves were humongous and a lot didn’t dare to do the swim, or the swells of Cobra Ironman 70.3 last year, well those races were nothing compared to Cairns! This was the toughest open water swim I did! To make things worse, there was no rope or small buoys to guide us.  Only big white buoys with the M dot logo guided the participants.  However, the huge waves were white too so it was very difficult to find the buoys! I tried looking behind to see how far I have gone, but the waves blocked my view of the shore.  We are indeed very pampered here in the Philippines, with all the buoys – big and small, lifeguards, scuba divers, festive looking bancas (fishing boats) and kayaks around the swim course.  I remember having to ask several lifeguards how far I had to swim during Cobra 70.3.  In Cairns, there were very few!  In fact I got lost and swam an extra 100 meters but no kayak came to call my attention.  I had to swim back and fight the current! Swim cut off in Cairns was ONLY ONE HOUR (1:10 for Cobra 70.3 2012 and 1:20 last year due to weather conditions).  I did it in 1 hour and 3 minutes! So, I asked the race marshalls if I can proceed with the bike, and I was told – “Go on!” Ironman had a very kind heart that day!


 Thanks to triathloncompetitor.com for the swim start photo of Cairns Ironman. Can you see the big white buoys?

Thanks to triathloncompetitor.com for the swim start photo of Cairns Ironman.
Can you see the big white buoys?


Bike 90 kms. -  Still tired and dizzy from the swim, I managed to carry my bike and shoes out of muddy T1 and mount with grace. I went on with a very slow speed… very very slow! I thought there might be something wrong with my bike but realised it’s not the bike, but the dizzy biker!

Rommel warned us earlier how he doesn’t like biking in Cairns during rainy days. I thought it was because of how slippery the roads become. But according to Rommel, rough and pointed stones protrude on the road surface as the rain cleans the road. Indeed, a lot of participants were unlucky to have gotten flat tires! Here is a photo of how the road looked like.

 This is how the roads of Cairns were made of!

This is how the roads of Cairns were made of!


But other than the unusual road condition, the bike course was still cold as rain continued to pour. I enjoyed every kilometer of the serene ambiance and the views of the ocean from different angles. Well, not everything was good – let me not forget to mention how strong the wind was on the way back!

Run 21.2 kms. – Well, the weather has not changed since the race started. It was still cold and wet and slippery. Though exhausted from the swim and bike and with calves cramping till I reached the 2nd kilometer, the run I can say was most fun. I loved running in that rain! I knew it was cold because the spectators looked like they were freezing while cheering. Even if most of the participants have crossed the finish line while I was still enjoying the rain, the positive words and encouragement of the spectators and co participants gave me the motivation I needed. Nutrition was abundant too, it was more of a nutrition buffet! Oh I must have eaten a kilo of those sweet and juicy watermelon!

 Are the clouds low or was it foggy?

Are the clouds low or was it foggy?


One thing I loved about Cairns 70.3 were the race marshalls who were mostly seniors and ladies that were VERY caring.  Since I had no personal cheerer along the course and no one to meet at the finish line, it was a mixture of emotions when the race ended.  I cried from exhaustion and frustration but this lady marshall hugged me.  Her words were most comforting!

I am proud to have finished my third 70.3, the hardest race I’ve done so far! I may not have beaten my time, but the chance to race and finish a 70.3 six months after my bike accident was another blessing I should be thankful for.

 Finally the finish line! That was one tough race!

Finally the finish line! That was one tough race!









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The most hectic summer 2 – road to Cairns – via Paris

On January of this year, Bea turned 18. Instead of the usual debut party, she opted for a trip. Initially she wanted to go to Brazil then Machu Picchu. But later, she changed her mind and chose a trip to Paris.

So for the next part of my hectic summer, I had to accompany her to Paris. Work had been very hectic too so I had to jumble my 24 hours compressing time for family, work and training, missing much of the latter.

Here goes 12 days of mom – daughter bonding! First stop Paris!

Sharing here some of the amateur photos I took during our second summer escapade!

