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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Building our business in Europe

Relative to the multinational food and beverage companies, Century Pacific Food, Inc. is still small.

But, as they say - "Victory comes to the Bold". After a successful push internationally, Century Tuna is not present in 49 countries and is a major player in the UAE, the Middle East in general and is making some serious gains in North America. We are also growing our Argentina Canned Meat brand in the USA and the 555 Sardines brand in several markets.

This was built through many travels and meetings with customers abroad via face-to-face, Skype, Viber, email meetings and discussions.

We now train our sights on Europe. Emboldened by our early success in other markets, we have been a few days into our push here in the Old World to build our share of the market. A market that has a more sophisticated taste palette that is founded on age old gastronomic traditions.

Preparing the presentation to our big clients here in Spain.

Every store format we could find in Madrid was visited. We talked to customers and shop owners to understand the needs and dynamics of the market. And we took our time to observe consumers and their shopping behavior. The plan is becoming crystal clear especially after learning so much about our competitors, the consumers and the different retail formats available here.

Had a very good meeting with the largest retailer in Spain.
The next few months will truly be exciting. Spain and Portugal will bring our count of countries with our brands to 51!

With our "man on the ground", Bern Suarez.

Next stop, the Netherlands!

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Making of Century Tuna Ironman 70.3 Subic


