5150 Subic Bay course review and why short course races are a great option for athletes of all levels

By Vinnie Santana coach, ironguides.net

The Olympic Distance is triathlon’s most popular event. It’s in the Olympics, its inclusive, beginner friendly, and challenging for high performance athletes. The ironman 5150 is the WTC branded Olympic Distance race and while there is only 2 5150 events in Asia, both in the Philippines (Subic Bay and Bohol), there’s plenty of short course races, both sprint and Olympic Distances.

5150 Subic Bay in the Philippines is a perfect race if you want to experience a world class event, organized by the same team that runs Ironman 70.3 in Philippines, yet still a distance that everyone can do.

The swim is a rolling start broken down by expected swim times, which not only send the fast athletes ahead, but also spreads out the field of over 800 athletes. The rectangle shaped course that goes mostly along the shore and has a lane indicating the course, also provides a good sense of safety for inexperienced open water swimmers.

The rolling start allows the swimmers to spread out and have more space
The rolling start allows the swimmers to spread out and have more space

Once on the bike, the early stages of the bike course is inside the old Subic Bay airport, providing the opportunity to ride on the main runway and past parked airplanes. The course then is point to point rolling hills through quiet roads, offering the opportunity for athletes to enjoy mixed challenges and never get bored from multi-lap courses. It ends in town with the final kilometers going on the coast of Subic Bay.

Bike course starts on the Subic Bay airport
Bike course starts on the Subic Bay airport

The run course is inspiring as you will be either running along the coast with nice views and luxury yachts parked, or when you run through town, you can expect several spectators cheering for you and making the ten kilometer course very enjoyable.

Spectators and ocean views is what you can expect from the run course
Spectators and ocean views is what you can expect from the run course

Talking to some of the athletes at the event, I noticed many were beginners in the sport and for several that was their first Olympic Distance race. While most people still enter the sport with a short course event, as soon as they finish that, the question “what’s next?” comes to mind and the answer has often been “Go longer!”. Six months after their first triathlon that athlete has signed up and started to train for a half or full ironman. There seems to be a rush to keep on moving up.

In my view, those athletes, and all others who look into a short course race only as a stepping stone to long distance triathlons, are missing a great opportunity to maintain a healthy and sustainable lifestyle and racing calendar.

Long Distance triathlons (Ironman and Ironman 70.3 and any other branding name for it), certainly has its appeal and it’s the reason many has started into the sport, but this article lets talk about the benefits of short course racing and perhaps inspire more athletes to place the short course events higher in their yearly calendar.

See also:  How to Become a More Efficient Triathlon Swimmer

Stay injury-free

When you are training for a short course event, there is less need of ultra distance runs (long runs), which means every time you are out running, you will be sustaining a faster pace and a better technique, this results in less injuries

Show me an injuried athlete and I will show you someone who has done too much too soon. While injuries are also related to technique of each discipline, body structure and training load, not having a background especially in running does increases drastically the chances of getting injured while training for a triathlon.

I work with some master athletes who have been running for some thirty plus years and they can handle as many hours of running per week while never getting injured, while someone newer to the sport, after a few very long runs, may get hurt.

The injury itself is only the first part of the problem, the second comes with little experience on dealing with them. Very often these athletes have no professional assistance of a coach and end up pushing through it, only to find themselves ending up with a chronic injury and being forced to quit their new loved sport as they can’t exercise anymore. What at first was something to make you healthy and happy, not became a health problem and upsetting.

Avoid Burn out

Another big problem that one will avoid with racing short course events more often is not dealing with the high risk of mental burn out. Ironman training for example requires a minimum of one very long bike ride (minimum of 4 hours to 7 hours) and a long run per week (2 to 3 hours), they are usually done on a weekend which means that if you have a family you will spend most of your weekend away from them and the rest of the day with not much energy left to do anything.

While this may be OK for a race or two, it can start to take a bigger toll on your family or work after a few seasons. When you are training for a short course event, your training will only take a small part of your weekends, leaving more time for other activities and a more balanced and sustainable lifestyle.

Challenging for all levels

But there is hope, the new trend is coming! Athletes who started in the sport in the earlies 2000’s are now slowly moving to short course races as they are learning the benefits of it, but it did take them a decade of ironman training to see the benefits of that option. Just look at the sprint and Olympic distance races of Thailand and Singapore and you will see several very experienced long course triathletes having some fun at the local events.

See also:  How to Get into Kona: Ironman Officially Maps out Ways

But what makes long course so appealing and how do I find the same fulfillment with short course races?

Unless you have several years of triathlon under your belt, or comes from an elite level athletic background, it will be hard to place on your first few seasons. This may be a turn off for some athletes and they may find the distance more appealing as they are challenging themselves. But there is also several ways to challenge yourself with short course events, such as:

Try to get faster: While each course offers certain challenges and may even differ a little in the distance, you will have the opportunity to keep on trying to improve your previous times on either the same course a year ago, or just aim for a new Personal Best over the distance

Try to place: After a few seasons of trying to improve your own personal marks, you will likely find yourself also moving up through the ranks and creating the opportunity to place within your age group. This will then add a new and fun component to your racing

Race often: Short course races also allows you to race more often while long course you can only race once in a while since it takes quite a while to safely recover from it.

Balancing it out with long course races

But when are you ready to move up to long course racing? Consider the below:

*Triathlon Experience: Ideally you need at least a few years of sprints and Olympic distance racing and find that the distance isn’t a big deal anymore. Also be training injury free.

*Professional and Personal commitments: Understand that long course will take some of your time and energy away from both your work and personal life. If you are in a situation that allows it, go for it. But if you are just starting a family or a business, it may be a better idea to stick to the short courses events until things settle.

Have a think about your next goals and have fun doing some short course events! Check our race calendar

Enjoy your training.

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