 First part of the trip was to the Hop On Hop Off Tour.  Unfortunately it rained so hard :(

First part of the trip was to the Hop On Hop Off Tour. Unfortunately it rained so hard :(



 But later on I realised Paris is so romatic when it rains!

But later on I realised Paris is so romatic when it rains



 We had some oysters too!

So, we decided to have French Cuisine for the day while waiting for the rain to stop. We had some oysters for appetizer!



 Paris cuisine isn't complete of course if there are no escargot and some shrimp cocktails too!

Paris cuisine isn’t complete of course if there are no escargot and some shrimp cocktails too!



So we tried some French cuisine - Steak Tartare - made of chopped raw beef, seasoned and served cold - which amazingly tasted so good... but different!

So we tried some French cuisine – Steak Tartare – made of chopped raw beef, seasoned and served cold – which amazingly tasted so good… but different!


 We were luckily a few steps away from dessert - Laduree in Champs Elysee

We were luckily a few steps away from dessert – Laduree in Champs Elysee


Louvre was closed the previous day, May 1, a holiday.  Thus, every tourist must have made May 2 as museum visit day! I’ve never seen the Louvre with so many tourists!

 The long que to get the ticket to Louvre.

The long que to get the ticket to Louvre.


 So while the wait was long, I took a shot of this elderly woman.

So while the wait was long, I took a shot of this elderly woman.


 While Bea took shots and laughed at the people making the finger pose

While Bea took shots and laughed at the people making the finger pose



 And a souvenir shot for us too!

And a souvenir shot for us too!


Before the trip, I researched on places to swim bike and run while in Paris.  I came to this very detailed website – DC Rainmaker where every tip on triathlon training in Paris including triathlon stores to visit were given wide information. It was of very big help to a tourist on tri training. Here are photos of Piscine Josephine Baker, a suggested pool to do laps which was nearest to our hotel’s location.

 Facade of Piscine Josephine Baker

Facade of Piscine Josephine Baker


Piscine is the French word for swimming pool.  I paid an entry fee of 3 Euros for an early morning swim.  Bea did a few laps too! I swam here twice during our five days stay and each time, I was never kicked nor hit even if there were as much as 10 swimmers in a lane! I admire the swim ethics of the French!

 The best 25 meter lap pool!

The best 25 meter lap pool!


Then we continued with the adventure after some swim training…

 Still a little girl at heart, Be a wanted a trip to Disney!

Still a little girl at heart, Bea wanted a trip to Disney!


Of course I had to do some runs too, at the Jardin Tuileries in a very cold morning!

This was one very cold 7am long run!

This was one very cold 7am long run!


When in Paris, never fail to dine at Angelina’s!  Recommended by most blogs for its very popular hot chocolate, a trip to one of its eight branches is a must! Bea lined up at Angelina’s in Rue de Rivoli quite early just in time to get a table after my run workout. It was the best prize after the one hour and forty five minutes in 3 degrees Celsius run!

 Truly the best hot chocolate I've ever tasted!

Truly the best hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted!


 Oh and the interior looked French stylish too!

Oh and the interior looked French stylish too!


We tried our best to see the most important tourist spots of Paris – Champs Elysee, Notre Dame Cathedral, Versailles, etc.  There were too many photos I took that I’d like to post but too much might bore you.

What did we love most about Paris? Well, just sitting on a cafe and watching Paris time pass by!  Every corner in Paris had a story to tell, a memory an eighteen year old will forever remember.


 Travel is the best form of educate, especially for someone who loves History!

Travel is the best form of education, especially for someone who loves History!


 But sometimes the best part of the trip is just to lie down in one of the many gardens of Paris, enjoy the cool breeze and watch the clouds pass by.

But sometimes the best part of the trip is just to lie down in one of the many gardens of Paris, enjoy the cool breeze and watch the clouds pass by.






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The most hectic summer 1 – Road to Cairns – from Subic to Boracay

It has been some time since I’ve had the luxury of time to write a post! So now as I spend the last few days of taper to Cairns 70.3, let me share you how the summer of 2014 passed so quickly…

Bea graduated from high school this March. Long before the anticipated march, majority of the senior students (from different schools) planned a summer celebration week in Boracay. We allowed her to join friends on the condition that I will be there too.