What turned out to be one of the best half Ironman races in the country actually started out with a simple handshake.
Fred Uytengsu, CEO of Alaska Milk Corporation and President of Sunrise Events along with Princess Galura, the General Manager of Sunrise had asked for a meeting at the lobby of the Shangri La Mactan during last year's (2014) staging of the Cobra Ironman 70.3 Cebu.
"We need to have another Ironman 70.3 in the Philippines", Fred explained. He talked about how rapidly the Cebu race got closed out and the large number of participants it had and the equally large number they had to turn down after hitting the reg limit. Fred's vision was to provide another world class event to accommodate those who get closed out in the other.
Our company had just finished three straight years of being the title sponsor for the Century Tuna 5i50 triathlon in Subic and was happy with the results as well as the goodwill and positive image that it gave the brand. The easiest thing for us to do was stay in our comfort zone and just renew another 3 years of 5i50. However, we too, saw the clamor for another race as well as the need to keep pace with the expectations of our consumer base in keeping the Century brand "fresh and exciting".
So, it was instinctive and even an easy decision to level up from a 5i50 to a 70.3 tri. This gave our consumers and the tri community a bigger challenge while keeping it fun and most especially, safe.
Our main concern was the date. All the other race organizers had already announced their race schedules for 2015. It was barely an hour from the Cobra IM 70.3 Presscon and we had to announce a tentative date for our newly agreed race. I made it a point not to compete against Challenge Philippines because the race proponents were all our friends. I also insisted not to go in conflict with Ironman Melbourne which attracts a large group of Pinoy triathletes.  
There is a sense of kinship that is formed with co-triathletes when we all suffer in the same race course. This is fostered through words of encouragement we give each other while racing. But deeper affiliations are forged especially when we compete together abroad. A simple tap of encouragement on the shoulder in the run course of a full Ironman is never forgotten. This is the sense of brotherhood (and sisterhood) we share as triathletes. A bond that is not broken just because we are organizing our own different races. That is why I insisted on not engaging in destructive competition with the other races scheduled in the early part of the year.
The happy compromise was to be after Challenge Philippines Subic but also do it before Melbourne by making the race a "training" confidence builder for those doing IM Melbourne. I figured, at least we didn't step on anyone's toes. We are, after all, brothers and sisters in the wonderful community of Philippine triathlon.
Mr. "Pogi",  Wilfred "Fred" S. Uytengsu at the IM70.3 Cebu
Agreeing on March 8th, Fred and I shook hands and thus gave impetus to efforts in staging the Century Tuna Ironman 70.3 Subic. Timing was short but manageable and we figured, we'd work overtime to get this off the ground. Another mandate was that the bike course was going to be along the SCTEX.
I had just mentioned the "deal" to a few teammates but the news spread like wild fire across the big tri community gathered in Cebu for the Cobra event. By the time Fred announced it at the Presscon of IM70.3 Cebu, the audience had actually just been waiting for the announcement to confirm the rumor going around especially at the EXPO area. It was met with some jubilant applause. I remember thinking to myself "Ok, no turning back now".
Given the short lead time to design, organize and stage the race, Princess and I agreed to meet immediately the following week after Cebu. It was good that Princess and I have worked in several events already, Century Tuna being a major sponsor of the 70.3 Camsur and Cebu as well as via our Sunrise Events ran 5i50 race. This gave us a lot of trust and comfort between us and to know each other's requirements and expectations. It also allowed decisions to be made via text, calls, email and even Facebook PM's in between important face-to-face meetings.
The Events Powerhouse, Princess Galura
Pre-Race Presscon
Princess and I pulled off the Pre-event Presscon announcing the final preparations for the inaugural Century Tuna Ironman 70.3 Subic with hardly any face to face meetings. We decided that she puts together the talks about Subic and the use of the SCTEX during the Presscon while I ensure that it had the "branding" of Century Tuna clearly stamped on the event.
To do this, I opted to stage a mini fashion show of swim, bike, run and tri gear sponsored by Toby's, Saucony and Lighten Up worn by Century Tuna Superbod Winners within the presscon to give the event a load of energy as well as to help the media understand the benefits of a maintaining a healthy lifestyle of diet and exercise. The mini fashion show was a huge hit!
The opening tableau of Superbod Models. Photo from Raceday
CT Superbod 2014 Runner Up, Laurens Tolenars. Photo from Raceday.
The Presscon Panelists!
Who's that handsome guy? :p
CT Superbod 2014 Winner, Sarah Polverini. Photo from Raceday
One of the main goals of staging an event is to align the theme with the sponsoring brand's desired image and identity and get as much media and publicity mileage as possible for the sponsorship and event. In short, make the event "news worthy" and relevant. The true test of relevance is getting on the front page of the newspapers the day after the race.
Superbod = Underpants Run
2 weeks before the race, Princess and I were a bit worried that we may not be able to generate enough buzz for the race to merit a front page feature. Our major draw was the large number of foreign professional and elite triathletes who signed up for the race. But we were unsure that this was going to give us the media coverage and buzz that we were used to. 
"Why don't we marry the Century Tuna Superbods equity with the tradition of the Ironman World Championships in Kona and do a Century Tuna Superbods Underpants Run", I told Princess during the meeting. Like I said, there is a lot of trust between us. Princess immediately agreed and laid out the ground work to doing this as a side event. Our team at Century hit the ground running and asked our "go to" artist Lester Wong to design the side event logo within 12 hours so we could make the announcement. We posted this in our website and Princess made the announcement within 12 hours of coming up with the idea.
The Century Tuna Superbods Underpants Run went viral! Both triathletes and non-triathletes were talking about it within hours after it was announced. And it also had a very high participation count despite being in its inaugural run. Winners in the male and female, local and foreign categories each won $500 cash. An equivalent amount was donated to the SBMA Employees Association.
"The Bold and the Free" - participants to the Inaugural CT Superbods Underpants Run.
Photo by Multisport Philippines.
Contenders! Including Tri Legend, Frank Lacson and  Kikay Runner, Noelle de Guzman
The Underpants Run make the Front Page
Presscon and Meet the Pros
Saturday afternoon, D-Day Minus 1, allowed us to present the pros to the press. This was done at the very well dressed up Subic Bay Expo and Convention Center (SBECC) Media Center and Race Expo. A total of close to 100 press teams and bloggers were present for the "Meet the Pros" session. Evidence of the growing public interest and fascination with Triathlon.
Meet the Pros of the Inaugural Century Tuna Ironman 70.3 Subic!
SBECC was converted into the Media Center & Expo
Working Hard or Hardly Working?
The event kicked off the next day at the Sands of Triboa. I will be blogging about the race in a few days. Watch out for it.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

How God Met My Mother

It started with a Bad Fall

A week after my mom's 87th Birthday and exactly 6 weeks before Ironman Langkawi 2014, Sunday, August 17th at about 3 AM, I received what to many at our age, consider as the "dreaded phone call". What with our ageing parents and their being frail already especially when they are past 80.

Indeed it was. My brother, Ricardo nicknamed Dicky was on the other end. First of all, Dicky never calls me for anything. Moreover, it was in the middle of the night. That's how I figured that something was probably wrong. He was calm but obviously sounded concerned. "Mommy had a bad fall. She has a huge lump on her head and her face", Dicky said in Tagalog. He was asking for a suggested hospital where to bring mom. I immediately suggested to bring her to the hospital where her cardiologist is given her history of milk strokes and heart attacks.

