IronMan 70.3 Philippines 2011: Race report (from a photographer’s perspective)

On its third year, Globe Telecom, who was a presenting sponsor in the Cobra Ironman 70.3 Philippines Camarines Sur, brought their triathlon team to participate in the age-group and relay categories in the country’s most prestigious triathlon event. It was certainly my pleasure to be one of the photographers of Globe Champions Triathlon (GCT) Team in this year’s race. Though I’ve already done sports photography in several triathlon events (like SubIT), it was my first time to document the IronMan event, which was like 10 times more huge and more overwhelming for me.

One of my roommates was my good friend Vanessa who was part of the GCT Team. This helped me wake up really early and get ready at 3am on the race day. I took my breakfast and brought with me a banana and peanut butter sandwich since I knew I would need that later on. By the time we reached the body markings area, it was still cool and dark. I told my photographer partner SJ to bring a black garbage bag for me to protect our camera gear—just in case it rains. SJ and I agreed to go on separate ways since we want to collect diverse photos taken in different locations. I arrived early by the big lake where the mass start would begin and witnessed the moon setting reflecting in the water. In a few minutes, everyone was getting warmed up for the swim. And in a few minutes, my guess was right, it started drizzling on and off.

Nevertheless, I started shooting my team before the gun start as they were all fresh and psyched up. I was getting warmed up myself, wondering what the day would bring.
I also zoomed in to some of the world’s best traithletes who joined the event as the host introduced them to the crowd. I could hardly understand their names at that time and it was only after the competition I learned they were the pros—THE IronMan superstars: Belinda Granger, Amanda Stevens, Katya Meyers, Pete Jacobs, Jesse Thomas, Cameron Brown, et al.
Belinda Granger who eventually who won first among the women.
Amanda Stevens clocked in at second place.
1 means Pete Jacobs who grabbed his second win as the champion in IronMan Phils.

Knowing that the race would start anytime soon, I struggled to find a good spot for the massive start but I wasn’t that successful. It was Gov. L-Ray Villafuerte of Camarines Sur, Bicol region who fired the gun shot. The professionals and Filipino elites went in first, followed by other waves by category. I managed to get a few decent shots… But I knew I had to step up my game as well.

After the first man got out the water (hello, Pete Jacobs!), I rushed to the next lake where the second round of swim would take place. Bingo! I found a spot where I was on the edge of the water near where the athletes entered. For me, the location was KEY. Thanks to my telephoto lens, I’ve never gotten this close in the swim part.
As the adrenaline rush kicked in on me, I walked a long way to get out of the lake area. Next, I had to take the bike shots. And I meant GREAT bike shots, whatever it takes. This was where I was pressured the most as most of the team members were requesting for this. I met up with Mark, one of the avid Globe supporters (Nessa’s boyfriend), and we decided to go to the highway. We rented a motorbike and rode with one of the locals to get us there. For me, it was a perfect position: It was where the bikers would turn, it had a Globe logo (it was a requirement) and some crowds on the background, and I only saw two photographers present. I guess not everyone has this frame.
I already felt the strain in my hands and arms as I held on to my heavy lens. I knew a monopod is a must but unfortunately I don’t own one yet. Add to that the harsh elements of the rain! The weather was totally different from the previous years when it was extremely humid. Mark had to get one of those big picnic table umbrellas from one of the local stores in the area (with the permission of the owner of course) and we got under it to keep us dry. What a huge relief! (And little did I notice some kids going under our shelter as well…)
By the time we decided to go back to the run course, the driver of our motorbike was gone, despite telling him to wait for us in our agreed location. We couldn’t blame him though because we really took our time there. We rented a pedicab going back. “Manong, pwede na kayong sumali sa IronMan (you can already join IronMan),” Mark kidded the driver as he was fast enough to bring us back.
I wanted the Mt. Isarog backdrop during the run route or the “rice cooker” fields as they call it. But then, I learned it was FAR and I wouldn’t have the finish line shot. Good thing my partner SJ took care of the close up finish line photos while I took care of shooting them nearing the final stretch, giving their big exhales and all that they’ve got. The overcast was still there with moments of rain or the sun peeping out. My Vibrams were soaked and I hate the icky feeling so I took it off. I also had to give.
With everything that I went through, I guess my whole IronMan experience was just NOTHING compared to the athletes’ 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, and 13.1-mile run—the distance circuit of the IronMan 70.3 series. While I don’t mind not earning the title of being an “IronMan,” I’m proud that this race took me to a higher level in shooting sports. I felt like I was also living the IronMan mantra of “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. ®”, anyway. :)
Congratulations again to Globe Champions Triathlon Team and all of the IronMan finishers! :)
* * *

More about IronMan: Winners from the IronMan events around the world get to be qualified in the ultimate annual Ford IronMan World Championshipin Kailua-Kona, Hawaii and embark on the full 140.6-mile course. Three years ago, Fred Uytengsu, President and CEO of Alaska Milk Corp., with the support of Gov. L-Ray Villafuerte of Camarines Sur, Bicol region, brought the franchise to Philippines and it has gotten bigger and better since.

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