With the sport of triathlon booming within the Asia Pacific region, athletes are keen for more events that will allow them to race across all distances from Sprints through to Iron distance. For most, participation at an inaugural event (especially in Asia) is always met with concern as competitors wonder what the conditions will be like, will the roads be safe and closed to traffic, what will the aid stations provide and most importantly, will I get a finishers medal and T-shirt.
Athletes who signed up for the first ever 5150 sanctioned by the WTC in Subic Bay, Philippines on the weekend had nothing to worry about. Organised by Sunrise Events, the same group that for the past 3 years has brought us the very popular Cobra Energy Drink IM 70.3 Philippines (this year it sold out quickly yet again with an overflowing waitlist in the hundreds), the inaugural race attracted 600 competitors.
Fred Uytengsu, president and CEO of Alaska Milk Corp and a key player is getting the race off the ground said at the press conference, â€œWe looked at the different landscapes for locations and considered what Subic has. It’s enclosed, safe and fully-maintained. Subic is a fenced and gated community. Very secure. And it’s one of the very few places in the Philippines where people follow the stop signs.â€
The event was held within the former US Naval Base at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone approximately 1 hour drive from Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (Clark Airport) or 4 hours from Manila. Within walking distance of the main hotels are ample new shopping centres, restaurants and cafÃ©’s to ensure you stay well fed, hydrated and entertained â€“ think Starbucks, TGIF’s, Dunkin Donut and many other â€œsafe and cleanâ€ western outlets.
The race commenced at 6.30am with a mass deep water start. Athletes then followed a lane rope through the flat calm water to the exit at Hands Beach to a roaring crowd. The organizers had managed to get a great atmosphere going that many events in the region can only wish for. First out of the water was Hungarian Csaba Kuttor in a time of 17:57 followed closely by Aussies Ben Allen and Dave Dellow. Brit Jacqui Slack was the first female out in 19:57 with Aussie Belinda Granger in chase mode.
The run to transition was long to test competitors out but once on the bike athletes headed onto the tarmac of the Subic Bay International Airport runway which has been closed especially for the event. Abu Dhabi has the Grand Prix circuit and Subic Bay 5150 has a runway that has been used by AirForce One.
After the long flat runway, athletes made their way over 3 tough hills (with a few monkey sightings along the way) before riding around Subic Bay and into the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Centre (SBECC). It was on the hills that female swim leader Slack endured 2 flats after being passed by Aussie Belinda Granger who went on to win the race in 2:22:35.
Out onto the run, participants ran on a flat unprotected course where the rising heat of the day was starting to beat down â€“ thank goodness aid stations were frequent and well stocked. Even the golf course provided limited shade. It was then back to the SBECC for a run down the finish chute with Dellow crossing the line first in a time of 2:03:03 followed closely by 3 times Olympian Csaba Kuttor in 2:03:27 and X-Terra’s first Asia Pacific Triple crown champion Allen in 2:04:43.
Once finished, athletes made their way to the recovery area which was quite possibly the best experienced so far by the author. There were ample massage therapists to ensure there was no wait for a post-race rub down and the ice filled wading pools were enjoyed by most with a complimentary beer in hand. With Alaska Milk being a major sponsor, there was also no shortage of chocolate milk (proven to be one of the best recovery drinks by the way) or hot dogs to go around!! The usual fruit and cookies were also on hand for those so inclinedâ€¦.but it is hard to pass up a beer and a hot dog right?
The lunchtime awards ceremony provided an opportunity for not just the fastest overall athletes to win prizes but the fastest individual swimmer, biker and runner too. We must not forget to mention those with the best bodies also took home a swag of goodies â€“ unfortunately, it was not my year this year. Skipping the champagne, it was race winners Granger and Dellow who showered their competition in a milk bath. You had to be there.
When we hear of many race organizers failing to get competitors involved and bring a fun spirit to a race from start to finish it truly was refreshing to see the Philippines crowd getting right into the swing of things thanks to some great organizers and sponsors that think outside the box. Aside from the fun and lighthearted side, the awards ceremony was also an opportunity to highlight an extra special group of people who raced in the relay event with the team consisting of a one-legged swimmer, one-foot cyclist and one-armed runner â€“ truly inspiring to see.
So with the first 5150 in the Philippines wrapped up, it is safe to say that it was a successful event and one enjoyed by all. When Trizone spoke to Uytengsu in the wading pool post-race he told us â€œmy vision is to organize a race that is for the athletes and to give them the best possible experience. It is not about having hundreds of athletes out on the course to make lots of money, but to ensure those that do turn up are well looked after and have a good time so they want to come back year after yearâ€. With a contract in place for the event to be held for another 2 years, looks like we will be returning next year and we suggest many of Trizone readers do the same.