My brother, Raoul later on narrated that he heard a loud thud in the middle of the night and knew that mom had somehow fallen on her way to the toilet, unassisted. Our 87 year old mom is of strong stock. She's had falls many times in her life and she'd always immediately try to get up to reassure everyone around that she was actually okay. But this time, it was different. She hit her face hard on the door and she was having seizures and would go in and out of consciousness.

She made it to the hospital and was immediately confined to the ICU after the usual evaluation in the Emergency Room. The serious injuries from the fall resulted in a mild heart attack which complicated her condition of having fluids in her lungs which she was already battling with prior to the fall.

Better Days - Mommy's 87th Birthday.

Surviving Round 1

But, being the fighter that she was, she kept her spirits up and reassured everyone that she was fine and was getting better right away. Despite the limitation in the number of visitors to the ICU, most of us 8 siblings and our Dad would visit her daily. After about 8 days or so, the Doctors discharged her albeit the huge bruise on her face. I guess it was her will to live and her natural positive attitude towards everything that helped her recover rapidly.

During the regular visits to the hospital, my training load for Ironman Malaysia started to get compromised. However, I would still log in all the necessary long rides, runs and swims especially on weekends.

Round 2 - Pneumonia

Unfortunately, 3 days after being discharged, Mom's health started to fail again. My regular visits to my mom at her home is Tuesdays, along with all my siblings. However, I felt uneasy that Monday Holiday morning and decided to cut my long ride short to visit mom. I was shocked to see our mom so weak and having extreme difficulty breathing. She knew she was in trouble and was starting to say her goodbye to my two brothers Raoul and Dicky and myself. She didn't want to go to the hospital and insisted on waiting until the next day before seeing the doctor to give her time to put her affairs in order with her Savings & Loan Association where she was a member of and the banks. She started to dictate who gets what including money for the grandchildren.

Dad watching over Mom at their home a few minutes before we rushed her to Makati Med.
Our Dad stayed at her bedside to watch over her and help us convince her to go to the ER right away.

My brothers and I immediately boarded her into the SUV and rushed her to the Makati Medical Center where the efficient and highly competent doctors diagnosed her as having a serious case of pneumonia which was probably hospital acquired (from her previous, recent stay a few days back). It was a different hospital from Makati Med.

It helped that our cousins are doctors at Makati Med. Moreover, the guy calling the shots at the ER was a La Salle Greenhills contemporary, Dr. Lagman who was a member of the Varsity Men's Volleyball team in Alma Mater back in the day.

She was once again confined to the ICU and doctors at both the ER and the ICU said that if we hadn't brought her in when we did, she would have passed away within a few hours. Her oxygen levels were below 30% and she was starting to go once again, in and out of consciousness.

At the ICU, she was forced to use a ventilator where they pushed tubes into my mom's respiratory tract or so to have the machine help her breath. It was painful to see our mom suffer but we had full faith in our panel of doctors.

The first two or three days were nerve wracking. She seemed to be in so much discomfort and even pain that it was hard to see her suffering. They had to tie her hands down because the doctors feared that she might pull out the tubes from the discomfort.

But once again, her positive disposition despite the extreme suffering somehow help in her recovery. The doctors were weaning her away from the ventilator and took her off the breathing machine around 6 to 7 days after checking in.

Family Bonding

It was during this very serious stay at the hospital that my siblings and I would gather almost every evening to cheer our mom up, some of us taking turns watching over her at the ICU overnight. The doctors required this given the very fragile state she was in. They needed a close relative available at all times to make decisions on her treatment and in case her situation would worsen.

Despite the general feeling of worry and concern, my brothers and I were bonding because of the common concern and the daily meet ups. We would gather at the ICU viewing area, chat with our mom who would communicate to us via writing on a slate given the tube in her respiratory tract. Our dad would also visit daily. We also encouraged our New York based brother to come home given the severity of mom's condition. We figured, it was good to have him over in case mom would indeed pass.

But, mom had other plans. She fought pneumonia so hard that all her 4 or so doctors were amazed that she was actually getting better and told us that mom was such a courageous fighter and survivor. We were all elated when they took her off the breathing machine and transferred her to a regular room. The family would visit her en mass and other relatives hearing the happy news would also drop by.

She must have felt so loved with so many people visiting her daily. And though she would complain about how hard her stay at the ICU was, she was clearly happy to have lived through that ordeal. She said, "It's because I prayed so hard in my youth for God to give me a long life. I didn't know it meant that I was going to suffer the much as when I did in the ICU".

