Sam Betten - 2nd Ironman 70.3 Philippines
photo credit to inquirer.net
It’s crazy to think that this is just my second year of 70.3 racing since making the switch from ITU/short course racing. In just this short amount of time, I have finished 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th & 6th (one of each) at various Ironman 70.3 events around the world. With this being said I must admit that I am pretty desperate to get on that top step of the podium as soon as possible. Ironman 70.3 Philippines I hoped would be the place to finally get that elusive win I have been chasing. I had spent the last few months since Ironman 70.3 Cairns in a rather large training block and therefore knew that I was in great form leading into this race.
After flying into Cebu on the Thursday prior the race I had stayed pretty relaxed and come race morning felt ready to get on that start line and go hard right from the gun. The swim course was without question the most amazing swim leg I have done as it started on the resort beach with a coral reef filled with fish just meters below you. Once the gun went off I started hard and quickly took the lead within the first hundred meters. I have been training with a great swim squad over the last few months, which has really transformed my swimming ability making me a lot more efficient and faster in the water. I enjoyed setting the pace up front and managed to gap most of the field quite early on with just Brent McMahon, Casey Munro and Michael Murphy able to stay with me. I exited the water first feeling very relaxed and picked up a nice swim bonus paycheck for being the first athlete to reach dry land.
After the swim to bike transition, the four of us hit the open road together with Brent setting the pace up front for the early part of the bike leg. I pulled through and did my share of the work up front with Casey keen to sit back and let Brent and myself do the majority of the work up front. Casey after the race told me that he felt quite sick during the ride, which made sense, as he is usually a very strong rider. With guys like Cameron Brown (10 times IM New Zealand Champion) behind I was eager to keep riding hard to extend our gap to the rest of the field chasing hard behind. After 20km’s Michael Murphy dropped from our group of 4 with, what I found out later was a bike mechanical issue. The back end of the course consisted of an 8 by 6km out and back ‘double M’ course which meant that we had a good mix of head wind and tail wind with each out and back section. I have never taken onboard any extra bottles during a half distance race before but with the extreme heat and humidity, I decided to grab 2 ice cold water bottles to pour over my head and drink as much as I could at the 30km and 60km sections of the bike ride. I also took onboard another bottle towards the end of the bike leg, which I poured over my head in an attempt to cool my body down only to discover that this wasn’t in fact water but Gatorade. The entire ride was very windy not to mention scorching hot, which made for quite a tough 90
Getting off the bike I was ready to run hard and was feeling quite good even after such a hot and windy 90km ride. The 2 loop run course had spectators lining both sides of the road and the support and cheering were totally insane. Brent hit the gas as soon as we left transition and I pushed myself hard to try and keep the gap to a minimum, however, the duel Olympian showed me a clean set of heals and was just too fast.
The heat on the run was totally crazy and I felt like I was melting into the ground on each lap. At the aid stations, there were small buckets of ice-cold water that people poured over your head to cool you down. This effect lasted for about 30 seconds before you were scorching hot once again. In addition to this, there were also large baseball-sized chunks of ice given out on the course, which I shoved down the front of my Scody tri suit. These large chunks of ice lasted roughly 4
The run was a real war of survival and was more about just making it to the finish line than running fast. I held the 2nd place and crossed the line feel totally cooked from the insanely hot run. The event organizers had put small swimming pools just after the finish line (filled with cold water, big slabs of ice and cans of beer floating around in them), which I spent a good amount of time in to try and bring my core body temperature back down post-race.
All in all, I was very happy with 2nd place. I went into the race wanting the win badly but Brent had the goods on the day to take the win in the Philippines. Unfortunately, this means that I am still chasing my first Ironman 70.3 victory, which I hope will come in 2014.
A huge thank you once again to all my sponsors, coach, family, support team and supporters. I honestly wouldn’t be where I am today without all of your amazing support.