Ironman Philippines - June 18 - Race Report

Race information

  • What? Ironman Philippines
  • When? June 3, 2018
  • How far? 226km (3.8km swim, 180k cycle, 42.2k run)
  • Website?


Goal Description Completed?
A Finish Yes
B Sub 15hr No
C Get Nutrition Right Yess

Pre Race Details here

Race Strategy

This being my first Full Ironman, my race strategy was quite conservative.
Ironman Philippines is a tough course (it won the award for Asia’s toughest ironman). We knew it would be hot and humid, with 2000m elevation in the bike leg
Kaustubh (my coach) and I kept on exchanging message on the race and nutrition strategy
He adviced me to monitor my nutrition very closely.
Finishing the event was the biggest goal.

Swim [3.8km]

After all the panic that happened during the practice swim, actual race day swim left like anti-climax.

It was a rolling start swim, with a release of a group of 4 athletes for every 6 seconds Pro Men started at 6:15am followed by Pro Females at 6:20am.
For Age Groupers, we were divided in 5 Zones, based on our predicted swim timers. First timers were given a separate white cap so we could be spotted and monitored closely.

We slowly inched closer to the starting mat. I entered water around 6:40am.
I was warned that swim start would be a chaos, and it indeed was. There was so much shoving, kicking, jostling. After all 1000+ people were in a very compact area.
I focused on couting my breath (Allan Pitman gave me this tip during a swim camp I attended). Counting distracts the mind from the chaos, and helps to settle down in a rhythm. This really helped.
Soon I found a rhythm and started to draft off from one swimmer to another.
First 1.9k was done in 52min.
I entered water again, starting second loop. Second loop was much easier, and I managed to finish it in 50min. Right on the predicted timing.

500 600 Survived the swim

Total Time: 1hr 42min Strava Link


This was a long transition - 1km from swim exit to cycle starting mat.
The transition was well organized, no jostling or chaos. I quickly grabbed my bike, took a sip of water, wore helmet, gloves, glasses, sandals and walked towards the start mat.

Total Time: 10min

Cycle [180km]

If I’ve to summarize cycling course of this Ironman in one word, it is “BRUTAL”.

The course starts easy, first 5km are flat and we move from the city to the expressway.
But soon we faced the first climb - a grade of ~6% spread over 4km. There were also strong headwinds during that climb. I saw people getting off their TT bike and walk that section!

Post that climb, it was mostly rolling hills. I stopped at all hydration station, ensuring to re-fuel and get new water bottle.
First u-turn was at km 50. Now the weather was getting hot. All athletes were taking ice baths at every nutrition stop.

Second U-Turn was at same place - it was 130km done now. That is where weather took a bad turn. Heavy rain started, making roads very slippery. When the rain stopped, we were hit by strong headwinds. Next 20kms were sheer agony - body is tired, climbs are coming and headwind is relentless. Every pedal stroke was a struggle. I was not alone in this - everyone was slow and hanging on.

This was the time in the race when you enter a dark phase, you just want to stop for a while. I found few other athletes and started chatting with them to distract myself.

At around 160km, weather started to improve. Last 5km were all downhill, where I rode quickly.

I took almost 8 hours to finish cycling - slower by more than an hour from my worst margins. It was crazy. Thanks to long hours spent in the training, I could finish this.

600 600 Pain doesn’t mean I won’t pose
600 500 Attitude is still thumbs up

Total Time: 7hr 50min

Strava Link

T2 [20min]

Towards the end of cycling, due to all ice water, heat and sweat, my bum had started to bleed (one boil erupted).
Unfortunately, I was not carrying any cotton or band-aid. At T2 transition tent, I took towel and tried controlling the blood. Finally, after a very long 10min, blood flow stopped.
I decided to change to running shorts for comfort. Shorts, Tee, Belt worn - I was off on the road again.
Lesson Learnt - Keep basic first aid kit in Transition bag.

Total Time: 20min (Outrageous!)

Run [42.2km - 5:57hours]

Running is weakest of my 3 sports. In the training, max run I had done was 25km in one go. So, my debut Ironman was also my debut marathon :-). Hey, I told you it is a crazy story.

It was 5pm when I started to run. I started slow - body was still stiff due to aero riding.

Similar to cycling, Run also had two loops. Only two half marathons to be done.

During the cycling leg, I was calculating race finish time. Original goal of sub 15 hours was long gone. So I had a new target - to get sub 16.
This gave me about 7hours to finish the run. More than enough, as long as I don’t catch any injury.

After first 2km, body opened up a bit. First 10km came in 75min.

500 600 Pain doesn’t mean I won’t pose

Then I met Vijay(his first ironman too), and we decided to run together. He was struggling a bit - pain in the knee. From Km 10 till Km 35, we ran and walked together, egging each other on.

When last 7km remained, I had 40min to get sub 16. This was a pace which I’ve not done even on fresh legs then - and this was after 15hours of fatigue. But I decided to go all out now.
Those last 7km were so agonizing, but yet so beautiful. I constantly told my mind to shut up. During this last section, I overtook many people.
As the finish line came closer, I could hear voice of Mike Reilly announcing finishers name. Last few minutes I picked up the pace further, finally sprinting at the red carpet. At the end of red carpet, I jumped and finished it strong.

500 600 Finish Line in Sight

“From India, First time triathlete, Rishi Sareen, you are an Ironman”

900 900 Finish Line in Sight

End time: 15hours 57min.

Strava Link : None, Watch battery died.

Finally, Ironman was done! Exact 2 months before I turned 40.

Post event

Ironman Subic Bay was awarded as Asia’s toughest race course for 2018!. To me, this would always remain most special race, the day I kicked off my bucket list in style, and never in those 16 hours, I had a thought to quit.


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