Merced enjoying her personalized Coke bottle at the Hospital.

We all pampered and spoiled her. We would take turns feeding her because the doctors insisted that she eat to get stronger. Grown men spoon feeding our elderly mom. A reversal of role from 50 to 60 or so years ago when she was the one spoon feeding all us 8 kids.

Daily visitors.

She also took a liking of the Dilibar of Dairy Queen. It was delicious, easy to consume and I guess the cold ice cream helped relieve her throat which was battered by the tubes. We would buy her as much as she wanted.

Our Heroic Brother, Raoul. He kept the most watch over mommy. Mom really felt his love and care.


She checked out a little after a week in the hospital and we were in a celebratory mood. We gathered at the house and had a big dinner with almost everyone present, including our brother Jun who had flown in from New York. It felt like the 80's again as it was a very rare time that we were all together as one family having dinner with both parents at the old house in Paranaque. Lots of laughter and love all around.

One of the Celebratory Dinners After Mom's Recovery

She kept making "bilin" and handing out our inheritances throughout the dinner. To the point that we would tell her that she need not do so given her strong recovery. Not a lot of stuff really.

She called me Saturday night and insisted that I drop by the house to get a gift from her. She wouldn't say what it was but insisted it was special. I postponed my visit and said that I would go on Tuesday as I regularly did. She sounded a bit disappointed but agreed. When I got there Tuesday, she was so excited to give me the figurine of the "Mother & Child" (Mary and Jesus) which she explained she got in Italy at the Capuchin Seminary where Saint Padre Pio, the stigmata lived and performed miracles. I was so happy to receive this gift. I have often prayed to Saint Padre Pio for special favors and intercessions.

Mother Mary & Jesus Image from Mommy
We started renovation in a lower level room in the house to serve as mom's new room to prevent her from having to negotiate steps to her room.

We bought the necessary medical stuff including oxygen tanks, regulators and the like to help her keep well oxygenated and prevent a recurrence of her life threatening episode form a week or so back.

We were all optimistic.

She was determined to get well. And she finally got to go to the bank and the savings and loan office. I think she also went to do her regular rounds of going to the salon, the supermarket and seeing friends.

Round 3

Then, after about over a week. I once again get the dreaded phone call. This time it was Raoul. He said that he had to bring mom back to Makati Med because she was again having severe difficulty breathing and was slipping in and out of consciousness.

The pneumonia was back with a vengeance.

By this time we were all experts on the procedures and the protocol at the hospital. We all gathered at the Makati Med on a daily basis but this time, instead of having mom in the ICU, she was first placed in a regular room. We were thus somewhat relieved. However, as the days passed, her conditioned worsened and they had to intubate her again and scheduled her to be moved back to ICU. From being able to communicate with us and talk to us, she was back on using the slate.

She must have known that the fight in her was gone. She was hardly ever demonstrative to us, but the day she was being moved to the ICU from the regular room, it was Raoul and Jomari our tisoy brother who were with her at the hospital. She asked to hug them both and said, "O, good bye na".

I wish I was there at that time but I had just left to finish some work I was rushing for the next day.

My brothers updated me by phone on her condition. Aside from the pneumonia, her kidneys and other organs were stressing out. She hadn't peed in days and they needed to give her dialysis already because the creatinine levels in her system was starting to poison her. I was on my way to the send off party for the Philippine Contingent to Ironman Langkawi at that time I got the call. I went through the motions of attending the party but I had decided right then and there that I wasn't pushing through with the race anymore.

After a quick stay at the party, I went to back to the hospital where I was pleased to see my other brother, Rene there watching over mom. We kept telling mommy for her to get well, to keep fighting and that we cared for her and loved her. But, unlike the other time(s), she would just smile faintly as if resigned already.

She was to go through dialysis on either Monday or Tuesday but the doctors cautioned that it was indeed a risky procedure given her age and frail heart. The alternative though was even more risky. Her creatinine levels were already nearing toxic levels.

By Monday, I noted that she was so tired and barely responsive. I visited lunch time and instead of having her awake as she always would be when we visited her, she was groggy and seemed to be in a sedated state. Relatives came to visit but could no longer enter the ICU. Our sister Joan had watched over her and was relieved by Erwin for the night shift.

