The past week has been unlike anything we have ever experienced. We have been so well taken care of and we have felt so much kindness. If you want the most genuine warmth and hospitality, world class race management, sunshine, beaches and heat, then Philippines must be your next holiday/triathlon destination. Dave and I have been here for about a week and every night I sit down and write our daily adventures and life impacting moments just so that I don’t forget anything. We were invited here to assist Lance Watson with the Lifesport training camps – the first one for the Polo Tri Club was based in Manila and the second one was based here, at the race site, at Cam Sur.
Friday morning came quickly because Dave and I were wide awake at 2 a.m. but managed to stay horizontal until 4 a.m. By 6 a.m., we were spinning through the village on our bikes with Andy, another talented Polo Tri Team member. Then I was off to do a killer treadmill workout with Kerri at Gold’s Gym. I was one great big puddle by the end of the session and I was quite a sight to the poor staff. I think they thought I was from another planet because they wanted to do a photograph with the entire staff before I left. Meanwhile, Cameron Brown – 8-time IM New Zealand Champion arrived and now our team was complete – Lance, Dave, Cam and myself. After a quick recovery hour and then off for a swim, it was time to prepare for the start of our first camp with the Polo Tri Club. We kicked it off with a little chat – I did a bit of a motivational slide show and then Lance laid out the weekend and spoke about race preparation. A beautiful dinner capped off our official day one!
On the drive home from the ride, we stopped by a United States World War II memorial cemetery. There were thousands of little white crosses paying tribute to the soldiers and there was a beautiful display of names carved into the walls of the building.
Our final day was a run focus day back at the Polo Tri Club. It was another hot one but we taught some great running technique tips and did a tough session on their 1 km gravel running track. I did a quick session on water running which offered some relief from all of our sweating during the run session. Brunch, photos and question and answer ended our camp but the camp atmosphere will continue at the race site since every single member of the Polo Tri Team is racing in the 70.3.
Cam and I finished up the day with a 3-hour trainer ride which was the hottest I have ever felt in my life! I just kept telling myself that taper starts on Monday and we pushed through and got it done.
And now the authentic adventure began. The next day, we woke up at 4 a.m. for our 6:15 a.m. domestic flight to the race site. Following with the supreme efficiency of life here, the driver took our bags first, checked us in and then we followed about 45 minutes later. We met him there, he took us through all the security lines with our baggage tags and boarding passes in hand and off we went to Naga – a 40-minute flight. When we landed, we were treated to an incredible welcome There was a live band and dancers waiting. We thought this was just the normal greeting for arriving passengers but then we saw that they were holding a banner saying “Welcome to Naga – David Cracknell, Cameron Brown, Lance Watson, Lisa Bentley” – it was amazing! We were greeted by our new hosts here – Marife and Joseph – and they had someone fetch our luggage while we took the van to the race hotel at Cam Sur.
After breakfast, we went for a boat ride to visit some of the other islands. On our way back, we jumped out of the boat and swam to our beach. It took about 40 minutes but we were all scared. I was scared of jelly fish – I saw so many as I was swimming and I didn’t want to get stung. So I hopped onto Cam Brown’s feet as we swam and stayed as close as I could. I was terrified! Days later, we would see scenes from Survivor (French version) and we saw the island that we swam from and one of the islands we swam to en route to Caramoan!
On Wednesday, we snuck in one more run on Gota and that way Lance and Dave were both able to come and share in our experience and take some pictures! The helicopter picked us up after the run and by 10 a.m., we were back in Cam Sur at the race site!
On Monday, when we left, there was only a slight hint of the approaching race but by Wednesday when we returned, the venue had really taken shape and looked amazing. The food, VIP, sponsor and finish line tents were all up and look awesome. The run from swim to swim was already carpeted (yes we swim 1200 m in one lake and then 700 meters in another one). There were shuttles from one hotel to another. There were meals so that the athletes did not have to leave the race venue searching for food. There are donut, hamburger and hot dog kiosks already set up for quick snacks. There is a welcoming committee at the lobby and posters listing the events for the day. Yes, this event is the utmost in professionalism! There were little signs draped overhead across the streets welcoming us to town. It is so special to feel welcomed when we are far from home. There were welcome bags for each athlete when they checked in with a towel and little booklets with the facts about Naga (the surrounding town) and the race course. These are the little details that are so nice for athletes to have.
We managed to get out for a bike ride at 11 a.m. with a driver following us for safety. It was a very nice ride – the people in the villages were waving and very excited to see us. The turnaround is at the ocean and we will all have to be careful not to jump in the ocean to cool off down there – it will be tempting. When we got back from our ride, we had a beautiful lunch served by Melos – the race organizers have brought in the staff and food from a restaurant in Manila to ensure that the athletes are well fed. Pretty amazing. Princess Galura – Princess is her first name – has been our key contact here in Cam Sur and she has taken care of us with a big open heart.
Thursday was the start of the next Lifesport Training Camp. Dave and I snuck in a quick bike ride at 5:30 a.m. to try to avoid some of the local traffic and then we were off to our first camp session. I did a motivational slide show again for our new group of athletes and gave them some mental ammunition for their big race day. I went for a pool swim while the group ran and then we had some nice relaxation time, dinner with the training camp athletes and a massage.
Friday was the first day Cam and I did not organize to do any training together and there I was, out running on the run course and when I stopped to loosen my laces and Cam came by. It has been so fantastic having Cameron as my training partner for the past week. Together, we are the “Killer B’s” – get it – Brown and Bentley!!! That was our nickname on Tri Dubai. The run course is very similar to our special run in Gota and that will be my personal motivation for success. I know that my heart will be filled with such happy thoughts and with that sort of fuel, I will run at my best!
Once the training was done, our day was a reunion day with our new friends from the Polo Tri Club. They are such a special group of people and we feel like adopted members of the team!
At lunch, we met the Governor of Cam Sur – Governor L Ray. His name is everywhere in Cam Sur and he is an incredibly dynamic man. He loves sport and he has resurrected Cam Sur from being the poorest province in Philippines to being the 10th richest in just 4 years!He supports Ironman triathlon 100%. He has had roads paved and re-paved. He has had the man-made lakes pristine. He has shut the roads for our race so that we can cycle traffic free! He is so proud of Cam Sur and he has extended every ounce of hospitality to all of us visitors – more than any human could possibly absorb!
We followed lunch with a television interview and then a press conference. Just before the welcome party, I found the race organizing committee celebrating a Catholic Mass upstairs in one of the little meeting rooms. I joined them for this special mass and now I have so many wonderful blessings for a terrific race experience.
The welcome party was spectacular. There was an opening dance performance which seemed just like Cirque du Soleil.
And now, today, is Saturday – the day before our big celebration race day!! My health has been pretty good for a few days. I finished my last dose of antibiotics on Monday and life was good until yesterday when my cough developed once again. My compressor that allows me to do my breathing therapy is not working – I used a voltage adaptor but for some reason, it will not work so I have been 10 days without my saline solution therapy. Fingers crossed that I will finally be able to race moderately healthy for the first time this year!!!
Dave is racing as well, although I am encouraging him to ‘participate’ and not to race. He has the talent to go quite hard and fast but his fitness is a little bit behind and I fear that he will end up hurting himself and not enjoying the day at all.
This has been the most amazing life experience we have had. Our hearts are so full right now of so much kindness and love and we are so much richer for all of the new friends that we can now call family!
For more photos click on the photo below or go to the gallery page!