Ironman Philippines Race and Course Review
The inaugural Ironman Philippines was held in Subic Bay, considered the triathlon capital of the Philippines. Subic has hosted the most number of triathlon events in the country. This review is an update to the previous course review of Ironman Subic Bay 70.3, as there are changes in the course, including change of location in transition 2 and the finish line.
1555 athletes joined the Full Ironman and the 70.3 event (1,278 and 277 respectively) and represented by 47 countries. Expectedly Filipinos were the bulk of the participants with 833 registrants. China (78), Japan (78), United States (54) and Singapore (47) were among the top 5 in terms of participation.
It took 10 years for Sunrise to put up a Full Ironman race in the country, and timed it just right. The Philippines has been one of the hotbed of growth in the world in terms of multisport participation. There are now 4 Ironman-branded events in the country and all are doing well in terms of participation.
Getting There and Where to Stay
There is a reason Sunrise Events chose Subic Bay as the venue for the first Ironman in the Philippines. The former US Naval Base is now governed by a Government-Controlled Corporation, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and is one of the top tourist spots in the country.
Subic Bay is a 4-5 hour drive from the main Airport gateway Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila. Once you escape Metro Manila, it will be a smooth 3 hour drive into NLEX and SCTEX freeways. While NAIA has the most flights, there is an alternative and more convenient landing spot 80km north of Manila, and that is the Clark International Airport. Though limited in international flights, there are options for those coming from Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, China and South Korea, and even from United States and Europe. The drive in Clark to Subic is only 1-1.5 hours, and you could avoid the dreaded Manila traffic.
There is also direct flights from Subic’s own airport, but only limited flights from Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Shenzhen, China.
As for the hotel options, the tourist infrastructure in Subic Bay is very much capable to handle 1500 participants and their family, friends and supporters. There are 5 official hotel partners via Sunrise and a multitude of hotels accredited by the organizer.
Things to do
Since Subic Bay is one of the most visited tourist spots in the country, there are various ways to enjoy your stay after your race.
A mall resides inside SBMA (Harbor Point) and is very near the race venue (finish line) and hotels. That is if you want to keep it simple for the kids and also want an alternative from hotel restaurants. There are also a line of restaurants along Subic’s Boardwalk which is also near the hotels.
A trip to the zoo (Zoobic) or a marine park (Ocean Adventure) are good options for your family. To the more adventurous, Subic has a number of trail hikes to offer.
The swim starts at the pristine ACEA beach. Participants will swim with a counter clockwise format, enjoying the mountain ridges as their backdrop. The 2 loop, 1.9KM swim course starts with a 550 meter swim before making a left turn taking participants to the 850 meter straight which is the longest portion of the swim course. Participants will then make a left turn for 50 meters before making another left turn taking them to the 350 meter part of the course. They will then make a right turn leading them to the final 100 meter part of the course to end the loop. Participants will exit the water and run at the beach to start of the second 1.9KM loop. Participants will follow the same swim course and exit ACEA beach heading to the transition area. (from Race website)
The swim is in front of ACEA resort and the whole course is covered by swim lines. Corners are marked by big floating buoys. As with any Ironman races, rolling starts are now the norm, with a release of a group of 4 athletes for every 6 seconds, ensuring all athletes experience more space on the swim course. We heard athletes that there was current and some swell, that made it difficult to mark the bouys. It could be calm in any other day, as the weather disturbance (rain) the night before probably was the cause of the swell.
As with any Philippine races, this is a non-wetsuit swim, as the water temperature is in the 30s.
From ACEA, participants will exit to San Bernardino road and head turn to Argonaut Road heading towards Tipo Gate. The course will take participants up and down the hills of Tipo Road before entering the downhill part of SCTEX (Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway).The long flat roads of SCTEX will be a fast and smooth ride along the country’s longest expressway, showcasing the lush fields and mountainous landscape of the area. The 180km 2-loop course will make its first turn-around at KM 54.5 before heading back to face a short yet steep climb to Tipo Gate. A second turn will be at KM 92.50 before taking the final turn at KM 130.50 and back to Tipo Gate at KM 168.50. Participants will head on to Rizal Drive to enter Transition 2 at Remy field. (from Race Website)
Definitely, this has got to be one of the harder bike course in the Ironman circuit, featuring near to 2ooom elevation climbs. Leading to the the SCTEX portion of the course, riders will have to share the road with vehicles inside SBMA and TIPO highway. The first test is the long climb in TIPO highway before approaching the freeway. Once in freeway, riders will enjoy a closed 2 lane course, no technical turns and mostly straight roads. The difficult part is the heat, wind and the long climbs. There was hard rain around 11am that provided relief from the heat, but athletes also had to take caution as it provided for slippery conditions.
Nothing too steep in the long climbs, but you have to use small front rings so as not to accumulate lactic acid in the legs. If you are not an intermediate athlete, mid-compact like 52-36 are best for the course. Be wary of some mini speed bumps in the TIPO portion, as this may dislodge some of your needed hydration bottles.
From Remy Field, participants will exit to Burgos Road and make a right turn leading them to Rizal drive, where they will make another right turn in Argonautroad heading towards the airport. Participants will make their first turn-around at KM 8.75just before San Bernardino road. They continue back to Argonaut, leading them back to Rizal drive wherethey will take a left turn at Burgos street passing Remy field. Participants will head to Sampson road exiting to Waterfront road and turn right heading to Lincoln street. From Lincoln Street they turn right crossing towards Taft street and head towards Betty Lane and make the second turn around at KM 19.25. From here, they head back to the same course taking them back to Waterfront and back to Burgos street passing Remy field to begin the second loop. Participants will make a right turn at Rizal Highway, following the same route passing Argonaut and making the third turn at Argonaut road at KM 29.75. Participants will head back to Burgos road, passing in front of Remy field, heading to Water Front road and Lincoln and Taft street heading to the final turn around at KM 40.25. After completing the final turn-around, participants will follow the same route heading back to Remy Field for the Finish Line. (from Race Website)
The course is a simple 2 loop out and back course, with only the climb at airport road providing the hardest part. What will test the mettle of the athlete is just the searing heat, around 40 degrees, and the humidity brought about by rain beforehand (heat rising from ground). The organizer did a great job in placing the hydration and comfort station at 1-1.5km apart. Make sure to get those “Buhos” of dipper showers provided in every stations. Ice cold sponges also will help in keeping your core temperature down.
The T2 and Finish line is now in Remy Field, as oppose to the road in front of Subic Bay Convention Center in previous Subic Bay 70.3s.
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