Monday noon time, right before Dialysis Started - already groggy.
"Fighting Strongest"

Erwin said that mom struggled to write something on the slate that night. She wrote, "Fighting Strongest". I think she meant that she wanted to let us know that she kept on fighting to survive but was having a really tough time this time around.

She had her dialysis on Tuesday with Erwin on the watch. He said it was difficult to see and that her Blood Pressure had dropped to 40 at least twice during the 2 to 3 hour procedure.

That night, our mom was almost in a daze already. She was unresponsive and could only squeeze our hand or nod ever so weakly. We had organized a Rosary prayer at the chapel with some relatives and were happy to see the support of our cousins and friends.

Baby, aka Jomari whispered to her that it was really okay for all of us if she already let go. That we will all be alright and well and that we didn't want her to suffer. We took turns in stroking her forehead, holding her had and telling her we loved her and for her to get well, if she could.

Before we left, I went back to the ICU and gave mom my Rosary. The caregiver placed it in her hand and she squeezed it tight.

The next morning, I decided to drop by the hospital first before heading for work. I never, ever do this. But for some reason, I thought I wanted to be there. I found out, too that my other brothers Raoul and Jomari were at the hospital as well.

We called for a priest to anoint our mother and stood watch over her. Her BP was normal, her oxygen levels were getting better and her breathing was good. Her heart rate strong and steady. But we just stayed there and watched over her. Jomari eventually had to leave for work and did so after the anointing. At about this time, our Dad was on the way up having just arrived from the house.

I am convinced that my mom was just waiting for my Dad to arrive. Because as soon as he passed by the window of the ICU unit my mom was in, her heart rate started to drop dramatically. From 65 to 39 then 29. By the time my Dad got to the ICU all the doctors were already preparing to revive her. She had flatlined already. I immediately texted all my siblings on what was happening. Jomari rushed back to the hospital and got there just in time. Mommy didn't want Dad to feel guilty about not being at her bedside when she passed. That's her very good nature. She was always very considerate.

"Mom's heart rate is dropping fast. Doctors preparing to revive her...this is it" was my first text. I followed this up with something like "Doctors reviving mommy". By this time, Dad was confused and didn't understand what was going on. I was starting to shed tears already seeing how the Doctors were working on reviving mom. Then after the third attempt, the Doctors asked if we wanted them to continue. Despite vigorous attempts, she would not be revived. We finally told them to stop. I texted my siblings. "Mommy passed away na. We love you Mommy". It was 9:55 am.

My military Dad was quietly crying. Just tears. No sound. He stood up from his wheel chair and was caressing and kissing Mommy's face and whispering to her ear. Tears streaming continuously from his eyes. It was the very first time I saw my Dad cry. I was in the same state and so was Jomari. I kept telling mommy how much I loved her.

When they lifted the blanket that covered her body, I noticed her hand was still clenched tightly. I opened it and found my rosary in her hand. It was the last thing she held on to when she passed away.

Mommy is in Heaven now.

As a Family, we are consoled by the thought that God sent the Blessed Virgin Mary to bring our mother up to Heaven. She passed away on September the 24th which is the Roman Catholic Feast Day of The Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy or translated in Spanish as "Maria Virgen de la Merced" after whom mommy was named.

I think God is telling us not to worry about our Mommy.

Lord, please do take my mommy into Heaven with you.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Lose 18 pounds in 6 weeks!

We pulled if off. We actually helped Philippine movie celebrity, John Lloyd Cruz lose 18 pounds in just 6 weeks. And erased the flab around his tummy while making his overall built more toned and muscular!

Leaner, more toned John Lloyd Cruz after the 6 week
Century Superbod Super Challenge Diet & Workout Plan

John Lloyd is one of the top draws in Philippine Cinema and entertainment because of his "boy next door" good looks and his acting chops. But he is also known for being a "regular Joe" and really more of a teddy bear. A bit on the chubby side and not very athletic. He once proclaimed during an interview "ang tunay na lalaki, walang six pack abs". His love for alcohol and his ability to hold his liquor is legendary. We realized that the challenge was going to tough.

Anne and JLC before the start of the Challenge.
Marketing Idea

Since the Century Tuna brand is already well entrenched as a dominant leader in the Philippine canned tuna market, our major task is to grow the size of the market. The brand is established as a healthy lifestyle brand and is the "go to" protein source of choice especially among the figure conscious and those who aim to lose weight. Our strongest equity pillar is the bi-annual Century Superbods Contest which has become a much awaited and usually the biggest summer event in the country. However, being a model search, the Superbods was becoming more of something to watch rather than something to emulate, be inspired with. Our consumers appreciated the event but were more of just an audience to a spectacle than participants.