However, before party time, there was a race for us to finish. For Bea, it might be her first and last for 2014 as she should prioritize the adjustments on college life for this year. For me, SubITU was part of training, part of the long journey to Cairns 70.3.

Bea won third in the sprint distance for 16 to 19 age category! Here are some podium photos courtesy of Atty. Marge Buot.


All smiles for bronze! Bea must be thinking – Boracay here I come!





With first place from Malaysia and second placer from the Philippines


Nice bright colored medals, right?


So what did I do in four days? Honestly, just staying online with my office had been too time consuming. But, I managed to squeeze in some training too…


An afternoon run under the most colorful sunset of Boracay!


Since the waters of Boracay are very treacherous, I asked a diver to do a 1.5k swim with me…


Never swim alone! even in the clear waters of Boracay!


But of course a trip to Boracay will not be complete without having breakfast at the English Bakery, which has been my favorite since the first time I’ve stepped on its shore. However this was the only photo I took – just a view from where I was seated.


Lovely gumamela – the flower of Kona Ironman, the flower of Atleta Ako’s logo!


And some massage by the beach! Boracay still is the best!


Boracay is still the best in the world!


One hectic vacation down, one more to follow!

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A new challenge, a new road, the road to Cairns 70.3

During the Challenge Philippines inaugural race, as I waited for my husband and friends to cross the finish line, I took the chance to try riding my bike again, on the road, no longer on the trainer. Together with some of my classmates in the triathlon coaching group Fit + Academy, with some fear and flashback of my crash haunting me, I mounted and clipped on my pedals. We rode the bike course of Tri United 1 slowly and very carefully. It was a very big achievement for me when we arrived at the parking lot of All Hands Beach!


So, since I was successful on the easy bike ride, I confidently told myself, I can do the sprint race at Tri United 1! So I tried to find a slot and luckily found one. With two weeks of training, I finished, a minute over my finish time in 2013 (but the transition I swear was longer this year)! Coach Kaye said it wasn’t bad for someone who is recovering from an accident. Actually, finishing it was more than good enough for me. Should there be an award for “The Happiest Triathlete”, I should have been 1st on the podium.


Since I have done Cobra 70.3 twice, it has been part of the plan to try joining a 70.3 in another destination. So for 2014, my A racecation will be an unfamiliar venue. Furthermore, my Marine Corps Marathon group have decide to do a full Ironman. But since I can not do the full, well in fact it has never crossed my mind to do the full, we all agreed that they register for Ironman Cairns where a 70.3 event is held on the same day. Due to the accident, I doubted myself and procrastinated. The registration closed before I knew it. Luckily, I was able to sign up thru a travel agency, a little more expensive though but with a guaranteed hotel booking 200 meters from the finish line. The full participants immediately agreed on the hotel booking for one reason – they can crawl back to the hotel when they cross the finish line.

However, yes there is a “however”, after my husband bought me a wetsuit (the wetsuit was bought prior to registration ha ha) and I committed to sign up, I read the unbelievable cut off – 1:00 swim, 4:30 bike from wave start and 7:30 run. The bike course is making me most nervous! According to a friend who joined last year, the course isn’t flat at all and is similar to the terrain of Subic, Philippines, specifically the hill of Ocean Adventure! This calls for some major training plus I have began calling all the angels and saints to be with me from now on!

So, join me for another challenge, another journey, my journey to Cairns 70.3!


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Atleta Ako – for the active she

Shopping for the right training gear, outfits especially, have been frustrating for me on several instances. Oftentimes, my girly requirements will not meet my expectations on what’s available in our malls. There are just very few items to choose from! But when I look over the men’s section, the shelves are well stocked! So, I always end up hopping from one store to another until I get the item I need. Sometimes, shopping is not victorious. Most often I have to settle for something less :(

So, during my agony in one of those store hopping incidences, I told myself – Why not set my own sport store for the active and very busy female huh? Of course with all the considerations and female needs in mind – I imagined and began dreaming. Thus the birth of ..


