4th Pro Male
The phrase 'it is raining cats and dogs' comes to mind! Throw a few chickens and small children into the mix and you begin to get an idea of the obstacles we had to overcome out on course. The Philippine island of Cebu is a land divided, extreme poverty and extreme wealth are separated often times by just a concrete wall nothing more but both societies rich or poor are happy and content with the life they are leading. Just outside the walls of our 5 star beach front resort was a totally different world, congestion which I have never witnessed before the smell of fire and cooking drifts through the streets and the people of Cebu getting on with their simple but happy lives. Here is the link to a video Dan made on his Go Pro during our stay in Cebu... www.dghugo.com
Between finishing Xterra Grabouw and boarding the plane headed for the Philippines there was precious little time and arriving at CPT international Airport I was in a complete daze. Hopeful that all necessities had found their way into my luggage and praying that weight was within limits, oh how wrong was I! After much expense we finally arrived at our beautiful resort and after a quick tally up realized it was already Wednesday evening, two days to race day! PANIC! Thursday and Friday flew past with a combination of press conferences, Pre-rides and numerous attempts at finishing the hotel breakfast buffet which they had generously provided on the house. Dan single handedly nearly crippled the Cebu produce supply!
Pre-Race Press Conference
As you can imagine race morning came sooner than expected but we were ready and excited for this new challenge. The bus trip from our hotel to the race venue which normally took around an hour flew past with limited traffic at this unruly hour. After the normal customs which come with pre race preparation we were soon onto the pearly white beaches of Cebu witnessing another magestic Pacific sun rise. Although Orca has provided me with a phenomenal wetsuit dragging it half way around the world with me was a complete waste of time! Water temperature of the Pacific ocean is warmer than I often run my bath in the dead of our African winters.
The swim was 2 laps of 750m well maybe 500m of actual swimming and the rest a combination of running and duck diving followed by a 100m knee deep section of water to transition. After a good start I settled onto Dan's feet but half way through the first lap I began losing contact with the front pack due to the unrelenting pace the ITU convert Ben Allen was setting up front. Through lap 1 a short portage section allowed a quick assessment of current position and I saw maybe a 20-30sec gap to the boys up front, I was in 5th position and happy with the progress thus far. Another lap navigating a few struggling age groupers and into transition a minute down, still not happy being this far down after the swim but much progress has been made in a relatively short amount of time. Through T1 with the fastest split of 28sec and onto the longest bike leg I have ever raced in an Xterra requiring physician levels of concentration in order to avoid the natural obstacles this course provided.
The bike leg consisted of two 19km laps with plenty of climbing and a number of tricky technical sections guaranteed to challenge even the most skilled riders. After a relatively good start the legs were responding well and soon I was joined by GBR Pro Sam Gardner, we were working well together but I will admit the pace he was setting may have been slightly beyond my reach at this stage of the race. However I was not about to get dropped by a 38year old fireman so I hung on as best I could. My feeling of control was soon to be tested as on a specially bumpy section of the course I attempted to shift gears (rookie error!) and my chain bounced off of my big blade, twisted during a revolution of my cranks and said twist traveled back and into my rear derailleur. On inspection of my rear derailleur the closest this I could a liken it to is that of a fisherman's birds nest after a poor cast of his rode. I began the tedious exercise of untangling this mess but after a minute or two of fighting with the problem began to slowly give up on it! From the look of the chain in its current position it seemed obvious the one of the links hand bent bringing an end to my race, that was the only logical explanation I could come up with. I lay on my back and let out a massive scream trying to rid myself of the overwhelming anger building up inside of me. Thankfully this worked although all the island kids now think I am completely mad! I can see the picture now, this hot sweaty white man dressed in funny tight clothes fighting with his steel horse and letting out the odd scream all in an attempt to ride in one big circle not really going anywhere or achieving much along the way!
A moment of epiphany struck me as I realised there was in fact a way to fix this mess I had created. Once I got the wheels turning again it was time to gather my composure and attempt on trying to salvage a result from this mess. We were near the top of the biggest climb on the loop so I could really attack the last bit of the climb before the long technical descent and after 'resting' for 5-6mins I had the legs to do so! Onto the second lap I was coming back into contention and entering T2 got a call that I was now in 4th position 6mins off the lead. Now most of you will be thinking that had my chain incident not happened I would have come off the bike with the leaders, sadly this is not 100% accurate as almost every pro male ahead of me had had issues of their own. Ben had taken a wrong turn after lap 1, Rory a Scottish Pro ended up riding 50km instead of the required 38 and Dan punctured on lap 2 attempting to pass the slower age group riders.
Either way we were now all onto the run and what a run it was! On the Friday we had managed to ride the first few kilometers and it seemed relatively tame so I started very hard under the illusion that it was going to be a fast and flat run, I was sadly mistaken. Once we began climbing into the mountains the my game plan immediately changed from one of attack to survival. After 40km of hard graft on the bike in hot, muggy, humid, tropical forest conditions I didn't have much left in the tank and was now stopping at every aid station in an attempt to get as much fluid in as possible and cool my core body temperature. This was working well but a very time consuming and rhythm breaking process, sadly due to the mountainous terrain of the course I was unable to see that 3rd place Sam Gardner was only just ahead of me and in some real discomfort. Running down the finishing shoot I got my first look at him and very disappointed in myself for not following the age old mantra 'it is not over till its over!'.
Looking back I am once again happy with the way I was able to bounce back after yet another mechanical problem. It has become part of the racing process now for me and each time I am able to handle it a little better however a race free of mechanicals will be superb so please anyone out there with a voodoo doll of me please just let it be for the remainder of my trip! A big congrats must go out to Ben Allen for another great victory in the Philippines, Dan Hugo for holding it together and coming home 2nd with the fastest run split of the day and Sam Gardner finishing out the podium positions. A big Thank you to Sunrise Events for hosting such a spectacular event and treating us Pro's with such respect, this level of attention to detail does not go unnoticed! Another big thank you to Crimson Hotel and the staff who work here for their supreme level of respect and for making us feel so welcome.
We have now travelled further east to the island of Saipan for the 2nd of 3 Xterra races which make up the Asia-Pacific Xterra Tour. Body is still holding up well and I am convinced that this is my weekend! Thanks for checking in on me and for all the messages of support.