To grow the tuna market while protecting if not expanding our market share, we decided to involve our consumers in Superbods. To make them participants rather than spectators. Thus giving birth to the 'transformation campaign". We asked celebrity nutritionist, Nadine Tengco and celebrity fitness coach, Jim Saret to develop for us a 6 week diet and exercise program that will help our consumers get fit healthy and even become Superbods.

And, to show proof that the diet and workout plan works, we anchored the 2014 campaign on transforming John Lloyd Cruz from a flabby but loveable matinee idol, to a toned, muscular and fit hunk! We threw in some hefty marketing dollars behind the campaign and called it the Century Tuna Superbods, Super Challenge.

The Diet

We asked Chef Nadine Tengco, a certified Fitness Nutritionist in the USA and erstwhile, nutritionist of the stars to prepare recipes for the 6 weeks Superbod Super Challenge Diet and Workout. Some dishes were rotated but overall, we made sure that whoever tried the diet would find it both effective and tasty. We then published the diet in the Century Superbods website so anyone from anywhere in the world can follow the diet.

Celebrity Nutritionist - Nadine Tengco

It incorporates key nutrients that not only help you lose weight, but targets the tummy! These are Omega 3, Vitamin D, Calcium and Fiber. Tuna, specifically Century Tuna is high in Omega 3 and Vitamin D thus is a key ingredient in the 42 day diet. But we also threw in other protein sources such as chicken and beef.

Here's the link. Good Luck.

Work Out

Coach Jim Saret is famous for his Metafit workouts. I never asked him what Metafit means but I am assuming it has something to do with jumpstarting the metabolism and getting fit.  We got 2012 Superbods winner, John Spainhour and the 2012 female Superbods Most Photogenic Awardee, Janette Emerich to be the models in the demonstration videos of Coach Jim's workouts. The result was a 42 day instructional that gives everyone an easy to follow guide to doing the Superbod workout. An online coach!

Coach Jim Saret!

The workout is on the same website link I attached earlier.

Both Coach Jim and Chef Nadine are also the same tandem that leads the transformation of participants to the Biggest Loser Philippine show on ABS-CBN.

Nadine with her "clients" at the Century Superbods After Party
Superbods 2014

Aside from the big reveal of John Lloyd during the Superbods finals night, we of course had the difficult task of selecting this year's Superbod winners.

It was a tough task for the 7 judges which included renowned model and beauty queen, Patty Betita, Eventologist, Lifestyle Columnist and Media Personality, Tim Yap; Host and Lifestyle Columnist Tessa Prieto Valdez; Designer and Stylist; Advertising Veteran and PC&V CEO, Ariel Comia; world renowned Fashion Designer, Dennis Rustico; Business Columnist and Fulbright Scholar and myself. Each judge was looking for something different so I noticed how the scores were almost evenly scored across the candidates. But in the end, upcoming actor, Mauro Lumba and noted model, Sarah Polverini won as male and female superbods and bested New Yorker, Marniel Lim, Dutch-Fil model Laurens Tolenars, new face and high potential model, Catherine Almirante and Alyssa who were runner ups.

Follow the work out and diet and you too can be a superbod. As John Lloyd says in the TVC, "Kung Kaya Ko, Kaya Nyo!".

Thanks to FB for the pics of Nadine and Jim.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

How I Crammed for the Cobra Ironman 70.3, 2013

The Cobra Ironman 70.3 is undoubtedly the country's most popular triathlon event. Now on its 5th year, no other race is able to motivate local triathletes to carve out large swaths of their time each week to do long rides, long runs and those mind-numbing countless laps in the pool to do long swim sessions.

It's the challenge of the distance that makes it attractive. Roughly double the standard Olympic distance triathlon that many in the local community have already graduated from. Pinoy triAthletes, mostly overachievers in anything we do, get bored and look for a bigger challenge. The 1.8km swim, 90km bike and 21k run of a 70.3 miler offers an extra serving of difficulties and uncertainties to test our abilities and speed. We get to battle a longer swim, cramps in the bike and run leg, blisters and the occasional heat stroke given that it takes 5 to 7 hours average to finish this distance. The cut off, in fact is 8:30 hours.

A strong bike ride often spells triathlon success.