Yup! That’s my stores name! There are finalization of details for the stores launch mid of 2014 but I’m too excited that’s why it will be launching in Tripalooza with the brand – Running Skirts from California!


These are what you can expect from
Running Skirts – different models of running skirts -



And the cutest and sexiest running shorts!


Oh and the coolest compression socks


With its popular heart design that is irresistibly cute!


There are too many items and designs from Running Skirts! Infact, there are four out of eight types of running skirts and colorful sports bras for the Tripalooza launch. So visit Atleta Ako this weekend, February 8 and 9 at the Venice Piazza of McKinley Hill! We’re ready for shopping from 9 am till 9 pm!

See you there! Happy running!

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Survival, recovery and scars


“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”
Kahlil Gibran

It’s been four weeks since my bike accident in Bagac and maybe those who have read about my Challenge recon crash are wondering if I’m back to 1 piece or if I’m still in one piece.

The body is not a machine that recovers immediately

Honestly, it has been frustrating during the first few days after the incident. Having been very active for several years and suddenly ordered to stay at home for two weeks for faster healing and recovery was initially crazy! But every part of my body was very painful so I had no choice actually. It was a penitence dealing with all the aches! Every time my wounds were dressed was a time for sacrifice. So for two weeks I was on very strong pain relievers.

I lost my appetite because of the numerous medications probably. So, there was some decrease in weight and sadly, loss of muscles too. Since I just stayed home, I had proper meals which contributed I guess to the weight loss. But, since there had been no sun exposure, my skin cleared though my tan was lost.

As I mentioned on my precious post, my vision was affected. It had been very hard to use my laptop because of the glare, thus it took awhile to finish an article for this blog The only gadget I can use was my cellphone since it had the slightest glare! So, it was my best friend until I got tired liking a hundred status and photos in Facebook and Instagram. Eventually, after having to sit down almost like forever in our TV room with my 8 year old son and listen to Cartoon Network (I can’t watch TV cause my eyes couldn’t take the glare too) I got accustomed to the relaxed lifestyle and started to enjoy it!


2 Sundays after the crash, I was advised by my doctor (my husband) to start being active in moderation. So, still bruised and black eyed, I headed to Fitness First Fort Bonifacio to do my walk jog on the treadmill. It was my slowest and most painful 3k – 30 minutes. But I had to start somewhere. (A week after this was my slowest and most painful 4k.)

Baby I can drive my car

A few mornings after, I was able to drive under low sun and enjoyed bringing my kids and carpool girls to school! Night driving is still difficult because of the flashing of lights but I know soon I will be able to do it. I wear my sunglasses at night.

Present status: it’s complicated

There had been too many complications as a result of the crash
- lumbar spine issues, effects on the ulnar nerve, pt sessions, etc. Often, frustration would wander back and hit my scoured feelings. Luckily, since my doctor is just a tap and a whisper away, always on call for me, I get first aid immediately. I am on my way to recovery… Slowly…


Are you biking again? – this is the question I have been asked most frequently recently. Yes I will, even if the last few seconds of my crash would forever haunt me. My priorities might have changed since I was given a second life but my two dozen scars will not stop me from being active!

See you on the road … soon!

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When a Challenge Philippines Recon Ride Takes a Wrong Turn: My Accident in Bataan Offers New Challenges

A few months ago, my friends Hazel and Amor convinced me to register as their biker for the Challenge Philippines all-female relay category. It was mentioned to be a tough course because of the uphills described on the Challenge Philippines website article The Seven Hills of Bataan.

So every weekend since then, both Saturday and Sunday, I would train in Nuvali. I even managed to conquer Amadeo once! I would also do the bike drills specified by Coach Kaye, and do RPM at Fitness First when I can. Last Saturday, December 29, together with the other students of Coach Kaye, I braved the recon ride of Challenge Philippines bike course.


These hills of Nuvali will make you stronger!


