Ironman 70.3 Philippines – Course Review (Updated for 2019)

While the Ironman 70.3 Philippines in Cebu for 2019 did not get the numbers it usually gathers, it is very much well-attended and arguably, it is still one of the best races in the Asian triathlon calendar .   Now on its eight year in Cebu and 11th year overall, Ironman 70.3 Philippines still has an excellent following internationally, with athletes from 57 countries representing.  The beautiful race venue location is still in Shangrila Mactan, and it is still organized by the experienced Sunrise Event that has brought the Ironman brand in the Philippines since 2009.   While Sunrise Events has since been absorbed by the Ironman group, it feels nothing has changed, this is still one of the best organized event in Asia.

In 2018, Ironman 70.3 Philippines hosted the 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championships for the 2nd time,and it tagged along more than 35 Pros for the championship event.     This year’s race is toned down a bit in terms of the Pro competition being a non-regional championship event, but still attracted a fairly stellar field of more than 20 Professional athletes.  The Pros will be competing for a share of the total $25,000, a nd the list includes former champions Tim Reed (AUS), Caroline Steffen (SUI) Defending Champion Mau Mendez of Mexico, and a surprise starter in inaugural champion Terenzo Bozzone of New Zealand.  Bozzone won the first Ironman 70.3 Philippines back in 2009 in Camsur.

The article below will help you learn more about the course, what to expect from it and how to get ready for the next year’s edition

How to Get There:

The main airport in Cebu Island is in Mactan, and fortunately is only a 15-20 minute drive from the main race venue of Shangrila Hotel.   Taxis and Grab are available for transportation.   The airport has a new International Terminal which serves flights to and from Singapore, Hong Kong, Xiamen, Shanghai and Seoul.   If ever you can’t fly directly to Cebu, it is a short 1 hr and 20 minute flight from Manila.   Sunrise Events provides shuttle transfers to partner hotels and the race venue.   The race expo is also one of the biggest in triathlon events in Asia, so be ready to swipe if you ever decide to pass by.


If you ever wondered how the swim at the Ironman World Championships in Kona feels like, Cebu gets pretty close. Its a challenging but beautiful swim. One need to stay focused at their effort and pacing plan not to get too distracted by several types of fish, coral and sea life. Its only one lap, rectangle shape, and you swim clockwise.

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While the Pros  started in the ocean, the age groupers starts 10 minutes later in a rolling beach start.  The rolling start is a new trend in Ironman races and increases safety of the swimmers by releasing every five seconds a small group of five swimmers at a time. In theory this allows you to swim with very little traffic and pace or draft or swimmers with similar ability.

This year, the participants had to wait at 5am of race day to get clearance to swim from a possible gale warning.   By that time, the water was looking calm and quiet.  In 2015, the current was so strong that a lot of the participants did not made the swim cut-off.   The conditions are unpredictable as far as currents go, so make sure to add more focus on your swim training for Cebu.

If your pre-race plan includes target finish time for each discipline, be very flexible with the swim split in Cebu, if there is a current on race day.  Some of the beginners that were predicting around fifty minutes for the swim split, were as slow as fifteen minutes extra, going over one hour. Intermediate level swimmers that were predicting forty minutes for the swim split were five to ten minutes slower.


The 2018 edition had a different bike course, due to local government restrictions.   2019 was an election year in the Philippines and when friendly local government heads were elected, it means the organizers had the chance to return to the usual M-Loop course that will traverse 4 cities in Cebu Island- Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue, Cebu City and Talisay.    You will go out 15kms and you will do 4 loops of 15kms each, on four separate lanes.   The whole course can be described as flat, with only a bridge considered a hill (Marcelo Fernan).   The only conditions you have to prepare for is crosswinds, as it will be a coastal ride in the M-loop as well the heat.


This is one of the most spectacular course in the Ironman circuit in terms of local community and crowd support.   Though there were areas that the road will thin down due to crowd swell, marshalls and police did a great job of crowd control, with no reported bike and spectator mishap.   Due to the longer course, drafting and being blocked by big big groups was not an issue.

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The two loop run course is very straight forward and a good mix of a city course with thousands of spectators combined with nice ocean views from Cebu mainland.

Once out on the run, you will go through literally thousands of local supporters lined up on both sides of the road, don’t get carried away and stick to your pacing strategy.

The run is all flat with only some very gentle undulations, a big part of the course is also shaded providing the athletes a break from the sun and the heat.

While last year was certainly forgiving with the unexpected cloud cover, this year was definitely hotter.   Last year, Champion Mau Mendez turned in a fast 1:13:38 and race best run split.  This year, the best run split belonged to runner-up Mike Phillips who stamped a 1:12:13 split.

Keep in mind that the later you start (based on your swim ability) later it will be in the day and the warmer it will be.   Racing in heat means you have to be very mindful with your nutrition, starting when go out of the water, and throughout the bike too.   Practice what works with you in simulation training sessions as nutrition is a very personal procedure.  What may work for others, may not for you–although general guidelines are our there to follow in your nutrition plan.

Enjoy your training!


2019 Best Images:  Ironman 70.3 Philippines

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