As such, training is usually two to three times more intense than preparing for a standard distance tri less you stand the risk of "bonking" during the race or coming in with a slow performance.

My dilemma was time. Though I've done six 70.3's in the past and I am used to the training load, my work load this year for some reason is exponentially higher than what it used to be. As such, I could only focus on the 5i50 (standard distance) triathlon slated for May (SUBIT)  and June (Century Tuna 5i50). Not much long rides nor work on the hills and long runs. As to the swim? Forget about it. I am probably the only veteran who till now hates the water. To make matters worse, I had to fly out for 10 days on a business trip 5 weeks before the 70.3 in Cebu. That left me 3.5 weeks to prepare for the country's premier triathlon event. A half Ironman distance at that.

To cushion the impact of the extended absence from training here in Manila, I was determined to train in the USA during the business trip. Though I was able to run, a few times ranging from 16k to shorter distances, my work schedule and situational circumstances prevented me from logging in mileage in the pool and on stationary bikes.

Travel includes working even up to late at night...and going for some R&R.

My 3.5 weeks crash program for the Cobra Ironman 70.3:

I know my limitations and priorities. I am not a Podium contender for this distance (and of late, any distance for that matter). Moreover, I knew I had to temper my ambitions on race time. Lastly, my swim is hopeless. So, after giving it some thought, I decided to focus on the bike and run for this challenge. I figured, I am a good runner. But this won't do much if I leave my legs in the bike course.

This is where I would focus. I had three weekends leading to the big day. I committed to do back to back long rides for three Saturdays and Sundays consecutively. At least 100k on a Saturday and 90k to 100k on a Sunday plus a long run (8k to 15k). I also found time to run daily, even short distances as well as to do a 15k to 20k run once a week during the weekday as well. Finally, I also did at least two rides during the week. A short one (30k to 40k - which is what my work schedule could fit in) and a 50k to 60k ride. I was only able to swim a total or three to four times because of my choice to focus on bike and run. The longest I swam was 2k. A mortal sin when preparing for the 70.3.

Race Day - The Result:

I knew I had no swim endurance or speed or power. So at the swim start, I made the wise decision to really just take it easy. I still had my share of being kicked, pulled at, elbowed, scratched during most of the race as I think I was swimming mostly among the newbies. But, I just kept on executing a relaxed swim no matter what. The swells were also big that day. Extra challenge but this is where experience helps. I felt the tension and near panic of the other swimmers through the swim course. I even saw athletes clinging to the lines and throwing up because of motion sickness. A first in my over 8 years of doing triathlon. But I just kept calm and swam effortlessly. BUT SUPER SLOW. I finished the swim in 0:51 minutes.

When I got to the bike, I felt really fresh. But again - realizing I just crammed for this race, and learning from the painful experience of pushing too hard through the strong winds last year and ending up bonking - I kept a steady, slightly labored pace but still very relaxed. I was conserving for the run and all I had planned to do was finish the 90k ride in 3 hours. I would stop at the aid stations (something I never used to do) and even took a pee break when I saw a porta-let. I would have short chats with the other bikers and they would be surprised to see me not pushing. I finished the bike leg in 3:07 or so. My slowest 70.3 distance ride and a far cry from the 2:40 or so I would usually put in for Camsur.

The Intensity is Missing :)

I knew I had to put in a strong run to compensate for all this leisurely strolling I was doing in Cebu. I jogged for a kilometer to shake off the lactic acid build up in my leg muscles. During this portion, I was jogging with a swim coach who was doing the swim and run legs as part of a relay team. We were exchanging notes on what pace to take for the run. He said he felt good and so opted to push the pace. I made him go ahead for awhile before deciding I needed to go sub-2 hours for the run to still try to salvage a sub 6 hour performance.

Power Run - Sub 2 hour for the 21k.

Then ----- BOOM. I hit my groove and chase after whoever I could find in the run course. The crash program worked. My legs were not cramping. It helped that I doused myself with water in the legs, glutes, heart and head at each water station. This gave me more energy to sustain the pace despite only having taken two bars or Choco Mucho bars (P12 local choco bars I bought from the gas station before heading off to Cebu) for the entire race. Oh, did I tell you I also have poor race nutrition discipline. I can't eat to save my life.

I didn't make the sub 6 but I did run in 2:00 hours exactly for the 21k. My total time was 6:08. A decent finish for an old guy like me considering the lack of training.

In the end, I was quite happy with the results of my crash training program.