Riding those hills and the crazy downhills

Coming from Ocean Adventure, I encountered some hills (Ilanin area) before entering Anvaya. Then after that, there were some really rough roads in the Anvaya area. Some of these are very rough downhills, which were quite tricky. What’s worse is that it was difficult to see some of the potholes and uneven path because of the trees’ shadows covering the road! These are the reasons why those who have tried the course recommended aluminum wheels – but choose your lightest aluminum wheels so you won’t struggle with the climb.

 Taken from the FB page of Coach Arland Macasieb

Taken from the FB page of Coach Arland Macasieb


Honestly, I felt the hills were manageable. If you’ve trained in Amadeo, and have done hill repeats (Saturday before the recon, my program called for 8 hill repeats at race pace.) in Nuvali then you can do the course.

But, unfortunately, at the last downhill before the turnaround, my right hand cramped. I couldn’t squeeze my breaks and I went downhill really fast on the zigzag road. As I swerved to the other side of the road, I saw an approaching vehicle coming. My Garmin recorded 80.5 kph on this part!

I managed to crash on a grassy part on the right side of my body. I blacked out! The first thing I saw when I gained consciousness were Coach Kaye and our sags driver beside me.

My first realizations – those that I can remember

Blood was everywhere. Quickly, I checked if my vision was okay – it was, but my right eye felt different. I then checked if anything was broken, and luckily I was able to move everything. But then I saw deep lacerations on my right arm, plus my tri suit was torn on at the right side of my hip. They gave me cold water, which I thought was for me to drink. Coach then said, “Wash your face!” That’s the only time I realized that there was blood coming from my forehead. Immediately, our other companions were contacted. Coach removed my helmet (she hid it so I won’t panic because it was wrecked on the right side with pieces torn out). My bike was packed, and we met the rest of the group a few hundred meters away at the turn-around.

My husband immediately contacted doctors he knew from the area. He decided to bring me to Baypointe Hospital in Subic. Together with our sag and friend Nino, we traveled as quickly as possible to the hospital.

That’s when I felt the pain. Each small move I made was excruciating! CT scan and X-rays were done. And then my forehead and elbow were stitched! I am not the type who will post gory pictures. Let me just say that the lacerations were nasty, really nasty!

 I only saw my helmet a day after the accident.  Coach hid it from so I will not panic.  She was right!

I only saw my helmet a day after the accident. Coach hid it from so I will not panic. She was right!


The morning after

So how am I doing after my hospital ordeal? Let me say I look like I lost over Manny Pacquiao.  I had stitches on my forehead and right eye, a lot of stitches. I am just lucky that my husband is a surgeon and was able to fix my lacerations immediately.  My numerous battle wounds from shoulder, back and hips are still frightening to look at. Of course the terrible pain and suffering is still there, giving me difficulty in walking, climbing the stairs and even coughing. My vision has been affected too, temporarily hopefully, but requiring me a trip to an ophthalmologist tomorrow. Last night, Wednesday, my arm had to undergo a minor operation. The best description of this bike crash – giving birth thrice had been so easier and less painful compared to this accident!

Until now, I don’t have an idea what caused the cramp. Maybe I’ve used my right hand too much in the previous downhills. The route was difficult – not for a beginner or the faint-hearted like me. I am just very thankful that I am alive, which is why I am sharing this with you.

There was also a bike crash in the same area during the Saturday recon ride. She was rushed to the same hospital. The staff said I was luckier.

So for all those joining Challenge Philippines, please do a recon ride before the race. It is nothing compared to the flatness of Cobra 70.3 course, or the tiny hills of Tarlac in 5i50. People who rode the course say this is the hardest 90K they’ve done.

I will still be there on race day to support my husband and friends. Coach Kaye will be replacing me in the relay. But as of now, I am officially off for the season. Situations like this really make us think of life, the people in our lives, the actions we take each day, and the impact we have on others.

There is no perfect way to describe how grateful I am to be alive. So I will see this as my second chance – and a new Challenge – in life!



Found this on my bed when I got home from Bataan. I’m so lucky to have the sweetest children!


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